Patient Blogs | Substance Abuse
How Sobriety Changed My Dating Life
photo of couple attempting to hold hands

The first time in sobriety that I kissed someone, I couldn’t stop laughing. At the time, it felt so unnatural to make out without having one (or 10) drinks first.

Drunk, I could make out with anyone cute. The guy was 8 years my junior when I was traveling to the island of Statia. He was my friend’s ex. He told me he had had a crush on me the whole time he’d been dating my friend.

Because alcohol impairs the brain’s frontal lobe -- the part responsible for judgment -- bad decisions can often feel good. I’m not saying that making out with a younger man or your friend’s ex is always bad, but for me, at the time, those were bad choices.

Alcohol itself is largely about instant pleasure. So it follows that the more, and more often, we drink, the more we are living in the moment -- consequences be damned.

Sober, I learned that consequences are very real. I no longer wanted to date people who were wildly inappropriate for me just because I found the situations interesting, exciting, or elicit in an electric way.

When kissing Tom, between peals of laughter, I realized I was nervous and uncomfortable with what I was allowing to happen. I didn’t have anything in common with this person, other than the fact that we were both sober (which is why a mutual friend introduced us).

He worked on cars, whereas I can’t explain how windshield wipers work. I write for a living, and I had to explain a few of the longer words I used. I’ve been fortunate to travel the globe, whereas Tom had never left Florida.

Sure, if enough other pieces of compatibility had been there, we could have overlooked these bits and focused on building a foundation. But I realized I had no desire to do that.

I realized I was done dating inappropriate people.

Bigger still, I realized that I hate it when men rush the physical aspect of dating.

Even as I first started kissing boys, I had never liked how quickly boys sped along, grabbing at my body while I was still deciding how I felt about them. Maybe they knew that I was assessing them. Maybe they were trying to see how far they could get before I realized I didn’t like them.

Over the years and through the power of alcohol, I learned -- to an extent -- to accept the fast, physical advance as part of modern dating. But even drunk, I often felt pushed too far too fast.

I remember one time when I met a cute guy at a dive bar. As he walked out to his car, I joined him with the intention of having a quick smooch or two. Instead, about 3 minutes in, he started forcefully pushing my head toward his crotch, which to me is one of the most disrespectful things a man can do to a woman.

Drunk or sober, we tend to know we deserve better, but drunken states render us more vulnerable and less resistant to what we know isn’t right for us.

But back to Tom. Tom was a great kisser, but he too seemed to be under a deadline to touch as much of my body as quickly as possible. He kept trying to slide his hands under my skirt. 

The fact that he kept coaxing me all the while made it worse: “Just relax. Let yourself go. Don’t hold back.”

Had I listened to him, I could have easily agreed that I was uptight and needed to “give into my passions.” Even though I wasn’t feeling much passion, just uncertainty -- hence the uncontrollable giggling.

And that’s just it: I didn’t need men to tell me about my passions. I didn’t need my dating life explained to me by a man, least of all one trying to get into my pants.

Before sobriety, I might have been flattered by the attention, reasoning that he was cute. But sober, I had full use of my brain with all its discernment, which was telling me that I wasn’t sure how I felt about the person I was kissing.

Consequently, I realized the question I should ask was: “Should I be dating Tom?” and not “How far should I let Tom get on a first date?” Sober, I was in touch with my gut sense, no longer dulled by a drink, which was telling me that I didn’t want to be sitting on an IKEA couch with Tom, doing something I would regret later. Hell, I was regretting it even as it was happening. So I left.

Too often, when I drank, I regretted what I did because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. I started making out with boys at age 13. Back then, every wink and every kiss made me feel pretty. I wasn’t sure I was beautiful unless a boy was telling me so. That attention became an addiction. Like alcohol, attention from the gender we’re attracted to is a short-lived high. I had to chase it daily and it was never enough.

What we do often miss is that attention and love are not the same things. Far from it. If we settle for attention, especially from men we don’t ultimately want to be with, we’ll miss out on forming a deeper connection with someone we actually care about.

Attention feels like crumbs, whereas love is the whole cake. Having it all, for me, looks like a relationship with someone who wants to help me achieve my dreams, vacation with me, and build a life together.




Photo Credit: d3sign via Getty Images

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Brooke Morton

Brooke Morton

Sober since 2013

Brooke Morton has been sober since January 19, 2013. Brooke, 41, is a freelance writer and the founder of Sober Outsiders, a community that is committed to empowering and guiding sober women to create and live their best lives. She is currently working on a book about alcohol and sexual consent. Brooke lives in Orlando with her border collie, Pippy.

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