I was a bonafide party girl for more than 10 years, personifying the stereotypes with slurred words and a boozy smile. I danced on bars, pursed my lips to make a duck face for pictures and loudly “whooooooooed” anytime I ran into a friend I hadn’t planned on seeing. My duck face may have looked like I was having the time of my life, but once my buzz wore off in the morning, it left me with a horrible headache. I was only slightly plugged into reality. It’s hard to figure out who you are when you have a personality that’s predominantly based on alcohol consumption.
Alcohol amplified my people-pleasing tendencies—especially in the bedroom.
I’ve always had a dysfunctional relationship with sex that left me feeling simultaneously confident and insecure. Confident because I was down to try new positions with new partners. Insecure because much of that confidence came from a place of wanting to be perceived as cool, daring and sexy. That longing superseded my pursuit of genuine sexual satisfaction, bringing a performative element between the sheets. I knew I liked to explore and have fun, but I never took the time to get to know my own body until I got sober.
I had to get honest to admit that I had a drinking problem and that same level of honesty spread into every aspect of my life. Once I stopped lying to myself about my relationship with alcohol, it was hard to lie to myself about anything else. Removing booze from the equation pushed me to understand myself and the world in a new way.
I couldn’t hide from reality once sobriety fully plugged me into it. Sobriety is a fucking mirror, man.
One of the many lies I told myself and my sexual partners was about orgasms. I faked them. A lot. The gravity of this secret weighed heavily on me the first time I had sober sex. I was seeing someone for a month or so before we became sexual. The old me would have had sex, faked an orgasm and gone on with the rest of our night. But this night was different since there was no alcohol involved. Inspired by the infamous Seinfeld scene when Elaine tells Jerry that she “fake fake fake faked” with him, I shared my secret with my date.
“I always fake orgasms when I have sex,” I said.
“Why?” he asked, confused.
“I honestly don’t know,” I replied in earnest. “But I don’t want to do it anymore.”
“Sex is about more than orgasms,” he assured me with a kiss. “It’s about connection and fun. Let’s just focus on that.”
So that’s just what we did: we focused on fun. That was the first time I felt fully empowered in bed. I wasn’t worried about how I looked. I didn’t keep track of the time so I could begin my performance. I experienced the first sign of what I now recognize as intimacy. We had a good time and a genuine connection, no orgasms required.
The suffocating weight of carrying that lie finally began to dissipate. I was free.
I told him that I didn’t know why I faked orgasms, but that wasn’t true. I did know. I faked because I wanted to appear “normal”—whatever the hell that means. Film, television, and porn present the female orgasm in an incredibly unrealistic way. This conditioning convinced me that “normal” women climax often, and quickly, during sex—even without clitoral stimulation. It wasn’t until later in sobriety, after obsessively researching the topic, that I discovered how common it actually is to fake orgasms.
As Lux Alptraum states in her book, Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex and the Truths They Reveal, “Women lie because sometimes a lie is the only way to express a deeper truth.”
Lying about my drinking problem and faking orgasms was how I expressed my deeper truth: I was terrified of getting to know the real me.
I also faked because I was more concerned with placating the male ego than pursuing my own pleasure. It just seemed easier to keep the lie going instead of facing why I lied in the first place. This lie also represented my sexuality, my womanhood and the faith I had in myself. The thought of confronting those parts of me seemed impossible. In fact, those were some of the topics I drank to hide from in the first place.
Sobriety wouldn’t let me hide anymore.
Hollywood doesn’t only tell us how the female orgasm should look; it also shows us how a rock bottom should look. My rock bottom was not the dramatic I-lost-everything trope that you see on screen. In fact, it was pretty tame. Some coworkers and I met at Fanelli’s in SoHo, our favorite spot. But something felt different this time. Perhaps on some level, I knew this was my last hoorah. The recurring theme in our conversation was the fact that we each moved to New York City to pursue our creative passions but we “didn’t have enough time” to pursue those passions. I moved to New York City to find my voice as a writer, but I wasn’t writing.
Four pints of Stella and Paulaner Hefeweizen later, we separated before walking to our respective trains. This is when I felt a shift. While I enjoyed my Sunday Funday beer buzz, I also became hyper-aware of the fact that we had just spent four hours in a pub…in Manhattan…drinking alcohol…talking about how we don’t have enough time to accomplish the goals that brought us to Manhattan in the first place. Yet another example of how I lied to myself about my drinking problem. This reality check struck me; I couldn’t shake it. In those four hours, the sunny afternoon transitioned into a haunting dusk while we transitioned from sober to beer buzzed. Bubbly to morose.
This dusk, this buzz mocked me. It screamed—Make a change!
The next morning I woke up feeling groggy. Not quite hungover but not quite my usual, I-love-mornings self. I skipped my workout. Again. I stayed in bed to stare at the ceiling, waiting for something to jump out at me to explain why I felt so off. This familiar pseudo hangover felt like a strange mix of emotional and physical anguish.
To be honest, it never felt great after a night of drinking, but again, I was hyperaware this time. I walked to the bathroom to look at myself in the mirror: Bags under my eyes. Face bloated. Belly bloated. Mascara all around my eyes. Head cloudy. I thought, You’re 29. This isn’t cute anymore.
At that moment I decided to not drink for a week.
I’d done this before. I’d even gone for three months without booze just to prove to myself I could do it, only to celebrate the three-month mark with shots of Jack Daniels.
One week turned into two weeks. Those two weeks turned into three weeks.
Then I made a decision that changed the entire trajectory of my life: I’ll be 30 next week. I’ll celebrate by not drinking for the duration of my 30th year. The gonzo journalist in me decided to take this plan a step further: I’ll document this entire experience, in real-time, by starting a blog.
So I launched SobrieTeaParty.com. This solidified that pub conversation. If alcohol was getting in the way of my writing, I should stop drinking and write about it, right? My blog served as a form of accountability for both sobriety and writing. That year-long social experiment was the jumping-off point that I needed. As I write this, I have four-and-a-half years without a drink or drug.
After countless years of flirting with sobriety, I finally ditched booze for good.
Perhaps it was that I had recently relocated from Texas to New York City. Or maybe it was the fact that I could no longer hide from how my drinking habits hindered my ability to take my writing—and myself—seriously. I think it was a bit of both. I had no idea that sobriety would make everything better: my writing, my mental health and my sexuality. Especially the latter.
In sobriety, I no longer wanted to add a performative element to sex. The thought of tightening my pelvic floor while gyrating my hips and moaning in pseudo-pleasure seemed like too much work. This lie I told myself and my sexual partners over 14 years of sexual activity finally felt dishonest. I’ve always enjoyed sex because it felt good. Why did I think that fake orgasms had to be part of the
I replaced the bedroom performances with much needed alone time to reintroduce myself to my body. I spent time discovering what I like, what I don’t like and what I’d maybe like to try with someone else. I longed for genuine connection and intimacy with a partner who
wanted to explore my body with me.
My plan was simple: give up booze and write about it for a year. That year changed the course of my life. Self-discovery and a sexual awakening came as a much-appreciated side effect of a sober life. I’m still a party girl, it’s just that the party has changed. I actually remember what, and who, I did the night before.
Written by Tawny Lara
Tawny is a NYC-based writer, public speaker, and podcaster who’s passionate about smashing stigmas associated with both sexuality and sobriety. She’s recently been dubbed “The Sober Sexpert” by Ruby Warrington.
Tawny’s words have been published in Playboy, Men’s Health, Huffington Post, The Temper, Audiofemme, SheSaid, and more. Tawny has shared her recovery story on stages all across the world: IOGT World Congress, New York State Recovery Conference, United Federation of Teachers, and more.