Intimacy and Alcohol

By Michael Blanchard 03/12/21

How do I let myself get close to someone that I don’t completely trust—knowing it’s just me, myself and I, with no buzz, no protection?

The West Chop Light Stairway
This photograph looks like a nautilus shell. It is really a stairway that leads to a beautiful light at the top.

My EX-WIFE WAS the only person I was ever intimate with in the absence of alcohol. She was the only person that I trusted and loved so completely that I felt free being me. But when alcohol and its destructive aftermath reached its limit, she left me and my world went to pieces.

I don’t blame her. I was difficult to be with. A recovering alcoholic can be a handful.

One year after my divorce, I started dating again. I thought I was ready to deal with life and seek out new relationships. It became increasingly clear that alcohol was my shell, my protection from having to be the true me, whoever that was. I had to face new relationships without alcohol in my system.

I felt like a hermit crab that just outgrew its shell and felt totally exposed.

On the dating scene I felt cheated. I couldn’t sip wine over romantic dinners or laugh easily at light moments. I felt defective, as though I didn’t fit the mold my date was looking for. Sex was so easy drunk. you could be or act any way you wanted, and then blame it on the alcohol.

I entered into several relationships and found myself pulling away. I was scared. I was unable to successfully achieve intimacy. I was so embarrassed. The questions swirled. how do I let myself get close to someone that I don’t completely trust—knowing it’s just me, myself and I, with no buzz, no protection? If the woman I date drinks alcohol but seems to accept me, how do I know it will last? Will she get tired of me like my ex? If I date someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, how do I open up? how do I enjoy myself knowing it’s just us? If I give in and drink alcohol, I know I will die.

I am now nearly nine years into sobriety, and it’s been four years since my divorce. I am starting to learn to love again. It took time, self-care, therapy and patience. No magic formula. I can’t tell you that I still feel entirely comfortable. Sometimes I want to get drunk and just let loose. But that’s my problem. Those are my hang-ups and they come from lack of self-love. I am a work in progress. I am so happy I don’t give in and drink again. Sobriety is a journey with many chapters.

I sometimes feel like I am missing my shell. I am coming to the realization that hermit crabs need shells for survival. I am not a hermit crab. The only thing hiding in a shell will accomplish is keeping me from being the man I am supposed to become.

Excerpted from Through a Sober Lens: A Photographer's Journey by Michael Blanchard, available at Amazon or Michael Blanchard's website.

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michael blanchard.jpg

I came to Martha’s Vineyard as a part-time resident nearly 10 years ago. Two years later, in 2010, I entered a treatment program for alcohol addiction. I lost nearly everything, including my family, my financial assets, and my soul. As part of my recovery and healing, I taught myself the workings of cameras and the process of “creating” images after learning of an individual who found the artistic process liberating and helpful with his severe depression. Photography has been a key to my sobriety. I consider myself an “inspirational photographer” and find photography a spiritual source of strength and healing. I write and attach words to postings on social media in an attempt to reduce stigma and encourage the seeking of help for those with addiction and mental health disease.