My Top 12 Relationship Tips from 12-Step Recovery

Unlocking Intimacy:
16 Transformations in 12-Step Recovery for Better Sex

Issue 62. February 16, 2024 ✨ Higher Power Coaching & Consulting

Photo Credit: Getty Images

One of the many benefits of my 12-step recovery that I would never have guessed at is that sex has improved dramatically. I’ve learned to keep the focus on myself, prioritize what I think rather than what others think, and become much more comfortable in my own skin. These and other effects of recovery have had ripple effects on so many areas of my life, including sex!

This is in no way a comprehensive list. I’m sharing this to let you know that change is possible. I was 55 when I met my sweetheart, and he was 60. So it’s never too late to have the fabulous sex life you’ve always wanted!

1. I became able to be present and not dissociated, so I’m actually there with my partner paying attention and enjoying myself. I’m not worried about how I’m being perceived or feeling shame about my body.

2. I’m in my body because I’m comfortable in my own skin. Though I’m down over 100 pounds from my top weight, my comfort in my own skin has nothing to do with that. Speaking of skin, I have lots of extra, wrinkly sagging skin I never had before. And guess what – I don’t care. And neither does he! If I’m naked in front if him, he’s more excited that there’s a naked woman in front of him and that he’s about to get some action than he is what my skin looks like! I didn’t know I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin before, and I think that change has everything to do with my trauma recovery. I’m not self-conscious the way I used to be, and it allows me to wear things that are enticing. I always wanted to do that in the past, but I just couldn’t get past the discomfort.

3. I’m never drunk or high.

4. I’m not mired in fear. This subsumes a lot of the things on this list because my main fear was other people and what they’d think of me. That’s amplified when you’re making love with someone. Through my recovery from codependence, I’ve learned to keep the focus on myself. 

5. I’m whole. That means I’m willing to be vulnerable with my partner because I’m no longer fragmented and easily shattered by events of the world, especially by what others think of me (or what I believe others are thinking of me).

6. I’m not people pleasing. I’m doing what I really want to do, and ask for what I really want and getting it. Amazing! 😍

7. I allow myself to try things I never did before, and to tell my partner, “This is a little scary for me, can you help me through this?” (p.s., he loves being asked to help me).

8. I had a conversation with my partner about sex before we ever had sex to discuss my hopes and fears about sex based on my past experiences. I did this in a coffee shop, not while we were making out. I told him, “I want to have a conversation about sex” so he knew what was coming. I didn’t go into any details about my past experiences. It was about principles rather than personalities. 

9. I got to know my partner well and established trust and emotional intimacy before we had sex. This massively enhanced our sexual relationship. This helped with a lot of the other stuff on this list. I was absolutely incapable of doing this kind of thing before recovery.

10. I’m able to “let it rip” in ways I never did before! I’d always enjoyed sex before, but I didn’t realize I hadn’t been allowing myself to truly let go and just enjoy the moment. I was previously obsessed with what the other person was thinking or doing or not doing. Now I’m “obsessed” with my experience.

11. I communicate directly with my partner about our relationship, so there are never things left unsaid that get in the way in the bedroom. This also means we have lots of fun together, which carries over into the bedroom.

12. I’m very clear about my values and priorities, and time with my partner is sacrosanct. When I’m with him, I’m with him. I’m not working or thinking about work, or chores, or tasks I should be completing. I value this relationship, and I value him. I’ve never had anything like this before, and I intend to keep it by being present and making it a priority.

13. I deeply appreciate my partner and the quality of our relationship, especially in comparison to previous relationships. I expressed that to my partner frequently. The vast majority of our communications with each other are positive, which carries good will into the bedroom!

14. I can tell the truth and admit I love sex without using that to try to attract partners before we really know each other. In the past I’d “drop bait” with people way before I should have to kind of let them know that I enjoy sex. It was an inappropriate way for me to attract them. Deep down, I thought that was what I had to offer. I didn’t know how to be emotionally intimate with people, and I tried to “hot wire” emotional intimacy through physical intimacy.

15. I don’t expect my partner to read my mind and know what pleases, and I don’t expect to read his mind either. 

16. When I read this list to my partner, he pulled out the book Intimacy in Alcoholic Relationships. THAT is hot!

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