Are You Ready to Date Sober?

By The Fix staff 07/15/19

At first, recovery is all about focusing on yourself, but eventually you may want someone to share a sober life with.

a young couple on a sober date

Setting up life in recovery is a long process. First, you have to learn to live without substances, then relearn how to face the highs and lows of life during sober singles dating. Many people need to spend time during early recovery repairing the damage that they have done to their relationships, finances or careers during active addiction. 

But eventually you’ll be interested in dating again. For may sober singles, dating is intimidating. You have all the regular insecurities — about putting yourself out there, meeting new people and being vulnerable — as well as the unique worries about how dating will affect your sobriety. 

Here’s how to know whether you’re ready to give sober singes dating a try, or whether you should spend more time strengthening your recovery. 

Have you been sober for at least a year?

In many recovery traditions — specifically 12 step traditions — people are advised to wait until they have been in recovery for a year before they begin dating. This gives people time to focus on their recoveries, without the distractions and challenges of dating. 

“The first year of sobriety is fraught with challenging issues,” psychologist and addiction counselor Anne Lewis told U.S. News and World Reports. “It will be easy for many to find replacement addictions, such as a love addiction, to replace the high the drug or alcohol provided. Many people enjoy the honeymoon phase of relationships, feeling euphoria from the new love, making it more challenging to address issues that underlie the addiction. Typically these underlying issues are related to our negative core beliefs, a difficult thing to uncover when we are viewed as ‘perfect’ by our new partner.”

Although a year might seem like a long time, it will pass quickly. Remember, thousands of people have been on this road before, and learned hard lessons along the way. If you’re considering dating before the first year is up, take a moment to reconsider. 

Are you comfortable talking about your sobriety?

Oftentimes dating centers around drinking, since going to a bar an easy way to catch up in our culture. Because of that, people dating need to be comfortable explaining their sobriety and owning their recovery story. 

Lucy Price spoke to Glamour for a story about sober singles dating and said that in early recovery she had to joke about her sobriety, but with him she became more comfortable being upfront and honest. 

“I would make jokes like, ‘When I drink I tend to break out in handcuffs,’ which lightened the mood,” she said. “But as the years went by, I became more comfortable in my skin, so now I’ll just say I'm an alcoholic in recovery.”

If you’re not comfortable discussing your sobriety, you might find yourself in situations that are triggering, so it’s a good idea to practice what you’ll say before you are on a date where you may encounter an uncomfortable situation. 

Are you adding something or filing a void?

Sometimes people look for love for all the wrong reasons. It’s easy to think that a new relationship will add something to our lives, help us be our best selves, or aid in overcoming challenges. However, to really solve problems in your life you need to work through them yourself, not look for external solutions. 

Writing for The Fix, Kristin Fehrman reflected on her tendency to always want something more, rather than being mindful about her current state. 

“My life has been a variation of this experience, from shopping to dreaming about my future. What was right in front of me was never sufficient; I was always fixated on what was next,” she said. 

Many people — in recovery or not — do this in their love lives as well. If you’re considering starting to date in sobriety, ask yourself whether you are looking to fill a void or give yourself distraction. Those are not good reasons to start dating. However, if you find that you’re genuinely looking to add something into this new, healthy life that you’ve created, it may be time to give sober dating a try.

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