If you’re a non-drinker and in recovery, dating (online or otherwise) can be tricky and sometimes risky, if you’re not mindful.
I know it was for me.
I had been sober for more than 5 years when I started dating seriously, leading me to Sam.
At first, I didn’t rule out dating men who drank, as long as they didn’t drink much.
It seemed counterintuitive to further limit the already small pool of eligible men in their sixties, living nearby in this rural, sparsely-populated area. The pickings were pretty slim to begin with.
I should have known better, but after Sam died and I was ready to date again, leading me to Cosmo, I did it again. I had dates with men who were drinkers.
After a few unpleasant experiences I realized I could only be with someone who was also a non-drinker.
Let me be clear. I have no problem being around people who drink, at parties and other get-togethers . . . even at bars, although I’m not crazy about the bar experience.
But I don’t want to live with someone who drinks, and my ultimate goal was finding a life partner. Living with a drinker would be a risk to my sobriety.
Here’s the problem when you’re using online dating sites:
It’s difficult to determine from a member’s profile how much they truly drink
4 Problems with Determining Whether Someone on a Dating Site Is a Drinker or Non-drinker
1. The choices given for level of alcohol consumption are confusing.
They vary from site to site, but look something like this:
- Occasional drinker
- Moderate drinker
- Social drinker
- Heavy drinker
“Social drinker” means one thing to me. It could mean something else entirely to someone else. No guidelines are included on the sites.
2. Members don’t have to make any selection for their level of alcohol consumption.
Members are prompted to check off one of the options, but they don’t have to make a selection at all . . . so many people don’t check any of the options.
3. They may be kidding themselves about their level of alcohol consumption.
The problem is further compounded by the fact that many people who truly are heavy drinkers either don’t think they are, or don’t want to admit it on a dating site.
In 2 years of online dating, I never saw a man’s profile with “Heavy drinker” checked. But I had one or 2 dates with a few men who checked “Occasional drinker” who clearly were heavy drinkers.
4. Not everyone who selects “Non-drinker” is really a non-drinker.
Once I decided only to reach out, or respond, to men who had checked “Non-drinker”, I still couldn’t win. They sometimes turned out to be drinkers.
People Can Be Very Judgmental About People in Recovery
And another issue. I believe that some people shy away from dating non-drinkers, even if they don’t drink themselves.
- Some assume that being a non-drinker indicates addiction which, in their opinion, is a sign of weakness.
- Some may worry that their date will fall off the wagon, and then they’ll have to deal with an addict.
- Others fear that their own drinking habits will be looked at too closely by their non-drinking date.
I think there are plenty of non-drinkers trying to find other non-drinkers on the dating sites, but they may be afraid to say so in their profile. It’s a dilemma.
I was always grateful, and relieved, when a man addressed his drinking habits in a narrative section of his profile or when emailing back and forth before the first date, as Cosmo did.
He graciously explained that he was in recovery and in AA, and filled me in on some other big personal issues. His candor, and what he had to say, won me over before we even met.
4 Tips To Sail Through Online Dating When You’re in Recovery
Here’s my advice, if you’re a non-drinker looking for another non-drinker, as you’re navigating the dating world:
1. If you think things may work out with that person, get the alcohol issue out of the way early in the game, say by the second date.
2. If you’ve been in recovery for less than a year, dating may be risky. You’re still caring for yourself. Taking on someone else is probably too much to deal with. Wait a little and let your sobriety strengthen.
US News advises:
Recovery, not romance, should be the focus.
The article quotes Anne Lewis, a psychologist and clinical addiction counselor at Indiana University Health:
“The first year of sobriety is fraught with challenging issues. It will be easy for many to find replacement addictions, such as a love addiction, to replace the high the drug or alcohol provided. Many people enjoy the honeymoon phase of relationships, feeling euphoria from the new love, making it more challenging to address issues that underlie the addiction. Typically these underlying issues are related to our negative core beliefs, a difficult thing to uncover when we are viewed as ‘perfect’ by our new partner.”
3. If you’re just starting to date, and in recovery no matter how long, talk with your sponsor, therapist or counselor about setting up a dating game plan to safeguard your sobriety.
4. As for anyone who’s dating, stick to the work you did identifying who your ideal partner will be. And don’t budge on your deal breakers.
If you don’t come clean early about being a non-drinker – especially if you’re in recovery – you’ll probably be faced with embarrassing situations where you’ll have to come up with some excuse about why everyone else is having a drink and you’re not.
And you may put yourself in high-risk situations that severely shake your sobriety resolve.