By RACHEL HUGHES-HUDGEL, MBA
The one thing I hated more than anything in the world was dating. Dating was hard enough. When you threw in the fact that I was in my 20’s and sober, it somehow managed to get that much harder. “Would you like to meet for drinks” or “I know this great bar we could go to before grabbing a bite to eat” was always a bit of an awkward conversation when I was still trying to figure out who I was in sobriety. How do you tell someone that alcohol isn’t part of your lifestyle? Will they understand it? Most of the time, I could navigate just fine. “Instead, how about I beat you at some arcade games and loser has to buy ice cream”. Then, once I was on the date, I felt more comfortable declining a drink and explaining that I was in recovery. Some of the people I went on dates with understood and some didn’t. Eventually, I got more comfortable in my own skin to tell them before I even went on the date. The text would say, “Would you like to meet for drinks?”, to which I would respond, “Actually, I’m in recovery from alcohol, but there’s this great restaurant I’ve been wanting to try if you would be game for that instead”. If they were accepting, then that was what we would do and if that was something that bothered them, I just didn’t go on the date.
Dating in recovery taught me something valuable that I think most people aren’t always blessed enough to have learned. It taught me that I can’t lower my standards especially when having to put my sobriety first. For example, I know that I can’t have alcohol in my home. Never in my life will alcohol be able to be in my fridge or on my counter or tucked away somewhere. On first dates, this often came up as a topic of conversation. My friends would often tell me that my conversation didn’t always need to lead down that path and gradually that would come up, but I felt it was important for someone to know that
that was something I wasn’t going to budge on, ever. Why continue a date with someone that didn’t respect my feelings on something important to me? Why not bring up things on a first date that could be a dealbreaker in the long run? My time was valuable and so was theirs, so I wasn’t going to waste it!
Most of the people I would go on dates with were curious about what being in recovery looked like and I had no problem explaining it. Most people are curious, especially when you are in your 20’s and have made the decision you are no longer going to drink alcohol. As long as they were respectful, I had no problem discussing it and explaining what my recovery looked like for me. If the person I ended up dating couldn’t be respectful of my recovery, then we parted ways.
An important part of my recovery journey was knowing that there were going to be people that accepted and respected my sobriety and knowing there were going to be people that didn’t. If they didn’t, that was okay. I just moved on and kept my sobriety first. When you keep your sobriety first, everything works out the way it is supposed to.
Eventually, I did meet someone that was respectful and supportive of my sobriety, and we’re now married. Together, we have boundaries around what alcohol in a relationship looks like and for us, that looks like no alcohol. It takes respect and support when you first date, and as you continue through a relationship, to make sure both partners understand what sobriety must look like for the other person and the relationship to be healthy.
Dating in sobriety can be hard, but it can also be rewarding. It allows you to set boundaries and find someone that truly respects and supports you. By dating sober, you get to know the person you’re dating without the influence of alcohol, and you get to have a deeper connection. You don’t have to have dates that you can’t remember and can always be at your best. Dating in sobriety allows you to keep your standards high and not settle for less than you deserve, and you don’t. You deserve the best, especially being a person in sobriety.