You are currently viewing Episode 381: Alcohol — Gas Pedal or Brake?

Episode 381: Alcohol — Gas Pedal or Brake?

“Sometimes popping two gummies on vacation helps us have really great sex!” “I really need that glass of wine to get me in the mood!” “Smelling alcohol on your breath is such a turnoff!” As couples and sex therapists, we’ve talked to thousands of partners about how alcohol and substances affect their relationships. Sometimes couples report that alcohol is a major block to sexual connection, others share that it can help them get out of their heads and make sex more enjoyable. In your relationship, is alcohol a gas pedal or a brake? Meaning it turns you on and helps with desire, arousal, orgasm or it shuts you down and you withdraw from sex. If seeing your partner drunk is a sexual brake, you may feel rejected by their advances because they wouldn’t typically act like that sober. If alcohol is a gas pedal, you may feel your inhibition lower and it’s more comfortable to access thoughts about sex and connection to your body. Listen to this episode as George and Laurie discuss the function of alcohol in sex and relationships and what you may need to explore underneath if it is a gas pedal or brake. Our hosts approach this topic with non-judgement and are explicit that alcohol and substance use runs on a wide spectrum and affects people in many ways. We know this may open up myriad reactions from our listeners and we welcome your feedback! As always, thank you for listening and keep it hot, y’all!

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Show Notes

Favorite Saying about Addressing Deeper Longing
– The guest speaker shares a favorite saying related to addressing deeper longing or desire, particularly in relation to alcohol

Desire for Sexual Openness and Connection
– The speaker expresses a desire to be more sexually open and connected with their partner without barriers
– Discuss the importance of addressing inhibitions and finding ways to create more intimacy in the relationship

Positive Effects of Substances on Health
– The speaker acknowledges the positive effects substances can have on one’s health, but emphasizes the goal of accessing those benefits without dependence

Couples Using Gummies to Enhance Sexual Experience
– Mention a couple who use gummies on special occasions to enhance their sexual experience
– Highlight how they find it to be a positive and enjoyable addition

Alcohol and Relaxation in Sexual Moments
– Discuss the idea that substances like alcohol can help people relax and be more present in the moment
– Address differing perceptions, with some seeing it as a lack of presence while others appreciate its effects

Gentle Guidance and Support in Addressing Inhibitions
– Emphasize the importance of gentle guidance and support in helping individuals address their inhibitions
– Acknowledge the significance of having someone who can slowly and gently assist in understanding the underlying reasons for inhibitions, particularly related to alcohol

Role Play, Empathy, and Ownership
– Highlight the role of role play in helping individuals empathize with others and understand their own desires
– Emphasize the importance of owning experiences and recognizing how role play allows individuals to connect with their bodies and experience arousal

Females Taking Control of Thoughts for Arousal
– Discuss the importance of females being in control of their thoughts in order to connect them to their bodies and experience arousal
– Explore how alcohol and other substances may affect this process

Finding What Works for Each Couple
– Highlight the importance of finding what works for each couple in terms of sexual arousal
– Acknowledge that some individuals may rely on substances while others do not, and that there is no one-size-fits-all approach

Communication and Sexual Preferences
– Discuss the challenge many couples face when it comes to having conversations about their sexual preferences
– Encourage open and honest communication about desires and boundaries

The Role of Alcohol in Relaxation and Sexual Experience
– Acknowledge the role of alcohol in enhancing relaxation and sexual experience
– Warn about the potential dangers of overdoing it and becoming checked out

Taking Ownership and Having Conversations
– Emphasize the importance of taking ownership and having conversations about the role of substances in sexual experiences
– Encourage discussing why they are needed, what works and doesn’t work, and finding healthier ways to access sexual desires

Reclaiming Split-Off Parts of Sexuality
– Question how individuals can reclaim split-off parts of their sexuality and have more access to their full sexual selves without relying on substances
– Explore the idea of healthy withdrawal and its role in becoming more vulnerable and open about feelings and fears


Laurie Watson [00:00:00]:

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Joe Davis – Announcer [00:00:28]:

The following content is not suitable for children.

Laurie Watson [00:00:31]:

One of the things, George, that comes up with people anybody sexual pursuers and sexual with jars is that they want to get drunk or they want to use a substance to kind of loosen their inhibitions. And I think it’s so important for us to talk about what this is about and think about not necessarily a judgmental point of view, but just understand what they’re hoping for in that. So a lot of people use alcohol to loosen up. Let’s talk about it.

George Faller [00:01:02]:

Sounds good.

Laurie Watson [00:01:05]:

Welcome to foreplay sex therapy. I’m Dr. Laurie Watson, your sex therapist.

George Faller [00:01:10]:

And I’m George Faller, a couple’s therapist.

Laurie Watson [00:01:12]:

We are here to talk about sex.

George Faller [00:01:14]:

Our mission is to help couples talk about sex in ways that incorporate their body, their mind, and their hearts, and.

Laurie Watson [00:01:23]:

We have a little bit of fun doing it. Right.

George Faller [00:01:24]:

G. Listen and let’s change some relationships.

Laurie Watson [00:01:28]:

Don’t forget to check out with the coupon foreplay. It really helps us to support the podcast and keep delivering free content. Thanks so much.

George Faller [00:01:37]:

All right, laurie. So again, put it in the context of gas pedals and brakes. Things that turn us on, lower our inhibitions, allow us to be more engaged, versus things that really shut us down, make it harder to be present. This is such a clash between the two with so many couples I work with, where one person really needs to lower the inhibitions. We’ll talk about the good reasons it’s a gas battle, but also the really good reasons it’s a break for the other person why that doesn’t work so well, and it really makes it difficult for them to engage.

Laurie Watson [00:02:12]:

Yeah. Some people have breaks on alcohol. Some people don’t drink alcohol to begin with. And sometimes the smell of alcohol on their partner’s breath reminds them of bad things from their past or maybe a parent who was an alcoholic. Or there can be really big blocks with alcohol. One of the smaller blocks that I hear is, why do you need to get high? Or why do you need to drink to be with me?

George Faller [00:02:39]:

So we’re leading with the breaks. I like this.

Laurie Watson [00:02:42]:

Yeah, it’s like a rejection. You need to get high. Because I think the worry is that the person doesn’t want to be with them and needs to not be sober completely in order to be with them.

George Faller [00:02:56]:

Well, for a lot of people, they’re not so present. Right. They, like, checked out. You’re with somebody who’s not really into you if what turns you on is that deep intimacy and this person’s checked out, you can see why that doesn’t work so well.

Laurie Watson [00:03:12]:

Exactly. They’re not necessarily the same person even I think I’ve heard that a lot. My partner, when they get drunk or when they use alcohol, it doesn’t even have to be drunk but when they’re using alcohol they get all lovey dovey and affectionate and it’s like OOH, that’s not who you seem to be in general. And so the difference that kind of sloppy part of them is just like a big turn off.

George Faller [00:03:43]:

Yeah, a lot of people feel like embarrassed by it. The person’s like a clown or a child. It’s not sexy, it’s not a turn on. You want to pinch my butt. That’s normally what you don’t do. And yet you have a couple of drinks and this side of you comes out that I really don’t like because it doesn’t seem like it gets me at all. It’s not so interested in me. I become more just a body, just an object for you.

Laurie Watson [00:04:13]:

Interesting that you would say that because I had somebody recently say my partner was drinking and they reached around and kind of pinched my butt and we were out for cocktails with friends. It’s like I don’t like that, I don’t want him to do that in public and was really offended and a big block comes up. You’re not sensitive, you’re not even respectful.

George Faller [00:04:33]:

Of my needs and you also mentioned the history. Right. A lot of times there’s trauma linked to episodes like this. Maybe your partner has done some really bad things when they were drunk and the body remembers that. Right. It becomes very vigilant of saying I don’t want this happening to me again. So when you start to count number of drinks or you start to smell alcohol, literally the smell of it or you see your partner smoking weed or whatever it is, it can have such a physiological response in shutting the body down because the body’s bracing for something bad to happen. It’s hard to want to have sex when you’re waiting for something bad to happen.

Laurie Watson [00:05:13]:

Exactly. But I also want to explore what happens inside the person who reaches for a substance.

George Faller [00:05:22]:

Gas pedal time.

Laurie Watson [00:05:23]:

Right? Well, and there are gas petals in it, they’re less inhibited. One person told me it’s like a woman said I am a sexual withdrawer but when I use alcohol I can literally put on lingerie, put on heels, crawl up on top of my partner and start doing them. And it was so exciting to her and she said that’s the other part of that woman that is so sexually aggressive is my uninhibited like that I can get to with the alcohol. And what was interesting to me was the way she saw it as so other not really owning it as like you know what girl? You made that all up. You thought that up, you were in an altered state, for sure. But those fantasies and that creativity and that kind of aggression and expression of your desire is a part of you. And for me, as a therapist, I want her to have access to that place, drunk or sober, it’s part of her. And I just think if we can get her comfortable with that, this is actually something she wants. And that was kind of my question, is what’s hard about expressing that when you’re sober?

George Faller [00:06:49]:

I love you’re. Starting with that. Right. The healthy function to whatever the drug is, because what the longing behind it is it wants to lower inhibitions and tap into vitality, tap into more sexual energy.

Laurie Watson [00:07:03]:


George Faller [00:07:04]:

One of my favorite sayings, that Irish saying, everybody focuses on the drinking and not the thirst. Right? The thirst here is that I want to be more of a sexual person. I want to connect with you in a deeper way. I want to do that with less walls put. So again, I love that you’re highlighting the health behind what these substances can kind of tap into. The real goal is going to be how do you tap into it without needing that? But we’re not coming at this from a judgmental point of view. We trust adults are going to make decisions, they’re going to take into considerations, the pluses and minuses of all these things. But I have a couple on special occasions, they might go away for a weekend and they’ll pop two gummies, both of them. And it doesn’t turn either one of them off, it just loosens both of them up. And they usually have some of the best sex they have during those weekends. It’s not just the gummies, it’s got the going away, it’s the intentionality. Right. But it’s a double gas pedal for both, so it’s a huge win. So again, they’re trying to see there’s a reason so many people need a glass of wine because it just loosens them up a little bit. It makes it easier to turn off the brain that’s anxious and thinking about distractions and it starts to kind of focus people into being more present. It’s amazing the partner takes it as not being present, but I think a lot of people do it to become more present and relaxed.

Laurie Watson [00:08:28]:

And I think what you just described, that they’re both taking it, it’s a very positive cycle. The one person’s lack of inhibition also kind of feeds the other person’s lack of inhibition. And together they might have some really, really amazing sex that they do remember and they’re not necessarily so out of it that they don’t remember. But that amazing bonding and intimacy and lack of inhibition where they enter their bodies fully and kind of merge their spirits, that stays with them and adds and AIDS their relationship. So I do think some people use it very productively to gain access to the sexual parts of them I’m not against substances. I just want you all to hear absolutely. I’m not a big drinker. Never have been, really. I didn’t go through a wild teenage years of drinking, obviously. And I don’t really need a substance to enjoy sex fully. But there is a part of me that I also enjoy it sometimes that way more or not more, but differently. I like the way it makes my head feel and I like the way the things that come out of me and the things that come out in my partner. Does that make sense?

George Faller [00:09:53]:

Yeah. Again, the proof is in the results. If it’s a gas pedal for you and your partner, it works, go for it. But if it’s not, if one’s a gas pedal and the other is a break, it’s a problem. And how do you have a conversation around it, which is, again, what most couples can’t do. People that need it can’t really describe why that glass of wine really loosens them up. And it’s not about zoning out. It’s about relaxing. We know great lovers are relaxed. And drugs help people relax and turn off. Sometimes they turn off too much and then they’re checked out. So this is a fine balance. But if I’m the partner on the other end who’s not drinking and I see that sloppiness, that’s really not going to work unless I was getting sloppy too, maybe.

Laurie Watson [00:10:50]:

Exactly. I just think that for sexual withdrawals, what came up in my work was there are disowned parts of the sexual self. As the sexual withdrawal becomes more healthy and the cycle stops pressuring them, they can become vulnerable and talk about their feelings and fears of being pushed and being not enough and all of that. But one of the things that really emerges in sexual withdrawals is the part of them that is assertive about their sexual needs and can own them. And maybe I’ve said it in the past, maybe they whispered their needs early on, but as they become stronger, they start to talk about directly their needs. And some of their needs can be very exciting. And they’ve given that up. And then, of course, they’ve lost some of the excitement about the sexual moments because they don’t feel as powerful as they could or they don’t have access to express the desire the way they want it. I guess I’m wondering, how can we help people own these split off parts so that they have more access to the full sexual self that maybe they’re believing they only get access to through a drug or alcohol?

George Faller [00:12:14]:

Again, I want to highlight what’s so important. What Laurie’s saying is that this is just a doorway that allows people to tap into deeper parts of their sexual self. And the body does remember that, and that’s great, and that’s really important. And how do we integrate that and not become dependent on needing a drug to be yourself? Right. That’s the balance that we’re really talking about. So let’s come back and let’s figure out that integration.

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George Faller [00:15:36]:

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Laurie Watson [00:15:42]:

Okay, so we’re going to come back and George is going to be my couple’s therapist. I’m going to be a sexual withdrawal, and he’s going to help me understand myself a little bit better sexually about what the alcohol is doing for me and help me kind of own some of that and integrate that a little bit more so that I have more access to it, more agency as a sexual woman, with or without alcohol. It’s not really about the alcohol. It’s about me getting in touch with and having access to those.

George Faller [00:16:19]:


Laurie Watson [00:16:20]:


George Faller [00:16:21]:

So, Jane, I know you’re talking about having great sex this weekend. Right. That’s a pretty big so let’s just help me set the stage. Like, what do you think led to such great sex?

Laurie Watson [00:16:37]:

Well, I think we’d spent a lot of time together, and he was really attentive to me. And we sometimes on Saturday evenings do have a ritual where we’ll have a fire and he’ll pour cocktails and I don’t know, it’d been a really good day. And so he poured me a drink and we were just sitting kind of by the fire. We weren’t saying a whole lot, and and after I was drinking, I think it was probably my second drink about midway, it was like something just I felt like touching him, and I slipped my hand into his inner thigh and just I didn’t do a whole lot more. Frankly, George, I guess that was enough for my I just I felt like I could do know I I don’t ever make the first move.

George Faller [00:17:34]:

Yeah, that felt really different. Right. So just try to understand what and it’s okay not to know. We’re just exploring here. But you were saying after that second glass of wine, I mean, that drink, that cocktail does that cocktail do something that precipitated right before that hand reaches over? It seemed like there was a part of you that wanted something from him which is different than you always being responsive. So this initiating side to you, it’s cool. I don’t really hear about that in these sexual encounters. So let’s just try to open up some space to understand what helped bring that out.

Laurie Watson [00:18:13]:

Well, it’s like I felt warm.

George Faller [00:18:21]:

And that’s the fireplace. That’s the conversations. That’s the alcohol. It’s some of everything.

Laurie Watson [00:18:28]:

Yes, definitely the fireplace. Definitely the alcohol on the inside and the conversation. I felt close, and there was a warmth between us, but I think I felt warm.

George Faller [00:18:49]:

So even right now, you can feel that warmth as you’re replaying us.

Laurie Watson [00:18:53]:

I don’t feel it right now, but I did then.

George Faller [00:18:57]:

And that warmth I mean, I feel.

Laurie Watson [00:19:00]:

The warmth of the fireplace and all that, but I don’t feel the warmth of being aroused or anything because I’m just talking to you.

George Faller [00:19:07]:

Well, again, that arousal. Warmth is the stuff that you normally don’t tap into. It gets really hard to tap into. So something this time made it you were able to access it. Right. I think it’s important that that’s there it’s just really hard to access most times, and usually you get it by being responsive, never really initiating. So this is a new move. So I’m just trying to think you think maybe that those cocktails just lower your guard a little bit that allows you to tap into it? What do you think the alcohol does?

Laurie Watson [00:19:45]:

Well, I agree. It did kind of lower my guard. I think I was sitting there, and it was kind of all systems go, and I felt a little something in my body, which felt so nice because usually I’m behind instead of ahead. And I guess I had kind of just thought about something, and then I felt it.

George Faller [00:20:10]:

Yeah. And again, we’re not overanalyzing this. We’re just trying to kind of be curious together, because I know most of the time you talk about, there’s always this racing brain, this pressure that you feel in these encounters. Am I going to get aroused? What’s going to happen? When’s he going to touch me? So does alcohol just stop some of that? Does it make it easy for you to just kind of be present, to feel that fireplace, to not think too much about things?

Laurie Watson [00:20:39]:

Yes, definitely. I think that those thoughts that you just described are the distracting thoughts for me, whereas the alcohol gave me space, and then I had other thoughts.

George Faller [00:21:01]:

I always try to look at this like a math equation. The alcohol helped lower those negative kind of thoughts, and in the absence of that negative voices, something kind of bubbled up. That was new. Right. It was more this kind of positive thing inside of you that’s always there, right?

Laurie Watson [00:21:20]:

True. Can I soup my buddy for just a minute?

George Faller [00:21:23]:


Laurie Watson [00:21:24]:

Okay. So you need to go toward her thoughts like she’s given you two openings now to explore the actual sexual part. And I know you’re a man talking to a woman, so it might not feel as comfortable, but she’s opening the door for you to help her get.

George Faller [00:21:41]:

Yeah, well, I’m trying to understand, Jane, when you even say that now know with the reduction of those distractions, something bubbles up. What kind of bubbles up for you?

Laurie Watson [00:22:00]:

Well, I guess I did feel my body, and I don’t know if it was my thought first or my body first, but then I kind of was thinking about, like I wanted to take him by the hand and sort of lay him down in front of the fire and give him oral sex, was really what I was thinking. And I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you that, but it’s just like I had this tiny little moment, and I didn’t know how to quite do that. So normally he’s the one who asked for that, but I know it really delights him. And I was kind of ready to give and to get. I don’t know. And that was what I was thinking. And I’m really embarrassed.

George Faller [00:22:50]:

Again, don’t be embarrassed. It’s awesome that you’re kind of able to access that part of you, that part of you that you wanted to do it. You wanted to take charge in this moment to kind of lay him down. You don’t have to ask for it. You wanted to be the one giving it. So, again, I want to know more about this side of you that wanted that, that actually made a move towards that, not to give it to him because he wants it, because you wanted to give it. That feels really different to me.

Laurie Watson [00:23:23]:

And it did. It felt so different. And I think that’s what alcohol helps me with, is that I don’t know, I’m just so conditioned to let him orchestrate the entire event. And somehow or another, last night or whenever it was, it was like I had my own ideas and I started there. And when I had the ideas, it’s like I could feel my body responding to my own ideas. And it got me excited. And just thinking about him being excited, it’s think, you know, I just have so much trouble. Like, sometimes I’ll initiate even George with him, or I think I’m initiating and he misses it. He doesn’t even get that I’m initiating, but when I’m using alcohol, I think he gets it more. And I’ll stand there sometimes from the bathroom looking at him like, hello, let’s have sex. And he’ll be watching TV, and he doesn’t even get that I want it. And I just don’t know how he misses it.

George Faller [00:24:28]:

But without hold on a second, Jay, because again, I want to make sure we spend a lot of time focusing on the things that get in, right. The breaks, the things that you struggle and worry about, and those are really important. But what you’re letting me into here is you actually have a lot of your own sexual thoughts. We often don’t talk about that. Yes, certainly the alcohol kind of makes it a little easier to turn off the negative and to access these thoughts. Right. I’m trying to think, how can we learn from that? How do we kind of grow that side of you that has a lot of sexual thoughts? If the alcohol helps access, that great. But they are there even without the alcohol, then this part of you that is sexually wanting and engaged in faking, that feels so important to me.

Laurie Watson [00:25:27]:

Yeah, I guess I don’t act on those things very often. Hardly ever, except maybe when I’m drinking. And I know it would make my partner really happy if I did. There’s something I feel ashamed of them even as I’m talking to you. Right. My embarrassment. I just feel so ashamed of having these ideas and fantasies. I just grew up. You’re not supposed to think about sex. And it’s just like this enormous even.

George Faller [00:26:01]:

Right now, as we’re trying to touch that place, all the stuff comes around to shut that place down. Right. Because you’ve been so conditioned to do that. And again, the alcohol just stops some of those voices, which just allows you to listen to this place, right? When this place is there, it’s not something magically. The alcohol creates. The alcohol just shuts down those negative voices that allows this place, like light gets to come into it where it could come out.

Laurie Watson [00:26:29]:

Right. I think you’re right. The alcohol stops that shaming voice and allows it’s. Like, it takes the break off. Like, you always are talking about gas pedals and brakes. It’s like, I have such a big break of shame. It’s almost like I think he’s going to think I’m demanding and he’s going to be turned off. And I worry about that too.

George Faller [00:26:52]:

I hear you. And that break always makes you hesitant and reserved and responsive, but not really initiating. But when you can quiet the shame, that more bolder side of you comes out that says, wait a second, there’s something I want to do here. There’s something in this act that I want. Then again, I want to act on these ideas. Right. There’s a power to you lurking underneath that often doesn’t come out. And I guess that’s our work here, trying to figure out how to champion more of that side of you because it’s your truth. It’s who you are as a sexual being that’s been smothered through all these kind of years of shame.

Laurie Watson [00:27:30]:

Yeah, that’s true. I’m glad I can feel that. It feels good to kind of think about it maybe a little bit. It’s like this is a part inside me. I always thought it was the alcohol that made me do it, but yeah, it is. And when I hear you say it sounds like I have a lot of sexual ideas. I probably do, but I almost don’t think about that.

George Faller [00:28:06]:

I do.

Laurie Watson [00:28:06]:

I don’t know how to describe it.

George Faller [00:28:09]:

I think you described it great. There’s just not a lot of space for those ideas to come out in the environment of all that kind of shame and reservations and hesitations. And if we kind of stop some of those tapes, all of a sudden the real Jane starts to emerge.

Laurie Watson [00:28:27]:

Will the real Jane come forward?

George Faller [00:28:29]:

All right, how was that?

Laurie Watson [00:28:31]:

That was good. I liked know, obviously, I think that the woman felt supported and cared about and gently led into it so that she could start to say this out loud. And this may feel like really intimate work, but having somebody and a therapist or a partner who could be so slow and gentle give her access to what’s behind the lack of inhibition, the de inhibitor of alcohol, I think really would help her start to own this. Like, oh, when I enter these role plays, I just kind of become the person and I feel their thoughts and their bodies and their mind. And she also said, yeah, my own thoughts aroused me, which I think for females, really, they have to be in charge of their thoughts. That is a big part that if they can connect their thoughts to their body. They have more access to arousal.

George Faller [00:29:39]:


Laurie Watson [00:29:40]:


George Faller [00:29:41]:

Well, again, I love that you’re working towards taking ownership. This is not something alcohol gives you. It’s something that’s already there. Alcohol just frees you up, makes it easier to access. Right. It is about integration, and I know we’re going to get a lot of calls on this. And again, we realize alcohol and drugs can be a very slippery slope, and people become dependent on it, and it could ruin people’s lives. And there is a lot that’s why we’re inviting people to start having these conversations, because what happens is most people don’t talk to each other about why they need it, what works about it, what doesn’t work about it. We’re inviting you all to just take an opportunity. All of us probably at some level need a glass of wine or something and probably have never talked about what that does or doesn’t do for each other. So that’s the opportunity for our listeners. Just have a conversation around this topic.

Laurie Watson [00:30:37]:

Thanks for listening.

George Faller [00:30:38]:

Keep it hot.

Joe Davis – Announcer [00:30:39]:

Call in your questions to the Foreplay Question voicemail dial eight, three three, my, foreplay. That’s eight, three three, my. The number four play, and we’ll use the questions for our mailbag episodes. All content is for entertainment purposes only and should not be considered as a substitute for therapy by a licensed clinician or as medical advice from a doctor. This podcast is copyrighted by Foreplay Media.

Speaker Ads [00:31:02]:

Hi, I’m Sarah May, and I’m the host of your new favorite show, help Me, Be Me. It’s a self help podcast for people who hate self help. Help Me, Be Me is full of practical tools to help you over come a variety of emotional challenges delivered in a way that’s caring but frank. So if that sounds up your alley, I would invite you to check out Help Me, Be Me on the iheart app, on Apple podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks.