In January 2017, after several dismal attempts at moderating my drinking, I decided to do an extended period of sobriety.
For at least six months, I had been hearing this whisper telling me that the party girl lifestyle was no longer serving me; that if I wanted to live the life I dreamed of, alcohol had to go. But I was hesitant to make a change. Didn’t giving up alcohol mean that I had a problem? I didn’t feel like I had a problem…but that doesn’t mean that alcohol wasn’t a problem.
But it was.
So, on January 1, 2017, I decided I’d had enough and committed to doing a sober stint for Dry January.
What went from a 30-day challenge to a 90-day commitment turned to a whole year of testing the sober waters. A 30-something, social, single lady in a thriving city, I realized I had two distinct options when it came to my social and dating life: either withdraw and become a recluse, or figure out how to navigate the social and dating scenes sober.
I’ll be honest, the first option sounded appealing. A highly sensitive person and outgoing introvert, I used drinking as a social lubricant to make me feel more comfortable and outgoing in social settings. For a long time, I thought I needed alcohol to help me tolerate social scenes and help me be more talkative on dates. As I got deeper and deeper into my alcohol-free journey, I came to one solid (yet rather unpopular) conclusion: if something (a social situation or group of people) wasn’t fun unless I was drinking…the situation or people simply were not fun. Furthermore, if I wasn’t capable of meeting new people or conquering something without the liquid courage provided by a cocktail, who was I?
During this time, I found my truth. I had always been a wildly vibrant, outgoing, silly, joyful, insightful, empathic, smart, capable woman. I had not been using alcohol to bring out that side of me. I had been using alcohol to dull that side of me because I was afraid of my light. I was intimidated by sharing with the world what made me different and special. I was unsure how to operate in a world that settled for mediocrity, knowing I was meant to shine.
So, I dulled myself down in the most socially acceptable way there was: with alcohol (please note that my eyes are full of tears as I type this because I understand how profound this realization is. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with you in hope that you will see a bit of my story in your own).
As I discovered my truth, I also gained the courage to accept the challenge of engaging in the social and dating world sober. Full disclosure: this took time. The physical detox from alcohol is just the beginning of the growth you experience when you quit drinking (regardless of the reason). I encourage you to take time to heal, explore and simply become comfortable sitting with yourself and experiencing the gamut of emotions which will now be available to you.
When I was ready to dip my toe back into the dating pool, a quick survey of my girlfriends and colleagues revealed that it would be quite tricky (some even suggested it would be intolerable). With few options, I decided to give it a try and logged back into a few popular dating apps. I knew immediately that I’d eliminate a large portion of the dating pool. There would be plenty of guys who couldn’t handle dating someone who didn’t drink. To be fair, I’d already dated a lot of those guys and it hadn’t really gotten me anywhere.
So, after I eliminated the guys who I deemed ‘too boozy’ from the start, I had to plan my next move. How would I reveal my new sober lifestyle to my dates? You might find yourself saying, “do I even need to tell potential romantic partners that I’m not drinking?” or “Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle?” I can give an unequivocal, “yes” to both questions, but let me offer you some insight.
If a potential romantic partner has asked you to meet for drinks, you do need to disclose your lifestyle to them. It’s not fair to you or them to wait until you are ‘meeting for drinks’ to disclose. This could turn into a waste of your time, and theirs, if there is a lifestyle misalignment. But, I’ve heard from many sober singles that this is a very tricky conversation. I agree, it is…and I’ve had it the wrong way enough times to know exactly how to have it (I share these tips in a special free guide I created which can be found on my website: authenticallyamanda.com/soberdating).
On to the second question: Won’t the right guy/girl just be accepting of my new lifestyle? Yes, of course they will. But in the world of dating…especially with the added layer of complexity created through dating apps and sites, you have to manage this conversation with finesse because you, an alcohol-free person, are still in the minority and, while potential romantic partners might have the best of intentions, they do not know how to navigate the sober dating world…you might have to offer some guidance. This means, come to the table prepared to offer suggestions for non-drinking date options, as opposed to saying, “I actually don’t drink,” if they’ve asked you to meet up for drinks.
I’ve found that many potential romantic partners are very open to and accepting of my alcohol-free lifestyle, but also don’t have the immediate skill set to navigate a conversation. In the world of dating apps these days, it’s easy enough for a guy/girl to drop a conversation if he/she doesn’t know how to respond. And in a world where drinking is socially acceptable and encouraged; it’s completely okay if they don’t know how to respond. That doesn’t mean they won’t be a good match or date, they just need education.
I think it’s important to share that I have encountered a lot of uncomfortable situations dating; it hasn’t been all doves and rainbows. But I’ve learned so much about my own capacity for handling my own emotions and awkwardness. I share about my failures and successes dating and socializing over on my blog authenticallyamanda.com and Instagram @authenticallyamanda.
I hope you’ll follow along and reach out if you too are navigating the social, single and sober world.
Written by Amanda, barely edited by Sober Fish
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