I haven’t dated in a really long time. You’re not supposed to date in your first year of sobriety. I was in my first year of sobriety for eleven years.
I got a year, and two months later the pandemic started to rage on our shores. Dating was not something I mourned the loss of. I was relieved. In sobriety, I’ve become happy and joyous being single. And just because I’ve been sober long enough, or when the pandemic finally ends, it doesn’t mean I have to start dating. Why? Because I’m 39 & “alone?” Who in their right mind really gives a shit?
When I was young I was a serial monogamist – and a serial cheater. The attention of one man too many, one thousand never enough.
My singleness began when I was no longer willing to keep dating the same guy with a different face. The best way to know a guy is a sociopath is if I am attracted to him. But then I started to really love being on my own.
What began as self – and sobriety preservation became a way of living that I don’t know if I’ll ever give up. As comedian Margaret Cho said in a recent interview with Bustle when asked what her 28-year-old self would think of her life now, “I don’t have the fears that I had of, “I’m going to be 50 and alone. I am, and I’m actually awesome. I really like sleeping in the very middle of the bed. I really love adopting as many animals as I want. I can watch what I want on TV and eat what I want at any time I want. I can sleep in whenever. I feel really good about that. Women are always told, ‘Oh you’re gonna die alone’ and that’s supposed to be some kind of cursed existence. But I think it’s great.”
Society perpetuates the lie that we internalize – that we don’t want to die alone. But how many people die at the exact same moment as their spouse? One of you will die first. That’s just math. The other will be alone.
In Elyakim Kislev’s book Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living, he discusses the fact of these fears. The people who have a hard time alone in their elder years are the ones that have no practice. People with experience being on their own have huge support systems in place. They know how to fill the roles that may have been divided in a traditional relationship – how to cook and pay bills, to take out the trash, and do laundry. It is the people that spend their lives relying on another person to do half the maintenance of living that are lost when divorce or death renders them single.
If you work any sort of program of recovery, you will never be alone again anyway.
So what do we do with all the love we have to give if not pouring it into a romantic partner? Here are some tips:
1. Actively Date Yourself
I plan “me days” regularly. I had one last week. I woke up and drove out to the Venice Boardwalk to roller skate. I got lunch at my favorite taco stand and ate it in the car with the door open, the ocean breeze kissing my face. I called my favorite aunt & then drove back home, where I got my nails done. I returned home, ran an Epsom salt bath, lit a candle, and read a book while I soaked. Then I ordered pizza and watched a movie. It was the perfect date. I take long drives to places I love, places that I discovered dating myself, like Ojai, CA. I turn my phone off. I wear something that makes me feel great. I take dating myself very seriously. I love it.
2. Pets & Plants
There are so many living things to love and care for in this world that aren’t romantic partners! I have a dog, a cat, and several plants. I pamper them all and shower them with love, which they return tenfold. I love waking up to my cat purring in my ear and not a boyfriend snoring. I love feeling my dog snuggle into my back and not someone’s morning wood. My dog is the perfect road trip companion – he always lets me pick the music and the destination. They never hit on my friends behind my back. Pets and plants are the only real ‘till death do us part.
The joy of being of service overflows my heart. There are so many ways to love and be loved, and serving meals to the needy with the Hollywood Food Coalition is one of my favorites. Some singles I know foster animals. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly down, I’ll go to the dollar store and buy a bunch of toiletries for the women’s shelter nearby. Shelters always need toiletries. It doesn’t have to be some huge gesture either. Reach out to someone you’re connected to on social media who posts that they are struggling and offer your support.
When I meditate I know that I am not alone. I can feel the presence of a higher power. That warm, hug feeling like being wrapped in a weighted blanket spreads through my body. When I meditate I know the truth – that I am part of everything, and that everything is part of me. I feel connected. And isn’t that what we are looking for in another person? It’s inside of us, just waiting for us to get quiet enough to say hi.
5. Friends and Family
Show up for people. Call them regularly. Listen to what they need, and find where their needs overlap with what you can give whilst still retaining yourself. They will be with you so much longer than most of your intimate relationships. It’s so easy to get caught up in what we want to accomplish in our day-to-day lives and not check in with the people we love. It’s just as easy – and so worth it – to form the habit of regular contact. My sister and I started doing regular FaceTime chats during Covid and we have never been closer. My friend Mary and I make time to see each other at least twice a month – we go on cool hikes and eat amazing food and let our dogs love each other. I talk to my father every Sunday. It’s weird to think of myself as alone according to society when I have so much love and so many people in my life.
I know I didn’t mention SEX here, but I feel confident that if you’re sober or trying to get sober, you know exactly how to screw yourself.
Will I ever date again? I don’t know, and I don’t really care.
The joy of singlehood is like living in Manhattan – everyone should do it at least once in their life, preferably when they are young enough to really enjoy it. I think it’s great.