Exception to the Rule: When AA and Romance Do Mix

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I’ll admit it: When I was counting days in AA, the sexy people in my “home group” kept me coming back to meetings. It’s a large, social meeting. Most members are around my age and cool. I was surprised that stylish young folks were sober and part of this secret society.

I developed a few passing crushes but never acted on them, dutifully sticking to the suggestion to avoid romantic relationships for the first year. I’d never dated—let alone had sex—without being under the influence. So I was abstinent partly out of fear.

After my first sober anniversary, I went on a couple of dates and had a few hook-ups, but nothing caught fire.

I decided to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. But what I really needed was 90 days off my ex.

Then I began a “friends with benefits”-type situation with a guy I met in my home group. It got messy and didn’t end well. After it dissolved, I decided to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. But what I really needed was 90 days off my ex. So I stopped all contact with him and avoided him at meetings. After three months had passed, I felt ready to date again.

But I swore off dating in AA. What if I really fell for someone, especially in my home group? I imagined the awkwardness of seeing him at meetings if it didn’t work out. It might not feel safe to share, or maybe I’d stop going to the meeting altogether. This could endanger my sobriety.

Then I met Greg.

I had first seen him at my home group meeting a few months before, and it was like that scene in Wayne’s World. He will be mine. Oh, yes. He will be mine, I thought. He was wearing a suit in the middle of summer, and his presence commanded the room. His shares were eloquent and he had an easy serenity. Plus, he was hot! I had about three years sober then, and he had considerably more time. I was pretty sure he didn’t know I existed.

After a few months of liking him from afar, we started talking on Facebook. Then I saw him at a sober New Year’s Eve dance. We shyly danced near each other. Afterwards I headed back to my neighborhood with friends, and ended up at the 24-hour Alcathon at a local clubhouse. Greg was there too. He asked me out two days later.

Just days earlier, I had completed my Fourth Step (a written inventory of all the people I harmed with my drinking). Afterwards, my sponsor had me write my “sex ideal” – a list of traits I’m looking for in a partner.

I was struck by how much my idea of the perfect guy had changed. Before sobriety, I was always seeking a partner who could party like I could… But my sober list included traits such as honesty, respect and kindness.
I was struck by how much my idea of the perfect guy had changed. Before sobriety, I was always seeking a partner who could party like I could. I wanted the Sid to my Nancy. But my sober list included traits such as: honesty, respect and kindness. As well as the usual things people want, like intellect and a sense of humor. To my surprise, one of the attributes that emerged was affectionate. Also adventurous and sober. I wanted to date someone who was committed to becoming a better person, and passionate about their chosen career or vision. A few weeks into seeing Greg, I knew he checked off just about all the boxes.

But I was reluctant. After my last entanglement had ended, I was nervous to date someone else in AA. I weighed the pros and cons, but realized I liked Greg enough to take the risk.

I’m glad I did. Three years later, we’re still together.

We live together and are co-parents to a wonderful dog. Though we share a home group, we try to keep our recovery and personal lives separate. Greg has a policy of no-PDA at meetings, which he explained to me early on. “If I’d seen a happy couple engaging in PDA at a meeting when I was a newcomer, it would have made me resentful,” he said.

I completely agreed. So when we’re in sight of the meeting, we stop holding hands. Other than this small adjustment, being in recovery together doesn’t hinder our relationship—in fact, it makes it better.

We share the common language of recovery, which helps us to express our needs and feelings. When we encounter a rough patch, we have the support of sponsors and friends in recovery. And when I’m acting out or grumpy because I haven’t been to a meeting in a while, he’s the first to spot it. And vice versa. Like any relationship, it’s not always smooth sailing. But we get through the hard parts and are strong as ever.

I’m glad I broke that promise to myself to never again date within AA. I found a keeper.

Related Reading: Why Online Dating is Perfect for My Life in Recovery

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