Boyfriend in a Coma

I often used to say I didn’t want a boyfriend.  Perhaps what I should have said was that what I really didn’t want was a boyfriend for whom drugs were merely a facet of his overall dysfunction and who, beneath all the bravado, was a fragile, weak and vulnerable creature, barely able to stand the sight of his own reflection.

Illegal substances, apparently, make the world go round.  Without them the cultural, economic, political and military heritage of our planet would cease to exist as we know it. Hedonistic capitals across the globe would become blank, ghost cities and powerful alliances would have one less reason to wage hypocritical proxy wars on weaker nations in the manner they have been accustomed to since the dawn of civilisation.

In any case, as anyone who has ever fallen down a K-hole whilst being anonymously raw-fucked up the arse in a nightclub darkroom, then come to in a state of dread panic, not knowing who or where the hell they are, will attest: drugs can be a real hoot.

It does seem fairly abstruse that the very things which cause us so much misery and strife, and take us to the darkest places some of us will ever know, are those we cling to most tenaciously.  As if by letting go, we might drown in the endless expanse of the universe.

I was an alcoholic at the age of sixteen who aggrandised daily booze blinders with pretty much any other sedative or stimulant I could get hold of.  On the one hand I lived for the rush of escapism brought on by uppers and downers as I soared through asteroid storms and far-flung galaxies, whilst on the other, at times, I honestly believed I might end up in prison, a mental hospital or dead – and frequently wished the latter would just happen.

In what one friend condemned, aghast, as a brutal form of aversion-therapy straight out of A Clockwork Orange; Antabuse tablets, which would have made me throw up if I so much as slurped on a strawberry Daiquiri, helped change me from a self-loathing self-medicator who hid Vodka in the airing cupboard and amphetamine wraps in my underwear drawer, into a drug-free teetotaller with seemingly endless reserves of resilience.

During that transitionary bubble between the late eighties and mid-nineties, the most popular and easily-available drugs on the ‘streets’, for the majority of upper-working-to-middle-class British youth, were (in no particular order): cannabis/marijuana, speed, cocaine, acid, magic mushrooms, ecstasy, hyperventilation and glue-sniffing.

US First Lady Nancy Reagan’s caricature on the satirical TV show Spitting Image looked more like a real person than she did – and quite probably had more genuine empathy and compassion.  Her risible Just Say No campaign, a Falcon Crest-style spin-off from the long-running US War on Drugs, glossed-over the social problems behind epidemic levels of heroin and crack addiction in America’s inner-cities and provoked ridicule in Great Britain amongst those who saw dropping acid and ecstasy as a rite of passage.

These days, the idea of pimped-up crack hustlers on the streets of North America, or European teens cultivating amphetamine-psychoses, seems quaintly retro.  The sight of unconscious homos being dragged out of toilet cubicles by their ankles in London’s clubland, however, remains a reassuring constant.

Anecdotal evidence suggests mephedrone, GHB, cocaine and ketamine currently hold top spots in Britain’s LGBT chemical hit-parade, along with National Geographic fave, crystal meth – which, incidentally provides England’s metropolitan gay elite with a far stronger link to stateside trailer park erudition than they must surely be comfortable with.

Whilst lots of work has been done with influential stakeholders in the LGBT community, the truth is some gay men are unwaveringly bent on getting trashed to the point of oblivion every weekend whilst playing Russian roulette with their HIV status and there’s nothing health agencies, the government or anyone else can do to stop them.

Friends, lovers and acquaintances have often expressed astonishment and/or admiration at my long-term abstention, at which I helpfully point out that staying sober uses far less energy and causes far less anxiety than my previous existence.

Others have encouraged me towards ‘harmless’ bumps of ‘K’, drafts of ‘G’ or whatever else passes for synthetic flavour of the month at the time, despite knowing about my background.  Whilst this is mildly annoying, the choice of whether to accept or not remains mine and I choose to say no for my own reasons.

In the past I have aimed to accept and respect my boyfriends’ tendencies towards chugging pills, snorting powders and setting-fire-to-then-inhaling any number of aromatic plants and resins, given that, as Stockard Channing sang in Grease, there were far, far ‘worse things they could do’.

Over recent years however, I have begun to find boring and absurd, the idea of men in their thirties and forties who, having partied at the drugs disco since the days of Donna Summer, still feel the need to cane it to hell on Friday and Saturday nights.

I long ago lost patience with guys who can’t even make it to the end of a blowjob without reaching for the mirror and a credit card, then fail to deliver anything like satisfaction whilst striking the sort of sexual poses that must mark them out as some sort of carnal deity in whichever outlandish fantasy realm it is they inhabit.

In less charitable moments I’d say they should grow up quick and not rely so heavily on the Viagra.  Or at least wipe away the Charlie dust and take a long good look at themselves.

Not so long ago, I found myself dialling 999 for an ambulance on behalf of my then boyfriend, who was in the throes of a panic attack after smoking too much skunk.  This despite my stressing I could assist in much the same way as any doctor or nurse by fixing him a nice hot cup of sweet tea and holding his hand until the effects wore off.

Meanwhile, he lay prone, obsessively monitoring his heartbeat with a cardiac transmitter he used at the gym, convinced he’d brought on an arrhythmia which might lead to a full arrest at any second.   Sure enough, after forty minutes on an A&E trolley he’d calmed down enough for us to take a cab back home.

Any liberal person will tell you governments have got it all wrong about drugs and that there should be more focus on rehabilitation than turning the lower classes into criminals while the rich snort up everything in sight with impunity.  But it’s not as easy as that.  In any case, urban gay men in particular fall into a different economic and social category, with far less domestic responsibilities and far greater disposable incomes than most other groups.  The way things are heading at present points towards many of today’s gay teens clubbing and drugging it into their fifties and sixties.  Some won’t actually make it that far and some will get there but will be irreparably damaged, which is, of course, desperate and sad.

In all probability one might conclude that, as with most things in life, personal liberty translates into personal choice and the freedom to make mistakes, even when those mistakes end up destroying us.  It’s not what our grandparents fought for or what the Stonewall and nineties Outrage generations strove to achieve, although it is a by-product of those self-same struggles.

The power of individual prerogative, and what has so often been disparaged as Western decadence, do have a price after all.  Whichever side of the line you fall on is within your power to determine, but if things get really bad you could do worse than reach out a hand for help – because the chances are it will be grasped by someone.  There are, after all, plenty of us around who know what you’re going through.

Words: Chris John






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