Dating in Recovery: Whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other day, Sober Dating is what you make it.              

Valentine’s Day comes and goes, but sober dating every other day of the year is its own art form. Romantic meals, going out on the town, and making a toast at dinner can all still be done without alcohol or drugs. For the close to 25 million Americans in recovery of some sort (almost 10 percent of the country), wine, weed, pills, or powders are not on the menu.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism, reports the number of male addicts over the age of eighteen as almost 10 Million and the number of female addicts over the age of eighteen as over 5 Million. So whether it is you or your date who is sober, or possibly both, how do you enjoy the dating process without losing your sobriety or dealing with “Normie” slippery slopes?

The first step is to accept real facts and to surrender to them:

  • Chemical addiction is a brain-based disease. Heavy exposure to alcohol and/or drugs alters the brain in long-lasting ways.

  • Chemical dependence is a chronic, relapsing disease that requires changes in behavior.

  • Addiction treatment is an effective and structured way to battle the disease and create a healthier life path.

  • Chemically dependent individuals will experience different outcomes during treatment as frequently as those suffering from other chronic relapsing diseases, which require the individual to make permanent changes in their behaviors.

The most important thing to remember while dating someone in recovery is that sobriety comes before all else. If the person in recovery does not make staying sober the first rule then nothing else matters. Many sponsors even say that if you’re in early recovery, then dating on Valentine’s Day or any other day isn’t a priority until your life in sobriety is well established.

That’s easier said than done, so what if you are planning that romantic Valentine’s date or date night with someone in recovery? Here are some pointers.

Dinner & A Movie

Most movie theaters don’t serve alcohol, so stick to buttery popcorn and a soft drink. Do dinner after and you’ll have something to talk about (movie) aside from other conversation points. Hot tip: if the dinner table has wine glasses, turn the wine glasses over and your waiter should pick up on this as a nonverbal cue that you are not ordering alcohol. Water with lemon please!

A Picnic At The Park or Lake/River

Water is often a calming influence, so a nice picnic by a pond or a romantic walk around a lake or hiking path would lead to a calming date. Putting together a picnic is easy; simply grab a blanket and put a basket of sandwiches, fruit, desserts, snacks and non-alcoholic drinks together with a little ice pack. 

Day Date

Instead of heading out at night where the expectations for alcohol or partying arise, dating someone in recovery could mean going out during the day instead. Head to a zoo, go hiking, or go to a museum.

Stay Home While Dating Someone in Recovery

It’s often just as romantic to stay home and cook something instead of heading out. This way you’re in a safe space, and there shouldn’t be any triggering surprises or temptations.

Scavenger Hunt

Put a game together that brings your loved one to areas you’ve created memories together.

And to add to the dinner ideas, bear in mind:

  • Eating well can enhance recovery.

  • Certain foods can help with anxiety.

Whatever you do, there are also safe ways to do it. These include:

Avoiding Triggers on Valentine’s Day

Don’t go to places that serve alcohol or where many people will be drinking (like concerts, etc). You need to understand the mindset of your loved one who’s in recovery so if they seem more receptive to a quiet night in, then respect them and give them that.

Doing Something Mutually Enjoyable

There’s a rush of endorphins in both people when a couple does something they each enjoy as much as the other. Whether you’re hiking, doing yoga, playing chess, getting your master chef on in the kitchen or marathoning Netflix, you’ll both enjoy the date and each other that much more.

There are also some things you can do if you’re in recovery and alone on Valentine’s Day.

Reach out to loved ones – reaffirm to family and friends that you’re there, tell them how you’re doing, and remind them that you love/respect them. The best gift you can give a loved one is your sobriety so they’ll want to hear from you.

Rebuild Relationships – it takes a while to rebuild what’s been torn down but it’s not only possible, it’s done every day. This, of course, takes time but it’s an important part of recovery to be aware of those who love and support you. Whether it’s family or a loved one, reach out and take it one day at a time.

Love Yourself! – because often people find themselves the hardest to love, take the time to give yourself some hugs. Treat yourself!

There are so many different things you can do on Valentine’s Day that reaffirm your life. We’re NOT supposed to all go out for dinner on Valentine’s; Hallmark and the restaurant industry will have you believe that, but it’s just not true. So don’t buy into the hype; instead, if you must do anything at all, keep it light, stress and trigger free, and remember to smile.

If you have other helpful ideas to share, please go to our Facebook page and let our Y&Y Recovery community know your thoughts.