Booze, the ultimate social analgesic, has lubricated the dating arena since malt, hops and grapes were first used in fermentation. Throw in our 21st century party culture and it seems difficult to separate dating from drinking. Dealing with social situations in general while in recovery can be a scary, but having to navigate the dating scene can seem like an monumental task. Overcoming the overwhelming is what recovery is all about though and there isn’t a person out there, sober or otherwise, who hasn’t felt like something was too much or too hard to overcome. Sober dating is just another one of those difficult situations that seems like a mountain at first. However, with the right mindset and a few tips dating while sober can quickly go from a mountain back to the mole hill that it is.
With this in mind and in the spirit of St. Valentine’s day here are five tips to help navigate the dating scene while sober.
Build up to it
There’s an old saying that goes something like “if you want to learn to run you need to learn to walk”. This is true for dealing with social situations while in sobriety as well. Don’t throw yourself right into the dating scene the minute you have the chance to, build up to that point so you know what you’re getting into. I would suggest starting with your closest supports and working out from there. Socialize and do things with those you feel most safe with. Get comfortable with your sober lifestyle around them. They can and will be your best support. They can help you with those first few awkward interactions, such as that inevatiable question someone will ask, “could I get you a cocktail?”. From there you can try social situations with those less close to you, that might not have prior knowledge of your sober status (remember you can always ask a close support to attend a function with you as extra support). Once you get comfortable being social and being sober, then it is a good time to think about getting back to the dating scene. Those non dating social situations will pay huge dividends in helping you navigate the nuances of a date night.
Location, Location, Location
This tip is particularly tailored towards a first date and when you’re meeting up with someone for the first time. That first encounter can be a daunting one. You might not even know if you will want to see the person again and if you should let them into the fact you’re sober. Taking control and picking a neutral booze free location like a coffee shop can be a great way to get to know someone without having to worry about the topic of booze coming up. Take the initiative and ask to meet up at one of your favorite haunts. That way you know you won’t have to deal with certain questions. If coffee isn’t your jive then think outside the box, a hike or a picnic make great first date ideas.
Don’t feel like you have to explain yourself
When you first start to date someone you’re not obligated to let them into the deep reaches of your soul and you’re not obligated to explain yourself anymore then you are comfortable doing. Don’t feel like you have to explain the reasons you’re choosing not to drink. A lot of time people feel obliged to explain their situation or reasoning to the person there on a date with, this isn’t the case. If you aren’t ready to tell them anything more then your just not drinking tonight that’s fine. The most important thing is that you are comfortable with your choice not to drink. If you are comfortable with that choice you can avoid that feeling like you need to justify yourself. And if your date reacts negatively, well then that leads us to our next tip…
Notice how they handle things
If you are out on a date and you decline the wine menu and your date gives you a funny look or makes a snide remark, that means something! Take stuff like that into account. If your date doesn’t seem cool with the decision that you have made for yourself then that is their problem and they are probably somebody you don’t want to be dating. Your sober and alert, your senses aren’t being dulled anymore so put them to good use. Notice things about your date you might have missed in your drinking days. This new found observance can be used to notice both the good and the bad. How your date handles themselves as they learn more about you is invaluable information that can help you decide if the person is worth your time.
If you’re not ready… Don’t rush it
Probably the best tip for entering into the dating world as a sober individual is to do so when you are ready. The most important thing is learning to be comfortable with yourself. You can’t expect to be comfortable with another person or expect someone else be comfortable with you if you aren’t comfortable with yourself. Don’t re-enter the scene because you feel that is what is expected or that is what society demands. Do so because you feel ready and it is what you want. I have found that those who seek happiness within themselves find their partner much faster than those who seek happiness in someone else. Learn to love yourself and everyone else will follow.
Happy Dating and Happy Valentine’s Day.