A Year Without Sex
In my late teens and early 20’s things were pretty chaotic. In half-hearted attempts to disrupt the toxicity, I would swear off drinking for 30 days… and last a week. Or promise to quit smoking, and light up that evening. I’d want to leave the service industry, and wind up taking a promotion. I’d promise to be single for a while- boldly announcing that I was ready to “focus on myself” without realizing that I’d already lined up the next partner. The spiral downward tightened and the cycle of detox-to-retox intensified. The more I sought change the more I faced resistance. I was miserable and I was stuck. I finally gained enough clarity to recognize the kingpins in my destructive lifestyle and consequently found the strength to start making changes.
“I have to quit drinking. I’ll quit for a year.” The decision came from beneath a blanket, where I hid in my shame from the night before. It was the morning of my 24th birthday and I was too hungover to care.
If anyone had told me that my life without alcohol would quickly become unrecognizable, and that I would lose most of my friends… I don’t know that I would have gone through with it. Everything did change. Ultimately all for the better, but it took the slow clarity of sobriety to allow me to see the shift as a gain and not a loss.
1 year sober, quickly turned into 3. And this chapter has become the most transformative, healing, productive, and inspiring years I’ve yet to experience.
Self-care is a popular topic right now as we are reminded to listen to our bodies, trust ourselves, and do what feels good. Take a bath, treat yourself without guilt, set healthy boundaries, etc. But toxic lifestyles with addictions and bad habits are tricky- slyly convincing us that its them we really want or need.
If we’re not in a place of being in touch with our mind/body/spirit who’s steering the ship?
How was I supposed to listen to my body, when I wasn’t even remotely connected to it?
How was I supposed to practice self-care when I didn’t feel worthy?
By pure luck (or ultimate misery) I tried something that scared me, challenged me, and forced me to change. Getting sober sure didn’t feel like self-care, it felt like a desperate clawing attempt to have something change.
The other grossly obvious problem in my life during that same time came from repeatedly choosing unhealthy sexual relationships. One beautiful asshole after the next. I was always tied up in someone- weaving myself into the twisted worlds of liars, cheaters, addicts, and master manipulators. Sometimes I was no better.
“I’ll stay celibate for a year.” This audacious statement coming from desperation, but without follow through.
And then I started traveling.
Traveling lead to a lot of new relationships, and an equal number of goodbyes. Dating someone while traveling around the world proved to be nearly impossible and wholly unimportant. My focus became finding ways to fill my days, explore my surroundings and connect with the people around me. I was single from the beginning of the journey, and grateful for it.
Three years later, I’m still traveling and single. I realized in February of this year, that I hadn’t slept with anyone in nearly a year. A commitment I’d always wanted to keep, but never accomplished despite my greatest efforts.
And then as if by magic, without any intentional effort here I was a few months away from a year of celibacy.
I realize now that I was able to accomplish this goal because I wasn’t thinking about it. Over the last several years I’d shifted my focus from creating romantic relationships, to seeking friendships. I focused on my life, my dreams and my next move. I traveled freely chasing my passions and taking risks. I became a certified yoga teacher, a professional documentary filmmakers, and lived out my dream of converting a box truck into a tiny house. I was busy, full of inspiration, and finding fulfillment in my solitary journey.
My understanding of intimacy quietly shifted. I didn’t have to give and receive love with just one person anymore. I realized that love existed in great abundance within me and all around me. I’d spent so many years looking for love, validation, and someone to share my experiences with that I missed the big picture. Travel has helped me learn to love myself while tapping into the infinite love and connections that exist through community and friendships. Unexpectedly, I found that I had so much more love to give when it wasn’t all focused on one person.
I realized that sometimes when we want to change a behaviour its best to not think about it at all.
Could our obsessive attempts of removal be continually manifesting the same outcome?
Maybe instead of actively trying to rid ourselves of something, all we need is a shift in focus.
When I quit drinking, I announced it to friends and family. I made a vision board and connected with sober communities. I set goals and continually reflected on my intentions. When I “quit sex” the intention never crossed my mind. I started living a life of independence that excited and fulfilled me. I found myself so inspired that I didn’t have the time or desire to share my life with a partner. And suddenly, I had lived a harmonious and love-filled year without sex.
Are you receiving the message that there is something you need to commit to and intentionally shift? Or is the problematic behaviour just a sign that something in your life much larger, and perhaps unseen, is not benefitting you?
Do we focus on abstinence and removal, or do we focus on attracting what we want and let the universe naturally shift our behaviour?
I think self-care is the practice of learning to identify the difference.
Please feel free to share your experiences below or let me know what you think. Everyone has a unique life story, and different things work for different people. Is self-care a part of your life? How did you learn to listen to your mind/body/spirit?