This is part 2 of 4 in The Temper’s Sober Dating Guide, a series to help guide you through the dating world while in recovery. Last week, we talked about how to find a date. Come back next week for more!
Near the end of my drinking, I was unwilling to even pitch a bowling ball down a lane… And, frankly, I was probably too drunk to do so. I was laser-focused on getting as drunk and high as possible without blacking out — a goal not often achieved. I completely wrote off the social experience of playing a game with my friends. I couldn’t wait to get out of there and get back to, well, just drinking I guess. My stomach hurts just thinking about it.
I did not know how to be social without alcohol and drugs, and when I gave up booze, I was terrified that I would have to give up fun, too. Fortunately, I find my world slowly opening up as I spend more time in sobriety. Things I wrote off before, like bowling, became brand new experiences. The same is true for dating; there’s a whole new world of possibilities.
I don’t think I’ve ever been on a date that didn’t include alcohol at some point, and a few drinks was always a prerequisite for a first date. Just about anyone was tolerable when I was drinking, as long as the alcohol didn’t run out.
Things I wrote off before, like bowling, became brand new experiences. The same is true for dating; there’s a whole new world of possibilities.
I have a feeling I’m going to be a lot more selective with the people I choose to date in sobriety because for me to hang out with someone — sober — and potentially during the day, I will really need to like them.
I’ve taken it really easy the past ten months, going out sporadically, dating myself and my friends. Turns out, I love day dates and as I (and maybe you?) prepare to re-enter the dating pool, here’s a list of date ideas to inspire your sober dating life. You already know that brunch without the bottomless mimosas is even better or that a movie date is always an option, so our date ideas are a bit more… outside of the box. Oh, and you know the best part? You’ll remember the whole thing.
1. Check out a comedy show.
Don’t underestimate the power of laughter. Seriously. I tend to get stoic very easily in sobriety: Self-care, work, laundry, repeat. My sponsor constantly has to remind me to have fun. A friend invited me to a comedy show a few weeks ago and I laughed so hard my face hurt afterward. This particular theater, LA’s Dynasty Typewriter, doesn’t serve alcohol but instead is known for their popcorn, plus they’re stocked with La Croix — a true gem. Better yet, go see a sober comedian. Rosebud Baker is one of my current favorites (and, if you don’t live in NYC, she’s one of the featured comedians in Amazon Prime’s Inside Jokes). You’ll be in such a good mood after the show, endorphins will be pumping and you’ll want to hash it all out with your date afterward.
2. Groove away at a sober dance party.
If you miss the reckless abandon of the dance floor but aren’t keen on bars anymore check out DAYBREAKER — it’s a sober dance party that happens at the crack of dawn and is over before 8:30-9 AM. There’s usually a yoga class to start it off, costumes encouraged, live performances, and small bites provided by sponsors. I went to one of their events at an old church in Manhattan and was taken aback by how many good looking people were there (and also sober AF). I went to work tired but gleeful… with a trail of glitter following me wherever I went. DAYBREAKER’s in 25 cities and counting and, if you really want to do it right, play hookie and spend the rest of the day with your date.
3. Go out for a decadent dessert.
Not going to lie, while I’m usually content staying in, sometimes I miss the drama of dressing up and being out and about at night. When I stopped drinking, my dormant sweet tooth awoke from a 15-year slumber and all of a sudden I wanted ice cream. Every. Single. Day. Instead of going for drinks, go out for dessert. It can be as casual as getting fro-yo and taking a walk in the park, or go a bit more glam and book a late-night reservation at an impossible-to-get-into-restaurant and sample a few of their desserts. If you’re feeling like a splurge, get a mocktail… Just make sure to ask the cost before you commit. I was charged $14 for a mocktail the other night and will never make that mistake again.
4. Get your endorphins pumping in the outdoors.
Before I was sober, I considered myself a total Meredith Blake when it came to nature. I did not “get” hiking and scoffed any time it was mentioned. My idea of a good time did not involve climbing a bunch of rocks. I was also high all the time, so that didn’t help my attitude. I finally understood hiking when I was on a field trip from rehab hiking on the trails around Red Rocks. I walked past some girls smoking weed and I noticed their vacant, paranoid stares at the 12 of us walked past. Leon Bridges was warming up for his show that evening and I had a moment when the music echoing through the canyons and I realized I didn’t need weed to feel “high.” Long story short, hiking is truly magical and it can be super romantic to take in those views with a date. If it’s an advanced hike, make sure it’s past the third date. You don’t want to be out of breath and trying to make small talk, first date-style. If getting sweaty on a date sounds like your worst nightmare, get your oxygen and vitamin D fix by packing a picnic to take to the zoo, botanical gardens, or outdoor film screening.
5. Have fun like a kid again at an amusement park.
One of the last times I was at an amusement park, it was a double date and I got promptly thrown out after going through security for having a weed pen on me. My date thought it was hilarious but I was in a panic. I didn’t want everyone to have to leave because of me (classic people pleaser) and I had resolved to take a super expensive rideshare back to the city. Thankfully, my date convinced me to change my hair and put on a different shirt and I got in. We had a blast and we were totally sober the whole time. Yeah, amusement parks can be crowded and smelly sometimes but go in the offseason and wear something you don’t care about. Get into it. Nothing like a good rollercoaster dip to get your adrenaline pumping. Get cheesy photos taken and eat yummy food. Just make sure you have a shower plan if you decide to continue the date after the park.
6. Stroll down to the local farmer’s market.
This is a perfect early-on date early because you can grab a coffee, take a few laps around the market, get some fresh produce for the week, and then ditch if it’s a dud. If it’s going well, take your time, get some samples, and make conversation with the vendors who might just pass on some knowledge, tips, or tricks for their wares. Maybe you’ll even get inspired and grab ingredients to go home and cook a meal together. Bonus: Then you’ll know who’s going to be doing the cooking in the relationship.
7. Indulge in some fun fake sports.
I did not get the sports gene in my family and am historically resentful of people who play sand volleyball, soccer, or engage in any kind of team sports as an adult. But you don’t have to be athletic to rollerblade. One of my first friend dates in sobriety was going roller skating on a Sunday afternoon. I was filled with pure joy ripping around the rink and dancing to 90s pop music until the slow songs came on. I was brought back to the lonely middle school me who never had a date to skate with, and now that’s going to change. Other activities in the “fake sports” category include mini golf, ping-pong, bowling, goat yoga, etc. Or find an arcade. I went to one last summer that gave you tickets to turn in for prizes and I spent way too long playing Deal or No Deal. Fake sports are great if you want to engage in some light competition and show off your skills.
8. Take a staycation together.
I absolutely love hotels. Escapism is one of my favorite pastimes and, now that I don’t have drugs or alcohol to do that, I have to get my thrills somewhere. Nothing is sexier than being away from the responsibilities of home — stacks of dishes, piles of dirty laundry, and your annoying neighbor who blasts polka music at 7 am on a Saturday. Look for destinations nearby like an apple orchard, art installation, hot spring, off-beat museum, or just book an Airbnb another nearby town or city you’ve never been to and explore. I recommend staying within a 2-3 hour drive of your home so you don’t spend the majority of your weekend in a car. If you don’t have time to leave for the weekend, scan Hotels Tonight for last minute cheap deals on nice hotel rooms, then bask out by the pool with your date.
Sober dating doesn’t just have to be about grabbing a coffee in an effort to avoid meeting at the local bar like you used to. Once you know how and where to meet a date when you’re sober, you can work on finding romance with one of these date ideas. Sure, it might be a little awkward at first but you won’t find what you’re looking for without trying — and trying one of these fun, sober dates might just lead to a lasting romance. Or, at least, a good time for today.
Next week, we’ll tackle how to tell a date you’re sober, and finally, first-time sex in sobriety. In the meantime, get out there… when you’re ready.