We call the “normie” drinkers on Club Soda “conscious cuties,” and just as sober-from-alcohol people run the gamut, so do those who choose to consume alcohol from time to time. I’m one of these subsets of people, and I’ll tell you why I came when I heard about Club Soda: I’m a sex and love addict in recovery, and for me, dating apps are a special kind of nightmare.
I’m talking SCARY.
Some reasons for this are obvious. People often lead with sex on apps, at best, or aren’t interested in anything else, at worst. This is fine for someone also looking for a casual fling. But for someone like me, the lack of transparency involved can make for an emotionally dangerous encounter.
Add a few drinks to the mix, and suddenly it feels okay to burn it all down — “it” being my SLAA sobriety, solid most of the time, but constantly challenged by hookup culture.
About me: being in SLAA doesn’t mean I’m a flasher or a nympho (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it just means I have a penchant for going after unavailable men. But what does “unavailable” actually mean? For starters, here’s a running, but far from comprehensive, list:
- already in a relationship
- fresh out of one, and not ready
- doesn’t live in my city/state/country/hemisphere
- can’t process their emotions
- doesn’t want to hear about mine
- only wants to bone
- hates themself
- loves themself too much (active narcissist)
…and many more.
But I’m not here to complain about men. I’m a love addict, so I’m in recovery to change my patterns. I have a “dating plan” that gives me guidelines to keep me SLAA-sober (not acting out in self-destructive ways). Mostly they’re just boundaries, like no physical stuff in early dating, no compulsive and/or excessive texting, no dates that go on endlessly and lure me into a k-hole of obsession and intrigue that leave my roommates wondering if I’m dead and my co-workers wondering if I’ve started using heroin. You know, none of the stuff that tends to happen when you meet a random hot person on a dating app who you don’t know, like, at all.
Some of my personal dating dangers go hand in hand with alcohol use. While I’m not an alcoholic, I refrain from drinking on dates. We all know that booze lowers inhibitions and impairs judgment, so I don’t need to point out all the reasons it could be detrimental to my recovery. But let’s just say that someone like “Mike”, who I went on a coffee date with in early sobriety, might have looked pretty damn good to me after a few cocktails. (The same “Mike” who talked endlessly about his crazy ex, lived secretly in a commercial building with no shower, and revealed he was thinking about moving into his car. Have you met a “Mike”?)
Going on sober dates is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done for myself.
When I think back to all the hazy late-night bar “hangs” that set the stage for acting out, I wonder what I was even getting out of it. Having talked with alcoholics in recovery, I know we experience a similar feeling of bafflement about the “rewards” of addiction. They don’t measure up to our expectations, exceedingly; yet, we persist! I persisted in my chasing of people who weren’t interested in me. My sexting with dudes who had countless other women on deck. My pointless, circular conversations with other active addicts who could never give me what I wanted. I did it until I literally couldn’t anymore, and now a date without that kind of pressure is like a breath of fresh air.
In short, keeping my dates sober in every way allows me to see people for who they really are. Dates aren’t conquests, challenges, or bandages for me anymore. There are no expectations other than staying in the present and moment and maintaining clarity and curiosity as best I can for an hour. Using an app where I don’t have to dodge drinks or explain myself not only feels safer, it might actually help me find someone I’m aligned with spiritually. And that makes me feel a lot less scared.