David Stuart

david.stuart@me.com

You chose Abstinence. 

Great.  

This an admirable goal; it can also be an ambitious one. It involves addressing the following things;            

•Adapting to this “change-of-life”

•Identifying & better-managing the cravings and triggers we will experience

•Negotiating sober sex and horny-ness

•Creating new friendships/networks.

•Communicating with older friends/networks

•Re-Learning our relationship to sex, what we want from it, how to pursue it

•Re-negotiating the role sex-apps play in our lives (& other social media)

•learning to manage our raw emotions & vulnerability without the support of the "confidence-giving" chems

                                            

This represents quite a change of life, and some "adapting" to new habits, and a new lifestyle. Certyainly and most importantly - we'll need to develop a new relationship with sex. Sober sex is very different from ChemSex, and if it has been a while since we had sober sex... it can be frightening, challenging and unpleasant, to say the least. Sober sex is known as the biggest challenge to those of us who are choosing to be abstinent from Chems.

We are likely to experience cravings for chems & sex, that we might find overwhelming; often these cravings are "triggered" by certain things; things we see, feel, experience, things that happen. They can include being horny or turned on by something, feeling lonely or excluded, bored, angry; they can include things we see on social media, messages & invitations we get from friends - for some of us, feeling happy & untroubled can be a trigger; it can lull us into a false sense of security, we can completely forget/ignore the negative consequences of chems that brought us here in the first place.

So Abstinence is a big goal, and may require some learning about how to "manage" cravings and triggers without acting upon them. Some of us can do this on our own, many of us find it very difficult. Many make use of local drug support services to learn these skills. Many more make use of local Twelve Step support groups, like Narcotics Anonymous, Crystal Meth Anonymous, or Sex-Addicts Anonymous (and others). These groups provide a step by step guide to adapting to abstinence, and being successful at it. They also provide a social network of people who can identify with you, about what a life-change this decision can be.

Until we feel confident in our practice of abstinence, it might be a good idea to take a break from some of the sex-Apps - or at least be cautious when using them. Learning to have sober sex again can be challenging, even upsetting. Quite an adjustment for some. Some might even choose to pursue some therapy, to help untangle the relationship we've formed between the drug high and arousal. Sex-Apps can be a trigger to lapsing back into "use" again. A break from the Apps, even from sex can be helpful sometimes. If it has been a long time since we had sober sex, we might find it easier to have sex with someone we know and trust, someone who knows that it's been a while since you tried sober sex; someone who understands that we might be a bit nervous about trying sober sex. We shouldn’t jump straight back into anonymous "hook-ups" again, we’re sure to find that more triggering, anxiety-causing, and possibly unenjoyable. Take it easy. We can enquire at our local sexual health clinic (or GP) about psychosexual therapy if we continue to find it difficult.

If ChemSex had begun to dominate our social lives, it might be wise to get out and meet some other gay men (or other new friends). Try to stimulate our social interests again. Contact our local gay charity, see if they can suggest some social or sporting groups. Perhaps volunteer with them if that's an option. Re-invest in some hobbies that might be of interest. Invite friends to lunch, or see some Fringe theatre, check out the art exhibitions with a mate.

The Twelve Step Fellowship groups, international.

P.s. People who use the rooms and work the twelve steps programme refer to themselves as recovering addicts. The term ‘addict’ doesn’t hold any stigma in the rooms, it is a reminder that the chosen substance used/abused, took over their lives in an addictive manner. You don’t have to be sober to go to any of the twelve steps meetings. Addiction is not a helpless condition from which there is no recovery, it is possible to overcome the desire / cravings with some help. 

Many people though, do find the word "addict" uncomfortable, or not appropriate to them, or perhaps define it differently. There are other options below; leap to the Smart Recovery heading.

The Twelve Step groups can be helpful groups for people wishing to be abstinent from Chems, and in many cities there are groups taking place daily. Groups are very welcoming of LGBT people, and some meetings have a specific LGBT focus. Despite what some might think, Twelve Step fellowships are not a religious organisation, and you do not have to be religious to attend.

There is a large "Recovery Community" to be found within these groups, where you can meet and get support from others who have recovered, and are recovering.  For many, it can be a great way to make new friends and socialise. There is also an opportunity to work the Twelve Steps programme of recovery, cognitive work based on spiritual principles, which will help you maintain your sobriety.

This involves asking someone to be your sponsor. A sponsor is like having a mentor for one-to-one support, who can help guide you through some of the challenges you might face on your journey. Usually, a sponsor is someone who is also recovering from addiction, and who can take you through the 12 step programme. They understand what you are going through, because they have already been through it themselves.  A sponsor will share their experience, strength and hope with you of what they did to recover, and how they are maintaining it one day at the time.

Meetings can differ from group to group, and take place in many cities and countries across the world. They are a safe space to identify with others, and share your successes and difficulties. It’s a bit like having peer-support. You don’t have to book in advance, and you can just turn up on the day. You won’t have to talk if you don’t want to, and you are welcome to sit and listen to others if you’d prefer. What makes these meetings effective is the therapeutic value of an addict helping another.

Meetings are free to attend, but rely on their members to keep them running. A pot is usually passed round for people to contribute towards the low cost of things like room hire and teas and coffee - although there is no obligation to do so. Newcomers are not expected to contribute and the literature is free for them.

There are many thousands of LGBT people worldwide in Twelve Step Recovery programmes who have turned their lives around and continue to stay well.

For more details on finding the Twelve Step programme that might be best suited for you, and for meetings, please click on the following links.

Crystal Meth Anonymous

http://www.crystalmeth.org *

Sex Addicts Anonymous

http://saauk.info/en/  *

https://saa-recovery.org * (Outside the UK)

Sex & Love Addicts Anonymous

http://www.slaauk.org *

https://slaafws.org (Outside the UK)

Narcotics Anonymous

http://ukna.org *

https://www.na.org* (Outside the UK)

Co-Dependents Anonymous

http://www.coda-uk.org

http://coda.org (Outside the UK)

Alcoholics Anonymous

http://www.alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk  *

http://www.aa.org * (Outside the UK)

* These groups have LGBT focused meetings. Please check individual meeting lists for more details.

The following text was created for a London readership; it might not be applicable for all countries outside the United Kingdom

SMART RECOVERY

For those seeking an alternative to Twelve Step, SMART Recovery also offers an abstinence based recovery programme. Help and support is available from members who have recovered and are recovering using their programme. Although they are a smaller organisation, there are various meetings in some cities in and outside of the UK, as well as on-line support.

SMART Recovery

https://www.smartrecovery.org.uk

http://www.smartrecovery.org (Outside the UK)

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FOR LONDONERS: ALTERNATIVE RECREATION/SPORTING/SOCIAL GROUPS & ACTIVITIES FOR GAY MEN

Abstinence is a big goal, and it can be easier for some than for others. Sometimes it can be easier to aim for a shorter period of time. If you want to work towards a smaller, achievable goal, perhaps a month or even just a weekend's break from Chems, click on the tab below and we'll guide you through that.


 

If you're struggling with frequent lapses, or if you feel abstinence is too big a goal for you, you can take it in smaller steps; try a small achievable goal first, and work your way up.