Archive for ‘communication’

4 June 2012

Sexuality & the beginning of recovery

To stop drinking or taking drug for an alcoholic-drug addict is one thing and to remain sober is another one. Sexuality and affectivity are responsible for 70% of the relapses. For a new recovering addict-alcoholic, to stop the escape routine will be an everyday challenge. The first years are particularly fragile. Depending on everyone, hypersensitivity can last over years of sobriety. The difficulties in the love, sex and relationships domains need to be handled with care.

This article presents some of the challenges with which people are likely to be confronted in the beginning of their recovery.

Information and advice on love, sex and relationships to get  through the 1st year of sobriety:

When a person stops using, the first year is filled with first times. Several common points define a new life without using: work, housing, physical health, finances, etc.  However, because the history of each individual is different, the stakes with which each one is confronted will require different knowledge and abilities. For example:

  • Those which stop using will live a first year under the sign of  change and the rediscovery of oneself and others. For several, the discovery of a new sensitivity, an unknown shyness or a difficulty in communication with people  will be areas to be explored.
  • Where the products offered an asylum to distress, anger or loneliness, the individual learns how to compose with these negative affects in order to stay sober. It is an enormous challenge. Some will have the courage and put the efforts. Others will give up or start again the course on several occasions.

Québec psychologist Dollard Cormier (1) proposed an explanatory model of drug-addiction. Using as a way to feel adapted to life’s events.

… to regard drug-addiction as a mode of adaptation privileged, which answers a given existential context. While being based on the principles of the systemic approach, it poses alcoholism like a life style. To prove to be effective, any intervention must thus be delayed with various dimensions which make this life style, that is to say physiological, psychological and social dimensions.

According to Cormier, drugs are used to balance the moods and a way to get over different life situations. Depressed, stressed, a little cocaine? A little `speed’ to feel strong ? Too excited? Some beers or pills will calm the anxiety. While using, the person does not have access to her depressive, maniacs or anxious tendencies. With the new sobriety, one  finds itself suddenly with having to compose with those by new means. The same phenomenon is similar to sexuality.

Sexual desire

Alcohol is a depressant that affects behaviour. When using or drinking, a shy person may not have any more trouble smiling, talking or proposing anymore. Another which does not like its body becomes daring and does not have any more embarrassment to be naked and to have sex when in a state of intoxication.

For those whose sexual desire was exacerbated by taking stimulants, it will be difficult to start again to live a sexuality without any product. This  may include a new understanding on how to awake and stimulate sexual desire. In this situation, people may have to go through a mourning period about sexual desire as well as the enormous «highs» from the days of sexuality under psychotropics. This mourning is necessary otherwise, it may always pose a risk for turning over to use again. This situation is particularly risky for relapsing.

Concerning  women in particular, some women had sexual desire instantaneously without any efforts while using cocaine. They find that sexual desire is not automatic any more. They don’t recognized themselves any more and must learn how to desire as well as becoming and putting themselves in a desirable mood.

Some others may have been without sexuality for many years prior to recovery. Their relationship to their body is almost nonexistent. They rediscover their body and physical feelings. They realize now they can be attractive, beautiful and sexy.  They start  to take care of their body, they dress and rediscover their femininity and their masculinity.

There are those which arrive to the program after many years of loneliness.  The bottle was their first comfort,  it didn’t  matter if they were lonely and isolate. The bottle filled these needs. They will have to learn  to know their limits, to communicate, to be assertive and how to face their feelings and emotions without escaping them anymore.

Others have been confronted with physical or psychological violence in their relationships.  They might be stuck with doubts and mistrust and it might continue to harm their possibilities meeting healthy and safe people.

There are also those which worked in the sex industry  which do not know any more what is a balanced and respectful relation, not being able to communicate without seducing or unable to receive and let go while having sex anymore. We often see men particularly confuse about their sexual orientation.  Because they had being doing sex work mostly for men, they may question themselves about sex and love for a long time.

Finally, there are those which arrive with childhood traumas of  violence, sexual abuse and negligence. They will start to remember these painful memories. The beginning of sobriety and the work ahead to stay sober will be a priority. People addressing childhood traumas need a supportive network around and many will start to cut off old relationships that are not emotionally healthy.

Because people do not arrive at same the levels, the needs and the abilities  to develop will be different for everyone.

Addicts are often extremists. For some time now, we know that using a product hides some other addictions or addictive behaviours. It’s not transferring one addiction to another, it’s about bringing the new ones to light.  For example:

  • To rediscover the feeling of being attractive can update compulsive seduction, shopping addiction ;
  • To rediscover being physical and to have difficulty to commit in a loving relationship can bring a sex addiction, co-dependency;
  • To want to be liked at any price: co-dependency;
  • To become without  sex: sexual anorexia, eating disorders, workolism, etc;
  • To be skilful sexually but unable to live the love can lead to the hypersexuality

Addiction to a product or a behaviour locks up the person in a pattern from which it can escape only with help and many efforts.

Seduction:

What attracts our glance  at first is the physical appearance: the colour of the hair, the colour of the eyes, the size, the weight, the curves of the body, how people hold themselves, their mimicry, etc. This part  belongs to the non-verbal part of the seduction.

The second level, of seduction is the verbal level: The verbal part gives us much information on the emotional state of a person and on its capacity to be assertive. Is the tone of voice loud, fast, or is the tone warm, confident and posed? The choice of  words also account much, are they reassuring or hurting? Does the person always speak as if frustrated or angry? The choice of the words we use can attract or push back people.

The 2 levels of seduction in the choice of a  partner are equally important. They are indicators about what one may lack when trying to attract someone. To adopt a welcoming attitude but to be neglected  physically may repel  a potential partner or push away an old one in the long run.  To choose somebody only by its physical appearance can be misleading and it is necessary to seek for more. With this information, one can look at themselves and create a better balance between what you look-alike and who you are.  It ‘s ok to be attracted to the perfect beauty but its even a  better choice if she or he  is tender, accessible and cordial. Again, if the woman you choose is the ideal image of beauty but she is cold, distant and criticizing , the quality of your sexual desire, the  quality of love and  even your erections or sexual desire are likely to be affected with time.

One of the components of love is admiration, if you are ashamed of your partner, the relation could be dedicated to the failure.

Red flags:

A new recovery is fragile. You start to live your emotions without using, you need to be aware in your search for love. Some people are not made for you and the contexts could harm your recovery. Here a small list of red flags, do not hesitate to add some with your personal list:

  • A compulsive seducers;
  • Somebody who’s not available emotionally or physically;
  • Someone who says they are not ready for a relationship;
  • Someone with too many unfinished business: housing, work, health, etc;
  • Someone with a prior history of violence who does not take care of it, someone doing illegal business;
  • Someone who would need to take medication but chooses not to;
  • Someone already engaged;
  • Someone who talks madly about their ex’s without admitting any responsibilities;
  • Somebody who neglects his or her  parental duties

Showing some interest

Okay, you finally see someone you like and you would like to meet her-him but you have the jitter.  This is where you will need courage to go forward. Having a low self-esteem may be for someone who has talent, skills and knowledge and still sees themselves has weak or unable to do something. Be careful, don’t give up before you try. The worst that can happen is a No for an answer. A No is a No for a date, not a rejection of your whole self.

Someone ask you out:

You are not interested and that makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t know what to answer or if you tend to answer automatically and then regret it later, take some  time to think about it before you answer. When one is afraid or if  you tend to do a lot of self-sabotage, giving yourself time to sleep on it  is correct. Be vigilant about your motivations and be clear and honest when you give your answer. To take a few hours or a few days to think of it before answering is completely correct.

You said yes!

Remain calm and  be yourself.   A first meeting into is often stressful. Remember that you are not meeting a priest,  there is no obligation to tell your life in its least details. In addition to being inappropriate, it can scare the person away. If you drown people with your stories without giving the other the opportunity to place a few words,  you might not see them again. A first rendez-vous is an occasion to know a little more about someone: sports, hobbies, readings, studies, family? Remain light and give you two the chance to get to know each other. If he or she declares her interest for more, be honest and allow yourself to say where you stand: you don’t know yet? You don’t want the relationship to take that direction? You are not sure?  Be honest to yourself and to the other.

You want only sex for sex?
You want to have a real relationship?

Be careful not to begin a relation which is not in harmony with what you really want wishing it will change with time.

Your time is precious so are you! Don’t be afraid that you will lose the opportunity for love if you say ‘No’ to that relationship.

Ok, you’ve been doing activities together and it seems that you two would like more.  Its time for an honest talk.

Before you have sex:

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs): If you meet someone and you are about to have sex without wearing a condom, you expose yourself to catch  STDs.

For example,  1/5 person in Quebec is carrying the virus of the herpes. When you are ready to have sex for the first time with a new partner, would you like to know if they have it? If you have it yourself, will you tell your new partner prior to having sex?

You are starting a new life without using you may want to start it by being responsible for your act. If you are carrying a virus, speak with your new partner before your first sexual intercourse. If 1/5 person has herpes, it is possible that they also have it or they might ask questions about it and they may agree to have safe sexual intercourse  in spite of your herpes.

It is also possible that the person will refuse to go further. Is it bad? No, it’s not fun but you are carrying a virus, you need people understanding and supportive around you. You have a reputation to build, it’s better to be known as someone who is responsible. You may sleep alone for a while but you’ll sleep better.

You are starting a new a relationship:

What kind of couples do you want to be? What kind of partner do you want to be? How do you deal when a problem arise?  Reevaluate your beliefs. What do you expect from your partner? What are you able to offer? Be realistic, don’t try to be perfect.

If you seem to have too much difficulties, do not hesitate to ask for help and to seek professional guidance. Be a good consumers, choose your therapist wisely and carefully. To tell your history to another person will help you to tackle your problems differently and to get a different way for you two to solve it. Pay attention not to tell your problems to everyone. Be discrete, the more you talk to about it, the more you’ll be confused.

In sex therapy, people consult quite often for relational difficulties which end up harming their love and sexual life. To be in relation requires many efforts, flexibility and courage. It is not because you are in recovery that it is different, it is sometimes because you escaped with drugs and alcohol many years and that you are not accustomed to face unpleasant emotions.

If you wish to consult for sexual difficulties, several problems are treated very well. For example: premature ejaculation (PE). Its men #1 problem and it is one which is treated easily. If you fear to enter a relationship because of PE  get some help instead of remaining alone. PE is often a misunderstanding about the mechanic of ejaculation. Once the understanding and the practice is done, its like riding a bike, you don’t need to think about it constantly. The more one flees a problem, the more it is likely to intoxicate the mind.

Reminiscence of sexual abuse:

The amount of people sexually molested in childhood is high.  When people quit using, they start to remember these memories. Using was a way to escape or avoid  these painful memories.  It may become a priority to seek help for childhood abuse without going back to drugs. Several organizations are there to assist you in this process. Now that you decided to live without using, your duty towards yourself is to heal.

When one is confronted with stories connected to childhood, one tends to revive them with the mind of a child. You are now an adult and it is with eyes and a mind of an adult that you will pass through this.

Patterns connected to childhood:

Some people had difficult childhoods. When you are a little kid, the only way you can live and go through life is by developing patterns that will make the insanity in which you live in more acceptable. At time it was the best solution you found. The problem with these maladaptive schema is that you might keep them and bring them into adulthood. It is necessary to be vigilant when these  patterns appear, one can tend to confuse reality with patterns and tyranny with love. Co dependency is very often connected to childhood and this one leads the person to remain in relationship in spite of insanity and to distort reality in order to accept the unacceptable. To choose recovery and sobriety it is to face emotions to which one is not accustomed to deal with. Your story will not be erased but its effects will decrease and it will cease dictating your life. To take care of oneself is to have maturity to ask for help  and to accept receive it.

To live without using is a great freedom. You are released from obsessions and compulsion and you can choose a better life for yourself. Take care of yourself, you  are an important person. You start to live and you will become the person  you wish to be, a person who stand up, a person who does not flee  her shadow any more.

(c) Mériza Joly

(1) Cormier, D. (1984a). Toxicomanies : styles de vie. Chicoutimi : Gaëtan Morin Éditeur, 175 p.

15 May 2012

Fibromyalgia and sexuality

Fibromyalgia affects 2 to 5% of world population and many people affected are living in industrialized countries. 80% of sufferers are women. The disease usually begins between 30 and 50 but children and teens may also be affected. The World Health Organization (WHO) has recognized fibromyalgia only in 1992. Previously, people were discriminated against because he had not yet officially recognized. 20 years later, several people said they had to fight for their diagnostic recognition among government agencies.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by many signs and symptoms and vary from person to person, which is why it is called a syndrome. It is not fatal but it is a disease which is very challenging and often prevents the sufferer to perform daily activities. Fibromyalgia is incurable, it can not heal but  the symptoms are treated.

Symptoms of fibromyalgia [1]

Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain and diffuse, mainly muscle, associated with chronic fatigue and sleep disturbances. However, symptoms vary from person to person. Moreover, climate, time of day, stress levels and physical activity are factors that influence the severity of symptoms and their variability over time. Some of the symptoms:

  • Diffuse muscle pains that are accompanied by morning stiffness, and specific locations of the body painful to touch. The neck and shoulders are usually the first place painful, followed by the back, chest, arms and legs.
  • In extreme situations, a simple touch or even a touch causes pain throughout the body. The pain may be accompanied by the feeling that sore areas are swollen.
  • Constant pain, but aggravated by the efforts, cold, humidity, and lack of emotions.
  •  A lightweight and non-restorative sleep, causing fatigue upon awakening.
  • Persistent fatigue (all day), in 9 of 10 cases. The rest does not make it disappear.
  • Headaches or severe headaches, possibly caused by muscle tension in neck and shoulders, and a disruption of the natural ways of controlling pain.
  • An irritable bowel syndrome: diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.
  • Depression or anxiety (in approximately one third of persons with fibromyalgia).
  • Difficulty concentrating.
  • Increased acuity of the senses, an increased sensitivity to odors, light, noise and temperature changes (in addition to sensitivity to touch).
  • Numbness and tingling hands and feet.
  • Painful menstruation and premenstrual syndrome marked.
  •  An irritable bladder syndrome (interstitial cystitis).

Fibromyalgia: Couple and Sexuality

Many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia affect the sexuality of people. When the pain is obvious, the first thing that might be affected is the libido.

Medication can affect sexual function in many ways and your doctor may suggest a new medication that would have less impact on your sexuality. The negative effects of drugs are found in different phases of sexual response:

  • Sexual desire may be numb by the medication: not responding  to stimuli that previously made you want to have a more active sexuality.
  • Excitement: When intercourse is started, men will have a hard time to achieve or maintain an erection and it becomes difficult to be motivated to continue. Lubrication in women is minimal or absent.
  • Orgasm and ejaculation: the desire and arousal are present but you can not (or only with extraordinary efforts) to have an orgasm or to ejaculate  for men.

Pain during intercourse or genital fondling:

Some may develop genital pain during intercourse, they will greatly affect sexual activity in marriage. To have more information, the Human Sexuality Reseach Laboratory of University of Ottawa   advises women with these disorders. You will find on his website full of tips to help you.

Couple, Communication & Comfort

The key when you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia is to keep communication open in your relationship. When frustration becomes too large, couples can begin to avoid talking about sensitive issues for fear of hurting each other and the situation can escalate. If this happens to you, it is good advice to consult a sexologist before giving up. Sexology also implies affection, communication, and of course sexuality. Consult before a third person opens new horizons and help find solutions and practical advices for both of you. Sexuality implies expressing love for each other and live in greater relational intimacy.

Be comfortable

You read about it, you do whatever it takes and still, the pain prevents you from accessing the pleasure. You do gentle stretches, the room is at the right temperature, a cozy little music is playing, the linens are fresh and soft, you have a small heating pad  you can use if you need it and you have a water-based lubricant in case. That is a good starting point to begin ….

That’s it, you’re fit and want to be sexual but you can not find a comfortable position long enough. Have you considered a more suitable furniture for you and your partner? To find a position where you will not be crushed under the weight of the partner or a position that will not ask you to balance for too long is not always obvious.

Some furniture is designed for sexuality, research on the Internet and find furniture or accessories that will help your sex life. Some sex toys may also help you to please your male partner unless you have too much effort like this Tantra chair.

Tantra Chair

There are toys for men  called masturbators and you can use them together when you want to have an intimate moment. Sophisticated or smaller, they can be useful at times. If the pain bothers you too, do not hesitate to visit a sex shop to see if certain toys could help you maintain a sexually active life.

Finally, this small article is intended as an overview of the different areas affected by fibromyalgia. The main objective is to enable you to discuss sexuality in your marriage and to present some solutions. There are alternatives to pain, it’s up to you to discover and adapt to your married life.

For information on men with fibromyalgia, you might want to check this website:  Men with fibro

(1) Passeportsante.net free traduction

9 March 2012

False beliefs we carry in our relationships.

Sexuality is an area where many maintain the idea that since sexuality is natural, everything should go without saying. When reality comes in and people realize that things are a little more complex, many do not dare ask questions and they remain silent, pretending to know.

In my practice, I often meet people that maintain erroneous beliefs about sex and married life. This article presents few examples of these beliefs and some clarifications.
  • Sex should be spontaneous: When you have to work and do your daily activities, it is possible that the time spent together drops and the intimate moments are more difficult to get. You must then arrange to create moments where you have time and energy for a sexual quality time together. A “quickie” is suitable occasionally  but you cannot built a solid relationship based on that kind of sex life without risking permanent damage. You may need to start making appointment with your lover. When you do that, you can be creative and make this encounter enjoyable, sexy and pleasant.
  • When you really love each other, there are no arguments. Its  is not the absence of conflict that allows couples to last but rather how they manage conflicts.
  • Sexually, I should not have anything to say, my boyfriend or girlfriend should know what I like, what makes me happy in bed or else… As modern as our civilization is today, we are not yet returned to the telepathic exchanges. Be responsible for your pleasure and say what you like in bed. Guide your partner and partners, listen to what the other tells you and do not assume you know everything or that you should know everything. Please, do not think you’re incompetent when the other expresses preferences.
  • If our love is real, we will always want to be and will always be together. Be continuously bonded to one another can become heavy in the long run.  You must be careful not to drop all your personal interests and activities when you are in a relationship. Missing the partner a little, having new things to say, keep a passionate hobby is important. Its your color and that’s why your partner got attracted to you.  Of course, I dont mean spending all you evenings doing separate activities. Keep a balance.
  • A guy should be able to do everything. This idea was true in  the old days. Today, in contemporary society, women have as much responsibility in the relationship as the partner. You 2 are  co-creators of your relationship and your sexual harmony. Talk, listen and take action together!
  • If she or he would really loved me, I would not need to masturbate. When one of you  have a different sex drive, instead of being frustrated, it is sometimes better to masturbate between two intimate moment. But, if you find that you do not have enough sex and this generates a lot of stress and baffles in your marriage, why not seek counselling? Couples therapy can sometimes open up to new ideas and solutions. Often the relationship goes well on many levels but not sexually. Unfortunately, the situation can last for a long period of  time and jeopardize the marriage. Do not wait until the two of you are too exasperated.

Finally, I noticed on occasion that some men do not always pay attention to themselves. While women have long learned to be desirable and desired, men should also develop these skills. Gentlemen, pay attention to your appearance, don’t neglect yourself . If you want your partner to desire you, be appetizing! It is equally important to be dreamable and desirable for your partner.

I know my text may seem strange to some of you but, sexuality often drags crazy ideas that makes shade on your happiness. The person you were yesterday is not exactly the same today. We change and evolve and our couple will too. Give yourself the freedom to learn, to change and to improve your relationship. And don’t forget to give your partner the same freedom to grow and change with you.

Thank you for reading and please do not hesitate to comment, voice your opinion or suggestions.

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29 January 2012

Limits, avoidance & secret

We all have our share of frustrations every day. How we deal with it is very personal. Sometimes we learn by “trial and error,” we talk to someone, we get some advice, other times we “sleep on it” in order to avoid making mistakes, we can go out partying to forget our worries for a short while. We adopt a variety of strategies to try to be okay despite the events that life brings us. Human interaction can bring much pleasure and satisfaction but it can also be a major source of conflicts. For various reasons, when life is not going well, people adopt ways of dealing with it that are not always positive in the long run. I am not talking about behaviors that are used from time to time, but mechanisms that are used consistently, every time we find ourselves in a frustrating, unpleasant or uncomfortable situation.

Avoidance
Rare are those who have never been in a situation where all you want is to forget what happened. The action taken then was more to avoid the unpleasant feeling than solving the problem so one went for: shopping, partying, watching TV, spending hours in front of the computer, over-eating, etc.  That’s not bad in itself, what could become a problem is when the avoidance strategies would be the main way the person would act upon displeasure.

For example: I fight with my wife *, I let myself be overwhelmed by her demands, I don’t argue,  I am frustrated but I do not say anything…. I stay quiet, but in my mind, I know that later on I could either: 1. Go for a ride and search for a sex worker. 2. Connect to the Net and masturbate for hours, etc. 3. Grumble all week making it clear (telepathically) that I am frustrated to my partner by having an attitude.

In sex therapy, when you look at the events prior to episodes of hypersexuality, you can often find stressful situations, unpleasant circumstances, conflicts with the partner, etc. Another thing that we can observe when one analyses further the previous events is the lack of assertiveness of the individual when dealing with the spouse.  Sometimes,  the person has adopted a secret sexuality as a mean to cope with unpleasant feelings.
At first, the secret activity helps maintain a certain psychological balance. Even if the situation is not satisfying, one knows he can always go back to that secret activity. Somehow along the way, all the secret surrounding the illegal activity may become a perverse incentive in itself reinforcing the benefits of the secret activity and  the lack of assertiveness in the communication skills.

Not being able to set your limits in a relationship can be frustrating. In the present situation, the lack of assertiveness causes a lot of issues that could be avoid. Issues related to the lack of assertiveness are legion, but the benefits associated with assertiveness and good communication allow both partners to grow and evolve within the relationship.
Learning to be assertive and to set limits can be scary in the beginning: «If I say who I am, if I say no, if I do not agree, maybe the other will reject me? » Maybe yes, maybe no, but you have to try and give yourself a chance to grow. In the area of romantic relationships, bad habits can appear very quickly in the beginning of the relationship. Beware of extremes. As they say, we must learn to “Be neither an hedgehog nor a doormat.” (its cuter in french, sorry)

Some tips

• Choose an appropriate time together to address a sensitive topic;
• Say what one has to say  and avoid opening up on too many thorny issues at the same time;
• Avoid insults (you are stupid, you always-you never,  lazy, etc.).
• Do not to speak for too long before you let the other one talk;
• Make a step towards each other, think better for the 2 of you, not the best for only you.

If you want to learn more about communication skills, you could check under «assertiveness»  on the web.
Have a good week and  feel free to leave me a comment or to give me some suggestions.
Mériza

* The term wife is use here but the dynamic can be present with any other significant relationship: parents, family, friends, etc.

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