Reason Not to Drink #9: A First Date


Of all the things I’ve had to re-learn how to do in my sobriety, dating has got to be the toughest.

I ended my almost five-year-long relationship with B. last year. I’m still hurting from that; I think it’s going to take a long time to heal. But I don’t want to sit around moping. I live in a wonderful, vibrant city and there’s plenty going on. And there’s nothing like keeping busy to distract me and keep my alcoholic mind from obsessing over the demise of my relationship.

Now, I’m fine doing things on my own; in fact, I often prefer to experience some events independently. I also have a wealth of good friends with whom I do all sorts of activities. I enjoy their company and I’m pretty sure they enjoy mine.

I sometimes worry, though, that I’m getting on their nerves, hanging around them so often these days. I feel like Bobby Brady in the back seat, tagging along with Marcia or Greg on their dates. After all, I’m in my 40s, and I don’t have that many single friends, so I’m typically the odd woman out. And truth be told, I miss having a romantic partner. When my kids aren’t around — and even when they are — I want someone besides Daisy to snuggle up to (no offense, Daisy!) and to enjoy experiences with and to share goals and joys and sorrows with.

Since I was about 17, however, I’d never gone on a first date without having at least one alcoholic drink. I believe that most non-sober friends of mine could probably make a similar declaration. It’s just what people do, to loosen up and relax and help with nerves and the conversational flow.

So not only had I not been on a first date in more than five years, I’d never been on one completely sober. And I had no idea how to do it.

Of course, I had to meet someone first.

In the past, I hadn’t really looked at bars as places to meet people – they were more a setting for socializing with friends, and to meet their friends. I’m not opposed to the occasional happy hour now that I’m sober, but it’s not a big draw for me. Even if I did drink, the noise and crowds aren’t appealing to this 40-something. (Yeah, I’m getting old.)

What’s more, I’m a single mom who works outside the home, so I’m busy. My job is good and interesting, yet I don’t meet too many new people through work.

So I ventured into the world of online dating.

The site I chose gives members the option of listing their drinking preferences – both noting their own habits and what they’d like in a partner. I angsted over this for quite some time.

I worried that if I listed “not at all” to describe my own drinking behavior, potential dates might think it was for religious reasons, or that I was some sort of stick in the mud. And what of the men who put “often” or “every day” as their drinking style? Should I even consider someone who drank frequently?

I finally decided to be honest, figuring that I’d really only want a partner who wouldn’t form an opinion based on one aspect of my profile. And I decided to be open to dates whose drinking habits differed from mine.

Admittedly, I was drawn to the men who listed “not at all” as their drinking style. I assumed that meant that they were sober like me, and there’d already be a bit of shared experience and understanding between us. As expected, the sober men who contacted me brought up the issue of sobriety fairly early in our communication. What really surprised me was that the “regular” guys didn’t even seem to notice what I’d chosen to put in my profile. And here I had been so concerned…

I tried to keep first meetings limited to coffee dates for a number of reasons. A coffee meeting required minimal time and expense; if we didn’t feel some hint of compatibility, we could easily cut our losses. It also meant I didn’t have to worry about explaining my choice of sparkling water over wine or cocktails with dinner.

And so, eventually, I went on a date and didn’t drink.

I was nervous. I felt awkward. I chugged my coffee and got all jittery. I chugged my water and badly needed to use the restroom. I didn’t like the guy. I felt disappointed. But I made it through my first date without relying on alcohol. I had survived.

And then, I went on another first date and didn’t drink. This one wasn’t a match, either, and it was okay. When I started to feel discouraged and began to long for B., I didn’t reach for a drink to numb myself to the sadness.

Very few of those first dates led to second dates. But some did, which of course led to anxiety over yet another Reason Not To Drink: A First Kiss.

And that, my friends, is another post for another time.



3 Responses to “Reason Not to Drink #9: A First Date”

  1. Good for you for being honest and true to yourself. It’s kind of funny when you think about it. People have to have a drink or two to loosen up and be themselves. Why not practice being yourself without the alcohol? I do drink but I will also go out at night and drink water. People act like it’s someone walking on water but I don’t need to have a drink to be social, express myself and go talk to women i find attractive. Good luck with your dating and journey of sobriety!

  2. 2 C

    Thanks, Mike, for your comment. It’s funny how difficult I thought it would be at first (like many challenges in sobriety). And yet, looking back on it now, it was much more daunting in my mind than it actually proved to be.

    Needless to say, I’m very thankful that I’m able to live up to that Shakespearean phrase that’s featured on AA chips: “To thine own self be true.”

  3. I have been dabbling with total sobriety for a few months now. In addition to the benefits of weight loss and no hangovers, I’ve also been terrified of who I really am without drinking. Fifteen years of drinking also means fifteen years of stunting any real personal growth. What started out as a way to feel comfortable in groups had become a poison fueled life of regrets, embarassing moments and hundreds of evenings I couldn’t remember if my life depended on it. Drunk in a bar isn’t cute anymore. I’m learning it never was. I lucked out on having a first sober date with someone who was one plus years sober. It was terrifying at first, but so lovely that I didn’t regret anything I said or did. I remembered the entire night..and the next date, too. We talked about real things, for hours and didn’t end up tangled up in a make out session or awkward morning after situation. Talking with him about my goals, religious beliefs, etc. scared the hell out of me and.. faced with another daunting task, that of figuring out who I am, without alcohol…I stopped calling or returning email. I found myself wishing for the ease of drunken nonsense conversations. This is going to be hard. I will keep trying because I want to figure me out, have more sober dates, maybe even a sober first kiss and a life I can remember. Your blog is helping me to see that I am not alone.

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