Thursday, May 29, 2008

Self Destruction and Meth: An Ongoing Problem

Hell I've even said it a few times myself, or maybe just hoped it, "Yeah I don't hear much about Meth anymore. The message is definitely out there so I guess people are finally listening."

I say this despite having lived in LA for two years which taught me that more people are casually using Meth than I thought. I say this despite the fact that I've seen a few friends continue to "recreationally" use even after losing a friend- or friends- in some way or another to Meth. I say this despite the fact that a close friend of mine tried to persuade me that there's doing Meth and than there's doing Meth. To me, doing Meth and doing Meth has always been same thing since nobody begins using Crystal Meth with the hopes they will become an addict.

So why are we still using meth? The answer has to be deeper- it has to go beyond wanting to feel good, or wanting to party or wanting to be uninhibited during sex. There has got to be something within our core, something strong enough that causes us to disregard all the warning signs, all the cautionary tales, and all that we've heard, seen, felt or whomever we've lost. So what it is it then? Can anybody say? Because the truth of the matter is: we all know meth is a terrible, toxic drug yet people who work in the Crystal Meth prevention world haven't seen any decrease in the number of people seeking help from it.

The NY GLBT Center recently held a forum entitled: "Meth Movie Night: Is the Meth/Sex/HIV Problem Over for Gay Men in New York?" and according to the article in Gay City News, "judging by the the comments from the audience and panelists, the answer was an unambiguous no."

Forum: Meth Still a Problem

Speaking at a town hall meeting, filmmaker Jay Corcoran asked, "Why are gay men of all different types and ages still self destructing?"
Corcoran, whose 2007 documentary "Rock Bottom" followed seven gay men as they struggled with crystal meth, was addressing the roughly 50 people who turned out on May 20 at the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center.

"What I couldn't believe is that after everything we have gone through as gay men is that really nothing has changed since the '80s," he said. "It filled me with rage. It made me want to pick up my camera."

With an audience filled with former meth users, others who are recovering from sexually compulsive behavior, and some who are dealing with both, much of the two-hour event was taken up with men discussing their personal struggles with meth or sex and their efforts to end behaviors they are uncomfortable with.

The event was titled "Meth Movie Night: Is the Meth/Sex/HIV Problem Over for Gay Men in New York?" and, judging by the comments from the audience and panelists, the answer was an unambiguous no.

Opening the evening, Dr. Frank Spinelli, a physician in private practice, described four of his patients who were dealing with meth. Some were occasional users and others were what he called "functional addicts."

Addiction specialists from the Community Center, the Gay Men's Health Crisis (GMHC), the Addiction Institute of New York, and the AIDS group Positive Health Project (PHP) also spoke.

These groups offer harm reduction programs, which aid users in abating the negative effects of drug use without requiring that participants stop using, or abstinence programs in which users stop using. Some, like the Community Center, offer both.

Gay men who use drugs tend to use more than one and that makes the work of these groups more complicated. For many gay men who drink or use drugs, their sex and social lives are entwined with their drinking and drugging.

"Some men are quizzical how are they going to meet other men if they give up drinking or using drugs," said Chris Cochrane, GMHC's coordinator of prevention services for gay men and men who have sex with men.

The groups also work in an environment in which public funding for such services is increasingly being cut and some Americans, gay and straight, favor law enforcement approaches to drug problems.

"I'm astounded by the lack of resources that are out there," said Terry Evans, PHP's public health outreach coordinator. "We are also dealing with a public climate that believes that certain people are not worth it."

Antonio Ruberto, a crystal meth prevention counselor at the Center, said, "There is a dire need for additional money and resources."

While he has not seen a reduction in the numbers of gay men seeking help for meth, Joseph Ruggiero, assistant clinical director at the Addiction Institute, thought the various anti-crystal campaigns have had an impact.

"I feel like, as a community, people have a better sense of what is happening around crystal meth," he said. "The word is certainly out there more than it was before and that word has been strong and very controversial."

The evening's most heated moment came when Robert Brandon Sandor, producer of the sex party Brandon's Poz Party, said the problem was HIV not crystal meth.

"I guess crystal meth is going to be the flavor of the month tonight," he said. "I can look you all in the eye and say you're wrong."

Sandor, whose party caters to gay men who are HIV-positive, is a proponent of serosorting, or the practice of organizing sex partners by their HIV status. His comments were not well received in a room filled with former meth users and those still battling against the drug.
As audacious and bold as Robert Brandon Sandor's comment was, I have to say I can't help but think he might be onto something. Until reading this article, until seeing that quote I never put the two together- that crystal meth lends a hand in helping us forget, at least temporarily, that we live in a time of the incurable sexually transmitted disease, HIV. Maybe that's what it is? Maybe it is just that which pushes us beyond the warnings, dangers and examples and into using meth with a shrug, or a smile, or a sigh, or a slam. Who is to say? Who is to argue him?

Is it so far-fetched to think those who choose to use meth, despite the ubiquitous dangers, do so because it helps us forget who we are, the time we live in, the risks associated with sex and helps us become the uninhibited, sexually charged, sexually relaxed, sexually empowered people we so yearn to be?

Below a clip from Mr. Jay Corcoran's film: Rock Bottom

18 comments:

bstewart23 said...

"Is it so far-fetched to think those who choose to use meth, despite the ubiquitous dangers, do so because it helps us forget who we are, the time we live in, the risks associated with sex and helps us become the uninhibited, sexually charged, sexually relaxed, sexually empowered people we so yearn to be?"

Oh, Leven, there you go again, getting to the meat of the matter (so to speak) with such aplomb. Which is, I suppose, utterly pertinent to the questions you pose. And of course one can't answer them in a glib comment here, but to get to the answers, we need to look at the pressures not just of HIV (infection or fear-of-infection) but of every societal reinforcement that we're utterly inadequate in every way and must be fearful at all times.

And we can thank the government, media, corporations and even our own, so-called "community" for that reinforcement. It's not enough for gay men to be "uninhibited, sexually charged, sexually relaxed, sexually empowered people", we must be sexual supermen, and I can't think of a quicker or easier route to that goal than to do crystal.

But just as the influences are complicated, it's inevitable that the solution -- if we admit there's a problem (and I certainly do, a frakkin' huge one) -- will be complicated and not easy and not quick.

I mean, one can ask, quite effortlessly, why anyone would want to forget who we are or the times we're in, or why anyone wouldn't want to be a sexual superman through means other than a bump or pipe or slam.

I'm thinkin' we need to create a framework in which we can push back the externally- and internally-generated fears of inadequacy and disease, and encourage self-awareness and self-confidence from a greater individual understanding of our strengths and weaknesses. We need to stop paying lip service to the notion of "community" and start fucking behaving like one again.

We need to get the word out that it's okay not to forget who we are and the times in which we live, that to be present in this moment, to be aware and knowledgeable is to have the power and confidence to stand tall as sexual men. And that being a sexual superman can come as a natural consequence of that self-awareness.

So... thanks for helping to get that word out, pal.

POZ said...

HIV positive (like me) & looking to talk to other POZ?

www.AIDSchat.org has live HIV chat rooms or post a free ad on www.HIVdate.com.

Bears Are Fat said...

Meth and other party drugs are really dangerous... but getting high is fun and it makes sex feel good. I think a lot of prevention with respect to meth focuses too narrowly on 'rational decision making' and 'cost/benefit' analyses. A lot of concern is expressed about structural factors that promote low self esteem in gay men. That's all relevant of course and the trick is to have an understanding of meth or other drugs that doesn't simplify the complex motivations people have for using them -- including simple addiction. But what's often lost sight of in the prevention stuff is that these drugs tend to enhance pleasure and fun. Ultimately, a lot of prevention discourse ends up sounding like 'the good kids' lecturing 'the bad kids.' And the bad kids don't listen, cause the good kids are geeky and annoying.

I actually didn't really understand what Sandor was saying actually, though. Was he saying that meth wouldn't be a problem if HIV weren't around? The article is poorly written and doesn't capture exactly what was upsetting about Sandor's remark(s).

Anonymous said...

Sadly meth is not just a gay problem. It's an addicts problem.
Yes it goes deeper emotionally for the addict but if you substitiute the word meth in these articles for the word bare backing it fits quite nicely and still doesn't answer why gay men have so many insecurities. With gays coming out earlier in their youth and acceptance of gays in culture as a whole becomes the norm...who and what will we be able to blame these serious issues on? Daddy didn't love me enough? Plenty of us faces obsticles in life but have never even thought of using meth. People are allowed free will. When we can make the right choices as individuals we can then create an infectious disease of respect in others.
It's really a human problem.

ewe said...

a god damn hole. a hole. a void where most addicts, until they face their habits, try over and over again to control the love they are seeking and self destruct in the meantime because no one should be running the show of someone else. Can't even feel right in ones own skin much less delegating everyone else's reactions and feelings. A hole that needs to be fucking looked at. The selfishness disguised as bravado, the shallowness disguised as ego. I am ok just don't you dare touch me. Oh really now. Is that so? Yup theres no problem here. uhhuh right.

Anonymous said...

to all the acting fools on meth: get to a twelve step program and keep away from the first high. Otherwise get away from me, i will not meet you 6 feet under for quite some time. Go early if you wish or Grow up. Addicts have too much drama. DO NOT DO IT. IF THATS A PROBLEM FOR YOU THEN ITS A FUCKING PROBLEM THAT NEEDS TO BE ADDRESSED.

ewe said...

Thats me above too. sorry i get very emotional with addiction issues. It is such a damn waste of a life to not deal with it.

Atari_Age said...

Far-fetched? Sorry, maybe I'm just a little surprised because - my personal opinion, of course - it seems that is THE reason to use ANY drug. Alcohol included (my drug vice).

First, an aside: There is another aspect of meth, to my eye. Meth (and coke, and, I assume, crack?) have the benefit of keeping you awake without being blotto from booze. If you're going to go to an all-night circuit party, how else are you going to stay awake? Aside from not being a dancer, that's the thing that keeps me away from circuit parties - the almost required need to be on something if you're going to make it through the night/morning.

On the main point: It's probably important to say that even if Sandor's analysis is right - and, essentially, it is, IMHO - HIV is NOT the core reason for meth usage.

That view would both be logically incorrect and, importantly, will probably allow some of the judgmental queens out there (there’s a few) to blame people with HIV for yet another woe in the world. I totally buy that it is a strong reason, but not the core.

The core reason, which seems obvious, would be the desperation, hope for escape, wanting to forget our burdens, the whole nine yards, regardless of why one is in that state (which is essentially what you and Sandor are actually alluding to). HIV is a strong reason to be in that state – so Sandor’s premise is totally on-target, though not entirely precise. But there are many other reasons to be depressed and desperate. Everyone, regardless of status, is equally prone to this.

Guy Déom, Québec City said...

a dependant drug user gives many reasons in therapy for using drugs (any) and for becoming an addict but tends to forget the most important reason, the core one : one does drugs because one likes it, loves it, enjoys it.

then after, comes the because it helps me forget that i am poor, ugly, sick, etc.

this is very dificult to accept
and it is so for all subtance or elses of which we become dependant of.

phoenix house therapies run by ex addicts are the best in addressing the issues directly.

and once address directly the issue becomes clear we need drugs because we need love.

Anonymous said...

I'm really trying hard to be empathetic, but as an HIV positive man, I see these guys and think wouldn't it be quicker to just hand them a loaded .45? For FUCK sake...I need love but don't need to be high to feel loved.

RG said...

Guy Déom is correct: People do drugs because it feels good.

Then the addiction hits, and you can't stop and it's not about being able to forget your ugly, sick, unloved, etc., it's about getting your next fix.

So, now you feel bad because you're addicted, so to forget you do crystal have sex and then feel bad for doing crystal and having sex so you do crystal again and have sex and so on, and so on....

It is a vicious cycle.

k.d. f/x said...

Whatever the reason is for using meth [or any drug for that matter] - a lot of reasons and issues come into consideration.You wanna escape,you wanna forget,you wanna be a sexual machine,you want to blur your reality...been there,done that.

I'm not here to judge but deep down inside - I could never surrender and let go of that ultimate control.
Call it whatever you like : self-respect,fear,not wanting to be like all the other guys on drugs - I've seen before...

I love the fact that the decision not to do it or to stop doing it belongs to you.
That is one damn good reason to be proud of oneself.

Peace and hugs to everyone

Vaughn said...

I came out late, and my self-destructive sexual habits were born from the self-hating, self-loathing attitudes I adopted from the subtle and not so subtle messages of hetero-normality. Habits that I still work to shake and shed to this day.

It took me a year of sex with only my partner (never had just one sexual partner for more than a month before) for me to realize, fully, that sex could be about love and fun, and not as an expression of escapism and rebellion.

The message has started to get out there and we have young people coming out of the closet at 16 or younger. Why do these young people still continue to adopt dangerous sexual and drug habits? Monkey see, monkey do. Until those of us who have learned our lesson (read: still learning) start getting ourselves more visible, to lead these young folk by example, we'll only have the louder, prettier, glamier party folk out there showing them what it means to be "gay."

Those of us who go to church, work hard to make ends meet and enjoy community and fun in a non party environment need to come out of the closet! Show those around us (young and old) that there is a better way to live. You can be happy, healthy (again, read: working on my shit in a happy healthy way) and gay!

Terry Miller said...

your post gave me two thoughts:

In response to your main query I think "yes" but not just meth and HIV - foreign friends visiting marvel at U.S. drug use (legal AND illegal) and sometimes I think the whole country is loaded on something in order to forget and shake off responsibility larger issues - Iraq, nukes, war criminal leaders.

In re: what makes meth compelling. I wouldn't underestimate: a) it means we'll hook up for more than 30 minutes (need affection) b) it means uninhibited sex (try stuff one might be afraid to do sober) and c) have the energy for a&b. Sometimes I think we could mix up a harm reduction cocktail of liquor,light dose of Xanax, and light dose of Adderall and then give a code word for "several-hour hookup" and be able to match the "benefits" of meth to its users.

Northwest said...

As a grateful recovering meth addict, I think the reason our community is still caught in meth's grip is more about the strength of the drug than the weakness of the gay community.

Hell, it isn't as if straight people struggle any less with meth -- in fact, it seems to take down entire families more frequently than it destroys gay men.

But I do think you are on to something when you conclude that one snort of meth, and you realize its cunning skill at helping you forget your nightmare of a world. It IS that powerful, and we gay folks do have a lot of issues they woyld rather not deal with.

But over time, as gay men increase their weekly usage even as they vow to remain "rec users", one has to conclude that low self-esteem becomes the most relevant variable in their inevitable addiction to the drug. At least that is what I have concluded in looking back at my life, which I write about frequently on my blog.

Thanks for tackling this tough topic, and presenting a variety of compelling views. You have a kickass blog, and smile too:)

Christopher Murray, LCSW said...

Hey,Leven:

I'm a psychotherapist and writer in New York City and just published an article on gay men relapsing on crystal methamphetamine. Not sure if it is of interest to you, but thought I'd send it along.

Best to you!

Gay City News
Everyday A Challenge
By: CHRISTOPHER MURRAY
06/26/2008

So what happened with gay men and meth? A couple of years ago everyone was in a panic. Eighth Avenue was crowded with bus stop posters decrying the scourge that was crystal methamphetamine, it seemed like everyone knew someone who had just lost their job or soul to Tina, brunch pals were dropping like flies. Health officials and community activists made the direst possible predictions about the perfect storm of meth and HIV, not to mention flesh-eating, drug-resistant bacterial infections. Yikes!

Well, the truth is that meth, like crack cocaine, is still around and still wreaking havoc in the lives of gay men and others; it's just gone underground. The public panic has waned, as it always does - a point this newspaper's Duncan Osborne has taken pains to point out - and all the hoopla has subsided into the daily grind of users using and former users struggling to stay clean.

FULL ARTICLE AT:

http://christophermurray.org/WritingBlog.html

jimmy palmieri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jimmy palmieri said...

jimmy palmieri said...
The danger in the statement is that Sandor is not adressing the fact that many people are currently HIV poz due to meth use. This is not a judgement, as I have no judgement. I do however find that many people who throw sex parties (which are fine, They are part of the culture for many, and for many are the only outlet for sex) do not want to attach themselves whatsoever to meth. It points a finger at them for "promoting" use.
Is meth over? FUCK NO, IF IT WERE I'D HAVE NO TROUBLE TRYING TO FIND A BED IN REHAB IN THE L.A. AREA. It makes me cringe when politicians, or people who are not hands on, making misleading statements, when those of us who are hands on are trying to get a brither into treatment, only to hear that there is a 2 week or 4 month wait. We are harmimg ourselves by sweeping it under the rug.
Blanket statements like the one made by Sandor, hurt us, not help us. In my opinion, there is culpability in that!

Jimmy Palmieri
Founder, The Tweakers Project
tweakersproject.org
West Hollywood Human Services Commissioner