Right before the holidays this year, I celebrated a personal milestone: two years of sobriety. This is young in sober years, and I’m still taking the shaky first steps into a life without alcohol.
Drinking had provided freedom from the anxieties I felt of just existing, and now I am relearning everything.
There are two topics our culture hates talking about: sex and addiction. Because we don’t talk about sex in a constructive way, misinformation is spread by pornography and popular culture. Addicts are conveyed as people who have lost everything, deserving to exist on the fringes of society. If more honest conversations were had about these topics growing up rather than public service announcements and school assemblies, maybe my experience would’ve been less isolating.
I was an awkward and bookish kid who went to speech therapy and had obsessive compulsive disorder. I never fully understood the actions of the kids around me.
I was drinking by the time I was 15 and bingeing by 17. I found footing with an alternative crowd, building up a hard-shell bravado I hoped hid how scared I actually was. College made excessive drinking comfortable, and the days spent sober became a rarity. Knocking a few back was normalized, and for someone desperately wanting to seem tougher and more self-assured, an easy crutch to lean on.
Fast forward a decade and change, and I was a full-fledged functional alcoholic. I held meaningful jobs. I had great relationships with family and friends. I drank bottles of wine and whiskey. I dutifully paid my bills on time. I was put together and marginally successful. I made dumb and dangerous choices — but only sometimes. At 34, I found myself staring at my doctor in disbelief when she suggested I start attending Alcoholics Anonymous.
I tried it, went twice, hated it, never returned. I instead sobered up by relying heavily on the support from my family and friends and by working to make my own amends with the people hurt by my habit.
Society’s view of women alcoholics and addicts is skewed by the media and imbued with so much shame. I realized very quickly I had my own ingrained bias against women alcoholics, and was guilty for buying into this distorted trope. I didn’t look or act like “those” women, but talking about it was too uncomfortable. Maybe this is why the demographic that has seen the greatest increase in alcohol-related deaths are women.
Giving up alcohol, I was prepared for a huge change in habits and social dynamics. Being sober meant feeling every inch of that unsure and awkward person I had been drinking so much to get away from.
But I was blindsided on how it affected my sex life.
Alcohol provided me with the guts to feel sexy about myself, and to express that to someone else. I didn’t know how to initiate intercourse sober. It was like when someone is taking a photo of you and you have no clue what to do with your hands — but with sex.
I married my husband a few months before sobering up, and all of a sudden I had no clue how to interact sexually with him. Thankfully, he is supportive and patient as I continuously fumble to figure this all out.
I realized that I had depended on alcohol to ease social interactions as well as sexual interactions. It is insanely hard to feel aroused when you are overwhelmed with not knowing how to act.
My entire sexual history exists because of alcohol.
I realized I didn’t know how to engage with my partner sober because I had hardly ever done so. Part of relearning everything was acknowledging how I felt in my own body.
I found I didn’t trust myself or understand my body, but hardest of all was realizing how little I liked myself. The complete un-sexiness of all of this was horrible and for a while, extremely isolating.
This is why I choose to open up about being an alcoholic. Talking about my experience has helped me understand what being an alcoholic looks like and means, and hopefully provide support and insight to others.
I am an alcoholic, and I refuse to be anonymous.