Two words: sober. dating. Strike the fear of god into you? You’re not alone. Dating and boozing culture have become synonymous in 2019. But with more of us than ever dabbling in sober October and testing out a booze free lifestyle, stone cold sober App dates are a new reality to deal with. We chatted to life coach and sober lifestyle advocate Nat Rich from I AM SOUND about the pleasures and pains of sober dating.
How long have you been sober and what was behind the decision to live a booze free life?
I’ve been sober for 7 years. I gave up in 2012 after a series of events that blew my mind. Firstly, I had made a list of all the traumas and low points I had experienced in my life and realised that at every point I had been either drunk or high at the time. This was enough to make me consider something was wrong.
A few days later I went to meet a friend of mine for a drink one afternoon, all I had was one glass of wine. When I got home after the drink something wasn’t right. My friend asked me how I got back but I couldn’t remember. I didn’t know if I got a cab, a bus or a tube and my memory was blank but I wasn’t drunk, I was totally sober but had no memory of my journey home. It was really odd and still till this day I don’t know how I got home. Then the final straw came.
The day after my memory blank a friend of mine called me from Australia to tell me she had been to see a Tarot Reader and the lady had spoken to her about me. She had said that she saw a tall, blond young woman working in a bar (which I did) with a tattoo around her wrist (which I had) and that this woman needed to stop drinking and leave her job because if she didn’t something awful would happen. I was shocked but something in this random message from afar felt true. I decided then and there to give up alcohol. I didn’t need any more signs of what was to come. It wasn’t easy but the warning never left me.
How did you feel on your first sober date?
I felt awkward as hell and about 12 years old (at the age of 31)! It was a mixture of feeling vulnerable, excited and scared. What made it worse was that he drank alcohol on the date. I don’t have an issue with anyone drinking but because I wasn’t, I could feel everything inside me going on. I’m quite sensitive too, so I could also feel his overconfidence due to his own nervousness. It was in truth nerve wracking for us both.
How is sober dating different and do you prefer it?
Most people when dating take what is called the ‘Sales Representative’ of themselves on the date. This means they take all the best bits of themselves that they hope someone will buy into but they leave all the bits of themselves they don’t want you to see at home. You never really get the true version of someone when you first meet them. They are not vulnerable or open enough to be seen in all their glory as they fear you will reject them. So when you go on a date alcohol becomes the easiest way to handle all the fears and the hidden parts of yourself and gives you the confidence to make it through the awkwardness that comes up.
When there’s no alcohol all this awkwardness and these hidden feelings of vulnerability are sat with you at the table. It can be a little daunting but I learnt to only go on dates where I can really feel comfortable with someone. Usually that means a video call first to see if we really like each others energy and to see if we even have something to chat about. I find if a guy can’t do a video call, he’s not my guy anyway. They don’t need to be presenters or share everything off the bat, but they have to be comfortable with themselves as that’s the baseline of a relationship anyway. If you are not comfy being seen then my advice is to work more on yourself first before dating someone else. That way you can take the best version of you that is ready for more and you will no doubt meet someone on the same path who is also ready to be seen and go deeper with you. The relationship will have more substance and is likely to go further.
At what point do you normally tell prospective partners you don’t drink and what are the reactions normally like?
If we get to the conversation of a possible date then I am open about the fact that I don’t drink straight away, that way they’re getting the real version of me straight away. It’s up to them who they bring with them, the real or the sales rep, and when you’re sober its easier to tell the difference.
Any tips for people nervous to try a booze free first date?
Yes, 3 Things!
Make sure the first time you try it that the other person knows and is also not drinking. Being in the same energy as one another will help you bond and be your true selves. If you go on a dated where the other person is likely to drink and cause you triggers, you may want to drink also which will go against your original goal.
Make it easier for yourselves and go for a daytime date. That way you both being sober won’t feel as out of place as 7pm in a bar packed full of drinkers.
Try and have something planned after your date so you have a reason to leave and can go straight into your life again without going into heavy thinking periods about how it went and what you did wrong. Keeping yourself busy will lesson the importance of your first sober date and will make it appear like a normal lunch date. The pressure of going home and rethinking the whole date will bring space for nerves and anxiousness so get straight back to life as if sober dating is your normal routine. Then when you come out of the energy of your day you can reflect when you are more chilled and tune into how you feel from a calm place.
How has your sex life changed since giving up booze?
I realised that nearly all the people I slept with before I gave up alcohol had been when drunk or under the influence. It was not a pretty memory. I was very clear on that fact I needed to make sober connections and show up as me in and out of the bedroom. I decided to only sleep with someone when I really felt ready and turned on. Little did I know that by making that decision that it would leave me without sex for just over 3 years. I just didn’t find anyone I liked enough. I wasn’t ready to connect or be seen or tolerate drunken sex. It was astonishing what I learnt about myself in those years and how I changed as a person.
I truly connected with who I was and could feel and see how I was being received by others by not flirting or giving off attention seeking signs. I was faced with lots of challenges of meeting old flames, random hot strangers whilst living in Ibiza and deeper more intimate connections. I was feeling lots of new sensations and watching what triggered me and what would’ve in the past caught me out and landed me in bed with the wrong guy. I loved being shown my true self and when I did kiss someone or connect through conversation I could feel different parts of my body responding in ways i would not notice if I was drunk or high.
Any tips for people nervous to try booze-free casual sex?
Make sure the other person is someone you trust and can have a conversation with first, even if it is casual sex, as this will make the interaction more intense and far less awkward. Being drunk sometimes removes this step. Non sexual intimacy is far more important than we realize and that can build up from words as well as touch.
I know it sounds obvious but really make sure you fancy this person. Don’t do it because you want them to like you or because you feel lonely or need attention because it’s been a while since you had it.
Make sure they are also not drinking too so that you get the real version of them and that you are both safe and honest with each other.
Enjoy the other person. Watch them talk, listen too their words, watch how they carry themselves and how open they are to your touch and your body movements. Be present and speak up when you feel nervous or need to slow down or stop. The connection has highs and lows and goes through the motions so flow with the energy of the awkwardness and laugh about it with each other. It’s not all erotic but it can ease the nervousness when you are honest and vulnerable. It’s called living in your truth. Sober sex can be extremely liberating and allows for greater intimacy.