Dealing with Sexual Issues in Recovery

One of the biggest issues that recovering addicts and their partners face in the early days of recovery is sexual intimacy – or the lack of it. While sex may be unpleasant or non-existent for the partner of an addict while he or she is addicted, it is unlikely to get suddenly better the minute the affected individual gets clean. Unfortunately, sexual problems – including premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, and painful intercourse – are quite common in early recovery.

It is worth pointing out that not all issues with sexual intimacy are those of the recovering addict. In many instances, it is the partner of the recovering addict who has various issues that can be causing a problem. Below are a few examples of what could be causing a problem in the bedroom.

The Recovering Addict

  • Hormones – Hormone issues are common among recovering alcoholics and marijuana addicts. Alcohol tends to lower testosterone levels while there may also be in increase in oestrogen due to liver damage. Both alcohol and marijuana abuse can cause feminisation in men, which can persist during early recovery. Thankfully, these issues tend to be temporary, and sexual desire usually returns within a couple of months.
  • Low self-esteem – Many in recovery have very low self-esteem, and they lack the confidence to begin making love again. This can cause a loss of libido as well as contributing to erectile dysfunction in men.
  • Guilt – Many recovering addicts feel guilty about the way they treated their partner while addicted, which can make it difficult to enjoy sex or perform properly. It is not uncommon for those who were addicted to have been unfaithful to a partner while intoxicated, and this could be having an effect on lovemaking.
  • Loss of security blanket – It may be the case that some people were used to having sex while under the influence of certain chemical substances such as alcohol or drugs. That person may now be unable to have sex while sober. He or she could be self-conscious about his/her body or of their ability to please their partner without the security blanket of drugs or alcohol.

The Partner

  • Resentment – Partners of addicts often suffer at the hands of their loved one. While the affected individual was actively addicted, it may have been difficult for a partner on all fronts, and he or she may now feel resentful of their loved one. This can make it hard to enjoy sex.
  • Bad memories – Making love with an addict may not be particularly pleasant, especially if that person was a selfish or abusive lover. It can be difficult for a partner to push these memories to one side and enjoy sexual intimacy now that their loved one is sober.
  • Feeling inadequate – Many partners worry that their loved one will not find them attractive now that this person is sober. Partners of recovering addicts who were unfaithful often feel inadequate and fear that they cannot compare to those their partner had the affair with.
  • Misunderstanding – In the early days, lack of interest in sex is common among recovering addicts. However, many partners take this as a sign that their loved one is not interested in them and so may feel rejected. They misunderstand that this is a normal part of recovery for many individuals and has absolutely nothing to do with them.

Sexual problems are common in early recovery, but they should not be ignored. If these issues are not dealt with, they could persist and then result in both partners feeling anxious. Talk to each other about the issues and remind yourselves that the problems are likely to pass with time. Be patient and work on rebuilding this side of your relationship. Both partners need to be understanding of each other- issues and to remember that sex often becomes better with time.

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