After a lifetime of sporadic, recreational drug use, I became a full-blown crystal meth addict ten years ago, and then eventually got clean and sober in January of 2009. But why would I, or anyone as engaged in life as I was, morph into a drug addict?
It seemed an unlikely turn of events for a gay advocate and outspoken community leader living with HIV. Was my drug addiction some sort of post-traumatic stress from the AIDS horror show of the 1980’s?
Maybe it pre-dated AIDS, and resulted from the stress and shame of growing up gay. It’s easy to understand why anyone who came of age believing they were perverted (and going straight to hell) might need a stiff drink. Research indicates that gay men and lesbians are more likely to smoke, drink and use drugs. Was I born this way, GaGa?
So I was immediately drawn to the new book, Gay Men and Substance Abuse: A Basic Guide for Addicts and Those Who Care for Them. I thought the book might bolster my hypothesis that I was a victim of gay culture and doomed from the start.
Because, my dear friends, even after more than two years living clean and sober, I still jump at the chance of blaming my behavior on something other than myself.
Alas, the book is a helpful, informative guide but it doesn’t let me off the hook. It hasn’t the least bit of interest in finger pointing. Instead, it offers practical information and advice about addiction, treatment, relapse and recovery – written specifically for gay men and their families. I would strongly recommend it for gay lovers or allies trying to understand the addiction and recovery process, and required reading for those working in the field.
I spoke to author Michael Shelton, M.S., C.A.C., about the ways in which addiction and recovery are different for gay men, and he pointed out the importance of family support, and the fact that gay men often don’t have it.
“The number one precipitant for a person seeking help is family,” Michael told me. “If they have no close relationship with their family or a significant other, there’s no one on their back telling them to get into treatment.”
But what about gay culture itself? Michael wasn’t ready to make blanket pronouncements about gay culture’s perils, but he did note the connection between our preoccupation with sex and the almost mythical sexual reputation of drugs like crystal meth.
“We absolutely have created sexual monsters” he said. “I see these guys every week (in my practice), and the only way they can engage in sexual contact with another man is through the use of substances.”
Michael does allow that gay media plays a role in this hyper-sexuality. “The norms of our community say that one of the primary goals is hot sex as much as possible. Gay male culture is a hyper sexual culture. Pick up any gay paper and notice the sexual content.”
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