Harm Reduction, It works if applied appropriately
It’s been 7 years since I last danced with that bitch Tina. I remember those days as if it happened yesterday. I was a lost soul trying to figure out what I wanted out of life and struggling with several issues of identity. All my friends were active drug users, most of them chronic. My true friends were nowhere to be found, I had severely burned those bridges to the point where rebuilding them were impossible. I became a victim of sexual abuse by someone who I thought was my friend. I had no idea that the abuse took place, I thought it was a bad dream and it happened only once one, but that wasn’t the case; I have no idea how many times I was violated. Those incidents I have no knowledge of; I was unconscious after taking a “cocktail” of pills that were suppose to be vitamins but apparently weren’t. Tragically, after it became known that the abuse happen, I separated myself from him for a little while only to return a few months later because I had no where else to turn. As bad as it was, I managed to overcome it all and rebuild my life.
There isn’t a one-size fit all in any intervention one applies. With respect to recovery I have a mutual respect for abstinence based models as well as harm reduction models. I truly believe both models work and can overlap. Harm Reduction can lead to abstinence. One of my dear friends who played an integral role in my recovery is doing abstinence.
I remember attempting to do an outpatient program. I barely made it past the intake. I felt the screening counselor was insensitive and too aggressive. I wasn’t ready to stop all my alcohol and drug use. I knew from the very beginning that abstinence was not an option for me and in fact was going to be a cause of failure, thus reinforcing my vulnerabilities that partially encouraged my drug use. I recall getting into a heated exchange with the counselor who said I was in denial about a lot of things including the sexual abuse. He even implied that it was consensual and that I blacked out. I left his office never to return and with a major disgust with the process. The following is what I did to get to where I am today with respect to my recovery and drug use.
I started smoking pot when I was 14 years old and within a few years became a daily smoker. As a freshman in college I began to binge drink and tried acid once. I started having sex with men in my early twenties and officially came out to family in May 2001 (two months after my son was born). I was now 24 years old. After a break up with my first boyfriend and getting laid off from work I began what was essentially the birth of my circuit life.
I was at a bathhouse one night and ran into a guy I’ve seen before and had minimal dialogue with. He offered me a bump of Tina, which I took because I wanted to get away from it all. I had no idea what it was and it was the first time I snorted anything. Within months I started smoking that bitch and became almost a daily user. I use to take Monday and Tuesdays off from that bitch. Those were the only days I slept. All in all I was doing Tina, special K, and GHB (but later stopped when a guy I was dating almost killed me with it). I would drink periodically and also smoke pot but was no longer a daily smoker.
The problem with me was Tina. She had a hold on me like no one did. I wanted to get rid of that bitch but didn’t know how. I was ready to but knew it wouldn’t be easy and the other bitches would still be around. So I started going to CMA meetings.
CMA meetings played a big part in my divorce from Tina. My friend Rob was also a big factor and a source of strength and still is today. Although I never had any desire to do the 12-steps or study them, I had a desire to stop using. I kept coming back because I needed to. I will never forget how I met Rob. I went to my first meeting and raised my hand for a burning desire (my first and last). I was a wreck, completely beaten up. At the end of the meeting Rob came to me and gave me his number and asked for mine. He asked me when would be a good time for him to call me the next day. I gave him a time and sure enough he called me and provided the support I needed.
Our environment plays a major role in our lives. They can be a source of strength or despair, sometimes both. My environment at the time consisted of active chronic users. Rob and the CMA meetings changed that. It was more Rob because I had a genuine distaste for the structure of the meetings and most of the people there. In a lot of the meetings I was the only Latino or one of two.
Another thing that played a big part in my recovery was sports, especially baseball. I was a huge sports guy growing up and was playing in the gay softball league. Tina fucked that up. While I was dancing with her, I didn’t attend any games, and didn’t play. In fact, I showed up to a game really high and fell asleep on the bench. I use to drive to the practices but never got out of the car. I would just circle the fields. When I decided to stop dancing, I ended up going to a major league baseball game and I remembered what it was like when I was a kid. I started to do things that I enjoyed and that reinforced my desire to get a divorce.
For every negative thought, you need to counter it with a positive one. Baseball became a part of my life again and the people there (environment) proved to be supportive. Mind you, I was still doing special K, ecstasy, marijuana, and drinking alcohol (these were never daily for me).
My plan was to treat each drug separately, Deal with them one by one. As my clean time from Tina grew, so did my dislike for the others. Before I knew it, I no longer had a desire to do K or ecstasy or marijuana. The process lasted about a year and a half. I never gave up drinking. I still drink today but I don’t do any drugs. I have a career now, a life, and will be getting my first masters degree in a few months. My friends today don’t do drugs or live that lifestyle. My son is in my life now and plays a big part in it. Rob is still in my life and I love him dearly. He is truly an awesome human being and I am truly grateful that he took the time to hear me, to call me, to spend time with me even though it clashed with his abstinence program. He gave me a voice and that was what I needed. Hearing other people’s stories in meetings only motivated me even more. I rarely spoke with other members and rarely spoke in meetings. I was in the closet about my harm reduction because I knew I wouldn’t be accepted. I absorbed and took in what applied and rejected what didn’t.
I hope others who are struggling with this bitch and other substances continue their fight. It’s a struggle trust me I know. Find those who are supportive and make time to engage in activities that you like. Do not minimize the importance of the activity! Sometimes for me having a cup of coffee and reading the paper is enough. Find a routine and stick to it, and be patient, it takes time.
Michael from New York City
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