If you combined sex and crystal, the idea of having sex might seem overwhelming at first. But thousands of recovering meth users have relearned how to have healthy — even hot — sex without crystal meth. It’s just going to take some time and effort.
First, the harsh fact: Life without meth means life without meth-fueled sex. It’s okay, even necessary for many of us (it was for me), to mourn this loss.
To my gay clients in Southern California I put it like this and I know of what I speak: Until you are totally okay with the fact that you will never have meth sex again, you aren’t done and will probably relapse — again — over sex, of course. Sure, that’s a generalization and I’m specifically speaking to gay meth users, but I know plenty of straight meth users who had sex at the center of their using rituals, too.
So are you done with meth sex?
I sure as hell wasn’t when I first quit. Sure it got messy at times, especially toward the end of a run, but (being honest) I had a lot of sexual “peak experiences” in my using days, too.
When I began my quitting process, I was not yet at the place within me where I was “okay” with never having meth sex again. Intellectually, I understood why I could no longer use meth as a sexual booster — because once opening the door, I’d start using meth again to boost everything, not just sex.
Intellectually, I understood that no more meth meant no more meth sex, as well. Intellectually. But emotionally? I’d be lying if I said I was “done” with meth sex when I first quit. I got there, but it took time and resolve.
There’s no right answer to being “done” with meth sex. There’s only the honest answer. The dishonest one is what always gets us into trouble.
And if you are not okay with never having meth sex again, ask yourself: Do I, at least, desire to be done with meth sex?
This is enough to move forward, the desire.
One complaint you hear a lot from former tweakers is: regular sex seems dull and just doesn’t feel as good as it did on crystal. There’s a physiological reason for this. After all the repeated and intense dopamine dumps in your brain, the fibers in the pathway associated with sex are damaged. But just as with most other pleasurable feelings, this will change over time. Your brain will heal and you’ll definitely start enjoying sex again. Just remember it takes time and effort on your part.
Also, meth-free sex is a different kind of sex. Instead of the limit-pushing, intense, compulsive, nonstop-pleasure marathons you used to have on crystal, you’ll have normal-ish sex. (If this sounds boring to you, it’s probably because you’re still operating from the perspective of meth-fueled sex as the new norm.)
Imagine charting your pleasure on a scale of 1 to 10. If you think back to your first orgasm, whether having sex with another person or masturbating, it was probably so intense and amazing that it scored off the charts—say, a 15 on a 1 to 10 scale. But, after a few more sexual experiences, each orgasm no longer felt so new and intense. Orgasm leveled off to where it belonged, near the top of the “normal” pleasure scale, close to 10.
Like that first orgasm, the first time you had sex on crystal was off the charts. But it was much higher than a 15 because it created an unnatural physiological state that the human brain could never reach on its own. In short, that first experience of crystal sex was closer to a 60. By comparison, sober sex quickly became unsatisfying. After repeated experiences with 60-level crystal sex, regular sex just felt empty and boring.
It’s important to remember this manifests from the distorted perspective of crystal meth — an expectation of 60-level pleasure that the human brain was never meant to experience. After quitting meth, regular sober sex may continue to feel like a 3 or less for awhile. However, in time, your perspective returns to normal and sober sex begins to feel enjoyable again. Of course, sober sex will never be as intense as that 60 of crystal sex, but it will again become one of your great pleasures in life.
Your brain adjusts. Trust the thousands of meth addicts who successfully quit before you — the 10 of natural sex will not only be “enough” but amazing in its own right, just as it was intended to be.
The One Rule for Sex
So how do you handle sex after quitting meth? There is only one rule as far as I’m concerned: no crystal sex. Here are two opposing strategies that are often associated with crystal meth recovery:
Wait a year. I’ve heard it said in 12 step programs that, if you are not already in a relationship, it’s healthy to stay away from sex for a full year. This gives you time to work on your recovery without the complications of a major trigger.
Don’t wait, but keep it meth-free. On the other hand, in the early days of CMA, it was sometimes suggested that newcomers have sex with members who had some sobriety under their belt — a big offense in most 12 step programs. The rationale was that, if you have sober sex with a newcomer, at least they’re learning to have sober sex and are less likely to relapse. (These were exclusively gay male meetings in Los Angeles.)
One of my friends who has been clean for over ten years put it best, I think. If having sex makes you more likely to use meth, don’t have sex for a while. On the other hand, if not having sex makes you use – that is, you get all pent up from forced abstinence and one day you have an explosion of risky sexual behavior – then do have sex, but without meth.
Mourning the Loss
Regardless, you will probably mourn the loss of meth sex. In Overcoming Crystal Meth Addiction, Steven J. Lee, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in meth addiction, uses the analogy of a “trip to Antarctica with breathtaking sunrises over colossal glistening snow peaks, unlike anything you could see on this planet” as a way to put the loss of crystal sex into perspective.
On an expedition to Antarctica, you face tremendous challenges. Your body and soul take a beating — it’s 20 degrees below zero with fifty-mile-per-hour winds and you get dangerously lost for awhile along the way.
But after this long, difficult and very costly journey, you get to experience something few people ever do: the unseen world of Antarctica. Then, like Dorothy in Kansas, the journey is over and you find yourself back home in the normal, everyday world. But you have an amazing memory to carry with you for the rest of your life.
Lee writes, “the immense physical effort and financial cost to get there remind you that this is a place not meant for humans to see. That makes the memory that much more precious—the realization that you saw the unseeable.”
Once more: Unlike most people in the world, you actually experienced Antarctica and still have (some) amazing memories of the journey. But you’ll never go back. Those once-in-a-lifetime peak experiences are over. “This is an important admission you need to make to yourself,” Lee continues, “because any hidden fantasy that one day you will have meth sex again is a seed that can grow into an uncontrollable craving and a relapse.”
But Meth-Free Sex Feels So Empty
One of the controversial things about my view of recovery is that I suggest marijuana as an “exit” drug, a bridge back to normal-ish sex. Sex with marijuana is not sober sex in the traditional sense — but it isn’t meth sex, either.
Here’s a medical fact: Just because your brain reacts addictively to meth, it does not mean your brain automatically reacts that way to all substances (like, say, marijuana and alcohol). In the old-fashioned model of recovery, you had to stop everything cold turkey and any use of any substance to alter your brain was considered taboo (except sugar, nicotine and caffeine, all of which alter the brain significantly — but let’s not quibble). “An addict is an addict is an addict.” Well, that’s just medically not true. For a detailed discussion of this, see my post, COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT RECOVERY, PART 1.
In evidence-based recovery, we recognize that, for some of us, marijuana isn’t a door leading toward use of heavier substances; rather, it’s a door leading away from heavier substances, like meth and heroin. If you are that person who keeps using again and again because of sex, you might consider trying a different approach, something new.
3 Things to Consider
Sex is tricky — and that’s the understatement of the year. There’s only one thing that I find just about everyone agrees with: a healthy and active sex life is important to happiness.
So given that, here are three final points to consider about meth-free sex:
1.) You were emotionally connected to the meth-fueled sex, not to the other person. It’s a lie that you were “more connected” to your sex partner while using meth. Though you might have been physically connected while having a wild party, it was actually the meth and sex that you were emotionally connected to, not the person. Be honest, your sex partner could have been almost anyone — right? The meth was the crucial element. In meth-free sex, you have the opportunity to experience a genuine emotional connection with another person — something you didn’t get with crystal.
2.) After you get comfortable with meth-free sex, you will be able to have those 10-level experiences again and, most importantly, this will be enough. It’s true. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking “normal” sex is just a weaker, tamer version of that wild beast crystal sex. Because the truth is that non-meth sex is a different animal altogether.
Meth-free sex has its own rewards of intense pleasure that sex on meth will never have. Remember kissing? Remember going slowly, and feeling that warm glow from happiness you felt as you explored your partner? Remember feeling really connected, looking your partner in the eyes and staring deep into their being? Even though you’ll always have your memories of crystal sex, the intense desire to have it again will pass with time. You may have flashbacks and intense memories from time to time, but they will lessen.
3.) What you get to have in recovery are sober experiences—and that includes sex. Relearning how to have sober sex could be a book in itself.
The important thing to keep in mind while having meth-free sex is: give yourself permission to change. Other than using, if you want, you can try everything you did while twacked out on crystal. But, today, you get to try it meth-free. Then, if you find that certain sexual practices don’t work for you anymore, you can, in a sober and respectful way, change those practices.
Recovery is not about making our past behavior wrong. Other than using, it’s fair game to experiment with sex — give it a try sober. You may like it. Or you may feel that certain attitudes toward sex no longer work for the non-meth you. It’s not uncommon for the “no strings attached” sexploits of a person’s using days suddenly to seem empty and hollow because, in recovery, you now want something more meaningful — a “connection” to another person beyond NSA. If this happens to you, then begin looking for more lasting connections in your sex partners.
Sex does again become a peak experience. It’s just that now it’s a 10 at best. Now, it’s what is humanly possible. Sex could be fabulous enough before crystal. It will be again afterwards, too.
You CAN quit crystal meth and have great, hot sex life if that’s important to you. (If sex was never a big part of your meth use, I hope the above didn’t bore you too much.)
No sex next post, promise.