The first time I did meth, I didn't find out what I’d smoked until 16 hours later. I knew that I was on some pretty powerful drug — after all, it did let me have sex for 12 hours straight with four different guys that I’d only just met that night — but I didn’t know that it was that drug.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Like most of my millennial peers who grew up at the top of their class in high school and are doing pretty well in their university courses, I thought of myself as smart. Not necessarily book-smart, but at the very least, street-smart. Like I’d have enough common sense to figure out how to slither out of a tight spot. That I’d know how to get myself back on track after being handed a curve ball. That I’d know my limits and exactly how to push them just enough so that I’d be growing and yet remain very safe. Despite starting as an insecure and closeted teen — fresh off a plane that had traveled across the ocean — two years later, I was out and proud, surrounded by more friends than I could count and heavily respected in the clubs I’d joined. Surely you can’t go under such a drastic transformation in a short amount of time without being smart.
In other words, I was very full of myself.
As a kid who grew up in a conservative, Asian country with Christian fundamentalist parents, I saw my stint at this very liberal university in a Western country as a chance to, in a way, “reclaim my youth.” After all, the media has been very adamant about university being a place of “experimentation,” so why would I limit myself? In a short time, I smoked my first joint, had my first drink, got wasted, passed out in the middle of nowhere and had sex. My closest brushes with danger were those two trips to the ER resulting from alcohol poisoning and a brief dance with chlamydia thanks to an ex lying about his status.
Both of these trips were easily dealt with by properly hiding the hospital tags and pills that were given to me for free by the STI clinic. I was still doing great at school, everyone I volunteered with adored me and my parents still thought of me as their perfect Christian son who could do no wrong.
I felt invincible.
So when a guy told me they were going to smoke “T” and asked if I was okay with it, I said sure and that I would totally join if they’d let me. I did look up what “T” was and the first hit online said that it was an anti-retroviral HIV drug. I wanted to ask why we would smoke an HIV drug, but it was midnight and I was already in his apartment lobby when he told me what was happening. It was the dead of winter and there were three ridiculously hot guys waiting for me upstairs, so I figured why the hell not? What was the worst that could happen?
I want to say that it was the best sex I’ve had in my life, but it wasn’t. Like, it was great at best, but probably more along the lines of decent to above average. The dudes were nice, I had fun, everyone got off and we went our separate ways.
However, when I got home, I couldn’t sit still. I was fidgeting, my mind was racing and I couldn’t nap. I wasn’t hungry, but I tried fixing myself something to eat. My fried chicken tasted like cardboard, so I sent the guy a text asking if that was normal.
“Yeah, that’s what meth does.”
“Yeah. Don’t worry, should be gone in a day. Just make sure to keep hydrated.”
I’d love to say that a wave of panic rushed over me. That I was suddenly filled with so much shame and guilt that I decided to come clean to my parents about what I’d been doing, ask for forgiveness and help, and try to be a better son. Maybe even go back to church. Oh, and delete Grindr permanently. Boy, would that have been the smart — say, the right — thing to do.
But where’s the drama in that?
Instead, I laughed. “Oh that makes sense now,” I replied. At least I knew the cause. I looked up the side effects, their duration, what other telltale signs I should be aware of. I researched how long it would be in my body for, how my body would metabolize it and what I should do afterwards to return to “normal.” God bless Google.
“Today was fun though,” I added. “Text me when you want to do it again.”
But we didn’t because I never bothered reaching out to him, and I think he and his friends were from out of town. I think.
But that didn’t mean that was my last tryst with hard drugs. Far from it really.
Looking back at it now, it should’ve been obvious. Queer culture has been heavily associated with partying and partying with drugs, so gays having sex while using drugs would naturally happen. So as a budding baby gay whose exposure to Western gay culture was then limited to the few episodes of Queer as Folk I’d watched, I figured this would be fine. Like, it’s not okay — because one, these substances are illegal for a reason and two, I do have goals in life and I couldn’t just derail all of that for a day or two of uninhibited sex – but if I managed it properly, I would be fine. As long as I personally didn't have any drugs on me, didn’t actively look for these opportunities, researched the side effects of these substances ahead of time and ensured that I was still on top of my responsibilities in school and at home, I would be fine.
So when I got invited to an orgy in a yacht on Canada Day, I said sure.
When a guy asked if he could live out his dad-son fantasies with me, I said fine.
When a fuckbuddy invited me to his other friend’s house, we stayed there for practically half of my reading week. It was fun.
And it wasn’t just meth I tried. I did K, G, M and practically any letter of the alphabet you could think of — on their own or sometimes even mixing them together. Because where's the fun in slowly killing yourself?
I did have a few ground rules. First off, no needles, which also meant no heroin. Luckily enough, no one I had sex with ever touched those things, so it wasn’t too big of a deal. Secondly, I wouldn’t miss an obligation — school, volunteer event or even just hanging out with my friends — because of this. I told myself that as long as I’m still a functional human being, the drugs weren’t affecting me all that badly. Lastly, I had to tell my best friends — tell them what I’m doing, who I’m doing it with, where I’m doing it. That way, if anything should happen, at least someone would know and could hold me accountable.
I know what you’re thinking — if they were true friends, they would’ve stopped me the first time. And they did, eventually. They didn’t stop me the first time because they believed that I was an adult who should be able to make these decisions on their own, but the reason I’m sober now and able to talk about this was because they did put their feet down.
It was the week before Vancouver Pride and one of my friends recommended we watch “Chemsex,” a Vice documentary about the growing epidemic of drug use within the UK’s gay community. Like most documentaries, it had the undercurrent of an alarmist warning and since I was three months sober at that point, I laughed at it because hey, that wouldn’t happen to me. I was over it. And what new information could I have gotten from it anyway? I’d already been there.
But I had nothing to do that night, so I watched it. And instead of being scared beyond my wits and swearing drugs off forever, my lovely self-destructive instincts kicked in. I reached out to old contacts, and consumed a cocktail of god-knows-what. The next 24 hours were a bit of a blur, but I know I had sex with at least six people.
When my friends heard about it, they were furious — more concerned-furious than angry-furious, but still. They said, “Y’know what? Pride Weekend will be a sober one this year. No drugs, no alcohol, no nothing.”
It was still fun — because even sober I was amazing — but it was still at the back of my head that I’d hurt my friends. My “harmless fun” had finally become a burden and I wasn’t even the one carrying it.
There was a long-form essay from Huffington Post going around titled, “The Epidemic of Gay Loneliness.” It was an interesting read despite not necessarily being all that intersectional (almost everyone interviewed was a white gay male who seemed to come from a middle to upper-middle class background). But what really struck me was that it opened with the author talking to a friend, Jeremy, who was the epitome of the “type-A gay.”
“He is trim, intelligent, gluten-free — the kind of guy who wears a work shirt no matter what day of the week it is. The first time we met, three years ago, he asked me if I knew a good place to do CrossFit.”
But he was also in the hospital for some meth-related incident.
I laughed because, well, that totally could have been me. That was me.
It was easy to tell myself that I wasn’t an addict. After all, the media said that an addict was someone who’d been using these substances constantly, could do nothing else but look for the next high and was very much a non-productive member of society. During my time, I was going to the gym, getting good marks, doing great with my extracurricular responsibilities and creating meaningful connections with the people that I met. But I also wasn’t saying “no” when a hookup offered me drugs. I’d gone to class having not slept for more than 24 hours, crashing and sweating like crazy. I’d crammed a number of papers because I was practically a vegetable the weekend before. I kept telling myself that I wasn’t an addict because, well, I was “functioning.”
Don’t get me wrong — I regret nothing. I learned a lot from it, I met amazing people, heard stories that I’ll probably use sometime in my writing and learned a little more about myself. What I do wish, though, is that I’d been more honest with myself.
I wish I’d realized that I wasn’t just doing it because I wanted to “try it out,” that I wanted “get new material for my stories,” that I wanted to “experience it myself.”
I was doing it because I liked it.
Editor's Note: The author of this piece was granted anonymity in order to protect their identity.