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  • Writer's pictureLandon Payne

4 Sobering Tips for Dating in Recovery

Oh, love. (sigh)

It's one of the things none of us can live without. The innate human need for affection and intimacy can make us do crazy things. I was separated from my ex and in the midst of a divorce when I decided that I'd had enough of alcohol. My drinking and associated behaviors was one of the major contributors to the breakup. I drank when I felt anything, so you can imagine the constant rollercoaster of emotions. From the alcohol-fueled rages brought on by my own insecurities to the nights of binging and crying because I felt unheard, lonely and misunderstood.

Separating myself from my marriage in 2020 was difficult, painful, and relieving. It wasn't all bad, but it was severe enough that I was a shell of myself by the end. My body wasn't always an easy place to be. I tried dating soon after but ended up rebounding and feeling worse than before. After that, I'd had enough. Dating is already stressful, but when compounded with alcohol abuse and substantial lack of self-confidence, it can be pure, unbridled chaos. Closing the door on dating and ushering in a renaissance of self-love and healing was what I truly needed.

I know all of that sounds corny, but it's true! I had to take romance completely off the table and focus on being the kind of person I wanted to date. Hell, if you're not feeling yourself, why would anyone else be feeling you?

Dating in sobriety is not a topic I see discussed often enough. Being newly sober is a mindfuck in and of itself. Putting down the booze is just a pebble in a pond. The ripple effect lasts far longer than you can imagine. We're rewiring our minds and relearning who we are without alcohol. In my opinion, when you date, you're selling the best version of yourself. If you're unsure if you are your best self, then what the hell are you selling to people?

I'm no dating expert and my pre-sober track record is questionable. However, I've experienced enough to share some useful tidbits with my newly sober friends looking to get back out there and find their special someone(s) 😉.

1. Wait A Year

If you don't like it, fight me. I can't stress enough how important that first year of sobriety is for your mental well-being. As I stated above, you're rewiring your brain to function without alcohol. Being that everyone has a different sober experience, you have no idea what to expect. My first year had many ups, but when the downs came, they came violently. Healing from trauma, relearning how to communicate with others, and learning how to sit with my emotions and deal with them were the hardest lessons for me my first year.

Photo by KoolShooters

I don't believe I'd have the understanding I have of myself now had I decided to make love faces with another human at the beginning. Being a hopeless romantic, I tend to go all in when I'm invested in someone. Dating would've been a distraction from my own healing. Giving yourself time and space to heal from alcohol is invaluable. And no, it's not worth considering dating someone who is also at the beginning of their recovery. Think of it as "the blind leading the blind". Addicts in recovery need all of the patience and understanding we can get, and the relationship can risk reaching "needy" status. YOU need you.

Not everyone agrees with this, and that's okay. Do whatever you feel is best for you and your sobriety. Just keep in mind that you need all of you in the beginning. Make sure that you show up as full and complete as you can. Not only will you reduce your chances of relapse and ensure sober longevity, but you also increase the likelihood of finding enriching, long-lasting lurve! 🥰

2. Codependency Is a Bitch

And a bitch to be avoided at ALL COSTS. Here's the thing, your first year sober is going to take you for a ride. You'll question your self-worth, your identity, and practically everything regarding how you view yourself in the world. If you're not feeling confident in yourself and latch onto someone to validate you, you are going to LOSE.

I met my partner before I stopped drinking. Thankfully, he didn't get to see me at my absolute worst, but he's witnessed my moments of insecurity and self-loathing. I quickly realized that I was regressing back the toxic graveyard that my old relationships died in. It's another reason I stress the importance of taking at least a year to yourself. If you don't have the tools to exorcise those demons ON YOUR OWN, you'll just be trading one addiction for another.

3. Your Sobriety Is Non-Negotiable

This one requires effort from both parties, but you can save some time and heartache by playing your sober card from the jump. Your sobriety doesn't need to be the focal point of your relationship, but it IS non-negotiable. My partner met me as a drinker but had no issue supporting me living sober. In fact, I believe I have a harder time with it most days than he does. He still drinks but is mindful of my journey and boundaries.

It pays to consider different scenarios when you're preparing to jump back into the dating pool. What's the conversation going to give? What if the person encourages you to drink? Do you feel comfortable being with someone who casually consumes alcohol? Running through scenarios such as this will help you be clear on your expectations of yourself and your potential partner.

4. Take It Slow

Patience is a virtue that I'm finally beginning to master. In the past, I'd move through a relationship like Speedy Gonzalez only to find out the person I saw through my rose-colored glasses was not someone I needed to be with. Slowing things down, taking time to get to know someone, and allowing love to grow organically is a jam we should all be grooving to.

I 100% do NOT suggest the Speedy Gozalez method of dating. 10/10 wouldn't recommend,

Honestly, when it comes to matters of the heart there's never too much time. Giving yourself time and space to get comfortable with the idea of dating is also beneficial. Our hearts and our brains rarely agree on things. But when it comes to giving your time and energy to this dating game, you have to use your brain muscles, baby.

Be stingy with your love and take your sweet time. Take walks, share a meal, go to a movie, give yourselves the opportunity to get to know each other. Withhold intimacy until you're sure you can trust the person. Be on the lookout for red flags and signs of codependency. If you feel like things won't work out and decide to end the relationship in the early stages, DO IT! Save yourself the stress and protect your sobriety!

Taking the time to build a strong foundation for a healthy, positive union only strengthens your sobriety. It also leads to more fulfilling opportunities for growth.

I hope these tips help you and hopefully erodes some of the anxiety that comes with dating. Remember that YOU are the most incredible person and you're doing amazing. Protect your light at all costs, friend.

For more helpful resources and useful tidbits join my group, The Fix on Facebook and Instagram. There's a whole community waiting to love on you! See you next time! 😁

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