Relationships in recovery: Five FAQs about dating sober

April 4, 2022

If You’re In Recovery And Feel That You Might Be Ready To Start Dating Again, Read This First. 

Recovery (put in the very simplest of terms) is a new way of life. Recovery extends to everything we do, from the way we treat our bodies, to how we spend our time and (just as importantly) who we spend that time with. For those of us in recovery who feel ready to dip their toe into dating again, we may suddenly be faced with a whole new set of fears, and this can be confronting. 

Before coming into treatment, we may have soothed those dating-related nerves with substances, so how do we approach the pre-date jitters in this new, sober life? Here are five frequently asked questions Tori Siggery, Day Program Manager at South Pacific Private, gets about dating sober. 

I’m recently in recovery and thinking about dating again. How will I know that I am emotionally ready to start seeking out new relationships again? 

Dating in the world we live in today is a wild ride. Online dating has become the go-to platform to meet people, and with it a whole new set of problems and challenges to really connect with people in an authentic and caring way. 

For people in early recovery, discovering our readiness to seek new relationships is best explored with either a sponsor, therapist or close peers. Often we want to jump into relationships too early because we feel lonely, want to change the way we feel or the pressure of getting on with our lives. Here are some questions to ask yourself that may help you know whether you’re ready or not:

  • Can my recovery withhold a rejection and a feeling of abandonment? 
  • Do I have a solid support system yet? Can it support me when and if I’m feeling overwhelmed with emotion?
  • What are my boundaries like and do I feel as though I can still do my recovery work and be in a relationship at the same time? 
  • Emotional recovery takes time and patience. Am I rushing it?

My date wants to meet somewhere where alcohol will be served. I don’t think I can avoid bars/restaurants forever, so how do I navigate these triggering environments?

It’s true. We may not be able to avoid venues like this forever but we can avoid them for as long as we need to. 

Sober dating is not just for the person in substance addiction but also for process addictions such as sex and love addiction. For both, meet in a public place where there are as little triggers as possible.

Coffee or lunch dates, walks etc. are great first date options, supporting us to hold our boundaries with alcohol or substances, and to take things slowly on the physical intimacy side of things. 

I don’t want to scare the person off early on, but I also want to be honest about who I am. Do I need to tell my date why I am not going to be drinking? And if so, when is the right time to bring it up?

There is no right or wrong time to have this conversation. Many people in recovery (including myself) bring it up pretty quickly, but others take their time. It’s a personal choice.

While we don’t need to tell the person our life story or 4th step on the first date, it can be helpful to let people know up front that you don’t drink. 

It’s best if we keep things as honest as possible, without using fabrications to cover our tracks. Making up a cover story (for example being ‘on a cleanse’) means we set ourselves up to continue being dishonest. We’ll eventually have to tell the truth, or end up having a drink. 

How do I deal with the fear that I won’t be as confident, funny or likeable if I don’t have a drink?  

Practice, practice, practice. 

If this is a fear (and for many, it’s a common one) my suggestion is to go out with recovery friends. This is how we can re-learn how to have fun and be ourselves. In my experience it’s the table of recovering addicts/alcoholics who are the funniest, most authentic and likeable in the restaurant. 

Living sober takes some getting used to and this is why it’s suggested to take it slow, and avoid starting new relationships too early in recovery. 

I used to relax into conversations with new people over a drink. How can I go on a date, and settle the nerves sober? 

Dating without alcohol is no doubt a different experience and it may take longer to relax into conversations and be comfortable in our own skin again. On the flip side of that we will most likely not experience the after effects of our behaviour when we have been drinking and either said or done more than we would have liked too. 

Getting sober and staying sober is an ongoing journey. If you feel you need some additional support with your recovery, get in touch with our caring intake team today for a free and confidential assessment by phoning 1800 063 332, or emailing us here

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