Can you have totally sober sex that's also uninhibited and totally satisfying? My friend and I have been having a chat about what constitutes abnormal alcohol behavior. She hardly ever drinks, and she has had a lot of sex. Still, she apparently has never needed alcohol to lose inhibition, she has never had an issue with physical self esteem or men wanting to be with her. She is giggly, flirty and suggestive all the time and it almost always gets her sex if she wants it. Me? I wouldn't even know how to do that in a room full of men. While we were chatting, there was an article on Salon.com, about sober sex, that detailed the author's journey of navigating sexual relationships without a buzz on. I can relate, it's really hard to do if you don't know how.
Thankfully, now, I am in a relationship that doesn't require alcohol for communication and can tolerate some alcohol use as well. We can enjoy a couple drinks together, but just as easily not. Usually going out means one of us isn't drinking at all, and the other maybe having one or two. We live in a neighborhood where we can walk to many restaurants, and even my aunt's house, for dinner. We can both have drinks if we feel like walking, but it rarely involves a lot. Last night, we were out at a street party in Mesa, an adult Halloween bash, with bands and food and beer. I was the driver, and did my best to keep amused as the people around us got more and more sloshed. Mostly, it grew tiresome.
My life experience of dating and sex has been intimately tied to drinking. Less so drug use, because I have never been into it as much as I have been turned off by it. Men never sought me out unless they were drinking or I was drinking, or both of us. Dating never didn't involve a couple drinks before moves were made. Other than the morning after kind of sex, when there may or may not have been a leftover buzz on, sober sex only happened in a longer standing relationship- and only when date nights didn't involve some sort of drinking or drugs. I lived in Santa Fe for years, I was one of the only people I knew who was not a regular stoner. I lived in Copenhagen after that, you cannot go anywhere that people aren't drinking. Sobriety was socially limiting, on the times when I was choosing to abstain for health or emotional reasons. It usually meant early nights, and always meant lonely nights.
Dating almost always requires alcohol use. Meet for a drink, go to a party, have a night in over candles and dinner. Choosing to date people who are working a program requires you commit to it too. Whether or not you aren't an alcoholic, it's hard to imagine a life of abstaining from every social drink at every occasion for the rest of your life. I don't really know any couples where one drinks and the other doesn't at all and they are both really okay with it. The sober one usually resents the drinking one, always being in the position of driver and watching the spouse get buzzed. The drinking one complains about being policed and chided. Some people choose not to drink, for spiritual and health reasons, and they aren't necessarily open minded either. For them, everyone else is a drunk once they have had a drink. It's annoying and condescending behavior. Most of us tolerate some over the top drinking behavior in our mates, until one day we wake up and say, this is not what I want. Or we find that we need to drink to stay in the relationship, as a way of hiding out from the reality we don't really like them when we are both sober.
Sobriety is a form of intimacy with oneself. I don't mean, I didn't have a drink today, I must be sober. Continually and habitually not choosing drugs or alcohol means continually and habitually choosing to be aware of your own mind and emotions. How many of us can still be the light hearted, carefree, easygoing, funny, sexy person we imagine we are when we've had a few, when we are sober? Why must we continue to inhibit ourselves unless we have a drink in our hand? Why can't have permission to be this way without the drugs and alcohol?
Sometimes, I have to advise my patients to abstain from all alcohol for a period of time, when it interferes with some health issues or other goals. It is almost impossible to lose weight (as a woman, anyhow) and drink a few glasses of wine or beer most nights a week. Many will tell of the impossibility of abstaining when it comes to social and professional obligations- dinners with clients, networking events, business travels, fundraisers and galas. Some will take to walking around with a drink in their hand, even if not sipping, to avoid being detected as a "non drinker". Family events, weddings, dinners with friends demands participation. It becomes tiresome to point out that you are abstaining. Everyone on a restricted diet knows what a pain in the ass it is when they have to tell others they can't eat something, or choosing not to. Telling people you aren't drinking (especially when you did before) becomes a conversation you don't want to have. My friend who rarely drinks finds it is very hard to date sober men, because so few men don't drink- and most try to use it as a method to get sex. Sadly, many of us are trained to use it as the only reliable method of seduction and persuasion- and only legitimate excuse for giving in.
Last night we watched as my sweetie's friend got stumbling drunk. He is a big drinker, when he drinks. Loud and messy, but fun and charming. I find it a drag to watch people continue to slosh and spill, stumble and flail. Yet, his girlfriend adores him and it seems to be part of their relationship. She came from a life of evangelical christian extremism, and after marriage and 5 kids left her delusioned and divorced, she has embraced hedonism. My friend's ex just returned to town from living in Alaska. Part of the problem, for her, was his dependence on alcohol and weed to feel good. Now he is trying sobriety, and struggling to find a new community of people to make friends with, date, who don't drink and drug. I think he is reaching out to her because she is the only person he knows who is habitually sober. Unfortunately, he is not spiritual or healthy in other ways, and will likely struggle to find connection with other sober people or stay sober himself to cope with stress. He also grew up with evangelical extremist parents. Now he is chronically unemployed and always angry, and struggles to stay off of drugs and alcohol. I remember trying to date "spiritually" oriented men some years ago, and just had to deal with different patterns of behavior and excuse making for drugs, alcohol, and sex. Drinking might have been the only way for me to make them tolerable people to be around. I didn't find any more desire for them to be connected to me emotionally, just sexually, with a strong current of judgmentalism about what I was always doing wrong.
But I did find the desire for mental and emotional intimacy with myself, and realized I had to start there instead of hiding from it. Learning how to be okay with my own spirit, sexual and not, is the begining of transformation. Making it happen is the ongoing journey. Last night, at the street party, I was one of the only women not wearing a scantily clad, breast pushing, form revealing outfit- or even heels. I just wore regular clothes, and was completely comfortable being comfortable, totally sober and covered up, and not trying to get ogled or fondled or otherwise attended to. I wasn't looking for love, or a date, or a hookup, and maybe the release from that obligation to be sexy and on was part of the deal. My sweetie still held my hand and kissed me from time to time, as scantily dressed, drunk women surrounded us with their fishnets and corsets. I was at ease with myself and happy to let them revel, glad I have been able to reach this point in my life when love and sex and alcohol don't have to go hand in hand.
I am writing this to start some dialogue, open call in comments or your own post if you like. Your experiences with relationships and alcohol use and abuse, drugs and intimacy, spirituality and sexuality.