Seduction in Sobriety

By Carlos Herrera 08/14/12

Why picking up a drink made it easier to pick up a girl and why now, sober, picking up a girl makes it easier to pick up a drink.

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Picking up the pieces Photo via

My name's Carlos and I'm five-and-a-half years sober and addicted to 7's. That's not a drug—it's a 1-10 level of attraction scale and point system widely used by morons. I'm kidding. I obviously don't date 7's. I'm not on TV, so they won't talk to me. 

A month ago, I met my sober actor friend, who happens to have an entourage of sober girls, at Pinches Tacos on Sunset. These girls didn't look like old men in trench coats or homeless guys stealing coffee. They were Super 8's: the kind of girls who have celebrities on their "been there, done that" list. We ate dinner and I spilled guacamole on my shoes and everyone laughed. Strike one and two right there. But one of the Super 8's got me napkins because she was feeling generous and we ended up going to Bar Marmont across the street. I could have been at The Comedy Store hanging out with my friends but I was trying to have a life experience. I gave my mystery girl a cigarette and an Italian guy clutching a Jack and Coke lit it for her. Swooped in by an international cock blocker. She said that he was a gentleman so I said I had to go deface my friend on a billboard. Ten minutes later, I was at the comedy club joking around, comfortable again. How am I going to marry a Super 8 if Italian guys with chest hair spelling out "that douchebag isn’t the one" are always going to light cigarettes for them? 

I had an immature idea that I could choose when to be confident by eating pills like Skittles. 

Let's rewind to when I was a teenager. I was a failing student at a Houston all-boys prep school run by Jesuit priests that was right next door to an all-girls school named after the patron saint of chastity. I had a habit of smoking pot, chugging screwdrivers and stashing pills in my body like I was hiding cookies in a cookie jar. I was also in love with a cute brunette. We made out in her Land Rover and listened to Outkast. Around her group of friends, I was super nervous that they’d find out that I was an insecure fraud, so I partied until I threw up on the side of the car, smoked joints and drove drunk. She obviously cut me loose and my mom didn’t make me go to church that Sunday because I’d just been broken up with over the phone. I was blasting Ryan Adams' "Heartbreaker" and my natural habits of stealing alcohol and then mixing it with drugs that were supposed to calm cancer patients were turning me into a junkie fast. That was my first girlfriend and I could've done it without drugs but chose not to because it was easy. I had an immature idea that I could choose when to be confident by eating pills like Skittles. 

If anything was certain at this point, it was that I would never speak to a girl I was sexually attracted to without the armor of Schedule II narcotics ever again. I knew I was an alcoholic. The upcoming years were going be rough—ugly at most and funny at best.

Let's skip to the middle of my come down. At this point I was hitting on anything that moved. The armor I had on for so long was riddled with bullet holes and my alcoholism was like Jordan in the 90's: not even strippers named after expensive perfumes they'd never smell were falling for my green-eyed charm when it looked like a snowstorm hit my nostrils. I was like the captain of the Titanic who saw the iceberg miles ahead and still went on the course to sink. My addiction was fun and exciting like a sloth is quick to getting to Point B.

That was the 2000's and entering the spring of 2007, I got sober. After I had a job, an apartment, and some clean time under my belt, I wanted to meet girls. The girls at the PR firm where I worked weren't falling for my crap and I swore off bars for a while so I was left with the dating pool of AA. That's like being left with the healthy cereal at Trader Joe's as your only option after eating sugar-coated candy breakfast for the past decade.

Dating sober is totally possible and is done every day by plenty of people all over the world. But so is dunking a basketball. I was going to meetings all over: from Young People's meetings in West LA to private meetings in Bel Air's West Gate where the newcomer looked like he was paid to be there through SAG/AFTRA. The girls were either too smart to fall for me or too newly sober to see me with 20/20 vision. I talked to them, sure, but if I went on a date with one of them, I didn't have alcohol to trigger my charm. I went out with interns from the PR firm or the talent agency I would go on to work at and they weren't impressed because I only lived one block above The Sunset Strip. Without drugs or booze, it was getting boring fast. And by boring, I mean incredibly hard to deal with. 

My first friend in sobriety was a married man whose wife had hot friends. They were nice girls from boring parts of the country and owned sewing kits. I fell in love with one of them and we dated for several years. She liked to drink wine and smoke pot when she felt like indulging in her hippie Oregon roots. When she smoked, I didn't care. I loved her and replaced one addiction with another: women. Drinking lemonade on double dates had me nervous with a guard up to impress and with only a couple of years sober and a major lack of adult experience, I was exposed as immature and not ready. I was sent back to the minors but not before I napalmed the situation. If only I’d had the confidence that I found in the first 120 seconds of snorting a line for this relationship, we’d be checking out pre-schools right now. 

That was the Cusackian time of my life and it's never really ended. The term comes from John Cusack's characters in every movie he's in. Even when he's attempting to save the world from doom, he's just trying to get back together with an ex or impress a girl. I'm Cusackian and so are my purchases on iTunes, friends and naps.

Through this Cusackian era, I dove into AA and was able to grow and become an adult. I developed a muscle of being able to talk to women and be their friend. I go to AA meetings with beautiful women and I don't bother them. Being even a semi-attractive girl in LA is to be a carnival duck constantly dodging BB's. I'm not going to add to that my intentions aren't anything beyond, "Want to watch Netflix, make out and then leave so I can feed the stray cat in peace without you judging me?" I went to a meeting last week where the speaker was a 40-something woman strapped with fuck-me heels. I didn't touch my iPhone the whole time and left without bothering her or her Instagram feed. I'm not going after girls with under a year who are getting out of vans from rehabs. This isn't because I'm on a high horse but because I just don't give a shit. Sorry that I ride a falling-apart motorcycle, that I look like Jeremy Piven’s younger brother who can’t afford hair plugs yet and that I’m not a fan of the places people go out to eat after the meetings; maybe I’m not exactly in the running for dating girls in Alcoholics Anonymous in the Greater Los Angeles area.

My biggest problem with dating sober is the same one I have with ordering food sober, walking sober or running for president sober: the being sober part. Without alcohol soaking my brain, everything is difficult. But I’ve had the experience of dating girls without it for a while now. Going to bars and meeting girls who drink isn’t a big deal anymore and neither is booze. If you pretend it’s not, then it’s not going to pop up and scare you. I live parallel to alcohol and let it be. I respect alcohol, just not the people who pour it on their shirts. I've done it all wrong in sobriety, too. I've cut lines of coke for waitresses and have picked up the wrong drink before and then rode my motorcycle a little tipsy only to park behind a high-rise hotel to call a sober friend. This was with half a decade sober and that sober friend was a girl. I spoke at a men's meeting the next day and shared the story with them. They laughed and told me it wasn't a big deal and here I am today, sober five-and-a-half years with no girlfriend, a life I never thought I deserved and everything to lose.

Carlos Herrera is a Los Angeles-based stand-up comedian and writer. A former entertainment assistant from the the age of 19, he has performed at The Hollywood Improv and The Comedy Store, amongst others. He just wrapped a docu-comedy pilot for MTV and can be seen late night (in the back) at comedy clubs in Hollywood. This is his first piece for The Fix.

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