By: Michael Ahearn, CARC
Let’s have some real discussion here: it’s February, which of course means Valentine’s Day. This is probably the most polarizing holiday there is. No one is “lukewarm” toward Valentine’s Day. We either love it or hate it. So how about a discussion about dating in recovery?
I have been in recovery for five years now. As a 27-year-old, I think back to 22-year-old Mike and what being sober and dating looked like. Well, to be blatantly honest, it wasn’t pretty, pun intended. We’re talking being early 20s and newly sober, which means awkwardness. Numbing myself for as long as I did definitely took its toll on the social aspect of my life. So, like many 22-year-old males, I turned to Bumble, Tinder, OKCupid, and probably a few others that I am currently forgetting. If you’re not familiar with these “dating” apps, I’ll save you the time — it’s a cesspool. Now, I can only speak for myself. At that time I was making changes. I wanted to be a better person, a gentleman. Here’s a fun fact: being 22 years old, newly sober, trying to be a gentleman did not exactly set the ladies on fire for me. I came off as weird, awkward, and maybe not so charming, which means that Taylor Swift song about feeling 22 brings about the strangest emotions possible for me. This story gets better, I promise. Just stick with me.
The more I stayed away from trying to meet girls, the more I worked on myself. The more I was able to gain self-confidence and work on my own insecurities, the more I noticed that the “dating” world came to me. Confidence was the ultimate attraction — not to be confused with cockiness. I was not cocky. I was just getting more comfortable in my own skin, which meant enjoying who I am. Now sobriety has given me unlimited potential and benefits, but my recovery used to affect my self-esteem. It was always in the back of my head that I did not want to be judged for my so-called “baggage.” Let me crush this myth for you. Everyone, EVERYONE, has baggage. What sets people in recovery apart is that if you own it, and I mean really get comfortable with it, people can’t get enough of you. Honestly, people in recovery are fascinating human beings, and that attracts people. I have found that a good balance of confidence because of the work I have put into myself and humility from my experience has been a major factor in attracting a quality person. This is not to say that everyone is a saint; at the end of the day, we are all human.
So, let’s talk about the actual dating part. I have good news for all my fellow sober people finding it tough to date in recovery. What I have found is that any guy can ask a lady out for a drink or to dinner. BUT, and I purposely put that in all-caps, when you are in recovery you have to get creative. Guess what? That sets you apart from everyone else. I noticed this early on. I made a mental note that if I asked a girl out to a museum, walking around the city, bowling, golfing, ice-skating, whatever I could think of, I was automatically different. Setting a fun date takes off a lot of the pressure, and you can be yourself and be silly, especially with bowling. It’s hard to look cool rolling a gutterball, but nobody is good at bowling, so it’s a perfect way to break the ice.
My advice for dating in recovery? Get to know yourself. In a way, pretend you’re trying to date yourself. Know what makes you amazing; know what you can work on. When that starts to come together, the dating aspect will follow. But just like with any other part of life, give yourself time to develop. Know what you like and dislike. Once you accept yourself fully, the scary part is over. Have the confidence to be yourself and everything else will fall into place.