Love After Meth

Crystal meth devastates the lives of guys next door as well as the men who love them. Andrew NiCastro and his partner, Patrick Bristow, come forward to tell how they’ve outlasted the nightmare -- so far

BY Joe Okonkwo

January 31 2005 1:00 AM ET

Andrew's Story
In the middle of my life, I am surprised to
discover that I am the bad guy. I have been selfish,
unfaithful, disloyal. I have hurt others, used
strangers, done shameful things to preserve my secrets.

I am 40 years
old. I have spent much of the past five years a slave to
crystal meth. It still calls out to me, despite the loathing
I now feel. Unlike the many others I have tried, this
drug has a distinct voice: the voice of thousands of
men, wanton and sinewy and accessible. The drug still
calls me to join their brotherhood, to be initiated all over
again into their cabal of wrongful oh-so-rightness.

I caused
monumental damage and hurt. My lovely partner, Patrick,
suffered the knowledge of my infidelities and
witnessed my mental, physical, and spiritual decay.
But I was unable to resist what crystal offered, that
beautiful, sensual comfort in my own skin. When the torch
hit the bowl and the hissing vapors were inhaled, all
fear, self-loathing, sorrow were suddenly eradicated.
My body, of which I am often severely critical, was
perfect.

As with most of
my addicted brothers, crystal, for me, was linked
inextricably with sex. It was terrifyingly easy to find
others like myself online. All you do is create a
profile that contains “party” or
“PNP,” meaning “party and play.”

These parties are
not the cake-and-candle variety. “Party” is
the euphemism for a cluster of speeding,
clenched-jawed, sweating men who have been reduced by
crystal meth to the status of rutting animals, each
aware only of his own distorted desires. But there was a
temporary illusion of closeness that felt strangely
comforting to a man like me, who grew up afraid to
show affection for male friends, because I was afraid
it would telegraph the secret of my orientation.

I had snorted
methamphetamine in various forms. It was extremely painful,
so I did it only rarely. Besides, my job as director of
global production for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah
Foundation had required intense focus and global
travel. But I’d left that job and was experiencing my
first bout of extended unemployment when a friend
introduced me to the art of smoking the crystals
instead of crushing and snorting them. The incredible
high guaranteed that I would try this again, and I did. Day
in, day out. I began to disappear for hours . I started to
manufacture tapestries of lies to keep Patrick off
balance. He doesn’t use drugs, so he was easily
deceived.

For a time, the
lies caused me pain. But lying became second nature, and
the chemicals effectively dealt with any guilt. I spent more
time orchestrating my next score than looking for
work. The fact that Patrick was now supporting us
barely registered in my now one-track mind. I began to
siphon money out of our accounts to fuel secret sex and drug
binges. As I sank deeper into the world of the
tweaker, Patrick grew suspicious, the money well began
to dry up, and I began to compromise myself in
increasingly demeaning ways to obtain the drug.

Why
couldn’t I stop using? Was it a question of deficient
character, some flaw in the weave of my moral fiber? I
stopped caring what the answer might be. The molecules
of what had been Andy had gradually slipped out of my
lungs through the pipe stem and into the ether, replaced
with molecules of similar appearance but faulty
design.

At one point,
unable to procure the drug, I experienced a free fall back
into reality. I hit hard. In the throes of this depression I
finally told Patrick a tame version of the truth. He
insisted that I go to 12-step meetings, and I attended
about three before I scored and started my descent all
over again, exercising additional caution to cover my
tracks.

I was soon a
zombie, alternating between manic anxiety and euphoria,
sweating excessively, thinner than I was in high school. I
was cautious about undressing in front of Patrick
because my legs were covered with red speed bumps,
many of which I had hacked at, in the obsessive way of
the tweaker, until they refused to heal. When Patrick
confronted me one day, I denied using. Unfortunately,
he had found my stash: drugs, pipe, torch, and a
recent addition: a syringe.

Patrick,
understandably, asked me to leave to give him time to think.
What happened next is a disgraceful blur: a trip to my
dealer, a sleazy motel, stacks of pornography, and a
three-day crystal-and-GHB binge that I was hoping I
would not survive.

But survive I
did, and I emerged from that seedy, smelly room three days
later and checked myself into rehab. I’m not sure I
wanted to live; I simply knew I wasn’t able to
die.

I made many
friends in rehab, even with sores on my arms and a
butane-lighter burn on my forehead. The comfort zone
abruptly shattered when Patrick attended a group
session and explained to all my new friends and their
families that I had stolen money, slept around, and was the
most selfish man to ever walk the face of this earth. I saw
jaws drop and eyes turn to stare. There was no hiding
from this stored pain and anger, which has since
become known as Andy’s “truth enema.”

I wish I could
say that that trip to rehab straightened me out. But a
year later I relapsed with a vengeance. I told myself it was
OK if I didn’t engage in infidelities; instead,
I soaked up Internet porn like a sponge. Eventually,
psychosis set in. I heard voices in running water,
talked to people who lived in the trees behind our house. I
returned to rehab, but I was asked to leave for
swearing at the facility director.

I developed
meningitis, then peritonitis; my appendix began leaking but
I was too tweaked to notice. The appendix ruptured; I
almost died of toxic shock. It took six gallons of
fluid to clean out my innards. I was in the hospital
four weeks. On release I stayed clean for just a few months.
Even the ragged scar running the length of my belly
didn’t make me question my loyalty to crystal.

And then,
miraculously, out of nowhere, deliverance. I finished a
binge, and I knew I was done. I threw away the pipe
and told an understandably skeptical Patrick that I
was now done with this chapter in my life. It took
months for him to even begin to think I might be telling the
truth. It was as if the underground current I’d
been surfing for years suddenly broke surface and
spilled me out into daylight.

I have no
explanation for this sudden renunciation of what had been
the strongest influence in my life. What I do know is
that I am blessed. That I have been allowed back
inside the circle of grace that Patrick represents
amazes me. That he can separate the Andy he fell in love
with from the Andy I became is incomprehensible. But
it’s one of the reasons I respect him more than
any other man I know.

Crystal meth
targeted me because I lived self-consciously, self-absorbed
as only the truly insecure can be. So many of us carry the
remnants of shame and self-hatred that growing up gay
in an intolerant society creates. Crystal is so deadly
to us partly because the first hit can simulate a
well-being that would take years of therapy to create.
Sadly, it is an illusion.

Occasionally,
without warning, I remember the faces of other addicts I
crossed paths with—zombies wandering the halls and
stalls of a bathhouse, speed freaks slamming in a
porn-flickering bedroom. I sometimes cry when I think
of these men I touched but never knew. I see beyond the
glassy eyes and into the person trapped inside,
desperate, scared, holding on to what little is left,
knowing there will be less tomorrow. I want to help
them, and I realize suddenly that they are me.

For now, I am
saved.

Related Links

Crystal Meth Anonymous

CrystalRecovery.com

DanceSafe.org

LifeorMeth.com

Alanon

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