You don't want to know the ludicrous number of possible love connections I've squashed by getting sloshed on a first or second date. The things that have come out of my mouth—both figuratively and literally—on nights out with strangers make me want to crawl into the cozy cocoon of my bed and stay there.
So it's probably—no, definitely—smart that in 2006 I decided to give up drinking. I'd had enough embarrassing nights out; I'd woken up beside more than my fair share of unattractive strangers, and was, in turn, more than ready to bid farewell to the drunken rants, crying jags and battles with lovers, friends, cab drivers, cashiers and waiters. I also thrilled at the notion of never having another hangover. (Seriously, my hangovers were baaaaaad.) Give advice: Drunk texting nightmare, can I remedy a bad impression?
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I'm not sure whether I classified as an alcoholic. I didn't have to drink every day, though most days I did. Sometimes alcohol helped me relax and have fun. Sometimes it turned me into a yelling, crying beast. And there was no way to tell, when I was tossing back a vodka soda, which me would emerge that night.
But when I said goodbye to alcohol and its commensurate drama, I didn't intend to bid farewell to dating. I saw my romantic future shimmering atop a cotton candy cloud of contentment and stability. Once I was sober and ready, Mr. Right would surely be waiting for me, albeit at the local coffee shop instead of the next bar stool.
It sucked to discover that alcohol-free dating was still, well, dating: an ouchy dance of anticipation, expectations and artifice. And for those of us who don't drink, dating can be even more of a mixed bag. Why? Because in case you missed the memo, most Americans are all about alcohol. We meet for happy hour at 5 p.m., dine with wine at 7 p.m., meet lovers at a bar later on, and make every excuse to have another round. And we don't always do it gracefully—about 18 million Americans have alcohol problems, but only 1.5 million have been treated for them. Yes, it's depressing; almost makes you want to hit the bottle. Just kidding.
So here are some tips to help you navigate the wild world of dating without drinking. If nothing else, you'll remember the sex afterward—and, hopefully, actually like the people you wake up with the next morning.
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