(“Steve” is a composite of some of the men I’ve met in recovery, some of whom committed suicide-by-relapse. Constructing this fictional biography is part of an attempt to figure out how inordinate physical beauty — a trait most of us envy — creates its own set of issues in relation to addiction.)
“Steve” grows up in a churchgoing Ohio family, one of three kids. He is just masculine enough to “pass” in high school, or maybe it’s the fact that the girls think he’s so cute. In college he starts to wonder if his attraction to men isn’t as “bad” as he was taught, though his first sexual forays –with his fraternity brothers — involve copious amounts of alcohol. This starts a lifelong association between sex and intoxication.
Steve can’t wait to move to the L.A., where he gets a real estate license and begins to hit the gym with fervor. He comes out to his family, but the topic is largely avoided after he does. He finds the competition at work very tough, and is relieved to land a job as a bartender. His head-turning looks make him an immediate hit, and he learns how to enjoy being the center of attention — a little easier when part of the job is letting customers buy you shots. After work one night, a co-worker offers him his first bump of crystal, but he turns it down. He sees how wrapped up in it some get, and doesn’t want to risk being whispered about. (Being a bartender has reinforced his burgeoning sense that who he is and how he is seen by others are one and the same.)
Steve has a series of casual boyfriends, but bartending doesn’t mix well with relationships. Besides, he likes to go out and always gets propositioned. On his days off, he meets guys at the gym or on line. On some level, he recognizes that the sex is far less important to him than the moment when they say they want him. The compliments even embarrass him a little, but he becomes addicted to hearing them.
One night he goes home with a porn star every inch a fantasy. He offers Steve some crystal, and this time Steve says yes. It’s the first time he has leather sex and engages in serious role play. The connection with this guy seems so intense and real. The crash sucks, but by the next weekend Steve is at it again.