When I was 21 I went on holiday to Australia and met someone. We went back to his and for the first time I tried G and T (GHB and crystal meth). I thought, “why not, I’m on holiday”. It was fun, I went lightheaded and it lasted a few hours. After that, when I got home, I didn’t seek out more.
When I moved to London around six months later I met others who were doing it. But drugs for me back then were a social thing you would do in clubs. After three or four years, my social circle changed as friends moved away. I was going out less, but meeting people more. There was no regular pattern to my drug taking, it was just occasional fun.
Then, aged 27 I was diagnosed with HIV. I didn’t have sex or take drugs for three years after my diagnosis. When I was ready to meet people again I felt like my options were limited because of my HIV status. And the way people were meeting had changed: apps made it easy to meet people and more people were taking drugs.
I’ve always tried to play it as safe as possible, but last summer it went apocalyptic. I went to a party, which I don’t like doing, and I felt really anxious. I took drugs there and ended up having an anxiety attack. From there I was taking drugs every weekend. There was a fear of missing out.
I went into recovery, and accessed counselling from Terrence Higgins Trust, but I relapsed and went back to it, meeting people in groups and lasting for days. I had more STIs more frequently and I know I could do a better job at work if I was more alert and more healthy.
I’ve had depression since I was 16. Drugs help me relax, but they can also be harmful because they give you an artificial sense of confidence. Today I want to stay away from this behaviour, and I think peer support is a good way to do it – speaking to people who are empathetic and have experience of what you are going through.
I don’t want to shut myself off and build a wall because when I feel better I might go back. The new online counselling project from Terrence Higgins Trust will give people support that is empathetic and not constrained by timings and locations.
My advice for anyone who finds themselves seeking support is to identify why they are doing it. For me it was because I felt like I’m damaged goods and as I don’t go out much any more it was a fast track way of meeting people. It’s all very well people telling you to stop – but first you need to know why you’re doing it in the first place.
• The author spoke anonymously via Terence Higgins Trust. Terence Higgins Trust and London Friend have launched the first online counselling services for gay and bisexual men who want to make changes around drug and alcohol use and relationships. Working in a similar way to Skype, people can see their counsellor on the screen, or up to 10 people in a support group. The services are available from Friday to Monday. https://www.fridaymonday.org.uk/
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010