Rediscovering sex on the first stretches of sobriety

Soon after the dope sickness, the anger and the depression, my cravings to use drugs slowly began to disappear. Without drugs and alcohol, I faced a whole new set of challenges. I became obsessed with sex.

For years, heroin caused my sex drive to remain dormant, neglected. While I was strung out on heroin, sex was a hassle, a chore. Once sober, my sex drive returned in full force.

Learning how to have a healthy sexual relationship is a challenge for most people, but for recovering addicts like myself, the pressures of sex and dating can be too great and can often lead to a relapse. And a relapse for me could mean going back to injecting heroin into my penis and sleeping under a bridge on a shit-smeared futon.

In the recovery world, people throw out all types of cautionary warnings in regards to love, sex and relationships. The most common piece of advice is to not get into a relationship for at least a year. This advice is often ignored. Sex can be the instant gratification needed, quickly filling the void left by drugs. Yet, like drugs, sex can never completely fill the emptiness described by the alcoholic addict. That void is insatiable.

Many 12-steps meetings are geared toward the difficulties of sober sex. Some deal with emotional maturity needed to be a loving partner, while others deal directly with sex. It’s a good idea to bounce thoughts off another addict in recovery before pursuing sexual escapades. Many times the schemes I come up with to get laid are ridiculous, similar to the insanity of my past drug addict behavior.

I’ve always been afraid and insecure when it comes to sex. I used alcohol and drugs to mask my fear of rejection and the embarrassment of failure. I became an asshole and treated women badly. The alcohol didn’t cure my sex problems; it just allowed for many poor decisions. I rarely had sex sober and was always drunk the first time. I would have unprotected sex because I feared that in the time it took to unwrap the condom my erection would go limp. When I came too soon, I wouldn’t pull out just to earn a few more seconds, praying I lasted just long enough as to not arouse a disappointed sigh.

The closest I ever came to a relapse was because of a girl. I called her my gangster girlfriend. We met in recovery at a 12-step meeting. She was short and curvy. Her dad introduced us. I was about seven months sober and hadn’t had sex in that time. I was dying. I needed to get laid bad. The gangster girl had about the same clean time as I, except she accumulated most of her time in the county jail.

After a little flirting, I became obsessed with her. I couldn’t stop thinking and agonizing over every detail of our interactions. I played out fantasy after fantasy of us finally hooking up. It took weeks, but it finally happened.

We were at the lake near my parents’ house. We sat by a bonfire, just the two of us. Other fires flickered in the distance. We could hear the echoes of people yelling and laughing. She wanted to find one of these party bonfires and get drunk. I told her it wasn’t a good idea. I felt so lame as the words came out of my mouth. She looked at me like I was her dad and said something I will never forget: “I will fuck you if you get drunk with me.”

Her words floored me. All I wanted to do was fuck her, but I couldn’t get drunk. It was a test, straight out of an ’80s public service announcement. I thought back on the past months and all the advice and experience I’d heard. I told her I couldn’t do it. It wasn’t worth it. Then I did something completely unlike the old me.

I looked at her. The fire popped and crackled. I extended my arm and told her to take my hand. We could have sober sex instead. Have you ever had sex without drugs and alcohol, I asked. It will be exciting, exhilarating. Think, I begged her, for the first time in your life you could go beyond the boring drunken hook-up and have meaningful, passionate sex.

She looked away and never took my hand. But the seed was planted and I took her back to my parents house later that night.

It was a triumph for my sobriety. But it didn’t last long. Literally. She clocked me at 40 seconds. When I told her to get off, that I was ready to cum, she sighed in disappointment. In that moment, she wasn’t alone, I heard a chorus of disappointing sighs coming from every girl I’d ever slept with.

I got through it though, and I didn’t drink. I didn’t run away, shoot dope and take solace in oblivion. She didn’t hate me for it or call me names, she poked fun a little, but it was OK. We could continue on and have more sex. It wasn’t the end of the world.

It ended poorly with my gangster girlfriend, and she never actually became my girlfriend. There was a cascade of dramatic moments, where she was too cool and young for me, and I was too desperate and obsessed. She ended up drinking and getting high again. Soon after that, we lost touch and I never heard from her again. Still, it was my first sober sex and my first big lesson learned.

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