Finding the Love of Your Life While Staying Sober

A man in recovery from addiction goes out on a sober date.

Table of Contents

It’s that time of the year when we think the most about romance. Navigating modern dating might already feel stressful, but it might feel like a nightmare when sober. From alcohol avoidance to dealing with rejection to experiencing a level of comfortability when talking about your recovery journey, here are tips for enjoying dating while sober.

Dealing With Stigma

While the view of addiction is becoming less and less negative as people become more educated, plenty of people still don’t understand what you went through and why. Thus, there can be a fear of rejection with dating sober. What if they have questions? What if they are uncomfortable dating someone with an addiction? What if they judge me? It can be scary to dip your toes into the dating pool, especially if relationships have been a central sour point in your life. Perhaps your past relationships influenced drug or alcohol use. Maybe you lost a loved one to your substance use. There might be a lot of baggage you need to address and accept. However, dating does not need to be scary. Just take it a step at a time.

Waiting a Year

If you are still in early recovery, it is recommended that you wait at least a year after treatment before going on dates and starting new relationships. This is because the first year is typically when you are the most vulnerable and raw. You might physically be off of substances; however, there is still much work to be done psychologically. Early recovery is all about starting new habits and rebuilding a life you feel proud of.

Additionally, those in early recovery might still chase things that give them a high. An example of this arises in unhealthy relationships, as boundaries and values form and take shape. Waiting a year allows you to establish yourself and develop a solid sense of self outside of any relationships.

Being Honest Goes a Long Way

While you might be afraid of judgment, being honest right from the beginning will do wonders. Communication and honestly are foundations in healthy relationships. If you are honest about your past with your present and potential future partner, you start on the right foot. You can disclose what information you are comfortable sharing. You don’t need to delve into every detail if it is not something you are ready to share yet. However, disclosing at the very least that you are sober by choice and have struggled with addiction in the past can help establish healthy boundaries and expectations.

Date Somewhere That Feels Safe

It’s common to “meet up for drinks” or go to a bar for a date, which in most cases, wouldn’t be a comfortable location for someone in recovery from substance use. When setting up a date, make sure you choose an activity that makes you feel safe, emotionally and physically, but is still fun. There are plenty of sober activities to try together, from visiting a local park to getting a cup of coffee. Set your boundaries early, especially if you don’t feel safe in an environment that might serve alcohol (bowling alley, restaurants with bars, dance halls.) If the person you ask on a date is a good catch, they will honor your requests.

Take Things Slow

Life after recovery is exciting. Sometimes, you feel on top of the world, like you can do anything. However, at this stage, even after you’ve got a majority of your life together, it’s still better to take something new and emotionally charged slowly. Relationships can become a significant source of stress. Meeting someone you like might be exciting, but it’s better not to rush relationship milestones, especially if you haven’t dated in a while. Do your best to remain entirely conscious of your feelings and take the relationship a day at a time.

Remember to Love Yourself First

While it is possible to be in a healthy relationship while struggling with self-esteem, it’s essential to make sure that you don’t sacrifice your wellbeing for a relationship. Put yourself first. This includes standing up for yourself and not letting negative opinions about your past or life choices get to you.

It’s Okay if It’s Not Meant to Be

When dating doesn’t seem to be working, don’t put yourself down. Dating can be a tumultuous venture at times. Sometimes rejection can weigh on you, but it’s important to remember that not every relationship is forever. Your paths might only be crossing temporarily. Ultimately, you still have yourself, and someday you might share your life with someone else. In the meantime, be patient and know that being single doesn’t mean you are worth anything less.

Dating for the first time after treatment can be terrifying. It would help if you kept in mind many things when dipping your toes in the water. There are rejections, stigmas, and emotions that will need to be dealt with along the way. Don’t feel pressured to start a relationship right away. Even simply going on a casual date every once in a while can be a great starting place. Your life isn’t incomplete without the love of your life, but it’s certainly understandable to want companionship. Your value isn’t any less if the person you got coffee with isn’t the one. Just take each date a step at a time and savor the moment. You only have first dates once. For more advice about dating while in recovery, call Jaywalker Lodge today at (866) 529-9255. We are happy to give you any advice as we’ve all been in your shoes. 

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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