As carefully as I manage my HIV meds and doctor appointments, I manage my recovery from crystal meth addiction. "Recovery" means different things to people and those facing addiction find help in various ways -- 12-step programs, therapy, their church or faith -- and I'm not going to promote one or the other. I'll simply say that being vigilant and accepting myself as a crystal meth addict in recovery is vital, and the consequences of ignoring it are more dangerous than even my HIV diagnosis.
My video blog takes you to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., where I recently spent time with a former partner who said goodbye to our relationship when I entered rehab about three years ago. He had had enough of my drama, my lies and my inability to function honestly. The relationship I squandered, though, has been renewed, however tentatively, as he and I try to figure out what we might mean to one another today, after all these years. He has learned quite a bit more about the nature of addiction, and I have shown a commitment to regaining my true self. There have been relapses along the way, to be honest, and getting to the root of what takes me there has been a tough emotional excavation. Check out the video blog as I try to make sense of second chances, or just to see me fall flat on my ass from a faulty hammock. (Ouch!)
Ironically, some of the personal traits that have seemingly served me well in dealing with HIV/AIDS have not helped my recovery. I tend to keep an emotional distance from things (I'm much more emotional as a writer than in real life -- something about the secondhand nature of writing makes it feel safer to me). Through the deaths of the 1980s and my own HIV diagnosis, I have maintained a blinders-on, healthy state of denial, in order to keep working for the community or through my own grief. Just keep pushing forward, pushing forward ... Alas, that "emotional insulation" betrays me when it comes to using drugs, because crystal meth is, itself, a way to choke my feelings. If I am ever to successfully maintain healthy recovery, I've got to just feel it, whether it's the grief of the past or the fears I experience today.
Trust me, those fears are there. Fear of HIV getting the upper hand, of relapse, of lost loves and last chances. But I'm learning to be afraid, be angry or depressed, and let the emotions flare up for themselves without dousing them in drugs. Sometimes a fire needs to simply burn itself out.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the video. And please, be well.
To contact Mark, click here.
Episode Five: The Drug Addict Takes a Holiday