3 Years Ago: Abstinence, Substance Free Sex and the Reluctant Role Model

After struggling with my grief over Marcel I was a bit lost for a while. All the hopes and plans of publishing a memoir got put on hold, it wasn’t the happy ending I was hoping for, and until I could find a new path I didn’t feel I had anything of value to share with the world. The guilt was weighing me down and for a short time I started to question if I could make life work. It was following the inquest into Marcels death in February 2017 that I started attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, his death was ruled accidental overdose and I had to stop questioning things. It’s odd that I’d never heard of NA at that point, nobody in the drugs service I attended had ever mentioned it to me, and I’d managed to get opiate free without going to rehab or attending meetings so I did question what use it would be, I didn’t drink alcohol much but I did smoke weed all the time, I didn’t see it was a problem.

My doubts about attending were silenced by the longing to connect with others like me. I felt between worlds, I was no longer drug dependant and had left my heroin world behind in North Devon and had been mindful to not form new associations in Cornwall, thankfully I had a drugs worker who also supported this and didn’t expect me to attend the main establishment. I wasn’t connected with all my old drug related friends and I didn’t really feel part of the normal world either, it was a strange limbo to occupy and I arrived at my first NA meeting with the hope of meeting people who I could relate to. I was fortunate to meet many people like me and despite a few reservations at first about giving up cannabis I got stuck in and became abstinent of all substances for the first time in my adult life. Within a couple of months I found the experience of being totally substance free refreshing, and with the support of people in the fellowship I applied for work with the local drug and alcohol service and was shocked to get the job, it felt like a natural progression and provided me with a much needed purpose and a way to merge with mainstream life again.

I enjoyed the job and full time work, I liked the people I was working with, both staff and clients, and was fortunate to be mentored by some brilliant people, who were not only positive examples of professional practice but also wonderful examples of human beings. There were two chaps who mentored me, one was designated as my mentor and he was a wonderful example of a father, husband, man and professional, he’d also been through recovery and I welcomed his humour and insight. The other chap was a more informal mentor and took me under his wing, he’d not been through recovery himself but I valued his attitude to the job, his consistency in approach and his compassion for those accessing the service. He extended himself to me and made me feel very welcome. I enjoyed working with clients, they were familiar to me, they were like me, I just wasn’t taking drugs anymore but the rest remained. I always felt a little uncomfortable in the role of expert, and knew that my way of approaching recovery may not be right for others, I also knew I had opportunities, circumstances and assets that made recovery possible, and for many people I worked with their lives were devoid of such things. The circumstances have to be right to support change, and for some the circumstances were not conducive to recovery and all that can be done is to reduce risk and wait for the right time to make changes. I was passionate about supporting others and took the responsibility seriously. It was a constant reminder of where I’d been and the effort it had taken to achieve change. I was also aware that giving up drugs was only one part of the problem and knew that I needed to develop other areas, specifically my emotional maturity in relationships and ability to form healthy attachments.

I enjoyed attending NA meetings and had met a chap who was a definite kindred spirit, we’d had many similar experiences in life, abused in childhood by family members, severely depressed, childlike qualities and in possession of a rather deviant and dark humour, coupled with a need to express creatively, I choose writing as my expression, for him it was art. I was also incredibly attracted to him, I sensed something familiar, and in his company I could reveal the true contradictions of my nature. We would laugh about things that many would feel were inappropriate, I mean, joking about our attractiveness as children and our grandfathers paedophilic ways is not high on most comedians laugh list, and it is perhaps a bit borderline, if not totally over the line but it was our way of coping and taking some power back. When I first met him at meetings I knew he had a role in my life, that there was work for us to do together. He was illuminated to me as though the cosmos was shouting at me to speak to him and I did.

Three years ago I had substance free sex for the first time in my adult life, and it was crazy to think that I’d never indulged in intimacy without some form of substance in my system until age 36. My moody artist friend had come over for the afternoon, I was busy obsessing over what I would say to him on arrival and trying to perfect my look and outfit. Without drugs I was full of anxiety, always obsessing over things. I also felt a bit numb, once the initial excitement of being substance free had worn off I ended up feeling quite bland, I had no strong feelings about things, I felt neither joy or sadness, my reactions were stifled and there was a coolness in my emotional range. Lust provided a welcome break to this emotional monotony and I allowed myself to indulge in all sorts of lustful longings over this chap.

The imaginings were rich with romance, playfulness and sensual delights. These fantasy creations sustained me when the real world felt bland. We’d been for a walk with Charlie my dog up to Chun Quoit to watch the sunset, I was trying to think of witty or clever things to impress him or amuse him but in reality I was never as cool or as funny as the imaginary scenarios I’d created in my mind. Once we returned from the walk we were playing around with masks that I had for group workshops, each mask represented a different front of behaviour and we were standing in front of the mirror taking on the role of the various fronts. We were laughing as we watched ourselves performing and when I removed my mask he kissed me. I like that he kissed me with my mask removed, that he was kissing the exposed me, the vulnerable me, the me without chemical interference. He pulled away to check that I was ok with things, to ask if I was sure about what was taking place, of course I was, I knew it would happen, I’m sure he did too. This encounter provided the fuel for my fantasy longings for some time, my imaginary creations sustained me. With this chap I felt safe, he wouldn’t want commitment or attachment, we were both useless in those areas so I could allow myself to dream and create and not worry about the reality of it all.

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