Admitting You’re An Alcoholic On The First Date

My alcoholic past is my biggest flaw and insecurity. It’s unfair that I have to reveal it so early. Other shortcomings are easier to hide, at least for a while.  

Nora was oppressively sexy. She was so beautiful that I imagine if she walked into a Verizon store, her smile would compel any employee to just waive her bill. The employee would also increase her data plan and give her an extra charger, all for free. These things would happen regardless of the employee’s gender and orientation. Nora’s appeal transcended traditional sexuality.

I felt like I wasn’t worthy of her beauty.

Minutes into our first date, Nora asked me why I didn’t drink. I couldn’t remember telling her I didn’t drink. But she knew, so I must have.

A few months earlier, I treated my alcoholism as the third rail of dating. I avoided talking about booze. If a woman brought up drinking, I’d change the subject. I feared my ugly past would scare her away.

But time had worn me down. Lying had become tiresome. I was more comfortable with the truth. And I was about to tell the truth to the stunning woman sitting across from me in the coffee shop.

I had come so far.

“Yeah, I quit about a year ago because I had a problem,” I said.

“Did you go to AA?” Nora said.

“No. AA’s not my type of thing.”

“So you quit on your own?”


“Oh wow. That’s great,” she said.


“Congratulations. You should be really proud of yourself.”

“Sure, I guess,” I said.

“No, you should. That’s an incredible accomplishment.”

“Yeah, but it’s a problem that I created.”

I didn’t want any credit.

Granted, quitting was a nightmare. It was an incredible accomplishment. But I got myself into that mess. It was my lack of self-control that made me a drunk to begin with.

My family says that I won a battle against genetics. Alcoholism is hereditary, they say. I was born with the predisposition to becoming a drunk.

Alcoholics are on both sides of my family tree. But that’s no excuse. Heredity isn’t destiny. Not all children of alcoholics become drunks. Some learn from the bad examples set by their parents. They devote their lives to sobriety and Jesus and family and wholesome shit like that.

I created my alcoholic lifestyle. I started drinking in high school and I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop even when I knew I should. I didn’t stop until the problem became bigger than me. I couldn’t stop.

Some call it “binge drinking.” It seems silly to give it such a formal name. I just liked getting drunk as fuck.

When I was getting drunk as fuck, I knew what I was doing. It was my choice. There wasn’t a voice in my head commanding me to drink. I wasn’t mimicking the behavior of Ma, Uncle Bob, or either one of my grandfathers. There wasn’t an unseen hand nudging me down a self-destructive path.

It was simpler than that. I was impulsive. I reveled in excess.

Like how I almost failed my junior year of high school because I was truant 35 times. Or when I was in eighth grade and got busted for shoplifting a thousand dollars worth of clothes in one day. Or the time I got arrested for drunk driving and was also high on ecstasy and had a bag of weed on me.

I had a rich history of poor decisions.

When I quit drinking, I escaped circumstances that I created. I wasn’t a victim of anything except my own self-destructive habits.

If I went to jail for tax evasion and got out early for good behavior, you wouldn’t applaud my good behavior. You’d think I was a fool for not paying my taxes in the first place.

I didn’t deserve to be congratulated for sobering up. I was a fool for becoming a drunk in the first place.

My alcoholic past is my biggest flaw and insecurity. It’s unfair that I have to reveal it so early. Other shortcomings are easier to hide, at least for a while.

It takes time for me to get to know her and everything that’s wrong with her. She can hide her habit of popping pills. I won’t know she’s a hoarder until she takes me home. Drinking is different.

“Let’s grab drinks” is a common refrain among daters. Drinks are casual. Bars are everywhere. Booze cures dating-related anxiety.

Drinking is the default option for first dates. This puts me in a difficult position as an avid dater who doesn’t drink. When a woman suggest that we go out for drinks, I’ll suggest a coffee shop instead. If she asks why, I’ll tell her the truth.

The truth is uncomfortable. I’ve seen enough women squirm in their chairs to know that. She won’t know what to say to me, or what to think about me. Nora chose to be polite and congratulate me. What the hell else could she say? What’s the proper etiquette when someone had outed themselves as an addict on the first date?

Her kind words were a facade. Below the surface, she probably saw my drinking as a red flag. The story of my struggle with alcoholism isn’t about triumph over adversity or redemption. It’s a demonstration of my astonishing capacity for failure. I pissed away most of my adult life getting drunk.

My past disturbs me.

And I couldn’t blame her if she found my past disturbing and thought that dating me was dangerous. I almost ruined my life once. I could do it again. And I could drag her down with me.

A few hours after I said goodbye to Nora, I decided to send her a message. I wanted to thank her for sharing the afternoon with me, and ask if she would like to go out again.

We hadn’t exchanged phone numbers, so I looked for her on Tinder. I couldn’t find her. Nora had blocked me.

Did I say something wrong? Did she feel we lacked chemistry, or did she find me unattractive? Or was it my alcoholism?

I’ll never get an explanation. So I let my insecurities fill the void: Nora didn’t want to date me because I used to be a drunk. My honesty was my undoing.

In a perfect world, my honesty would be reciprocated. She would challenge me. She would say that my drinking made her uncomfortable, that she didn’t want to date an addict, that she thought I was a ticking time bomb.

Then I would defend myself. I would explain that I don’t feel the temptation to drink. At least not often. And I would promise that I wouldn’t fuck up her life. Or I’d try not to.

I might not be able to convince her to date me, but at least there would be a chance.

I want brutal honesty from the women I date.  Instead, I settle for hollow praise that I don’t deserve.

bokeen is a writer and storyteller from Chicago. He is an avid dater and a former avid drinker. His book, Near Mrs.: Essays About Dating, will be published later this year. You can find more of his work at

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