I have only myself to blame.
By: Cliff in the Midwest
As I type this story, I need to come right out and say that my case manager is helping me write this. That’s because my cognitive abilities are impaired.
I’ll explain all of this later on.
Before we get too far into what happened, it’s important that I tell you that what follows isn’t being shared to scare you from using meth. Honestly, that’s not my intent. I’m writing this more as part of my recovery than anything else.
Typing it all out makes it more real – if that makes sense.
So I guess it might help to give you a little background about me. I’m an “older” gay man that grew up in a large Midwestern city. I can say that I’m gay now without much reservation but it wasn’t always that way for me.
I used to be very closeted, hooking up with guys in my early 20’s on the down low. Because I was raised in a very conservative, eastern European household where Catholicism rules, I struggled with my own sexuality.
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When I was early 21, I joined the Army reserves in an effort to prove to myself that I was “a man”. But even after serving six years and briefly getting activated, I learned that no matter how hard I tried, I was still attracted to men.
Maybe I should have realized my sexuality wasn’t going to change when I hooked up with at least a dozen “straight” guys during my military commitment? But I digress.
Once I got out, I really didn’t have a lot of skills. My experiencing was basically driving a truck, which translates into a whole lot of nothing once you’re out in civilian life.
The one thing I did have going for me – at the time – was my looks. Because I was in extremely good shape and a regular at the gym, I learned very quickly that I could use my appearance to get what was needed to survive.
So what did I look like? Well, with the exception of my hazel brown eyes and black hair, I was your standard good looking guy.
Yep – after getting out of the service that was my first job. Stocking groceries wasn’t going to cut it and I was darn wasn’t moving in with my P’s back home in closetville.
A straight buddy of mine told me about an outfit that contracted “dancers” for local bars and events. Because the money was good and you got lots of tips, I applied and was hired on.
The thing is you really didn’t need to know how to dance. All that was expected was that you moved your body to music. God knows I didn’t have any rhythm. But I had a body, which I made sure I kept in good shape by lifting weights.
I did bachelor gigs and nightclubs. Weekends were my bread and butter but you could make decent cash Monday – Friday if you knew where to shake it.
For me, that meant taking on gigs at gay businesses. In fact, most dancers were open to it because everyone knew, even the straight guys, that the money was always good in gayland.
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But one place most of them wouldn’t go that I would was a notorious adult theater – a disgusting hole in the wall where old men would JO in in their seats as you took your clothes off in front of them.
That’s how I meant Stan*. Because I don’t want to give away his identity, I can tell you that he was a 60-year old guy that eventually became my sugar daddy.
I’ll tell you more about him in a bit but what’s important that you know is at this point in my life, I was already using drugs. No, not crystal just yet but I was doing cocaine.
It would be wrong of me to say that all of the strippers “bumped” with Coke but many did and I was one of them.
Well, it gave me an extra lift to get through the work.
But you know what else? Coke also helped me to forget my gay demons, like not feeling hot enough, not feeling masculine and being closeted from my entire family.
So back to Stan.
We got to know one another and for some reason, the guy fell in love with me. And if I am completely honest with you, I didn’t discourage any of it. The guy was super wealthy and could provide me with things I could only dream of.
That’s not an excuse. It’s just being real with you.
Before I knew it, I was running around in designer clothes and driving an expensive sports car. He even put my name on his AMEX so that I could go on my own shopping junkets.
But over the course of time, Stan grew fed up with my inability to overnight or spend weekends with him. How could I? When you’re a stripper, you work late at night and way into the wee hours of the morning.
He drew a line in the sand when I started dancing at super nasty bathhouse; a place where strippers would do “private shows” in dimly lit rooms.
And because at that point he was paying my rent and pretty much everything else, I had no choice but to stop.
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There was no way I was going to be his houseboy or his b*tch. In exchange for my quitting the dancer life, I told him I wanted to run my own business.
I’m going to reflect here for a moment and just say what a complete ignorant ass I was. Seriously, who the f*** was I to be making any demands? But that’s what I did.
And you know what else? He agreed to it.
Stan and I had talked about a number of businesses. The one we settled on was a tanning salon. At that time, they were all the rage. And this was way before all of the big chain operators moved in.
He rented the space and the beds to get the business going. I don’t recall the exact numbers but with remodeling costs, rental fees and of course rent, I’m pretty sure he laid out 50 to 60 thousand dollars.
And that didn’t include the cost of supplies, like tanning lotions or labor costs.
It was at this point I had graduated to crystal meth. You see even though I told Stan we were “exclusive”, I was lying through my teeth. I had a regular group of FBs that I’d hook up with and most of them were down to party.
It only took one pen-cap of Tina for me to get hooked.
While coke was OK, crystal was a like a magic elixir. There’s no way for me to describe it except to say that it temporarily banished all of those demons I talked about earlier.
The first year of running the salon I felt like I was king of the hill. To the outside world, I was a business owner. Plus, during the days when I manned the front desk, I’d get to see all of the guys coming in to suntan.
And yes – I did people there. A lot. And I also did more pen caps of Tina that you can imagine. But to keep it all going, meaning the business, the money and the lifestyle, I had to do my time with Stan.
That meant sleeping at his place four or five nights a week and putting out for him.
But as time went on, my ability to be with him in the way that he wanted grew more difficult. It’s hard to get it up when you’ve been hooking up in mini-pnp sessions all day.
You already know where this story is going.
Stan eventually got sick of my sh*t. And it didn’t help that he walked into the salon one afternoon to do the accounting and found me hooking up with some guy in an empty tanning room – with a loaded pen cap.
Once the five-year commercial lease was up, Stan closed up the salon immediately. I don’t blame him. It was a huge financial black hole. I know for a fact that he spent money out of his own pocket to supplement the monthly deficits.
But how could the place be profitable? It wasn’t run right from the beginning, which was my own fault. Sure, I told Stan I would be responsible but I wasn’t.
In all honesty, the salon was nothing more than a hookup joint.
It got to the point that I wasn’t even going in. Between my escalating partying and hooking up, everything fell apart. Man do I regret that because it could have been a good business. But it failed and it failed big time.
In any event, once he closed up shop, Stan dumped like a box of rocks. He had already started to slowly cut me off from his money – like paying my rent. And because the car he “gave” me was leased, he didn’t renew it.
You might be wondering if I tried to “work it” and beg for another chance. Trust me I did. But he had “heard that song before” as he told me while locking up the salon on the last day.
It was over. I had allowed myself to be completely dependent upon him. Did I use him or did he enable me? Probably a little bit of both.
Fast forward to life after Stan.
With zero chance of getting a job because I would never be able to pass a drug test, I went back to what I knew – dancing and stripping. Plus, at this point, I wasn’t responsible enough to put in 5-hours at McDonald’s.
So there I was – back into “the scene”. But this time I was older and not a young 20-something. Because of this, the “jobs” were harder to come by.
One of the strippers told me about an escort service in town. It paid $200.00 per one-hour session, which was after the agency’s “cut”. I use the word “agency” but in all honesty, it was run old school out of somebody’s home.
Without getting into it, I know for a fact people in town were paid hush money to look the other way. Everybody knew this “entertainment” agency was nothing more than a call-boy outfit.
And did I mention around this time, I was also jacking myself up with steroids? Yep. I sure was. I had to. It was the only way I could compete with the younger guys.
FYI: When you inject Deca-Durabolin and stack it with other steroids, it’s always done with a needle. That’s not pretty but it’s the only way to get it into your system.
And it turned out to be the same delivery system I’d use to slam crystal meth.
Somehow, I was able to get myself to the gym each afternoon and put in a good 2-hour workout. At night I would answer “calls” from the agency and get dispatched to various hotels, condos and homes.
I made enough cash to pay my rent in a downsized garden apartment in a not so great area. But by the time I forked over money to my dealer for “party supplies” – plus the steroids I was buying, there wasn’t a hell of a lot left.
Here’s the thing about crystal meth that I only recently learned about from my case manager. Not only is it highly addictive, it also messes with your brain. For me, this meant difficulty with comprehending things and sometimes basic motor functioning.
Looking back, I guess I should have seen this because I was forgetting basic things, like where I put my bus pass or the PIN to my ATM card.
I was also horribly depressed. It’s part of the steep dive you take after partying with Tina. And when you put steroids into the mix, it really f*cks up your mood.
I had become a daily injector. It wouldn’t be long before my complete downfall.
It was a Saturday afternoon in late fall. I was hosting a PNP “group” over at my place. If you’ve never experienced something like this, I’m here to tell you that some of the sketchiest people you’ll ever run into seem to show up.
Some of it is foggy but I remember crushing up some rocks in a cooking spoon and heating it up with a butane torch. After it was liquefied, I slammed it – like so many times before.
What I didn’t realize was that when I put the torch down, it was still ignited.
The intense flame immediately caught my bed on fire, which ended up quickly spreading to the drapes – and the wood molding and pretty much my entire bedroom.
Most of the buildings in that neighborhood were ancient. The one I lived in certainly was. I guess that’s why things happened so fast.
Me and the 3 guys I was partying with bolted outside with barely enough time to get our cloths from the living room. Yep, that “party” had started there first.
I have never seen a fire spread so fast. By the time I had got out the front door, my entire place was engulfed in flames.
When all of this went down, I had exactly zero money in the bank. The only cash I had was the $20.00 in my pocket. The guys that I had been with immediately bolted from the scene – sketchy bastards.
I’d say it took all of 3 minutes before I heard the sirens coming. Later, I would find out it was called an “extra alarm” fire.
Right now I’m living on SSDI. My case manager was able to help me get hooked up with it plus Medicare. If you’re wondering what my medical issue, I’ll tell you.
I’ve got a neurological disorder. It could have pre-dated my trip with Tina but there’s no real way of knowing. I’m pretty sure slamming and steroids didn’t help.
I have other medical problems too that I won’t get into but you can probably figure it out. One of them is trying to make sure I never get the MRSA virus again. That bug loves to cling to meth users.
Right now, I’m living on barely $800.00 a month and stay in what’s commonly referred to as an SRO. But it’s really more like a “half-way” house.
To give you an idea, the lead social worker here puts all of us on the “rope line”. You know what that is? It’s literally a long rope that 10 people hold onto while they walk you to get led around outdoors. We have several schizophrenics here that need that kind of grounding, even when they are heavily medicated.
On “good” days, I’m able to do for myself. On “bad” days, I need help doing basic things, like remembering to take my meds. People constantly tell me my speech is slurred whenever I talk.
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When the weather is nice, we get walked to the park to sit in the sun. I like going outside because whenever I’m enclosed indoors for too long, I freak out.
You see I was diagnosed with PTSD too. That one is directly related to what happened. Even as I get help writing all of this out, I’m wigging.
I’ll tie up a few loose ends here because I know I’m probably coming off scatter-brained.
Immediately after the fire, I phoned Stan. He hung up as soon as he heard my voice. The only people left to call were my parents. They’re not rich but they did let me stay at their place for a while.
You would have thought that was my rock bottom at this point but it wasn’t. That’s because I was still using crystal meth. How messed up is that?
My parents made me check into a recovery program. And let me tell you it wasn’t one of those fancy places where the celebrities go to get massages and dry out to the sound of harps. It was a facility that “street people” go to.
But when I think about it, I was one of them – a crank whore. A broken b*tch.
When I was released, my parents refused to take me back in. Can’t say that I blame them.
Instead, I was set up with in a LGBTQ recovery house. Looking back, that was smart because I would have never gotten the help I needed had I stayed at their place.
At this point, I’ve got 2-years of recovery under my belt. It hasn’t been easy and goodness knows I’ve cycled through more sponsors than you can imagine. So many of them are flakes, sorry to say.
But I am sober.
Look, I could give you a song and dance about why you shouldn’t use crystal meth. But you probably already know the dangers so I’m not going to preach.
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All I can tell you is that if you are using right now, you’re probably going reach your bottom at some point. Everyone’s is different. And you’re not going to stop using until things get so bad that you’ll be forced to stop – or die.
Last point here before I go.
If you’ve never used crystal before and someone offers it to you, don’t do it. Stay the f*** away from Tina. No good will come to your life. That b*tch will tear you down and screw up your entire world.
Thanks for taking the time to read my story. And thank you GPB for giving me a place to share.
*Name changed at request of author.
[Editor’s note] We would like to thank the case manager who helped Cliff with authoring this piece. At his request, we are placing a link to CMA for anyone who may want more information about recovery.
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