Longform

Meth and Sex

Page 5 of 5

"I'm getting older anyway," she says. "I think it's too late for me even if I could get pregnant."

Feldman, the counselor for Planned Parenthood of Central and Northern Arizona, says he sees women like Theresa with increased frequency.

"We had a young lady come in about six months ago who had already had three kids taken into foster care," Feldman says. "She came in and had the procedure started. We put the cervical dilators into her cervix [a procedure required for pregnancies past the first trimester] and asked her to come back the next day.

"Well, she had been smoking all morning when she came back. We tried to manage her, to keep her in the clinic long enough for her vital signs to return to normal for surgery. But when we tried to get her undressed for the doctor, she refused. Her brain wasn't working right because she was all meth'ed up. So we convinced her that the dilators had to come out. She called me about two weeks later and asked if we would still see her, and I said no. That's a very rare occurrence, but given her drug history, we didn't figure the risk to ourselves was appropriate."

It's a risk that's not going away. Far from it.

"About four years ago, we would have gone a month without seeing a meth user come to us for an abortion," Feldman says. "Now, we're lucky if we go a week."


Randy, the ex-tweaker now in recovery and working as a process server, hasn't had sex since he got clean two and a half years ago. He's had opportunities, he says, although he hasn't really been dating. Instead, he's focused on playing it straight as a process server, going to his 12-step meetings and getting closer to God.

"It hasn't been as difficult as you might think," he says. "I'm really working hard on my program. I'm trying to learn how to be friends with women.

"And besides, I've still got my hand!"

Sex has a way of kick-starting a meth relapse, according to Carol Ross, a licensed counselor who works with alcohol and drug addicts and specializes in sex addiction and trauma at Sierra Tucson, a high-end treatment center in the Sonoran Desert just north of Tucson.

"All those addictions need to be treated," says Ross, who's been at Sierra Tucson for 17 years, "because what tends to happen is that the patient will relapse because of other issues. They tend not to be able to disassociate the sex from methamphetamine use."

Ralph Earle, a sex-addiction expert who runs Psychological Counseling Services in Scottsdale, agrees.

"Patients will say that the only time they act out on their sex addiction is when it's in combination with crystal meth. The two of them go together. When they're sober, they're much more careful than when they use meth and cross that line into inappropriate sexual behavior.

"The meth user who is also a sex addict is either incredibly, highly motivated to make a change or there's nothing we can do in therapy," Earle says. "There has to be a reason the patient has enough motivation to come to us. They have to hit the bottom."

Randy did just that on that summer night long ago.

Now, Randy wants what Theresa has. She's in a committed, monogamous relationship, and is learning what is and isn't "appropriate sexual behavior" on a daily basis.

"What I want sex to be is a communion," Randy says. "I worry that I'll never feel an emotional attachment again.

"I worry that sex will be just," he pauses, "nothing."

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Joe Watson