“My date blacked out at dinner” (and other stories
from the sober trenches)

So you’re sober and navigating dating apps– first of all, bless your heart. You’re truly doing the Lord’s work out there. They should give out war medals to people like you. Or at the very least, some kind of Nobel Peace Prize.

For those of you who don’t think you can live to tell the tale (or haven’t yet dated on Club Soda!), we thought it would be cathartic to share our craziest dating horror stories as sober people. Let’s call them “stories of survival”– these are the legends of early T*nd*r and the like. The dark ages of dating apps. The pre-Club Soda days we shudder to think about now. Because if these people can make it out alive, there’s hope for us all.

“We’ll always have bacon-wrapped hotdogs”– G, 31, San Francisco

I met him on one of the first dating sites, so this was like, almost ten years ago. I’ve been sober my whole life so I didn’t even think about it being weird that I didn’t drink, or whether he would. I also didn’t have a ton of dating experience, so I was pretty naive I guess! Anyway, we met at a bar in the Mission district in the daytime. He made it sound more like a restaurant, so I was taken aback when there was no food actually served there, just a hot dog cart outside. I remember being starving and eating bar peanuts while he pounded beers, and proceeded to get rip roaring drunk in front of me. He was talking loudly, really close to my face with this heinous beer breath. When he started doing shots and negging me, I knew I had to get out of there, so I slipped out when he went to the bathroom. I guess he was on a bender because I didn’t hear from him until the next day and he had no recollection of what had happened. He was really confused when I said I just wanted to be friends (I hadn’t dealt with my people-pleasing stuff yet back then, okay?). Shouts to the bacon-wrapped hot dog lady outside though– after I got the hell out of there, I had one of the best meals of my life!!

“She said she didn’t drink”– M, 40, NYC

I had messaged on an app with this lady and I thought she was really cool. We didn’t talk about our drinking habits before we met, but I’ve been sober for a few years and respectfully declined alcohol when we went out to dinner for the first time. She seemed taken aback, but when I said I didn’t drink, she quickly affirmed that she didn’t either. She didn’t volunteer any details about her sobriety, which is a boundary I can appreciate, so I didn’t pry. We moved on.

Cut to: an hour later. We were having a good conversation, but she was looking around kind of anxiously for the waiter and when she flagged him down ordered a Pinot Grigio. When I looked confused, she told me “Well, I mostly don’t drink, except for special occasions, and don’t you think this is one?” It was flirty, and I don’t police others’ choices, so I said cool.

But she kept ordering wine. And saying it was a special occasion. And that it “doesn’t count” if you’re having “the time of your life.” Then, she started encouraging me to “live a little.” By that point, I knew I was basically talking to a wall, so I just said no and tried not to get into a whole thing with her about it. But she kept pushing her wine over to me. She got very mad that I wouldn’t “just have one litttttuuuulllllll sip.” She got aggressive, and said I didn’t like her. Well, she wasn’t wrong!

Then she started digging in her purse for her keys and said she was going to leave. Yup- she drove there.

If it wasn’t awkward enough already, now I had the task of making sure she didn’t drive home. I was more than ready for this date to be over, but knew letting her get behind the wheel was a disaster waiting to happen. She started making a scene on the sidewalk outside the restaurant when I told her I’d call her an Uber, but weirdly, she was into the idea of me driving her home– I guess she still wasn’t done having “the time of her life?” I asked for her address, and when she told me I secretly entered it into Uber. I guess she had tired herself out by the time it arrived because she got right in. When she opened the door I could hear “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen playing on the radio. Yes indeed, Freddie, yes indeed.

Step 1: don’t bring up the 12 steps at Disneyland”– S, 36, LA

I was on a “group date” at Disneyland– don’t judge, it was 2007 and I was pretty much down for whatever back then. Including full-day commitments with a group of acquaintances and their partners. I had met this guy, we’ll call him “R”, through one of them and it seemed like a great idea to join them all on a very “adult” day at Disney.

I was excited that I wasn’t the only sober person on the trip– there was a girl there who agreed to be the other designated driver. When she told me this on our $40 hamburger lunch, it gave me pause. How hard were we supposed to party today? How late were we planning to stay, exactly? It was only noon, and I didn’t want to like, shut down the park. Why did I agree to this?! Oh yeah, I was young and dumb.

She assured me that it would be a fun day, as everyone, including her, was going to take molly. Okay, I might have been young, but I wasn’t that dumb– I was flying sober solo. And I actually didn’t mind that. Maybe because I was newly sober and thought it was the next best thing to being on molly myself? Plus, I figured, people on drugs are better than drunk people– they’re less sloppy, more childlike, and maybe R. would be more fun and flirty with me.

R. was not more fun and flirty with me. I don’t know if someone laced R’s molly or what, but he got really weird right when things were starting to get promising. He sat behind me on Splash Mountain, so we were in a suggestive position, him straddling me from behind. Not wanting to wait for him to make a move, I turned around and said,

“Will you give me a back massage?”

He was on molly, after all. But something about that didn’t sit right with him.

“J told me you’re not rolling?” he asked me cautiously.

“Oh, yeah I don’t do that,” I said, overly bubbly, overcorrecting for a high person.

“Why not?” he yelled into my ear over the machine sounds of the ride taking off.

Oh, God. Not here, not now, I thought. I didn’t want to get into the story of me bottoming out at a highschool party with a person peaking on molly at 2pm. On the log ride. At Disneyland. I turned and said in a normal speaking voice, as to direct him to settle down,

“Long story.”

I felt him tense up behind me, his knees becoming rigid at my sides.

“You’re not a narc, are you?”

He was almost whispering as the shallow waves lapped up against our log and an announcement warned us to keep our hands and feet inside the boats at all times, in English first, then in Spanish. I had to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all.

“What?” he said. “What’s so funny?!”

I felt for him as the ride picked up, knowing it probably sucked to be high with a sober person on this insane ride, and how the jaunty music and animatronic animals probably seemed like they were taunting him specifically. (To be honest, they kinda felt like they were taunting me!) He confirmed this when he suddenly clutched my shoulders and leaned into my ear.

“I ate weed too,” he confessed. Now I really got it.

“It’s all good!” I said, probably too enthusiastically. I sound like a total narc.

“No, man, it’s not,” he replied, monotone now.

I wished I could enjoy him holding onto my shoulders, but his death grip was infused with fear, not flirtation.

“It’s fine,” I reassured him.

But we were entering the part of the ride that gets ominous, right before the giant drop. Our surroundings darkened and the music warped and slowed down.

“Have you been here before?” I asked him.

“No,” he said, as maniacal cartoon laughter piped in on the speakers. “What’s happening?”

“It’s okay,” I said. “It’s almost over!”

As we climbed up the steep incline ahead of the drop, R.’s nails clawed into my arms. He was too terrified to mince words anymore. And WHOOSH! We flew down Splash Mountain. I lifted my arms, knowing there was a picture being taken. R. just ducked behind my back and squeezed me so tight that my obligatory scream coming down was really just a reaction to the pain.

Exiting the ride, R. stumbled out of our boat, looking dazed. I waited for him to catch up. Had we just had a moment we could tell our future kids about?

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“Totally,” R. said unconvincingly as he adjusted to solid ground. We walked out into the park with the rest of the group, all of us shaky but relieved. He sidled up to me and said,

“But wait, you never told me why you’re sober. I mean, is it just by choice? Or…”

“I’m actually in AA,” I said. I have no idea why. Maybe I was tired of being coy. Maybe I was still hoping to bond with him. Maybe I was 22. Probably a combination of all three.

“Whoa,” he said. “Isn’t that like, a cult?”

I stammered through a rushed, defensive explanation of the program, but I could see that this was totally harshing R’s buzz. He instantly regretted asking; this was the last thing he wanted to hear about in his state. He started to meander over towards the other “sober” girl there—yep, the one who was on molly, too. Instantly, they seemed to be making a way better connection. Thankfully, I was able to console myself with the smartest (and most accurate) thought I’d had all day:

“It’s probably for the best.”

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