Does recovery from alcoholism mean giving up sex?

Stanton:

I’m struggling to understand the reason there is no intimacy in my relationship with my recovering alcoholic.

Sexual intimacy was abandoned when he stopped drinking and began recovery.

He has been in recovery a little more than 13 months, and attends 8-9 meetings a week.

I do not discuss my need for intimacy as in the past he becomes extremely defensive. When we last talked he responded that he may never be functional and my response was when you are ready you’ll know.

No pressure. This was about 3 months ago. We do not discuss needs or wants, it’s a “not open to discussion” topic.

Is this typical in relationships of recovering alcoholics?

Is this lack of “desire” something that occurs during recovery or is it symptoms of something else.

I know the percentage of relationships that survive the early years of recovery are not very promising. We have been together for 4 years.

Any light you may shed would be appreciated.

R


Dear R:

There is no technical reason why someone who stops drinking should cease sexual relations. Indeed, you would expect that this would make a person more capable of sex.

In this case, it seems as though the total commitment to the recovery group has removed his motivation from intimate contacts with you.

I assume this goes beyond sex to the broader range of intimacies.

Perhaps he is simply feeling afraid and guilty.

Perhaps he is turning away from you because of anxieties and conflicts which he used to cover up with alcohol.

Thirteen months is a long time, and one would expect him to have readjusted to his new sobriety. Obviously, the fear and danger is that he can only have sex while he is drinking, which makes you a potential source of breaking his vows of sobriety. That’s not a good position to occupy.

The simple answer is that he needs to confront basic problems in the relationship that AA is not addressing, and that, indeed, AA may be covering up.

How to get him to see this is not simple.

You point out that bringing it up directly with him does not produce a positive response. On the other hand, because he had to stop drinking does not mean that you have to stop living your life.

It can’t be recovery when the person an alcoholic lives with is supposed to give up her needs. I suspect that, in many ways, this is a continuation of your relationship while he was drinking, where his needs predominated.

If he can’t respond directly to you, suggest going to counseling together. If he cannot respond at all, ask yourself how long you can continue a relationship without intimacy.

In other words, if you went to a therapist and said you were in a relationship where you didn’t have sex for a year, the therapist would say you have a problem. You do have a problem.

Best regards,

Stanton


Dear Stanton:

The lady asking about sex after treatment is not alone in her experience. They did that to my ex-husband in treatment too.

I am an engineer not a psychologist or anthropologist. However I watched an AA based treatment program at Kaiser break communication between my husband and myself by labeling me co-dependent, give him the message that he was not supposed to have sex (the therapist told us our marriage was an “enmeshment”), and finally FORCE him into a sober living house by threatening him with child protective services though he had not hit either of the children.

They systematically removed him from his family support and feedback.

Sounds like a cult to me.

Elizabeth

Stanton Peele

Dr. Stanton Peele, recognized as one of the world's leading addiction experts, developed the Life Process Program after decades of research, writing, and treatment about and for people with addictions. Dr. Peele is the author of 14 books. His work has been published in leading professional journals and popular publications around the globe.

Comments

  • Lacey A Fox says:

    My husband quit drinking on his own after 20+ years of drinking. We’re only 36. We have no sex life or anything now. I don’t get it 🙁 I feel so…. Unwanted. But I’m proud of him for quitting. I feel like I’m lacking something. We had a lot of sex when he drank. But he also cheated for the whole seven years. So, idk. I guess it’s just me.

  • Lmnop says:

    This thread was knarly to read. I suppose I agree fifty/fifty with what I have read (some of them I don’t want to agree with and makes me sad). I was hoping for some hopeful vibes as I embark on this scary, lonely journey. Quitting any habit is hard as they say “you can’t teach an do dog new tricks.” Drinking is especially hard because it messes with your mental state in such a way you really don’t realize it until fifteen years later and your sober and scared to go to the store and talk to people you don’t know, scared to be around your family and friends. I’ve been telling my significant other that I want to quit (been two weeks sober now); but that I could never have another drink for the rest of my life but the memories of my dumbassery from drinking will always be there. How can I expect him to still love me when I have been so hurtful to him and selfish and lying/ hiding drinking alcohol. There are no excuses for my behavior just habit. I’d get mad, stressed, super excited, I’d drink.. now I pace not sure what to do with my self. Scared to make love to him. I’m just scared. I don’t want to fail!!!
    Thanks for reading. have a blessed day.

  • Joe says:

    I have been with my wife for 18 years. We have a boy and girl in middle school and one in high school. When we met in NYC we were both heavy drinkers. Early in the marriage I slowed on the drinking but she kept going. I soon realized that the only time she wanted to have sex was when she had alcohol. Fast forward to today and she a binge blackout alcoholic. Sometime I feel like I live in a psych ward and I am the man in the white coat. I stopped drinking two years ago so the kids would have at least one sober parent when they came home from school. My daughter said when she goes away to college she will not be coming home for the summer. She’s in eight grade. Today when my wife is drinking she is a total sex kitten and will do all kinds of crazy things including anal. I have no interest when she’s drinking and she has no interest when she’s sober. Plus when we do have sex and she has been drinking she has no memory of it. After hearing a number the saddest stories I’ve ever heard at a few Al-Anon meetings, I no longer think that she will ever stop drinking. I see things clearer now. Affairs, massage parlors, and divorce are on my horizon.

  • R.P. says:

    I stumbled upon this because I was hoping to seek some answers to my recently lost libido. I will have 90 days sober in 1 week. I had self-enrolled into IOP because AA was never a great fit for me.

    I was really at a loss to see all the bashing and hate. While it won’t discourage me one bit to remain on my path of sobriety, there seems to be a lot of unresolved bitterness in these replies.

    I cannot speak for other alcoholics, but I can speak for myself. I am absolutely in love with my wife, and she knows that.

    I was hoping for some good advice because it seems as though our libidos have completely swapped. I can tell it is frustrating for her, and it frustrates me as well. I guess I will have to find some solutions somewhere less hostile and hateful.

    That said, I do hope everyone here has found some peace in their lives.

  • T says:

    My s/o and I got together dec.2017. He and I have known each other since high school. He was drinking a gallon of 100 proof vodka a day or more. 6 months in there were issues but amazing live life he worshipped me and made me feel like I never thought I could. He had alcohlic related seisures and almost died on me. I stayed. I supported him and we have been thru so much. He still drinks beer (6 a day usually or more) and we haven’t had sex in 6 months. He has absolutely no desire for it at all. Worse he doesn’t pay me any mind. He doesn’t love on me touch me kiss me it’s always me initiating any kind d of love. Forget sex I mean it’s dead and gone. I am lonely a lot and sexually frustrated. These post made me cry. I can not imagine my life without him he is my best friend hands down. But I’m in need. Starving. And he doesn’t notice. He said he would get help but expects that it’s my responsibility to make the appt. I feel like it’s like hes saying well you want it not me so you fix it…. I am feeling like we are at the crossroads. I have dealt with this s**t for a year. Sex is a nonexistent thing that used to be amazing. I miss him.
    Lost and unloved~

  • Unknown says:

    It’s been about a month since I stopped drinking. Im a 24 yr old female. While drinking my sex drive was high, I loved sex with my partner. I still do. But now, I feel like I can’t even get horny. I hope this doesn’t affect our relationship.

  • agree with gonzo kinda says:

    I kinda have to agree with Gonzo. Because if you established a relationship with an alcoholic, he was probably affected by the alcohol. As a sober person, his way of being will be different, and you might not like him when he’s sober. I would add that he might not like himself either when he’s sober… and he might not like you either…which is what i found out. I’m having trouble leaving him, but I will and I think it is for the best. So you have to decide how much you love this person. Is it conditional or unconditional. Is he disrespecting you constantly…how much betrayal and neglect can you withstand.

  • Dee says:

    I have been in a relationship for six he has always treated me very good we had sex everyday and it was great. About 4 weeks ago he stopped drinking alcohol and we have only had sex one time he says he loves me and still holds me and kisses me I am confused is this normal

  • Heldy says:

    I’m in outpatient rehab. What happens to the brain while in recovery is pretty wild, one being that because we raised the bar on what it takes to get a dopamine hit, once you quit drinking, getting to that level is impossible until that “normal” level drops back down. This can take 12-18 months. I’m hopeful my sex drive will return. I’m 3 months in.

  • Sarah says:

    So my husband has been drinking every single day for the last 13 years and finally I told him he either changes or I leave a few weeks ago. He has went from drinking 8-10 beers a week night and at least 15 or more on weekends to one tall boy a night. Before when he was drinking as heavy as he was, we had sex at least 3 times a week, usually more to only twice in the last 3 weeks. Is this normal or what? I’m so confused, I haven’t mentioned anything about it to him because I don’t want to start a fight but I don’t understand what’s going on. I’m hoping he’s not upset with me for telling him to change or I leave and that’s the reason why, he said that he was ready for a change and he’s tired of being drunk every night and till he goes to bed. I am just looking for some insight on whether dramatically reducing the amount that you’re drinking has anything to do with sex drive or if we have another problem that we need to figure out.

  • CW says:

    I am a male who has always had a strong sex drive. I would typically drink on the weekends (usually only a six pack on Friday or Saturday). A year and a half ago, I went through some marriage problems. I began drinking anywhere from a 12 pack to 18 pack of light beer every day for a year and a half. The sex drive was there until a few days ago when I quit drinking. I feel content. I go to the gym and stay active. I spend a lot of time with my son. I am more focused and I feel great. I don’t attend any AA meetings or see a specialist. However, since quitting, I have absolutely no urge to have sex with my current partner. We had a great sex life and now it is the last thing on my mind. This is concerning me, as I am 31 years old and very healthy. I hope this can help give a little insight from the male perspective.

  • Amanda Dwyer says:

    Funny how people really think that recovery involves a bunch of alcoholics together talking about how they are victims. Do not believe that. It is actually quite the opposite. Teaches accountability and personal responsibility in every situation. I’ve actually been through this though. Low libido is really a common side effect and it’s hard not to take it personally. That once was the only type of intimacy we shared it’s different now. Not near as much sex but I had to remember not to take it personally. We sometimes fail to realize everything changes when someone gets sober. And not always to our expectations. Good luck.

  • Jonny says:

    Don’t listen to gonzo. She is so wrong on so many different levels, it’s terrifying that people actually think this way, good luck to u!

  • Jonny says:

    I’m a recovering alcoholic and not only are you wrong on so many different levels, you are rude, offensive, and clearly ha e zero credibility to be giving any advice. This person is having aa real problem that you are not helping with. It seems to me that you have had a rough go with alcoholics and have dealt with the very real issues we face in an extremely ignorant, hurtful, and concerning manner. I think you need some meant help to cope with your past issues with alcoholics and I would advise you to stop attempting to give advice as I’m sure professionals would say it us extremely counterproductive. Thank you, I hope this message finds you

  • Jose says:

    I agree! AA is a fraud. It’s a little club where abusers hang together and act like victims of others, themselves and alcohol. Poor victims.
    Best thing you can do … get rid of the abuser. They’ll never, ever change. They’ll give you the bla bla, the promise, promise, and the I need I need. What another person needs … is irrelevant!!! So if you have needs … and want them met … yep – the only ways to find yourself a non-alcoholic!!! I did! :-)))

  • ThisAgain says:

    I’m in a similar situation as the original poster, only on a much shorter timeline. Last week I found my husband hiding bottles from me. I am not a silent enabler, so we talked about it the second he woke up. I confronted him, told him to go to AA and get a sponsor – he did both within 4 days and he has been very open/communicative with me about the meetings and the process.
    However…. in the last several months I have been less interested in sex because he usually smelled like alcohol. Now that he doesn’t smell like booze I’m interested in sex again – and he doesn’t want to kiss me, hold my hand, touch me at all. It’s very odd. He’s always been an affectionate person so this is a pretty major shift in behaviour.
    Granted, we are only one week into his sobriety, so this might be a very long and slow process. But I had assumed that alcohol was *preventing* us from feeling close. The idea that we would struggle to be close WITHOUT alcohol is something that never occurred to me.
    In response to Gonzo’s comment – I’m not 100% on board with AA either, and I do think there is a certain amount of indoctrination that requires healthy skepticism. But I do think that AA provides a support network where one is needed. No one can face addiction alone. If you can’t go through it “together” then you feel lost at sea. The pros outweigh the cons on this one.

  • Lin says:

    I’ve recently been experiencing a similar issue with my boyfriend. When we started dating over a year ago, he was always drinking hard liquor, we’d have sex every day. Now he has been sober roughly three weeks (he was drinking wine to assist in getting off hard liquor) and we’ve had sex only once during that first week.. Of course here I sit thinking ‘it’s me’ – I’ve asked him what’s up and he tells me not to worry about it.. :*(

  • Linda Lou Who says:

    Hi…
    I was married to a man who smoked marijuana. We were married for 30 yrs. When it wore off he was mean. I thought he finally gave it up. He was a closet smoker and drinker. He was very abusive. It took me all this time to get away from him. It was hard. The best thing I ever did for myself was cut off communication with him completely. Yes he does find out about me through my children. My life with him was so painful. I was divorced for two yrs when I met Dave. Dave was a wonderful alcoholic. I wasn’t aware of the drinking problem, until we dated for 6 mo. Then I realised it was a big problem. We have been together 1 yr and 3 months when things got pretty bad. He had been telling me he had feelings for me and wanted to move in with me. I had been considering it before things went south. He knew I had a nice home. I own nice furnishings. I told him I had strong feelings for him and I thought I loved him. At the same time I was also saying I really didn’t know if I was looking for anything. Because of my previous marriage I was gun shy [I didn’t say this to him though]. But as soon as I let him know I cared, he became abusive. He distanced himself then would want to spend time with me. He would say things like he told me I looked younger than was because he knew it was what I wanted to hear. He doesn’t know me to well, because I appreciate honesty. He brought another woman who had money into the picture and acted like they are seeing each other. If any man showed me any attention. His jealousy would go through the roof. The next day I would be blamed for his bad. He would want the key to his locked fence back. Dave tried to get me to pay for his debts his booze and dates. I’m not hard up I can get plenty of dates. I didn’t pass any of his what can you do for me tests. I just showed him love and compassion even when it was undeserved. Finally I mailed him his keys and told him to never call me again. I changed my phone number. Because he would call and I would start to have an anxiety attack. No the sex wasn’t good. He was having trouble getting an erection and the penis looked as if it had been broken at some time. His feet stunk. He wasn’t big on bathing. I think he likes his alone time with his bottle more than anyone could ever imagine. He had told me many times that I would be changing his diaper in the future. I know this is going to sound like I’m crazy, but I had been crying over letting him go. It wasn’t really what I wanted. However it was hard enough to endure his lies and his abusive behavior toward me. When he began blaming me for his behavior like telling me he couldn’t stand how jealous I was of him, my continual lies, ect. it became to unbearable. He acted as though he hated me. It has been 3 mo. Absolutely no contact. I am feeling better. I know I’ve done the right thing. Yes I know he has a problem. No one can fix it but him. It took a lot to pull myself out of the stink I got myself into.

    Thanks for listening

  • gonzo says:

    Dear R,
    the reason there is no intimacy with your partner is that he is screwed in the head. you probably started a “relationship” with this person because he was looped on alcohol and appeared jovial, outgoing and excited to be with you. Alcohol is what made it appear that way. the way he is sober after months of “sobriety”, that’s the way he is. There is nothing else to hope for, there never was anything to hope for in the first place. The guy was probably horny and entered the relationship inebriated just to get some tail. There was never any higher spiritual needs being fulfilled . They don’t long for connection as they are selfish and egomaniacs. They can’t think big but for themselves. You are probably not “good enough” for him, even though he acts like he’s done you wrong and doesn’t want to talk about it. It’s all BS. They screw up and try to turn the table around and will through some sort of mental gymnastic try to blame you for their actions. They are hypocrites and irresponsible. They are false and not truthful. You need to protect yourself from these F***s and keep them as far away from you as possible. they are like tumors that need to be cut off. that is the only true solution if you want to have a fulfilling and decent life. A problem on their end does not mean a responsibility or obligation on your end.
    Now that you know that you will be walking down the path you chose with open eyes. You have no excuses, you are responsible for your choices. Do not come crying if stuff hits the fan, which it will, and try to behave as if an act of nature has hit you. Just throw them some peanuts once in a while.
    Out of three horses born, one is good for slaughter, one is good for a pleasure horse, and one can go to the races. An alcoholic is in the first category. We don’t do that to humans but don’t hope for a racing life if your mate is a turkey. Nature is not perfect, it’s not their fault, it’s not your fault, it just is. Accept it or suffer.

  • gonzo says:

    Elizabeth, AA is a fraud. it’s a little club where abusers hang together and act like victims of others, themselves and alcohol. it’s a door to the dark world which they so love. it is playing with temptation and people. Alcoholics suck as people, they are petty and lousy and mostly don’t want to change. AA is just a maintenance system so they really won’t have to change. Poor victims. I suggest you tell “your” alcoholic to go suck an egg. They’re phony hypocrites and are lost for humanity and definitely you. cut your losses, take the one time-pain of your lost dreams and hopes and wait till life sends you a good person that is not a hypocrite. For cathartic measure, do spit on the drunk that has spit on you for years. you will regain the powers the vile drunk stole from you. Remember they did all that selfishly to feel good, to feel good about themselves, to have power etc… not an ounce of consideration for anyone around. Take it back.

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