I grew up in the north. It was a typical English northern town – not much going on.
Moving to London was always my aspiration – I wanted to live the life. I was a young gay lad from a small town, I wanted a taste of life in the big city, I wanted to live out my dreams.
I finished university and then came to London for my first job. That was 20 years ago, I’m in my 40s now.
When I first moved to London, I was in a relationship – my first proper relationship. It ended soon after and I focused on my work. I spent the next 15 years living fairly sensibly – I had a good group of friends, I didn’t go out clubbing, I socialised in bars.
I just always assumed that I’d meet someone and settle down with them – an old-fashioned kind of relationship, I guess. My goal was to share a home with someone, have a dog, hold hands walking down the street.
I’d seen other guys get into trouble with drugs. I saw first-hand people losing their jobs, struggling with comedowns. I was a bit judgemental about them, if I’m honest. But I was quite proud of myself that I’d managed to avoid all of that – I wasn’t one of those guys that messed up their lives with sex and drugs.
When I hit my mid-30s, and the perfect relationship still hadn’t come along, I started to question whether I was missing out on all the fun. I realised that being judgemental of guys that were going out and getting messy with sex and drugs was just me masking my jealousy and insecurity.
I started going to the gym. I’d always been pretty fit, but I hit the gym hard. I felt good about my body, I was feeling more confident – I was getting more attention from guys that never used to notice me. I wanted the attention.
The validation I got from guys admiring my body was why I started going out to clubs. My friends didn’t really want to go with me – it wasn’t their kind of thing, it felt a bit like they were jealous of me or something. I started going by myself – it felt good to take my t-shirt off and get attention from hot guys.
There were always drugs at those kinds of club nights, but – at that stage – I wasn’t taking anything, I had no interest in it.
I was even going to chillouts and not taking any drugs. It just felt good to meet guys at a club and then be invited to wherever they were going after. It felt good to be invited – to be one of the cool kids.
It was a new me – a liberated me. I no longer worried about what my friends might think of me and I wasn’t caring whether anyone saw me as boyfriend material. I was looking good and getting lots of attention. Plus I felt impervious to the drugs around me – I thought that I was old enough and wise enough to handle myself, that I knew what I was doing. Looking back, I guess it was a bit of a perfect storm.
The first time that I tried any sort of chems – actually the first time I’d tried any sort of drugs at all – was in a club one night. I was drunk and someone put some white powder under my nose – it was mephedrone. I snorted it. I proceeded to make-out with at least seven different guys – one after another. They were all stunning – they all kissed me back. I was so confident – I felt untouchable. It was a revelation.
In my head, that first time pretty much ‘broke the seal’ – I’d crossed some kind of imaginary red line that I’d set for myself.
The next time I went out, I was open to it – open to doing more. I did more. I still felt like I could handle it, that I was in control.
Now that I was more open to the drugs that were being offered to me, it gave me access to play with the big boys. I was going to house parties with the hottest guys. The kind of sex that we were having was incredible – everyone walking around naked and I could do whatever I wanted with anyone I wanted. There was no guilt, there was no judgment – we were all encouraging each other, we were all enabling each other.
Up until this point, I was still functioning pretty effectively. I was missing the odd Monday at work, and the comedowns were rough, but I could still do my job – I could convince myself that everything was fine, that I was still in control.
One Saturday night, I’d been out to a club and then went home with a couple – back to their house to continue the party. It got to something like midday on a Sunday and I started talking about going home and trying to get some sleep. But they wanted to keep going, so they ordered more drugs. It had never occurred to me that you could just keep going, but once you break that seal, once you’ve done it once, you keep pushing the boundaries of what feels normal to you.
I stopped interacting with my straight friends, and anyone who I felt wouldn’t understand. I guess I was ashamed of what I was doing – I cut them out of my life because I didn’t want to lie to them.
I built a network of regular people – people that I’d meet at a club, people that I’d go to a house party with. People that I’d had sex with. People that I’d had deep conversations with. You know that they’re not assholes, they’re not psychopaths – you trust them.
These guys weren’t just hook-ups or fuck-buddies to me, they became my substitute family – we were a fraternity. You spend so much time together, you have such deep conversations and intimate moments with each other. These were people with which I felt a deep love. To a certain extent it was chemically-induced love, but it still gave me access to the intimacy that I craved.
Over time, my relationship with chems evolved. Sometimes I’d go out to clubs, sometimes I’d go to a chillout, quite often I’d just stay at home and masturbate to porn for hours at a time.
I knew that what I was doing was damaging – that it was damaging me. I’ve fucked my teeth up and done who knows what else to my health. I was disengaged at work – I was putting my career at risk. I’d put myself in really undignified situations – there were photos and videos of me in really undignified situations, doing things that I regret. I wasn’t taking pleasure in any aspect of my life and I was overwhelmed by an intense feeling of isolation.
I’ve been in counselling with Controlling Chemsex since Christmas. It’s the first time I’ve had any sort of counselling or therapy, but I needed help. I couldn’t see how I was going to do this on my own.
I wasn’t sure what would happen but when I contacted them, there was an immediate response and support. I was blown away that someone actually cared about my situation – that someone cared about me.
I want to stop completely, but I don’t want to be over-confident about what’s possible. When the times are good, I’m fine – but when unexpected things knock you back, it’s a struggle. The counselling sessions are giving me a toolkit to try and manage it on my own.
I’m trying to change my routines. I’m trying to meet guys outside the context of clubs and drugs. But it’s hard – I created a life around chems, an identity. I can’t simply walk away from people who are still family to me, my fraternity. But I need to redefine my relationship with those guys – I need to find intimacy in other ways.
It’s a lifetime project to be happy, to try to be healthy. I’m feeling optimistic, I’m trying to do the right thing.