Many addicts get loaded to avoid feelings. While there may be other attributing factors as to why addicts use, ultimately it comes down to not liking the feelings that life brings unless chemical enhancers are available to mask the situation. For people who have conditioned themselves to live life by dulling or embellishing normal human activities with drugs, learning to do things sober can take careful navigating in recovery. Sex is no different. There are some interesting things to consider when pondering engagement in a sexual relationship early in recovery.
The first obvious consideration when it comes to sex is that drugs may have enhanced or hindered the sex drive during active addiction. It may take some time to discover a new balance with regard to physical desire. It may also be necessary to talk to a doctor before engaging in sexual activity in recovery.
Due to risky behavior in addiction, a physical STI screen is a good idea prior to engaging in any sort of sexual activity. Often addicts face the following physical challenges with regard to sex:
- Impotence (in men)
- Vaginal dryness (in women)
- Lack of desire
- Inability to have an orgasm (men and women)
- Diagnosis of STIs
- Physical limitations due to extensive drug use (examples: heart/lung issues)
If any of the above are difficulties, reach out to a health professional for advice prior to beginning a physical, sexual relationship in recovery.
Hopefully, sexual activity involves emotional connection. For an addict, this can be a scary thing. Being vulnerable with another human being is extremely difficult. Drug abuse covers up an addict’s ability to be open and honest, which can cause significant difficulties in the sexual realm.
Further, because sex triggers the pleasure center of the brain, an addict’s brain can become overstimulated, resulting in mental obsession. The best help in dealing with emotions surrounding healthy sex relations is to talk openly and honestly with your partner. If this is difficult, contacting a counselor who specializes in addiction recovery is your best course of action.
Human beings struggle with sex. Addicts are no different in this fact. However, other people often have specific moral or philosophical leanings when it comes to sexual activity. 12-step programs recommend connecting to a Higher Power and deepening this connection to maintain consistent recovery.
Even secular programs of recovery recognize that sex can entail more than simply the physical act. Sexuality is complex and may require an in depth discussion with a minister or advisor to avoid building feelings of guilt, remorse or shame. Sex can be a beautiful expression of love and affection between two people, even after recovery.
Resources to Help
Addiction recovery is about learning to live again. This includes having a healthy and fulfilling sex life. If sex is particularly troubling, find a doctor or trusted counselor for advice. Sex need not cause unnecessary worry or difficulty in recovery. Call 800-895-1695 (Who Answers?) to talk to a counselor for confidential advice on how to best proceed with this area of recovery.
Alavi, S., Ferdosi, M., Jannatifard, F., Eslami, M., et al. (2012). Behavioral addiction versus substance addiction: Correspondence of psychiatric and psychological views. International Journal of Preventative Medicine. 3(4): 290-294. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3354400/
Baldwin, P., Shrestha, R., Potrepka, J. & Copenhaver, M. (2013). The age of initiation of drug use and sexual behavior may influence subsequent HIV risk behavior: A systematic review. International Scholarly Research Notices. Retrieved on April 20, 2017 from: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn/2013/976035/citations/