I’m not ever going to advocate that someone turn to drugs and/or alcohol to make their sex life more fulfilling or pleasurable. It’s potentially dangerous for a lot of different reasons. But for those of you who do use these substances as a way to cope with issues that make intimacy difficult, just know that I see you and you shouldn’t feel shame for doing what you think is best for you and your body.
I have anxiety. More specifically, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and most of its accompanying symptoms, like a pervasive feeling of impending doom, trouble sleeping and problems with concentration. I’m notorious for being a worrywart, and for finding things to make me worry if there weren’t enough already. I’ve been this way since at least my early teen years, and I’m fairly certain it’s genetic, based on conversations with my mom.
My anxious thoughts make communicating difficult at times. I’m afraid the person I’m talking to won’t take me seriously, because what sounds like a perfectly rational statement or concern to me sounds like paranoid rambling to someone else. I’m very good at knowing what I want or need in all facets of my life, but absolutely terrible at communicating it — to friends, lovers, family, whoever. It’s why I struggle with writing consistently, because I’m afraid the things I feel are unique only to me and I’ll sound…crazy. I’m slowly unlearning that mindset but it still shows up every now and then.
In the decade or so since I became a teenager, I’ve learned some more about myself. As an adult, my anxiety hasn’t gotten worse — there are just more things to be anxious about. Even as I got older and embraced my sexuality, I realized my anxiety was showing up in the bedroom, too.
In my day-to-day life, I hate feeling inconvenienced by arguments or disagreements, so I generally let things ride until it’s so far past what I’m okay with that I have to speak up. When it comes to sex, this has led me to some not-so-comfortable situations where I allowed things to happen that I wasn’t okay with. I struggle with those moments in retrospect, because I don’t think I can feel violated since I didn’t speak up or otherwise indicate my discomfort or non-consent, and people aren’t mind-readers. But that’s a mental unpacking for another day.
Despite having understanding and communicative partners, I always felt uncomfortable expressing my sexual needs. Part of it is the social conditioning that seeks to shame women for being open about sexuality, and the other part is my anxiety. There was a point where I just wasn’t enjoying sex because I wasn’t communicating what I wanted. And that’s where my good friend Mary Jane comes in. Sex is complicated! Especially if you’re prone to overthinking and you have self-esteem issues that make it hard to get out of your head and into your body.
[I’m so bad at finding good pictures. All the ones with the keyword smoke or smoking looked cheesy or otherwise didn’t apply.]
I smoked and had sex for the first time on the same day in high school. They were both pretty underwhelming experiences. After that, I engaged in both activities pretty sporadically until I got to college. I was having sex way more often, but that knot in my gut just wouldn’t go away. I could never feel truly comfortable, just that I was going through the motions with enough self-awareness to actively consent to everything that was going on.
I started smoking more consistently in college, and that’s when something clicked. Sex was way more fun when I was high. I was able to communicate more, to share those desires that I normally felt too awkward to say out loud even with a trusted partner. Because my communication was more open and fluid, I was able to try new things. Everything also felt so much better physically.
Being able to speak up made me more confident about myself, and my confidence helped me develop my sexual identity. Granted, I’m still very young and my sexual needs and desires will change as I get older, but I’ve been told that the kind of insight I have about my sexual self and myself as a sexual being takes years if not decades for people to understand, if they ever do.
Part of the danger in using intoxicating substances is that they alter how you function. As we (may or may not) know, physical drug addiction boils down to our bodies essentially needing to be in this altered state to function normally. It’s why physical withdrawal symptoms are potentially fatal. To be completely honest, I still self-medicate my anxiety with weed to this day because I can’t afford to/don’t have the time during regular business hours to see a psychiatrist.
At any rate, I knew that I didn’t want to have to be high in order to enjoy sex for the rest of my life, so about 2 years ago I did what I should’ve done years ago: I turned the lens inward to dig into the root of my anxiety — specifically about sex — so I could unpack it and figure out a more sustainable coping method. It took a lot of internal dialogue, journaling, and talking to my partner about the things that made me so uncomfortable.
I don’t feel the need to share all of my findings, but suffice it to say that I’m an overthinker who constantly seeks external validation and it really throws me for a loop when I think I won’t get it. The discoveries I made about myself during this introspection actually led me to start blogging as a means of expression and connecting with others who may have felt similarly.
I don’t have it all together by any means, and I definitely don’t have my anxiety under control. But I’ve made a lot of progress in feeling comfortable advocating for myself in the bedroom while sober.
High sex still feels better, though…