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Navigating the Dating World Sober: A Personal Story


Sober Recovery Expert Author

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Dating. It’s a word that makes many of us excited and oh so anxious at the same time. For those in recovery who are ready to navigate the seas of dating, you may find that this particular stage in life poses many different challenges. You may have questions like: “Should I date someone who drinks socially?” “Will I ever meet anyone ‘cool’ who doesn’t drink?” “Should I be upfront about my status in recovery?”

While your dating questions abound and may seem difficult to answer now, determining a few key points before diving into the dating scene will save you from grief, headaches and a number of awkward situations in the long run.

Navigating the dating scene sober can be very interesting.

A while ago, I decided that I was at the point in my recovery when I was ready to date and that I would welcome a “social drinker,” mainly because I wanted a larger dating pool to choose from. From this experience, I learned a number of valuable dating lessons.

I met a woman through a mutual friend with whom I texted and emailed for about a week. We were just getting to know each other when a red flag went up for me as she mentioned her “passion” for red wine several times. For example, on Saturday evening, she said she spent time with a friend over red wine. The following Monday, she said she was at home relaxing with red wine. And on Wednesday night, she said she was watching The Bachelor as she was “enjoying her red wine, of course.”

While those seem like definite red flags, I gave her the benefit of the doubt because I was attracted to her. When we met for dinner at a restaurant, I found her sitting with her big glass of red wine. We ordered our meal, talked and by the end of dinner, she had finished three big glasses and we were off to a popular upscale bar in the city. As the night progressed, she consumed a number of beers—both at the succeeding bars we went to and her friend’s house—and before long, she was nodding off. At some point throughout the date, I had begun to realize that, despite how attractive I thought she was, we were not a match and she was more than just “social drinking.” When she tapped out from the alcohol, I felt it was my cue to call it a night. I found myself reflecting on the date and looking for pointers for my next one, with a different person.

Now, I am adamant about dating someone who does not rely on alcohol to cope with life’s situations, no matter how attractive, brilliant or successful. Granted, there are true social drinkers who may imbibe with friends once in a while, but that particular date helped me get to know myself and set a new personal standard. I also tell my potential dates right away about my genuine views on partying along with what I want in a relationship, because these things matter and—even if my dating pool shrinks—finding a compatible partner who doesn’t drink need not be rushed.

For those of you out there navigating the dating world sober, or perhaps just dipping your feet in the pool, my advice to you is to dive inwards and get to know yourself first. Answer your own questions and take some time to set boundaries and guidelines ahead of time. Once you do, stick to them and stick it out no matter how long it may take or how small your dating pool becomes. Not only will this help you narrow in on the right kind of companion, but you’ll also avoid a few tricky situations and unnecessary heartaches along the way.

Do you have a dating story that the sober community can learn a thing or two from? Share your own experience in the comments section below.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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