I Can’t Love You If I Am Sober

There’s nothing like reading a bit of revealing social discourse that shows us who we are, as well as who we are not. I especially love it when the talking and the finger pointing are directed towards other people and not me.

For most of my fellow Australians, and probably for most other people around the world, dating and drinking go hand in hand. Pubs and clubs set the scene for hook-ups. First dates invariably occur at a bar where we can use a glass or a bottle as a prop to give us courage and take the edge off understandable nervousness.

But according to at least one sex therapist, what might begin as a form of social lubrication can quickly spiral into sexual dysfunction. And I am not talking about an inability to perform. Which leads me to reveal a remarkable and in some ways shocking social observation. There has been a significant rise in the number of couples who have never experienced sober sex. No, I am not kidding.

As one Sex Therapist disclosed it wasn’t in any way unusual for her to meet couples that only ever have sex after they drink alcohol or take drugs. It doesn’t seem to matter if they are having sex for the first time or they’ve been together for years. It might develop into a committed relationship but they only ever have sex after some form of substance abuse.

Sex therapists say they’ve seen this problem escalate over the past two years. The question, of course, is why? Why is this happening? Is it because drink and drugs are too easy to obtain and too easy to use?

One theory suggests that people get anxious because doing this sober means relating to your partner in an open and honest way. What’s wrong with that? I hear you ask. The answer is nothing wrong and everything right. But it causes a great deal of difficulty for some people. And when they try to change their lifestyle and not use drugs or alcohol they can’t maintain the passion or sustain an intimate relationship. An Australian survey of young adults found that 92 percent of them who admitted to having casual sex in the past six months were not sober at the time. Similar results came from a survey of American University students who consumed, on average, five alcoholic drinks before their most recent sexual encounter.

Speaking to the survey participants provides an intriguing insight into their attitudes. One young woman said it was only after she gave up drinking that she realized what an impact alcohol had on her sex life. Alcohol helped her to bypass that part of her brain that normally tells her to go slowly or be more cautious. It helped her to be bolder in approaching and coming on to someone she was sexually interested in. But now that she’s sober, she is in control of what she’s doing and able to make judgment calls about the person and the sex. Quite frankly I find it a little frightening.

Behavioural scientists say alcohol dulls the alarm signal that warns a person they are about to make a mistake. Which might explain why people wake up next to a person they would never look twice at if they had been sober the night before.

One young man is currently writing a book about the time he spent living in a house full of fellow chronic methamphetamine users. His book will, among other things, document the effect of the drug on people’s sex lives. He says meth has a reputation for getting people into sexual situations they otherwise would not want to be in. The man talks of sleeping with people who he genuinely found disgusting but that fact only seemed to add to the excitement at the time.

Now at this point you might be thinking am I talking exclusively about young people? The young party goers. The answer is No. I am not. A lot of 30, 40 and 50 somethings, need a couple of wines at dinner to get in the mood.

I am happy to say that none of this applies to me and I am so glad that it doesn’t. I feel sorry for the people who’ve never actually learned to open up to someone else in a way that’s real as opposed to substance induced. If only they knew, it beats chemicals hands down.