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Substance Abuse #1: I didn’t know I was a drug addict

This is a story from an anonymous reader about how their experience with alcohol and drugs since a very young age and how they have come out through this tunnel with the help of AA.

“I started drinking and using drugs when I was about 16.

At the time I didn’t really understand why – it just seemed a lot of fun. I drank until I blacked out from the very beginning, and was quickly doing harder drugs with older guys I met when I sneaked out to go clubbing in a nearby town.

Looking back, and it’s taken a long time to realise this, it’s clear to me that alcohol allowed me to escape from myself, which was necessary because I hated myself and had an incredibly low sense of self-esteem. My father rejected me around the age of 12, and I went online looking for what I now realise was paternal love. Unfortunately, a series of much older guys, in their 30s/40s, took advantage of my vulnerability in the worst way a human being can. Alcohol took away the pain and made me feel confident. Even on the last night of my drinking a decade later, it still took away the pain and made me feel confident.

I got straight As at school and went to the best universities in the world. I then got high powered jobs in politics. All this time I was fucked. Not every day, but usually from Thursday to Sunday. I knew I was a mess but I never really considered my behaviour to be abnormal because I thought I was having the time of my life and the people I hung out with were also drug users and heavy drinkers. Again, looking back, I now realise how unhappy I was.

When I wasn’t high or drunk, I was very paranoid, always on Grindr looking for anyone or anything to fuck me, failing to form intimate relationships and completely baffled about how to deal with my emotions.

My life at the end of my drinking and using was intensely and painfully boring. I did the same thing every week, with the same people, at the same bars, the same clubs, the same conversations and the same fucked up shit. I only ever spent time with people when I was drunk; the rest of the time I was at home alone. I would often wake up in the middle of the night having terrible visions of demons watching me. And on Sundays after partying for a few days on MDMA and coke, I would lie sweating on my sofa, crying, hearing voices. I was just very alone and sick.

Despite this, I had no idea that I was a drug addict and I had no idea there was an alternative to living the way I was living. It just seemed normal to me because I hadn’t ever lived differently. It never occurred to me that the drugs and the alcohol, which I thought were the best part of my life, were also what was destroying me.

I went to visit my best friend in the States in the summer of 2012. She had known me for years and had seen my drug use and alcohol consumption get steadily worse. While there, a mutual friend was also visiting, a young, beautiful girl doing a PhD whom I used to party with at school. She had been sober for two years in AA and told me what had happened to her. My best friend dared to suggest I was behaving like her. It took a few months for this to sink in, during which time I partied harder than ever before, doing more and more fucked up shit, and getting more and more paranoid and upset.

Eventually one morning in November, I called my friend to tell her I couldn’t go on. I don’t know that I would have killed myself, but I was that desperate. She hung up the phone, and then called back a few moments later. She said she had found an AA meeting in the city I was living in, and that she had also booked a taxi to take me there as she knew I wouldn’t go without this prompt.

So I went. I got to the AA meeting, sat there, cried for an hour and then went home. I tried to drink a can of beer but couldn’t. That was 7 years ago and I haven’t had a drink or hard drug since.

Being sober is a gift,

even if sometimes I wish I hadn’t been given it. Once I stopped drinking and using drugs, my mind exploded. I had to learn how to interact with people, how to deal with family, friends, work, without any escape into substances. It was incredibly painful, beautiful, intense.

For me, I couldn’t have done it alone. I know some people manage to get sober without support, but for me, I was just too frightened. So for me, AA worked well. It isn’t perfect, but I found unconditional love from people who truly understood me and what I was going through: straight people, old people, men, women, gay, everyone wanted to help me.

Over the years, it has become much easier, even though at the start it was very lonely. I suddenly didn’t know what to do at the weekend, and suddenly I didn’t have alcohol to make the gay scene and clubs etc less frightening. I did everything wrong: I dated a drug addict, I did jobs that meant I was surrounded by alcoholics, I went to dark rooms and chemsex parties sober. But incredibly I didn’t relapse.

I think a lot of that behaviour was me slowly letting go of the life I thought I wanted or needed. It was painful but necessary. After about 6 years of sobriety, I was strong enough to start therapy. I learnt what it meant to be a gay teenager in a world where this wasn’t permitted or allowed. I realised that I was raped and abused by a series of much older men and that I had blocked out this trauma for years. I understood that my struggle to be intimate with other men was largely because of this.

I’ve also discovered why my self-esteem has been so tied to me being noticed by other guys, why I obsess about my body not being good enough, why I have felt invisible in clubs. So overall, being sober is amazing. I know myself, or am learning about myself. I experience every day without any substance blocking this experience. Berghain without any drugs is possible and beautiful (and it’s nice waking up the next day feeling refreshed!). I feel everything, I have to feel everything. There’s no escape. It’s a blessing and a curse.

I’ve made peace with my family, my dad (who wore pride trainers this past summer to show me his support), most days I’ve let go of the abuse. It’s not over yet but I feel much more secure in myself and have found intimate relationships to be less terrifying than they once were. And I’ve no doubt that if I hadn’t stopped when I did, I would be dead. So on this basis, I’m grateful.

My sponsor, a wonderful woman I met many years ago in AA who has guided me through my recovery, told me once that I should wear life like a loose garment. I am able to do this now. Most days I feel joy to be alive and to be living the life I live. And I try to pass this on to whoever I can who’s open to it. Pretty sure I piss a lot of people off, but there we go.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to live.

We are all on our own journeys, we all have own experiences, pains, loves etc. I needed to drink and use drugs to survive. And I was only able to stop those things when I was ready to and able to see that there was an alternative.

I have known several people who have overdosed and died from addiction. It breaks my heart. Even though it frustrates me that so few people decide to get sober, to wake up, I do my best not to judge. We live in a hard world, especially as LGBT people, so we do what we have to do.

I guess all I can say is that I wish more LGBT people realised that it’s possible to be a happy sober gay person (and that drugs are not necessary to be a deviant in bed!). It isn’t easy, but then being a drug-addicted alcoholic isn’t particularly easy either…

Go to an AA meeting with an open mind. Listen for the similarities, not the differences. And if even that’s too much, just ask for help. If you ask, the universe will give it to you in some form. That’s been my experience.”

-Anonymous

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