Guinevere Gets Sober

Recovery news, reviews and stories, by Jennifer Matesa.

Tag: Sex (page 1 of 2)

Valentine’s Day: #Sobersex Vid Series!

Lara02

Since publishing Sex in Recovery, I’ve discovered that so many sober folks want to talk about sex, but they’re scared to start because they don’t know how. We’re raised not to think about sex, much less even talk about it, and to hide our experiments in this rich, healthy world of desire and pleasure. The culture bequeaths us the crazy-ass paradox that sex is dirty and that we should save it for the one we love.

I’ve talked with dozens of sober people about sex, and Lara (pictured above) is enthusiastic, sensible, and fun! My new #sobersex video series goes live on Valentine’s Day—the day I think we should love ourselves first, give ourselves not just chocolate but also self-acceptance and commitment to discover who we are.

Secret Facebook group for women: And if you want to be part of my new secret FB group for women interested in discussing sobersex, follow my Facebook author page and shoot me a DM.

Q & A About #SoberSex.

CITYPAPERLOGO_illustratorfile

The Pittsburgh City Paper ran a little thing today about how I wrote my book about sex.

In case you’re doing last-minute shopping, consider Sex in Recovery as a gift for recovering folks on your list.

Continue reading

Sex in Recovery: Making Breasts Legal.

venusdemilo

The Venus de Milo. Greece, 100. B.C.E.

Several young people in recovery who I know have been putting up seriously badass feminist posts on Facebook. One such post—a story about how it’s legal in our state to go topless—was removed by Facebook. Maybe some jerkwad decided to flag it as obscene. Maybe the flagger felt intimidated by the photo on the story that showed actual female breasts (four of them, if I remember rightly).

Or else, Facebook’s algorithms trawled through and caught the post because it had tits in it. And the poster was banned from the platform for 24 hours.

It ought to be legal to show breasts in public. We ought to be able to look at breasts and think “sexual” or “womanly” without thinking “porn.”

A while ago I wrote a biography of a breast-cancer patient who had a double mastectomy at age 30 and you know what?—the local paper could run a photo of her naked torso AFTER surgery because it was a family newspaper and there was nothing recognizable as breasts in the photo. Editors are running businesses so they have to meet their readers’ needs, but it’s just too bad that American readers feel safer looking at the scars and mutilation caused by treatment of disease than at a healthy female body.

Having researched this book about sexuality and recovery that’s coming out in a few months (please stay tuned), it’s clearer to me than ever that our culture is bound by insane moral judgments about sexuality that distort people’s sexual response, leading to abuse of substances and, worse, of women and children (by both men and women). The young women I know have such badass courage to be posting the feminist stuff that they’ve been posting recently! They have my admiration.

I feel strongly about making human bodies legal. So ladies, when it gets warm, let’s go down by the river and take off our shirts. Feeling safe and accepted inside our bodies is, by the way, the best way to overcome trauma and to avoid relapse.

And here are all the places in the U.S. where you can Go Topless.

topless_map_with_MX_clean_1

Introducing “Recovering the Body.”

Thanks to all those who, in my absence from this space, have been commenting on posts and writing in. I’m keeping up as much as I can while I begin a brand-new project that I think I can now announce—though the contract isn’t signed, it’s almost signed and I’ve been assured it’s happening.

In June, I was invited by Hazelden Publishing to write a new book about physical recovery from addiction. 

In fact there’s no book in the market like this, so it’s an awesome idea. They found me through this story I wrote last year for The Fix (sadly, now defunct) about four elite athletes who use exercise to stay sober. The idea for that story came from an exchange I had with a friend of mine, a writer, athlete and sober guy I met two years ago when he emailed Guinevere. In the way life works now, we have become close and he has given me a ton of moral and practical support.

So the help just goes around in a big circle. You catch it and you pass it on, a big game of Karmic Hot Potato. Is what I tell my kid, anyway. And what I tell my kid is usually what I need to hear.

The editor asked me to write a proposal, so one night I came up with an elegant design that has five chapters—exercise, nutrition, sleep, and sex, along with a chapter on meditation—to help readers understand the particular ways in which addiction to drugs and alcohol fucks up the body, and what physical discipline and care can do to restore not just physical health but also mental wellbeing and spiritual fitness.

"A Moment in Time," bronze cast by Roxanne Swentzell.

They bought it immediately. As in, within days. The contract is being finalized, and I will spend this fall and winter writing the manuscript. The book will be released as a lead title Fall 2014.

Amidst all that work it hadn’t even occurred to me to start a new site. I was too busy feeling crappy about not having time to push to this one. But a friend, a senior publicist at a big house in NYC, suggested over coffee at the café up the street—she lives in NYC but her boyfriend lives here, in fact five blocks from me—that I (duh) buy the domain name to my working title and make a space for my ideas, questions, stories, connections. A kind of online sketchbook, as my friend Paul said.

This way, you guys can have a way to contribute to the process. There’s a lot I don’t know, and I want to learn from you.

My intention is to keep publishing here when issues arise that concern the subject of this blog—getting and staying sober, as well as pet issues of mine (Suboxone use and abuse, for example, is still a massive blinking dot on my radar).

But I will be publishing stuff more often on my new site. I’ll ask you to share your ideas and experiences. I’ll be talking to some high-level athletes and professional experts and researchers, but mostly I’ll be talking to ordinary folks who squeeze (or who, like me, sometimes fail to squeeze) their exercise and nutrition regimens into their days, along with everything else they do, including working, parenting, and whatever constitutes their recovery programs. I’ll be talking with folks who feel like they might be going overboard, substituting exercise, food, sleep or sex for the drugs they used to use.

If you follow me on Facebook as Guinevere, I hope you’ll click the button below and follow me under my real name. That’s where I’ll be posting stuff about this new project. And if you have ideas and questions, please please please let me know.

Connect with Jen.

Blowing Up Midtown.

I wend my way down Third Avenue away from the Lex Ave subway stop (I call them “stops,” not “stations,” because that’s what I’ve trained myself to call them—I learned to ride the Tube in London and native Londoners on the street laugh at me when I ask where the nearest Tube “station” is—It’s a stop, innit? This is how afraid I am of being laughed at: I change my language, change my shorts, change my shirt, change my life, as Tom Waits sings, so that I can avoid even minor disapproval) and toward the midtown offices of this famous treatment center whose headquarters are in my state but which also maintains a location here. I wonder what it looks like.

It’s small. It’s narrow. It’s a little glass door sandwiched between skyscrapers in the tall steelconcrete windtunnel that is Midtown.

Caron, midtown.

Caron, midtown.

The meeting is downstairs. It’s big. Lots of people, it turns out, are “family and friends” of alcoholics and addicts in this town. I arrive five minutes late because the train was running late, I’m not used to building in time for the constant subway delays in this city, actually I’m not used to building in time for any malfunction ever, I always expect myself to be running at top speed in perfect condition, nuts tightened, pump primed, engine lubed and idling, ready to go. That perfectionism, in fact, is one reason I’m here, sitting at the back of this meeting, digging my knitting out of my bag and listening to the speaker give a “qualification.”

This is a meeting whose weekly theme is “intimacy.”

The speaker talks, to my great surprise, about sex.

No one at any meetings in my town talks about sex.

But sex, sober sex, truthful sex, Real Sex, is so important and so critical to this process they call “recovery.” Why doesn’t anyone ever talk about sex? I wonder to myself. The answer is obvious: people are embarrassed to be open about their sexual “issues” in what used, in my parents’ cocktail era, to be called “mixed company.”

But I need to know what sober sex means. Honest sex.

What does it mean? What does it look like?

(My sponsor says: Making love doesn’t always have to mean sex. It can be other things.)

The speaker makes an analogy that sounds crazy and gross but is actually, upon second thought, fairly sane: this person wants a relationship that’s so intimate that it looks the way primates look when they’re grooming each other, weeding through each other’s hair and cleaning each other down.

stock-footage-cu-monkeys-grooming-each-other-at-the-monkey-temple-in-kathmandu-nepal

Total acceptance.

We’re primates, aren’t we? I think. Don’t we have this instinct somewhere in our DNA, this need to be so accepted and cared for not just by ourselves but by someone else as well?

//

I raise my hand. I talk about sex. I cry afterward, unwillingly. I don’t take long to talk, the “spiritual timekeeper” doesn’t even signal me to shut up, but I feel stupid, like a stupid freak as I root my Kleenex out of my bag and blow my nose. I’m the only one crying—at least, I think so.

Stupid freak. This is the language that my mind uses to address myself when I talk about dangerous subjects, the language that is second-nature and feels comfortable, like a threadbare flannel shirt. It’s garbage but it keeps off the draft.

I’ve been thinking about language all day. I’ve spent the day writing for an editor I like, a guy in this city in fact. But I also, paradoxically, found myself going to Mass. I’d gone to another meeting at a church, it happened to be the holiday they call (I used to call) Holy Week, I’d gone inside the cool stone nave to be quiet and “maintain conscious contact,” and suddenly the priest showed up. He said Mass. And I knew all the responses. I spoke the language. It burbled out of some deep well inside me that I thought I’d banged the cover on long ago. I am taken aback by some of the phrases. Particularly:

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you
But only say the word and I shall be healed

I shall be healed. Healed. Had I ever thought about that idea, that this “sacrament” could Heal Me? Not as such; I’d gone to church to please my parents, to look like a Good Girl, to maintain appearances, keep the varnish bright, and to somehow Meet God in “God’s house”—my mother’s term for church. I’d memorized the responses to the Mass the way I memorized my “times tables” in fourth grade; later all this memorization helped me commit calculus to short-term memory, and the Prologue to The Canterbury Tales to long-term memory, in Middle English, with spelling, and accent:

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote
The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour …

Aprille. It’s April already. I’m ahead in getting my taxes done but already behind in so many other things. In Work. In Money. In Appearances. In Sex. In Life.

//

After the meeting I thank the speaker. Women and men alike express appreciation for my “share.” A guy tells me not to feel alone, that what I said about sexuality is probably a lot more common than I think. I nod my head and thank him and climb the stairs to the lobby.

I ask the woman behind the desk if Dr. Paul works here.

Paul Hokemeyer, MD, JD, clinical consultant to Caron Treatment Centers, NYC.

Paul Hokemeyer, MD, JD, clinical consultant to Caron Treatment Centers, NYC.

 

She regards me with a patient smile usually reserved for very young children. “He’s not here right now,” she says kindly, checking her watch—it’s 8:30 p.m.—“he’s left for the day.” Of course, I say; I just wondered; I’ve talked with him several times over the phone; I’m a journalist and sober blogger and I’d just wondered if these were his offices. I’m rambling a bit. I’m out of business cards; I don’t take myself seriously enough. I’m looking around at the lobby. People routinely do business over distances these days but something in me likes to place people, place faces, I’ve got quite an earthbound mind, I like to look into people’s eyes, I’m an artist

I paint portraits.

I paint portraits.

but I also wind up defending myself in situations where I needn’t. Why explain myself with the receptionist?

(because i explain defend myself with everyone)

Isn’t it time to open up a bit? to trust? … I think back to the interview I held with the Famous Author the day before. I was showing him my paintings on my new iPad; I felt as though I was not supposed to be showing him art on a fancy expensive consumerist design tool, I could hear the voice of my mother

(goddammit, who the hell do you think you are?)

but I showed him anyway; he said he recognized one of the paintings from my blog.

You read my blog? I asked.

I told you I read your blog,

he said.

I didn’t believe you, I blurted, placing my fingertips on his arm. He regarded me with slight reproach. He’d guessed my age as younger than his, though in fact I’m six or eight years his elder.

I try to live a life of rigorous honesty these days, my friend,

he said.

//

Bloomingdales_flags

Wind whipping Bloomingdale’s flags. Photo by Woody Campbell.

I walk out of the Midtown treatment center offices. The wind through Bloomindale’s flags has built to tornado force. I mechanically scan the sliver of sky for tornadoes, but of course they never experience cyclones here. I’m blowing up Third Avenue in Midtown. I’m steadying myself to keep from pitching over when a hand touches my left shoulder. I turn; it’s a woman from the meeting where they talked about sex. She asks the name of my blog. She has heard me speaking with the receptionist, saying I’m a sober blogger. She plugs the name of my blog into her smartphone and it comes up, smack, right there, in the wind, on the corner of 58th and 3rd, in Midtown.

She smiles and tells me this was her second meeting and she was glad to hear me speak. Both of her parents are addicts. Both of my parents were addicts, too, I say. She says her mother has just gotten out of rehab and her father is on methadone—not “really clean,” but still.

I tell her I’m glad they’re alive.

I touch her hand. People are so alone in this town—in this world—skin rarely touches skin. We’re evolved to receive these electric charges. We need them to power up.

She tells me that she’s been trying to change her attitude and give back to people by being a clown.

A clown? I say.

“I dress up as a clown,” she says, “and I meet people around town.”

Her face is beautiful—round cheeks, full lips, framed by dark curls.

Actually, I remember, all faces hold beauty—experiencing it requires deep looking.

A witness.

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