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Why You Should Pause Before Saying You ‘Don’t Want to Date an Alcoholic’

Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

I’d like to have a word for a moment with the charming young women who admonish anyone to swipe left if they are an alcoholic.

“Please don’t be an alcoholic.”

Ladies, you have the wrong term in your profile. I know what you are getting at, and many of you are going to read this and think I am being too semantically argumentative, but bear with me. You should be much more specific if you truly wish to eliminate problem drinking from your dating life.

Here are a couple of other phrases you might choose to use instead:

  • Please don’t be someone who drinks alcohol excessively.”
  • Please don’t be someone who finds himself drinking 10 or 12 drinks when he only intended on one or two.”
  • Please don’t be someone who drinks every night.”
  • Please don’t be someone who drinks X nights per week.”
  • Please don’t be someone who is an alcoholic who is not in recovery.”
  • Please don’t be someone who drinks.”
  • Please don’t be someone who hides bottles around the house so no one can find all of your stashes.”

It’s not the alcoholic you need to be concerned about. The person you need to really be concerned about is the person who thinks they are not an alcoholic. In my experience, you know what every alcoholic, doctor and police officer knows? No one tells the truth about how much they drink. Especially undiscovered alcoholics trying to catch the eye of the girl online who has a hatred of alcoholics. In the best case, this “two to three-night drinker” either really drinks twice that, or you’ll find out that the two to three nights are Thursday, Friday and Saturday… every weekend… But they can’t remember what they did to tell you what a wonderful time they had with their heads in the toilet. In the worst case, the undiscovered alcoholic who tells you he drinks two or three nights a week is me, on March 27, 2018, at 7:30 a.m., taking my first shot of Everclear.

Yes, I am an alcoholic. And I’m proud to say that today. Let me put it this way:

“Becoming” an alcoholic saved my life.

When I “wasn’t an alcoholic,” I drank for days on end. I put people in danger by driving after drinking too much. I made a fool of myself in public. I had inappropriate conversations with women. I woke up and didn’t remember the night before. I had to wait and see how my wife (now ex-wife) responded to me in the morning to know if we were fighting or on good terms. Ultimately, before I “became an alcoholic,” I was arrested for driving while intoxicated, taken to the psych ward on an involuntary 72-hour hold for evaluation due to suicidal ideations and after 36 hours, transferred to Mesa Springs for a two-week inpatient stay.

I didn’t think I had a problem.

Before I was an alcoholic, I didn’t think I had a problem. No one with a drinking problem thinks they are an alcoholic. Let me say that again: No one with a drinking problem thinks they are an alcoholic. No one. The non-alcoholic me? He woke up and started drinking Everclear straight at 7:30 a.m. (I wasn’t kidding) and continued to put alcohol in his system all day until he was eventually arrested and convicted of a DWI. The day before, I would have felt fully qualified to swipe right on you, probably between shots of Everclear. Absolutely I could swipe right because I wasn’t an alcoholic. How could someone like me be an alcoholic? Those are those old guys who sit around dingy rooms smoking and drinking after a day of hard day labor; talking about how many DWIs they each have; who had spent the most time in prison. Hell no. I make a good income and drive a nice car. I am not an alcoholic.

You say you don’t want to date an alcoholic, and you alienate all of the people who realized it and decided to get help. And many of those are successful when they start connecting to the community of other “alcoholics” which you speak so lowly of. You know who you didn’t want to date? Me, before I was willing to even consider the idea I might be an alcoholic. (And apparently me now for at least one reason: I am one of those dirty, smelly alcoholics who — wait for it — doesn’t drink. At all.)

Then the cuffs clicked. And in that second, I became an alcoholic. In that second … I was unqualified to swipe right on your profile. And yet, ironically, I haven’t touched alcohol since.

Now, I have a solution.

Having embraced alcoholism, I now know that there is something over which I have no control and have so far maintained the self-control and respect for others to avoid that first drink that leads to too many. My last drink was on March 27, 2018, and God willing, when I die I will be able to say the same thing. Thanks to discovering I am an alcoholic.

After my stay in the psychiatric facilities, the first place I went upon discharge was to my friend’s house. My friend? He, too, is an alcoholic. The next morning he took me to the book store and bought me a copy of The Big Book. That afternoon, I went to my first AA meeting. For the next 90 days, I attended over 140 meetings. My friend, who took me — the alcoholic? Yeah, he’s 35 years sober.

Be careful with your words.

You are reinforcing the idea that all of those people, like the old me, aren’t alcoholics; they are better than that, and they are qualified to swipe right on your profile while they are finishing their nightly fifth of whiskey. And they will continue to do so, with you on their arm. The good news is, they will stop drinking. Everyone does. But their chances are very high of being the “non-alcoholic” who stops drinking when the coroner zips the bag, or after months of agonizing pain brought on by cirrhosis of the liver, and there is nothing they can do to prevent a painful death. And even then, they often don’t stop until the heart rate suddenly loses all of those pretty peaks and valleys and suddenly resembles West Texas deserts more than the Colorado mountains and the doctor tags the time of the clock and covers their head with a sheet. Or, how about the non-alcoholic who stops drinking the moment he hits another car, killing himself and the people in the other car.

The people who sit in those dingy, smoky rooms are some of the finest people I have ever met. Don’t get me wrong! They have a checkered past! Many of them have prison time and five or six DWIs. But you know what the best thing is about them? They are alcoholics, and they are the most sincere group of people with a single mind: to help others who live with alcoholism.

You should be seeking men who do not drink at all and watch them like a hawk on dates because if they have a beer in their hands after telling you they don’t drink, that is the first and least harmful lie they are keeping from you. Soon, you will start finding bottles in hiding spots that their drunk mind thought would never be discovered, bulletproof, like their sock drawer or nightstand. The other category you should be seeking, the exact people you exclude: alcoholics. With one caveat: Only alcoholics who are working the program. You might want to even say alcoholics with X months or years of demonstrated sobriety.

I wish you well with your dating ventures. So I think I’ll just hop in my car and head to the coffee shop. That is another addiction I have, but I’m working on it. In any event, good luck and happy dating. Be careful out there.

A version of this article was previously published on the author’s blog.

Photo by Wiktor Karkocha on Unsplash

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