What Do You Mean I Have to Date without Drinking?

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Legal Stuff - This is an advertisement for Service Industries, Inc., part of a network of commonly owned substance abuse treatment service providers. The phone number and email provided in the advertisement will connect you to one of Service Industries, Inc.’s representatives to discuss your insurance benefits and options for obtaining treatment at one of its affiliated facilities only. Service Industries, Inc. is unable to discuss the insurance benefits or options that may be available at any unaffiliated treatment center or business. If this advertisement appears on the same web page as a review of any particular treatment center or business, the contact information (including phone number) for that particular treatment center or business may be found at the bottom of the review.

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What Do You Mean I Have to Date without Drinking?

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I’m not sure what I expected when I eventually started dating after getting sober, but I had no idea what I was in for. I felt like I was in high school again—awkward, confused and a little unsure of what I was doing. That pretty much sums up my experiences these past couple of years as I have trudged the road of sober dating. My liquid courage is gone. Flirting doesn’t come quite as easy. Kissing a guy for the first time makes me want to break out into a mad sweat. And actually having those fluttering butterflies in my stomach makes me want to vomit.

I was a little over a year sober when I really started the dating thing. I was confident with my sobriety, the person I was becoming, and thought for the first time in years that I may actually have something positive to offer to a relationship. But why was dating so uncomfortable? Well, because I was so used to having alcohol in my system that could make me into whatever said guy wanted me to be. Alcohol gave me a false confidence that I was prettier, funnier, smarter and definitely way sexier. I’ve learned since that this was, in fact, not true; there are pictures, videos and testimonials to support the fact that it is patently false.

Towards the end of my drinking, I wasn’t in any kind of healthy relationship with a guy. I wasn’t “dating” the kind of guys I would take home to Mom and Dad. Make out with them outside the bathroom at the bar, sure. Invite them to Sunday dinner at my parents’ house, not so much.

I don’t think anyone would constitute what I was doing as “dating.” I would hang out with guys who drank like me. End of story. We drank together and we would make bad decisions together. I had little self-respect so it’s no wonder that guys treated me in the same manner.

I remember sitting in rehab when one of the counselors told us that we should take dating off the table for the first year of recovery. I thought this was the most absurd thing I had ever heard. Well, it turned out to be easier than I thought because not one person asked me out during my first year. And thank God. I was in no shape to date anyone. I had nothing to offer. I didn’t know who I was or what I wanted. Looking back, I grew so much within the first year, I am thankful I didn’t drag anyone along with me through my ups and downs of self-exploration and discovery.

When I got back from my 28-day stint in rehab, I thought life was supposed to go back to normal, whatever that was. Yet I had no clue about what life would be like without some mind-altering substance in my system. Everything was different. Everything changed. And dating was no exception. I don’t think I had ever dated the “right” way, at least not since high school. As in when I took my values and morals into consideration, when I had some standards, when dating consisted of actual dates like movies, dinner and picnics and not getting wasted and hooking up with strangers. In the days of my active addiction, I was more about meeting a guy I thought was hot, hooking up with him, taking him hostage anywhere for the next month or six years and figuring it out from there.

They say a head full of AA will ruin your drinking. Well, luckily, I haven’t tested out that theory, but it’s been my experience that it can hinder dating as well.

Checking your motives and “inviting God on a date” (two things my sponsor would remind me to do when I first started dating) can be quite the buzz kill for someone who, for years, had dated with loose morals and selfish intent.

Dating sober is different, for sure, but I have come to appreciate and love all its awkwardness. It takes me back to high school. Remember having a crush on someone? Yeah, that happens in sobriety—at least for me, anyways. With “let’s meet for a drink” off the table, we often have to get creative with dates. It’s endearing. Drinking hot chocolate by a campfire in the fall, or riding your bike on a greenway in the spring is a tender way to spend a second date. Second dates for me used to involve a U-Haul or a one-way ticket across the country. I think it’s fair to say I am definitely moving in the right direction towards a healthy relationship. I haven’t moved states, or even cities, for a guy once—something I have done several times in the past.

I go out on a lot of dates now, but they usually end with the first one. I know quickly if there is a connection. Booze isn’t involved so my feelings are legit. My judgment is clear so I make far fewer mistakes. I have been present for every single one of the dates I have been on in sobriety, and that has often been challenging. But with each bad date, I get to know myself a little better—who I am, who I’m not, what I want or maybe just what I don’t want. I have discovered that my feelings aren’t facts and good or bad, they are temporary. But perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned? While a first date can be awkward and uncomfortable, it doesn’t last forever.

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Allison Hudson

Allison Hudson shares about her struggles with alcoholism and life in recovery on her blog, It’s a Lush Life, and is a feature blogger on The Huffington Post. When not writing, she is working on the opening of Will’s Place, a sober living facility in memory of her brother who died from a drug overdose in 2012, that is set to open fall 2015.

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