Advice From Your Lesbian Big Sister: Help, I Can’t Date Sober!

You can feel feelings of discomfort, and say to yourself “I’m going to do it anyway.”

Hey, kittens. My name is Zara and I’m your new lesbian big sister.

Zara Barrie Tired Selfie

So what makes me qualified to bestow, sweet, innocent queers with advice? I’m glad you asked. Purr.

I’m a seasoned lez who might as well have an honorary master’s degree in “Making Mistakes” from Harvard University. I’ve screwed up more times than I care to count on all ten of my HOT PINK polish adorned fingernails. But guess what? I’ve (mostly) turned this disastrous ship around. And I believe that all the things that have happened to me along the way, happened precisely so I could help stop you, my sweet kitten, from making the same colossal mistakes that took up way too much space in my life for waaaaay too long. So tell me all your problems. Maybe I can prevent you from hitting that pesky iceberg that’s looming ahead in the foggy distance! Maybe not. Either way, you’re under my lesbian big sis wing now, so at least know that you’re like, totally loved. And we all need love! Even if we think we don’t deserve it (which we totally f*cking do). So message me. 

Important To Note: Despite my honorary doctorate in mistake-making, I have no *official* advice-giving degree, so you should never take my advice over that of a licensed professional.

Dear Zara,

I’m having a really big problem right now and could use your help. I’ve recently given up drinking alcohol and doing drugs (coke) because what started out as innocent fun, started to take a dark turn. 

See my ex and I had been partying heavily together for the past six years, and last year it started to take a toll on me. We were always fighting, and I was always depressed. Eventually, we broke up and I decided to give up drinking (for awhile at least). I’ve been sober for the past five months and while I’m still dealing with the shame from my hard-partying past, I’m feeling clearer and think I’m ready to start dating again. The trouble is, I have no idea how to date without drinking! I feel like drinking stripped me of my self-esteem and now I don’t know how to flirt or even ask a girl out without it. I have never been on a single date with a without the social lubricant of alcohol.

How do I get the confidence to go on a date without drinking when I feel like I NEED drinking to even talk to a girl? Any tips would be greatly appreciated.


Trying To Fix My Broken Life, 25

Dear “Trying To Fix My Broken Life” 25,

First off, I love your name. I too am always trying to fix my ever-breaking, haphazard, gorgeously-deranged, mess-of-a-life. I’m starting to think that maybe, it’s not something I’ll ever be able to mend into flawless perfection, and instead, I should try to accept that maybe my life is always going to be scratched and cracked, and all I can do is dutifully keep trying to scotch tape the broken pieces back together. Appreciate it in all of its grungey chic glory, you know?

Anyway. Enough of all that.

What I really want to say to you is; good on you, girl. You realized that drinking and drugs were turning you into an anxious, depressed shell of a lesbian and so you stopped doing them! S-w-a-g.

Do you, boo 💓💓💓

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I don’t underestimate how difficult it is to walk away from the cheap thrill of a cocktail or a tiny little bump of feel-good powder. I don’t underestimate how hard it is to break through the soothing routine of a numbing pattern. I certainly don’t underestimate how wildly uncomfortable transitions like this can feel, either.

When I stopped smoking cigs at age 25, I spent a full year so miserable I figured I was better off dying young, then giving up my beloved Marlboro Lights. When I quit popping recreational ADHD meds at 26, I felt tired and puffy, like heavyweights were attached to my limbs and sodium was pumping through my veins. I was convinced that my body would never produce natural energy again.

When I put an end to my habit of drowning myself in half a bottle of wine every single night at 28, I thought I would never be able to clean my apartment again. Sounds crazy, I know, but seriously! I had been power-cleaning my apartment buzzed, sweeping the floors with a cold glass of vino pressed between my thumb and forefinger for half a decade. I didn’t think I could get through the painfully mundane task of washing the dishes, sober.

But you know what? My apartment turned into a slime pit for two months and then one day, it happened. I started fucking cleaning again, baby. I replaced the wine with podcasts and broke out the dust buster. Pretty soon my apartment was shinier than it ever had ever been when I was drunk. Just like how I eventually worked through my nicotine addiction and figured out that being alive was more fun when you weren’t neurotically obsessing over the next ciggie break, and could actually be present in the moment. Just like the day I realized I could peel my heavy body out of bed without the shock-in-the-heart electrical zap of prescription speed. In fact, I discovered that if I didn’t take drugs there was no soul-scorching come-down. What comes up must come always down, but what’s steady can stay steady, you feel me?

I too had all of these vices that I so desperately thought I needed. When I finally got rid of them I realized I didn’t actually need any of them, at all. I had created this crazy, false narrative of dependency in my whacked-out head.

I have a big-sister witch vibe that you’ve created a crazy, false narrative of dependency in your pretty little (possibly whacked out) head too—one about drinking. And dating.

It’s time to question your mantra of “I can’t flirt without booze.”


Or “I can’t ask a woman out unless I’m drunk.” It’s time to replace those loud, negative thoughts with loud, positive thoughts. Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, let the universe know what you can do! The beautiful thing about thoughts is you can change them at any time. So let’s start right now.

Change “I can’t flirt without drinking” to “I’m a goddamn amazing flirt when I’m sober.” It’s amazing how your life eventually mirrors your thoughts.

Yes, you might feel nervous when you attempt to flirt without the anesthetic of booze. You might feel shy. But being nervous and feeling shy can’t actually kill you. Nor can they really stop you from doing something that you want to do.

You can feel feelings of discomfort, and say to yourself “screw it, I’m going to do it anyway.”

I have full blast phone phobia. Every single time I pick up the phone, my heart jumps into my throat. My mouth feels dry like someone has stuffed cotton balls inside of it. I pick up the phone anyway. I’m always relieved and amazed to find out, I can get through the call without dying or fainting. I’ve never physically been harmed by my phone anxiety. And that which can’t destroy me isn’t something I should really fear anyway.

The phone can’t destroy me, and flirting sober can’t destroy you.

But you know what can destroy us? Thinking we can only flirt or take a call when we’re high on drugs or booze.

Abusing substances can do irreparable damage to our lives, and even result in death. Feeling our feelings will only give us temporary unrest. Feeling our feelings will never kill us. It’s the act of running away from our feelings by turning to wine and pills and cocaine, that can actually kill us. If not physically; emotionally, intellectually, spiritually.

So close your pretty eyes. I have an exercise. Imagine yourself on a date with the lesbian of your dreams, crystal-clear, totally sober. Imagine yourself flirting. Visualize yourself being fully alert through out the date, able to truly digest what your date is saying. See yourself having the wherewithal to get an actual read on her energy. Her vibe.

And here is the best part: imagine yourself fully conscious and able to tell if you *actually* like her.

Do you know how many dates I’ve been on while drunk out of my mind? How many times the faux-warmth of booze has made me think I’ve had feelings for someone when I actually didn’t?

Related: How To Get In The Gay Scene When Everyone Seems Really Young And Cliquey
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Do you know how many times, seven-dates-deep, I’ve woken up next to this person’s sleeping body only to wake up ice cold? Only to realize “HOLY SHIT! Not only do I NOT have feelings for this person, this person is a total asshole not worthy of my time!” DO YOU KNOW THE AMOUNT OF TIME, I’VE WASTED IN MY PRECIOUS LIFE DATING BUZZED? Time, I will never, ever get back. Now that’s something to really panic over.

I took my first stab at dating alcohol-free about three years ago, when I took a ride on the sober wagon. My mind was blown. Yeah, I would get nervous before the date. But I began to realize that being nervous was totally normal. And sort of beautiful. It meant I was alive!

Related: Dear Lesbians, Just Because We Have Sex With Each Other Doesn’t Mean Traditional “Girl Code” Goes Out The Window

Let your feels out, girl 💓

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An essential part of being human is feeling the sensation of being filled with raw nerves when we’re excited about something. The experience of teeming with heart-racing anxiety when we’re pushing ourselves beyond the realm of our comfort zones. And isn’t that the whole point of life?

To feel and experience new things? Isn’t that where the magic lives? Isn’t that how we grow?

Do we really need to dull down the beautiful yet wildly uncomfortable feeling of aliveness in order to tolerate life? No.

We just got used to telling ourselves that we did. And that’s exactly what our vices take from us. They strip us of our confidence to take risks without them. But the awesome thing is that we are so much bigger than our vices.

I know it’s scary, but I promise you: dating is so much better when you’re conscious to experience the colorful array of emotions that come with it. If the date is bad, thank god you are sober enough to realize it! Delete her phone number! And if it’s great, well, thank the great goddess up above, you’re cognizant of that too!

Also, keep in mind that you’re probably better at flirting and dating when you’re not wasted, despite what Ms. Sauvignong Blanc would like you to believe. Being intoxicated is a weird thing. It makes us think that we’re amazing lovers, hilarious comedians, confident flirts. But don’t we usually wake up spiraling over how much we over-shared or how we rambled on too long or gave sloppy oral sex? What makes us trust our hazy drunk self-assessment over our grounded sober self-assessment?

Maybe you’re not ready to date yet. I don’t know. That’s not up to me to decide. But it sounds to me like, your sobriety is the most important thing for you to hold on to right now. You’re only five months deep and already feeling so much clarity! Imagine how much you will have transformed after a solid year! This is all so new to you and the beauty has only just begun.

I understand why you’re chomping at the bit to get back in the dating scene. Your sex drive is probably swelling to new heights because you’re authentically in touch with your ~libido~ for the first time in years. Masturbate as much as possible. Get a Hitachi Magic Wand (the best vibrator ever). Fantasize.

However, there is no need to rush into dating if you have a hunch it’s going to put you at risk of breaking your sobriety. Try a 12 step meeting? See a therapist? Make sober friends? Talk through it? Take an improv class? Starting writing your memoir? These are just my suggestions but do whatever you can do to get yourself out of your head, and connected to something outside of yourself.

Because that’s what this whole thing comes down to, really. Connecting.

When you’re drunk all the time you’re not connecting in a real way to anyone. You can’t connect without listening, and when you’re drunk you can’t hear much over your loud, rambling, disjointed thoughts.

Real love doesn’t exist without a connection. So maybe get used to connecting with your friends, your art, your family and most of all yourself, before you put the pressure on yourself to connect with a lover?

The main thing I want you to do is to flip that script you’ve written, babe. There is nothing you can’t do without drinking, that’s healthy for you. Maybe drinking gives us the bravado to do stupid, destructive things like fearlessly tell off a scary bigot in the bar or snort toxic powders up our poor noses. But it’s not going to make you better at doing anything, that’s rooted in truthfulness.

And love is built on truth.


Related: How to Pick Up a Girl In a Gay Bar When You’re By Yourself (Without Seeming Like a Serial Killer)

And you, little sister, you’ve done the hardest part. You’ve ripped off the boozy band-aide. You’ve taken the first step in finding the truth.

I take my lesbian cap off to you, little sis.


Zara Your Lesbian Big Sis (message me on Facebook if you have a question! Or want to say hi!).




Alcoholics Anonymous 

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