Last week, my boyfriend and I celebrated our two-year anniversary. Aside from being very happy in the relationship, I'm also super proud of this. I once had a therapist tell me I'd probably always have a very hard time being in a healthy relationship with a man. That...sucked. It took a lot of work and healing and dating and learning to become someone who was open and capable of a healthy (or as my therapist says, "functional") relationship and I'm really proud of myself for going through it because that shit was ninja-level-warrior hard (so hard it will be the topic of my third book). I don't subscribe to the whole, you have to heal yourself fully and love yourself completely (I'm still not even sure what that means, tbh) before you can be in a relationship, but I do believe we have to have a certain level of self-awareness, self-worth, and willingness to look inward if we want to attract and be a healthy partner.
This is a massive topic, but today I want to address one small/big topic I get a lot: How and when do you tell someone that you don't drink?
In my very early sobriety, I tried to skirt around the issue. On dating apps, I'd leave the "How often do you drink alcohol?" question blank and avoid the topic for as long as possible in conversation. I did this because I was afraid my not drinking would be a turn-off, and I thought I wanted people to get to know me first before I "broke the news" that I didn't drink, as if I was preparing to tell them that I had a terminal illness or was still actually married but, like, we were planning on getting divorced really soon, I swear. This didn't work for so many reasons: it caused me all kinds of unnecessary stress, it made for awkward "drink" dates, and I ended up on dates with some guys who drank a lot. But mostly it didn't work because I was ashamed and insecure about my sobriety and it showed. I was never gonna attract the kind of person I really wanted with those energies oozing out of me.
Once I realized and came to actually see that my sobriety was the absolute best part about me, everything changed. I didn't make a point to scream at potential dates that I was sober, but I didn't hide it in any way, either. I checked the sober box on dating apps, but I also offered the info freely in conversation elsewhere, when it made sense, and it almost always came up pretty quickly; the default date suggestion is typically, Wanna grab a drink?
Some responses to that question were: I'll go for a drink, but I don't drink alcohol, FYI or I'd love to get a coffee or I'd actually like to go for a walk, how does that sound? The way a potential date responded to these statements told me SO much, and it was such a quick/easy way to filter people I wasn't going to be a fit for anyway. If they expressed even remote disappointment that I didn't drink, I knew it wouldn't work, and I did experience some of that early on. But as I got more and more comfortable in my sobriety, I began to attract different types of men. It wasn't uncommon to magically match with other sober people, but more often I attracted people who simply didn't care about drinking much.
- I highly recommend getting your sobriety (or alcohol-free-ness, however you talk about it) on the table very early. If you're not comfortable with that and feel insecure or ashamed about it, I'd hold off on dating until that changes (sorry).
- You don't owe anyone a long story as to why you don't drink, or any story at all, in the beginning. It's more than enough to say, I just feel so much better without it. You may decide in the moment that you want to share a bit more depending on how comfortable you feel with the person, but you're not obligated to clarify anything, even if you sense they're wondering!
- The kind of person you really want to attract is going to see your sobriety as a huge asset. My boyfriend loved hearing that I didn't drink when we met and quickly after we started dating, he stopped drinking himself. (There are many scenarios that can work; I'm not suggesting the only healthy one is where both people don't drink.)
What other questions do you have for me about this? Send them to me here. I'll answer them in upcoming newsletters or perhaps in another blog post.
This post originally appeared in my newsletter. Subscribe.