Sex, Drunk and Sober

By Talia Branson 07/05/19

Once I got sober again, I’d like to say my behavior towards men was completely different, that I only had sex when I was one hundred percent sure I wanted to, that I didn’t judge and hate.

woman lying in bed after sober or drunk sex
The truth is, I am flawed, even sober, or maybe especially sober. Photo by Jan Zhukov on Unsplash

I remember the first time I had sex. I was 26, far past the age of most of my friends, and I'd waited for the first man I really loved. My mom had said a few things regarding the subject when I was growing up: wait for someone you love, and act like a prostitute in bed. A bit different, the two pieces of advice, but both valid in their own rights. Fortunately or not, I took both pieces to heart. I waited, and I waited, and I waited… until I felt both safe and in love, and once I'd grown to feel comfortable in bed, I did act a bit; well, maybe I overacted.

The important part is: I remember the first time I had sex. As in, I was in a dry period in my life, a period that stretched about eight years when I wasn't drinking/drugging and I wasn't going to AA. I'd had my first drinks (or drunks) when I was quite young, but then I waited until I was an "adult" to really let go. My freshman year of college, I drank all the time. I went to so many fraternity parties I lost track, and each time I got drunk and found myself on a stranger's bathroom floor throwing up into the toilet, I told myself that it would be the last time.

College Crushes and Fraternity Parties

That same year, I found myself in love with a fellow freshman from my English literature class. I spent the semester obsessing about him, how I would lose my virginity to him, and my emotional virginity, too—I'd had a boyfriend before but he never really knew me. Our high school relationship ended about three months into the beginning of my drinking career, when I found myself dating his friend while I was still dating him long distance. Nothing I would have done sober. Everything I would find myself doing drunk. 

Which leads me astray from the young man I was in love with, the one with the dreamy blue eyes. My roommate, who’d become a good friend, told me one Saturday that the man I had a crush on was hideous and pale and ugly. I knew he was pale, a quality I found attractive on him, but hideous and ugly—that was a bit strong for a guy she hardly knew. Or maybe that was the point – she was tearing into someone she hardly knew. She then told me he was having sex with her good friend, who wanted to turn him into her boyfriend. I took this as: stay away, let her have a go at him, as if he was a piece of meat. I guess we did see men as meat back then.

That same day, he called me on the hall phone in my dormitory and asked me to come with him to his fraternity party, the same one my roommate and I were already going to that night. I told him as much, and said no. The truth is, after the conversation with my roommate, I was more interested in how I would get alcohol for the pre-party since we were still underage. My character defects were working overtime, and I had already decided I didn’t like him anymore. “Love” went to “like” in the scope of an hour. 

I cared so much about what others thought—I was deep in my drinking stage (one of them)—and even though my roommate was looking out for her friend and not necessarily me, the warning was working: When we got to the party, each time my former love tried to approach me, we giggled and ran away.

Later, a mutual friend called me up to his room. 

"I can't believe you’re acting like this, it’s so out of character. You’re hurting his feelings. I didn’t think you were like that.” 

I had no defense. Had I been in touch with my feelings, I would have said, “I’m not capable of an adult relationship. I’m not really an adult.” The truth is I didn't want the responsibility that came with age; as much as I'd spent my childhood wanting to be older, I now found myself wanting to feel younger.

Sex and Blackouts

I was drunker that night than almost any night in my entire life. When I ran from my crush, the way alcohol crushes love and right thinking, I was ruined by beer and vodka and grain alcohol punch. 

Wine before beer, drunk for a year, beer before liquor never been sicker. I think it was the latter that night. But I can’t blame my behavior on the alcohol any more than someone who gets a DUI can.

That night, I left the party with someone else—I ran straight into the arms of a young man from my high school, someone I thought was cute and kind, and he drove us to his dorm room where he started to try to take off my clothes. When I ran outside and threw up in the bushes, he brought me back in, stuck some toothpaste in my mouth, and started kissing me again and attempted to rape me. I was so drunk I couldn’t push him off, but I did say, “We know the same people,” which ended up having the same effect, thank God. A kind rapist, I remember thinking later, in my innocence, my youth. 

I couldn’t have sex very often when I was drunk because I hardly had the capacity to move. I don’t remember one sexual encounter when I was drunk because, though I am sure that they happened, I was brown- or blacked-out at the time. Or maybe I have blocked it out. I do remember in my twenties asking strangers from bars and parties to come home with me, and then I kissed them and told them I wouldn’t have sex with them. I don’t remember anyone raping me when I was drunk, but I was putting myself at risk.

Once I got sober again, this time with the help of AA, I’d like to say my behavior towards men was completely different, that I only had sex when I was one hundred percent sure I wanted to, that I didn’t judge and hate like I had with my college crush. The truth is, I am flawed, even sober, or maybe especially sober. I take full responsibility for my behavior these days, so I feel the flaws strongly. I am older, but I am not perfect. 

Learning to Date, Sober

I remember sex now, most of the time, and I enjoy it. It was difficult for me to feel when I was numbing myself, both emotionally and physically. Today, I have boyfriends who treat me well or I break up with them, even if it might take a little time to see the full extent of how they are treating me. I wish I could say it’s better when I date someone who is also sober, but relationships have their hard and soft angles, their anger and their beauty, whether we are drinking or not. I find that being sober doesn’t make us good people, but it does allow us to strive to be good people. 

It’s not like I was a bad person when I was drinking, I was just too lost and empty, unable to find or create an ethical foundation for my behavior. I would read a book without taking it in, because I had nowhere to absorb emotion. I was a Flatsy, one of those dolls from my youth, where there is no space to put love, or its opposite.

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