“If you’re anything like me, and you’re around a person you’re interested in, you go from zero to awkward in about 2.3 seconds. I guess that’s why lots of people do bars, or dinner and drinks, for first dates… to get a little of that liquid courage to help take the edge off. So, what happens if you don’t drink? Let’s see, you’ve quit drinking for a few months, maybe longer. You have been taking care of yourself, learning to love yourself and you’ve decided it’s time to enter the scary yet fun and fascinating world of dating.
I’ve been sober for three years now. I took an exceptionally long time to focus on myself (when I quit drinking) without the distractions of dating. And always being the type of girl that likes being around a man, let me tell you, it wasn’t easy! The thing with sobriety is, you start to value yourself in a way that you never did while drinking. You get this awesome thing called ‘standards’ so now you are no longer attracted to the guys that get hammered on the regular or the guys that date more girls at once than The Bachelor. Not saying these type of guys are bad people, I am just saying they are bad for ME. I, personally, wanted to wait to start dating until I was confident enough in myself that I would choose men who were healthy for me mentally and spiritually…which is something I didn’t care about while drinking. Now, it’s the number one most important thing to me.
So here I am, three years sober and personally, there is no rush to get married. For me, it’s about patience. Slow and steady wins the race, right? I would prefer my dating life to be more dry than a sleeve of saltine crackers than to rush into something serious with someone who is wrong for me. I definitely think however, my being sober scares men more than they initially lead on. They think I will judge them if they drink, or they think they have to quit drinking because I don’t drink…when in reality, I am the one with the drinking problem, not them! I would never want or expect a man, who has drinks when they go out, to quit on my behalf. For me, I don’t care if a guy drinks. Although, I should clarify and say – I don’t care if a guy drinks socially. It’s not imperative for me to be with a man who is sober like me; that’s not a prerequisite. However, if a guy is getting completely hammered every weekend, then that’s obviously not someone I would be attracted to or who is right for me. I am 37 years old, so I am not looking for a guy with the mindset of a partying frat guy.
What I’ve found awesome about being sober and dating is now it’s actually exciting to find things to do other than go to the bar. I laughed as I typed that, because I really used to consider going to the bar and getting hammered a ‘date.’ Now, it’s all about doing things where I actually get to know the person I am out with, rather than getting drunk and exchanging stories of shared traumas thinking it made us compatible in some twisted way. Years ago I would never think I could have so much fun just being my goofy and awkward self, sitting at dinner with someone completely sober carrying on a conversation with confidence. But now, three years into sobriety, it’s like second nature. It’s nice to learn now about a person on a date and actually remember it, rather than waking up the next morning and thinking, ‘Wow, this guy drinks as much as me – so I know he won’t judge me. He’s a keeper.’
I think I definitely get judged harder by being sober, but in this day and age, sadly, everyone is being judged in some way. There is an unfortunate stigma in regard to sobriety. People have preconceived notions as to what it’s all about, and rather than just being understanding, they assume I am in some way damaged goods. Drinking has become so much of a norm, that people often want explanations as to why I choose not to drink. I always have to explain myself as if I am not ‘normal’ for not drinking. The fact of the matter is, long story short, I recognized something wasn’t good for me and because of that, I stopped doing it. It would be nice if I were looked at for the positive things I do rather than for the negative thing that I don’t. However, people often look down on things they don’t understand, so I know while most will be supportive, many will still be narrow minded. I think what’s important is staying true to yourself and strong in your beliefs, and the right people who are meant to be in your life will gravitate towards that. Those are the people you want to keep around.
I was talking to one guy and everything seemed perfect. It was the first time in almost four years, (since my ex), that I felt something again. You know, that feeling of butterflies every time they call or text. Or, finding yourself smiling at your phone reading what they send you. It seemed too good to be true…and it was. A little after a month of talking, he ended it. He said he didn’t see a future with me because he ‘couldn’t travel the world with me because while he would be partying and getting drunk, I would just stand there.’ Ok, so yes, this sounds terrible. However, he’s entitled to feel how he wants. It’s his life. So if he wants a girl to get drunk with on vacation, then he should go find her. We are both good people; we just weren’t good for each other. And, I was grateful for his honesty and bluntness because it saved me from wasting anymore of my time. I wish him the best in the future.
So here’s what I took away from that experience – things don’t always go the way you had planned, and that’s ok. I believe and have faith in God’s plan, so I knew this was a sign that it wasn’t right for me, and to move on.
Things really change in your way of thinking and how you value yourself once you quit drinking and actively try to better your life and mindset. While I was abusing alcohol, if a guy I had been seeing for an extended amount of time broke it off with me, I would not let it go. I had such low self-esteem that I would just call and text and basically beg for whomever it was to take me back. In my mind, I wanted to keep that person, no matter how toxic and abusive the relationship, because I didn’t think I could get better. I didn’t think I DESERVED better. I could have been with a guy that was literally cheating on me and I would still beg for them back. Alcohol brought me to the lowest point of myself and my confidence level was zero. Because of this, I allowed myself to be treated badly. How could anyone else treat me well when I didn’t even treat MYSELF well?! It was truly a vicious cycle of unhealthiness and unhappiness when drinking. You can’t be your true self and in a happy relationship when you are constantly poisoning the person you really are with booze on a regular basis. You need to learn how to make yourself happy before you can truly know how to share happiness with another human being. I couldn’t do that until I got sober.
Now, being sober, my way of thinking is different than the girl who once begged for attention from men who weren’t right for me. I KNOW what I bring to the table. If a guy decides after dating that I am not his cup of tea, then by all means, he should keep moving and find the one who is. That just means my true love is still out there. I am confident enough in myself now to know that sometimes, we are just two different people and sometimes things don’t work out the way you hope. It’s all about gracefully letting go of the things not meant for you. I am extremely comfortable in who I am and I know what I can offer in a relationship. I also know that I am, and will always be, a work in progress. I believe there is always room for improvement and that I should always try to grow in every aspect of life. I know I am not always right, I admit my faults now and I try to understand others’ way of thinking when there is a disagreement. These are things that weren’t relevant to me when I was drinking…because when you’re abusing alcohol, the only thing you care about is yourself. I am grateful that I let go of that selfishness that came with drinking because otherwise, I would never be able to have a healthy and stable relationship.
Although some men might be taken aback by the whole sobriety thing, I think more men should try to understand it and if anything, see it as something that should be embraced. For me, sobriety doesn’t mean I am no longer fun, which is a huge misconception. Me going to the bar with you, getting wasted and you having to help me as I stumble outside isn’t fun. You having to buckle me in your car as I am slumped over isn’t fun. You having to walk me to my door and helping me put the key in my door because I’m so sloppy drunk isn’t fun. So I assure you… to all the guys who say to me, ‘If you don’t drink, how do you have fun?,’ I was not fun when I drank. Maybe I was ‘semi enjoyable’ for the first drink or two, but when you finish the tape, 10 times out of 10, it never ended well. What’s fun to me is being present with a clear mind and just being high on life. What’s fun to me is embracing the awkward and goofy person I am and rolling with it because I know the right person will appreciate me for me and I don’t have to hide who I really am with shots of tequila. Being my true self is what I want to attract the love of my life and I am confident that one day when the time is right, it will.
Dating might be a scary thought to some at first when you’re newly dating sober, and don’t have the false security blanket you held onto for so long for false confidence, which is alcohol. But, what’s even scarier is going your entire life never knowing your true self or never showing your BEAUTIFUL TRUE SELF because you’re too busy hiding behind booze. So what if you’re a little nervous at first which makes you awkward?! Those slightly awkward first sober dates will make amazing memories one day that you can actually remember and smile about on your wedding day. Knowing you are being YOU in your purist form all the time is an amazing thing. And THATS what’s going to attract the person you’re meant to spend your life with.
So is dating sober difficult? If sobriety in general were easy, everyone would do it. I think anything that’s challenging makes the end result worth so much more. Sobriety is sexy. And no one will ever convince me otherwise.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Erica Haywood. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read Erica’s backstory of overcoming her drinking addiction:
‘I found his gun while blacked out. I held it to my head, trying to pull the trigger. His roommate ripped it away.’: Woman’s life has changed ‘drastically’ since becoming sober, turned her ‘nightmare’ into a ‘blessing’
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