X-Meth Stories 1 to 20 of 47  
6/3/2014
Obama’s New Drug Czar Understands Addiction
In a guest column for Frontiers, the administration’s rehab man talks alcohol, stigma and being gay
My name is Michael Botticelli, and I serve as the Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy, President Obama’s senior advisor on drug policy. I am also a gay man. I am also in recovery. Twenty-six years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed of speaking those words, let alone writing them for a publication. I would never have dreamed of the opportunities I’ve been given since then—the chance to speak to countless Americans about their own recovery, to represent the Obama Administration, to work at the White House. Twenty-six years ago, I couldn’t have dreamt I’d be here today, because I could not imagine life as a gay man without alcohol. I didn’t know I could have a life full of unimaginable joy on the other side of addiction. I didn’t know that a vibrant community of gay people in recovery was waiting for me on the other side of my disease. I didn’t know that I’d be just one of millions of others in recovery living joyous, healthy, full lives. And I couldn’t have predicted that in 26 years, one of the most important drug policy reforms in a generation would become the law of the land. Under the Affordable ...
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1/31/2014
Gratitude
As a little boy, I had one dream. It was simple. I just wanted to be happy. I woke up this morning to find myself in a comfortable bed with warm blankets and soft pillows. I was in a small-sized apartment, on a beautiful tree-lined street in an awesome city. I pay the rent with money from a job that I love doing. I teach my students about tennis, and I learn about life in return. As I emerge from my bed I find that I have a closet full of clothes to wear and a hot shower waiting to wake me up. I have plenty of food in the kitchen, and I have a simple coffee maker to brew my morning ritual. I also have a phone that greets me with morning messages from friends and family. Never have I felt so loved in my entire life. I then took notice of my couch, my television, dishes, a microwave and a fridge. I looked and realized I have every imaginable necessity I could ever need to live comfortably, and enough unnecessary luxuries to realize I am bathed in good fortune. As I drove to work, I had the grateful ...
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1/6/2014
Turning 20 and 50 in 2013
My name is Tom. I was introduced to crystal meth on the dance floor of the Apache Bar in The Valley in 1990 by a man named Neil. He gave me a hit of ecstasy, so I moved in with him that night. Turned out he was dealing crystal. Of all the guys, of all the bars, of all the nights.... What began as a whirlwind of excitement, rejuvenated life force and super powers in and out of bed turned methodically into a shrunken, paranoid journey to a frozen underworld where no one sleeps and everyone was out to get me. I tried hard to maintain a carefully crafted schedule of “normal” in order to prove that balance and control were still in my court. I wasn’t like the others, whose before-and-after images were overdone to scare you. I kept a job. OK, so I was teaching step aerobics with no voice (I had dry mouth, so I used hand signals, and my BPMs were out of this world, but packed classes = successful), and I was turning tricks. My jobs were no longer related to my career but to my true love—crystal. I would always keep three or four ...
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12/5/2013
Ring In the New Year Drug and Alcohol Free at #BOOM
Trying to tell a sober person to stay home on New Year’s Eve is like trying to tell an HIV-positive man he can’t have sex anymore. It is natural that people are going to want to go out and be a part of something on this wonderful night, but NYE has so much relapse and suicide surrounding it, and we want to change that. #BOOM! is  an alcohol and drug-free safe haven for people who want to ring in the new year more festively and with other sober or non-drinking people. That’s what #BOOM! is all about! It is a free party being held at the West Hollywood Auditorium at 647 N. San Vicente Boulevard, opening at 9 p.m. New Year’s Eve and going until 2 a.m. Many times in our lives we are marginalized—for being gay, lesbian, transgender, disabled, alcoholic, a drug addict or just as someone who “doesn’t drink.” Well, New Year’s Eve’s #BOOM! 2014 aims to change that by bringing all these groups together in a joyful and sober celebration! When we think about those we have lost this year to relapse, suicide and overdose, we also think about those who have stayed sober and survived. It ...
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10/14/2013
Surviving Two Epidemics: AIDS and Meth
I thought I had a right to get high; that I deserved it for all my pain. I figured any gay man who suffered through the 1980s needed to medicate. Living in West Hollywood as a young man, I was dodging bullets in a war zone, busily planning memorials and attending town halls while hoping to God I wasn’t next. My prayer was answered but came with a price—watching scores of men die around me. Pop a pill. Snort a line. Check your nose and visit your friend in the ICU. Maybe others found healthier ways to cope, but I wasn’t equipped for the onslaught of mortality, the preachers on television proudly announcing the evidence of God’s wrath against people like me, the dire news that no medications could combat this plague and my own HIV-positive test results. I couldn’t comprehend my emotions, much less face them. So when treatments improved years later and the dying abated, I felt entitled to celebrate. Pop a pill. Smoke a bowl. Stash the drugs and get back on the dance floor. That’s when I knew I was a drug addict. When any occasion qualified. Whether we were dying or living, I was high. ...
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9/13/2013
I Had to Surrender
One thing I love about my life now is the ability to laugh about the tragic and seemingly hopeless situations that I have experienced. These experiences have contributed to making me the man I am today. I am not the victim of any of this. I am not resentful. I have done the work on myself to have what I am about to tell you just be a story. I grew up with meth-addicted parents, chaos and a lot of dysfunction. At age 15 I was asked to leave home. (I would learn later in life that when using crystal meth, sometimes nothing else matters, not even kids.) After a brief stint of being homeless, I was legally adopted by a wonderful family. By 23, I had been around the world a couple times over. Singing and dancing had given me a life I only could have dreamed of. But something happened when I was 23 that would start to change the course of my life—I tried crystal meth. One day, I chose meth over my job. I ended up in WeHo, 26 years old, homeless, jobless and unemployable. I was a mess. It was suggested I go to rehab. ...
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8/16/2013
Maintaining Harmony in the Gay Rooms of Recovery
“But there exists among us a fellowship, a friendliness and an understanding which is indescribably wonderful.” —Alcoholics Anonymous, Chapter 2 What happens after rehab? Most of the time a person is sent into the rooms of 12-step land—the world’s largest outpatient program. Allow me to preface what I'm about to express with this—I am not criticizing or bashing the fellowship of CMA or even AA as a whole. Often times a newbie is thrown into an environment that is new to him.  There are new faces, new cliques—a new everything in early sobriety. Add gay, and on top of that a physically and mentally damaging history with crystal meth to the equation, and suddenly things just got ‘real.’ The only stated requirement of membership is a desire to stop drinking or using. One doesn’t have to like everyone. Courtesy, camaraderie, joyousness, democracy, politeness and graciousness are nice and even principled—but not requirements. What happens when exclusion and meanness go too far? Sometimes, people in recovery are the victims of a subtle form of internal bullying and are made so uncomfortable in the rooms that they have one of two choices—to accept it and work through it, sometimes painfully so, or ...
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7/19/2013
Life of Decit
Looking back at the past, I can see that I had a pretty good life—loving parents, a partner of 10 years, a successful career and a beautiful house. In 2004, life took a turn for the worse. Within the span of a year, my brother passed away, I was gay-bashed in West Hollywood, went through a very painful break-up and became HIV-positive. Something happened within me. I was overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with reality. I wasn’t only heartbroken; I was broken. I couldn’t stop the feelings of sadness and would wake up in tears, only to cry myself back to sleep. At that point I turned to cocaine to relieve the pain, but in a few months, it stopped working—and then I found crystal meth. It really worked for me for a few years, allowing me to avoid reality as I roamed through my life completely numbed and disconnected. Meth fulfilled my need to end the tears, but within no time, it completely consumed my life. I lost my job, my car and apartment and ended up penniless, homeless and completely alone. I discovered isolation in Meth, and in turn lost all my friends and ceased all communication with ...
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6/20/2013
Recovering My Life
I awoke on the morning of February 3, 2003, after being asleep for approximately two days and decided to make my last sale. I had considered this for some time, as I had become alienated from every true friend and family member, not for any specific bad deed but for what I was doing to myself and what I represented. I traveled no street, saw no back alleys; I didn't even drive my own car. I led a Studio 54 life. Traveling from party to party, house to house, mansion to mansion, I needed nothing. Crystal meth, ecstasy and GHB were plentiful, and all of the 5HTP, vitamin concoctions and super drinks were available to take the edge off. My story is not unique. People like me were in constant danger of killing ourselves—and potentially others—as there were few wake-up calls and fewer consequences for our actions. People in my circle dropped like flies from dehydration, overdose, kidney failure, even heart failure. There were no limits in the wealthy drug underground. I was 120 pounds, 30 years old, and the lines were beginning to show. I knew internally that my body would fail someday, perhaps soon. Falling out from GHB ...
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5/24/2013
Recovery & Relapse
Over the last few months, I have seen six strong and willing men enter into a drug treatment facility in order to stay off the drug that has taken control of their lives—meth. In all six cases the men were gay, isolated from their families in one way or another, had self-esteem issues and had lost control of their lives. They came from both our area and across the country. Los Angeles, as it turns out, has a very well-deserved reputation for having and supporting a strong gay recovery community. Unfortunately, these six men, despite their ernest desire to get clean and stay clean, can and will have an uphill battle ahead of them. Of the millions of meth addicts who enter recovery annually, an estimated 93 percent relapse within the first year.  Medical professionals assert that a huge part of the relapse problem is the fact that when coming off of meth, the depression, low self-esteem and sense of not belonging reappear, but tenfold. Most times the actual physical manifestations of meth abuse can be healed or treated more quickly and effectively than the mental damage.  It used to be thought that the brain could not heal itself from ...
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4/25/2013
Fly Again
I balanced the glider on my shoulders, adjusting for the breeze blowing into the launch ramp. Sylmar and Burbank hung gauzy in the blue-gray distance, a glint of the Pacific far beyond. I could just make out the landing zone—a seemingly tiny strip of open ground down in the valley two miles off and a couple thousand feet below. My instructor, Andy, was hooked in behind me—it had been 15 years since my last solo mountain flight, and hang gliding isn’t something you just jump back into after so long. “Ready?” Andy asked. “Ready!” We walk-jog-bounded down the ramp and off into the air. Nicolas Cage once called hang gliding “probably the most beautiful thing a man can do,” and he’ll get no argument from me. Have you ever had a dream where you’re soaring like a hawk? That’s what it’s like. So what does hang gliding have to do with recovery? Like any sport, hobby or diversion, the answer can be “plenty.” When you’re doing something you love, you’re totally in the moment. There’s no room for anything else. Spiraling skyward in a booming thermal, Andy shouting instructions in my ear, nothing between us and the brown scrubby ridge ...
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3/28/2013
A Path for My Addiction and Recovery
My drinking increased when I found out in 2005 about my HIV-positive status, because drinking kept me going and helped me to cope with the shame, stigma and discrimination that surround a person when he or she becomes HIV-positive. I couldn’t tell anyone, because I was afraid of rejection. Later, when I was introduced to crystal meth, I felt indestructible, and I thought nothing could hurt me. I was very wrong—I was killing myself, because I wasn’t eating or taking care of myself or taking my HIV medications. I still have vivid images of that Monday morning in October 2007 when my life was about to change.I got arrested right in front of my job. I hit the sidewalk with my car, and that caught the attention of a police officer. I willingly confessed to him and showed him that I had a small bag of crystal meth and a pipe with me, but when he tried to put the handcuffs on me, it set off a paranoid attack that I couldn’t control. I just started screaming and trying to somehow resist being arrested. Then the parking lot became filled with police cars, and an ambulance was called. I ...
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2/28/2013
Recovery For Gays & Lesbians
Of course we know that addiction, including meth, hits all types of people, in all walks of life. We make no claims that the LGBT community is the only community that is having these difficulties. What I would like to offer in this piece are possible things to be looking for when searching for a rehab facility for a gay, lesbian or trans person, as opposed to a rehab that is not experienced in understanding the needs of LGBT folks who are having addiction problems.    It has been said that being gay, lesbian or trans automatically makes you more susceptible to addiction because of the “culture.” I am willing to accept that in part. There certainly is a tribal feel to using party drugs along the circuit and gay and lesbian enclaves and large gatherings. We know, for instance, that L.A. Pride is not only a place where alcohol is sold by the boatload, but that many are using meth, coke or smack either at the festival or before they get there.     I also would like to put out there that gay, lesbian and trans people are the targets of bullying and discrimination by society, from early on ...
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1/30/2013
City of West Hollywood Recovery Resources
If you’re a little at sea about local recovery options that might be available, check out the city of West Hollywood Social Services Division, which provides a sort of clearinghouse for a range of resources for those in need—and there are a ton of them.    The division "provides social services, health education and information to the community to improve the quality of life for those in need," and those services address, among other things, "necessities of life such as food and shelter, AIDS education” and substance abuse, according to the city’s website. (To reach the Social Services Division’s page, go to weho.org, click Departments & Divisions, then Social Services in the City Divisions box.)    “West Hollywood sets aside just under $4 million a year for social services,” including substance abuse-related programs, West Hollywood Social Services Supervisor David Giugni told Frontiers in a phone interview. “We don’t provide direct services ourselves,” he explained. “We contract with nonprofit agencies to provide them.”    The city’s funding of each service provider is conditioned on that provider not turning anyone away for inability to pay, although if you have the resources, you might be expected to pony up at least something.    ...
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1/2/2013
Three Daily Tools That Get Me Through: Gratitude, Faith and Humility
Sitting in a smoky Indian casino in New Mexico with my parents on 2013’s eve, I realized I’d driven over 4,000 miles this holiday season spending time with my family. And I loved every mile of it. I’d drive a million miles more if it meant being present and sober for my family.    In November of 2009, I made a life-saving decision to stop using meth. My doctor gave me six months to live if I didn’t. The district attorney also had long-term plans for me if I didn’t stop. And my friends and family gave me one more chance to get sober.    So I chose life. It was the hardest and best decision I ever made. The first year of sobriety was a battle, learning a lot about myself and starting the re-education process of how to live without drugs and alcohol. The second year was a tremendous rebuilding year focused on getting back to work and being of service helping fellow addicts in any way I could. I was frequently frustrated and impatient because vestiges of the old me wanted what I wanted when I wanted it. But I only had to look inwardly at my ...
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12/5/2012
Letting Go of ‘Stuff’
Our society measures what it calls “success” in terms of money, possessions and status. The plastic surgeon with his trophy wife and his castle on the cliff in Malibu? Winner. The Walmart janitor renting a room in his mom’s double-wide by the tracks in Santa Ana? Loser. We know zip about them as human beings, but we feel perfectly comfortable slapping on the labels, right?And this “success” is a one-way ratchet. You must always be striving for more. Struggling. Competing. Winning. No time-outs. No slacking off. No back-sliding.But the most destructive part of all this is that we confuse this simplistic, elbow-throwing notion of success, this relentless pursuit of “stuff,” with happiness. Once I make partner, I’ll be happy. If I could only find a place west of La Cienega, I’d be happy. That new Audi would sure do the trick. So we make partner, and we move, and we buy that car. And lo and behold, nothing really changes. It’s not a whole lot different from addiction when you think about it—just chasing a different dragon.Well, duh, you might say. Everyone knows money doesn’t buy happiness! Agreed. Everyone at least claims to know that, but how ...
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11/7/2012
Change is Possible
As the temperature drops and the season changes, I am reminded to look inward at the changes I’ve made and changes that still need to come. I have heard that people don’t change: “We are who we are.” There was a time that I might have believed this to be true. But here, today, I know that I have changed and so have many others that I have known. All that is needed is desire, willingness and effort. The desire for me was to end the hurt; I couldn’t do one more day of the life I was living. Booze, drugs and endless searching; finding nothing, yet searching for more of the same. I knew what I had become and it did not work. But who did I want to become? Was I willing to change? At first it was simply to rid my life of the emptiness, the anger and the complete loss of control. I wanted to rid myself of crystal. As the years have gone by that purpose has grown into becoming a loving, tolerant, accepting man free of self-obsession. The effort? Action and more action. Someone once told me that consistent and persistent behavior gets us ...
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10/10/2012
Jimmy, Can You Help Me?
About once every 10 days I will receive a phone call, a text or a Facebook message with those words. It’s always the same. It’s a gay brother who has nowhere else to go, having exhausted all of his resources, couch commitments and friends. They know they can trust volunteers from The Tweakers Project, as we will get them a ride to the hospital for medical and/or mental treatment, the youth shelter, the adult shelter or a rehab if there is an available bed at that moment. It’s always best to accept someone where they are at emotionally, physically and mentally. Never putting your own ideas or judgments  on them is the best way to help someone in need, as gaining their confidence and a comfort level is what helps the process of recovery to begin. This last month, September, was National Recovery Month. We had placed three brothers into a variety of programs who swore they were ready to be free of meth and get their lives back. It always sounds amazing when those words are said out loud. Sadly, it just isn’t always reality. All three brothers that we placed went MIA. Gone. Back to whatever is so ...
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9/12/2012
Meth: Effects, Consequences and Treatment Options
Methamphetamine—meth—is a stimulant that, when used, produces an immediate feeling of happiness, a sense of sexual stimulation, attraction and connection to others. These euphoric feelings can last from six to 12 hours. However, this period of stimulation is typically followed by a “crash” or “come down.” When this occurs, the user often becomes wrought with anger, aggression, irritability, exhaustion and host of other negative physical and psychological consequences related to meth use. Long-term users can suffer from “meth mouth” (loss or erosion of teeth), skin problems (from picking at one’s skin while high), insomnia, erectile dysfunction, heart problems, cognitive deficiencies, stroke, auditory hallucinations and paranoia. The physical and psychological manifestations of meth use may be temporary; however, some may be permanent. Many gay and bisexual men use meth to facilitate social and sexual connections, to create a sense of community, self-acceptance or to overcome internalized homophobia. In addition to providing a sense of confidence and connection, the drug enhances sexual stimulation, prolongs arousal and delays ejaculation. Consequently, meth has changed the social and sexual experiences of many gay and bisexual men. Many have stated that they engage in sexual activities that are different from and much riskier than “sober” sex ...
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8/15/2012
About That ‘Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory’ Thing...
For the one, maybe two people out there who actually notice such things, my tag-out line on these columns for the last several years has stated I’ve been writing a book about my experiences with meth. I know. Who isn’t, right? Well, last month, after nearly seven years clean, I finally finished a rough first draft and turned it in to my writing guru—the awesome and awesomely talented PEN West Fiction Award finalist Samantha Dunn—along with the five other members of Sam’s merry little band of would-be memoirists. For most of the summer, we met every other week, critiquing a different victim’s manuscript each time.When my night came I was nervous—I’d seen what these six women were capable of critique-wise—but I knew I was among friends, and really wanted to get a take on my story from people I hadn’t dragged along for the ride.Yikes! I got a take all right!There’s this almost spooky thing that happens when you write something about your own life. You think you’re saying X. You rewrite and edit, edit and rewrite, still convinced you’re saying X. Trying, in fact, to say X even more plainly each time. Striving for transparency. For ...
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