September 12, 2014

Sober Dating 101

By Kelly Burch

You’ve put in the hard work, going to meetings, resisting temptation and redefining your life as positive and productive. But now, you want someone to share all that progress with. But where to begin?

Going to the bar to meet someone is out of the question, and even the mainstream dating sites are likely to garner suggestions to meet for drinks after work.

Luckily, there are plenty of online dating sites specifically targeted toward singles who want to date sober, and share their recovery journey with someone who understand that’s road.

Here’s Renew’s guide to sober dating:

Looking for love in all the right places

“If you’re on a traditional dating site, ‘Hey how about we meet for drinks?’ is first thing you’ll hear,” said Paul Kole, cofounder of “But if you’re on a sober site it’s more of a fellowship. You don’t have to explain yourself.”

Forest Williams, owner of, agreed.

“Dating is hard enough, but dating in recovery is even harder,” he said.  “You need to find someone who understands trials and tribulations of someone in recovery.

Both Kole and Williams were inspired to start sober dating websites from their own recovery experiences. Kole saw friends in recovery entering relationships with people who still used drugs and alcohol, and both their relationships and their recovery suffered.

“There was a lot more drama than was necessary,” Kole said. “I thought if there was a site specifically for the recovery community, people could focus more on recovery.”

Williams knew that he wanted to date someone in recovery, but he didn’t want to date within his meeting and wasn’t sure where else to turn.

“I really wanted to find someone who is likeminded, for whom recovery is very important. But I don’t like to date within the meetings because if it doesn’t work out it makes it odd and it can be uncomfortable,” he said. “Which is why we created recovery date, to really help find people who are likeminded.”

Love Sober Dating and Recovery Date both match individuals who are in recovery with romantic partners. Being niche sober dating sites, there is an instant connection among members that is lacking on larger dating sites.

 “Personally, I prefer to date other people in recovery because they can relate to my story. They understand that I’m living with disease that is in remission,” Kole said.

Although Kole is still waiting on finding his perfect match, he is enjoying the sober dating lifestyle, and the camaraderie that comes with being around others in recovery. 

“When you’re dating you always have to have that conversation [about recovery] eventually, but online it’s almost immediate,” he said. “There’s an immediate understanding of where you are. It’s like cancer survivors: people who have been there understand what you’ve gone through.”

Date yourself first

You’re in recovery, you’re feeling great and you’re making fast progress toward becoming the person you want to be. It’s natural to want to share the new you with a partner, but don’t go looking for love too quickly, experts caution.

“A lot of times we tell people that they should wait for the first year to make major changes,” said Dr. Harris Stratyner, clinical regional vice president of Caron Treatment Centers in New York. “Relationships are fraught with positive and negative emotions and those can be used as triggers, so people need to be aware of that.”

In addition, recovery addicts need to relearn how to be in social situations without relying on drugs or alcohol.

“It’s important to learn coping strategies,” Stratyner said.

Addicts should also be aware that while dating someone else in recovery can be a great support system, it can also lead to being triggered to relapse by your partners behavior.

“Love sometimes takes over, and it is difficult to recommend it one way or another,” whether former addicts should date others in recovery, Stratyner said.

After the first year, people in recovery know they are ready to date when they are comfortable being completely open and honest about their recovery journey, he added.

Paul Kole has an even simpler piece of advice:

“Take yourself out on dates first. You need to learn to love yourself first before you have anything to offer anyone else,” he said. “Date yourself first, and if you have good time then you know you have something to offer to someone else.”

Five tried-and-true sober date ideas.

“There are so many things to do that are fun in recovery and don’t revolve around alcohol,” said Forest Williams. Here are our favorite five ideas for sober dates:

1.      Have coffee and conversation: Because “coffee and recovery go hand in hand,” according to Paul Kole.

2.      Go shopping. Find an antique store or flea market, and devote the dollars that you’re not spending on drinks to finding something both of you can cherish.

3.      Explore the fair. As a kid you probably looked forward to the fair and carnivals that would come into town during the summer and fall. Channel your inner child as you eat cotton candy and ride the rides.

4.      Attend a meeting. What better way to build your relationship than to share in taking care of yourself and each other at a meeting.

5.      Take a lesson. Whether you’re practicing a dance or trying to cook up a dessert there will be plenty of laughter when you try your hands at something new.


Sober Dating Websites

Single and Sober

Single and Sober has an established recovery community with new sober singles signing up daily. They believe dating in recovery is possible and sober dating is their specialty. Creating a profile on the dating site is easy and browsing others in your area is 100% free.


Recovery Date

This site lets your get specific, allowing you to search for potential dates by state, age and even recovery program, from Overeaters Anonymous to Adult Children of Alcoholics. The site is free as well, and allows you to connect with over 11,000 sober singles across the country. 


12 Step Match

As it’s name implies, this site is for anyone working the 12 steps. You can search by the usual criteria (age, area, etc.) and can then narrow your results to a specific 12 step program, from AA or NA to Al-Anon. The site also has recovery chat forums, sober dating advice, and information on 12 step events.

“Other” Dating Websites

The recovery community isn’t the only one to embrace niche online dating. Here are some match websites that may make you raise an eyebrow. As their commercials boast, “For farmers, ranchers and good ‘ole country folk.” For those who prefer to keep their partners at a distance. Search inmates by sex, age and whether they are in federal or state prison, and then get ready to write some letters. There will be no arguments over dinner if you meet your “salad soul mate” through this site. Although, we suspect this one may be more about meeting marketing success for restaurant chain Just Salad.

Other articles you might be interested in…

Can you date in (early) sobriety?

Sober sex: why it doesn’t have to freak you out


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