Navigating Ottawa’s Gay Scene While Choosing Sobriety

Meeting new people as an adult can be challenging. And when you’re dating, it can be even more anxiety ridden.Those who are newly sober and those years into maintaining sobriety are bound to face a whole new set of challenges in a dating scene often linked to bars and other places where alcohol is served.

Why Avoiding Alcohol Matters 

When you make the decision to go sober, you might want to avoid the bars or alcohol-serving clubs you once visited. It’s easier to resist drinking when you’re not tempted by free-flowing alcohol. These places can easily become triggers for you and can encourage you to resume addiction-related behaviours.

Slip-ups on the road to recovery could occur, but one strategy to help you remain successful is to not place yourself in situations where it could be increasingly challenging to remain sober. Avoiding places where everyone else is drinking as well as places that trigger difficult memories can help you to avoid the temptation to begin drinking again.

Where to Meet People Without Drinking

Instead of hanging out at old haunts where you are likely to consume alcohol, try finding new places to meet people. When we can meet in person, try taking a walk around one of our neighbourhoods like Westboro, particularly for the Westboro’s local art fairs and farmers markets, the Byward Market or Centertown. These have plenty of small businesses, specialty stores, cafes and restaurants.

There are also online events you can look up on Eventbrite and Meetup, as well as checking out Facebook event groups like Eastern Ontario LGBT Events or Ottawa Queer Events. Ottawa may feel like there’s not always a lot going on, but doing some research can help you find something new to do.

Another great way to meet like-minded people is to do the things you love doing. Have a passion for helping people? Volunteer at local non-profit organisations like Ottawa Food Bank or Operation Come Home, which assists at-risk youth. Love dogs? Sign up to walk them or clean their cages at the Ottawa Humane Society. You’ll bond with people who share your interests and can turn those meetings into dates or friendships.

These days, dating and hookup apps like Grindr make meeting someone easier than ever. Some, like Grindr, have options to identify as Sober in your tribe. This means people who are looking to consume will know where you are coming from. You can also put in your profile that you are sober and looking for other sober people. It can create a much more friendly online environment to state what your needs are rather than passing judgement on guys who cross your profile who may like to consume.

And sober dating apps such as Loosid or sites such as make meeting sober people easier than ever. That way, you don’t have to broach the awkward subject of why you’re not drinking on the date. Your date will know exactly why you aren’t, because they’ll be in the same boat.

Once you make a connection, you can develop plans to explore a local alcohol-free attraction. Try checking out the walking paths and parks, like Mer Bleue, Strathcona Park or Major’s Hill. There are a surprising amount of tucked-away outdoor spaces to find around Ottawa and a quick google search of parks can find one near you. Taking a walk by the Rideau Canal or Ottawa River can be a nice change of pace from the hustle and bustle of city life.

There’s also lots of parks on the Quebec side and the Gatineau Hills has plenty of belvederes, hiking paths and beaches for those with access to a car. You can even brave the walk and find your way to the hidden gay beach up in the hills. What about taking a day trip out to Wakefield and try schnitzel or go antiquing.

The longer people stay sober, the easier they might find it to spend time with people who are drinking without experiencing temptation themselves. But for some who have struggled with alcohol abuse and addiction, that struggle might not ever go away.

For some people, especially those in early sobriety, it’s better to avoid that temptation altogether and not put themselves in those situations. They might want to connect with people in alcohol-free environments and instead build relationships around common interests and pastimes.

Talk to your friends about supporting you in your desire to build a social circle free of alcohol as you work to date while recovering from alcohol addiction or abuse. The stronger your sober social circle is, the stronger you’ll feel in your ability to stay sober yourself.

Pam Zuber

Sunshine Behavioral Health

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