When you’re ready, it can be a thrilling rite of passage to be newly sober and on a first date.

“I’m not gonna bite you.”

The tall, pretty brunette leaned back against my car and laughed. We had just had an amazing first date, my first date in months, my first sober date in years, and it was the perfect moment to kiss the girl.

And I was blowing it. Well, not blowing it—just so… unsure of myself in a relationship.

The first time I asked a girl to dance, I was 14. I had two glasses of champagne to boost my confidence. From that day on, I was rarely sober when doing any of the difficult work of getting into, or out of, a relationship. I liked women, but was terrified of approaching them. Alcohol—and later drugs—dulled the terror enough for me to function.

Of course, drugs and alcohol also destroyed every relationship I was in as well. The same chemicals that gave me confidence robbed me of virtually everything else, including my ability to show up as an equal partner. Thanks to alcohol and drugs, I was divorced twice by my thirtieth birthday.

This date with Kendall, a single mom a few years younger than me, was set up by a friend. I had five months sober, but my sponsor said he thought I was ready. When I called him right before the date for some last-minute guidance, he laughed gently at my nerves, and then told me to think of the date as an act of service. “Your job is to show her the best time you can. Just keep thinking of her. And not what she’s thinking about you—think of her.”

It was solid advice, and it worked well through dinner, and a long walk through the park. Kendall and I laughed together, and for a few minutes, I felt elated. I was confident—and sober! This was so much easier than I thought it would be.

And then I drove Kendall home. And then she leaned back against her car. And then I froze. And then… I heard my sponsor’s gentle laugh echoing in my brain. And I kissed her, the first sober first kiss of my entire life.

Suit up, show up and focus on being of service to your date—and not on what your date might be thinking of you. That advice got me through that first evening out with a woman in sobriety, and through countless evenings that followed.