When you first begin your journey in recovery, you are reminded that it is best practice to refrain from dating and relationships in your first year of sobriety. The reasoning is that your first year of sobriety should be spent focusing on yourself and your recovery. This is also the time when the addicted person learns to cope with all the stressors in life without the use of alcohol and drugs, and when we begin to learn more about our self-worth.
It’s an important time to try and build what little self-esteem we were still clinging onto during our addiction.
Not to mention, it is a time when the floodgates of emotions finally surface and awaken after years of pouring alcohol and drugs on top of them in an effort to numb everything.
All of these are great reasons to refrain from dating and relationships within that first year. Believe it or not, I jumped that hurdle! I refrained from dating and relationships my first year of sobriety. But, here I am, four years later, and I haven’t even started the race! That was, until a couple of weeks ago, when I ventured back into the world of dating.
I do not know what made me respond to this person when we began a simple conversation as we stood in line at a local sandwich shop. Maybe I was just in a good mood, or maybe I was trying to just be nice to this unknown stranger. After talking for a while, we exchanged numbers and I thought that would be it. But eventually, the call came and plans were made to go out on a date to dinner.
When I hung up the phone it hit me! BOOM! I have never in my adult life been on a date while sober! I’ve never dated without the convenience of pouring alcohol down my throat to get through the awkward parts of a date. I could feel my heart start to race as my anxiety started to show its ugly face. I didn’t have time to worry about it, because the date was in less than 24 hours!
At first, I tried not to think about the date, until it was time to go. All the old feelings I have not felt in a long time started to show up again. Did I look good enough? Was what I was wearing not the right thing? Am I too fat, too ugly, too short, will I say the wrong things? All those things that I believed about myself during my addiction started boiling to the surface. I finally made it to the restaurant and made my way inside and my emotions and insecurities started to calm down.
Then BOOM! There was a 45-minute wait for our table! The hostess informed us we could wait in the bar. Reality suddenly hit me! I did not prepare myself to come up with a good line to avoid the alcohol talk on the date! Sooner rather than later, the question came up. I thought to myself, that this was way more difficult than standing up in a crowded 12-Step meeting and saying, “Hi! My name is Bo and I am an alcoholic.” But, I did tell the truth. I opened my mouth and I explained that I was in recovery and put everything out on the table. Deep inside, my mind I was screaming, “Now is your time to get out while you can!” To my surprise, my date did not run from the bar screaming, and the world did not end.
As the date continued, I found myself really paying attention to each detail and words that were said. I noticed the more my date drank, the more incoherent everything sounded.
When I was using, I never questioned potential partners’ views or beliefs, I just wanted them to like me. I wanted them to want me. I would change anything about me just to gain their acceptance. It didn’t matter if I did not care for them that much. They just needed to like me!
I think I learned a lot about myself that night. I had changed. I was no longer willing to settle for “alright for now”. I expected and demanded more for myself, because I am worth it. That night, I jumped another hurdle.
Needless to say, that was my intro back into the dating world after being sober for four years. Sounds horrible, but I found it to be a complete success! The success is what I learned about myself. We often become complacent in our recovery—sometimes it is good for some unexpected event to shake everything up!
Every now and then, it is important for us to get smacked in the face to teach us a lesson of just how far we have come. So, after my date, I searched around for articles about dating in recovery, and I found some tips that I am going to look into as I start to step out into the real dating world:
- Consider therapy – Excellent advice! I always feel that you can never have too much therapy! I ended therapy after my second year of sobriety, but it looks like it may be time to head back. A therapist can advise you how to build healthy relationships as they are built.
- Attend group meetings – Don’t let that new dating life take you away from your routine and meetings! Don’t sacrifice your recovery time for a date!
- Be honest – I know sobriety is a part of my life now and I should not fear being judged about my past. You should also look for a partner who will be 100% supportive in your endeavors!
So, today, I am currently on the market! I am not out there actively looking, but I believe when you least expect it, good things will come to you. Now I’ll know when that happens, I’ll have some background experience from which to pull.
I know I have something to offer to the right person and eventually that person and time will come. Now that I have jumped some hurdles, I think I am able to start the race! On your mark, get set, GO!
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