At the Intersection of Addiction, Sex, Kink, and Power Exchange

Finding recovery isn’t easy for anyone. When you’re kinky and/or wired toward power exchange relationships, things can get even more complicated. The frantic intersection of addiction, sex, kink and power exchange can throw so many variables at us simultaneously that it is a particular challenge to navigate. When the person dealing with addiction is also a kinkster, there are more layers than a Kardashian wedding cake.

I have seen how the shame embedded in our secret desires related to fetishes and kink – including unfulfilled needs for the domination/submission dynamic in our lives – can be a major causal factor for addictive behavior. As an addiction counselor and person in long term recovery, this makes perfect sense to me. Substance misuse is often directly tied to a need to self-medicate, numb ourselves, and turn off our emotions. So turning off that shame with an addiction is a trap that is easily fallen into.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

One topic that isn’t often discussed in recovery is sex. It’s not a topic that a lot of people are comfortable discussing in the first place. but when we add in the heavy blanket of addiction and recovery to the conversation, it can be even trickier. For many who of us use (or have used) drugs or alcohol to excess, our entire sex life is co-mingled with their active use. So when we begin working toward recovery, we might find that everything connected to our sexuality and sexual identity is a dangerously slippery slope.

Many people living with addiction have a problematic relationship with sex because using and having sex were things that happened at the same time, like people who only smoke when they’re at the bar having a drink. When we stop using, we’re not sure how to be sexual anymore without our drug of choice; and sometimes the sexual situations themselves can trigger us to want to use, especially when there is a heightened anxiety surrounding it.

Just like recovery itself, there’s no single answer, no one-and-done solution to the problem. What I do know is that for me, leaning full-force into the mental/psychological aspects of sexuality ended up saving me from myself. I know that when I embraced the truth – that the physical aspects of sex are only a fraction of the experience – my horizons were broadened and I began to understand the potential for a much fuller experience.

A Conundrum

Recovery can be confusing on its best days. One camp tells us we need to admit that we’re powerless over our addiction, while another tells us the true path is to claim our power over it. Then we have people who find themselves somewhere floating in the beautiful spectrum of the LGBTQ+ world who have been told we were powerless for as long as we can remember, and substance use makes us feel as though we’re in control for a brief moment.

But what if the person is also drawn to power exchange and wanting to relinquish their control? Drinking and substance use are so enmeshed in queer and kinky culture that it can be difficult to find a safe space in which to explore. That’s one of the factors that led me back into leather, fetishes, and kink after two decades away; I want to talk openly about this intersection of addiction, sex, kink, and power exchange in the hope of helping someone feel understood and recognized.

Sexual exploration (both physical and psychological) is an important aspect of understanding who we are and what makes us tick. Exploring power exchange in a safe way with people you trust can be a liberating and empowering experience.

My early years of kink exploration were incredibly therapeutic for me in my earliest years of recovery. Please be mindful that some members of our beloved kinky family need to explore and play in a safe, nonjudgmental, and low-pressure environment free of alcohol and substances.