So I am handcuffed and face down on a mattress in a grungy Motel 6 along I-70 on the outskirts of Denver. The officer of the West Metro Task Force and I are exchanging the usual pleasantries of “F-You”, “No, F-You!” My girlfriend had left shortly before to return items paid for with manufactured checks to cover our delinquent hotel bill (which had prompted the police presence). She would be arrested upon her return for the stacks of fake IDs and checks she had created. The officer, scanning the room, observed a container for a fireman’s breathing mask and smugly stated that was probable cause for further investigation. My admission that the container was full of my sex toys led him to state that was also probable cause for further investigation. Back to the pleasantries. Curiosity got the better of me and my reluctant probing lead to the response, “The use of meth heightens the desire for sex but diminishes the ability, and in time toys are needed to achieve climax.” More pleasantries followed as we continued to wait.

Fast forward two years and I had spent the last 12 months in recovery, started having sex after a period of abstinence, and discovered that my ability had diminished significantly. The thoughts of that police officer were followed by “Son of a___!” and the disgust of realizing he was right.

From the beginning sex was an unhealthy experience for me. At a shamefully early age I experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour from older kids, some wanted but most unwanted. This was followed years later by sexual activity on my part without much regard for the consequences. The stunting of my emotional growth had begun with my extensive use of drugs, also at a relatively early age. Sex became a way for me to feel love as something other than a concept I was incapable of understanding.

Discussions with older people on the subject and research into the act of sex helped to develop a prowess that increased my frequency of sexual encounters. The reputation that followed caused some partners to shy away but it attracted many more. The conquest was on! At the time this seemed boastful but in retrospect it was the early groundwork for a life of manipulation to boost my shallow ego.

For years to follow I had many relationships and many more sexual partners. Even while in a committed relationship, if I saw an opportunity for a sexual encounter I took it. I became a skilled liar and led a double life. I used the word “love” as a means of procuring sex. I remained in relationships long after I grew disinterested in my partner just to continue having sex. I would string partners along until I found another partner and would often continue both relationships at the same time. There were times when I began to feel guilty but I pushed those feelings out of my mind with more sex and drugs. The problem became my solution.

My drug use shifted from club drugs to meth. As my life deteriorated from bad to worse, any semblance of normal sexual behaviour gave way to a compulsive drive towards unsafe sex with just about anyone. There were few other straight men in the group that I used with and the female members were either unattached or unconcerned with the boundaries of a monogamous relationship. My life was miserable but I revelled in it anyway.

A string of arrests and convictions for a variety of crimes and the shame of a complete moral breakdown forced me into the rooms of recovery. The fog started to lift and I found myself walking the path of the Twelve Step Program through the fellowship of CMA. I began working with a sponsor and he recognized my character defects around sex and intimacy immediately. I saw others using the rooms as their little black book and it seemed inappropriate. My sponsor suggested that I abstain from sex for at least a year while I worked on myself. Given my past, I wholeheartedly agreed it was the best course of action for me.

My step work helped me see I had been using sex the same way I had been using drugs, to fill a spiritual hole in my life. I realized that in my sick mind I equated physical love with emotional love and the harm I had caused to others was great. My sponsor told me he would love me until I learned to love myself. This was uncomfortable at first since I truly hated myself, but in time I relied on him to help me through the challenges of early recovery. I began to understand why I viewed sex as a tool rather than an expression of love. I made amends to those I had hurt through my thoughtless attitude towards sex. I formed an ideal for future personal and sexual relationships from experiences in the past. In time I was able to stand in front of a mirror and say “I love you” to myself without wincing or turning away. Here was true progress.

Years of risky sex and IV drug use haunted me and I sought professional help to ensure I did not have any health concerns. After submitting blood samples and waiting for results, which was similar to waiting for a judge’s verdict, I was informed I did not have any communicable diseases. I felt like all the members of a firing squad had miraculously missed me.

Armed with a clean bill of health, a year without sex, and a new found understanding of myself, I ventured forth. My relationships would all be mature and lead me to happiness, right? Not quite. My first relationship was of a sexual nature but I was honest about my intentions with her. She unfortunately was not honest, and I ended the relationship after she confessed to having herpes well after we had been together. The next relationship started out fairly well but when confronted with the realization that I did not love her, I ended it responsibly. At least I was learning.

This was also the time that I was faced with the issue the West Metro Task Force officer brought to my attention. I could not perform as I had in the past. I again sought professional help and learned that the inhibiting factor was either physical or mental. It proved, in fact, to be a bit of both. The use of little blue pills increased my ability, which increased my confidence, and in time they were no longer needed. Although embarrassing, I shared this experience at my home group in hopes that it would help others that found themselves in this same situation.

I was in my late thirties and started dating again. This was humbling but I looked at it as an opportunity for growth. I kept it light, remained honest, and prayed a great deal about situations as they presented themselves. If, after a few dates, I did not find myself truly interested in the person, I would simply express to them how I felt. I did not have sex unless the relationship was moving towards a commitment. I felt as if I had picked up emotionally where I had left off when I started using drugs. I began to feel whole.

After two and a half years in recovery, I met someone that I was drawn to immediately. We had an easy way with each other and began spending all our time together. I was honest about my entire past from the beginning of the relationship, and she, in turn, was understanding. The ideal I was able to form for relationships while working the Steps helped guide me as I cautiously started down this path. We fell in love and sex was an expression of that love. We are mindful of each other’s needs but we do not use each other for sex. It is the healthiest relationship I have ever had. We have challenges but work through them together. Sex is important but it is not the focal point. We have been married for five years. She is my best friend and we happily walk this journey, hand in hand.