The Unique Vulnerability of Dating While Sober

I am acutely aware of how careful I am to minimize my recovery journey when I first start dating someone.

A few months ago, a male friend and I were talking about the frustrations and disappointments of dating. I mentioned how lonely it can be navigating this world on my own, without a traveling companion, a long-term lover, or a hiking partner, without someone with whom to Netflix and chill on a rainy Sunday.

He said, “Dating is complicated for everyone, but for you, with your history? I can only imagine. Maybe guys are afraid of you, afraid of your intelligence and strength.” He hesitated and then continued, “Or maybe they’re just afraid to get close because of your bipolar diagnosis and…well, you’re an alcoholic. So a drink in a bar is out. Your history makes them wary. It’s going to take someone special, someone who’s willing to accept that risk and all your baggage.”

All Your Baggage

All your baggage. My old shame rose up, and his words fell on me like a one-hundred story building collapsing, cinder block by cinder block, The only words I could say in clipped retort?

“It’s called alcohol-use disorder now,” I said. “Update your vocabulary.”

For days I replayed his assessment in a loop, an auto-play rumination and in self-defense, even wrote out a bulleted response:

  • Men afraid of me? Seriously? Maybe he’s afraid of my brain, but I’m afraid of his brawn. I’ve been sexually assaulted twice by two different men. Statistics show that women are more likely to be harassed and assaulted and raped—their lives endangered—by men than vice versa.
  • I’m on a low dose of lithium now, and eight years stable and on an even keel since my divorce. My psychiatrist thinks I may not really be bipolar, or that maybe my bipolar instability was triggered by the conditions of my marriage.
  • And on dating apps, so many men post pictures swigging beer, wine, and booze and list beer, wine, and booze as hobbies. Almost always the first message they send is, “Do you want to get a drink?” And when I suggest a walk, a museum, non-boozy meetup? They disappear.
  • No drama, no crazies, no baggage: an oft-repeated list of No’s on dating profiles, but then these men (perhaps women do this, too?) indicate that they are married and looking for discretion, no strings attached; they also like to post photos of bloodsport: bare chested with AK-15’s and dead animals. But no drama!
  • And finally, too risky to love me? I’m a safe bet now! Look at the evidence: Sober, stable, all my s*** sorted!

Doth the lady protest too much? Might my bulleted explanation be my armor against latent shame? Because what I am admitting to in my list is that I am lovable only now that I am well, and that when I was unwell? I was unlovable…

Was she protesting too much? Was she truly unlovable? Find out Kerry comes to view her “baggage” in the original article The Perils of Dating While Sober at The Fix.

Photo by Matheus Cenali on Unsplash.

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