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Carry the Message:
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By Amanda Holloway, LPC
Clinical Coordinator, MARR, Inc.

Everybody knows that “sex sells.” This is true of so much of the advertising we are exposed to, that many of us never consider what is being purchased. Quite simply, these images have bought space in our heads and that gives direct access to our hearts and as a result, our lives.

Many millions of dollars are spent marketing to adolescents, the most vulnerable group. As teenagers, we are trying to figure out who we are, and how to belong and fit in. We are becoming more independent, and beginning to look at the future. One of the primary ways we learn to belong is through watching and imitating others. The average young person in the United States views more than 3000 ads per day on television, the Internet, on billboards, and in magazines. Advertisers are always seeking new and creative ways of targeting young consumers. The sexually provocative images, sounds, and suggestions that are specifically designed to arouse interest in a product can be very confusing.

It should be no surprise, then, that advertising is especially influential for young women during adolescence. The advertiser sells the vison that sex equals the key to popularity, happiness, and dreams coming true. Also, at this age, many young women first begin to first experiment with and abuse substances. For some, using provides the opportunity to fit in and look cool while living out the fantasies in the ads/movies/TV shows. For others, it is the chance to finally feel comfortable in the skin of a changing body seen as ready for sex despite still being led by a mind ill-equipped for adult attention and sexual experiences.

The use of alcohol and drugs during this stage of life as a way to connect with others, become more comfortable with a changing body, and reduce sexual anxieties, creates a deep-rooted connection between sexuality and substances. In early recovery, the idea of a sexual self without drugs/alcohol is either unfathomable or so far in the distant past that the memory seems lost forever. For many women, sex is the last connection left to others; serving as a final vestige of intimacy stolen by the isolation of addiction. Entering treatment, one is confronted with a body that they have either never known or cannot recognize. Bodies that they struggle to find a way to connect with, appreciate and love.

Learning about one’s self in recovery includes learning how to embrace the sexual self and body that may have been avoided during adolescence. This includes learning to overcome feelings of shame related to past sexual choices, trauma work, body acceptance, and ideas about love. Not addressing the role that sex and sexuality have played in the various stages of addiction is to ignore one of the major relapse triggers for women: relationships.

In the midst of discussing feelings and patterns, and learning to take time to develop healthy, safe relationships, a woman in recovery needs to be reacquainted with her body, possibly for the first time since adolescence. She needs to understand that the feelings and sensations are not abnormal or dirty and that substances are not needed to embrace this aspect of self. A woman in recovery needs to recognize that sex is more than what was advertised, not for sale, and that they can be sole owners of their sexuality.


Carry the Message:
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3 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    I am 64 year’s old and I can so relate to this! I was the skinny little girl with no breast’s. Still don’t have much! Now I’m happy for that. In the mean time, I felt VERY SEXUAL always! My mother made me feel ashamed! I have felt for a long time that I’m okay, I am who I am, and I’m okay. My advice to young women today… wait. It will come to you in time. Don’t be in a hurry, later is better. Take it from me…I love my sexuality and so does my man. It’s worth the wait! Be strong but don’t lose the SEXUAL feeling, save it for the right person, whom ever you choose.

  • Anonymous Addict says:

    This is so accurate. I am currently and unfortunately using again after graduating from a nine month rehabilitation program 10 months ago, relapsing only 5 weeks after returning home from the program. For women especially, sexuality is very much intertwined with addiction. Many of us are using to numb the pain of being sexually abused, from shame of a permiscuous lifestyle, or like myself, both. Of course like many young female addicts, I am substantially far more permissions when I am using. We young ladies often find that selling our bodies is the most rapid and profitabke way to obtain the means to fund our drug of choice. I now have regretfully landed a position as an exotic dancer and no longer use my degree as I cannot maintain any other type of basic employment, as I now require excess profit with minimum authority, rules, and discipline. This unforunate career change only lead to my using twice the amount of heroin that I originally used, as I now wish to numb the pain of guilt and shame from what my job entails, which has created a vicious cycle. We often fail to realize just how many aspects of our lives our addiction can and will control. Relationships are indeed a trigger for relapse, as we addicts lack coping skills, ad try to avoid feeling the pain of heartbreak by using the means we are most comfortable with and accustomed to: substance abuse. For me, a heartbreak was the reason I returned to being numb again, as I did not listen to the advice given to me to refrain from relationships for at least a year after achieving sobriety. Learning how to establish a healthy, balanced, and wholesome sex life is so very pertinent to one’s recovery and I am glad to see this issue addressed by recovery proffesionals.

  • Laurine Fyfe says:

    The blog was how do i say it… relevant, finally something that helped me. Thanks:)

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