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April 1976

About Alcoholism - Alcoholism Information, Research and Treatment

Alcoholism and Sexuality

Many of these items are contrary to AA philosophy. Their publication here does not mean that the Grapevine endorses or approves them; they are offered solely for your information.

How does an alcoholism-treatment program respond when it sees the need for helping patients deal with sexual problems? The Santa Clara County (Calif.) Bureau of Alcohol Services faced this challenge after staff members began observing the frequent appearance of such problems in clients and numerous requests were received asking the bureau to address the sex issue more openly.

The bureau's staff formed a committee to consider the issue and, after consulting with members of Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon, decided to hold a series of workshops on the subject. Three sessions were held. An average of 65 to 70 persons attended each of the workshops, which were planned and publicized with help from members of AA and Al-Anon.

Participants in the first workshop discussed a range of topics including: Should newly abstinent alcoholic persons refrain from sexual involvement and if so, for how long? How do recovering alcoholic persons adjust to having sex while sober? Can sexual problems cause alcoholism--or vice versa? If a spouse continues sexual relations with the alcoholic person, is license thereby implicitly given to keep on drinking?

At the second workshop, on sexuality and communications skills, Dr. Robert G. O'Briant, director of the Garden Hospital Jerd Sullivan Rehabilitation Center alcoholism program in San Francisco, emphasized the importance of drinking in the alcoholic person's relationships.

The third workshop featured the Rev. Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, director of the Center for Urban Black Studies in Berkeley, who maintained that sexuality symbolizes the creative force in life. He stressed that pathology results when games are played with sexuality, because of its nature as a vital life energy.

Evaluating the project, its organizers concluded that workshops on sexuality have a definite role in the alcoholism field, but that the subject must be treated with great care to avoid offensiveness.

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