Sober Sex Part One: Inhibited and Tongue Tied

Sober sex dance


I have a confession to make. I felt sexier when I was drinking. That is not to say I was sexier when I was drunk, but I felt more attractive. And as a single woman, there is no question I was more daring, friendlier and more approachable. I haven’t had a drink in over two years, but I still feel a bit awkward in social situations, like I don’t know what to do with my hands. And some of the hijinks I got up to, with the fellows my friends called “inappropriate men,” would flat-out never happen now that I’m sober.


Open Air Affair…

As I write this, I am sitting in my best friend’s house in Puerto Rico. She is one of the aforementioned people who used to ask with genuine confusion, “What in the world do you see in him?” Or, “When did you learn to salsa dance?”. We went to a cantina yesterday. One of those open air affairs with lattice roofing, picnic tables and sand floors. It was getting ready to pour and the hostess insisted we sit at the back side of a horseshoe shaped bar. It was as far away from the impending storm as she could put us.


The issue for me was not the rain, but the tempest of emotions I felt, nestled near what was perhaps the largest cocktail blender in the Caribbean. Churning out liquid courage, with an orange/cherry garnish, to the other patrons at the bar. The easy banter with strangers (getting easier and more repetitive with every Rum Rita) is no longer comfortable for me. Especially belly up to a bar top with a plentiful display of liquor I can’t touch.


Alcohol is an Ice Breaker

I do not know a single woman with a drinking problem, who has not had a sexual peccadillo, or several, while under the influence. Alcohol disrupts the normal flow of neurotransmitters across the brain’s cortex and the first thing we lose are the inhibitions our sober cortex would normally keep in check. Alcohol gives us false confidence. We begin to talk more, emote more and our better judgement is impaired. This causes us to dirty dance with sailors on shore-leave, perform impromptu lap-dances on our spouses, and think we look hot when we absolutely do not.


Conversely, I have heard from many women in recovery that they feel a bit like wallflowers without the requisite glass of wine in their hands. It feels more difficult to initiate conversation. There is an awkwardness, even with long term partners. And when intimacy does happen, it feels so excruciatingly real. Sober sex can be such a foreign concept that a newly sober, sexual encounter can seem about as sultry as a doctor’s surgery – all bright lights and sterile gauze. Think about it – the senses that have been deliberately deadened (in my case for most of my adult life), are suddenly exposed and vulnerable to another person.


I think this is one of the main reasons women overdrink: to feel more attractive and uninhibited. It was certainly my motivation. A quick, painful perusal of my old partying photographs disproves the theory that drinking actually boosts one’s appearance. My God, I look like Medusa on a bad night in most of them, and the strangers, with whom I am locked in chummy embrace, look like cast extras from a Mad Max movie. I am not exaggerating…


The Good News

Here’s the good news: as with all things sober, it gets better. When the fake bravado of alcohol is removed, common sense and sensation steps in. What a concept:


  • Where you were bawdy, you become reserved
  • Sloppy turns to well-coiffed
  • Bad decisions about sexual partners seem to take a well needed hike
  • You remember where you were, who you were with and what you did
  • Meet interesting people
  • Are watchful instead of watched (with horrified amusement)
  • You feel great
  • And are more attuned to all sensation, so sober sex is actually better.

Reinventing Ourselves…

One of the great things about recovery from alcoholism, is that we all have the chance to reinvent ourselves: to fill the hours we used to drink ourselves into oblivion, with meaningful life experiences. I had a great time at the cantina, by the way. There was a handsome guy across the bar and I smiled at him (and he smiled back), I ate delicious food (something I forgot to do when I was a drunk) and I spent quality time with someone who matters to me. I did not feel the need to prove myself.


As I walk this rocky path to full recovery, I learn every day that being in the now – even when it is uncomfortable or a bit exposed – is the only way to live. Does that sound corny? I don’t care, it’s fabulous to feel real emotions. To hang out with people who really care about me. To experiment with new found sensation, even when it is raw. It’s like finding a $20 bill in a winter coat pocket or going to my closet and being able to fit into the skinny pants I haven’t been able to wear for five years – another benefit of sobriety.


I say, “Bring it on!” Bright lights and all…


Coming soon – Sober Sex Part Two: Who is this Stranger in my Bed?




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after marilyn head shot bio

Marilyn Spiller is a viral writer, recovery coach, and recovery advocate. She is the Marketing Director at Sanford, responsible for written and creative content, website design, new media, promotions, subscriber outreach, and SEO. Excursions Magazine is a particular source of pride; it serves a wide range of readers, and “excursion” has become part of the company vernacular, describing Sanford’s signature experiential outings for those in treatment. She also developed and hosts the podcast Anatomy of Addiction and is Vice President of the Board of JACK Mental Health Advocacy.