Originally posted on recovery.org
Before I tried online dating, I was sure I was a person who would never look for a relationship online. After I tried online dating, I was sure I would never admit to looking for a relationship online. I don’t know why I was holding onto old notions of how people find partners. But once I let go of them, I was able to see online dating as a significant asset in sobriety.
Learning how to date sober was, like everything about sobriety, uncharted territory. There’s a reason people suggest waiting until you have a year sober before you dip a toe into the dating pool. If I felt the need for the hazy lubrication of alcohol during my regular life (work, socializing, really anything), it would certainly be necessary for the potential emotional roller coaster that is dating! Dating can be so squeamish and stressful that many people who aren’t problem drinkers consider it to go hand-in-sweaty-hand with booze.
I didn’t start dating again until I was three years sober. By then I was comfortable going to a bar for an hour or two and sipping on seltzer while my date had a beer. But my dates weren’t so comfortable with my beverage choice. Some guys were sweet, if a little confused: “You should have told me you don’t drink; we could have done something else!” Other guys simply weren’t interested in dating a sober person.
I knew it made sense to simply tell anyone who asked me out that I didn’t drink. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any clear way to articulate this. The interaction would proceed:
“Yeah, that sounds great. I don’t drink alcohol, but I’m happy to meet up at a bar or something and just get a Diet Coke. And it’s totally fine if you drink or whatever, I just don’t.”
Kind of an unwieldy way of accepting a date.
And while I can tolerate hanging out in a bar, it will never be my first choice destination. Given that bars are the unofficial “singles scene” for anyone aged 20 to 60, it’s easy to feel like you have to compromise the linchpins of your sobriety to have an active dating life.
Enter the over-mocked, under-appreciated world of online dating. Most of the websites have a specific part of the profile designated for stating the frequency of your alcohol use—and any preference about the frequency of your potential partner’s alcohol use, too. The same goes for illegal drugs. This spared me that awkward conversation.
It was a relief, because most men I would be interested in dating appreciate a woman who can form a coherent sentence. Not having to verbally inform every potential date that I don’t drink meant I didn’t have to disappoint some fella who couldn’t fathom dating a sober woman because “he liked to have fun.” (We sober women being the dull dishrags that we are). And I don’t have to waste my time figuring out that a guy can’t enjoy himself without polishing off a six-pack.
Online dating can’t reveal who is right for you with a single click, but it can reveal who is wrong for you.
Tip: an easy way to weed out the gents who haven’t bothered to read your profile? Messages that ask you out for a beer, when your profile makes it clear you don’t drink.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, online dating kept me out of bars, protecting my sobriety. Why would I go to the bar to meet guys when I can whittle down the men who I might actually be compatible with from the comfort of my own home? People in recovery sometimes say that you’re either moving closer to a drink or further away from one. When it comes to dating, anything that allows me to be open about my sobriety and keeps me away from boozy locations and people is a good thing. And if that thing happens to be online dating, there’s nothing embarrassing about that at all.