How to Date While Sober

Kelsey Ferrara
Two people on a date at the beach

Dating is thrilling and exciting – but it can get complicated when you’re trying to maintain your sobriety. This is why some 12-step programs recommend not dating for a full year after starting recovery. But once time has passed and you’ve settled into a new, sober lifestyle, it can be hard to get back into the dating scene. 

Dating while sober is not only possible, it can lead to fulfilling and supportive relationships. 
Below, we explore strategies and tips to help you navigate the dating scene while staying true to your sobriety: 

Choose the right setting

When planning a date, opt for venues that don’t revolve around alcohol. If your date suggests meeting up at a bar, you can playfully suggest a coffee shop instead. Other alcohol-free date ideas include: a picnic at a park, stargazing, hiking, visiting a museum, exploring an aquarium, doing a karaoke night, indoor rock climbing, going bowling, trying a new restaurant, or going to an arcade. Avoiding alcohol-centric places will reduce temptation and allow you to be more present with your date. 

Be mindful of triggers

Before going on any dates, you should be able to identify and manage your triggers. If you’re new to dating while sober, sit down with your support network and come up with a plan on how you can cope with triggers or cravings during your date. This can include having an exit strategy, practicing mindfulness, or using breathing techniques to stay grounded. 

Take it slow

Don’t rush into a relationship. Take your time getting to know the person you’re dating. This slower pace allows you to evaluate whether they are genuinely supportive of your sobriety and whether you share common values. 

Watch for red flags

Pay attention to red flags. If your potential partner disregards your sobriety or tries to pressure you into drinking or using substances – then they may not be the right match for you. Trust your instincts and prioritize your own well-being

Learn to say no 

Boundaries are incredibly important in relationships. If you don’t feel like a date will bring you joy, if it instead feels like an obligation, then say no. No is a complete sentence. You can politely decline without having to provide an explanation. You do not need to go on every date you’re asked to. You do not need to make yourself smaller. You do not need to change anything about yourself in order to be “likable.” 

Make self-care a priority

While you’re going on dates and feeling the warm and fuzzy rush of a new relationship, it’s important not to neglect your own needs. Keep attending recovery meetings, maintain your spiritual practice, and keep in touch with your support network. Meeting someone new is no reason to stop anything you do to take care of yourself, like exercising or eating healthy. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water, and taking quiet time to reflect and be alone with your thoughts. 

Dating can be fun and fulfilling, and it doesn’t need to distract you from your basic needs.  

Manage your expectations (of yourself and others)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “expectations are resentments in the making”? It’s true. We cannot control others, we are only responsible for ourselves. Try not to set huge expectations or anticipate outcomes, especially if you’re early in the dating process. It takes practice, but it will make things much easier. 

Be honest

The foundation of any healthy relationship is honesty. When you’re ready, Be upfront make a plan for talking to your date about your sobriety from the beginning. It’s not something to hide or be ashamed of – it’s part of who you are. Sharing your journey with potential partners will help filter out those who aren’t compatible with your lifestyle. 

It’s also important to keep in mind that it’s your choice to tell someone about your life. Your sobriety can feel very personal and it isn’t necessarily the first thing you want to tell someone. 

Meeting new people can be triggering. They might say something upsetting or not understand that addiction is a disease – not a moral failing. When dates go badly, give yourself a reality check. One bad date doesn’t mean you’re destined to be alone. Instead, you’re one step closer to finding someone who checks all of your boxes. 

Man in a support group

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