How Getting Sober Healed My Dating Life (When I Thought It Would Ruin It)
“Sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking of what we want to become. Sometimes we motivate ourselves by thinking about who we don’t ever want to be again.” ~Shane Niemeyer
When I faced the prospect of no longer drinking anymore (at age twenty-one!), after eight years of heavy boozing, I had so many questions about my dating life.
Will I be fun anymore? Will I have FOMO? How will I cope with stress? What will I drink on dates? Will anyone want to be with me? What will sober sex be like? Omg!
These questions paralyzed me, as I couldn’t imagine my life without alcohol, yet I couldn’t imagine my life with it either. I put down the drink and with it, I thought I surrendered my desirability and compatibility as a potential partner.
That couldn’t have been further from the truth.
Over time, I’ve realized plenty of people don’t mind that I’m sober; some even like it or are sober too. Ultimately, I found I didn’t really care what others thought because I was okay with myself.
The reality was, slowly but surely, getting sober healed my dating, sex, and love life for good. Here’s how.
Feeling My Feelings
Gosh, alcohol seemed to solve everything. Stressed? Drink. Excited? Drink. Sad? Drink.
I’m face-to-face with reality without picking up the bottle every time I have a feeling. I don’t get to check out. It’s a good thing, honestly. It means I feel the spectrum of feelings and am present with them, which helps me work through those feelings in a healthy way.
I recently went through a breakup, and it destroyed me emotionally. Even though I was the initiator, I felt so many feelings.
I spent the first few weeks running from my feelings by trying to meet people on dating apps (what a joke that was at such a raw point!), but I quickly realized this wouldn’t serve me. I had to face my feelings head-on.
Now, it’s been almost two months, and I’m still sad, but I’m feeling the sadness. I’m leaning in to let the sadness visit, then leaning out when I’ve let it visit for long enough. I know now that the best way to move through sadness is to let it unfold within me, not fight it.
Owning and Releasing My Stuff
Alcoholism stunted my growth as a human. I think when I got sober, mentally, I was like sixteen instead of twenty-one. What sobriety has given me is a chance to catch up with that emotional maturity.
I can take responsibility for my actions, knowing when something is my fault and when I owe someone an apology. For example, if I raised my voice at my ex-partner, I owed him amends or an “I’m sorry,” and I apologized promptly.
I can also own when I don’t have a part in things and, instead, have to figure out what isn’t mine to carry. For example, I felt some guilt and shame about the traumatic aspects of my childhood, but this is not my stuff. I’ve learned that I need to let that go.
Emotional maturity teaches me to make sense of what to own and what to reject as not mine.
Becoming Okay with Being Alone
When I was drinking, I was terrified of being alone. I was cheating on my partner because I couldn’t be with him but couldn’t be without him either.
Once I got sober, I spent many years practicing being by myself. I took myself on dates to beaches and bookstores, learned proper self-care through relaxation and gentle but necessary productivity like doing my laundry, and learned that I’d be okay no matter what happened.
I realized I was a lovable human being and that I could love myself.
I’m alone again a few years later, and although I don’t love it, I’m thriving in solitude. I’m rediscovering my passions, such as yoga, writing, and spending time with loved ones. I’m embracing myself because I’m realizing I’m worth it.
I can’t be with another person until I’m whole again, and I’m just not there yet. Today, I try not to use other people to escape my feelings through rebounding. So alone time it is.
Engaging in More Communicative Sex
When drinking excessively, it can be challenging to have consistent consent. I was assaulted several times during my drinking days, and although I never deserved that, I put myself at risk by blacking out and drinking to excess.
Now, I have incredibly communicative sex. I don’t settle for anything less than enthusiastic consent.
When I sleep with someone, we talk about it before it happens and make sure we know each other’s boundaries and needs. We communicate clearly during and even after. It’s magical! Sure, you don’t need sobriety for this, but with my drinking habits, I did.
Getting Additional Support
Getting sober in an alcohol twelve-step program made me realize I needed another twelve-step program for sex and love. I came to find out that, although getting sober did a lot for my sex and love life, more healing was necessary to level up. So I joined Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous, where they taught me self-love and how to date in a healthy way.
They taught me how to avoid behaviors that harmed me, like having sex with randos and chasing unavailable people. In the evolved part of my life with my ex-partner, they taught me how to set boundaries and accept love. Now that I’m alone, I’m learning again how to face it.
Final Thoughts for Others
I have nothing against alcohol; it just didn’t work for me anymore. I was binge drinking, blacking out, cheating when I got too drunk, waking up in strange places, and just generally making an ass of myself. I was most definitely ruining my relationships!
If you think you have a problem with alcohol, there are many resources for the non-drinker. I personally found Alcoholics Anonymous to be the most helpful, but whatever works for you is what you should do. It might just heal you and your relationships.
About Ginelle Testa
Ginelle Testa is a passionate wordsmith. She’s a queer gal whose passions include recovery/sobriety, social justice, body positivity, and intersectional feminism. In the rare moments she isn’t writing, you can find her doing yin yoga, thrifting eclectic attire, and imperfectly practicing Buddhism. She has a memoir coming out with She Writes Press in September 2024. You can find her on Instagram.