If you combined sex and crystal, sober sex might seem overwhelming at first. But thousands of recovering tweakers have relearned how to have healthy—even hot—sex without crystal. It’s just going to take some time and effort.
Like it or not, the reality is sexual desires often come roaring back in the form of fantasies or cravings. Anything to escape the boredom, right?
First, the harsh fact: Life without meth means life without meth-fueled sex. It’s okay, even necessary for some, to mourn this loss.
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, sober 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 sex. If this sounds boring to you, it’s just because you’re still operating from the perspective of meth-fueled sex.
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 felt empty and boring and on the 1 to 10 scale, sober sex probably rated a 3 or less.
It’s important to remember this 3 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.
So how do you handle sex in sobriety? There is only one rule: no crystal sex. Here are two opposing ideas…
Wait a year. I’ve heard it said in CMA 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 sober. 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 “no-no” in AA circles. 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 with crystal sex. (These were mostly gay male meetings in Los Angeles.)
One of my friends who’s been clean for over five 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 risky sexual behavior – then do have sex.
Mourning the Loss
Regardless, you will mourn the loss of crystal sex. In Overcoming Crystal Meth Addiction, Steven J. Lee, M.D., a psychiatrist who specializes in 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 the 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 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 crystal sex again is a seed that can grow into an uncontrollable craving and a relapse.”
You’ll have to grieve the loss and accept it—or else risk relapse.
Remember the stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. These are applicable to your grief over losing crystal sex forever. Denial: I don’t have to think of “not-having crystal sex” as a forever thing. Anger: I want to have that experience again, damn it. Bargaining: I can have crystal sex for one night a month, right? Depression: No, I can’t because crystal doesn’t do one-night stands. Acceptance: Since I don’t want crystal to ruin my life, I’ll have to give up crystal sex forever, which is a worthy exchange.
Sex is tricky. And that’s the understatement of the year. There’s only one thing that’s certain: a healthy and active sex life is important to happiness.
So given that, here are three final points to consider about sober sex:
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. The meth was the crucial element. In sober sex, you have the opportunity to experience a genuine emotional connection with another person—something you didn’t get with crystal.
After you get comfortable with sober sex, you will be able to have those 10-level experiences again and, most importantly, that 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 sober sex is a different animal altogether. Sober 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.
What you get to have in sobriety are sober experiences—and that includes sex. Relearning how to have sober sex could be a book in itself. The main tenets are: don’t use no matter what and give yourself permission to change. Other than using, if you want, you can try everything you did while thwacked out on crystal. But, today, you get to try it sober. 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.
Sobriety is not about making our past behavior wrong. Other than using, it’s fair game to experiment with your experience—give it a try sober. You may like it. Or you may feel that certain attitudes toward sex no longer work for the sober 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 sobriety, you now want something more meaningful—a “connection” to another person beyond NSA. If this happens to you, then, in a sober and respectful way, begin looking for more lasting connections.
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 still. Learning strategies to better maximize the possibility of truly quitting is what this blog is about. I hope it’s helped. Peace.
[This blog post was adapted from the book Quitting Crystal Meth: What to Expect & What to Do, available at Amazon worldwide.]