The (Sober) Dating Game

first person testimony

In my first year of sobriety, I made a self-imposed purity pact. I planned to stay out of all relationships until I made it to my first sober birthday. No sex, no drugs, no drink. My best friend Stephanie also took this oath. Together we drank the virgin Kool-Aid that our recovery community suggested was good for us.

Our sponsors, both former high living 70’s chicks, now seniors in sobriety, told us that abstinence would be good for us. We would learn to stop filling the spiritual void with sex, drugs, booze, etc., and feel our feelings. Sounded pretty gross to me. But I embarked on my year of boredom anyway.

It turned out not to be that boring because I picked a goal for myself right away. I ran with a crowd of almost all sober women at that time but once a week I went to a dark church basement meeting with actual men in attendance. Among them was a guy named Clay. California-native, early 30’s and just weird enough for me. We even liked some of the same bands. He used to rub his neck a lot in the meeting. He seemed like he might be just as sexually frustrated as I was even though he had a few sober years on me. Times were tough. We lived in Hollywood with candy everywhere and we couldn’t really have most of it. If I don’t get most of the candy, I’m not happy. Most is what it’s about for me. If not ALL.

So, I decided that Clay would be my boyfriend after the year was up. I didn’t want to just sleep with him; I wanted the horse and carriage out of the deal. I just wanted someone to fall in love with. I was, and am, a romantic who constantly fucks up. I go to the wrong places for love. The most unavailable people are the most seductive to me.

As I sat through meeting after meeting in that church basement, I would watch Clay shift and squirm in his metal folding chair and convince myself that he would be the father of my children. I just had to get through a few more months. I was the cookie girl at the meeting and every week I hoped that he would ask me out over my prefab Pillsbury chocolate chips. It didn’t happen, but he did manage to squeeze out a few words to me here and there. Good enough.

My sober birthday came, and I had stayed clean, sober and abstinent for an entire year. I took my cake at the gloomy meeting and was a ray of sunshine. Clay finally noticed and as though it was perfectly timed (I’m sure it was) he stopped being so elusive and asked me to go on an LA Weekly “top 10 date:” Hiking in Griffith Park.

The date was ok except for the fact that I ranted about how I hated my father for about 15 minutes in the middle of it. Oops. He seemed a little uncomfortable after that. I was just glad not to be sharing a milkshake with another girl talking about her cat. Despite exposing my true self to him, Clay asked me out on another date. This time it was a horror movie and Japanese food. I remember I offered to pay and to my chagrin he allowed it. I didn’t like that. But I wasn’t going to argue.

Clay was kind of grumpy and he seemed to be broke. I figured I would make out with him anyway. When he parked in front of my apartment that night, he went in to kiss me. I went for it too, but something was wrong. It just felt like it was going off the rails. This was my first sober kiss, and it was not magical. There was no lightning bolt. Not a single star. More like fuzz on a broken television set. I pulled away and said my good-byes. He didn’t seem startled at all. To him it was great. I ran to my apartment gasping, shaking, I could NOT wait to get in. I lay down on my day bed and gagged. My throat felt so weird. What the hell had he done to me?

The next morning, I woke up with a vicious sore throat. It was like I was allergic to him. He was toxic and my body had physically rejected him. Would it be like this with everyone? I had no idea. I told my friend Stephanie, and she was floored, agreeing he must be toxic. I knew it was the end of my Clay fantasy. This was not going to happen. But it wasn’t going to keep me from trying again.

Annathena Kim is a Certified Usui Reiki Master living in Rhode Island. Sessions are offered both distance and in person. Contact her at: Please send your 1st Person story to

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