I have written this article too many times, over too many years.
I am not even going to attempt to list all the names of people I know that have overdosed on drugs, from high school in the 1960’s to South Florida in this decade. They call it dope for a reason.
I know guys that have shot themselves up with heroin, jumped off balconies on PCP, crucified themselves with crack, and murdered themselves with meth.
Like alcohol, multiple drugs can be an equal opportunity killer, whether it is smoking meth or mainlining smack. Today, I see it’s called ‘slamming.’ Every generation has had its self-indulgent journey into joy abused.
Every few years the names of the drugs and the victims of drug abuse change. I still remember Billy Geller, from the 1967 class of Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst, New York, an honor society student; a kid I once played stickball with. But he stuck himself with one needle too many in 1970. Like I said, though, I can’t relive all the names. I just know they are always out there, year after year.
During the course of any life, whether it is rich with age, or ripe with youth, we will encounter difficulties and passages that measure our being, and mark our destiny.
We will encounter passions and pleasures, problems and stumbling blocks. Sometimes they involve our family, or friends. Sometimes they involve our lovers, or employers. Sometimes we ourselves become the one with the problems. To survive, you own up to them, you deal with them, you grow, you move on. Life is not a simple road in a Milton Bradley board game, like Candy Land — it’s more like Chutes and Ladders- with new ups and downs and challenges every day.
As a criminal defense attorney, my day job for four decades has meant dealing with drug abusers. The self-inflicted abuse they put themselves and their friends and families through all too often lead to their arrest and incarceration.
The result of that is probation, and maybe jail time. It means money for lawyers, counselors, and court costs. It means freedom stripped away and liberty lost. Addicts don’t think about that. They just think about the next high.
What do you do when you are the victim of a love and lover that causes more pain than promise? That is your question to answer, not theirs. If you are the healthy party in a relationship with an addict, you have to ask yourself just how much pain will you allow yourself to endure.
Do you really think you can maintain a steady and stable relationship with a person who has made meth his master, and he its slave? Care for that person as you might, his care for crack will be greater. Your relationship will be sabotaged, and he will continue to use. No one wins.
Relationships have to be spiritually enhancing and emotionally satisfying. They can’t survive if one partner is shooting up and the other is shot down. You can offer financial aid, emotional support, and an occasional hug. It won’t be enough.
The real problem in America is that we have taken drug abuse and made it a criminal justice issue instead of a public health crisis. We lock people up instead of trying to get them better. We started a drug war in America against pot users in the 1970’s and forty years later we have more over 2 million Americans in jail, and a drug abuse crisis all the same. We have screwed up big time.
But let’s be personal, not political.
Rehabilitation and recovery means dealing openly with the inevitable relapses. So when your lover leaves you in the middle of the night for a pack of cigarettes at the 7-11, and does not call or return for seven days because he met his meth buddy and went on a week long binge, just what do you do?
What if it is worse than just a binge? How do you handle the lover who leaves with your car and sells it for ten rocks? How do you handle the call in the middle of the night when he is stranded and asking for a Western Union transfer to come home?
You can be the most caring lover in the world, but you cannot do in two weeks for a young man what parents, social workers, and educators have not been able to resolve in twenty years.
This does not mean you do not care. It means you do not enable. Home is not just where you put your pillow down. Home is where the heart is. And a crack user's heart is only in the next rock; a meth user the next pipe. Remember, you don’t use meth; meth uses you.
Those in need must first want help, as much as you want their love. Unfortunately, it is never going to be sufficiently reciprocal or mutual as long as they are using and abusing. They may be the abusers, but you have to prevent yourself from being the abused. I know my words won't temper your pain or minimize your anguish. They do not make your crisis any easier.
If you are in a relationship like this, get ready now for that desperate call in the middle of the night. It’s going to come. Be prepared about what to say when you are awoken, in a daze, with a call for help. It will come from someone you love and care for. Whoever it is, remember they got there on their own.
Offer all the help you might, never lose sight of the fact that only by controlling their own bodies, can they find the way back to sobriety. The road to recovery, like the road to ruin, begins and ends from within. All you can ever hope to do is create the conditions for people to get better. The rest is up to them.
Our Executive Editor and Associate Publisher, Jason Parsley wrote the outstanding story shared in this issue of SFGN. The numbers on meth abuse in the gay community are shocking, glaring, and surreal. Let’s all work to put an end to it. Our lives mean too much.