The next several blogs will all be focused on sex. Yes, sex! The topic that is on all of our minds but rarely talked about in meetings. Patty Powers and I will be holding a forum on the topic of recovery and sex September 16, at 9 pm EST on InTheRooms.com. Please join us!
She was beautiful. A few of us were eating at a restaurant in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Our server had a wonderful smile. I still remember her name even though it was eighteen years ago. Khirsha. Olive skin, black hair, a small stud in her nose, and a beautiful body. I was with friends so I had enough confidence to joke with her and even flirt. She flirted back. It was obvious to them that she was into me. I could even feel it! So, buoyed by the support of my friends, I asked her out. She gave me her number. I couldn’t believe it. The first woman I asked out in recovery and she said yes!
But as I drove back to my apartment in Staunton, about a half hour from Harrisonburg, I thought about what had just happened. I was going to have to call her. I was going to have to deal with the possibility – that in my self-loathing and insecure mind was more of a probability - that she gave me her number with no real intention of going out with me. And what if we did go out? What was I going to do? How was I going to talk to her without alcohol or something in me to enable me to contact that part of me that women seemed to like? And what if I wanted to kiss her? Or if it led to sex? It had only been an hour since I had asked her for her number and my mind was spinning. I was flooded with anxiety as I imagined every scenario from ridicule and rejection to marriage; falling asleep at dinner to impassioned sex in the car outside of the restaurant.
I had been on a date about three months before when I had been trying to get sober and it was a train wreck. A complete and utter train wreck. I was determined this would be different. I knew I had to wait at least twenty-four hours. That was a given rule. No hint of desperation. So I waited and I called her. And she seemed happy to hear from me. We had a nice conversation and then arranged to go out. I was nervous as hell when she showed up. I had no idea what to do before, during, or after dinner so I just faked until I made it. It would have been so much easier if I were drunk. I can still remember the palpable feeling of panic that had been sitting there since the moment I had gotten off the phone with her and set the date. It stayed with me through dinner as my nervous joking and self-deprecating defenses kicked in.
We went back to my place and sat talking on my sectional I had just purchased for the grand total of $20 from the local Salvation Army. I moved to kiss her and she kissed me back. Before I knew it she was on top of me and we were grinding our bodies together. It was intense. I was shaking. I do not know how long we made out. I moved my hands to her breasts and she held one of them there lightly. I could feel myself continuing to shake not used to experiencing the intensity of sexual energy without the dulling effect of alcohol or pot. After thirty minutes or so she pulled away. I sure as hell was not going to. At that point of my sobriety I literally did not know how to stop. If I had an erection and was making out with someone it was supposed to lead to sex. Period. She said that she needed to go because it was getting late and things were getting pretty intense. She kissed me as she moved away from me and got off the couch. I got up with her trying to conceal my obvious erection.
“I had a great time tonight. I am so glad you called me.” She smiled and kissed me one more time as I opened the door for her to leave. Her eyes said it all. She was smitten. She liked me.
A day passed. I thought about calling her.
Then a week.
Then a month.
I never called her back.
She called me twice and I did not return her messages. That was the end of Khirsha as I turned back toward loneliness and isolation.
If you are reading this and thinking that makes no sense you would be right. And that is the point. I liked her. While I was able to go on the date and go back to my place and make out with her, it was all I could do not to spontaneously combust as a result of the anxiety and insecurity I was feeling. The truth is I had never been with a woman sober. I had only made out with a handful of women when I was not drinking or high or my whole life and I had never had a relationship where alcohol and other drugs didn’t play a part at some point to help me interact. I had never had sex sober other than my first time when I was 16 and that was such a catastrophe that I had a fairly large imprint saying: “Avoid sex sober at all costs!” I could only see this in retrospect years later as I reflected on why it was so hard for me to date women or keep girlfriends.
What I had determined at that point following that first date with Khirsha – mostly unconsciously – was that something seemed wrong with her (after all, she liked me.) It was her neediness. She opened up about her family and I decided she was too wounded. She wasn’t a good enough kisser. I wasn’t really attracted to her after all, I told myself, coming up with a few things I could use to convince myself that I wasn’t into her. But it was all bullshit. The biggest issue was my fear. I had never learned to interact with women sober. I never dated when I was in high school. The only thing I ever did was hook up. I did not know much about being with a woman more than one night. I was as scared of relationships as I was of being lonely for the rest of my life. It took several more years before I would even be able to have a girlfriend longer than thirty days let alone a wife.
Though it often isn’t malicious, we so often forget that our fear affects others. It hurts. I can only imagine how Khirsha felt. I certainly gave her one less reason to feel good about men. My hope is she didn’t spend much time worrying about any of it.
When I was interviewing men for my book and I asked them about sex, I realized that there were a lot of men that had similar struggles in sobriety. The funny thing is that we never talk about those struggles and fears in meetings. Nor often with our sponsors. We joke about how we still hook up with women. We joke about sex in a crude and childish way. Or we feign bravado unable to talk honestly about our fear and ignorance. We laugh nervously at the fact that we feel so inept when it comes to being in healthy sexual relationships. But rare is the man strong and courageous enough to admit that he is scared shitless of being sexual without some kind of drug in him. And that is precisely what needs to change.