Dating isn’t easy for anyone. Recovery from an addiction is even tougher. Combine the two and you can imagine how tough life gets.
How does dating feel when you can never again have a shot of vodka or a drink to boost your confidence before the first date?
In today’s special post a US blogger, Ceponatia of Prime Recovery, shares his experience with dating from his first year of sobriety.
Whether we’re living a sober lifestyle or trying out something like a “Sober July” challenge, dating in sobriety presents unique challenges that most people don’t ever face. Personally, I’m in it for the long haul; I was an active alcoholic for 18 years of my life, until June 2018. Once I decided to start dating again, I was quickly discouraged by the results. My liquid confidence was gone, I was just an ordinary guy who was kind of fat and not all that interesting. Not to mention 37 years old and living with his mother! Like most people in our present age, I chose to try online dating to dip my toes back into the pool. For the most part I was chewed up and spit out repeatedly, but I did manage to go on a handful of dates within the last year. Regardless if you’re either a lifer like me or just trying sobriety out, here are some of the challenges I’ve found to be my major obstacles on these dates:
Where do you go? When we think about going on a first date, at least in the western world, what immediately comes to mind? A pub, bar, tavern, etcetera? There aren’t a lot of places that you can take someone whom you’ve never met before. Aside from the time I was invited on a 4-state road trip with an alcoholic single mother I’d only been speaking to for three days (I didn’t go), all my first dates have been at bars. I’ve found that many people are uncomfortable eating in front of someone that they aren’t familiar with, so that rules out restaurants. Coffee isn’t generally something people drink in the evening, when most dates occur. Movies are just about the worst idea for a date because you can’t talk to each other. Bars are safe, so usually that’s where I go, which leads to the next problem…
The Question: “You’re not drinking?” she asks. She ordered an appletini; me, an iced tea. There’s no good way to answer this question that doesn’t make me look like a train wreck, unfortunately. Even if a guy is only sober temporarily, it raises an eyebrow. Why are you trying sobriety? Do you drink too much? Are you lying? Are you really an alcoholic and just don’t want to admit it? If you’re an alcoholic and averse to lying, as I am (it’s what my main pastime was as an addict, so I avoid lying like the plague), the date is probably over. They’ll hang around and humor you for an hour or however long it takes them to finish their drink, but you’re probably never going to hear from them again.
How much honesty is enough? Should we tell people up front if we are alcoholics? Is that really fair? How many people have shared their darkest moment from their past with someone they’ve just met? I’d wager that number is strikingly close to zero! This is a perplexing problem that I admit I don’t have the answer to. It’s one of the chief causes of my reluctance to openly date in sobriety. That said, I don’t hide the fact that I’m sober. My family, coworkers, and friends all know the deal. They still love me and I still have acquaintances tell me how proud they are, so it is likely that somewhere out there is someone who won’t care that one is a sober addict.
Social anxiety is also a problem. Many people prefer a drink to “loosen up” on a date but for me, that’s not an option. No, I am usually facing the terror of awkward first date conversation alone as my date is certainly not abstaining. I could certainly have an opinion about the fact that most people in America need to have a buzz to interact with one another, but that would be judgmental! Like anything, conversation is a skill and although I may occasionally wind up on a date like my last one, with a girl who went to the bathroom to snort a line of coke during our date, I’ve also had some downright pleasant ones.
Those are just a brief outline of the problems that I’ve encountered on my most recent dates. I’d never had any problems like that when I drank, unfortunately. Every date always seemed to go well! I was relaxed and charismatic and often I’d take her home. Sober me isn’t interested in relationships like that, though. For once in my life, I’m willing to go slow. I’m optimistic that, in time, I will figure out the answers to the questions above. When that time comes, I will shout them from the rooftops.
Dear Rinser, give kudos to Ceponatia in the comments section! It’s not a small thing to not only stay sober but also speak about it so openly. What’s your biggest challenge when dating? Do you often use alcohol as a crutch on a first date?