I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice to say I was that girl who was always too high and would do anything. No limits, no boundaries, no self-esteem. Appealing in some ways, problematic in more. Looking for validation in all the wrong places, I put myself in harm’s way like it was going out of fashion.
I made many bad decisions, lost friends, said and did things I’m not proud of.
In 2017, I finally ditched it all. After plenty of slip-ups, here I am, properly sober and, pandemic notwithstanding, still fun.
At first, just staying sober is the aim of the game, and it’s totally reasonable to avoid situations and social gatherings that may be triggers for you.
But as time goes on and you start to restructure your life, you may remember that, actually, you used to enjoy fucking people at KK events or similar. Maybe you’d like to start doing that again, but you’re not quite sure how.
These are some tips based on my experience of reintroducing myself to the life hedonistic without triggering a relapse or dying of awkwardness.
Beware. This article is about to get hippie.
First Up: What Is Recovery?
Recovery is the process of healing from addiction and adapting to a new, sober lifestyle. It looks different for everyone and it’s generally not a linear path. Whatever stage of recovery you are in, or however long you may have been sober, it’s okay to cut yourself some slack and give yourself permission to skip anything that feels unmanageable for you. If it helps you stay sober, it isn’t a failure.
A good sex party can be a magical, unforgettable experience, but when you’re in recovery, there are a host of potential triggers there. Being around people you used to drink with, being in situations or venues where you used to get high, even just an awkward exchange can all be triggering.
It might take you a while to feel ready to attend a sex party again. That’s okay. You’re no less awesome, adventurous or fun for needing to take time out. It sounds cheesy, but it’s a cliché for a reason – sobriety is a journey and you’re embarking on an adventure just by being sober. I promise, even if you don’t yet, you will feel so much better, so much more confident, so much more yourself for embarking on this journey.
Here’s my best advice for navigating a party when you feel you’re ready.
Establish A Positive Relationship With Your Body
No one wants to feel self-conscious when they’re doing some half-naked gymnastics in front of a room full of people. With this in mind, get really comfortable in your body, whatever this means for you. I do CrossFit and dance classes and occasional yoga. Whatever it takes to start feeling genuinely comfortable in that lovely skin of yours, do it. Go to that ecstatic dance class with your meditation teacher friend. The hippies are onto something when it comes to self-acceptance, I tell you.
You know that feeling when you’re fucking someone and not enjoying it, but you don’t know how to extricate yourself and you’re off your face anyway so you feel like oh well, it doesn’t really matter? And then you feel a bit gross and weird so you do more of your substance of choice and then do more things you’re not cool with and you wallow in a bottomless pit of shame and self-loathing for days afterwards?
I have done this more times than I can count, and it is not a healthy way to live your life.
So think long and hard about what you do and don’t want from a sex party. If you’re going with a partner, have discussions about what’s okay and what’s not. Boundaries can shift, and you might find yourself into different things now that you’re sober.
With or without a partner, one nice thing to do is to write down what you’re actively interested in pursuing, what you absolutely don’t want, and what you might be into if the circumstances are right. Think about what really excites you, and what you want out of this event. This gives you a basis for negotiation if you’re with a partner, as well as being something to keep in mind and come back to when you’re at an event. For those of us who aren’t that well-versed in deciding what we want (I’m one of the most indecisive people I’ve ever met), it provides a valuable tool for staying true to yourself and fulfilling your desires.
I’ll give you a couple of examples here from my own life. I really like to perform oral sex on both women and men. So that’s an absolute yes for me (with the right people, of course). A no would be being on the receiving end of anal sex in public – that’s something for the comfort of my own bedroom, for me.
As regards attending a party with a partner, I’m open to swapping with another couple if the dynamic is right. Threesomes in all their sex/gender configurations are an enthusiastic yes for me, but I find it crucial that all involved are mutually attracted. I am really not into being sandwiched between two men who are ignoring each other!
It’s always a great exercise to reflect on or journal about what you want, and don’t be afraid of seeming too particular or too wild. It’s your body, enjoy it the way you see fit.
And remember: it’s always okay to change your mind.
Learn To Deal With Your Emotional Responses
It may well be that part of your addictive behaviour was to do with an inability to sit with difficult emotions. I know mine certainly was.
As much as we’re all there for the fun, sex parties are inherently the kind of event that can induce strong emotional responses (not to mention physical ones). Take time to check in with yourself, and be really honest about how you actually feel. Try not to judge yourself for having emotions, and know that anything you’re feeling will eventually pass.
Choosing The Right Event
If you’ve been around the block a few times, you probably have some idea of the vibe you like – a sophisticated couples’ soiree, a darkroom free for all, a love fest that starts with a group meditation. Pick the vibe you like best, do your research, and contact the organisers if you have any questions.
That said, don’t be afraid to change it up. You may find you like something new now you’re exploring sobriety. If a sober environment makes you feel more comfortable, those are available. They’re sometimes labelled ‘conscious’ and quite often linked to all kinds of horizon-expanding sex workshops.
Give yourself permission to change your tastes. Variety, as my grandma used to say, is the spice of life.
The All-Important Outfit
Take extra care to make sure you feel like a million dollars. That slightly uncomfortable thing that you think looks good but you don’t like to sit down in? Throw it in the bin! Comfortable in your own skin is the sexiest thing on Earth. Uncomfortable in someone else’s thong is not a look to aspire to, especially when you’re navigating the scene newly sober.
This is about how you feel, and anything that makes you feel less than completely fucking fabulous just isn’t going to cut it on the clothes front.
You Don’t Have To Explain Yourself
Someone offers you a drink? “No thanks,” or “I’ll have sparkling water,” will do. You don’t need to justify your choice to abstain. I know that can be hard, especially in places where the drinking culture is entrenched (Britain, I’m looking at you!) In general, people are far too polite to question your decisions. And if they do, you certainly shouldn’t be having sex with them.
If, on the other hand, you end up in an awesome, involved chat about sobriety, then that’s a great sign! Whether you want to be open and communicative about it or keep your story to yourself, it’s your decision.
Yes, sex parties can be awkward, and alcohol takes the edge off. Three sheets to the wind, it’s easy to dive in and get busy. Sober and feeling a little shy, not so much.
But take heart! While you might not be feeling quite as carefree as you used to, it’s still possible to have sex with a near-stranger while stone-cold sober. And the sex you have is likely to be way more satisfying.
Don’t pressure yourself, it’s fine to sit and have a chat and soak up the sexy atmosphere. You don’t need to be instantly swinging from the nearest chandelier with your tits out (although if that’s your vibe, you are my kind of person).
Introduce yourself to people. It takes a little work at first, especially for the socially anxious among us, but, I assure you, it gets easier.
If you find a person or people you’d like to take it further with, take a deep breath and let them know. The worst that can happen is that they politely decline and you go on with your evening.
Not Having A Good Time? It’s Okay To Leave!
If the atmosphere isn’t quite doing it for you, if you’re uncomfortable, or if the situation starts to feel dangerous or overwhelming, it’s not a failure to grab your coat and check out. Try to internalise the notion of this being a learning experience – you tried something and it wasn’t for you, there’s nothing wrong with that. There’ll be other events that are a better fit.
Sobriety has a lot to recommend it and if you’re living a sober life take the time to congratulate yourself on having made such a positive choice – it’s not always easy but it is always worth the effort. One particularly nice aspect of being sober is that you’ll be a far better judge of social situations. You can feel confident in your ability to handle anything gracefully, and that’s such an asset, especially when it comes to attending a sex party. So, enjoy it! Let it inspire you and serve as a call to action…all the action.
Want to talk to someone about your relationship with alcohol and/or substances?
Alternatively, Ok Rehab offers guidance and support for people around the UK experiencing problems with substance misuse and co-occurring mental health problems. The US based Inspire Recovery is a creative and affirming space for members of the LGBTQIA+ community, offering help for everyone including allies of the community.
Ida J (she/her) writes experimental erotica from a pansexual female perspective. She’s particularly interested in subcultures and the personal significance of sexuality. Find her at idajstories.com, on Instagram @idawritesbooks and at the club when it’s open again