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When To “Come Out” As Sober On a Date

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When and how should you tell a date that you’re in recovery? Here are some tried and tested strategies.

Dating is awkward enough on its own. When you add the sober or sober-curious element to it, booze-free dating can seem nearly impossible. In addition to the regular talking points like hobbies and goals and the current show you’re binging, the back of your mind may also be buzzing with when do I tell them that I don’t drink?!’ anxiety. That’s where this article comes in. I’m here to give you a few tips and phrases to keep in your back pocket so you can stay present with minimal anxiety.

There are many ways to approach sober dating, but let’s focus on a few that I’ve personally tried before finally finding Mr. Right:

Put Sober on Your Profile

Oh, the amount of time we all put into making that seemingly effortless, short but sweet bio on The Apps. Name? Check. Occupation? Check. Cute tagline? Check. Sobriety disclosure … um … Check?! 

Openly claiming your sobriety on dating profiles is a bold yet efficient move. Bold because it shows that you’re proud of your recovery; efficient because it also shows that you’re not interested in wasting your time with folks who would swipe left because of your sobriety.  (Yes, people really do swipe left because of this!) My personal experience is that putting “sober” on my profile led to some people only wanting to discuss sobriety (read: telling me that they really don’t drink that much or letting me know that their uncle just got out of rehab). This often led to me essentially acting as their therapist, which felt deeply unsexy. 

Despite that annoying emotional labor (that I would now skip), I’m a big fan of efficiency, so putting a sobriety disclosure in my profile was my preferred method.

Tell Them IRL

You can wait until the first (or second or tenth!) date to casually mention that you don’t drink. I would sometimes wait for the subject of alcohol to naturally come up in conversation so that I could share that I don’t drink. Surprisingly, alcohol doesn’t come up in conversation as often as I thought it would. 

Lisa Smith, author of Girl Walks Out of Bar and co-host of Recovery Rocks podcast, waited until the fifth date to tell her now-husband that she didn’t drink. Like many of us, she had anxiety about sharing something so personal with someone she liked. “I’m sure you’ve noticed I don’t drink alcohol,” she told him. His response was the perfect, most comforting, and comical answer: “You don’t? So you’ll be a cheap date!”, he said with a shrug. He didn’t even notice, y’all!

Tell Them in a DM or Text

Getting vulnerable with a potential date over DM can be a happy medium between options one and two. It’s not as ~in your face~ as putting SOBER on your profile, but it also errs on the side of efficiency. DMs on dating apps or social media can be a great way to get to know more about each other via more private communication before you decide to meet IRL or hop on a FaceTime call. When the time feels right, you can let them know that you’re sober or that you’re not drinking right now (whatever feels true for you). Their response will let you know how they feel about possibly dating a sober person. If they’re not interested in dating a sober person, at least you found out before obsessing over an outfit and styling your hair.

All of these methods taught me that my sobriety is often a mirror to other peoples’ drinking habits. Anyone who has issues with you choosing not to drink says more about them than it says about you. In a way, sobriety is an excellent way to filter out people who may have issues with sobriety.

Already in a Relationship? We Got You, Covered, Too!

For folks who are already in a relationship, it’s best to rely on clear communication when letting your partner(s) know that you’re reevaluating your relationship with alcohol. “Tell your partner(s) how drinking less, or not at all, may impact your lives as a unit,” says Irina Gonzalez, sober journalist, wife, and mom.“If splitting a bottle of wine together is a big part of your relationship, your partner may feel rejected by your sobriety. It’s not your job to make them feel better but it is your job to make sure they know that this change is to make you a better person and essentially a better partner.” 

It’s also important to let them know what type of support you need during this time. Maybe you hope they’ll attend a support group like Al-Anon for those who love people who are giving up alcohol. Or maybe you want to bring in a couples’ therapist to proactively work through any potential issues that may arise.

Whether you’re telling a first date that you’re sober or confiding in your long-term partner about cutting back on booze, clear communication is of the utmost importance. Consider putting the emphasis on what sobriety gives you instead of what you’re “missing.”  For example, “Removing alcohol from my life helps me feel balanced. I can show up for myself and my loved ones in a healthy way,” as opposed to, “I can’t drink anymore.” Focusing on the positive shows that you’re in control and overall happy about your decisions.

There are also some dating apps made specifically for finding sober love. CASL, Sober Dating, Club Soda, and Loosid. Bumble even added a sober feature! If all of this feels overwhelming, remember that you’re not alone. Sober dating should only take place when you feel comfortable enough in your sobriety to bring someone else into your life. Like sobriety, approach the dating world one date at a time.

Dating can be hard, and adding the uncertainty of telling a date that you're sober can bring extra stress. Here are some suggestions on how and when to tell a date that you're in recovery.

Tawny is an NYC-based millennial also known as The Sober Sexpert. Her book, Dry Humping: A Guide to Dating, Relating, and Hooking Up Without Booze comes out September 19, 2023. Her work is featured in PlayboyMen’s HealthWriter’s Digest, and two essay collections: The Addiction Diaries and Sex and the Single Woman. She is the co-host of Recovery Rocks podcast and the story developer for the Webby-Award-winning podcast, F*cking Sober. Tawny has shared her recovery story on stages all across the world: IOGT World CongressNew York State Recovery ConferenceUnited Federation of Teachers, and more. She’s the founder of the Readings on Recovery reading series and her blog, SobrieTea Party. She’s a charity volunteer with Road Recovery and an award-winning filmmaker of the recovery documentary, Fixed Up.

Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. Workit Health, Inc. and its affiliated professional entities make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.

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