One thing about my life as an active addict is that I lowered my standards to the same sorry level as my behavior. That was certainly true of dating.
All I really needed was someone who liked to drink like me or, at the very least, someone who let me drink like I wanted to without giving me any grief about it.
My self-esteem would drop a little lower with each blackout and yet I always found the antidote in another bottle of wine that started the vicious cycle all over again. The boost in confidence I got was fleeting and false but it was a confidence I didn’t have without alcohol. I would constantly wonder how I got myself in situations that compromised my self-worth. Oddly enough, I could usually laugh it off and blame the booze or call a friend with looser morals than myself and use them as my moral compass to feel okay with my behavior. That all eventually stopped working and I was just left hating myself for my bad decisions and inability to address my drinking problem and make a change.
I had my last semi-normal relationship in 2008 before my addiction took a turn and alcohol became the most important relationship in my life. Everything else was secondary. Friends were getting married and starting families and I was just looking for the next alcohol-induced adventure.
I went on some dates with some seemingly decent guys whom I had met on eHarmony. But it was just too exhausting to try and pretend to live up to my online profile. I was a fraud and it didn’t take a good guy long to figure that out.
I feel really fortunate that I wasn’t in a relationship at the time I hit bottom and took up residency at a 28-day treatment facility for alcohol addiction. Some people advised me not to get into any relationship during my first year of sobriety. I thought that was ridiculous but wanted to stay sober so I followed their direction. A little after a year of being sober, I went on Tinder and made up for lost time. I was going on coffee date after coffee date with guys that old drunk dating Allison would have been attracted to. However, sober dating Allison had nothing in common with most of them.
What I quickly learned was that most guys I dated were either lying to themselves, to me or maybe both when they would claim alcohol wasn’t that big of a deal to them. I don’t need to date a teetotaler but it’s a huge red flag when a guy reminds me of how I used to drink and that seemed to happen more often than not.
The longer I stayed sober, the more confident I was about what I wanted in a guy. I actually had standards and, to be honest, they were pretty high. I had made a lot of changes to better myself and started realizing that I wanted the same in a guy. For the first time in my life, I believed that I deserved that.
A man who drinks like a frat guy in college is a definite deal-breaker. I don’t find watching a guy get hammered or chug beers before a ballgame or concert very appealing. Making out with someone who smells like the bottom of a keg is gross. Staying out at a bar until 2 am isn’t my idea of fun.
I get it. I wouldn’t have known what to do with a sober guy on a date when I was drinking either. It’s not my place to judge anyone who I think might have a drinking problem or be an alcoholic, but it is my place to make a judgment when it comes to a potential relationship.
I’ve been sober for a little over three years now and dating for the past two. The No. 1 reason I walk away from pursuing a relationship with the majority of guys I have gone out with is their relationship with alcohol. I think back and wonder how many guys walked away from dating me for the same reason. Probably a lot.
The thing is, I love my sober life and, at the age of 36, it’s the first time in my life I’m not looking to fill a void with booze or a boyfriend.
I’m completely upfront and honest when I meet a guy about being a recovering alcoholic. It’s nothing I’m embarrassed or ashamed of. If a guy has a problem with that or the fact I don’t drink, then he isn’t the guy for me.
I initially thought dating sober was the most tragic thing in the world. I have since come to appreciate it, even in all its awkwardness. I don’t have to portray a false version of myself to hope a guy will like me. I don’t really care if they like me or not—because I like me. In fact, I love me and, well, when you finally love yourself after years of hating the person you had become, you have a chance to actually love someone else. And that’s pretty darn cool.