A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery

This book contributes to our understanding of meth addiction and sexual health among gay and bi men. Fawcett identifies internalized shame and isolation as social determinants of meth addiction among gay and bi men. A social determinant refers to those shared conditions that pre-dispose members of a group to poor health outcomes.

Fawcett rejects “shaming” meth users. If internalized shame predisposes gay men to meth addiction, continued shaming will only make matters worse. It may make shamed people more rigid in their behavior.

The first third of this book concerns the physical effects of methamphetamine. People at most stages of meth use and their significant others would find this section valuable.

Brain cells communicate by exchanging chemicals called neurotransmitters. When brain cells in the reward system of the brain exchange the neuro-transmitter, dopamine, we experience pleasure. Brain cells, however, misidentify meth as dopamine. Dopamine has a short lifespan but meth can stay active for up to twelve hours. This extended presence of meth in the reward system throws the entire reward system off balance.

According to Fawcett, meth exploits key vulnerabilities among gay and bi men. Whether conscious or not, internalized heterosexist values lead many gay and bi men to unacknowledged, but felt shame. Meth has great appeal for these men.

Fawcett accepts the concept of “process addictions,” whereby rewarding activities such as sex can become an addiction without the intake of psychoactive drugs. Meth and sex both involve dopamine in the reward system. When repeatedly done together, sex and meth fuse into one drive. Meth has hijacked the reward system.

The second third of this book concerns how we organize erotic attractions and relationships. This section would have value for many gay and men seeking to improve their understanding of erotic patterns.

We experience meth and sex on emotional, relational, and social levels. Most of us have a type, a sexual template. Relatively fixed by the time of puberty, this template structures our lifelong patterns of conscious and unconscious arousal.

Most of us have “stuff“ buried beneath consciousness, ranging from internalized heterosexism to leather fantasies and beyond. Meth tends to cause that “stuff” to break out into consciousness, but without conscious processing. If processed consciously, someone can challenge the reasons why it was buried. Without conscious processing, unintegrated “stuff” explodes into behavior in dangerous ways.

The third part of the book concerns recovery. This section would be useful for someone with a significant other undergoing recovery, graduate students studying addiction, or addiction professionals. A recovering addict in early recovery would probably lack the concentration to read this book, however.

As meth addiction among gay and bi men fuses sex and meth, Fawcett stresses that recovery has to work these two tracks simultaneously. For the severely addicted, this entails abstinence from drugs and sex to allow healing to occur. People can recover, but recovery requires resources.

According to Fawcett, recovery has distinct stages in the recovery process. For the first two weeks without meth, the physiological effects of withdrawal will be most intense. The next 90 days will involve unlearning old cues, “triggers,” and establishing new routines. The brain will take about 18 months to repair its damaged reward system. Eventually, the recovering addict can re-introduce sex into his life, but he can never re-introduce meth.

While this book focuses on meth addiction, Fawcett discusses ways of thinking about sex and relationships that many would find valuable. Other parts can generate community debate.

This is a much-abbreviated review. To read the full review, please visit HowStandardIsYourDeviation


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