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How To Have A Great Love Life. Without All The Alcohol

There's definitely nothing sexy about a sloppy single.

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Love life without alcohol
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There I was, in my late 40s and on my first date since I was 21. I had just separated from my husband. Can you imagine the anxiety? The self-doubt? I was positive that my first dinner date would spiral towards disaster. But then, suddenly, the white wine appeared before me and seemed to cry out, “I can help you be sexy, calm and self-assured!” Then the next glass arrived and said, “You’re still nervous! It’s so OBVIOUS this is your first adult date! Drink me and you’ll feel confident!”

Four glasses later, I was oversharing, dropping my phone and talking about my ex-husband. I’m amazed I was ever allowed to date again.

That’s when I decided I needed to limit my drinking to two drinks or less per dinner. All that extra alcohol that comes along with dating only makes you tired the next day and messes with your judgment during the date. There’s definitely nothing sexy about a sloppy single.

So the question is: How do I date more but drink less?

According to Carrie Carlton, who specializes in substance abuse as Clinical Supervisor at Beachway Therapy Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., taking it easy on the alcohol during a date should be a priority.

“You want to be on your best behavior and also safe,” warns Carlton.

This couldn’t be truer than on a first or second date. You don’t want to impair your judgment when meeting a new person, and you certainly don’t want to lose your inhibitions. Trust me. But that’s easier said than done, especially when so many first and second dates seem to revolve around cocktails.

"Let's grab a drink," quotes Carlton. “It’s an easy, habitual thing to say when dating. Meanwhile a great first date can just as easily be, ‘Let's grab some ice cream'."

She had me at ice cream.

But eventually, things are going to advance on to dinner, and that’s when our friend Ms. Chardonnay wants to join the party. So how many drinks should the average woman consider acceptable at the start of the dating process, when she doesn't know her date well (and needs to stay on her game and keep her judgment in check!)?

“The best bet would be to keep it to one drink then switch to water or a non-alcoholic beverage,” advises Carlton. “You also want to observe the date’s reaction to your preference to switch to soda or water. No one should ever feel pressured or 'less than' for opting not to drink on a date.”

OK, copy that. But honestly, how can we stick to that number once the first drink starts making the second and third seem so appealing?

“Have a plan and set a curfew,” advises Carlton.

Here are two golden rules: First, avoid drinking before your date. Sure, we all get the dating jitters, and that makes us want to pre-game at home before dinner. But that private tailgate is just setting you up for too much total consumption later on.

Second, ALWAYS pair your wine with food. Drinking on an empty stomach brings on that buzz quickly, and before you know it, you’re making bad choices.

If I think about it, I know plenty of people who don’t drink at all and they do just fine in the fun and romance departments. This doesn’t mean I have to give up drinking altogether, but if there are people out there who can survive without any alcohol, I’m sure that I can ... what’s that thing called? Oh yeah, MODERATE.

I may not be ready to completely climb on board the wagon, but I’m willing to make some sacrifices to limit my alcohol intake. I will try a few dinners with only one drink, or even just sparkling water.

Carlton says: “It's amazing how many ways people can have a great alcohol-free love life.”

How about you? Have you struggled to cut back on drinking? Let us know by emailing