Posts tagged ‘recovery’

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.


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.

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