We all have a very different story when it comes to addictions, so rather than talking about what made me fall into the excesses of chemsex (and heaven knows there are plenty of good and bad reasons: curiosity, low self-esteem, lack of opportunities for self-realization, breakups…), I want to talk about the ways I found so far to build the foundations of a new sober life (regardless of how fragile they are).
I became aware of my situation when I started understanding that the use of chems, instead of being only an accessory (a “party enhancer” as some of my friends call them), became, very insidiously, the principal part of my sex life. Concerned by this observation, and unable to find appropriate and effective help amongst the existing psycho-medico-social organizations, I decided to create, together with 2 friends a support group called “Let’s talk about chemsex”. Despite this I was still in an ambiguous position in which I was torn between a responsible and reasonable drug use (with a focus on harm reduction) and abstinence.
For a very long time, and although I was slowly but surely losing my 4-year relationship (for not showing up at home for days) as well as some of my friends (for cancelling plans at the last minute), I remained convinced that everything would fall into place. I was the co-founder of a support group about chemsex after all. Probably a way to ease my conscious combined with a strong dose of self-negotiation to sabotage myself and, indeed: things were getting worse and worse. After repeated absences from work, I had to concede that I was not only fooling my colleagues, friends and relatives, but above all, myself. The day I surrendered, that means the day I admitted that I would not be able to make it alone and that I needed help, things started getting better. I decided to talk about my situation to my parents, but also to my closest colleagues and friends in order to restore a relationship of mutual trust and respect. That was approximately one year ago.
From then on, the absolute priority was to get away from all temptations, which implied a serious introspection and a careful analysis of all potential risks, not so much out of desire but simply driven by an instinct of survival. Indeed, various signals had been turning red for quite a long time already: my finances had plummeted, my health was slowly deteriorating, physically (luckily, I was already taking Prep) as well as mentally (fatigue, exhaustion, irritability…). Not to mention the collateral damage: missed appointments, lost credit cards, numerous parking and speeding fines… This all had to stop!
The first step was to block all my dating apps and sites on my smartphone, tablet, computer… by using a parental control pin-code that was first held by my colleagues (love you guys!) then by my ex-boyfriend (how ironic isn’t it… I owe you so much Didier!). A few weeks later we did the same with Facebook. It did not take long for me to realize that, in addition to chemsex, digital addiction had always been lurking in the background. It was such a relieve to see that ocean of time flowing towards me, allowing me to focus again on real life.
But, like a child who always finds the key of the secret drawer with the sweets, it took me several relapses to consolidate my self-defense system (which will never be fully foolproof). Since escaping reality (and the city) was no longer an option, I decided to talk about my situation as much as possible (just like I am doing now) for the people around me to understand my approach. I would also learn to avoid friends and/or situations that would be dangerous or possibly even toxic for me. In the same vein, and for obvious reasons, I more recently decided to change my phone number. After having literally disconnected from everything around me, there was no way avoiding the following questions: How to fill the void that is left? How to cope with boredom? What would be some possible alternatives? Can I still have sober sex? Will people still love me? Will I still love myself?
It took me quite some time to answer these questions one by one and, to be totally honest, some of them remain unanswered so far. A weekly therapeutic support did help me to gain confidence and self-esteem but did not prevent relapses. At first, relapses made me feel extremely sad and downcast as I perceived them as a setback, but at a later stage I slowly tried to embrace them in order to grow from them. As for filling the void and coping with boredom, sport seemed a valid alternative as it naturally stimulates the so-called happiness-hormones that were previously produced by the chems. For that reason, I decided to go back to the badminton-training, to join a fitness club and to go swimming once or twice a week. Damn, that felt good!
Another revelation was, with no doubt, the mindfulness courses that made me understand that the “relief valve” sometimes just lies within ourselves: meditation, breathing and relaxation have proved to be useful tools to overcome stress and my visceral need to please. They definitely brought me some inner peace. Lately, I have been considering tantra courses in order to deal with my sexual energy, because, whether I like it ot not, chemsex has undeniably affected my sexuality: Is kinky sex still my cup of tea? Or was it inextricably linked to drug use? If so, how can I spice up my sex life when I am sober? Now that my apps are blocked, where will I find sex partners and/or dates? Am I ready for a relationship at all? I don’t have a crystal ball – excuse the bad pun – but I only know for sure that building a new life has at least one advantage: it opens up the possibilities.
I am exploring these possibilities to the fullest, mostly by trial and error, but very often by confronting my ideas and thoughts with others. The weekly meetings of Narcotics Anonymous are a particularly suitable place for this. They inculcated respect, compassion (to myself and others), loving-kindness but above all a deep sense of humility (addiction doesn’t discriminate as it can affect everyone regardless of race, religion, color, creed or sexual orientation). Testimonies and experiences from peers have very often improved my understanding of what I was going through. I believe the time has come now to return the favour. Let there be no mistake: the road is long and filled with obstacles, but that only makes the victory even sweeter!