“We can.” That’s the response I received for years when I asked my wife, Sheri, if she to have sex. As an active alcoholic, that consent was good enough for me. I didn’t know it, but I was looking to sex for the same dopamine hit I got from alcohol. A reluctant, “We can,” was enough.
When the question is, “Do you want to…?” and the response is, “We can,” that’s never enough.
I’m not just talking about the psychological damage her consent did to Sheri. “We can,” really messed me up in profound and lasting ways.
I recognize how hard it is to have sympathy for an alcoholic who used his wife’s body like another drug. I’m not looking for your sympathy. I just want people to understand. Addiction is complex, and it is still largely misunderstood leading to devastating consequences. Addiction has long tentacles reaching into all aspects of our lives. Alcoholism isn’t just a drinking problem. It is an intimacy crusher, too.
Consent and enthusiasm are two very different things. My wife’s consent came from five distinct, unenthusiastic places.
She was, well, as I said, my wife. Everyone knows that wives have sex with husbands. In fact, when we were teens, the adults in our lives tried naively to convince us that sex was to be reserved for husbands and wives. Neither of us entered marriage as virgins, so the notion of waiting for our wedding night was wasted breath, but the concepts of loyalty and faithfulness were well understood by both of us. Faithfulness didn’t just mean not having sex outside the marriage, it also implied giving it up for her husband. Which she did — like it or not.
Sheri really did enjoy having sex with me at the beginning. I was young, relatively inexperienced and perpetually horny, so her enjoyment came more from intimate emotional connection than from my physical expertise. We had sex frequently in our early relationship, and it felt good to both of us, in dramatically different ways. We set a precedent for performance that we carried decades into our alcoholic marriage.
As my disease worsened, my pain became more evident to Sheri. The depression and anxiety from which I suffered grew increasingly hard to hide. It took…