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Sunday, September 1, 2013

Taking the OD out of 'Method'

The eight year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was last week, and it reminded me of something. Wasn't really sure what, exactly, but when I heard about the anniversary, I thought of Mother Bush saying that the impoverished African Americans of Nawlins were actually very lucky, and I thought about heaps of donated food and clothing rising up from the square at Lincoln Center that Ann Coulter dismissed as signs of liberal guilt, and I thought about Shep Smith having a conscience breakdown on FOX News.

But there was something else.

Then, tonight, I saw this article on Salon.com, and remembered: the way I found out about Katrina was when the guy handing me a glass pipe, who knew I was from Alabama, asked, "So, do you think your family is okay?"

I shrugged, and inhaled the smoke coming from the pipe. Exhaled. "Why wouldn't they be?"

The guy--not sure I knew his name then and certainly don't recall it now--was much older than I. Fit. Bald, but hot, I suppose, not that I cared.

Before I continue with this, I want to stress that I no longer do meth, and in fact only spent a month or two seeking it out. It was not a very pleasant part of my past. There was nothing dignified or cool about it. This post is about how I realized just how destructive drugs can be.

That said, I'd also like to add I wouldn't change what I did. The experience remains an experience I'm glad I had, because it helps me understand others.

So. Hot older guy. Glass pipe. Katrina moving into the Gulf of Mexico. Me naked on a bed in Chelsea, Manhattan.

Dude had a nice apartment. It wasn't squalid--most guys I smoked meth with did not seem like meth addicts at all. They all had nice apartments, were clean and well-satorial'd, with pianos in the den or expensive art on the walls. More than the meth, I think that was what appealed to me--at the time both G and I were having financial difficulties, and he was working long hours so I spent a lot of time alone in our hovel. Couldn't afford to go to shows or join friends for dinner. The first guy I met online who, upon hooking up, offered me meth, was a guy who regularly appeared on FOX News. An entertainment lawyer. His apartment was stellar, in midtown with a great view and a balcony, and after he got me fucked up he took me to his bar, where the cast of SNL was having an after-show party. I made an ass of myself--I was fucked up, so of course I made an ass of myself--but I loved being in the company of famous people.

Of course, because I made the ass of myself, I was quietly escorted out of the bar and left disoriented on 8th Avenue. I walked around the block a few times before grabbing a cab home, unaware that there was snot pouring out of my nose. The cab driver said nothing, but kept the window down because I had b.o. as well. I remember being in love with the wind coming in through the open window, and pulling up my shirt to feel the wind on my chest.

Another guy I met up with--again online--had a partner who was directing a show on Broadway. The partner was out for the night, so this guy had me over. Beautiful apartment, stuffed with Broadway memorabilia and autographed posters of the revival of Cabaret and Chicago. A mask from Phantom. A photograph of Guy and his partner with Angela Lansbury. I imagined myself standing with Angela, and took the glass pipe when offered. "Your apartment," I said between hits, "is amazing."

"You should take off your pants," Guy responded.

So the summer of 2005 went. The guys weren't important, and while I can't swear I was always careful, I was at least responsible. Tests, months and years later, came back negative.

Apartments. All beautiful, all full of things, and all those things were things I wanted to own. Later, when I tried to explain all this to Greg, I couldn't pin down why I had done what I did. I couldn't explain the attraction to the men. All I could say was, "But you didn't see the piano!"

So. Dude who asked me about my family's safety.

We met online, as usual, and he mentioned Olympia Snowe, which indicated to me that he was smart. Or at least well-informed. Turned out he may have worked for Snowe in some capacity--but he was definitely a Republican.

Most of the guys I met during those few weeks were Republican, by the way. I guess the only way one can deal with being a conservative homosexual is to cut it with drugs.

Greg was working, so I was free to do as I wanted. So I did. I went downtown, and to Dude's apartment, which was as fabulous as I'd hoped. He had kids, and there were pictures of his family all over the place; there were prints of Thomas Kincade, which clashed with the giant Salvadore Dali prints. Ornate Indian rug. Simple couch. Tasteful chair. Glass coffee table. A piano near the giant glass windows overlooking the Hudson.

I was dressed in camouflage cargo shorts, flip-flops and white t-shirt. Dude commented on the shorts. "Did you get those in Alabama?" he asked.

I shrugged. Nervous. Didn't want to really say anything until the first hit on the glass pipe.

After the first hit, I was fine. I pretended the apartment was my own, and took off my clothes, as did he. "You're not into me," he said at one point.

"Of course I am," I lied.

"No, I'm not your type. It's okay."

"Whatever." I went for the pipe again.

A bit later, he asked what papers I liked to read. Because my mind wasn't working anymore, it was beyond me to explain that I didn't read newspapers anymore--I read blogs. Still do, for good or ill. "Papers?" I replied. "I do the Times. My local paper back home."

"No, what do you read?" He was asking this while pushing my head down to his crotch.

"Words," I answered. Quoting Hamlet because I didn't get his point. "Words. Words."

Still don't know what answer he wanted from me, but a bit later he launched into an Olympia Snowe discussion. Then fielded a phone call from his ex wife--their daughter had broken her glasses, and she needed him to send money to buy new ones.

"That's terrible," I muttered.

"Glasses? Yes. So you have empathy for people who break their glasses. Interesting."

That was when I realized something was off. Something was wrong. I was using people in a very obvious way--not for the drugs, which is expected, but for the life. Dude's response to my casual concern about his daughter's glasses broke through the muddled meth mind I had going on, and made me see myself from the outside: a guy who came over for sex and drugs, and wanted neither. Or really just wanted the drugs, and the attention, but not the sex.

Then Dude, who was still on his smartphone but no longer talking to his ex, said, "So, do you think your family is okay?" And I responded, "Why wouldn't they be?"

It was then that I heard about Katrina. (Spoiler: My family was no where near the hurricane). Dude explained, while standing naked in the doorway, that a hurricane was tearing through the South, and that Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi were getting slammed.

And I didn't care.

True. I didn't care. I was so fucked up that I just asked for more pipe. And Dude gave it to me. And when I left his apartment for my own several hours later, I still didn't care.

Then I did care. In our apartment after Greg got home, I told him everything. He threw a coffee cup at the floor--not at me--and then called my parents. Coming down, I realized just how terrible I'd been over the past few months, and over the next few days I watched the Katrina drama play out, the awful devastation and the meth-like reaction our government had to the devastation.

So. Yeah. Eight years. I'd like a little credit here: After I confessed to G what I'd done, we went together to a Narc-Anon meeting for meth addicts. Greg probably should've kicked me out but he stuck with me, and insisted we go to this meeting, and it was a terrible experience. So many lives ruined--absolutely destroyed beyond repair, yet all of them trying to repair anyway, proving that no life is done until it is done.

After the meeting, G and I walked to a Mexican restaurant for dinner. I wasn't sure if G and I were still together. Didn't know if he loved me. I was still flashing on the Dude who asked me if my family was okay, and unsure if I even was worthy of love anymore because if I couldn't answer that simple question, perhaps I wasn't worthy of love. "So, do you think your family is okay?" "Why the fuck are you asking me that?"

"Do you think your boyfriend is doing okay?"

"I don't know--how's my ass?"

But we walked from the meeting, and I had the balls to tell Greg this: "I will not go to one of those again. I will just stop the drugs."

Ballsy, right? After what I'd done, I'm still asking my partner to trust me.

And Greg said: "Okay."

Then we had a nice dinner, where Greg glowered at me and I understood why he would. And I made him laugh, and loved to hear him laugh. More than anything, I wanted to hear that.

So. Yes. Meth is terrible. Even eight years later, for a summer, it haunts you. And if you survive doing it, I suppose, it teaches you how to care for others, but only if you put the pipe down.

Edited to add: David Carr is awesome.

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