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Dating As A Single, Sober Gay Man

When I’m asked on a date it’s almost always through an invitation to “get a drink.”

And why wouldn’t someone ask this way? Getting a drink is low commitmentit’s easy to wrap the date if it’s not going well, and easy to keep it going if you hit it off. Plus, it allows people to get feel a little more confident by, well, drinking.

Of course, the problem with this type of invitation for me lies in the fact that I don’t drink.

While "drinks" don’t necessarily have to mean those of the alcoholic variety, I've found that is usually what the invitation implies. When I am in the position, I find myself running through the my different options: Should I tell him I don’t drink now? Should I tell him I don’t drink when I get there? Should I tell him I don’t drink and try to make a different plan?

I used to feel embarrassed by my sobriety, and feared it made me less attractive to other young people. Years of therapy, trial and error, and just putting myself out there, over and over again, has made me me realize how wrong I was. After four and a half years of sober dating, I have come to find that my sobriety is an asset. My sobriety is a testament to my strength, and it is a part of who I am. My addiction, and my recovery, have shaped the way I approach life, the things I value, and my sense of humor.

Being sober is simply part of who I am. It’s a part of me I love, and I need whoever I date to love that, too.

I've found more success in being honest about my sobriety upfront. As everyone’s sobriety is different, there are no clear-cut rules. It’s important to listen to yourself, and not put yourself into any situations where you will be at all tempted to drink.

Personally, I am comfortable dating people who drink, and I am fine with being in bars. I know that is not the case for many people, and I don’t encourage anyone to ever put themselves in an uncomfortable situation. If you think that going to a bar will, in any way, make you feel tempted to drink, it is not worth it. No date is worth chancing a relapse.

Some choose to only date other sober people, and I completely understand that decision. I have spoken to sober people who have discussed how it can feel triggering for them to kiss someone who has been drinking, as their mouth might literally taste like alcohol. I have friends in recovery who believe that only another sober person will be able to understand their emotional needs based on that shared experience of overcoming addiction.

And while I am open to dating people who drink, I could never date someone who drinks heavily, because it would just make our lives too incompatible, and would remind me of a part of myself I chose to leave behind.

The more confidently you communicate your sobriety, the less of a big deal it is to the other person. That’s why I always say it right away, answer any questions the person may have, and then keep it moving. Being sober does not make people less fun or interesting, it makes them learn to be themselves, all the time.

If anyone thinks you are less attractive because you are sober, then they are simply not worth your time. If someone’s desire to date you is contingent on you consuming alcohol, then that reflects poorly on him, not on you.

If you don't want to go to drinks, then don’t. There are so many dates you can do, that don’t involve sitting in a bar. Go for a hike, go for a walk, go to the beach, go to the movies, go to a museum, go to coffee. Do whatever will make you feel comfortable.

If you do go to a bar, whether you tell your date you don’t drink there or beforehand, just approach the situation confidently. If you make it seem like it’s something that the other person shouldn’t react strongly to, then they probably won’t. And if they do, know they’re not worth your time. If a person can’t find something to relate to you through besides alcohol, then that’s a very bad sign.

In my years of sober dating, I have dealt with people who didn’t handle it well. I have dealt with people who got awkward, or who almost seemed to get agitated; I have dealt with people who seemed to make it about themselves, and I have dealt with people who seemed judgmental. All of those people were not worth my time. Though those types of interactions made me upset years ago, I am now aware that they don’t matter.

And for every negative interaction I have had, there have been so many more that were positive.

Dating is challenging. Dating while sober can make it even more-so. But it doesn’t have to be. Just take care of yourself by listening to and putting yourself and your sobriety first. You will find someone who finds you attractive because of your strength and your decision to become sober, not in spite of it.

Image via Getty


Seamus Kirst

Seamus Kirst is the author of 'Shitfaced: Musings of a Former Drunk,' and co-host of two podcasts, 'Mental Health Hangouts' and 'Social Justice League.' His writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Teen Vogue, The Guardian, Mic, Vice, and Forbes.