5 Tips to Plan Your First Sober Valentine’s Date
Valentine’s Day is coming, and romance is in the air! However, this most romantic time of the year is a challenging time for many who are in their early sobriety.
If you’re anxious about your upcoming Valentine’s date and worried that sobriety plus romance is an incompatible combination, you’re not alone.
Early sobriety is often filled with unexpected challenges. Major holidays are one of them. You might have found that celebrations you once enjoyed have become white-knuckle rides you have to endure. Valentine’s Day is no exception. With glamorous commercials telling us that fancy dinner and fine wine is the only way to create a memorable night, it’s no wonder you’re apprehensive about how to survive your first sober Valentine’s Day.
However, a sober Valentine’s date is possible. It just takes some planning. But to be fair, what kind of memorable romantic date doesn’t require that?
Without further ado, I’d like to share with you 5 time-tested tips that have helped many of my clients over the years, so that you too can have the amazing Valentine’s date you deserve.
1. Communicate ahead of time
Part of your planning must include communicating your need to celebrate Valentine’s Day sober with your partner. However, how much or how little information to share is totally up to you—you never have to tell your date you’re in recovery unless you feel comfortable about it.
Here are a few ways you can express your needs without talking about recovery:
“I have a big meeting the next day.”
“I’m on a detox that requires me to not drink alcoholic beverages.”
“My memory can become fuzzy after a few drinks and I’d like to be able to remember every minute of our Valentine’s date.”
Besides communicating with your date, it’s really helpful to let a confidant know about your plan, too. Tell a trusted friend, family member, or sponsor about your plan. This could boost your accountability and provide you with additional support through the process.
2. Plan ahead to avoid triggers
Triggers are cues that remind you of your old drinking behaviors. They could be places, images, people, certain topics, etc. that create a strong desire to drink. In early sobriety, learning to recognize and avoid triggers is one of your most important jobs.
To set up your Valentine’s date for success, plan ahead to avoid triggers as much as possible. For example, having the date at your old regular drinking spot will probably make you want to order your favorite drink, and going for a fancy dinner where wine is likely to be served at every table won’t make your night out any easier. Even a movie that glamorizes drinking culture might give you an unwelcome hard time on this special day.
So, plan ahead and avoid the obvious triggering places and things for a smooth date.
3. Have fun
Here’s the most important secret about sobriety—it’s never about missing out on life. Rather, it’s about deliberately choosing to live life fully and experiencing everything it has to offer. That means a good sober Valentine’s date plan shouldn’t forget fun.
This is the time to take advantage of your sobriety, to take advantage of opportunities you used to avoid because of your drinking habit. When I was drinking, I used to say no to all sorts of invitations just because they were incompatible with my addiction. I bet you did, too.
Perhaps it was that hiking trail you once skipped so you could drink an extra bottle of wine. Maybe it was the board games you never had the brainpower to play under the influence of alcohol. Maybe it was the rock-climbing gym that was too much to handle when you could hardly walk in a straight line on the ground.
The possibilities are endless, and thanks to your new sober lifestyle, you’re only limited by your imagination. So go wild, have fun, and live life. You have lived through all the possibilities that alcohol could offer you. Now it’s time to try out the millions of other fun and joyful things that life can offer you!
4. Don’t forget to reward yourself
At the end of the day, it’s important to remember to reward yourself. I might have made this whole sober Valentine’s date thing sound easy, but successfully celebrating and enjoying a sober holiday is not an accomplishment to ignore. Give yourself a pat on the back and reward yourself for a job well done.
Know how I reward myself? I write a gratitude list! I know it sounds cheesy, but stay with me. This is not just any old gratitude list. This one is about the things you appreciated most about this sober Valentine’s Day, the things you wouldn’t have experienced if you were drinking.
Feel free to borrow from my list if you need inspiration:
“The peace of knowing there would be no surprises or embarrassment waiting for me the next morning.”
“The pleasure of being fully present with my wonderful date during every minute of this special day.”
“The sober conversation, the true connection, and the authentic intimacy, none of which were clouded by “liquid poison”.”
The list can go on and on, and each of us will have our own list. So, take a moment and make your list. Let yourself marinate in your success and let the sweet taste of sobriety linger. You’ve earned it!
5. It’s okay to ask for help
Last but not least, it’s okay to ask for help.
If you found yourself struggling with more thoughts and cravings about alcohol; if you have doubt about how to plan a romantic date that supports your sobriety; or if you fear that you would not be able to endure Valentine’s Day without giving in, you are not alone. Early sobriety is tough, and I am here to help!