Dear Straight People,
Meet 40-year old Singaporean *Mark, a former chemsex addict who hopes to inspire change by sharing his story.
At first glance, Mark doesn’t seem like the type of person you would typically associate with drug addiction. He is highly educated, well-built and holds a stable job in the research sector. In short, Mark is a living testament that drug addicts come from all walks of life.
After watching our recent video that shone the spotlight on chemsex addiction in Asia, Mark was inspired to share his own story in the hopes that his voice will help those struggling with drug addiction as well as spark a much needed dialogue on the giant elephant in the room.
In his own words, here is Mark’s story!
His Foray Into Drugs
I remember the first time I took an illicit drug was in 2001 when the Sunday night parties started featuring the local circuit party boys that had their first Mardi Gras experience partying on substances. I’ll never forget the way it made me feel half an hour after ingesting the quarter pill. That feeling of freedom, feeling so connected, it was exhilarating.
Growing up, I was always a shy, intense and eccentric kinda boy. I had always found it hard to make and keep friends. I proceeded to chase that feeling in the years to come when I started to immerse myself in disco themed parties and after-hours sessions at saunas and private house parties. It was all very glitzy and alluring. At that age, I was a B-list wannabe who could only truly feel relief by medicating myself with lots of booze and drugs and people pleasing my way through the party crowds.
The term ‘chemsex’ as it is now popularly understood wasn’t even in circulation when I was first introduced to drugs.
Being Introduced To Chemsex
My first experience of chemsex wasn’t a planned event.
My group of friends had finished partying one Saturday evening and nobody wanted to go home after Taboo had closed so we made our way to a nearby sauna to come down from the drugs. While we were there, I happened to see a really cute, nicely built guy who happened to be a regular in the scene. He also seemed to take a fancy to me and beckoned me to a nearby room.
Gripped by an exhilarating rush and amplified by the intense feelings of openness brought on by the ecstasy, I made a quick beeline for the room after mumbling an awkward excuse to my group of friends. I kept mumbling that he was really good looking and that I felt honoured that he wanted to sleep with me. Part of it was the anxiety that I felt, but part of it was also the lack of inhibitions brought on by the substances.
We soon got down to it and about halfway through it, he started to penetrate me. The thought fleetingly crossed my mind “What about using a condom?” It was immediately crowded out by the fear-filled thought “what if that makes him annoyed and he won’t want to finish it?”
I know it sounds kinda pathetic and needy, but this fear of possible rejection is an incredibly powerful obsessive thought for addicts. It overrides our ability to make rational and safe choices for ourselves, and the drugs don’t help. If anything, they often amplify whatever emotions and feelings we are experiencing when we’re high.
So I said nothing and tried to lose myself in the haze of sensation and intensity and when we both came, it was completely mind blowing. It’s like all the longing and yearning for that perfect moment of completion and intimacy melded into one, coupled with the surrender into a blissful haze of sated satisfaction. I spent the next 10 years chasing that feeling again, constantly trying to replicate or intensify it.
Getting Hooked Onto Chemsex
At the time though, ice (meth) hadn’t quite penetrated Singapore, and while I had a few more encounters that were of a chemsex nature, it didn’t really turn into a full blown obsession until a fuck buddy introduced me to ice.
When I first started using it, I rationalised around using it to make myself more productive, to work longer hours, to accomplish more. Pretty soon, it became all about wanting to feel this amped up all the time. I had the occasional chemsex session, but increasingly my experience of paranoia of catching STIs started to develop and I began to eschew contact with most people.
Chemsex then morphed into spending hours and hours in front of the laptop, flitting from porn flick to porn flick, a large bottle of lube and poppers and the meth pipe, trying to find the perfect combination of orgasm and high and preferably timed with whatever climax was happening in the flick.
Struggling With Addiction
The challenges were many, but strictly speaking, they’re not particularly unique to me. They are shared by most addicts in the deepening progression of their experience with drugs.
At the start, my hyper-amplified nature made me overwhelmingly boisterous and snarky. I would often be oversensitive and take critique personally and never constructively. I always played the victim card. Soon thereafter, my work started to decline in quality and output, despite putting in longer hours at work.
My relationships (romantic and platonic) started to suffer greatly. I had a long term partner, God bless his generous soul and heart, he tried to hang around and help, but I put him through an incredible amount of emotional abuse and neglect. I constantly made my family worry if the next time they got a phone call, whether it would be the police telling them that they had found my dead body somewhere.
Eventually I started to experience intense paranoia and hallucinations, always wondering if some guy I saw on the MRT was from the CNB tailing me. Seeing and hearing visions of creepy crawlies and snakes on my skin. I was hospitalised once and had many manic episodes of chemical psychosis and freaking out, constantly checking to see if my neighbours were snaking cameras from the window in my room to catch me using on film. Near the end of my using history, I often contemplated suicide, because I could not seem to experience any sense of this oppressive feeling of despair ever letting up.
The Turning Point
I had tried to seek help to quit booze and drugs some ten years prior, but there was still a deep reservation in me, that I couldn’t quite envision my life without the drugs.
I mean, I could intellectually comprehend and say that I needed to stop, but on a deep visceral emotional level, I could not bring myself to be willing to fully commit to living a life drug free. I started attending a peer support group but because I wasn’t fully surrendered, I could only stay physically clean for a year. But mentally and emotionally, I was going nuts. Eventually I started using again where my use escalated to a point where my then-partner made it clear that if something didn’t change, he would call the police on me. So I tried again, but that needed surrender was not quite there.
It would take a few more challenging months of trying desperately to prove to myself that maybe I could have it all and finally make it work and one final humiliating weekend of a binge that devolved into an absolute nightmare, culminating in me having a full blown hallucination that my parents were coming back to throw me out of the house. In a blind panic, I packed up and ran out of the house without any plans, only being gripped by the fear of facing my folks and their words. Eventually I ended up in a car park lot and broke down completely and cried, absolutely defeated.
The illusion that I was still managing my life was crushed that day and I had to face the reality of my actions and the direction my life had taken. I surrendered to the pain and the suffering and wanted it to stop.
I confessed my actions to some of the members of the support group and they got a couple of guys to spend the evening with me. They shared their experience and what their lives were like since they had committed to a different way of life. And for the first time, I was listening with an open mind and a willing heart. Anything, so that the pain would stop, and that my life wouldn’t turn out to be the waste that was right in front of me.
Road To Recovery
Recovery is hard, I won’t sugar coat it. Especially in the early days when I battled the obsession and desire to use at all hours of my waking moments.
The fellows from my support group gave me some suggestions and asked that I follow the program of recovery closely, and because I was so desperate not to go back to my old ways, I tried to do as was suggested to me. To an addict that loves having his own way, these were not easy actions to follow through on. Nevertheless, the gift of desperation allowed me to try to live those actions, one day at a time, sometimes, one hour at a time.
Somewhere after half a year had passed though, I realised that I no longer had the voice in my head. The seductive voice that often whispered “Maybe you can use safely again….it’s been so long…this time it’ll be different….you’ve learnt so much now, you can control it” I have not had the voice come back to me now in a strong way since I got clean 5 years ago.
The greatest challenge I faced was ironically not at the start. Then, desperation powered my willingness to take action and to be accountable and to turn my life around. That made my choices simpler and more straightforward to follow through on.
Rather, the greatest challenge has been the willingness to live this new way of life constantly and consistently. Addiction is a disease (yes, a disease, NOT a moral failure or lack of willpower) that constantly tries to convince you that you don’t have a problem and I’ve found that as time goes by, complacency can creep back in, making me cut back on the life saving actions I take on a daily basis to live peaceful, content and without the desire to use.
Living A Drug Free Life
Today, life is better. I have ups and downs like any normal human being. I still make mistakes and have to face up to them. The difference now is that I have tools to deal with those highs and lows and not go off the deep end anymore.
I am connected with life and people around me and I feel purposeful, peaceful and content. Many of the values in my old life no longer are relevant to me. My life is not so filled with crazy drama and chaos anymore too. I work with fellow addicts in recovery and it gives my life direction and meaning and keeps me growing and learning to love more unconditionally.
You can get better if you are willing to give yourself a break and give yourself a chance.
Advice To Those Struggling With Drug Addiction
For those who aren’t at the point where they’re willing to contemplate anything different, I hope you remember that help is available when the time comes that you finally get sick and tired of being sick and tired. We’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready.
For those currently struggling to stay clean, know that there are people who have been through the same kinds of experiences and who have come out the other side. They are there, willing to walk with you and, if you become willing, to take you through the same process of recovery that they themselves experienced.
Why It’s Important For The Community To Address This Issue
The chemsex scene has changed tremendously since 5 to 6 years ago. The advent of apps and websites that allow quick, easy, anonymous and transactional interactions have fuelled the growth of the scene. If you happen to know the code words or the lingo or the “look”, it’s easy to get plugged into the subculture.
There are many in the community who want to have nothing to do with this seemingly more “degenerate” face of our people, and I can absolutely understand why, from a PR standpoint.
However, a community is only as strong as its weakest link and you cannot expect the community to be built up healthily, until you start to address the social features that have the potential to unravel that community.
Only an honest dialogue and a willingness to get into the trenches and do the work will help us all rise together.
*Names have been changed. Edits to parts of the submission not affecting the story have been made.
Find Out More About The Chemsex Issue In Asia Here:
Once again, we would like to thank *Mark for sharing his experience with us.
If you or someone you know is struggling with chemsex addiction, here are a list of resources you can turn to in Asia:
1. The Klinik Cure & Care (http://public.adk.gov.my/direktori/cnc1m.php) 11 locations throughout Malaysia.
2. Taipei Drug Abuse Prevention Center (http://english.doh.gov.taipei/ct.aspxItem=38328110&ctNode=5…)
3. Oogachaga Whatsapp & Hotline Service (Singapore) (http://oogachaga.com)
4. Narcotics Anonymous Singapore (http://www.nasingapore.org/index.htm)
1. The Cabin Singapore (https://www.thecabinsingapore.com.sg)
In patient and outpatient – specially for executives & professionals
2. The Cabin Chiangmai (https://www.thecabinchiangmai.com/)
In patient treatment center
3. The Cabin Bangkok (https://www.thecabinbangkok.co.th/drug-rehab-in-thailand/)
4. Sivana Bali (https://www.sivanabali.com)
5. National Addictions Management Service (Singapore) (http://www.nams.sg/Pages/index.aspx) (Subsidised)
6. Oogachaga Counselling (Singapore) (http://oogachaga.com)
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