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Dating–Do I Really Have To?

I am facing a new challenge in my recovery, and I think it might be the scariest one yet. At 45 years old, and after 4 years single, I am now ready to venture into the world of dating.

When I say I’m ready, what I mean is–I want to meet a man I can be with. I am not, and possibly never will be, ready for this thing they call dating. The idea of it leaves me cold. This seems to be the case with a lot of people who have had troubles in the dating world, which is why websites like Reignite The Fire aim to provide support for people struggling in the world of relationships.

I’ve had my body abused, my self esteem shattered, my sanity thrown into chaos and my sense of myself all but destroyed through some of the relationships and encounters I have had through the years. There are some deep scars yet to heal, and maybe they never will.

On many levels, the last thing I want to do is have to start the dating dance with another new man. But at the same time, I don’t want to be single for the rest of my life. At some point I’m going to have to get my brave on and get vulnerable with a man.

Having just read the last paragraph to myself, I now have a little voice in my head saying, “Why on earth do you even want to meet a man? They will only hurt you in the end, it’s not worth the risk.”

And part of me agrees wholeheartedly.

Putting yourself out there and dating is scary, and there is always the possibility things won’t go the way you hope. I tried it last year, once. I felt like Wonder Woman for asking the question. It was rather painful to say the least when I didn’t get the answer I wanted.

My inner voice looks and sounds a lot like 14 year old me. The girl I was never quite recovered from the confidence shattering embarrassment of the huge crush on the Best Looking Boy in the Class ™. She is pleading with me to stop thinking about trying to meet a man. She thinks I should stay where I am. I am safer single, and my heart won’t get broken again. She points out how much I love my big double bed when there is no man snoring next to me. She loves to remind how much I’ve been hurt in the past.

Dating Sober Mommies

Especially the last one. She has created a really detailed showreel she shows me whenever I think about telling a man I am attracted to him. She shows me all the ways he could break my heart, destroy my life, sanity, relationships, and threaten my recovery, shame or embarrass me, and how terrible I will feel when it all goes wrong.

Its compelling stuff. She has done a marvellous job of keeping me safe for the last few years when I needed to heal, but I can’t keep listening to her. What 45 year old woman in her right mind takes advice from a scared 14 year old?

Trouble is, I’ve accumulated a lot of evidence over the years that seems to suggest she is right.

When I got sober, I decided I was going to stay single and focus on my own growth and self love for the rest of my life. This was an eminently sensible decision at the time. I needed to learn to love myself. I was drowning in self loathing, which fed both my addiction and my poor judgement when it came to men. I was still trying to put myself back together after an abusive relationship which nearly broke me. I didn’t really trust most men apart from my close family and friends who I felt safe with.

In the nearly 4 years since I got sober, I have transformed the way I see myself. When I look in the mirror I now smile at the face I have come to see as beautiful. I like who I am far more than I ever did before, and am ok with knowing I have flaws as well. I know I have a lot to offer to anyone who comes into my life. I know I am a good, loving person.

And yet when I find myself attracted to a man, my mind goes to two places. The first is to think, if I am attracted to him, then he must be out of my league. And the second is, this isn’t safe, if I do get close to him, he will ultimately hurt me and I am safer on my own.

It really is no wonder I don’t ever put myself out there! Those are some mighty big walls I’ve built around myself.

In the Sober Mommies writers group we were joking about starting a dating advice column. I thought the idea hilarious, asserting that my advice would amount to ‘don’t do it, it’s too scary, run away and get a dog’.

My comment inspired this post. It made me laugh, but disturbed me with the insight it gave me into myself. I don’t want my attitude to be to run away out of fear. I have done that for so much of my life. Everything I haven’t done because of fear is now firmly on my regret list.

I don’t want to keep adding to this list. I don’t want a life of being single out of fear of being vulnerable. I want to be brave. If I am single, I don’t want it to be because I was always too scared to try.

There are so many other areas of my life I could improve hugely if I get my brave on. As I write this post I can see just how much is on the ‘too scary, didn’t even try” list. A catalogue of unlived potential, what a waste!

I’m done with listening to the scared parts of me. I might not always get the yes I want, but I never will if I don’t ask the question or take the required action.

Where in your life could you improve things if you get your brave on? Share in the comments and let’s be brave together!

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