Has anyone experienced problems with intimacy in early recovery?


My S/O is going on 4 months sober. I’m extremely proud of him. It’s everything I’ve prayed for during the past year. He’s been in my life for 15 years and has always struggled with alcoholism. This past year has been both promising and tough. During 2020, he had more sober days than drunk but he’s had a few very tough relapses. We’ve been through hell and back together. After a very tough relapse in November, he got sober and this time, it’s sticking.

I want him to be sober more than anything. I’m so very happy to have my best friend back. We’ve been enjoying each other’s company and mostly it’s been great. But there has definitely been a lack of intimacy. I’m not sure what is going on. I’ve mentioned it twice now. Each time he states that he’s not sure if it’s his meds he’s on or just the fact that this time around he’s really working his program. He’s on Remeron for insomnia, but it’s an anti depressant as well. He’s definitely working his AA program in a way I’ve never seen. He’s being completely transparent about everything and is taking his recovery very seriously. So I can’t figure out if it’s the med, the full on concentration into his program, or a bit of both that’s leading to a lack of intimacy. The worst thought that crosses my mind is that it’s me. Maybe he doesn’t want me like that anymore. He says it’s not that at all and we still have the same bond we’ve always had it’s just that he’s working a completely different program than he’s ever worked and it takes a ton of energy to rewire his brain.

unfortunately, i feel it’s taking a toll on my self-esteem. I want so bad to support him, but I have needs too. I want to feel desirable and wanted. Maybe my needs need to take a back burner for now. I’ve been careful not to say too much because I think it would make him feel bad. He’s told me things will get better.

Everything else is perfect. We see each other every day. He constantly tells me he loves me. He holds my hand, gives me kisses, we laugh constantly. but it stops there. We haven’t been intimate sexually in over a month. I think since rehab we’ve been intimate a total of 3-4 times, and it’s been dwindling more and more as time goes by. I can’t help but think this isn’t healthy for us. Also, he seems to be very rigid now. everything seems like business. We go to work, he goes to AA, comes home, bed at a very rigid hour, repeat. We have a movie night once per week and we shop together on the weekends. We pretty much do everything in life together, But anything romantic or intimate is at zero. He wants to be around me, tells me he loves me, includes me in everything, but zero sex. it’s super confusing.

I need help, because I can feel resentments building up on my end. I feel like screaming at times. I feel selfish because other than the sex he’s 100% always there for me. This is a new issue, so I’m just completely baffled. we’ve always been very intimate together when he’s been sober in the past so this is definitely new territory. I also have to remember he’s almost died several times this year. He was very, very sick. I know what i’m expecting is a lot after what he’s been through. But I’ve been through it right with him. It was a very lonely time for me to see someone slowly killing themselves. It was devastating and I’ve been through huge amounts of trauma as a result. I just feel myself craving his touch and wanting to be held and feel something intimate with him. I feel like the loneliness continues in early recovery.

Any similar experiences or advice would be greatly appreciated. I do not want to interfere with the work he’s doing. without the program, we will have nothing. How can I push through this without my self-esteem plummeting. I do go to Alanon and therapy which is helping. But any advice would be very helpful.


Congrats to your S/O on four months!! I know it’s been a rollercoaster for you both, but I hope you’re both so proud of how far you’ve come <3 I’m so happy to hear!

I have had a similar experience and my husband’s doctors mentioned that this was a possible side effects of the medication he was prescribed in treatment and continued to take when he returned home. I know it’s so hard to not take something like this personally, but early recovery is such a unique time. I’ve heard that it is completely normal to be utterly exhausted in early recovery and I experienced that myself when I quit drinking and I wasn’t chemically addicted. There is a lot going on in the brain and the body and healing takes a lot of work.

When I was worried about this, I used the positive communication techniques to broach it with my husband so it could be done in a way in that was non-blaming or shaming and just as a way to check in and let him know that it brought up some worries, but I understood that intimacy might not be top of mind. I found this approach effective and it opened the door for future conversations as needed. I also know that there were many times he tried to initiate being intimate when he was drinking and that was definitely a firm boundary that I held to. I wondered if there wasn’t some fear of rejection that he held on to after quitting drinking. Ultimately, I think there’s lots of reasons, but I tend to believe they have more to do with whatever is happening in his brain and body than with you. And that understanding will come with time. But hopefully you can find a way to bring it up and talk through with him in way that feels comfortable and helpful for you both.
Hugs <3


My man has been in an SLE and doing the 12 steps with a sponsor and a meeting a day for 4 1/2 months. We haven’t had sex in two months. I kinda pushed and looked for affection by asking him what love means to him. I wanted to feel loved in some way because intimacy has been such an issue. We haven’t had sex in two months and I felt so not sexy. He got overwhelmed by all the questions and broke it off with me. We talk everyday and he says he’s trying to focus on his program. Don’t bring it up and let him figure it out. The more you ask the more they run. I do know my man loves me but he’s just going through so much. I heard it was a 90 day detox but I also heard it’s 18 months to fully detox. Just love him for what he is doing. Work on yourself so when you’re with him you can be the most supportive and positive you can. It is hard. We tend to be codependent after all the relapses and drunk episodes.


Thank you @Tlee22! I needed to hear this. I really believe it’s a combo of things. When he used to drink I often would reject him due to boundaries I needed to set for myself and many times he had some performance issues in that department due to the alcohol (if you know what I mean). So I believe some of it may be fear related. It’s probably a mix of everything. Its just that this is new territory. Normally during sober periods, our sex life gets way better. This time is very different. Hoping that’s an overall good sign. :crossed_fingers:

I have therapy this week, so I’m hoping to get some wording from her that is positive and non blaming. So far, when it has been brought up, it has been helpful to talk it out with him. He just keeps reiterating the work this is undertaking, how his energy levels have been down, and he thinks possibly the meds are playing a role too. But when a week turns into a month, it starts to wear a bit on me mentally. I also don’t want to bring it up too much either. That’s the other issue. I sometimes hold off because I don’t want to rock the boat or make him stressed when he’s got enough on his plate already. It’s a fine dance between expressing my needs and putting his first during this delicate time.


Thank you for sharing, I’ve known my boyfriend for 3 years but we just started a romantic relationship in August, which has been wonderful, I knew he had struggled with addiction in the past , I knew there could be a possibility if relapse, which happened after the loss of my mom and his good friend the end of October, he relapsed. I had already known I’ve fallen in love with him so I was going to see him through this, left for rehab 11/9 which was very devastating to watch him leave but relieving at the same time. I only talked to him through letters while he was gone, but all positive. He came home on this past Thursday, chose to go live with his mom (we didn’t live together but before he left we were together 7 days a week) he told me he wasn’t breaking up with me ,he wasn’t leaving me but he had to take this time to work on him, but he would still find time to see me, I know it’s only been 4 days he’s home but I’ve seen him 20 min, we have talked but the past 2 days he became distant, suppose to meet up today, if he cancels again any advice on what to do is helping, new world to me I’m trying to remain reserved but it’s killing me, cause I love him


Thank you so much! I feel like there’s a bit of a trend with this. yeah it’s been almost 2 months too. I’ve decided to let it be for now. He’s affectionate in all other ways. He says he’s trying to process some things from our past sober and through recovery and it takes a lot of energy. Sex just isn’t something that’s going to happen at the moment. He said he loves me, our bond is still the same, he holds my hand, kisses me, has date nights with me. But at the moment, he’s got some things to work through that were once keeping him sick for a long time. Unfortunately one of the things that was keeping him sick is how him and I became a pair in the first place. He has some amends to make, and wants to make sure he’s doing everything in line with his recovery. I think I have no choice but to respect where he is at the moment with it all. Hoping time and recovery will heal him and one day we will get to enjoy that part of us again.


I definitely understand that and that’s been something I’ve struggled with too. It felt like everything was so fragile in earl recovery and I was afraid to bring things up because there was always the fear that whatever it was would cause more stress and I was so worried about contributing to a slip. But it sounds like he’s receptive to hearing what you have to say and I think practicing what you’ll say and how to say it can be a huge help.

One of the tips of positive communication in CRAFT that I fought in the beginning, but now find to be super helpful is taking partial responsibility. I have said things like “I know in the past I rejected sexual advances when you were drinking and I can understand how that may have hurt your feelings” and then leading into a positive ask. It has really helped to take away the shaming aspect when I’m hoping that my husband will change a behavior and shows empathy, which always seems to help.

I hope the conversation goes well!!


I relate to your story SO much!
My boyfriend is my addicted loved one, I’ve known him for years and we’ve officially been together for a year. I didn’t know about his addiction until March 2021. But when he told me about it, he was already doing online rehab (due to covid) and I was fully supporting of him getting better, doing whatever I could to let him know it’s his journey, I can’t fix it but I will be there to help however I can. Unfortunately the online rehab didn’t help and so he checked into residential treatment in Oct for a month. During his stay there we spoke every few days, telling eachother that we miss and love one another. I was aware that big changes would need to be made after rehab, because the life he was living was not sustainable. When he came home (we don’t live together either) he was very distant and quiet. I knew he was working the 12 steps, going to meetings every day and focusing on exercise and sport. I was so happy that he was getting himself together, but equally just very confused as to why I was being pushed aside. He always said I was the only person not to judge him, always be there for him and that I was one of the reasons he wanted to fight his addiction.

So why this distance? We’ve met up once to speak about it, he has made it clear that early recovery is a matter of life and death, how the odds of relapse are so high and he wants to do whatever he can to prevent it. And in his case, he doesn’t want to break up (sounds like your bf too) but he needs the space to focus on himself.

And I know you’ll be thinking the same as me - if I’m a good support, surely he’d want me around? It’s not like we were bad influences on their lives, so why am I being punished in all of this? I’m trying to accept the fact that although I’m good for him (he’s told me this), I would be taking up time from his recovery. And if he slips up even for a second, it could be catastrophic. If there’s any hope of a healthy relationship in the future, he needs to sort himself out. This early stage of recovery sees them thinking more clearly than ever (so far), but also has them at their most vulnerable.

Believe me, it’s hard to stay in that mindset. All I want is for us to be happy together, I miss him so much. But I have to trust that there is still so much love there from both sides, that the space is required so he can get stronger and then we can hopefully come back together and be better than ever.

I thought we’d catch up each week to see how he’s getting on, but it’s been 5 weeks and that hasn’t gone to plan. It’s very hard not to think the worst, but I’ve got to stay focused on what he told me. He’s coming up to his 90 day mark, which is supposed to be the hardest - so I’m going to try and reach out after that milestone and hopefully find out that we’re still on the same page.

The lack of contact is hard, it makes you question everything. But I have to remember that if he doesn’t heal, he’s at risk of dying. And if he thinks that the space is necessary for his healing, I have to get on board or he’d resent me if a relapse did happen.

I hope hearing my story helps you realise you’re not the only one! Be strong and look after yourself!


@Jess hi Jess,

My story continued with space for his recovery, with the idea that when he feels able to restart our relationship, we will try.

However, I found out this week that he got another girl pregnant BEFORE he went to rehab, so when we were very much in a committed relationship. Although it would’ve been bad if this happened post-rehab (during our break), it still would’ve been unacceptable bc there was a mutual understanding that the space was for recovery, not for moving on to ither people. But this happend just before he went to rehab so there’s absolutely no excuse. He is hiding away from this conversation. We live in an area where we are likely to bump into eachothers families etc A LOT. So he can’t avoid me forever.

I’m so hurt, I never ever ever thought he would do this to me. I always felt so sorry for other people in my situation where their partner cheated on top of the turmoil of loving someone with an addiction. As I said in my above post, I truly believed our love was strong enough to get through this. But now I’m questioning everything. I don’t know how to move on from this, the constant reminders of places/people around me will make this unbearable.

I hope you just take one day at a time with your recovering addict. Put yourself first, everyone always says this! I thought I did to an extent… but I deffo didn’t. I gave him all the space in the world bc I thought his recovery was the most important thing. It is, for him. So important that he never owned up to his cheating and pending fatherhood NEXT MONTH BTW! I did everything I could for us to work, and I have been betrayed in the most hurtful way.


@vpier @G1234 How’s it going? My boyfriend is 16 months sober now and we still have our ups and downs. Intimacy has definitely had its ups and downs. We’ve gotten better but it’s no where near where i’d like it to be. He recently has had some negative thoughts about a new job which seems to be spilling over into other areas of life. This always worries me into thinking a relapse could be in the horizon. And i tend to take on his feelings too. Boy has it been a journey! Sometimes my codependency just wants everything to be perfect and ok right now. When sober, he’s my constant, so any ruffle in the routine can get me very anxious. I need to learn to rely more on myself for that inner peace and not outside forces.


@Jess I feel alllll of this.

Intimacy has been and continues to be an issue in my marriage. It’s been months and while my husband assures me it’s not me, that things will pick back up, it’s still hard to not take it personally and wonder if he’s even still attracted to me. There has been infidelity in the past, too, so it adds to the trauma and low self esteem and fear. I’ve brought it up to him with no real changes. A friend of mine suggested starting out small, like just making out, but honestly I am afraid of rejection and just exhausted. I’m tired of everything being so hard.

Wondering how you’re all doing with this lately? @Jess @Tlee22 @G1234 @Devinabarbie @vpier


Hi @G1234 the fact that our loved ones can do things that really hurt us when they’re using or struggling through recovery is so painful. Thank you for sharing your experience with us here. You are definitely not alone, and I believe your share will help others feel less alone too. Just checking how you are doing now?