Q:In your column on speed withdrawal, the guy who had just quit using 8 weeks ago said he wasn’t having sex at all, because if he wasn’t high he couldn’t get into it. In your answer, you did a good job being realistic about how hard recovery can be, but I was disappointed that you didn’t address the sex question at all, because for me this has been the biggest problem with getting off speed.
I stopped using more than two years ago, and my sex life has never been the same since then. When I started getting high, it made sex awesome! It took away all my inhibitions. I went places I never went before, the hottest, wildest, nastiest sex I ever had. I’d go all night, sometimes for days. I quit using because crystal was wrecking my life. At 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. I had to stop, and I’m glad I did. I went for a few months without much sex, too, although now I have it pretty regularly. I like it, but it’s just not the same! I just 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 speed sex without all the other problems, I’d do it in a minute, because after two years I still think it was the best sex I ever had. 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 speed opened them up to the core of their erotic life, 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 experienced.
The truth is that people take drugs because they get something out of them. Speed, as you discovered, can fry brains and ruin lives. I support anyone in staying away from it, and believe we’d all be much better off if this scourge were eliminated from our community. I know that many people experience great joy in getting free from bondage to speed. But it would be foolish to deny that there is an up side to being high. Being high facilitates an intensity of experience that many people just can’t have in any other way. Some people do find that, after they quit using, they can learn to “go there” sexually without the drug. But a lot of people in recovery tell me candidly that they have never been able, sober, to have the kind of intense sexual experiences they had when they were high, and that they miss the “good old days” – even while being grateful to have escaped from a dangerous addiction.
I sometimes think that there is entirely too much happy talk in the recovering community. Overcoming addiction just isn’t all freedom, joy, and gratitude. For most people who were seriously into it, staying away from speed means going through a mourning process. You really do have to come to terms with the fact that you’re saying good bye to intense experiences that you aren’t going to have without drugs, and you might as well accept the fact that you’re not entirely happy about it. There’s no point in pretending that you have no ambivalence about recovering, or that you’re one hundred percent grateful to be “high on life.” In my experience, gay guys in recovery are more likely to stay away from speed if they’re allowed to admit that they mourn what they’ve had to leave behind 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 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 work at not thinking of your speed 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 objectification – and all of the “flavors” have their own rewards. It’s natural to miss what you can’t have anymore, and 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 subtlties you have yet to explore.