Dating While Sober & Signs of Alcohol Abuse
It's the typical scene for a date night (when we're not under shelter in place due to a worldwide epidemic): the bar. You pick a place to grab a couple of drinks with this random stranger you've texted for a few days on a dating app. Typically the drinks help calm your nerves a little as you get to know your date and see if there's enough chemistry between you two to warrant a second date. There's usually not a thought about whether or not to meet at a bar to grab an alcoholic drink. However, there are more and more people living the sober life and it's changing the dating scene, too.
According to the Washington Post, Millennials are starting a new sober trend provoking bars to start offering alcohol-free options. For some, the decision is based on making a dietary change. For others, it's a much needed change to help not only their physical health, but also their mental health. For this post, I met with my hometown friend, Caitie, to talk about her struggle with alcohol and ways to date while sober. I learned so much more than I thought I would from her and I hope you do, too!
Caitie's Journey To Sobriety
She really didn't see any issues with how she handled alcohol until after college. Like many of us, when we leave the parental surveillance of our high school homes and go out to a whole new world of college we start (or continue) to experiment with drinking alcohol and going to parties. A lot of people go out and consume large amounts of alcohol at parties by "shot-gunning" beers, playing beer pong, or attempting a keg stand. The parties are exciting and drinking is usually supported by cheers from others. It's the typical college party scene and socially accepted by most college students.
When Caitie was in college she didn't really see how she was drinking any different than all the other students at her school. In reality, she probably wasn't any different from them. There was always someone else drunker than her at a party and it was difficult to gain perspective on how much you drink when most people binge drink there. Even after college, she had a hard time seeing any issues.
She joined the Peace Corp after college and was sent to volunteer in a small country in Africa. If you don't know what the Peace Corp is, it's a service organization that immerses volunteers in communities outside the U.S. to work with local leaders and help them with challenges in their communities. You usually live with a host family or in a small home by yourself. There are usually no other American volunteers in that community. The idea is for Americans to really integrate themselves in that community and not segregate with other Americans. So when they have breaks, the American volunteers would tend to gather together and party for a release from the often very stressful experience.
During all of those experiences it was difficult for her to see there was any problem with her drinking, because everyone else around her was doing the same. It wasn't until after these life events ended and she moved into the working world that she started to realize the impact alcohol was having on her life. She was dating a guy who told her he didn't like how she behaved when she drank and eventually broke up with her. The breakup was a triggering moment and she found it really difficult to cope with the emotional pain. It caused her to drink more and she went out a lot with her friends to forget about the breakup. She would end up drinking too much and make poor decisions like going home with strangers and putting herself in a lot of danger.
She then moved to Seattle, Washington and her drinking continued. She would go out for drinks and one or two was never enough. Once she started to drink, she wasn't able to stop. She was also thinking about the next drink when she got the first drink. Even at home she was found herself sneaking alcohol from the stash she shared with her roommates. All of this was starting to bother her and she was starting to see there was a problem she wanted to address.
The thing was it didn't seem to impact her day to day life. She had a job and friends and they didn't seem to be impacted by her drinking issues. She was even able to stop drinking for a whole month without any issues. Then she had a friend that told her that he wouldn't stay her friend unless she went to a meeting that day. That was the final moment for her to take the initiative to finally get help. She went to that meeting that night and hasn't had a drink since. She is now two years sober and hopes her story will help others do the same.
Hardest Part Is Finding New Coping Mechanisms
The hardest part for her about being sober was finding new coping mechanisms for her stress. Typically after a long day of work a person will come home and open up a can of beer or a bottle of wine and she can no longer do those things. Instead, she enjoys eating good meals out, going out for a hike, climbing or taking a bike ride. In fact, her now fiancé was one of the instructors for a mountaineering class she joined after becoming sober. She met him a day after her sobriety day and he has never seen her drink alcohol.
Her fiancé does drink at times and it doesn't bother her. It's not a trigger for her to see the alcohol, but at times she will smell it on him and it makes her want to throw up. It doesn't cause her to want to drink with him, though. She also will enjoy a nice "mocktail" (non-alcoholic mixed drink) when she's out with him or her friends. My mom made me a Mojito mocktail (known by some as a Nojito) once and it was delicious, I couldn't even tell it didn't have alcohol. If you haven't tried one, I encourage you to have one next time you're out or make one at home! Click here for a recipe if you need one.
Alcohol Abuse Stats
I also wanted more information on alcohol abuse statistics and found all I needed to know from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism's website. Based on a 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, about 26% of adults (18 or older) engaged in binge drinking in the past month. What do they mean by binge drinking? It's defined as bringing you alcohol level to .08, which is usually 4 drinks for women and 5 drinks for men within about 2 hours. In addition, the survey found that over 14 million adults had Alcohol Use Disorder. Alcohol Use Disorder is described as a chronic relapsing brain disease with the inability to control alcohol use even if it causes negative social, health, or work consequences. Over 14 million!
Signs You May Have Alcohol Abuse Disorder (AUD)
You're not able to limit or control your intake of alcohol
You're always thinking about the next drink
You experience symptoms of withdrawal when you don't drink, such as nausea, sweating, and/or shaking
You drink even knowing it's unsafe, i.e., before driving or swimming.
Of course, I'm not a professional in regard to Alcohol Disorders and it's best if you seek professional advice if you believe you may have some of the signs of AUD shown above.
What Should You Do If You Believe You Have Alcohol Abuse Disorder?
Discuss your concerns with your doctor. Let them know you may have an issue controlling your alcohol intake.
Meet with a counselor or a therapist
Attempt to try a licensed program. There will be others going through the same thing that may be able to help you.
Caitie wants to remind everyone that their rock bottom could be different from hers. Even if you don't think there's much of an issue with alcohol because you're still able to live your life successfully, you may just not have hit your rock bottom. Just like everyone has different pain tolerance, we all also have different levels of rock bottom. She also used to picture alcoholics as old homeless men on the street, but really it could impact any one at any age.
How To Date Sober
Be upfront with individuals you're dating that you're sober. You can often times mark your dating profile to indicate you don't drink.
Find new date locations other than a bar. You could go hiking, ice skating, or to a coffee shop.
Find people who will accept your decision to become sober and support you in that decision. If they don't understand or pressure you to drink, they are not the right person to date.
Caitie's Dating Tips
Find something you're passionate about whether it's salsa dancing, cooking, or rock climbing. Find a group to join that will allow you to do those interests and allows you to meet people that are passionate about the same things as you.
If it's hard to be with someone, then it's probably not the right person and it's probably not working. Listen to your gut!
Thanks for reading! You are awesome! Feel free to share with others, especially those who you think may need to hear it.
If you want to watch it on YouTube click here.
Come back in two weeks as I talk about what it's like for some people dating as an Indian American.