Sober Love

Jef DeWitt Jef DeWitt Follow Jan 28, 2022 · 3 mins read
Sober Love Photo by
Share this

Research by Braithwaite and Holt-Lunstad (2017) suggests that “Individuals who are more mentally healthy are more likely to select into relationships, but relationships are also demonstrably associated with mental health”.

The biggest reason for my past failed relationships was my mental health. Or so I reasoned. When I got sober I thought I bucked the trend.

This is a story about a romantic relationship that prioritized mental health. This is about me being sober in love.

The Newness Of Sobriety

Living sober means learning to live again. It is a second life. Not being a cat, I’m not sure how many lives I get. So, I intend to get this one right.

The beauty in this is that many things seem novel, fresh. Sometimes this means noticing often overlooked details. Time feels more precious. I’ve learned to appreciate even the more monotonous and routine tasks, like folding laundry. Clean laundry smells nice.

This newness also applies to love and relationships.

Falling In Love For The First Time

I was thirty-eight years old, divorced for six years. I dated but kept women at arm’s length while I figured out how my sobriety worked. I was afraid of what developing feelings would mean for me.

I was only a couple of years sober when I met her. But I knew then it was her.

I fell in love. It was scary and thrilling. It was love at a distance. She kept moving farther away for her career. A two-and-a-half-hour drive became three-and-a-half hours. Then, it became five hours of connecting flights during a pandemic. It didn’t matter. I didn’t care how far I had to go to be with her.

Either the feelings I felt with her were more intense, or because I was sober, they were different. It was beyond me.

The Beauty of Distance

We were long distance from the start. This meant that dates became weekends together once or twice a month. It meant hours of conversations and Facetiming. It meant that when we were together, we were together; cell phones down. We shared everything.

In December 2020 I was the happiest I had ever been in my life.

My First Breakup

Three months later, I experienced what seemed to be my first breakup. At forty-one, I felt like a teenager again, naive and inexperienced. I was inconsolable. I was panic-inducing sad.

But I was sober. I knew the importance of social support systems. I had developed strong, healthy routines. I continued my therapy. I leaned on the resources I had to get me through. But the despair I felt was so new to me.

I made it, but it wasn’t by much. And I still grieve the loss to this day.

The Lesson

I thought that sobriety was the ingredient missing from my past relationships. And while it helped, it’s not a panacea.

The sobriety of one partner won’t fix all that ails a relationship.

And sobriety won’t save you from heartache either. It doesn’t soften the blow. It actually sharpens its edge. I hadn’t experienced anything like that pain before; I had no memory of it. I had nothing to map it against.

And that’s the beauty/pain of sobriety. You get the chance to experience everything anew. The good and the bad.


Braithwaite, S., Holt-Lunstad, J. (2017). Romantic relationships and mental health. Current Opinion in Psychology, Volume 13, 2017, Pages 120-125, ISSN 2352-250X, (

Jef DeWitt
Written by Jef DeWitt