A couple of months ago, a sober woman I know reached out to me about her issues with intimacy and expressed the desire not to feel repulsed or shut down when her husband made moves on her. She said that she had been thinking about couple’s therapy but was depressed by the whole idea of talking it over with a third party. She said she felt hopeless.

 “Have you guys ever watched porn together?” I asked her. 

“What?” Her tone was less than receptive.

“Just maybe try it,” I offered.

A year or so ago, I was on my laptop looking at blogs when a video of a nude, dark-haired, white woman, lying on a sofa caught my eye. I felt my face get warm as I leaned in to get a closer look. Now I can see that she’s wearing a lacy bra, garter-less black stockings, and is smiling as she beckons to someone off-camera.

I double-check the site name at the top of the screen to make sure that I am still on Tumblr. Satisfied that I haven’t wandered into some S&M section of the dark web by mistake, I turn my attention back to her. My heart beats faster as I see a naked brown-skinned man enter the frame and then entering her, all in a manner of seconds. Her face is partially obscured by his well-toned arms, but they are both otherwise completely visibly naked, and they are well, they’re doing it.

The video freezes after a few seconds but I sit there slack-jawed, my hand frozen over my mouse for at least a minute. It’s not like I’ve never seen porn before (obviously). I’ve had various boyfriends over the years that tried to get me to watch it with them. Sometimes, I honestly wanted to give it a fair shot but it was usually something that I endured. To me, porn was a desperate ploy to get me to “want it” — cheap and highly laughable. In fact, I could usually be found suppressing a fit of giggles as soon as the first actor appeared on the screen. Additionally, I find that I have little respect for people who are so easily manipulated by all that bad dialogue and silicone. 

But this was something else entirely, and I wanted more…

To me, porn was a desperate ploy to get me to “want it” — cheap and highly laughable. In fact, I could usually be found suppressing a fit of giggles as soon as the first actor appeared on the screen.

I watched it again, twice that morning and then once that afternoon. But when I went back to watch it again before bedtime, it was gone. I searched for it frantically for about an hour before typing in voyeurism and finding site after site that caters to this type of proclivity. But my hands were tingling because I knew that I’d stumbled upon something potentially major. This was the first thing I could remember that offered me the same warm, sexy feeling that two glasses of wine might have ten years earlier. And for maybe the first time, I truly understood what George meant in “The Note” episode of Seinfeld when he tells Jerry, “I think it moved.”

I guess I should mention here that I’m a sober alcoholic.

And at the time that I got sober, in July of 2008, I thought my life was over. Everything was so messed up, and I had no idea whether or not any of it could be fixed. Heading off to treatment with all of these unknowns was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Or at least I thought it was — until I returned home 30 days later. Coming back home sucked in a way for which I was totally unprepared. It was like returning to a land that had just been eviscerated by a series of bombings. Everywhere I turned, there was more devastation. Marriage? Gone. Home? Liquidated. Reputation as a stable person? In shambles. Friendships? All damaged, some unsalvageable. Relationship with my children? Basically, intact but will need lots of dedicated repair work. Same with my family members. The list went on and on.

I realized after settling into my empty bed that first night home that there was one, potentially lovely, unexpected bonus to having had just blown up my life in this particular way: I didn’t have to “get it up” for anyone anymore.

If I’m honest, my struggles with intimacy were a big reason that my relationships never worked. And I’m not just using intimacy as a euphemism for sex; sex is definitely included. What I’m talking about is real intimacy: Hand-holding, close-talking, kissing, soul-baring conversations, and yes, sexy time. Now, post-rehab, I could finally just be my own, emotionally stunted self without fear of anyone judging me. 

What a relief!

Now, post-rehab, I could finally just be my own, emotionally stunted self without fear of anyone judging me. 

Enter Scott. 

So, I forgot to mention that I met a man while I was in rehab. But who would ever think something like that would go anywhere? I certainly didn’t. I mean, yes, there was this undeniable spark between us. When he was near me, it was thrilling and I felt warm, beautiful, and safe. I loved his blue eyes and his throaty speaking voice. I adored the way he draped one arm casually around my shoulders while we talked as if it had always belonged there.

Scott moved to Los Angeles from Utah after treatment to be near me, and it’s actually not the disaster that one might have predicted. He was getting sober, I was getting sober, and we were both busy re-establishing ourselves in our lives. At first, there was no time for any real intimacy. During that first year, we decided that he shouldn’t spend time with my children until we both had a decent amount of sobriety, so that left us little time to connect one on one except for us to occasionally explore this new and at times exceedingly awkward relationship-necessity: Sober sex.

For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of getting sober and then having sex for the first time, it’s not the same as just happening to have not had a drink tor a joint that day and then falling into bed with someone else in a fit of passion.

It’s much more like this: You’re in a cavernous, silent, well-lit stadium and you and your prospective partner are thrust naked into the center-ring and are now expected to perform without any of the buffers or aids which used to make the act of sex desirable (okay, palatable). Every sound is louder than it should be, there are a lot of “Excuse Me’s” and “I’m sorry’s” as you navigate these new bodies with a previously unknown (and possibly unwanted) level of awareness. Ironically, the very prospect of sober sex has been known to drive some people to drink again. As the saying goes, sober sex is not for pussies.

I‘d like to be able to turn it on as I used to with a glass of wine (or a Vicodin), but I needed something that doesn’t come with a yellow warning label on it or the promise of a hangover the next day.

So, for Scott and me, weeks and months went by, and he and I got through the awkwardness and grew closer and closer. It’s then that I began to lean into the possibility that this man and the way he feels about me are for real. Slowly, I moved past the fear that my old issues around intimacy might surface. But one day, two or three years in, I’m dismayed to feel myself walling off again. He is a kind, loving, and open-hearted as anyone I’ve ever met. At first, I just try to ignore my desire to isolate within our relationship but with my recovery-sponsor’s help, I find myself doing something I’ve never done before: Addressing it in therapy. 

With the tools I receive from my lovely Marguerita (my therapist’s name — not the drink), I found myself thawing, slowly but surely. But a few years later, I’d become aware of a new challenge that I wanted to face. I had worked so hard to have this incredible, intimate relationship with this wonderful man. But I wanted to be more responsive when he gets “that look” in his eyes at the end of the day. In fact, sometimes, I want to be the one with that look in MY eyes. And I‘d like to be able to turn it on as I used to with a glass of wine (or a Vicodin), but I needed something that doesn’t come with a yellow warning label on it or the promise of a hangover the next day.

“I think I’d like to watch some porn,” I said to Scott a couple of days after discovering the woman on the sofa. We were lying in bed, getting ready to watch that week’s Ray Donovan. I have practiced saying it in this really casual voice like it’s something that has just come to mind instead of something that I’d been obsessing on for the past forty-eight hours. 

“I think I’d like to maybe watch some with you.”

“Have you guys ever watched porn together?” I had asked the sober woman with intimacy issues.

Three weeks later, I got this text from her:

“Now, I need to have a blog, How Porn Save My Marriage. Kidding… not kidding.”

“Yay!” I typed back. “Porn is the new marriage counseling.”

“Porn is the new wine,” she texted.

OMG, that’s it.

Last year, Newsweek published an article about female dragonflies faking their own deaths to avoid having sex. While human beings may not be taking such drastic evasive measures, I think most women in long-term relationships go through a period where they wonder, “Is this it? Will I ever want it again?” And for the small number of us that have limited choices when it comes to whetting our sexual appetites, it’s nice for me to know that there is one neat little option that doesn’t seem to have any negative consequences, and for me, it’s only a mouse click away.