In these changing times, the LGBT community has had its fair share of ups and downs. We have seen the legalization of marriage equality, more prevalent representation in the media, and greater treatment/prevention methods for HIV. However, while all of these are great accomplishments, one must stop to ask themselves, “Are we becoming complacent?” Complacency is a great foe, as it can lead to boredom and carelessness. It seems that has happened more or less, particularly in one area that greatly concerns the community: abuse of methamphetamine. Statistics showed that meth use (particularly among gay men) skyrocketed in the 2000’s. A funny coincidence being that pharmacists were making great progress in the treatment of HIV/AIDS at the time. It was no longer a death sentence. No longer the “gay cancer.” Thus, emerged the popularity of “PNP” boys (party and play), and personals for gay men online, inviting others to “parTy” (the capital T representing Tina, a common nickname for crystal meth). It has undeniably become an epidemic.
What is even more disturbing is the drugs effect on individuals with a positive HIV status, and how it can spread the disease to those who are HIV negative. Many gay men (though not all) start the drug to increase their sexual appetite and eliminate their inhibitions. This leads to sexually compulsive behavior and often times unprotected sex with unknown partners. Needless to say, this is responsible for spreading the virus to countless gay men. Once the disease is contracted, continued use of meth can be detrimental to the health of the afflicted. It can neutralize the effects of important retrovirals, further weaken the immune system, and hasten the surfacing of dementia from the disease. This should be a “Day of Pentecost” moment for the gay community. We must look within ourselves for an answer to this problem.
One thing is certain: gay men will run away from recovery if their lifestyle choices and non-choices (such as being homosexual in the first place) continue to be stigmatized. There must be a safe haven for LGBT peoples of all color, creed, etc. can go to breathe, to collect, to recover. If there were as many community outreach centers designed specifically for people like us as there were Walmarts in this country, and all of them offered addiction counseling, we might actually get somewhere. In order to fully recover, honesty with oneself and their peers is essential. If the addict feels tense simply discussing their sexual preference or gender identity, the road to sobriety can be quite rocky. We must organize and stop saying, “Its just speed,” to ourselves and others. Meth is a toxic chemical cocktail that destroys the body from the inside out. If nothing else, we should treasure our physical attributes that can be so tarnished by the effects of the drug. So, common sense and education are also key. And the final suggestion I can make is forgiveness of oneself. This helped me in my recovering from my addiction to meth more than anything. You see, this drug is very enticing once tried. After chronic use, the addict is left with constant cravings for it the rest of his or her life. In these moments, it is easy to become frustrated, dysphoric and disheartened. It is imperative to forgive yourself for the longing to “fly” again. When in recovery, don’t live one day at a time, but one minute at a time. This is especially helpful when the addict suffers from dual diagnosis (a combination of mental illness and substance abuse), which I do.
We have conquered much in our journey for equality. We can not afford to be our own worst enemies, particularly now when so much is at stake. It is time to put our foot down and say “Enough” to self destructive behavior. Otherwise, we will fall prey to heterosexism and be little more than a sad, stereotypical portrait of sex and drug addiction.