So, I did it.
I decided to date.
I am dating.
Or, let me rephrase that…The idea of dating doesn’t currently repulse me and I’ve been on exactly five dates with two different men over the last two months. No, I didn’t date them both at the same time, and no, I haven’t (and won’t) have sex with anyone until (and if) I get married again, so let me go over the highlights of the past 8 weeks for you.
Because I believe that what I’m writing will help women in recovery navigate their way around the world of dating while keeping their sobriety (as well as their self esteem) in check. I also believe what I’m writing might offer some help to single women in any situation, recovery or no recovery.
Let Me Set the Stage
Okay, so I’ve had a long history of bad decisions, bad intentions and unhealthy behavior.
Like many women, I would date a guy and immediately try to assess what kind of girl he would like. Okay, so he likes high heels? Check. I’ll wear them everywhere. He likes long hair? Never getting another hair cut. He likes boating? Blondes? He likes canned corn? (inside joke)
“Me!…” (think Bill Murray in Groundhog Day)
Unconsciously I would rearrange parts of myself to be more likeable, more appealing, and have more of the “Oh my God! You love chocolate peanut butter ice cream? Me too!!!!!” quality. I was always more concerned with me morphing into the ideal woman than I was about what the man was bringing to the table.
Hence, two lengthy failed marriages and one “Brittany-Spears-ish, Los-Vegas-esque bad decision in which I married a man on a whim and it lasted two months.” But I digress.
Okay, so there were the “sober Robin” bad-dating-choices and the “drunk Robin” bad-dating-choices. Both were equally awful, except the drunk Robin choices were a little more shocking when I sobered up and realized I had spent the last three weeks speeding through an alcohol induced, fast forward relationship and I had this guy believing we were soul mates and just about to move to Costa Rica together. Yes, I’ve had to make a lot of amends.
The Abstinence Period
As many of you know who have followed my recovery journey, I have not dated in two years. The first year was highly intentional because I was in the first year of my sobriety. The second year just sort of happened because I was busy, I was still healing, I was finding myself, I was helping others, I was writing, and most importantly, I was loving my family and making up for a lot of lost time together.
I have three adult children and they are my life.
I have never known the depths of loyalty that I have found in these three humans.
The song, Stand by Your Man has nothing on what I have received from these three (and no, I’m not a man).
I love them with my soul.
I love them to my bones.
So, in my early recovery I wanted to rediscover who we all were and what we meant to each other. We went on a couple of amazing vacation-adventures. One to the mountains of Tennessee and another to the Ocala National Forest. We laughed and loved each other, and I knew that we were all okay, and always would be. I have always gone up to bat for my children and was a fierce protector of anyone who challenged their happiness. But during the worst of my addiction, I got to see that kind of love come back to me. I didn’t expect it, but it is a big part of what healed me.
Again, I digress.
So, now here I am, almost at the two year mark of my sober journey and I have started dating.
These two men and past five dates were sort of like an adventure. I was testing the waters.
I have to say, I am proud.
Neither worked out.
The first guy was wonderful but very newly divorced and I knew he still had a lot of internal work to do. He reminded me of the person I was a couple years ago. He was “all in” with me very quickly. We talked on the phone every night and he made a lot of plans with me. A red-flag number of plans. I was half expecting him to tell me he loved me soon, and then poof….like a ghost…he disappeared as quickly as he appeared.
No return text.
No “Hey, I just can’t do this, I’m still stuck on my ex…or I hate your face. I don’t like your dog. I think you’re weird….”
At first I was shocked.
How could someone ghost out on me? I mean we are not kids. Who does that? It’s so immature. It lacks character and basic human compassion.
And then I thought about all the guys I wigged out on. They must have thought I was a crazy person (although my daughter and her boyfriend recently told me I do not have the “crazy-woman” tell-tale hairdo, so I’ve got that going for me).
So, I spent a couple days sulking after that one. I wondered how this guy didn’t see what a good catch I am. Then I started questioning my worth. Then I overate a little. Then I brushed myself off and said, “Fuck this. You’re an amazing girl.”
Two days after that, I had zero bitterness toward this guy and I actually thanked God for allowing me to have this experience.
I was cold dumped, without a reason or the courtesy of a goodbye….and I’m okay.
I’m not dead.
I’m still sober.
I’m not even angry.
Well, hot damn. I guess I can live through things.
About a week later I started going to the gym and went on my first date with guy number two. Again, nice guy, a lot in common, fun to be around, nothing wrong with him….so, we tried out date number two the next day.
A romantic drive to Sanibel…dinner…sunset…even a walk in the rain (which is one of my favorite things to do ever).
But somewhere on that drive over the bridge, something hit me as we started talking about our families. He told me he didn’t attend his son’s high school graduation. I prodded further. There must be some reason, like work or finances or something. No. He just didn’t attend.
He didn’t attend.
His son walked across the stage without his father’s applause.
I don’t know why it hit me so hard.
My next question was, “Did his mom attend?” And he said, “You know, I don’t really know.”
I actually wanted to get out of the car right then. Or scream. Or both.
But I did neither.
I realized everyone has their own journey, and I finished the date off with courtesy and class.
I have grown up.
When I arrived home and took off my “date clothes” my daughter asked me how it went.
I told her the dating world is far more complex than I had anticipated.
I went to bed happy and relieved to be alone, all snug under my comfy marshmallow comforter with my dog on my pillow.
This morning I realized how completely content I am to just “be”. To just live and do meaningful work and spend time with my children, and be a Nana to my grandson.
My son and his girlfriend (one of my favorite people on this planet) are moving two doors down from me in 21 days. My adult children actually WANT to live near me. Now that’s something to be proud of. We are that close. Our family is that perfect…just the way it is.
I remember back when my son was about 17 and I was in a bad marriage. He said to me, “I liked it when it was just us. Just you and me and Holly and Faith.”
Today I have to agree. Except there’s a few more significant others in the bunch. All whom I adore.
These are my people.
I have a remarkable life.
If I find love again…beautiful.
If I don’t, I will look at the six people on my Facebook cover photo every day of my life and say, “You complete me.”
Moral of this story, I think, is that I have learned not to hurry. I’ve learned to honor myself. I’ve learned to love where I am and appreciate people’s differences while also understanding that the man for me actually will be recognizable to me. I can trust my internal voice now. I can trust God’s whispers.
I’m not going to miss it. And I’m not going to settle.
I hope you don’t either.
—love, Robin xo
Thanks God, for all your blessings, and for surrounding me with family and friends who are in love with me. xo