What to Expect From Sober Dating

January 5 5 min read

I’ve just passed one year sober, and it’s been a hell of a year. Some sober people felt relief at bars and pubs closing their doors for lockdown, others felt stuck, with nothing to do but worry and try not to drink. We all found our own way through it – for my partner and me, we tried to focus on other things – gaming, creating, and dating. We’re polyamorous, and soon discovered we were open to virtual dating now physical encounters were out of the question.


I opted for sobriety before lockdown so had some experience sitting across tables introducing dates to my new sober persona. I quickly realised that in a pubs-based society, sobriety changes everything. 


The Awkward First Chat


I don’t announce that I’m sober on dating profiles. I’m worried it’ll seem sanctimonious, boring, or limiting (even though it isn’t). I just didn’t know how to phrase it without sounding apologetic. I don’t care if somebody else drinks or not, as long as they don’t try and get me to drink. Before March, however, sobriety entered the conversation as soon as you tried to decide what you were going to do on the date, always ‘drinks’.  I did feel the need to flag that I wouldn’t be getting as loose from these drinks as my date would be. Often this put people on the back foot, immediately apologising for drinking before asking the inevitable question, 'why don’t you drink?' This is swiftly followed by supreme awkwardness when I reveal my alcoholism. Sometimes I lied and put it down to a month-long health drive. 


'Sobriety doesn’t mean a person isn’t fun or exciting. I’m still me, I still love to party, and I still really love to fuck, I just don’t want to use alcohol to do it.'

It did help me realise what I wanted in a potential lover though: I didn’t need sobriety, but I did need respect and understanding that sobriety doesn’t mean a person isn’t fun or exciting. I’m still me, I still love to party, and I still really love to fuck, I just don’t want to use alcohol to do it.



Closing the Deal


Once we’d overcome that initial hurdle, we settled into the usual flirting which was generally fine, but does tend to lead to the will-we-won’t-we moment. I have to admit, drinking makes that part a lot easier. Mustering the courage to lean in and kiss them (or more) is a lot easier said than done. The signals would be there, but my usual confidence just...wasn’t. 


On one night out with a group of friends, one of whom had become my unofficial date after a few flirty texts, the group could clearly tell we were attracted to each other, we knew we were attracted to each other, but as the night went on, the fluid conversation turned sexier, and I just couldn’t light that fire within myself to take the leap. I could tell he didn’t want to make the first move since he had been drinking, and eventually, he was simply too drunk and the moment passed. 


We arranged to meet again, this time without friends and at his house so there could be no confusion. But then Corona hit. 


'We knew we were attracted to each other, but as the night went on, the fluid conversation turned sexier, and I just couldn’t light that fire within myself to take the leap.'


Kindred spirits


Occasionally I come across people who just instantly get it, and it isn’t an issue at all. Those times have been some of my best dates ever because I felt totally accepted: free from the pressure to socialise in any particular way. Once on a business trip, I organised to meet a younger man at a bar. He was a rocker – long hair, leather jacket. I fully expected him to order a whisky to match before turning sceptically towards the tonic water I was nursing. Instead, he revealed he'd never had an alcoholic drink in his life! We stared at each other in disbelief as I learnt that I, too, had prejudices. We had an awesome evening and some incredibly hot sex in a hotel room overlooking the night-time cityscape. 



Virtual connections


Now that all my poly dating is online, sobriety is much less of an issue, but it still comes up from time to time. Getting-to-know-you conversations on dating apps sometimes include questions about drinks or drunkenness, and I have to flag that I’d prefer not to go there. Virtual dates via video chat are fun, but if the person is visibly tipsy it turns me off a little. Since their face is my entire focus, it’s like I can see the drink affecting them minute-by-minute. I've ended up with a few surprisingly long-lasting sexting relationships, and those are mostly unaffected - bar the times when the number typo-ridden, 'h3ey sexy, what re you too?" messages signal they might just be under the influence. It doesn't bother me really though, typos are a small price to pay for the fun that comes with a random late-night horny text.


But not everybody wants to navigate around the social stigmas of dating sober. When you're at a good place in your recovery process, sober dating apps like Loosid offer a way to find like-minded people, skip the questions, and even get suggestions for clean bars in your area so you can feel safe and comfortable. Until the day comes we can actually go to bars again though, get creative by going for a walk or exploring a shared interest instead - you might be pleasantly surprised.


Looking forward


Lockdown will end eventually, and I have to admit I’m worried about my sober dating future. Virtual dating has been relatively sober-stress-free, but I can’t say the same of real life. I’m hopeful I can keep on just figuring it out as I go along, but there may come a time when announcing my sobriety upfront will be necessary. I’m still the same me, horny as hell and excited about all the potential lovers I've yet to meet. I’ll just have to meet them sober, and fingers-crossed we have fun all the same.  


R.T. Collins
« R.T. Collins (aka Disco) is a writer and porn reviewer focusing on kink, body positivity and queer porn culture. You can find their work on Medium and keep up with them on Twitter by following @DiscoWrites. » All posts →