First dates can conjure up all kinds of feelings. From being unbelievably excited to feeling nervous and uncertain, these dating anxieties can feel even worse if you’re doing this while trying to stay sober. Here are some tips to help a recovering alcoholic get back into the dating scene.
How To Date When You’re Alcohol-Free
We live in a culture that normalizes drinking to the point that most daters dread the idea of a first date without alcohol. While pairing alcohol and romance may be the norm in the beginning stages of getting to know someone, you can create a new normal for yourself and your dates by using the following strategies:
Figure Out What You’re Looking For
The preparation for a sober first date starts before you even take a step out of the door. It’s best to decide early on whether would prefer to only date other sober people or not. If you feel comfortable dating someone who drinks, how do you feel about telling them that you are sober? Depending on where you are in your sobriety, you may find yourself more comfortable with someone that understands your abstinence and perhaps has gone through addiction and treatment themselves.
Knowing how the answers to these questions can take a lot of the awkwardness out of the situation. Bonus, it can give you an idea of where to start your search in the dating pool (there are several dating sites dedicated to those who are sober or in recovery).
Only Share What You are Comfortable Revealing
Since alcohol is almost an expectation in the dating world, finding out that a date doesn’t drink can be off-putting to the person that does. For this reason, you may find that you want to avoid drawing attention to your sobriety at all. However, you can’t change your past, and your brush with alcohol addiction isn’t something you can hide forever. Does that mean you have to tell your date that you are sober?
Even if you are usually very open about your zero-alcohol policy, you may fear your first date will be judgmental. In a perfect world, potential dates would always be understanding of your decision to not drink. However, telling others that you’re abstaining from alcohol can put them on edge. This might lead you to feel pressured to reveal this upfront or, if you chose not to, anxious about withholding this information.
When choosing a potential romantic partner, it’s imperative that they respect your sobriety. While honesty is usually the best policy, a first date does not mean you have to bare your soul (or past). Only reveal as much as you feel comfortable sharing.
Have Your Go-To Drinks in Mind
With all the butterflies and nervousness that typically surrounds first dates, it’s best to have a clear idea of what you will be drinking on the date. Even though you are abstaining from alcohol, it is handy to have something other than water to sip on throughout the night. Whether you ask for an Arnold Palmer or order sparkling water, making the decision beforehand will take a lot of the pressure off.
Get Creative When Suggesting the Date
While the most common idea for a date is “drinks and dinner”, it is one of the most unimaginative. When suggesting an idea for a date, take the initiative to choose something that is completely alcohol-free. Opt for coffee, dog walking, hiking, bowling, etc. The key is to find an activity that allows you to get to know the other person without cornering you into a situation where there is nothing else to do but drink.
Call it a Night If You Feel Pressured Or Uncomfortable
Being alcohol-free is your choice, no one else’s. While some people may react differently to your choice to stay sober, you should never feel pressured. If your date makes you feel uncomfortable or stressed about abstaining from alcohol, it’s best to call it a night.
Dating comes with its own set of expectations. Drinking alcohol shouldn’t be one of them. Use these five strategies to help you on your next first date and to serve as a relapse prevention guide for future situations.