Q&A: I’m Sober Now—Will I Ever Date Again?
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Q&A: I’m Sober Now—Will I Ever Date Again?


Q: I’ve been sober for about six months now. It’s going okay but I have this fear that I’ll never have a relationship again! I want to go on dates like a “normal” person but I feel incredibly awkward around guys and I’m not sure how to address the fact that I don’t drink.

A: Ah, the perils of sober dating. Those are officially a thing, those perils. For real, they exist. And they suck. And I know because I’ve been there.

So one of the first things I’ll say might sound annoying and like I’m totally towing-the-AA-party-line but I’m saying it because it’s true: At six months sober, I wouldn’t stress too hard about your relationships-and-dating situation. It will happen. Dates will come. Relationships are bound to come, too. But for now, I’d suggest keeping the focus on yourself and your recovery. Do what needs to be done to keep yourself sober and whether that means 12-step meetings or other recovery meetings or support groups or no meetings or groups or anything community-oriented at all, I’d venture to guess that distracting yourself with sex and love might not help all that much with the recovery piece.

That said, I know most people won’t follow that advice (hell, I don’t think even I followed that advice when I was a sober newbie), so assuming that you won’t listen to my warning, here’s the actual advice you were asking for.

Internet dating is a pretty good way to meet people when you’re sober, because—at least on OKCupid—you can “warn” the guys in advance that you’re a non-drinker (check the box on your profile that says that you don’t drink “at all;” do the same for the “drugs” box, if accurate). This also allows you to filter your search results to only show you people who also don’t drink. I’ve done this in my own OKCupid quest and I found it helpful in screening the dudes who show up in my search results.

If you have a date with someone who does drink but doesn’t know you don’t, try to avoid making a big production out of it. If you’re out at a bar (which you might not want to be if you’re six months clean, but whatever, up to you), order a Coke or a soda water or a Shirley Temple or whatever the hell you want that doesn’t have alcohol in it. If your date inquires about why you’re not drinking, you can say what feels right to you: maybe “not tonight,” or “not right now” or “I’m allergic” or “I’m on medication that doesn’t mix well with alcohol.”

You can say, basically, as much or as little as you want and honestly, you don’t owe anyone an explanation beyond that. If your date is a dick who tries to push you to explain or if, heaven forbid, he says something like, “Wait, are you an alcoholic?”, you can try saying something like “I’m a reformed bad girl” or “I’m just a rebel” or, if you’re feeling ballsy, wear your recovery status like your own little freak flag of pride and confess, “Yup, recovering alkie right here!” Like I said, you don’t owe anyone anything so don’t feel bad or weird if you just don’t want to get into it.

Cool people won’t give a damn that you don’t drink and they definitely won’t press you for details. I’ve had plenty of guys who were decent, respectful and ignored the fact that I was alcohol-free, never making a big deal of it, even when we were dating for a while. I’m sure you’ll find some of those types, too, but you might need to give it a little time, patience and practice.

If you’re trying to date recovering guys in AA or another program, uh, I’ll just say…don’t bother. Just my two cents, of course.

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About Author

Laura Barcella is a documentary researcher, author, freelance writer and ghostwriter from Washington, DC. Her writing has also appeared in TIME, Marie Claire, Salon, Esquire, Elle, Refinery29, AlterNet, The Village Voice, Cosmopolitan, The Chicago Sun-Times, Time Out New York, BUST, ELLE Girl, NYLON and CNN.com. Her book credits include Know Your Rights: A Modern Kid's Guide to the American Constitution, Fight Like a Girl: 50 Feminists Who Changed the World, Popular: The Ups and Downs of Online Dating from the Most Popular Girl in New York City, Madonna & Me: Women Writers on the Queen of Pop and The End: 50 Apocalyptic Visions From Pop Culture That You Should Know About…Before It’s Too Late.