I've been sober for three years and have heard from many people how hard it can be to form a healthy relationship or to even find someone to go on a date with when you are in AA or have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction. I've spoken with people who feel uncomfortable dating someone who isn't in sobriety, which makes the list of possible dates much shorter. I know many people who don't mind dating a “normy” (someone who isn't an addict or alcoholic) but don't feel comfortable meeting people in bars. Every person and situation is different, but it still makes it more complicated, and lets face it – dating is already complicated.
First things first
Most treatment facilities and 12 step groups recommend not starting any new relationships or making any major life changes in your first year of sobriety. When you're used to using drugs or alcohol as a tool to get through day to day life, you need to learn to cope with your own feelings and learn about yourself again before you can be healthy partner to anyone. In my first few months of sobriety I felt raw and exposed just leaving my house. It can be difficult to feel vulnerable, and, in that first year of sobriety, that's exactly what you are. You need to begin to experience your own feelings without the numbing affects of drugs and alcohol before you can learn to be sensitive to another person's feelings. I learned a lot about myself in that first year and I'm thankful I had that time to grow as a person.
You're ready, now what?
Ask yourself a couple questions: Is it important to me that I date someone else in recovery? If not, when do you tell them you're sober? There's obviously a lot more to finding a date and a relationship, but those are two big factors for people in sobriety. My husband is not in sobriety, but he is very supportive and respectful of mine. Some of my sober friends only feel comfortable dating others in sobriety, feeling they can understand each other better. Whichever way it works for you is fine, just make sure you ask yourself honestly what your comfort level is and let your date/partner know as well.
Where are all the good ones?
This is the tricky part. There are so many choices today for dating. In person, social media, dating websites, etc. If you want to date others in sobriety, clearly meeting someone at an AA meeting, whether it be an online AA meeting or a face to face meeting, you know you're talking to others who are in the same boat as you. I don't recommend going to a meeting just to find a date, but if you meet someone there who is single and ready to date, why not? I've known a few couples who met at a meeting or had mutual friends in sobriety. A good friend of mine with 6 years of sobriety just married a man she met at an AA meeting. You'd also be surprised what great match makers AA'ers make. I live in the Minneapolis/St Paul area, which has a huge sober community. If your friends find out your single and looking, believe me, they will be trying to set you up.
For those that are OK dating a “normy”, you have many options. I would hesitate trying to meet anyone at a bar. I don't think it's a great place to find love for anyone, but if you've struggled with addiction in the past you're just asking for trouble. If you do begin dating someone and you begin to wonder – “When should I tell him?” – just remember, there's no deadline. Don't force the subject into conversation. If it comes up naturally and it feels right, then tell the person. The majority of people are going to applaud you for your honesty and openness, if anyone doesn't do that or if they make you feel uncomfortable about your sobriety, RUN. It sound dramatic, but if someone judges you harshly about something that's important to you, then its not going to end well anyway.
Love will always happen when you least expect it. Always treat yourself with love and respect and others will do the same.
“Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings a warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring” Oscar Wilde