Dr. David Sack takes on Renew reader questions
I’ve never had sex while sober, and it’s making me put a stand-still on any dating prospects. How do I get over this fear? -Erik
[David Sack] For so many that have only known drug-driven or enhanced sex, the thought of “sober sex” can be terrifying. I hear many share that “if they were high, they were having sex. If they were having sex, they were high.” In order to address this fusion of these two addictive behaviors it's important to take an honest look at the roles of sex and drugs in your life.
The treatment of these two compulsive behaviors is precisely why Promises Treatment Centers Malibu developed the Stimulant and Sexual Disorders Program.
Before one can have healthy intimacy with another person, they must be willing to be vulnerable. By that I mean: it's not going to be perfect. But come on, sober sex is hot, awkward, exhilarating, tender, rough, messy, mind-blowing, so-so, and intense.
That's right I said it …”intense!” Having mindful, in-the-moment, fully-present sex with another person is INTENSE. Don't let anyone tell you sober sex is boring and you'll just have to get used to it. That’s hogwash!
Here are the suggestions on how to approach sober sex that we recommend at the SSDP at Promises-Malibu:
1. Be honest. Do you have a strong enough recovery foundation to engage in what may be a triggering activity? Taking time abstaining from sex helps you extinguish that conditioned link to sex and drugs/alcohol. For many addicts, that could be at least six months and up to 12 or more.
2. Be sex positive! That healthy physical connection and belonging we seek with another is natural, fun and affirmative. If you hold shame around sex, you are more likely to use when engaging in sex. It's that simple. So, if you still have work to do around sexual shame, give yourself the gift of patience and compassion and take time to reduce the shame. You'll be glad you did.
3. Ask the question. Make sure your sexual partner shares your desire for drug-free, non-enhanced sex. Nothing says relapse trigger more than a hot naked sex partner offering you a hit of your favorite “whatever” in the middle of your sexual romp. Ask enthusiastically: “Hey, do you party?” If they answer, “Yeah, you got any?” move on!
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4. Be willing to be vulnerable. Admit to your partner that this is your “first time” having sex without drugs or alcohol. Think about it— telling someone that you want to try being fully present with them while having sex, well … that's flattering … and hot!
5. Be kind. When doing your self-assessment of your performance, show yourself some compassion and understanding. You're learning a whole new way of sexually interacting with others. It's going to take time and practice.
6. Don't give up! When you lean into the fear and discomfort then reach the other side you will gain a new self-confidence. Confidence is sexy!
David Sack, M.D., currently serves as CEO, Promises Treatment Centers and Elements Behavioral Health. He is board certified in Psychiatry, Addiction Psychiatry and Addiction Medicine. In addition to his academic interests, Dr. Sack has designed programs for ambulatory detoxification within general medical settings, substance abuse treatment of adjudicated youth and adults, and specialized treatment programs for dually-diagnosed clients. He also blogs for Huffington Post, PsychCentral and Psychology Today.