I started using crystal at Gay Pride in 1995. Over the next sevenyears, I filed for bankruptcy, lost 10 rotted teeth and two seriousboyfriends. I woke up in a hotel bathtub on Christmas after threeblacked-out days. With meth pushing my inhibitions, I went on longbinges of anonymous sex, using condoms about 10 percent of the time.You don’t think about HIV when you’re high. You feel invincible. Partof the problem may have been prevention burnout: People get sick ofhearing they have to use condoms. Crystal lets you forget aboutHIV—until you get it. After I was diagnosed, I felt disgusted withmyself and like I was going in circles. But finally, I stopped doing360s and did a 180. My last high was December 31, 2001, seven monthsafter I tested positive. —as told to Lucile Scott
5 Steps to Clean, Sober and Safe
1. Get Smart
“I realized I’ddie if I didn’t quit, and as an addict I thought it should be fromsomething more glamorous than HIV. I had 200 T cells, lost 35 poundsand had HIV meds to take—which I knew I would forget on crystal. So Istopped cold turkey—no detox clinic, no horrible withdrawal. Quittingcrystal made me lethargic. I slept a lot, had nightmares and lost moreweight. But every day without drugs made me want to stay clean more. Itdoesn’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
“Iwent to Crystal Meth Anonymous [CMA] once I felt confident saying I wasan addict in public—and that I could help others. It was a mixed groupwith men and women, gay and straight. Finally, it seemed like I wasn’talone. I could talk to other people dealing with issues like how tosocialize without being pushed to use. After a while, I was nominatedto be group leader.”
Find your local CMA 12-step meeting at www.crystalmeth.org.
3. Get Healthy
“I’veadhered to my meds 100 percent. I’ve gained back the weight and amundetectable. I get counseling and hit the gym to regain pride in mybody. Going to work every day and having a reason to get up in themorning and earn money like everyone else helps me mentally. I feellike 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
“Duringmy first sober relationship, I had so many flashbacks of drug-drivensex that I couldn’t function sexually. Now, I’m comfortable with myselfand discuss meth use, being positive and having safer sex withpotential partners. Most people thank me and ask questions. I’ve neverhad anyone say, ‘You were a drug user? I’m not having sex with you.’ Iask 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
“Myaddiction led to activism and that’s what I take pride in now. I’m theprevention supervisor at Montrose Clinic in Houston. I work out of theclinic and go to gay bars and bathhouses to talk about prevention andharm reduction. I can walk up to johns, prostitutes and junkies, andthere is a connection and trust. They know I come from the streets. Ifeel good when people come up and say, ‘Hey, it’s been three weekssince 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.
How one HIVer found the courage to escape from meth prison and return to reality