Tonight’s featured speaker at our gay meeting in Hollywood was a middle-aged man (like me) who spoke about his battle with alcoholism and the importance of the program. His father was an alcoholic, and would use alcohol to create a buffer around himself, to protect himself from his rage-aholic wife. He would sit in his favorite chair, holding his drink up at chest level, watching his wife bemusedly as she yelled at him for various things (for being drunk all the time, not having enough money, neglecting the children, etc. etc). He would follow each of her rants with a drunken drawl: “OK and you can just go f–k yourself.” And then he would take another sip.
Our speaker really admired his father’s equanimity in the face of the shrew’s endless abuse. The only problem was that sometimes when they would go out to a restaurant or event, the father would get plastered and they’d have to almost carry him home. This was humiliating. He promised himself, when he grew up, that he would not be like his father: he would use alcohol only to drown out the demands of his friends and family when necessary, but not enough to embarrass them in public.
This is of course the hopeless obsession of the alcoholic — to drink as other men — enough to block out the annoying demands of the world but not so much as to black out entirely. However, he found, like his father, that he could not control his drinking — he would start drinking at first with just a glass, just to numb his loneliness a bit, for example, and then before he knew it he was passed out drunk. Trying to achieve moderation in drinking — this kind of behavior has driven many a man like this to insanity or death.
Alcoholism is a terrible disease — it strips a man of his ability to block out the world without waking up the next morning with a nasty hangover. It is terribly unfair to have this condition, as if you did not have legs or other essential body part. Even worse, the only cure is complete abstinence, which he knew, but he was not ready to give it up. Alcohol was the only thing that made his life tolerable.
Fortunately for him the meth explosion came along at the time, and he lost interest in booze. The great thing about meth was that you could have sex with anyone you wanted, no matter how ugly, and it still felt pretty good. Plus, you didn’t have to worry about feeling all gross and dirty after, because you could just take another hit and you felt fine. And do it all over again.
As you all know about gay culture, it is all about sex and sluts. If you are not having lots of sex with everyone then you are ostracized and no one wants to talk to you. So for him, meth was the perfect solution. He was having lots of sex and was a darling of the complexionally-disadvantaged. He was fitting in for the first time in his life and everything was great.
Or so he thought. The problem was, meth started to lose its effectiveness — as all drugs do eventually. This is called ‘tolerance’. He needed more and more meth to be able to overcome the extreme repulsiveness of the people he was having sex with, and furthermore sometimes he couldn’t even get it up (‘crystal dick’). He knew he had a problem so he decided he had to get treatment. He went to the hospital claiming he was a dangerous psycho (he has no recollection of this) and found himself bolted down to a bed. Wow, he must have been so addicted! Eventually he got into rehab and beat his meth addiction.
Now he is going around the rooms and telling the story of his alcoholism and meth addiction, and the importance of AA, and how wonderful his life is now. He no longer has cravings for drugs and alcohol, but the disease is still there, still in his brain. Like for example sometimes he still gets disappointed when things don’t turn out the way he wants. This is the disease of Alcoholism trying to prevent him from being happy — it will be a lifelong struggle.
I discussed addiction with a meth addict at the meeting. I asked him what it was like to be addicted. He explained to me this way: “I was smoking meth at the time and I saw people shooting it up with syringes. They told me it was absolutely amazing, much better than smoking. I was curious and I wanted to try it. So I did and it totally made my face hot and burning.”
“So, that’s how you got addicted?” I asked.
“No. Actually I didn’t really like it that much. I prefer to smoke it,” he explained.
“OK. So you got addicted to smoking it? What’s that like?” I asked, trying to get somewhere.
“Well, it’s like you really really want to have something. Not sure I can really explain it. Some people smoke meth because they’re always chasing their first high. It’s always best the first time,” he explained.
“So you were chasing your first high?” I asked.
“Me? No, not really. That’s why other people smoke. I know you can’t get your first high. For me I just felt like I had to have it. I can’t really explain it.”
We went around in circles for a bit and then the meeting started.