My six years of sobriety has not always been pretty, but it has certainly been enough time for me to develop some theories on why some of my brothers seem to keep relapsing. Trust me, I’d rather just say: “Go ahead and do more research if you need to,” but relapse can be a very serious business. I’d say we get news of a suicide or overdose an average of once every two months at least. For those who do less damage, there’s guilt, regret, self-reproach. And when they find themselves but a week or two later staring at a text from their dealer and weighing whether they can get away with a few sleepless nights—the cycle is indeed one of incomprehensible demoralization.
Thank God you keep coming back, thank God you let the rest of us know it doesn’t get any better out there. But I think there are some questions worth asking yourself that might make your last relapse your last relapse.
First, let’s recognize something: relapse on meth is almost always about sex. I get it. You want to recapture the erotic excitement that was so potent at the beginning of your using. You know what I’m talking about, I don’t need to glamorize it or trigger anyone. Suffice to say meth makes beer goggles look like training wheels by comparison.
And yet it only takes a few weeks for amnesia to kick in. How many times have I heard guys insist that they didn’t get sober to be celibate, even though it’s only 2 weeks since they last picked up? Only an urban gay male addict would think putting sex on the shelf for a few months constituted “celibacy.” Guess what, young man. Your penis will not atrophy. You will not forget how to use it. No one ever dies of horniness. But staying away from the trigger of all triggers for a while may save your life.
This is the value of staying away from sex until you’ve got some time under your belt. It’s an opportunity to ask yourself these questions: Who am I without the sex? Who am I without the validation? Do I think I’m a loser if I stay in on a Saturday night and read a book or watch a movie? What meaning have I attached to how many people want to sleep with me? Do I measure my self-worth by my perceived desirability? Do I understand intimacy? Do I know how to have sex with intimacy? How do I make sex part of living along spiritual lines? How do I live along spiritual lines, period?
The answers I have found shift with experience, they expand, and deepen. But I’m convinced my willingness to ask these questions in the first place has everything to do with why I haven’t relapsed. And part of that willingness came from making a choice not to constantly distract myself with the hunt for sex that I had come to believe was what defined me as a gay man.
See, you know exactly what it’ll be like if you pick up again. You’ve been there a hundred times. But you don’t know what it’s like to stay sober one more day. And let me tell you, that’s where the adventure is. (And trust me, there’s plenty of sex, too. When you’re ready for it, it’ll be ready for you.)