One thing that most people without addiction issues don’t understand is how much substance abuse is ingrained in all areas of their life. This includes their dating and romantic life.
Dating, especially a first date, is stressful, and taking that drink or using that drug set up a false sense of security. The idea of sober dating is such a scary thought that many aren’t sure how to even start.
The good news is reclaiming your life and owning your sobriety is completely possible and also is finding a partner to walk through this journey by your side.
Read on for 10 helpful ideas on sober dating.
1. Date Yourself First
One of the first things discussed in recovery is to refrain from dating or getting involved in a relationship for the first year.
The truth is you simply need time to focus on staying sober and figuring out how your life works without the fog and haze.
Take the time to rediscover yourself and what interests you and explore new hobbies and goals. Once you are happy with yourself, move on to being happy with someone else.
2. Rethink the Dating Process
Alcohol and dating go almost hand in hand. From finding someone at a bar to agreeing to meet over a cocktail, drinking is a common denominator in most first date settings.
Deciding to get clean and sober means navigating the dating world without that false sense of security. You have to rethink the dating process. But it is empowering to discover that love and romance do not need a substance to spark and grow.
3. Don’t Substitute One High for Another
While your body and brain are learning how to adjust without the high, they are still susceptible to another type of influence — a love high.
People who rush into dating during the early stages of recovery are just trading one addiction for another. They often become too attached too soon and an unhealthy relationship forms.
It is quite common when it then fails, that the person slips in their sobriety to mask the hurt and the cycle begins again.
4. Figure Out What You Want
Being addicted takes over your life. It controls everything you do. Once you become sober and work the treatment process you have the chance to figure out what you really want out of life. This includes your love life.
Do you want to date casually? Are you looking for a long-term relationship or even marriage? Are you ready for commitment and the work involve?
It is impossible to find someone to connect with until you truly know the person in the mirror.
5. Avoid All Temptations
In preparing for the first date there will be questions about where, when, and what to do. Be prepared that they may ask to meet for a drink or go to a bar.
Even if you believe meeting at a bar will not bother you, it is probably better to avoid that atmosphere and temptation.
First dates are stressful enough. Don’t add to it by exposing yourself to a toxic environment.
6. Great Ideas for Sober Dating
Your dating life is not doomed just because you no longer drink.
One great option is to offer to meet at a coffee shop. This is an ideal setting for getting to know someone. Having lunch at a cafe is also a good idea.
You can take food and drinks out of the equation entirely by suggesting to meet at a park. Walking around outside is not only healthy but encourages talking without other distractions.
If you are nervous and want a little distraction, try a museum or gallery of some kind. Antique stores or a farmer’s market are also unique ideas for a first date.
7. Tackling the Drinking/Drug Question
If you don’t want to bring up the subject yet, then don’t. By choosing a first date activity that doesn’t involve drinking, the time can be spent talking about other things and getting to know each other.
It is not necessary to tell them about your addiction struggles on the first date. Get a feel for your comfort level and connection. You can bring up the subject when you are ready to talk about it.
8. Are You Ready to Share Your Story
Some feel shame or embarrassment in ending up where they did. If that sounds familiar, you must learn to accept your mistakes. You can then take comfort and courage in the fact that you chose to change how your story is written.
Being ready to share your story doesn’t mean you have to. It is simply a sign that you have made peace with the past and are dedicated to a bright and sober future. Your first date may not need details, but they will notice your confidence and peace.
9. How to Tell Your Date
The decision on whether or not to talk about your sobriety on the first date is a personal one. However, even if you don’t choose to bring it, they might. It is a good idea to know ahead of time how you want to handle that.
You can simply tell them you don’t drink or use other substances and leave it at that. If they continue to ask questions, just say it is a personal decision and move on with the date.
However, if you decide you want to gauge their reaction sooner rather than later, be honest about your situation. You can leave out the sensitive details, but just explain your recovery process to date.
10. When They React Poorly
Unfortunately, some will hear your story and not handle it well. They have their own histories and biases and might react negatively to the news. Others may be happy for you, but choose to not continue dating.
Both scenarios are disappointing but a reality you should prepare for. Don’t judge them or get upset. Accept their decision with grace and move on.
There is someone out there who will support and align with your journey. Don’t settle for anything less and always stay true to yourself.
Embrace Your New Life
Not all first dates will have a magical ending. Beginning your journey into sober dating will have ups and downs. But so will other things you encounter for the rest of your life.
You should be proud of your progress and commitment. Embrace your new, sober life. Be happy with yourself and you will attract the right person as your partner.
If you are struggling with addiction issues and ready for the next step into recovery, please reach out to one of our trained and compassionate staff.