My name is Geoffrey and I am a grateful recovering crystal meth addict.
I was born and raised in a small town in central Pennsylvania to a middle-class home filled with lots of love and laughter. There was no substance use or even casual drinking at home, and I never experimented with substances on my own. I was a good kid who was taught good small-town values: work hard, be honest, treat people with respect, and be kind. As a closeted gay boy in a small conservative town, I knew that it was best for all involved that I keep a low profile. So, I focused on doing well in school and on excelling at my part-time job at a pizza shop. I wore a mask and played the role that others needed me to play. I denied who I was in order to get the safety I needed, a skill that would serve me well years later during my active addiction.
When I went off to college, I was finally able to be myself. While I did drink socially at house parties and during homecoming, I continued to steer clear of any illicit substance use. I wasn’t yet interested in their allure or anything they had to offer. In fact, I was a bit of a temperance advocate. I remember one night attending a rousing house party and being shocked to discover that people were smoking pot. I insisted to my friends that it was wrong to do drugs and that we should “tell someone” about the “those people” in the back bedroom. Of course, my friends laughed at me, and I earned the reputation for being a bit of a prude when it came to partying, which is quite ironic given the exploits and antics I would engage in years down the road. Despite my Polly Purebread persona during this time, I was secretly frequenting campus cruising spots and was anonymously and unsafely hooking up with random guys in bushes and bathrooms. This was when I used my first true substance of choice: the chase for sex. I felt a huge thrill from the pursuit, planning, deception, and manipulation required to secure my many conquests. There were never enough men. I always needed more. No matter how hot the last one was, I assumed that the next one would be even hotter. I eventually came out of the closet my sophomore year to absolutely nobody’s surprise and became comfortable with and confident in my sexuality. It was no longer a secret that I was gay, so I didn’t need to linger in parks or seedy spots anymore, and yet I continued to because that’s what gave me a thrill and fed my disease of addiction.
After college, I moved to Washington, D.C., where I quickly settled into the city’s dynamic gay scene, spending every Saturday at brunch and every Sunday at all day happy hours drinking to excess and sewing my wild oats with even more random men. The body count was staggering. And yet, I needed more. But it was all in good fun, and I was functional, or so I told myself, because I made it to work, and I met my obligations. Soon I met the man who I thought was the love of my life through a personals ad in the Washington Blade (remember the good old days before the apps or even AOL?) That man became my boyfriend, and we quickly moved to the Virginia suburbs and set up housekeeping for what would be two years of uneventful, unwedded bliss. During that time, I was carefree and substance free, although I continued to hook up with random men whenever the opportunity presented itself. The allure of the chase was simply too strong. When one of my affairs was discovered, the relationship ended and I was shattered, lost, and sought comfort from any man or anything that offered it. And that is when I met the true love of my life.
Following the breakup, I moved back into D.C. proper and immersed myself in the city’s seedy underbelly. I became addicted to AOL chat rooms, phone chat services, and public sex venues, many of which no longer exist, as they were eventually razed and replaced by the Nationals Baseball Stadium. I was literally seeking love in all the wrong places. And it was during one of these many casual physical encounters that I was offered meth with the promise that it would “make everything feel better”. Like a good addict, I used it first, had my fun, and then asked questions later. That night, I realized I’d found what I had always been seeking: something that made me feel good, but also something which removed my inhibitions and gave me power and energy. And since this was the hedonistic mid-1990’s, when D.C. was an unruly place, and the gay community tolerated rampant drug use, I willingly joined right in.
What followed was nearly twenty years of use. I lost jobs, housing, financial security, relationships, friendships, and hope. My health failed because I was not treating the HIV I had picked up when I started using nature’s credit card to pay my dealer. I ended up in emergency rooms, psych wards, police holding cells, and homeless shelters not just once, but multiple times. Despite the obvious and mounting consequences, I wasn’t ready to quit using. During these years when my consequences got truly overwhelming, I would dabble in recovery in order to buy myself some time or mend some fences. However, I never fully engaged in any program or fellowship or took seriously the suggestions that were being offered to me, so I always returned to what I knew: the chase for more. More men. More meth. More mess.
Finally, in February 2022, due to a series of worsening choices, I found myself once again unemployed, homeless, and alone in a one-star motel. My plan was to use until either the drugs ran out, my money ran out, or my heart gave out. And then my phone rang. It was a friend of mine who lives a clean life. Despite the fact that when I am using, I only ever answer the phone for people with drugs or access to them, I had a moment of clarity and answered. He was calling to check on me and explained that if I could get myself to his home in Delaware, and as long as I didn’t use there, I could stay with him rent-free for a few months, and he would help me to get my life back on track. At that moment, I made the decision to try something different and to change my life. Via a series of trains, buses, shuttle vans and an incredibly expensive interstate Uber ride, I made it from D.C. to his house, arriving late at night in the dark and freezing cold.
After a hot meal and a few hours of sleep, I woke up the next morning with a new outlook. A switch had been flipped, and I was ready to focus on doing the things that had been suggested to me over the years: I started attending the daily DCCMA Zoom meeting as Delaware doesn’t have CMA yet. I shared at every meeting, and I listened to everyone who shared. I got phone numbers from fellows, and I used them for support and to trade gratitude lists. I found a sponsor and contacted him daily. I listened to, and for the most part, have followed his suggestions. I started working the steps from the green and gold NA workbook. I secured a job in my field of expertise, where I arrive early each day and am a productive and engaged employee. I moved into an Oxford House (sober living) and quickly took on a service position as the house President because I have been told over the years that service keeps us clean. And it does. I assumed trusted service positions at several CMA meetings. I established a relationship with a therapist to address my mental health concerns. To sum up: I did the things that had always been suggested to me, which I had avoided or half-assed for twenty years. And once I did those things, life slowly started to get better. Everything hasn’t been perfect or even always pleasurable. Earlier this summer, my mother went into hospice, and then died. However, I was able to navigate that experience successfully and didn’t use thanks to the tools of the program, the support and love of my fellows, and the power of the CMA fellowship.
Today, I have earned over nine months of continuous clean time. I am a grateful recovering addict with a beautiful life. I am loved, and I am able to love others. As long as I wake up each morning and decide that I am not going to use that day, everything else will work out exactly the way it is supposed to. The chase is over. I have found my home.
— Geoffrey R.