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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Addiction, HIV and the Healing That We Need: A Community Call to Action

By Brandon Lacy Campos

April 12, 2011

Let me go on ahead and give a testimonial up in this piece for a minute. I am a recovering meth addict. And while there was an element early on, back in the late 90s, when I was bedazzled by the glam party boys at the club, my meth addiction had nothing to do with that. Meth came later, post HIV, and my meth addiction had everything to do with the mind blowing numbing power of the drug, the power of the drug to let me feel beautiful, wanted, loved, in control, powerful ... for as long as the high lasted, I was Superman and all the bull shit of the world just bounced off of my chest.

Let me preach on this for a minute. I know you all are the choir but sometimes the choir needs to hear the sermon too. When you grow up a man of color in a country that is designed to shut you up and, if it can't, lock you away ... when you come out in a queer community where, at least where I was from, you are told to your face, "Sorry ... you're cute ... but I don't do black/brown/not-white," ... when you are targeted and tokenized ... when you are outside peeking in ... any thing that resembles a key or a pathway to acceptance becomes very attractive and BECAUSE we did not then and still do not love each other deeply, fearlessly, strongly, toughly, wholly enough ... we do not give ourselves nor those that are coming after us the spiritual or communal strength to love themselves despite what the world or anyone in it has to say about the matter.

If we want to see an end to the spread of HIV, if we want to see the end of addiction, if we want to see beautiful brown, black, red, and yellow men loving each other wholly, beautifully, powerfully, then we need find a way to build each other up spiritually and communally ... all the prevention messages in the world don't mean SHIT without the work to heal the wounds that most of us are born with. ... I knew all about condoms and how to protect myself from HIV. But when faced with a moment (even illusory) of feeling whole, wanted, loved, and accepted. ... I was wiling to give up just about anything to have that moment.

This isn't about some "gay party and sex" ethos. That idea is dismissive and simplistic. It is also a shiny, pretty masquerade masking what's really going on beneath the surface. What's really going on underneath is a world, despite the GLAAD Media Awards, despite Ricky Martin coming out, despite Ugly Betty and Will & Grace, despite gay cruises and gay carnivals, despite the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, despite the right to mimic failed heterosexual relationship structures as evinced through state sponsored marriage, despite a welcoming church here and there, despite "It Gets Better," and despite all the superficial bullshit where queer people, queer people of color and especially genderqueer and trans people of color are targeted, wounded, hurting, marginalized, isolated and struggling--at least for a good chunk of their first two decades of life. And, my friends, don't get it twisted, each and every one of us knows that what happens to us in the first 20 years of life is most likely what we are going to spend the last 60 years of our lives trying to heal ... if we have the privilege to do so and if we live long enough.

So, when I read half-assed assertions about what is REALLY needed to curb meth addiction, when I read folks that have never struggled with addiction coming up with the same old tired solutions to dynamic issues of mental health and spiritual wounding, I really want to start screaming. The fact is that the solution to meth addiction is not MORE FEAR. It is not MORE JUDGMENT. It is not MORE SHAME. It is not simplistic answers to a complicated problem. And there is no single solution for an addiction and a wounding that is absolutely personal. When one goes into the emergency room with chest pains, the doctor doesn't apply the same diagnostic and healing plan that she gave to the patient just before you with chest pain. Your healing path is personal and specific to the nuances that are you. Some of the techniques applied may be universal, but the situations of each surgery are unique and require specialized care. The same is true of addiction, and don't let anyone tell you differently.

With all my heart, I wish that the moment any queer and/or trans person of color turned 18---before we send them out into the adult world--, they were whisked off to a magical queer camp where for a year they are given the tools and the love, and lots and lots and lots of therapy, to start undoing the hurt that they have already, inevitably, received.

So let me ask you to join me in figuring out a real solution. I am going to talk to my friend Maurice Jamal, the folks at the Audre Lorde Project and a couple of other folks and see if we can pull together a series of long term discussions in queer/trans communities of color, with queer/trans people of color, facilitated by queer/trans people of color, to try and find long term solutions not to addiction but to the root causes that lead to addiction. HIV and Addiction are symptoms. The symptoms need to be addressed but until the underlying wound is healed, no matter how much love and support is thrown at the symptoms, they are going to keep returning. I, for one, am tired of the symptoms. I am ready for healing---and I can't do it by myself.

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See Also
Ask Our Expert, David Fawcett, Ph.D., L.C.S.W., About Substance Use and HIV
Using Safely/Dealing With Addiction

Reader Comments:

Comment by: E.J. Hill (Dallas Tx) Tue., Aug. 7, 2012 at 1:22 am UTC
Seldom am i moved to tears by a blog of this nature, thank you for that, I like you grew up keeping my mouth shut or the red necks in the panhandle would have made my life hell. When i moved to dallas i wanted love so bad and when i walked into that first gay bar a heavy weight vanished, soon enough i was in love, but even sooner i was feeling like a fool. I couldnt understand why this group of people whom i was told was FAMILY would act like the bitches from mean girls,, Why do we tear each other down, I layed low but one evening a boy i had crushed on for year introduced me to TINA. It took about two years to lose it all and become homeless, Why do men who put needles in other mens arms or pipes to other mens lips. seem so eager to introduce it to someone else, I think the old attitude that alot men had with hiv ( some gave it to me so im gonnna) someone addicted me so,,,, LISTEN up anyone whe feels that way, unless you were rapped or a bad blood trans, then no. i know in my case i not only lifted my legs but held them up .. I did that . maybe he did lie but if i believe him after 2 hours then im a dumb ass,, I forgave him and most importanly forgave myself, I will never knowingly pass this to someone, I will live be happy and i hope love again, but everyday i talk to my virus and remind him his ride stops here, so kill me if you want but when i go so do you.So we find a way to live peacfully, Stupid maybe but its what works for me , Being a positive renforcement telling a young gay man that they can follow their dreams and they set the bar for themselves. Watching some of them get there is better than any drug, purple party or dick i happened across,,, you are an inspiration , your like it or leave it approach is spot on, Thanks for your post
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Comment by: Sergio (San Francisco, CA ) Wed., Oct. 5, 2011 at 12:04 am UTC
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Comment by: Linnet (Kenya) Fri., Aug. 12, 2011 at 5:06 am UTC
Brandon, your thoughts are very insightful. Im a woman, a recovering alcoholic with 14years sobriety, straight and hiv negative. I am reading these blogs because i have been invited to work in a project that is going to deal with drug and substance abuse and hiv. I have learnt so much from reading all your stories. In my life, I have learnt that rejection is simply meeting the wrong person. Take care precious, God loves you!
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Comment by: linnet (kenya) Fri., Aug. 12, 2011 at 4:37 am UTC
So, Rejection = HIV = Addiction ? Hmmm. .
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Comment by: Michael M (Portland, OR) Sun., May. 1, 2011 at 1:52 pm UTC
A lovely post, Brandon. One thing you might think about in your efforts is how to reach out to allies working on addiction treatment methods and outreach across the board. I agree with you that the particular roots of any particular person's addiction are unique and individualized, and even that the particular struggles of say, trans men or women in a given minority community, are different from the struggles of gay white men or gay black women. But addiction and attendant destructive behavior affect every community at every socio-economic status. Sometimes I worry that we spend so much time carving ourselves into specialized interest groups that we alienate ourselves from each other, and make it that much harder to see the commonality in our experiences. Personally, as a gay white man, I became disaffected from the gay rights struggle when that struggle became all about the rights of upper middle class people to get the benefits of marriage. Happily, I've found a community of people here in Portland that unites straight & gay, male female & trans, whites blacks natives Asians & Latinos, in fighting for economic human rights for everybody -- access to health care, education, housing, civil rights, and most of all, the respect and dignity we should all give and receive. No one is saying "We're all the same," but we are saying "We're all deserving of human rights." In working together, we discover we have more in common than we might have first suspected, even including the hurts and harm that led us to self-medicate.
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Comment by: Brandon Lacy Campos (NYC, NY) Tue., Apr. 19, 2011 at 7:17 pm UTC
Dear Jeffrey and Michael:

Thank you for your comments. Michael, I don't think it is the answer but I think it is part of the answer..and we can do it together
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Comment by: Brandon Lacy Campos (NYC, NY) Tue., Apr. 19, 2011 at 7:16 pm UTC
Dear Jeffrey and Michael:

Thank you for your comments. Michael, I don't think it is the answer but I think it is part of the answer..and we can do it together
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Comment by: jeffrey W. (Lakeland,Fla) Mon., Apr. 18, 2011 at 10:45 am UTC
Oi set the skunk on the table & I thank you for honesty , open mindedness & willing to as for others-aka
I am ready for healing---and I can't do it by myself.
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Comment by: Michael (Toronto) Sun., Apr. 17, 2011 at 8:51 am UTC
Good blog... As someone who is also addicted to meth, I can say it has been difficult quitting... I just keep on returning and hurting... Yes, I have led a very difficult life in the last 3 years, and maybe that is why I keep on returning... to begin to address the root cause of my addiction would probably help toward ending my addiction, but somehow I have feeling it won't be that easy... but I wish you success in figuring out how to stomp this terrible addiction
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Queer, Poz and Colored: The Essentials

Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos

Brandon Lacy Campos is a 32-year-old queer, poz, African-American, Afro-Puerto Rican, Ojibwe and Euro (smorgasbord) poet, playwright, blogger, journalist and novelist (that last one is slowly coming along). In 2009, named him the #2 queer, Latino blogger to watch. In 2006, the Star Tribune named him a young policy wonk for his political shenanigans. His writing and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies including, most recently, Mariposas, edited by Emanuel Xavier and published by Floricanto Press. This fall, his work will appear in the academic text Queer Twin Cities, published by the University of Minnesota Press. And, one of these days, Summerfolk Press will be publishing his first solo book of poetry: It Ain't Truth If It Doesn't Hurt. Brandon is hard at work on his first novel, Eden Lost, and he lives in New York City with his partner, artist David Berube, and his boss, Mimzy Lacy Berube de Campos (their dog).

It's with heavy hearts that we share that Brandon passed away unexpectedly on Friday, Nov. 9, 2012. He was 35 years old. Read memorials by Brandon's friends and colleagues.

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