Trading Cocktails for Connections: My Sober Dating Journey

By Christina Zayas

When I was in early recovery, the idea of dating while sober was terrifying. That’s because my endless consumption of alcohol in the past made me behave so unlike my true self that I was never fully present and lacked real dating experience. I had sadly traded connection for cocktails, but it was when I began a program of recovery that I finally took the opportunity to work on those areas. I accepted my sponsor’s advice to refrain from dating for my first year in recovery. And as awful as that sounds, I was relieved. I figured I had plenty of time to hide again before facing the opposite sex – or at least that’s what I believed.

The work after getting sober was anything but easy, and I had a considerable amount of digging and undoing to do. Finally, after my first year of sobriety, I was ready to put my new tools to the test. I took to dating apps like Hinge and Raya to engage with new people, meeting most of those dates at bars. In my many efforts to mix sober dating with bar culture, I learned that being in a place where alcohol was served felt too triggering for me. I also realized my suitors were uneasy about that, and I needed more practice. Later, with a few dates under my belt, I found getting the “Hey, I’m sober” talk out of the way within our first virtual encounter made it easier to clear out the wrong guys.

It took three years of inconsistently dipping in and out of the dating pool – and tons of self-work – before I met someone who made my heart skip. Sobriety has taught me the only way I can show up for others is if I show up for myself first. I believe once I got that right, the doors opened for me to meet my partner. Dating sober can be scary, but if you do the work and put yourself first, you’ll find it can be an enjoyable experience.

The takeaway from all of this is? Don’t start dating until you are ready, make sure to mention your sobriety early on, and don’t agree to go to bars if that makes you uncomfortable. Your recovery comes first!

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