Sex and Booze: The Surprising Things I Learned From Being a Sex Worker and Recovering Alcoholic
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“You’re kidding!” I yelled out. “I’m sober, too!” Then after a beat: “This is what we do now, huh?”
One of my low points came when I posed an ad for breast play (one of my fetishes) and received a response from a guy I recognized from my AA group. He was at least 30 years older than me and had 17 years sober. I knew I should have left well enough alone but my disease drove me to email him back. “I know you!” I typed winkingly. When I identified myself, I think a part of me was hoping he would tell me to get myself to a meeting, that what I was doing wasn’t a good idea.
Of course, he wanted to meet instead. I went to his workplace and took my top off in the boiler room, where he touched me and I attempted to give him oral sex while he remained completely flaccid. I wasn’t aroused, either, and felt dirty afterward. I couldn’t go back to that meeting that had been a touchstone of my sobriety. I had violated my one safe place.
So I eventually made my way into the 12-step sex rooms—and found them full of guys I knew from AA. It makes sense—people in one 12-step program are more likely to enter another, but it is also pretty scary to see guys with double-digit sobriety struggling to get a week free of acting out sexually. For a lot of us, the problem worsens when we stop drinking—the notorious whack-a-mole of addiction transferring. You hear it over and over again there—getting sober from alcohol and drugs is a cakewalk compared to the sex issue. Its tentacles just run so deep—for many of us, the behaviors are linked to childhood trauma and started long before our drinking and using.
I continue to struggle, putting together eight months, then 90 days, before ending up back on Craigslist—which I now see as a breeding ground for sober sex addicts. But I keep coming back.
And that’s the bright spot in all of this. Whether they’re in a sex program or not, the sober men I have acted out with almost always come to their senses eventually. They’re decent people who fall but get back up. During my most recent slip, I met a guy who was 10 years sober with a wife and young daughter. We got hot and heavy, exchanging emails and texts constantly, but we only met up twice before he told me he couldn’t do it anymore. “I can’t reconcile what I’m doing with being the kind of father I want to be,” he told me, before adding that he knew he wasn’t behaving in a sober manner and vowing to rededicate himself to meetings. Then he deleted his email address and I never heard from him again.
There’s sexual sickness in AA, but there’s recovery, too. I just hope I get there one day.
Emma Lee is the pseudonym for a writer living in New York City.