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The Limits of Sexual Healing

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By JL Scott

01/13/12

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Noticing my disappointment, he propped his head on his hand and appraised me. 

“Maybe it’s better if you go home,” he said finally. He swung his legs off the bed and pulled on a pair of boxers and jeans. I stayed underneath the covers, feeling rejected and lonely and confused. I’d thought John and I would be at sexually in sync, but we had nothing in common—even our conversations about sobriety were stilted and awkward. I wondered if I’d ever feel close enough to let go with anyone.  And I felt betrayed at my body for still craving sex—even though I should have known better. 

According to experts, both of our newly sober reactions to sex were normal. While some people lose interest altogether, my hypersexuality was on the other end of the spectrum. “It’s common to see newly sober people act out sexually, which is why people are encouraged not to act on those urges.” explains Alex Katehakis, the clinical director for the Center for Healthy Sex and the author of Erotic Intelligence. “If you’re using sex to manage anxiety or to find validation, then you’re not learning healthy coping mechanisms.” 

In the back of my mind, I’d known this. But I was hoping that hooking up with someone I’d known when I was using, who was also now sober, would be a sort of loophole. After all, we’d both been there, done that, and I thought that maybe I could turn what we’d had into a normal, mutually sexually fulfilling relationship. Instead, I found myself with a guy I didn’t even really like, who wasn’t really into sex. 

Which of course, was because I was following the sexual script I’d had when I was drinking—and what I realize more than ever is that I need to change it. I knew my franticness and frustration was a cue that I wasn’t sober, not really. I also knew that I needed to work harder on forming a genuine connection with the guys I was sleeping with. 

And the experts agree. Katehakis recommends people take the suggestion not to date in the first year of sobriety seriously, and then focus on getting to know someone slowly, with frequent self check-ins to figure out whether they like that person. She warns about cross addiction to sex or love. And I realize that’s a danger. But it’s still hard to let go of the one high that actually seemed to have the potential to get better with sobriety. I mean, do I really have to wait a year to finally experience an orgasm with another person?

At least, in the meantime, my vibrator and I can have some fun. 

JL Scott is the pseudonym for a writer living in New York City. She has written A Goodbye Letter to Booze and 8 Terrible Ways to Stop Drinking, among other stories, for The Fix. 

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