A few months ago, I wasn’t dating anyone in particular.
I met a woman and, right from the jump, we hit it off.
It was exciting because she lived in my town, she didn’t hunt or fish, and she was pretty. In addition to this, she was also smart and interesting. It felt like we were off to a great start.
One day of texting back and forth made its way to two days, and it felt as if it might be moving in a promising direction.
When she mentioned that she was a vinophile, I thought it might help if I offered her the bottle of wine that I got from the winery I played at the weekend before. Her reception to my offer was kind of lukewarm, but I really didn’t give it too much thought.
In fact, when her texts became monosyllabic and sparse, I was utterly confused. After a couple of days, I finally asked why everything seemed to change.
“Just busy,” her text said.
After another day of feeling unmistakably like I had been placed gingerly on her backburner, she sent me a text that said, “In the spirit of full disclosure, I don’t ever date people who don’t drink, and I’m really not sure what that would even look like.”
“Well there it is,” I thought to myself. I had heard about instances where people have been snubbed for being in recovery in the dating world, but my ego assured me that I was far too interesting for this to ever happen to me.
My initial reaction was anger, and this wasn’t foreign. That is usually my reaction to any situation where I feel humbled or my ego sustains an injury. The insult that she was delightful enough to add to that injury was when she downplayed the whole thing by trying to make me feel like I was abnormal for reacting the way I did.
“Goodness,” began her final text. “We’ve only known each other a few days.” “Goodness…” I bristled. “Now, all of a sudden she’s Annette Funicello.
Two days later, my attitude about the whole incident took a 180-degree turn. It had been so long since I sobered up that I almost completely forgot, but then it hit me…I, too, was once petrified at the thought of sex without alcohol. To be honest, it seemed like the most awkward thing in the world.
My entrance into the world of sexual relationships happened almost simultaneously with my introduction to alcohol and substances so I, just like a lot of other people, had no history of sober sex to draw upon. Without that, it became even more difficult to wrap my head around. This was unchartered territory for me, too. I almost decided to text her an apology and explain how I totally understood—but I thought better of it. I figured it’d be just as well to leave it where it was.
But it did kick off a series of memories that I have since put out of my mind. Like the first time I actually did have sex with someone after I sobered up. The experience, for lack of a better word to describe it, was awful. First, I reached out to my ex-girlfriend at the time and reasoned with her that, while it was true that we were no longer together, my birthday was next week and if she was having trouble decided on a gift, here was the obvious answer. I had been celibate since I got sober, I explained, and I really needed some physical intimacy. She agreed, drove down from New England, and spent the night.
The lesson I walked away with after that situation was that this sort of frivolous undertaking was definitely not going to work. Without alcohol, sex is a very intimate and vulnerable act and not the sort of thing that feels good when it lacks deeper connection. Perhaps, I reasoned to myself, it’s something I can work up to.
After I had a year of sobriety under my belt, I began a heartfelt relationship with a woman I knew from my past, and we stayed together for quite a few years. Once again, the sex was never that great—which was a joint contribution—but after we broke up, I had plenty of time to consider why that was.
Back then, I was in love—and in terms of motives and feelings, the idea of being together sexually seemed altruistic and warranted. This was a far cry from the birthday sex, and I really thought I was on the right track. The problems came because it was enough of a challenge to get over the initial fear of being naked with a partner—both spiritually and physically—without mood or mind altering assistance.
I was nowhere near that essential place of being able to communicate about it. It dawned on me that we never really satisfied each other in that way because it’s nearly impossible to do so without communication.
All in all, it’s a long and arduous learning process, and it is not for the meek. Like many things that require persistent effort and work, the rewards are unimaginable, and I am just now beginning to realize them in dribs and drabs. It’s going to take more time and quite a bit more patience, but the way I see it is that we expend so much energy on less-rewarding pursuits, it makes no sense not to face this struggle with the positive attitude it truly deserves.
Goodness, it’s sex after all.
Author: Billy Manas
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina