Dating is hard enough, but dating while sober can add a whole other level of challenges. We are so used to grabbing drinks on a first date or smoking a joint to ease our nerves before meeting for the first time that it can feel like you are missing a part of the equation when you begin living sober.
For many, using substances feels like an escape from nervousness, making dating less stressful. But are we sure this is really the case?
Being in control of yourself is way more appealing than being inebriated on a first date, but learning how to date while sober is a challenge of its own. It can be extremely nerve-wracking to show up and meet someone new without the crutch of substances to open you up or calm you down.
You have to show up for yourself in ways you might not have needed to when using.
Sober dating doesn’t have to be so scary! You will meet the right person with time, but it doesn’t happen overnight. We’ve broken down a list of ways to navigate dating while sober so that you don’t have to, and instead, you can focus on your own needs and wants out of a relationship.
Make Sure You Are Ready
Before you even start dating, you want to have a very real conversation with yourself about whether you are ready to date.
Because there can be so many hoops you have to jump through as someone living through addiction recovery, inviting the right people into your life is essential. Once you know you are ready, there are ways to further prepare yourself for what’s to come.
You’ve done so much work on yourself that you don’t want to put your sobriety at risk. Of course, everyone is deserving of love — especially you!
What Should I Expect When Sober Dating?
Drinking alcohol and using substances like marijuana is extremely prevalent in today’s dating culture. Some people even go so far as taking a shot by themselves before going on a date to ease their nerves, further perpetuating their “need” for alcohol to stay consistent on their dates. If you choose to date people who are not sober, you have to prepare for being around substances while staying in control and focused on the end goal. Not everyone will disrespect your sobriety, but you must never lose sight of your goals.
In order to navigate dating while sober, we’ve created a list of several things to look out for while on your dates. If you want to better your chances at a successful night where you make meaningful connections, continue reading to learn about dating sober.
1. Set Your Expectations
To stay true to yourself, you should set boundaries regarding your plans. You should decide where you are willing to go and where you want to avoid.
Maybe you want to avoid bars, but will still eat at a restaurant, or maybe you want to go somewhere more public in the middle of the day than meet up later in the night. You should decide these things before your date to make sure you don’t compromise with your wishes.
You know yourself better than anyone, so you understand your boundaries. Should someone make you feel like you are crossing your boundaries, and they have no intention of changing for you, you should leave the situation.
When dating sober, it can be easier to see how other people’s actions are impacting you. The benefit of this is that you aren’t as easily manipulated or blindsided by a person’s actions, but the downside is that it can be more difficult to make connections. If your standards are high, your sobriety won’t let them falter!
2. Be Straight Up About Your Sobriety
The best way to let someone know about your struggles with substance use is by telling them as soon as you meet them. Someone worth going on a date with will understand your decision to remain sober and will encourage you, support you, and maybe even partake with you.
Letting someone know that you are sober might give you a good idea of their personality based on how they react, so it’s like a win-win.
If you are tired of telling people you are sober, and them not responding how you’d like, you might want to consider dating within the sober community. You won’t have to be so open about your sobriety because you’ll have something in common off the bat. In this case, you can talk about what sobriety means to you and what your goals are.
3. Look For Empathy and Cooperation
What kind of support are you looking for in a partner?
It’s important to ask yourself questions like this to match yourself up with like-minded individuals. When dating sober, you want your date to be compassionate, empathetic, and cooperative. You don’t want someone who won’t make changes to fit your needs, and you definitely don’t want someone ignorant about what it means to live with a substance use disorder.
Someone who can tap into their empathy easily will not hold things over your head if you make a mistake during recovery. Empathy overrides mistakes and helps mend relationships.
Empathy also helps others understand your past and where you are coming from. You don’t want to be with someone who disregards your past and doesn’t see how prevalent it is in your present and future.
When you are searching for a partner, really consider how you show up for each other. Communicating your needs can get you to where you want to be in a relationship.
4. Find Sober Single Friends
If you are still struggling while on dates, you might want to take a step back and practice hanging out with your sober, single, friends. Going out in a group with others staying sober makes it easier to remain on the same level as everyone else. It adds more personal responsibility to the mix. You all can support each other without worrying about being the only one not using substances.
Plus, we all know the power of a wingman! Having someone sober with you while trying to chat up people at a social event can help lessen the awkward silences and encourage you to speak up.
Going out and being more social can be scary when you are sober. When you surround yourself with sober individuals who also want to enjoy their life, it can make these experiences a lot less intimidating.
5. Have Support on Speed Dial
You should always have support ready to help you out no matter where you are. Whether you call up your sponsor or a trusted family member, having the ability to leave a situation or get reassurance can make things less scary.
You should notify certain people what your plans are. That way, you are setting expectations for yourself to stay within the parameters of those plans. This will help you out if you need someone to come to your location to bail you out of a situation you feel uncomfortable with.
6. Download a Sober Dating App
Dating nowadays requires a lot of access to the online atmosphere. In order to make it as easy as possible for sober people to meet, sober dating apps are available to fit your every need. This is a shortcut for finding other sober people looking to date because the main purpose of the apps is to connect sober people. It cuts out the awkward sobriety talk and skips right into discussing what led you to the app. Some sober dating apps that are popular right now are:
Get Support from Soba Recovery
Whether you want to be sober or are sober, you deserve to experience everything everyone else does — including dating. It might be different from regular dating, but it’s worth it when you meet people who have lasting impacts on your life.
If you are continuing to struggle with your sobriety, Soba Recovery Centers can help. With locations in San Antonio, Texas, and Mesa, Arizona, you can find a community of sober individuals who all have the goal of getting better in their minds.
If this sounds like you or a loved one, reach out to a Soba representative to learn more about the inpatient and outpatient services that we offer. It’s never too late to get out there and live your best life!
How Social Relationships Influence Substance Use Disorder Recovery: A Collaborative Narrative Study | Sage Journals
Substance Use Disorders | NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness
Using Positive Empathy Interventions to Reduce Stigma Toward People Who Inject Drugs | Frontiers In Psychology