A CLEAN ES­CAPE

Be­ing strapped into the roller­coaster is ex­hil­a­rat­ing, un­til you dis­cover you can’t get off.

DNA Magazine - - CONTENT - by David Cato.

“There was no way I was go­ing to face re­al­ity when there was still an­other line on the ta­ble.”

I’ve got my tick­ets to the party, new jeans, hair’s done, trimmed, groomed and look­ing fab­u­lous. It’s go­ing to be a great night out. There’s a knock at the door and my heart pounds. No it’s not my new boyfriend, it’s some­one bet­ter. It’s my dealer.

Hav­ing drugs to go out was such an es­sen­tial part of any night. A few drinks, a cou­ple of pills, a nice line. But why did I need to take these things just to walk out the door? Did I do it be­cause ev­ery­one else was do­ing it or be­cause of my own in­se­cu­ri­ties? Re­al­is­ing that I was dif­fer­ent at a young age, deal­ing with the stigma that was ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity, try­ing to fit in at school but never be­ing ac­cepted, hid­ing my thoughts and feel­ings from ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing my­self. My first night out to a gay bar, aged 16, sit­ting in the back of a friend’s car drink­ing coke mixed with vodka just to get up the courage to sneak in. I re­mem­ber this night well and the ex­pe­ri­ence was overwhelmi­ng. I’d found a place where it was okay to be gay. I wasn’t in the locker room at school any­more; I wasn’t go­ing to get punched in the guts for look­ing at the guy at the bar. No one was snig­ger­ing “fag” at me. It was awe­some. On the dance floor, the bass pump­ing, shirt­less men dancing with each other laugh­ing, smil­ing and talk­ing to one an­other so openly and freely. I had found the world I wanted to be part of, but it came with a cost.

I had fought for so many years not to let any­one know I was gay. My self-es­teem had taken a big hit and I needed to find a way to get over it. And fast. It didn’t take me long to re­alise that with a few drinks I could es­cape my in­se­cu­ri­ties. A few drinks would lead to many and be­fore long my week­ends had be­come a reg­u­lar blur of drink­ing and par­ty­ing. Once or twice I tried to go out with­out a drink but found it im­pos­si­ble. I felt alone, in­se­cure and, once again, dif­fer­ent. The years went on like this and oc­ca­sion­ally I’d use some­thing stronger to get me through the night. Ec­stasy was great. I could party all night and not be writ­ten off with a hang­over the next day. My week­ends turned from drink­ing to drugs. The friends were all in the same po­si­tion. Drink­ing was an en­tree, drugs the main course and sex was dessert. I was on a speed­ing roller­coaster that just kept go­ing up.

The years went on, the week­ends got longer and the days got shorter. New drugs were dis­cov­ered, friends came and friends went. New clubs opened. Big­ger, bet­ter, faster, stronger. Any prob­lem I en­coun­tered could be taken away with a few lines, a cou­ple of pills and let’s not for­get old faith­ful – the drink. But how long could this crazy ex­is­tence go on? Hit­ting my late twen­ties I no­ticed oth­ers around me get­ting mar­ried, buy­ing houses and set­tling down. This wasn’t the life I’d signed up for. I wanted the world I fit­ted into. I found it too easy to just keep go­ing in the gay scene where I felt ac­cepted. Any­thing else was too hard. There was no way I was go­ing to face re­al­ity when there was still an­other line on the ta­ble.

As I got more and more des­per­ate to turn off my head, my morals sunk lower and lower. I found I had to start do­ing things to stay with the crowd and my con­nec­tions changed. The law started creep­ing into my life and things were be­com­ing un­man­age­able. But now, aged 30, where could I go and what could I do? I needed help but was so far re­moved from re­al­ity that I had no idea how to get it. One night I de­cided I’d had enough and at­tempted to get away by mov­ing to a very small ru­ral town. My life was fall­ing apart. The roller­coaster was spi­ralling and I was strapped in tight.

I couldn’t imag­ine my life with­out drugs and al­co­hol. No way was I go­ing to deal with a life that I had hid­den from for 14 years. I drank a ridicu­lous amount that evening. My small house in the coun­try turned into one last night­club, the thump­ing beats echoed across the land as I lined up enough drugs to se­date a herd of ele­phants. Thing is with small towns, ev­ery­one knows ev­ery­one else’s busi­ness and my busi­ness wasn’t fit­ting in. The po­lice were called to my makeshift disco and I was re­moved. I was taken some­where safe; it wasn’t a padded cell, but it was some­where I had to re­flect on where I was and what I was do­ing. I took this op­por­tu­nity to ask for help. And I re­ceived it. There was an abun­dance of op­por­tu­ni­ties, none of which I liked the look of, but I was beaten, lost, scared. I took some of the op­tions I was pre­sented with.

I en­tered into ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery. Here I had to face the world I’d been hid­ing from for so many years – and it had changed a lot. Much of the so­cial stigma around be­ing gay had gone. I had missed all of these changes while be­ing in­tox­i­cated. Slowly but surely, I started to break down the walls I’d been hid­ing be­hind. I had to learn what emo­tions are, what friend­ship is and how to deal with life with­out be­ing able to switch off from it. I learned that I don’t need drugs or al­co­hol to be my­self.

To­day I stand strong in my mid-thir­ties, clean from all drugs and al­co­hol. I’m able to go out and have fun with my friends, real friends. I once found the idea of not be­ing part of the scene un­bear­able. Now I feel lucky I got out alive. So many young men don’t. The light at the end of their tun­nel has been turned off. But there is an­other way. Sure, it’s not al­ways easy and things don’t al­ways work out the way I want, but the feel­ing I have by stand­ing on my own two feet out­weighs the feel­ing any drug ever gave me. I can hon­estly say now that I’m liv­ing a good clean life be­ing a much more pro­duc­tive mem­ber of our so­ci­ety.

Now I’ve got my tick­ets to the party, my new jeans are on, my hair is done and when I hear the knock at my door I know it’s my friends com­ing over for a great night out. One we will never for­get and one we will be able to re­mem­ber in the morn­ing.

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