Meth and me
Simon *, 26 is from London. He describes his harrowing experiences with crystal meth.
Looking back over the past year, it's hard to work out the exact point at which a bit of fun became an addiction. I'd always prided myself on being able to flirt with the murky world of hard drugs. As a teenager, and into my early twenties, I did what everyone else around me was doing - a few pills at the weekend, a bit of coke when I could afford it, and a couple of joints in the early morning to bring me back to earth. I was more fragile than I realised at the time, but a bad break-up pushed me a bit further than I really wanted to go. I became hell-bent on destruction, angry most of all with myself for trusting the guy I just split up with.
Just a bit of fun
The first time I was offered meth was at my mate's house party. I'd heard of the 'chemsex' scene, but wasn't sure whether it was just talk. This is basically when a group of guys get together, get high (normally on meth and coke) and have sex.
There were about nine of us in the room at this party. A pipe was passed around and people were smoking what I guessed was crystal meth. When I was offered a line of powder to snort, I just assumed it was coke.
I felt a horrible burning sensation in my nose, followed by a feeling of complete happiness. I couldn't stop talking, and my heart was racing. I was restless and so horny. I stayed up till the next afternoon, taking Viagra to keep the sex going non-stop. Of course there wasn't a single condom in sight.
After that first time, I vowed never to touch it again - I couldn't believe the risks I'd put myself through with all that unprotected sex. I slept for two days, but still couldn't get back to reality. The next weekend I was out again, high on pills and unable to resist going back for another taste of meth. After this my cravings just got stronger and stronger, while paranoia started to set in. I couldn't sleep, and as I lay in bed, coming down, I felt as though I was slipping into something I could never escape from.
A few months down the line, I lost my job. I don't remember getting sacked or leaving; just one day it wasn't there any more. I became obsessive. At home, I'd stay up all night cleaning, and my neighbours complained about me banging about and vacuuming at four in the morning.
I'd be high for days, having sex with so many guys I just lost count, and then days of insomnia and depression would set in, which I'd counteract with more meth. I'd go from extreme horniness and excitement, to utter disgust at the thought of sex, and disgust at the thought of my own body. I had constant nose bleeds and my skin was really itchy all the time.
The rest is hazy. Friends, my sister, even my ex, tried to help, but I shut them out, literally slamming the door on them if I bothered to answer it at all.
"I'd be high for days, having sex with so many guys I just lost count."
One morning, I woke up bleeding with excruciating pain in my pelvic area. I'd become accustomed to some pain in the morning. But this time, it was really bad. I could hardly walk properly. My sister happened to come around that day, and seeing me in such pain, she drove me straight to a clinic, insisting I be checked out and tested for STIs. I knew I'd been putting this moment off for months, and I was filled with dread. I discovered that I had gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis; miraculously I hadn't contracted HIV.
This was the first time in more than six months, that I'd stepped back and took a look at my life. Looking at myself in a mirror for the first time in ages, a skinny, gaunt stranger stared back at me.
It was bad, but at least it wasn't as bad as could be. I was lucky to be alive, lucky I wasn't HIV positive, and lucky my sister was there when I needed her most.
Since then it hasn't been easy. I've been through rehab; paid for by my long-suffering family. On good days, I feel sick when I think about my hellish experiences. On bad nights, I've called mates who still use crystal meth and found myself back to square one again. I still have fun and the occasional bit of crystal, but lapses back to meth just me bring misery.
I've started going to the gym recently, and now my body's beginning to feel like my own again. I'm still single, but these days I'm cool with that, and when I take a guy home, I make sure we're safe.
The best advice I can offer to anyone battling with meth addiction is to listen to those who love you and accept their help. I've got that far, but I've still got a long way to go.
* Simon is not his real name
Interviewed by Ramona Andrews