Holidays are often spent returning to societally-expected activities and forms of celebration.
If you are in the process of recovering from substance abuse, or have a significant other who is, the prospect of Valentine’s Day might feel a bit distressing if you are used to celebrating it with alcohol or other substances.
But holidays can also be opportunities to form new traditions! Unlike some holidays, like New Year’s Eve or 4th of July that are typically celebrated in large groups, Valentine’s Day is all about spending some quality one-on-one time with someone that is special to you. Essentially, all that matters is being with your significant other, so use this opportunity to celebrate in a way that’s best for the two of you. And if what’s best for you is steering clear from substances, then that’s how you should enjoy the day!
A crucial component to dating someone in addiction recovery—or anyone really—is communication. Especially, if this is a relatively new relationship or if you weren’t together during the recovery process, it will be really beneficial for everyone involved to be honest about what they’re comfortable with, where that line is drawn, and what is overstepping said line.
Even if you or your loved one do not have a history of substance abuse, it can be good for your relationship to try out some intentionally alcohol-free dates; this could also apply to couples who are under 21 years old.
Let’s be honest, dates can be awkward—especially the first ones—so it makes sense that we have come to expect our dating culture to involve some form of alcohol in order to help ease some of that initial discomfort. But in order to really know your significant other and to have a successful relationship (and vice versa), you need to be able to comfortably date without alcohol; yes, this includes being intimate (emotionally and physically), having meaningful and stimulating conversation, and simply having fun!
Sober Date Ideas: (A side note, look into Groupons and Valentine’s Day specials for many of these options if money is a deterrent.)
- Go out to dinner at a nice restaurant: For some people with histories of substance abuse, going to a restaurant where alcohol is being served to those around them and is being offered to them is a situation that can be harmful to their recovery process. For other people with similar histories, this kind of situation is not a problem. So this is where honest communication comes in; if everyone’s on the same page about what is beneficial to their health and recovery goals then you can decide if this option is what’s best for your relationship or not.
- Go out to a coffee shop or breakfast restaurant: These are great ways to still have a typical “date” without having to worry about breaching the subject of “no, we don’t need to see the wine menu” or being surrounded by others drinking alcohol. There are a lot of high-end brunch restaurants that still have the celebratory aspect, and furthermore, breakfast food is arguably the best food group.
- Stay in and cook a meal together: This can be a romantic way to celebrate Valentine’s Day in a “classic” way while still steering clear of substance temptations or past habits. This date can also function as an opportunity for you and your significant other to bond because (depending on your experience-level and the recipe you choose) cooking can be hard!
- Stay in, order takeout, and start a new TV series together: This is the more laid-back while still intimate version of the previous date option, which might be what’s best for many people who lead busy lives or who don’t get to see their significant other very often. Additionally, starting a TV series together is a commitment, and ensures further dates!
- Take a class: This could be anything from woodworking, to painting, to zumba, to lettering, to cooking! Find an activity or topic that you have a shared interest in and pursue it!
- Go to a game, a show, a concert, or a movie: This is a classic date option that can easily be substance-free. However, some of these situations make alcohol readily available, so make sure that you and your significant other are on the same page about your comfort level.
- Go to a museum: There are many different types of museums (art, natural history, technology, toy, wax, etc.), and they can offer different experiences to the audience, from traditional “look but don’t touch” to a more interactive mode. Going to a museum could be a great opportunity to learn more about something you didn’t know while also learning more about your loved one.
- Take a bus or walking tour: Even if you know the insides and outs of your town or city, there are many different kinds of tours, from food tours to ghost tours to architect tours. There’s always more to learn, and this can be a date that has a lot of structure if that is a concern.
- Bowling, mini-golf, arcades: These might sound a bit cliche or adolescent, but they’ve been go-to date ideas for so long for good reason. They all involve structured activities that keep you busy enough to not be awkward while also allowing you to be free enough to keep up genuine conversation. These throwback dates might even bring up a sense of nostalgia and cringey first date memories that can lead to great bonding moments.
- Get outside: These date ideas might depend on where you live and the weather conditions, but most of them can be customized or substituted to fit your circumstance. You could have a picnic, go hiking, biking, rock-climbing (there are some indoor options), visit a dog park, or go canoeing, kayaking, hammocking, stargazing etc. Basically, go anywhere you can enjoy nature and do anything that includes spending time together.
- Go for a drive: Stock up on some classic roadtrip snacks, make some personalized playlists or find an interesting podcast, and hit the road without a destination in mind– focus on the person you are driving with and see where the road takes you!
I would like to add the caveat that these sober ways to celebrate can apply to other holidays, too: like Galentine’s Day, weddings, birthdays, and even holidays that typically include alcohol like New Year’s Eve. What is most important about any holiday is the people you are celebrating with, and the cause or person that you are celebrating—not the way you do or don’t celebrate.