Written by Vanina.
Art by Muhammad Burhan.
I have been sober for a year and a half. Among all the ups and downs of a freshly sober alcoholic, one of the most challenging experiences turned out to be dating.
I mean, dating is already a challenge to begin with. We all have our tools and ways to deal with its awkwardness; it could be a drink or two before the date to give yourself some fake courage and confidence, or just drinking during the date to smoothen up the conversation and ease the chemistry. In fact, it is so common to drink on first dates—sometimes to excess—that at the beginning of my sober dating life I found myself sitting at bars, drinking non-alcoholic beers while my dates quickly approached the “I’m fucking wasted” level.
Which made me realize that, in our current society, the act of not drinking is a big deal. Our social lives are often formed and based around drinking, with unwritten but firm rules around communicating and chilling “over a drink.” Even the sole experience of participating in an activity is supported by drinking. Most events in our lives that we associate with belonging to a group are, indeed, related to drinking: ladies’ night out, watching the game with the boys, weddings, birthday parties, office parties—you name it.
Therefore, at the beginning of my sobriety, I pretty much avoided said social events—and dating, as just the thought of it gave me anxiety attacks. However, now, more than a year into my sobriety, I am actively dating. These are some of the changes I’ve experienced in this past year and a half.
One-night stands become almost impossible, and finding sexual partners gets more difficult.
At the beginning, this was a big (and unpleasant) surprise to me. I’ve had my fair share of one-night stands. First dates at bars, laughing and chatting, and making out—smoothened up by the drinks consumed—have easily turned into going home and having sex. The thing is that alcohol gives you this illusion of excitement and chemistry between you and the person in front of you. You can easily justify having sex with this person because they are super cute, you get along and you feel the chemistry.
Our social lives are often formed and based around drinking, with unwritten but firm rules around communicating and chilling “over a drink.”
That’s not the case when you are sober. If you take the alcohol out of the equation, a lot of these first dates completely lose their charm, and the excitement and fake chemistry is gone. It gets more difficult to justify having sex with the person in front of you because your judgment is not clouded by alcohol. All of a sudden, they don’t look as cute, and you don’t get along that amazingly well. To simplify it: you get pickier who you sleep with. Which leads us to the fact that:
You start looking for a deeper connection, even for short experiences.
This comes rather naturally and has a lot to do with communication. Even though being sober makes the first few moments on a date a bit more awkward, the conversations that happen after are much easier to navigate and appreciate. Being able to read the person in front of you and communicate properly is crucial for productive conversations.
You also find it easier to communicate your sexual desires, which evolves into intimacy.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always thought intimacy is the best experience you can get out of sexual play. But it is hard to feel it when you are stumbling around trying to not appear too drunk. Except intimacy is the shit that makes you high and wet when you touch or kiss your partner—not alcohol.
I feel much more in sync with my partners now that I’m not drinking. Communication is easier, and the intimacy and joy between us creates a safe space to dive into and explore further. That’s one of the reasons why…
You become less selfish.
You honestly become so much more aware of your partner’s reactions that you inevitably start appreciating them more. That is not to say you are putting your own pleasure on the back burner—not at all. But sex becomes more about togetherness, instead of equal pleasure distributed to all partners. And, yes, the pleasure of my partners was always important to me. But I do notice much fewer nonverbal cues when I drink, and my reaction times are much slower. On the other hand, reactions can hardly be slow while sober because:
You fucking feel everything.
Like, EVERYTHING. Your clitoris, vagina, nipples, whole body are not numbed down by the alcohol you consumed, so your senses are going crazy. This is especially true for the clitoris, which will start a new life on its own when you’re not drinking, filled with fun sober sensations.
I feel much more in sync with my partners now that I’m not drinking. Communication is easier, and the intimacy and joy between us creates a safe space to dive into and explore further.
Maybe this is the time to mention that I always had difficulties orgasming with a partner. I am not going to go as far as to say sobriety changed that, but I definitely came more times with a partner this year than in my whole life before sobriety.
Not drinking also made sex safer for me.
The number times that drunk me has had unprotected sex is more than I would like to admit. Of course, it seems like the best idea while it’s happening, but the panic and STD tests you need to do after the act are no fun. On the other hand, sober me always uses protection and expects it from her partners.
Sober sex is not always amazing. Your insecurities don’t disappear with drinking. But I feel like not drinking is helping me create a healthier base for my relationships—sexual or not. It makes communication, bonding, and intimacy possible. And it makes knowing and loving your own self just a bit easier.
About the Author
Vanina is the founder of sluttish.us – a site on female sexuality and kink. She is a writer, a photographer, and a switch. After living in Brooklyn for almost 10 years, she is now based in Berlin, where she enjoys sex-positive culture and sober life.
Follow on IG: @sluttish__