Dating after a major life change can be a serious challenge. It doesn’t matter if you are getting back into the dating world after a divorce, losing a spouse, or if you are starting your first steps towards finding love while going recovery as a member of AA or NA. In fact, of the three, dating while in recovery offers a unique set of challenges that can feel especially daunting.
When is it OK to start dating?
Let’s start off by checking in with the experts on this one. Here’s the conventional wisdom from Solutions-Recovery Center:
“There is a tradition that is upheld in 12-Step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and other self-help groups, as well as advice offered by addiction treatment therapists, that is often referred to as the “one-year rule.”
The wait isn’t a punishment, though it can definitely feel like one. The idea is that while you are learning to follow the steps of recovery, big life changes can put your sobriety at risk. Dating and starting a new relationship is one of the biggest life changes you can make. In reality, life is going to put people and opportunities in front of you when you least expect it. So, while we can’t tell you exactly how long you should wait, we do strongly suggest you check-in with your sponsor or your group before deciding to dive into the dating pool.
Should I date in the program or should I date a normie?
If you think you are ready to look for love, or at least a date, again, you have two choices. You can date someone who is also in the program, or you can date someone who is not going through recovery (a normie). Both options have their ups and downs.
Dating A Friend of Bill
The great thing about dating someone in the program is that you don’t have to worry that they won’t understand your life or where you currently are in your recovery. You know that you’ll be with someone who, if they haven’t had your exact experience, has had something similar in their life. You also don’t have to worry about a sober date wanting to go to a bar or not thinking about putting you in a situation that puts your sobriety at risk.
The downside of dating someone who is also in the program is that there is a much higher chance that they may relapse, and put your recovery at risk in the process. In fact, a survey of AA members showed that more than 50% of the members who responded, relapsed within five years, and only 36% maintained their sobriety for at least ten years.
This is why many people who date within the program have reported feeling like they go into new relationships thinking about when the other shoe is going to drop.
Dating a Normie
Hands down, the hardest part of dating someone who has never experienced addiction is overcoming the fear that they won’t accept you when they find out that you are in recovery. What do you say to them when they invite you out to a bar for a drink on a first date?
What are they going to say when they find out that you’ve been through several rehab programs or that you mean it when you tell them that you are never going to have a drink with them? Do you even tell them? When do you tell them? Just thinking about it is enough to make you want to stay away from people who haven’t been through the program.
The upside of dating in Normie is that you don’t have the same fear of relapse. If they are understanding of your situation and where you are in life, this new relationship could help provide you with an even better foundation for your recovery.
I’m not saying that dating someone in the program is better than dating someone who has never experienced addiction or vice versa. In the end, it’s all going to come down to the individual person and where they are in their life compared to where you are in your life and how the two of you fit together.
Online dating has become one of the most popular ways for people to meet. In fact, last year, more than 40% of new relationships started on a dating app. However, dating apps provide a particular challenge for people in recovery.
Knowing which dating app to use could not only make the difference between finding someone or not but choosing some dating sites (in my opinion) could actually put your sobriety at risk.
The Tinder/Bumble problem
Tinder and Bumble are the two most talked-about online dating apps being used by people right now. Regardless of whether you are in the program or not, they are not the “healthiest” places to look for love, but Their issues are compounded for people in recovery.
These apps rely on having you swipe through an unending selection of potential matches. They keep the database huge by limiting search factors to just age, gender, and location. When two people swipe right on each other, they get a message on the screen that says “It’s a match!”, and then the two of you can communicate.
The act of getting a match produces a serotonin release in the brain that is not unlike what you’d get when you scratch a lotto ticket. As a result, there are a lot of people who develop a habitual relationship with the apps themselves as they use them to not only chase the serotonin release but the sense of validation that comes with each new match. In itself, this is enough of a reason to not use these particular apps if you are in recovery.
Additionally, because the search perimeters are so shallow and the profiles are so short, it is virtually impossible to filter for people who are sober, even if you wanted to.
What about Match/POF/OKCupid/eHarmony?
If you want to try online dating while in recovery, I strongly suggest any of the following dating apps: Match, POF, eHarmony, OKCupid, and Hinge.
There are two big things that these dating apps have over apps like Tinder and Bumble.
- You can filter your search for a lot more things, including smoking, drinking, and drug use
- The length of the profiles on these apps will give you a much better sense of who you are talking to than you’ll ever get on Tinder or Bumble, where people are limited to 500 characters or less.
Here is what the search filters on Match.com look like for smoking, drinking, and marijuana use:
Dating Profile Tips Someone in AA
Will people avoid me if I list myself as a non-drinker?
Some people will definitely not want to date you if you don’t drink. Good. Those people aren’t a good match for you anyway. In reality, most people do not care if you do not drink. I’ve helped over 25,000 singles with their dating profiles over the last 16 years.
Around 90% of the people I’ve spoken (over the age of 35) to consider themselves to be a social drinker or a non-drinker. Of the people who consider themselves to be social drinkers, less than a quarter of them have told me that they won’t date a non-drinker because they’d feel guilty about having a drink.
These dating sites and apps are giving you the option of listing yourself and searching for non-drinkers. If there wasn’t a demand for it, they wouldn’t have it as a choice.
What do I say about my recovery in my profile?
The short answer to this question is, nothing. Until you start communicating with someone and decide that you are interested enough to meet them, those kinds of details about your life are nobody’s business but your own. You may be in recovery, but you are not just a person in AA.
You are a unique individual.
You have things that you love to do, things that you want to do, things that you are great at, and things that you suck at. These are the things you should be talking about in your profile. You should also be talking about the type of person you want to meet. What is their personality like, what kind of relationship are the two of you looking for?
If you can do this, you’ll be miles ahead of most people on dating sites.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There’s a reason why authors don’t write their own book jackets. If you are trying to write your dating profile and you get stuck, let me know and I’ll help.
Sometimes, an objective third-party (who has written more dating profiles than literally anyone in the world), is what you need to get out of your own way and let the world know everything you have to offer.
If you need online dating profile help, give me a call at 888-447-7634, or shoot me a message HERE. It doesn’t matter whether you need a profile, or you just need some help picking the right dating app. I’m here to help.