This post was originally published on May 1, 2014.
There’s no question that dating in recovery can be a challenge. Discovering what kind of person you are when you’re sober is hard enough. Finding a compatible partner for the new you is another adventure altogether. Like recovery itself, sober dating can be a bumpy road, but a little patience can sometimes lead to big rewards.
Our regular column features short interviews with sober addicts about their forays into the dating world. This week we spoke with Ashley*, 28, of Boston, Massachusetts. Ashley has been clean and sober for over two years and attends NA meetings every week.
Q: What has your experience been like when it comes to dating in sobriety? Has it been hard, easy, painful, no big deal? Have you had any long-term relationships since you got sober?
A: Is it weird if I didn’t really want to date after I got clean? Someone warned me against it, and I had…not an inkling of a desire. Like, I definitely wanted to eventually date, but it just seemed too weird. I felt pretty bad about myself for a long time even in the program, and though I loved the sense of hope I gained through recovery, I felt incredibly strange in my own body. I didn’t feel pretty. It would’ve been nice if somebody had made me feel pretty, but I was seeing myself in the harsh light of reality for the first time, and I had scars and was putting on weight…I needed to learn to be with my own self first.
I think I was eight or nine months clean when I finally wanted to start looking at men again. The first date I went on in recovery, a boy in a Starbucks asked me out. No joke. I was writing in my journal—I think I was doing Step 4—and he came up to me and asked if I wanted to have coffee with him. We were already at the coffee shop; I think that was the joke. He was kind of cute, so I said sure, and he pulled up a chair. Later that week he took me to see Silver Linings Playbook which was the wrong choice at that point. I was crying during the movie and he just felt awkward. I kind of broke down in front of him after and started spilling my guts about my cousin who’s bipolar and how I’d been in treatment, and I think it was way too intense for him. He gave me a really great hug and then sort of stopped calling. I was too embarrassed to call him back. It didn’t hurt as much as I’d thought because the relationship had never seemed that promising, but I guess I was bummed.
A few months later I went on a date with this hipster guy I met at a wedding. We were the only two sober people there, so we connected, but in the end that was the only thing we had in common, so we only saw each other a couple times.
Six months ago I met the guy who’s now my boyfriend. One of my friends introduced us, and we just sort of clicked. He has 10 years in a different fellowship, so he’s like my rock. I don’t think I’d want to be with someone other than an addict who has a lot more time than I’ve got. But that’s not all it takes; there’s a lot more to it, and sometimes it’s a struggle like anything else. I guess the advice I’d have for recovering addicts looking for love is to be patient and open-minded and focus on getting comfortable with yourself before going after validation from another person.