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