Sex, Drinking, and Erectile Dysfunction

Within a few months of getting separated several years ago, I got into an FWB (friends with benefits) relationship that went on for about a year.

Actually the term FWB doesn’t do it justice – the relationship was much more important to me than that, but for the sake of this discussion, I’m going to use that label.

During that entire relationship, I experienced a debilitating case of Erectile Dysfunction (ED). I could only rarely manage a strong enough erection for successful intercourse.

It’s one of the most distressing things I’ve ever had to deal with. It was also one of the best things that ever happened to me:

  • It put me on a path of self-development and mindfulness that has led me to my current life which I’m in love with.
  • It forced me to expand my understanding of sexuality, as a matter of technique and attitude.
  • It taught me how to live with discomfort. This has led me to show up in my life with more courage and perseverance.
  • It taught me to accept and love myself, regardless of my ‘defects’.
  • Thankfully, after about a year, the problem was resolved. I have reliable, fast, and long-lasting erections 98% of the time now, and that’s not bad for a 55-year-old. And when the 2% ‘failure’ occurs, I know why – it’s because I’ve gotten way too in my head, usually thinking/stressing about my business.

Here are some of the factors that helped me recover from Erectile Dysfunction:

  1. Mindfulness work including meditation.
  2. The book Sexual Healing: The Completest Guide to Overcoming Common Sexual Problems by Barbara Keesling.
  3. The cumulative effects of a year of eating better, drinking less, and exercising.
  4. Getting into a more conventional relationship.

It’s not my objective in this post to tell you how to fix an ED problem if you have one. I have useful knowledge and lots of opinions that I would be happy to share, but I don’t believe that my experience makes me any sort of an expert.

What I do want to say is that:


Here are a few of the ways that drinking interferes with a good sex life:

It Substitutes For Sex (Poorly)

Sex takes work. If you’re single, you’ve got to get out and meet people. If you’re married, you’ve got to create a relationship where the two of you want to have sex with each other.

Not having sex sucks, but at least it sucks less when you get to drink beer.

As humans, a huge part of our experience is driven by the motivational triad. We want to experience pleasure, avoid pain, and expend the least energy possible in pursuit of the other two objectives.

When you can get a dopamine hit (pleasure) from drinking, and while you’re at it, you can temporarily hide from the other emotions associated with relationships; you don’t put the effort into getting sex. It’s too much bother.

The problem is that sex is good for you, and drinking isn’t. Beer is a shitty substitute for sex. And so is porn.

It Can Cause ED

As my FWB experience illustrates, you can have ED and still have other kinds of sex. And that sex can be very satisfying. But I’d a lot rather have a good erection and all those other sexual possibilities.

It Can Make It Hard To Finish

There’s an entire school of thought that promotes sex without orgasm. No thanks – at this point in my sexual development, I want to finish. And my wife wants me to finish. Alcohol can make that difficult or impossible. If you prioritize drinking in your life, you’ll end up having less sex, just to avoid this problem.

You’re reading this message because you’re considering if and when and how to change your relationship with alcohol. You’ve no doubt thought about benefits like:

  • losing weight
  • feeling better
  • looking better
  • avoiding hangovers
  • committing to exercise and a healthier diet
  • being mentally sharper

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that you have NOT thought as much about the interaction of drinking with your sex life. I know that I never did – it would have been too uncomfortable to have faced up to the extent to which I prioritized drinking over sex.

I want to suggest that you don’t keep hiding from this aspect of your drinking, the way I did for so many years.


Sex is important (Google ‘health benefits of sex’). You owe it to yourself to take a hard (pun intended) look at this facet of your life, and consider how changing your relationship with alcohol could make your life so-so much better.

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