Dating: A Cautionary Tale
A Sober Mom’s Guide to Recovery
Taking Care of Yourself to Take Care of Your Kids
All discarded lovers should be given a second chance, but with somebody else.
— MAE WEST
For the alcoholic single person the dos and don’ts of dating are convoluted and complex. Dating for anyone today is like a minefield, but for recovering person who already have a history of disastrous relationships, the dangers are even greater. My friend Diane told me, “I’ve dated every dysfunctional man in Arizona, so I had to move to California.” You may feel like your Prize Picker is totally broken after so many failed attempts, or maybe you had no relationships and just slept around, looking for love in all the wrong places..
It was suggested I refrain from dating for the first year in sobriety, which I thought was absurd. I put down the drink and picked up the men (plural). The first one was thirty days sober and I was ninety days sober. It was love at first sight: my dysfunction was attracted to his dysfunction—a perfect fit.
My next victim, like me, had three young kids. What a recipe for disaster! We were both under a year sober and had six kids under the age of ten; someone should have had me committed.
“My worst horror story happened when I was ten years sober and thinking I was doing everything right.”
I broke the cardinal rule and dated a newcomer to recovery, ignoring every red flag. (As a Southern friend of mine said, “When you see red flags, it doesn’t mean a parade is coming to town”.) He told me he was divorced and I soon found out he was actually just separated. So what does a good alcoholic do? I moved him in with my kids. Ugh! I waited desperately for two years for him to end his marriage to his not-so-ex-wife. I finally set a bottom line and told him to move out and not call me until he was fully divorced. Soon after this, I got a collect call from the Fresno jail after he had gotten his fourth DUI. That night I called his wife and told her he was in jail. During the conversation my sick mind could not help but ask if they had slept together while he’d been living with me. I was sure she’d say no, but of course she said yes.
I finally realized that this desperate search for love through multiple dysfunctional relationships was a pattern that signaled I had developed another addiction besides alcoholism, and I was getting sicker and sicker. But with this one, I’d finally hit my bottom. I went to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous (SLAA) to address my love addiction, and thus began a new journey in recovery.
After I took the two years off, my SLAA sponsor suggested I make a list of the qualities I wanted in a partner. So I started with a list for my dream man. My list included: financially successful and responsible honest and trustworthy good-looking fun-loving, good sense of humor warm, generous, emotionally available able to adore all of my children and me.
Of course, I didn’t believe at the time that any of this was possible. Because my self-esteem was so low I didn’t think a man with these qualities would be interested in me. I showed the list to my sponsor, hoping she would give me her blessing. Instead, she told me to become the person with all the qualities on my list, and then I’d attract the man I wanted.
After fifteen years of intense work on myself—working the Twelve Steps, getting a lot of therapy, showing up for work every day, and learning to laugh at myself—I have become the person I wanted to be, at least most of the time. Today I know that I deserve a partner with these qualities, and I’m no longer willing to settle for anything less.
Sober Mom’s Tools for Healthy Dating
- Make a list of the qualities you want in a partner. Now work on becoming the person on your list!
- Dating prayer: “Higher Self, help me feel your love, and help me love myself as well. I know you made me lovable exactly the way I am. If it is your will for me to find a life partner, lead me to the person you have chosen for me.”
- Enlist a friend you trust to be your dating coach, and be honest. When there are red flags in a relationship, ask her to remind you that the parade isn’t coming to town
- If your children are under eighteen years old, commit to a friend, sponsor, or dating coach to hold you accountable to not introduce the person you are dating to your children until you two have been dating for a year and you have both committed to each other.