Occasionally, I’ve stepped out of the incestuous pool of the rooms to date what in recovery circles we refer to as a “normie” — someone who’s not in recovery. Most of the time they don’t speak the language of recovery, which is fine because you get to exercise the muscle of being in the real world where everybody doesn’t talk about addiction 24/7 and use 12-step jargon like “Higher Power,” “character defects,” “triggers, or the dead giveaway words: “grateful/gratitude.” Dating a normie makes you see yourself as more than just as an addict, which is both a strange and refreshing feeling.
Normies, I’ve learned, will not be amused by the horrors of your addiction. Here’s an example: Recently I was hanging out with a normie guy I’m casually dating and his friend, who had a really bad cocaine problem 20 years ago. To this day, the friend still has a huge hole in his septum; he can put a stick of incense through it like an aboriginal chief. Hearing this, I was on the floor laughing, high-fiving the guy for being “legit.” The normie, however, was covering his face, deeply disturbed and — dare I say it — even repulsed.
Normies will notice, and probably comment on, the voraciousness with which you do pretty much everything. “Wow, you really chain-vape,” he said to me one day. “I chain everything, honey; I’m an addict,” I replied. As an addict, you already know that you drink everything too fast. You want to have sex too much. From a normie POV, you’ll be considered “intense,” “dramatic” and “over-sensitive.” Just know this going in.
Let’s be honest: Nobody wants the reformed bad girl. They want the bad girl or the good girl, not the girl who “doesn’t do that anymore.” Sure, the crazy stories are interesting, albeit a bit terrifying. (I don’t recommend telling a normie you shot up in your neck, by the way. Nobody but Sid Vicious thinks that’s hot.) But in general, guys want the sweet, wholesome girl or the party girl. Not the girl who used to have threesomes and do coke off strippers’ backsides and now prays/meditates and drinks decaf.
So while they may love my fire and bravery, my past — and any perceived current instability — is mostly dismaying to the normies I’ve been involved with. In dating someone with no personal knowledge of addiction, it definitely feels like I’m going in with a certain handicap. I’ve found, too, that they’re unlikely to make the connection that my creativity and passion are part and parcel of my alcoholism. And, naturally, because they’ve never struggled with addiction themselves they don’t really comprehend the courage and depth of commitment and transformation that getting sober requires.
Is it weird to date somebody who’s never done a hard drug in their life when you yourself have been an IV drug user and graced the premises of no fewer than six rehabs? Absolutely. But again, it reminds you that the world of recovery is a just a microcosm and doesn’t have to be your whole life, romantic or otherwise. Recovery is supposed to be a bridge back to life, not your whole life.
Interestingly, most of the normies I’ve dated do not believe addiction is a disease. They think it’s a form of negative narcissism, immature self-destruction, even a type of OCD. Maybe they’re right. Who knows? This isn’t an addiction conference; it’s dating. I don’t get into a debate about it and I don’t try to take them to meetings to “see what it’s all about.”
On the upside, if the relationship goes south, as it probably will, I don’t have to worry about running into them at meetings. And I won’t be on their 4th step.