Why won’t people date me as a recovering alcoholic?

Readers Question Readers Question: (Name changed for privacy)
Stanton Peele Response by: Dr. Stanton Peele
Posted on November 5th, 2008 - Last updated: October 2nd, 2023
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Dear Stanton,

I hope this is a question you can field, I didn’t see one like it with the others.

I am a twenty-three year old college student, who has been recovering from alcoholism for over two years. I do not subscribe to any recovery programs and I feel comfortable (most of the time) around alcohol. Just about every one I know drinks alcohol.

I have recently found that I have problems meeting people my age (particularly for romantic relations) because I am (as my mother says) a non-active alcoholic. I have found that time and time again I will be having a great discussion with someone and my sobriety will come up, and it pretty much ends all relations. I find it very frustrating because I am not ashamed of being sober. Why are so many people uncomfortable with it? And furthermore, do you have any suggestions that I could use to make people feel more at ease with my sobriety?


Dear Lucy:

A fascinating question. Americans in general claim that they accept that alcoholism is a disease, and accept AA. But, it seems many don’t want it to touch their lives. AA has done such a good job of selling alcoholism as an uncontrollable disease, maybe people believe that you can just slip off (like Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses) into oblivion.

I commend you for not dating primarily fellow recovering alcoholics. Why? Because then your life would be totally circumscribed by alcohol, its avoidance, the issue of alcoholism, etc. Think of children. And, given that you don’t belong to any movement for recovery, it seems you don’t want to devote your life to group meetings and fellow alcoholics.

I wonder why you say you are recovering from alcoholism, however. That, in fact, makes it sound like you subscribe to AA and disease theory. Another way to describe what you are going through is that you quit drinking because you don’t like alcohol’s effects. You don’t want to lie to people, especially those you want to create intimacy with. But putting things in such a neutral form would make it easier for others to accept — it doesn’t sound like you will be going to group meetings, objecting to others who drink, and so on — which in fact you don’t do.

Are you looking at only drinkers to date? You could find people who, for other than reasons of being alcoholics, don’t drink. But, if you date drinkers, make sure they are soundly moderate drinkers themselves — and that their lives don’t revolve around alcohol. That would create a problem.

Best wishes,

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.


  • Bill says:

    I dated a woman that was a recovering alcoholic for 6 going on 7 years. In the beginning I was told she did the “work” and was in a season of her life that she woke up being an honest person and tried everyday to be of service. Of course this varies by individual- -yet in my 40 plus years of dating I haven’t run across anything that was similar. She looked right into my eyes and accused me of thinking she was a liar and a cheater when I had never even thought that. I went into this trusting her. I later found out when one of her exes reached out to me that wasn’t the case. Even when she had no way out other than honesty, she chose to say it was my issue for brining this guy reaching out up to her. In my opinion alcohol is just a “band aid” covering up something deeper. I don’t think I will do it again unless there had been a lot of work done on their part. I also believe she leaned heavily on klonopin due to the fact her words were slurred on the nights we wouldn’t see each other. Always on edge and really negative thinking patterns. I actually began to have sympathy not empathy for her and felt sorry for her. She was a bright light yet nothing I could do would convince her of that when her mind went negative. I left because she was pretty “lazy” and rarely was accountable for her destructive behavior and/or words.

  • BJH says:

    My Response to Belle is that is an ignorant statement. I’ve been sober for a decade and have been treated with disrespect by a woman who isn’t an alcoholic, but has issues. I show up, respectful, caring, loving, financially secure, good job, own my home and have compassion and empathy for others. Her and her son came first always. You are just another ignorant, uneducated person.

  • Mandy says:

    As someone who has dated a recovering addict I am not sure I would do it again. It is probably unfair as everyone is different but I found out that his life was dependent on meetings and anti addiction so much I could not fit in his life without coordinating my own around his meetings. Everything was second to meetings. And we are talking daily and some days several a day. I felt like he was addicted to meetings.

    He also kept seeing addiction in everything I did. In the beginning he kept assuming I have alcohol addiction every time I would go out for drinks with friends even though I was happy not to drink while with him. I found out that he did a lot of behavior people talk about receiving from addicts even though he was sober (he would get sweet one day and cold another so I kept feeling I could never know what to expect). So now on one hand I get it not everyone is the same on another the moment someone says they are in recovery I have flags raised.

  • Belle says:

    People won’t date you because they aren’t willing to sacrifice their needs and their dignity and their self worth for you, nor are they willing to come in second to your addiction. That’s why. You’re an addict. You will hurt people.

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