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Addiction, recovery and sex

When I was new in recovery I memorized the 12-Steps.shutterstock_217407427

Then, at a meeting I heard someone mention the 13th Step. What!? There’s another step I have to do? I asked what the 13th Step was.

“It’s hitting on newcomers – hooking up with newbies,” I was told.

“Ah,” a much younger and better looking me said to myself. “That’s why all these guys are giving me hugs and buying me coffee.”

I stopped hugging guys that creeped me out – stuck out my hand instead. I learned the true understanding of “helping the newcomer.”

I listened to my sponsor and old-timers I trusted: “You don’t get into relationships or date when you are in early recovery.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because nothing will take your mind off your recovery quicker than a guy,”  I was told. “And besides, you have demonstrated and extraordinary inability to have a healthy relationship. Your picker is broken.”

And so I waited a year. I still made a couple of bad choices after that but I had enough sobriety under my belt to get through a break-up without picking up a drink or drug. Waiting a year before letting my hormones and some cute cunning addict get the best of me was probably the best advice I have been given and taken in my sobriety.

Which is why I can’t understand what the hell is going on in the world of recovery here in South Florida – where many young addicts who were ostensibly sent here to get clean – not tan and laid – are putting their tans and sex drives ahead of their sobriety.

The 12-Steps is a program of suggestions – not rules. That’s why it works. Addicts and Alcoholics don’t take kindly to being told what to do. We take suggestions – not demands.

However, this “suggestion” my sponsor gave me was not negotiable. No dating, no relationships and sex for one year (unless, of course, you are married or already in healthy relationship – which isn’t likely).

“Your picker is broken!” I heard over and over. “You want to learn how to find a guy who will respect you, treat you right? Then no guys for a year. Go to women’s meetings!”

“I didn’t drink with women,” I told my sponsor. “Why should I go to meetings with women?”

“Exactly!” my sponsor said. “Go to women’s meetings.”

Most of the newly recovered, under 30-year-olds I have met recently have little regard for this suggestion. Many are addicted to some of the most highly addictive substances on the planet – opiates – and some have used their bodies to get it. Now, with a few weeks/months clean, they put far more effort into keeping their teeth white and nails polished than abstaining from dating and hooking up.

I won’t even go to some meetings where “druggy buggies” dump sober home residents because there is so much hooking up going on. It’s like going to a meeting in a middle-school cafeteria at lunchtime.

It’s not just the newcomers having sex among themselves. You’ve got sober home (halfway house)  owners, operators, marketers, “behavioral health techs” – who are often nothing more than kids with maybe a year clean and sober – having sex with residents or clients at the IOP or PHP.

This is 13th Stepping in its most heinous form. “But it was consensual!” I hear newly recovered addicts cry. Or “I DO have a year!” – except the girl you’re boffing has only 3 months.

Consensual? Really? And I suppose that needle you stuck in your arm was consensual, too? When I was newly clean and sober I was told I didn’t have the mental capacity or common sense to make healthy choices.

It may seem like a hot 21-year-old girl who wears Daisy Dukes and a cut-off tank top to a co-ed meeting – who was sexually abused as a kid and raped as a prostitute – is consenting to have sex with you, but in reality – she’s not capable.

That’s just my opinion. Sure, under the law it’s consensual. But under the program of rigorous honesty and integrity that we abide by when we commit to getting clean and sober – this is not how we treat others or – most importantly – ourselves.

This one-year of steering clear of men and women will likely be as difficult as quitting drugs and alcohol. If you do it, you will learn how to set healthy boundaries. You will learn how to gain self-esteem that isn’t based on bragging to the guys in the sober house how you hooked up with that new girl after last night’s meeting.

Take drugs and sex out of the equation and learn who you really are and who you want to be.

Girl holding hand image available from Shutterstock.



Addiction, recovery and sex

Christine Stapleton

Christine Stapleton has been a journalist for 35 years. She is now an investigative reporter for The Palm Beach Post. In 2006, began writing a blog for PsychCentral called Depression on My Mind. Her latest blog, Addiction Matters, draws on her 19 years of sobriety and her coverage of the drug treatment industry in South Florida.

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APA Reference
Stapleton, C. (2017). Addiction, recovery and sex. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 8 Jun 2017
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