Q: I stopped using crystal meth more than two years ago, and my sex life has never been the same since then. Crystal made sex awesome! It took away all of my inhibitions. I went places I’d never gone before. It was the hottest, wildest, nastiest sex I ever had. I’d go all night, sometimes even for a couple of days. I quit using because it was wrecking my life. By the end, I was starting to hear voices. I lost my job, and I was too paranoid to go out of the apartment, even to buy food. So, yes, I will always be grateful that I was able to stop. After I got into recovery, I went for a few months without much sex, although now I have it pretty regularly. I like it, but it’s just not the same! I can’t get as wild and lost in it as I did when I was high, and I really miss that. If I could have crystal sex without all the other problems, I’d do it in a minute. What do you say to that?
A: I say that I believe you, and I appreciate the fact that you’re honest about what you’re feeling. Gay guys have been telling me for years that tina opened them up to the core of their erotic life, and that it enabled them to live out desires and fantasies they’d never experienced before. Even “crystal dick” was apparently a small price to pay for the level of overwhelming excitement they felt.
People take drugs because they get something they like from them. Crystal meth, as you discovered, tends to fry brains and destroy lives. I support anyone in staying away from it, and believe we’d all be much better off if this scourge were completely eliminated from our communities. Most people experience great relief when they’re finally able to get free from bondage to it.
But it would be dishonest to claim that there is no upside to being high. Being high facilitates an intensity that just doesn’t happen without an artificially-induced explosion of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin in the brain. Some people do find that, after they quit using, they can learn to “go there” sexually without the drug. But others tell me candidly that they have never been able, sober, to have the level of sexual intensity that they had when they were high, and that they sometimes miss the “good old days”—even while simultaneously being grateful to have escaped from a dangerous and potentially deadly addiction.
Unfortunately, recovery isn’t all freedom, joy, and gratitude. A lot of it is hard work, and that hard work frequently involves going through a mourning process. You really do have to accept that you’re saying goodbye to intense experiences that you enjoyed, and that you’re sometimes very unhappy about that. There’s no point, and no need, to pretend otherwise. In my experience with gay guys in recovery over the last thirty-five years, most are more likely to be able to stay away from speed if they aren’t censured for openly admitting that they mourn what they had to leave behind in order to get clean.
I see maturity and realism in the fact that you can recognize you had to get off a drug that was destroying your life, while still admitting that you highly valued some of its effects. I’m also glad to hear that you have been able to have a sexual life in sobriety. You might be able to appreciate it more if you avoid thinking of your crystal experiences as the gold standard against which all other sexual experiences are to be measured.
There really are many kinds of sexual experiences—hot, warm; relaxed, intense; the pleasure of sex with a loved partner and the excitement of sex with a hot stranger; the ecstasy of merging in love; the thrills of role-playing and fantasy—and all of the “flavors” have their own rewards. It’s natural to miss what you can’t have anymore, but that doesn’t have to be a problem as long as you also stay open, curious, and attentive about what you’re moving toward. You know a lot about sexual intensity. Maybe there are sexual subtleties you have yet to explore.
Tom Moon is a psychotherapist in San Francisco. For more information, please visit his website http://tommoon.net/