Here, thirtysomething Londoner Rich opens up about how feelings of desperate loneliness led him onto a life of drug fuelled sex until he hit a dark place.
It is with hindsight and not regrets that I find myself thankful that I am out of the party scene. It certainly was a scene that picked up a rapid pace. Finding myself at home most weekends, twiddling thumbs, making nice dinners, relaxing and convincing myself that I was happy with the person I had become. But a single, thirty-something guy living in central London, looking forward to nice, quiet weekends – no, it wasn’t quite right.
So out came the apps, ever reliable for a quick f**k and the feeling of instant gratification. Disposable sex; fill me, fulfil me and go, close the door on your way out, thanks, bye. But it wasn’t just sex that was on offer. Enter stage left, ‘the chems’.
Of course, I had tried a few party drugs many years ago; a bit of speed, a bomb here or there, a joint but that was part of growing up though, no harm done. These were a very different set of girls.
I first tried mephedrone and the high it instantly brought was insane; fast, fun, flirtatious and horny like I had never experienced. I wanted to have sex with anyone and everyone, and that night, I probably did. I couldn’t wait for next weekend to do it all again, I even had my twenty-pound note ready and rolled and waiting.
Another weekend, another set of boys, another set of chems, this time the supporting role goes to GHB, the foul tasting, clear liquid that has the strength to knock out men by the dozen if administered incorrectly. But the high it brought was insane, worth the risk and I had never felt so horny on it. I wanted to have sex with anyone and everyone, and that night, I probably did. I couldn’t wait for next weekend to do it all again, I even had my pipette and apple juice ready to go.
Another weekend, another set of boys, another set of chems – ladies and gentlemen, the star of the show and taking centre stage under her single beam of light is Miss Crystal Meth, aka ‘Tina’. Such a glamorous drug to me, elegantly sucking on a glass pipe and exhaling a steady stream of acrid smoke, so dangerously exciting, so daring, so horny.
Of course, I’ve played this up and made (very) light of some seriously bad drugs here. They are not to be taken lightly at all, but I was hoping to show how quickly one can progress to another and how (probably) many guys don’t even consider what they are putting into their bodies, and even more dangerously so, after getting wasted on whatever chemical of choice, what else they allow into their bodies without sensible consideration.
I was getting used to guys wanting me, and if I didn’t fancy them it didn’t matter; I could sniff something to engage whatever connection was missing – get high and f**k, with anyone, everyone. It was a vicious circle – lonely boy fills emotional hole with emotionless sex and for a few hours is wanted, but when the sun comes up again and they all leave, he is even lonelier than before and feels ashamed of himself.
So he takes a little something to perk himself up, and then decides he is lonely doing this on his own so gets on the apps and makes some eager new friends and there begins another loop. I was losing weight, people at work were getting concerned for me asking if I was ok, my sleep patterns were shot to shit – I was a mess and the only one who couldn’t see it was me.
I don’t blame anyone for what I chose to do, but I do think I turned to at least, casual hooks ups because I have been in a place of desperate loneliness. Sadly other things became involved all too easily and very quickly it all becomes one big mess. But messes can be cleaned up so I decided enough was enough.
Hitting a really dark place enabled me to scare myself enough to realise what I was doing, as much fun as it was (and it was) came with so many dangers that I wasn’t even aware of at the time. I began starting to wean myself off my destructive weekends and had managed a good couple of months with nothing.
Foolishly I thought I deserved a treat and allowed myself a binge weekend, for old time’s sake – if it wasn’t every weekend, surely I could have it now and then? Wrong. One night turned to two nights, two turned to three nights and again I hadn’t slept or eaten but fuelled by my new friends I was still raring to go.
I was back on that path of self destruction. My wake up call came at the end of a three night session, when I should have said ‘good night’, but agreed to yet another guy coming over to join in. Usually I am very safe and worry a lot, so like to know who I am getting involved with, but in this instance I didn’t ask beforehand about his status. When he arrived I said I was negative and he said he was positive but undetectable. I didn’t have a problem with that at all but said I wanted to use protection still (as I do with all casual hook ups). But he was offended I had suggested this and reassured me there was no risk of anything.
In my head alarm bells were flashing and I should have stood my ground and disagreed, after all, its not just HIV out there – but because I didn’t want to offend him (stupid right?), I agreed to do something I wasn’t very comfortable doing and we had unprotected sex.
Maybe it was because I was dead tired and not able to think clearly but it was most certainly the wrong decision for me, and I still made it. The next day I decided to speak to the health clinic who advised a course of PEP which I undertook – twenty-eight days of misery, upset stomach, headaches and having to live by the clock to ensure I was taking medication at the same time every day. It wasn’t fun. But I created it for myself so I took the consequence.
After my course I tested negative – phew! – but was satisfied that I had worried myself enough to not want to be here again. Enough was enough, this had to stop.
The first thing I did was delete the apps. I can’t tell you how many weekends I have lost to Grindr and Scruff. Personally, I feel like these apps are ruining real connections between people and have made people become disposable. I had initially thought they were a good way to get out dating again, a good way to meet people, and I’m sure for a lot of people they are.
But for me I ended up just using them as a quick detour into something that wasn’t progressive. I have no doubt that even if I go to a bar and meet someone ‘the real way’ there is still going to be the offer of chemsex and parties – apps haven’t created that, but they made it too available.
I spent almost two years doing foolish things thinking I was happy. But I wasn’t. I ended up feeling lonelier than ever, and making myself ill because of it.
So it stopped. And now I’m happy that the party is over.
If you’re like Rich and letting the party take control of your life, try these helplines
56 Dean Street: Sexual Health Clinic (www.chelwest.nhs.uk)
London HIV Prevention Programme (doitlondon.org)
HIV Prevention England (www.hivpreventionengland.org.uk)
Frank: Drugs Advice (www.talktofrank.com)
Chemsex Support (www.chemsexsupport.com)