This is part 1 of 4 in The Temper’s Sober Dating Guide, a series to help guide you through the dating world while in recovery. Come back next week for more!
One of the stories I tell myself is that I’m always the friend, never the girlfriend. No one I’m attracted to is ever interested in more than friendship and I’m quick to dismiss most people who show interest in me for silly reasons like different music tastes or being 1.5 inches shorter than me.
I’ve been sober for about 10 months and have been perfectly happy so far to not even consider dating (unless you count my burgeoning relationship with pasta and artisanal ice cream), but a few weeks ago I flipped a switch (which may or may not have to do with my increased Wellbutrin dosage) and my animal brain started demanding sex, which my sober, rational mind interpreted as “let’s try dating again.”
My sponsor told me that it’s none of my business why the aforementioned men only want to be my friend, and I find that super annoying because she’s right. I can’t waste my time creating false narratives and stewing about why these people don’t want to date me. In sobriety, I’m learning ways to avoid unnecessary pain and that in and of itself is a fucking miracle.
In sobriety, I’m learning ways to avoid unnecessary pain and that in and of itself is a fucking miracle.
So if I’m not going to bars anymore and my friends don’t want to date me, how am I supposed to meet people? I consulted Dr. Morgan Cutlip, Ph.D. in Psychology — and a millennial-focused relationship expert — who blew my mind when she said I can’t just expect someone to waltz into my life.
“The belief that love just happens removes personal responsibility for relationships,” she says. “In a way, it also attempts to remove the risk. Because if we don’t get too invested, don’t exert too much energy, or don’t get too involved, then somehow we are safe from hurt.”
Yikes, this sounds familiar. She continues, “The reality is that you have to be an active participant in your relationships.”
Armed with this new awareness that I actually have to try — with the added challenge of being sober — I compiled a list of eight ways to meet people.
1. Try the swipe life.
Tinder, OKCupid… These apps aren’t new and this is not an original or groundbreaking suggestion, but Bumble and Hinge do have helpful icons that display whether you drink or use cannabis (if you choose to highlight those features). Hinge goes one step further and has a category that denotes drug use. MeetMindful and Sober Grid could be useful apps, too.
Personally, I’m not a fan of dating apps but these icons make it easier to spot people with similar lifestyles. If you identify as a woman, Hey VINA! is a friendship app that has a “sober sister” filter to connect with other sober women. I love the design, layout, and how it encourages meeting up in real life. Meet your new wing women.
2. Take a class.
Once I got out of the fog of my first few weeks of sobriety, I had a bit of an identity crisis of what my hobbies were and what I liked to do for fun. Sobriety is a great opportunity to rediscover yourself and take a class in something you’ve always wanted to try — and maybe meet someone in the process.
You don’t necessarily have to spend a lot of money. Get on Classpass (they have a great two-week trial for new members), join an intramural sports team, or check out yoga studios for community events — they’re likely alcohol-free. If you like art, scan museum websites to see if they have classes. In LA where I live, there’s an Intro to Neon Art class that I’ve been dying to try. Pick up gardening, improv, cooking… the list is endless. Have a dog? Take a dog training or socialization class. Don’t trip on finding the “best” class, just pick something and start. The best part about meeting someone in a class is that you can suss them out for a few weeks without the pressure of connecting immediately or losing them forever.
3. Do some good and volunteer.
Before I got sober, the last time I had volunteered was in high school — likely so I could put it on my college applications. Not so proud of that. Giving back was always something I thought about but, honestly, I was too busy trying to balance work, partying, and destructive relationships.
When I started looking into what opportunities existed, I found so many that don’t require a huge commitment. I’ve started Reading to Kids one Saturday a month and occasionally volunteer at the Women’s Center for Creative Work here in LA. I also want to check out The Burrito Project at some point. If you have a weird interest or talent, there’s probably a way to share it.
4. Join a community organization.
I have always thought getting involved with the wider community was real adult stuff that I’d do when I’m older. Turns out I’m older. Again, let your passions guide you here. For me, I found a Young Literati group at the Los Angeles Public Library that I’m interested in joining. Other arts or public institutions have young professional memberships like LACMA’s Avante-Garde group. Get involved with your alma mater’s alumni association.
If politics are more your speed, see what opportunities exist in your neighborhood at the local level. Getting involved in the community opens you up to a whole new class of people. You have to have your shit together and be passionate in order to commit. Here’s to leveling up.
5. Try recovery meetings and fellowships.
AA is a part of my sobriety but I realize and respect that it’s not for everyone. The program discourages dating within your first year of sobriety but I’ve found meetings are a good way to meet people face-to-face — my preferred method of meeting someone. Some meetings have “fellowship” afterward and, for example, go grab dinner and socialize a bit more casually. Refuge Recovery and “Heart of Recovery” are two other fellowships that I’ve tried and liked. There are also other sober communities that you can participate as a way of meeting others. Just be careful about dating too soon in these groups.
6. Recruit your cheerleaders.
Lean on your friends and family. Send an email to your support network (make sure to bcc) and let them know you’re looking to date and open to meeting new people. If you can avoid being too picky, include a few sentences about some qualities or types of people you’re looking for. And if you end up meeting someone through a friend or family member, don’t be a flake and ruin the relationship for your loved one. I’m getting very close to putting up my own ad on my Instagram stories… if I’m not my biggest PR advocate, who is?
7. Find a matchmaker.
Do some research and see if your city has any local matchmakers. Often times these services will also come with general socializing opportunities and invites to exclusive members-only events. If you’re in NYC, check out my friend Amy Van Doran’s Modern Love Club and tell her I sent you. She has a fabulous service with a focus on creatives and untraditional types. While you’re at it, look into local speed dating events too.
I found and signed up for an alcohol-free speed dating event hosted by The Tantra Institute of New York later this month in LA and they host events in many major cities around the country. Most are men-seeking-women and women-seeking-men but there are occasional queer versions of the event too. See if they’re coming to a city near you here or find other, similar events in your own city.
8. Go out in the wild.
Let’s challenge each other to put our phones away and make more eye contact when we’re out in the world. Walk more, take public transportation… give yourself more opportunities to be around people. Start with eye contact and slowly work up to actually saying hello or giving a compliment. Ask a person at the grocery store how they’re going to use that weird vegetable (no, not necessarily in a sexual way). Comment on an interesting book someone’s reading in the park. Ask your Uber pool friend how their day’s going. Everyone you encounter is a potential mate (or friend). Be open to it.
There are no two ways about it: Dating when you are sober it’s not easy. That’s why The Temper is running a series we’re calling the Sober Dating Guide. The first step, when you feel you are ready for dating (and have perhaps talked it over with your support system), is meeting people. The options above are a great way to start but don’t forget that the best way to meet people is to, you know, be open to meeting them.
Next, we’ll tackle non-alcohol date ideas, how to tell a date you’re sober, and the biggie, first-time sex in sobriety. In the meantime, get out there… when you’re ready.