Have you ever thought of someone you dated and wondered what you were thinking because there is no way you would be interested in them now?
And then you remember the blurry first date when you drank a little bit too many cocktails.
You loosened up; you flirted; you felt quite sexy; your body tingled; you became spontaneous. You found the person opposite you even more attractive. You left your date thinking you had a lot of fun and you wanted to do it again even though you hardly knew anything about this person.
In fact, later, you found out that that person had little in common with you and did not treat you very well. But, at this point, the halo effect had already played its trick. Your dopamine system had already been hooked on this new “drug” and your body flushed with powerful oxytocin.
More dates, more drinks, more playtime, more attachment. And so, when the breakup inevitably happened, you had an unreasonably hard time moving on. You even made a fool of yourself and hardly could make sense of your own behaviours.
It makes you mad to think all of this mess could have been avoided if only you had taken your time during those few dates instead of throwing all your caution out the window.
Many studies have found that alcohol lowers your inhibitions and clouds your judgment.
Now, just imagine taking away alcohol in your past (toxic) relationships — how would they have turned out? My bet is that many of them might have just been very awkward meetings that you wouldn’t think twice about.
I turned to alcohol during a very dark period of my life.
I hated myself, and I wanted to escape. I used dating apps to distract myself. I met people and drank away my fear only for it to haunt me every sober second until I was not sober anymore. Another weekend went by, another fun date was had, and I got myself in yet another emotional mess.
It was all good though because it made me stop thinking about how much I hated myself.
I later figured out that I had been addicted to dating — or more precisely, the highs and lows of it. I couldn’t sit still with myself. I couldn’t be on my own. I hid behind the persona of a city girl who knew her drinks and had her fun in fancy establishments.
I kind of thought I was cool, but I also knew that, deep down, I was just really, really sad and the people I was with at the time were also really sad. And broken.
We gave each other the perfect performance for an evening or two — sometimes even weeks or months; we pretended that we were there to offer something good but, in reality, we just tried to take as much as we could and not be the ones who got hurt in the end.
Emotionally unavailable, resourceful people are really good at this game. I definitely lost more than I won, if you could even call it “winning.”
Looking back, I don’t think I was, by any means, an alcoholic, but I did drink very often. At one point, I couldn’t go out and enjoy myself without drinking.
See, I didn’t have a dating goal then. I didn’t even see beyond the first date. I approached every new date as a “buzzy experience.” I wanted to feel good and, to feel good, I needed alcohol.
There were many reasons for this: modern dating culture, media representation, peer pressure, and a mountain of my own emotional issues.
Alcohol was an easy option when I felt lost, lonely, and anxious. But, of course, it merely band-aided the symptoms; it didn’t solve anything. It only made my life worse.
You don’t need alcohol to feel the spark with the right person
I understand that a drink or two can help you relax and let out the fun side of you when meeting a new person.
Especially now that the lockdown is lifted, you miss the bars, the pubs, the lounges, or the red wine at dinner; you want to let yourself go a little. It’s entirely your choice.
But, if you’re someone who’s not feeling yourself right now or have dating anxiety, I can tell you from first-hand experiences that alcohol is not your remedy. If you can’t have fun on a date without alcohol, there’s a problem.
For the first few dates, you should meet someone in a natural setting, preferably during the day, doing something you could imagine yourself doing with a best friend on an average day — not in a bar late at night that is designed to make you feel like someone else and like “this is the night!”
No — Life is long; you need to make decisions for today AND tomorrow.
Examine the role of alcohol in your (love) life
I used to rely on alcohol to feel a certain way about myself.
Then I went to therapy and learned to rely on nothing but myself. It allowed me to reduce my alcohol intake and pick up many wholesome hobbies that enriched my life.
Then I met my now-fiance, and then the pandemic happened.
Throughout all the lockdowns in London, we hardly had any alcohol, yet we had so much fun together and I genuinely enjoyed myself.
I notice that I’ve lost interest in alcohol. I’m happy to have a drink socially, but I’m also happy to not have one and I don’t particularly miss the taste of it or the associated feelings either.
My quality of life now, as a result, is many times better than it was in my early twenties.
Without frequent alcohol, I’m naturally more calm, patient, and rational — just how I want to be.
If I could go back in time, I would have set a dating goal and stopped forcing myself to have fun on a date by having drink after drink.
I would have just seen myself out when I wasn’t feeling it. I would have realised much sooner than those exes ain’t s̶h̶i̶t̶ a big deal.
If your love life isn’t going the way you want, there are many possible factors that could lead to this outcome.
For me, since I couldn’t pinpoint one, I had to press a hard reset and stop everything I was doing — including dating and, subsequently, drinking on dates — then rebuild myself.
You might want to do the same, or you could reflect on the alcohol aspect of your dating experiences. Run an experiment: date sober for a while and see if there’s any difference.
Regardless, next time you’re out, be mindful.