Sexting To Fill The Void – By Patty Powers

sextingimage-14For readers of a certain age who may be asking themselves “What’s Sexting?” It’s the act of sending sexy text messages which may include sexually explicit images (often personal). It’s the 21st century version of spin the bottle or strip poker but with higher stakes. It’s a way to bring sexual intrigue to the forefront of the conversation. The main difference is that you don’t even have to be part of the game to experience it. For example, last weekend I was shown a bunch of pretty graphic pornographic images of men and women who probably never gave a second thought to what would become of these personal photos when they were hitting the send button on their phone. And no – I didn’t ask to see them.

This past year I’ve read numerous news stories about teenagers (young women mostly) who’ve committed suicide after nude photos they sent to someone they probably trusted were shared on social media. After a couple friends surprised me with the photos they’d received, I started to think about how impulsivity kicked up while sexting overrides, weighing out big-picture consequences. I’m not here to be a buzz kill if you get off on sending dick pics or if sending photos that would make Hustler readers blush is part of your foreplay. What interests me is how the emotional consequences or fallout from impulsive behavior might affect someone in recovery. I learned from the conversations we’ve had on SEX TALK that it’s much harder for people in recovery to discuss negative consequences connected to their sexual behavior than it is to admit emotional pain from other sources.

male-719539_640A couple weeks ago a friend told me about a guy she met at the gym. She’d been through a terrible break-up and had been stuck in the darkness of grief so this chance meeting shone light in the direction of hope and possibility. She forwarded a face photo to me that he’d sent shortly after their initial meeting. It had been a few weeks so over lunch I asked how things were going with the new guy. She said she’d had to postpone their first date a couple times because of work obligations so they got into the habit of nightly texting. It didn’t take long before the texts became playful and sexy – which she was down for since she was enjoying the attention and it was evidence that she was moving on with her life. When dick pics started turning up on her phone she wasn’t discouraging. The playfulness of their sexy banter was exciting but she failed to noticed that it replaced their “getting to know you” texts. At this point in our conversation, tears began welling up in her eyes. When they finally met up in person the space between them was filled with awkward silence and sexual tension. She’d been interested in him and wanted to get to know him but because of their sexting the date turned out to be nothing more than a hook up. She was devastated but not surprised when she didn’t hear from him again – not because she had an emotional investment in the new guy (because she didn’t) but because his texts had been filling a void which now felt even bigger. As a woman in her 40s, she didn’t consider sexting as anything more than sexy playful panorama-1414827_1280banter and figured emotional intimacy would follow in real life if they had a connection. She had no idea when she started sexting back that it was replacing the emotional intimacy she craved nor had she noticed how she’d become dependent on evenings of texting as a way to avoid experiencing the grief of heartbreak, fear of change. Fixed by fantasy and distraction she also failed to recognize the need for self-care when she was in HALT.

The above is just one person’s sexting experience so join me this Sunday at 9pm for SEX TALK and let’s get this conversation started. What are your experiences with the pros and cons of sexting?

SEX TALK is an open forum at where we talk about sex in recovery; so if sexting doesn’t apply to you feel free to steer the direction of the conversation toward issues that do concern you.



About Patty Powers

Originally from Toronto, Patty began drinking and using drugs recreationally as an adolescent. At eighteen she moved to New York City where chance meetings with other addicts opened doors to careers, romantic relationships, the art world and the music scene. By 1987, she was living alone in an abandoned building in Los Angeles, having cut all ties to her former life. It was at this low point she was first introduced to recovery. On December 10th 1988, Patty was admitted into a treatment facility located outside of New Orleans for heroin addiction, cocaine, and methamphetamine use. She was discharged with 42 days clean on the first day of Mardi Gras and has remained drug and alcohol free. Patty did not set out to become a recovery coach. Initially she was asked by friends in the entertainment industry to help provide guidance and companionship to their clients struggling with balancing work commitments with their newfound sobriety.Through word-of-mouth her practice grew to include referrals from therapists, treatment providers, and other coaches. Leaders in the wellness community, including integrative physicians and psychiatrists, now refer Patty clients struggling not only with substance abuse issues but also those with impulsive destructive behaviors. Her recovery writing and personal essays appear regularly on numerous websites. Patty speaks at wellness events and sober college campuses and brings Recovery Strategies Workshops to community and recovery events. She hosts a live video open discussion on Sex in Recovery the first Sunday of each month at
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One Comment

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    Jessica Donovan

    Love this! Makes total sense. It’s a hard scenario for anyone but especially those in recovery. I also find it disturbing that this is the way many teens are exploring their sexuality and intimacy. It’s a false reality. I look forward to listening on Sunday!

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