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What It's Like to Date When I Can't Drink Because of Medication


In April, I started taking medication that comes with side effects. Due to those side effects, drinking alcohol is not recommended. I’m 26 years old and drinking is a very large part of the social fabric of my age group. Before starting the medication, I wasn’t feeling well enough due to my most recent concussion to add alcohol to the mix anyway, and I didn’t mind going to the bar with my friends and ordering a Coke. Every now and then, I’d have a drink with them but now alcohol is a definitive no.

It’s easy to do this with my friends because they’re well aware of my brain injury and that I’ve started using medication to manage some of the symptoms.  They have witnessed a lot of those symptoms and know me — they’re my friends. They know the medication has positively impacted my life and removing alcohol is a small sacrifice to feel like myself again.

Removing alcohol from my life wasn’t something that upset me; I’m just happy to feel better and not experience so many physical symptoms within a day. I really didn’t put much thought into how not drinking would impact my social life because I already wasn’t drinking much and my friends understood why.  Since I’ve been feeling better and able to go out more, I’ve started dating again.

This is where the alcohol-free lifestyle crossed my mind as a potential issue.

For my age group, dating culture starts with “meeting up for a drink.” We haven’t even gone on a date and already I’m having to explain a brain injury-related issue. My brain injury story is 10 years long and too much for a first date; I also don’t want to share with a stranger that I’m on medication (stigma still reigns). That’s when I realized that I don’t have to explain myself and share my whole story. I have a brain injury, I don’t drink and that’s the end of it.

If that person has an issue with me not drinking, that’s their issue, not mine.  There are so many other date ideas besides going for a drink. I also remembered that if someone can’t accept this one very small thing I can’t do, they’re not strong enough to handle my whole disability.  If a prerequisite on someone’s dating list is “must drink alcohol,” is this really someone I’m interested in going out with? Not at all.

Since I’ve started dating again, I’ve rarely run into any issues regarding my new alcohol-free life. I explain that I don’t drink due to a brain injury but I’m still comfortable going to a bar; everyone has offered an alternative which I really appreciate.  I had one person who struggled to wrap his head around the minimal information he knew about my brain injury but once again, that’s his problem — not mine.

My brain injury is a large part of who I am, but it’s only one part. There’s so much more to me than my disability and what I’m able and not able to do. On dates, I can talk about sports, going to New York, my job and so many other interests and aspects of my life. If a date can’t get past the idea that I won’t be chugging beer with them anytime soon or possibly ever, there’s the door and don’t let it hit you on the way out.

Getty image by Merlas.