1. Get Smart
“I realized I’d die if I didn’t quit, and as an addict I thought it should be from something more glamorous than HIV. I had 200 T cells, lost 35 pounds and had HIV meds to take—which I knew I would forget on crystal. So I stopped cold turkey—no detox clinic, no horrible withdrawal. Quitting crystal made me lethargic. I slept a lot, had nightmares and lost more weight. But every day without drugs made me want to stay clean more. It doesn’t have to take getting HIV to quit, though.”
For more on detox, check out the info to empower people to quit at Life or Meth, www.lifeormeth.com.
2. Get Support
“I went to Crystal Meth Anonymous [CMA] once I felt confident saying I was an addict in public—and that I could help others. It was a mixed group with men and women, gay and straight. Finally, it seemed like I wasn’t alone. I could talk to other people dealing with issues like how to socialize without being pushed to use. After a while, I was nominated to be group leader.”
Find your local CMA 12-step meeting at www.crystalmeth.org.
3. Get Healthy
“I’ve adhered to my meds 100 percent. I’ve gained back the weight and am undetectable. I get counseling and hit the gym to regain pride in my body. Going to work every day and having a reason to get up in the morning and earn money like everyone else helps me mentally. I feel like a functioning member of society again.”
For more on adherence, fitness and jobs, visit the Body, a comprehensive guide to HIV, at www.thebody.com.
4. Get Sex Confidence
“During my first sober relationship, I had so many flashbacks of drug-driven sex that I couldn’t function sexually. Now, I’m comfortable with myself and discuss meth use, being positive and having safer sex with potential partners. Most people thank me and ask questions. I’ve never had anyone say, ‘You were a drug user? I’m not having sex with you.’ I ask guys who seem high to leave my apartment.”
Find pointers for positive dating at HIV Stops With Me, a site about HIVers preventing infections, (www.hivstops -withme.com).
5. Get Active
“My addiction led to activism and that’s what I take pride in now. I’m the prevention supervisor at Montrose Clinic in Houston. I work out of the clinic and go to gay bars and bathhouses to talk about prevention and harm reduction. I can walk up to johns, prostitutes and junkies, and there is a connection and trust. They know I come from the streets. I feel good when people come up and say, ‘Hey, it’s been three weeks since I’ve picked up.’ It keeps me strong.”
Contact your local ASO for activism information. And get involved in the Campaign to End AIDS, www.campaigntoendaids.org.