Gay guys and drugs

Using drugs to feel free
OPEN WIDE / No surprise that many gay people use to feel uninhibited
Bill Coleman / Vancouver / Thursday, October 20, 2011

Is there anything wrong with using drugs occasionally? Only when they cause problems for the person using them, leading to destructive choices, unsafe behaviour and disrupted relationships.

Personally, I’d like to try most drugs in my lifetime, but I haven’t reached that goal yet.

The common (and, it seems to me, flawed) way to approach substance use is to focus on the drug rather than the user’s reasons for consuming it excessively. These can vary, but often we’re hoping to feel free and uninhibited.

Crystal meth is a good example of this. It can allow guys to feel sexually free and give them the chance to be the sex pigs they long to be but can’t when they’re sober.

Alcohol also allows people to feel less inhibited, while cocaine can help us feel less vulnerable and more in control. Marijuana can leave us more mellow and relaxed.

So the common theme behind much of this substance use is the way it compensates for feeling inhibited. In other words, we do not feel free enough to be ourselves without drugs.

Many of us learned at an early age to hide our sexuality, to conceal our true selves, to inhibit our natural feelings. It is no surprise, then, that many members of our community seek drugs that help us feel freer to be ourselves.

Those of us of a certain generation grew up knowing there were very real risks to revealing our sexuality. We could be bashed, bullied, cast out by family and friends, and denied career advancement.

Some of us are made stronger by these experiences; they make us confident that we can handle what comes our way. Others remain afraid of a world that seems unsafe and unfair. For most of us it is a bit of both. (I think part of the reason I got a PhD was to prove I was okay and acceptable.)

Excessive drug use is not the problem; it’s a symptom of trying to cope with the fears and inhibitions in our lives.

So the question is, if we’re doing drugs to compensate for our inhibitions, how can we get the same result without the problematic substance use?

Or, put another way, how can we feel free enough to unleash our inner sex pig without resorting to crystal meth? (Most guys say the actual orgasm on meth is less important than the feeling of sexual freedom.)

We all use substances to help us feel better, whether it’s coffee, alcohol, chocolate or meth. Do these substances bring us closer to being the person we feel good being? Do they make us happier, freer people?

If these substances do not contribute to our ultimate happiness, then we may want to make some changes. We may want to drop the dose or try a different drug, or try a drug-free encounter altogether. We may need a hand in making these choices.

But we’d be wise to face and understand our fears and inhibitions, even as we work on ways to change our habits.

Drug use isn’t a bad thing as long as it’s compatible with our being our best selves; it shouldn’t be a crutch to feel freer without facing our fears.

Regardless of your level of drug consumption, dare to seek your true, strong self. Ultimately, it will be more freeing than any drug you ingest.

Bill Coleman is a psychotherapist who has worked in STI clinics for 20 years. His column runs monthly in Xtra Vancouver.

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