This was originally a comment on Medium addressed to a gay man struggling with chronic relapse from meth. I realized that as my life has gotten very big (and all about work) in recent years, I hadn’t been of service to other addicts the way I used to be, and I really do have some valuable insights to share. So here goes.
My addiction drove me to drug dealing and prison, so I get it. And I have been off meth for 15 years.
I found the support of 12-step groups essential. (We have a large Crystal Meth Anonymous in LA, but AA its very welcoming). As an atheist, I simply defined God as the great “I don’t know” and repurposed the steps and meetings as group therapy on a budget. But making new friendships with people who really understand exactly your experience is life-changing.
Addiction has access equal access to the physical and mental components of your brain as you do, meaning it’s a 50–50 fight. What it doesn’t have access to is the spiritual, so whether you believe in God or just the power of laughter and love, attaching to something that gives you an edge over the addiction can really make a crucial difference.
The other thing that’s really important is to acknowledge and recognize the anhedonia (difficulty in experiencing pleasure) that’s inherent to the initial stages of sobriety. And not to confuse that gray feeling of the first six months (at least after any pink cloud wears off) with the brain you will get back when it retrains itself — which can take up to a year or more, but DOES happen.
That is why so many relapse after just a month or two, they think it’s going to be like this forever, so why bother? Well it won’t be like this forever.
And staying away from sex for a while is really a good idea, just because, as gay men, we tend to think abstinence is some sort of life-threatening illness and learning that it’s not (learning it down to your bones) is really helpful. That there’s nothing about staying in on a Saturday night and reading a good book (or doing some art, or writing, or Netflix binging or just spending time with a friend) that makes you a loser. Even doing that 50 Saturdays in a row. (When your testosterone levels drop in a few years, you might even find loss of libido a huge gift, as I do.)