In our addiction we are often disconnected from our bodies and disconnected from life. That makes it difficult to experience sex as something other than an act. It certainly was difficult for me. It was primal. With enough liquid courage I could talk to women. With enough luck they would be interested in me. Then it was game on. And it literally was a game because it was all about winning and getting what I wanted so that I could briefly feel better about myself – with little to no real regard for the other person.
I was scared to death of intimacy. I had no idea what it was. The best I could get was while I was under the influence and what that looked like was best parodied by some of the commercials of one of my greatest enablers, Mr. Bud Weiser: “I love you man!.” I wanted it. We all did. That was why we had parties. That was why we would find ourselves having deep conversations despite our slurred speech. That was why we would scope each other out at parties – to find someone with whom we could connect. I found myself talking to prospective partners for the night about my home life, my challenges with school, my hopes and dreams. I did not see it as manipulative but I always had an agenda.
I wanted love but my heart had hardened. I had no idea how much so, but eighteen years of sobriety have not completely healed the wounds. It does seem that until you are dead – unless you are a sociopath – you cannot completely turn off our innate human desire for love. To love and to be loved. How many times did I fall in love in college? Sometimes for the night. Sometimes it was an unrequited love where I did not even have the courage to talk to the woman. But the desire was always there The want was there.
And so it was sex that I used to try and meet the needs for intimacy and love. But it didn’t work and it doesn’t work. I do not think it works for anyone, personally. I have had many men try to convince me otherwise but their arguments and their evidence are not compelling. Don’t get me wrong. Sex can be whatever works best for you. There is no rule. Do what is best for you, but I warn you about doing what feels best for you. I have worked with men for eighteen years now and I know very few men in recovery who are able to drown out their conscience and just sleeping around with no consequence. I’ve tried. I have watched many try. Some right into their arms of whatever addiction had been killing them. Others simply at the expense of having love in their lives.
My experience is that sex, intimacy, and love are separate phenomenon that when brought together are amazing. I describe it as having spent my life eating McDonald’s hamburgers thinking it they were filet mignon. Until I actually had filet mignon, in other words until I had experienced sex in the space of love and intimacy, I had no idea how good it could be. Until I had experienced love in a relationship where sex and intimacy accentuate a connection unlike anything I have ever known, I had no idea how good it could be. That is my experience and my message in this particular post: it takes a lot of work and it may even be quite painful to experience the synergy that occurs with sex, love, and intimacy– but it is worth it. And, until you have experienced it you have no idea what you are missing. You’ll just keep eating McDonald’s hamburgers thinking they are best thing out there.
This is the third of a series of blogs focused on sex. It’s all leading up to the Sex and Recovery Forum Patty Powers and I will be holding September 16, at 9 pm EST on InTheRooms.com. Please join us!