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Newsletter Oops + Dating While Sober Curious
Do you have higher dating standards after giving up booze?
Hi, y’all! This is Irina Gonzalez, managing editor of Beyond Liquid Courage and author of the soon-to-launch Raising Gen Alpha. You may have noticed that this issue accidentally went out last Friday instead of our usual Hump Day edition. Oops!
There was a lot of freaking out at first, but then Tawny and I talked it out and calmed down. This served as a reminder of something that I learned almost 8 years ago when I first entered recovery and became sober: Relapse is part of the process.
Although not always a popular opinion, many of us in recovery acknowledge that lapses and relapses happen and that relapse anxiety is *real*. In fact, I wrote about my own relapse experience for Marie Claire a few years ago. It’s okay to make mistakes because what matters is what you do next.
And so, here we are, admitting our mistake and moving forward. We hope you enjoy this re-sent issue 5—especially if you were too busy before the holiday weekend to take a look. Happy reading!
Happy Hump Day, y’all! Welcome to the fifth issue of Beyond Liquid Courage. This weekly advice column answers subscriber questions about booze-free dating, relating, and hooking up—whether you’ve given up drinking for good or are just a little curious about the alcohol-free life.
I’m Tawny, AKA The Sober Sexpert and author of the forthcoming book Dry Humping: A Guide to Dating, Relating, and Hooking Up Without the Booze. I’m here to help you move beyond liquid courage.
This week, I answer an important subscriber question: Why is Sober Curious Dating So Annoying?!
Before we dive into this week’s question, I want to let y’all know that I’m co-hosting a sober pride event on June 11th in Brooklyn! Grab your ticket here.
My dating standards are significantly higher now that I’m sober curious. I’m less tolerant of my date’s annoying behaviors (anything from listening to their crypto obsessions to suffering through their lack of self-awareness to pretending I don’t see them staring at my chest instead of my face) when I don’t have a drink or two in me.
While I appreciate learning what irks me, having a lower tolerance for BS makes me just want to stay home with my cat instead of dating. I also have a hard time reckoning with the fact that I put up with so much BS in the past just because I drank! Did you deal with this at all? If so, how can I find love when everyone gets on my damn nerves?! For what it’s worth, I’m a 40-something cisgender bisexual woman.
Annoyed and Lonely
Hey, Annoyed and Lonely. Dating can be so hard/annoying/difficult and tedious/stressful/anxiety-provoking and frustrating/disappointing. I dealt with everything you mentioned (and then some!) during my sober dating era. One dude even “jokingly” called me a fatty for wanting my own cupcake instead of sharing a cupcake with him. Yes, seriously! Then, when he found out I was sober, he treated the rest of our date like a therapy session, telling me about his physically abusive mother. Thankfully, I had my own cupcake to eat while internally rolling my eyes. I darted out of that SoHo bakery as soon as I could. The fact that I stayed on the date after the “fatty” comment shows my low self-esteem back then. So here’s where you can start.
If dating annoys you right now, it’s OK to hit pause. Do activities you enjoy instead of swiping left or right on the apps. Keep your sober curiosity as priority numero uno.
I had a lot of downtime when I stopped drinking (and more money because drinks are pricey, y’all!). So I put that downtime and financial surplus into enrichment courses like studying Spanish, taking improv (cringe!), and writing classes. I gave myself time to nurture my creativity while connecting with like-minded folks—the perfect antidote for the stress of sober curious dating!
By pressing pause on dating, you just might find some people who don’t annoy you when you’re doing something you love. Maybe it’s a new friend. Maybe it’s a potential date. Who knows! Chapter one of my book is about dating yourself for this reason.
To answer the second part of your question, dry dating shined a bright spotlight on the BS I tolerated when my dating life had a two-drink minimum. I was shocked to learn that I didn’t really… date… when I drank. I just met people in bars. Sometimes we’d hook up. Sometimes a fling turned into a three-year relationship. The concept of dating—actually getting to know someone slowly—felt like training for a marathon after years of crawling.
While alcohol is known to impact existing relationships, it’s also known to have a profound effect on the quality of new people we bring into our lives. In my own sobriety, I discovered that the list of traits I desired in a potential mate vastly improved.
Drunk Me thought my ideal partner was anyone with a shared passion for rock ‘n roll and whiskey. Sober Me raised my standards to look for folks who prioritized mental and physical health, didn’t party on a regular basis (if at all), and could discuss their feelings. Once my standards upgraded, so did the quality of my new relationships. “When you’re deep in alcohol use, you want to be with people who are in it too, which creates an unhealthy dynamic,” says Keegan Herring, a mindfulness-based therapist.
Even when my relationships in sobriety ended, there were rarely hard feelings because we discussed everything as adults, as opposed to Drunk Me, who emotionally erupted at any sign that the end was near. For me, sobriety led to emotional maturity.
I’ve also learned that I’m less annoyed at people (and life in general) when I take care of myself. You know the whole put on your oxygen mask first thing? It’s true. When I exercise regularly, eat a balanced-ish diet, take my anxiety meds, go to therapy, attend peer support groups, communicate my boundaries, meditate, and get acupuncture, I’m a happier person overall. If that list seems exhausting, it’s because it is. These are just a few of the activities that have kept me relatively sane since my last drink on November 30th, 2015.
Finding tools that calm my nervous system enough to go on dates might be the biggest lesson sobriety gave me. I looked for a quick fix to deal with life’s stress, but the booze was just a band-aid. All of those tedious acts of self-care help me be a decent human and a present partner to Nick.
Now that you’re sober curious, this is a great time to figure out what calms your own nervous system. Taking this time away from alcohol is the perfect time to remember who you are and what you want in a potential partner.
Listen to this episode of This Jungian Life podcast about dating. I’m a Carl Jung nerd who appreciates how his work, and his analysts’ work, explore the conscious vs. unconscious. This episode discusses how your unconscious might be driving the bus when it comes to dating.
Make a list of what you bring to the table. Why are you a catch? (Yes, you! You’re a catch!)
Write down all of the traits that your ideal partner has. Be specific and audacious, but also be realistic. Then, highlight the top five traits that mean the most to you. To quote sex columnist icon, Dan Savage, “If you have more than five deal-breakers, YOU are the deal-breaker.”
Which qualities in a partner do your loved ones want for you (inspired by the dating episode of This Jungian Life)
Imagine a Venn diagram of your ideal partner and the ideal partner that your loved ones want for you. Which qualities overlap? Which qualities don’t?
Have a cringey dating story of your own? Tell me it below so I don’t feel like a weirdo about that cupcake dude.
If this week's column interests you, there’s a full chapter in my book, Dry Humping: A Guide to Dating, Relating and Hooking Up Without The Booze, on this very topic. Preorder now on Bookshop.org (every purchase helps to support a local bookstore) or your favorite retailer.
Next week’s issue discusses talking about sober curiosity with a partner. Subscribe here so you don’t miss out!
Until next time,
P.P.S. Please eat a cupcake 🧁!