Sex and Relationships in Sobriety - Page 2

By Sam Lansky 06/18/11

For many gay men, when it comes to sex and dating, it's often hard to separate fantasy from reality. Drugs and alcohol helped many of us obscure some inconvenient truths about the objects of our affection. But what are you supposed to do when you're suddenly stone cold sober?

FFantasy Guy-land:: Unfortunarely, lots of times, reality just doesn't measure up.

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Sobriety, though, was a reckoning of my delusional perceptions and distorted self-beliefs with the cold, hard facts of what is empirically true. Without the miasma of intoxicants to muddy experiences that can be ugly, experiences that contrast sharply with what I want or what I think I deserve, reality just plain hurts. In the clarity of sobriety, the fantasy feels incalculably farther away, as vividly distant as stars through a telescope—still close enough to examine in detail, but no longer something that I really believe. Now, when I choose to retreat into fantasy, it is a blanket of encompassing warmth, fantastical and impractical. The cruel joke is that I’m no longer so delusional that I actually believe any of it will ever happen, but the temptation to escape the crippling discomfort of the moment is too great to resist.

And yet, just because I don’t believe in my fantasies as I once did doesn’t mean that they can’t still be useful. Dating—here, I’m tempted to list the various precipitating factors that exacerbate the dating conditions (dating in sobriety, dating other gay men, dating in New York City), but really it’s just dating in general—is a battlefield, an endless source of frustration, disappointment, and disillusionment, much of which, I’ll readily acknowledge, is self-imposed. (I am fortunate that I have friends who will tell me, “Sam, this is why you’re single,” and more fortunate still that they say it affectionately.) When I meet someone I like and begin to retreat into fantasy, a great wellspring of hope bubbles up inside me, and I start to think that maybe I’m not as defective as I’d once believed—that the lover who once told me that being with me was like opening a present on Christmas morning to discover that the thing he had wanted was already broken, that guy was wrong. This hope is dangerous, but it is also a shield that protects me from growing completely cynical, calloused by circumstance. I need my little trips to Fantasyland to remind me of the things that I really do want—the white picket fence, the sexless nights, the mornings that smell like last night’s cologne, fresh linens, and espresso smoldering in the kitchen, the comfortable silence of people in love. 

Sam Lansky is an editor at Wetpaint and a regular contributor to The Fix who also wrote about his sobriety in relation to Britney Spears. Follow him on Twitter at

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Sam Lansky is the West Coast Editor at TIME. He has written for Rolling Stone, New York Magazine, The Atlantic, Grantland, Cosmopolitan, Esquire, OutBillboard and more. He is also the author of The Gilded Razor. You can find Sam on Linkedin and Twitter.