Finding Sexual Freedom in Sobriety

I thought that once I was in recovery, I would be able to have sex like a healthy adult human. I would find ” the one”, and we would be on the same page sexually and enjoy the same things and talk and be honest, open, practice safe sex…

Once I was not wasted all the time, I would be able to embrace all things adult and foster amazing relationships.

I was in my thirties and I was going to rock the heck out of my newly found umpteenth chance at life.

Fast forward to reality: newly sober and a newborn baby within days of each other. I was a mess. The baby’s dad was my dealer. There was no genuine relationship there, it was all based in using.

I had never had a healthy relationship. Ever.

For as long as I could remember, I had used sex as tool.

I had little-to-no self esteem and giving people what I thought they wanted was “easier.”

As my addictions progressed, my risky sexual behaviors did as well. I was doing things, knowing that if I did A, I could get B. And I kept at it until I was living in the streets, jumping in and out of cars in Chinatown to support my habits and day-to-day survival. During that period, there were many occasions where I did not do those things by choice.

Threat, force, or oftentimes just fear of violence governed my decision to be compliant.

In active addiction, I didn’t have the capacity for physical pleasure other than the chemically-derived variety. I was broken, sick, scared to be alone and on a mission to die. Sex was only a means to an end to me.

Newly sober, I was all alone with my baby and I was okay with that. I didn’t want to be touched by anyone or deal with their drama or baggage. I just wanted to heal.

I was going to stay out of sexual relationships. And for the first time in my life, I did, for a while. I started to work on myself with therapy and some other tools. I did lots of writing and soul searching. I shared those deep dark secrets and I shared some ones that weren’t so secret, just to acknowledge them. I touched on so many things. It was liberating.

When I met a nice guy in recovery, I wanted nothing to do with him sexually.

He was kind and funny and he had beautiful green eyes. He treated me and my baby well. His mom liked me. But I was set. I wanted to heal. We had a nice, adult conversation about my choice to heal. I figured he’d leave me alone once he realized I was not going to sleep with him.

But he didn’t leave.

That’s when I realized I could make the choices that were right for me. I was getting stronger and healthier. I cared about myself. I was building up self-esteem and self-worth. It felt amazing.

After the better part of a year, I decided when I was ready to be intimate. We had so many talks leading up to it. I was afraid it would be mechanical, or that I would hate him or be resentful. Intimacy was going to have to be almost entirely on my terms. I had to work up to freeing myself from the decades of sexual toxicity. I was terrified.

Would I enjoy sex and feel like a woman who was choosing enjoy her body or would I still feel like a paid companion?

I was overwhelmed. I spent lots of time fostering my relationship and I was sure I wanted to take this step. I just didn’t know if I was ready to  handle it. I had built my walls up from the inside out. To allow physical intimacy would be to bare my soul all over again. I had never taken the time to think about that before. I always just acted. I wanted what I wanted and sex was the quickest way. This was the opposite of that.

The day I made the decision to move forward, I felt so whole, so healthy, so empowered. I could choose what to do with my body. I had never been able to do that in my entire life. I could do it now though!!

In the end, it wasn’t all fireworks and stars, and we had plenty of embarrassing moments. But I knew I’d be okay and I was.

Being able to let go of all those ideals of what it was supposed to be and letting the relationship develop into what it is has been one of the greatest gifts in recovery.

I can say I don’t want to have sex. He can say he doesn’t want to. We can decide what feels okay today or what doesn’t and just because it was okay to do yesterday doesn’t mean it’s okay today. But up until that point, I had never experienced the “choice.”

When I was using, I allowed that choice to be taken from me. I did not make safe healthy decisions. Being sober and recovering allows me to make that choice. I deserve that choice. We all do.

Nicole is an East Coast mama in long-term recovery. A survivor of all the things, she is a fierce advocate for women, loves the “f-word,” practices kindness, and loves patchwork. Nicole is a newly single mom living north of Boston with her two sons.

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