Sober Dating: How To Date Without Drinking

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sober dating
Single and sober? Stay healthy with advice and tips on dating without alcohol.

If S/He Asks Why You Don't Drink, Be Coy

Unless you want to pop open a can of inappropriate, be evasive when your date asks why you don't drink.

My friend Michelle, a 29-year-old recovering alcoholic, tells guys she dates that she's a "reformed party girl" or an "ex-bad girl." She doesn't explain further, and they usually don't ask. If they do, she just says "long story" and changes the subject.

Kelly tells dates that she's "allergic to alcohol" (an idea that's common among recovering alcoholics, because drinking makes them sick). Remember, it's just a date—you have the right to reveal personal details about yourself as slowly as you want.

Relax, Already

For me, the hardest part of dating sans drinking is the lack of lubrication to calm my nerves. It sounds corny, but taking some long, deep breaths before a date both centers you and settles the ever-spinning "what if?" thought loop. Inhale the essence of serenity, confidence and sex appeal; exhale the anxiety.London Sex Fair Gets Crazy

Flirt Alert

It's harder to feel uninhibited when you're not tipsy, so get used to the idea of subtle, grade-school style flirting techniques, like frequently patting your prey on the knee or arm, maintaining steady eye contact, and smiling and laughing at his or her better jokes.

You might feel too shy to bust a move without the help of vodka's loosening properties, but if you let your interest and intentions be known subtly, your date should get the hint.

If the chemistry is kicking and you feel like you'll explode if s/he doesn't touch you, take the initiative and invite Boytoy upstairs for tea or hot cocoa at the end of the date. Remember, "come upstairs" is pretty clear in any language—drunk or not.

The Other Side Of The Table

What if you're not a recovering alcoholic, but you're dating someone who is? Generally speaking, sober folks want support and encouragement. You don't have to abstain from drinking all the time, but refraining from imbibing around them is always appreciated. "I try to date women who don't find it weird that I'm sober," says Craig, who's been clean for three years. "The worst thing a woman can do is get wasted around me, or try to push me to have some. I need someone who really supports my recovery." Could You Live and Work Together?

Jeannette, a sober alcoholic who hasn't has a drink in 10 months, agrees. "I don't necessarily feel tempted if I'm someplace where people are drinking, but it's just not that fun to be around a guy who's throwing them back.

Don't question your date's decision not to drink. Respect her sobriety, don't push her, and—if you want to make a really good impression—don't drink in her presence. If, heaven forbid, your partner relapses, the best thing to do is give her time and space to get her proverbial sh*t together. Don't disappear on her—your support is necessary in times like these—but give her leeway to work through her feelings.

Readers, share your stories and advice about dating and alcohol in the comments.

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?

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.