Meth Addiction in the Gay Community
While the LGBT community is basking in its new freedoms and in the post-AIDS years, there is another plague on in some of our communities. Today, New York and other centers of gay life have new generations of LGBT people who feel free and safe another threat is hurting the community— crystal meth, a synthetic drug that found a quick and willing home in the gay dance and sex club scene. Crystal meth gives the user a manic rush to intensify physical and sexual activity and addiction is almost instantaneous. This documentary is both frightening and hopeful as it explores the many causes and effects of crystal meth addiction and the long path to recovery. The stories we see here are bravely told by men who are either recovering or currently using and these stories are raw, shocking, and honest and both a warning siren and a beacon of hope. Terrence Crawford’s “Crystal City” focuses on LGBT people even though this crisis touches everyone.
The documentary is an investigation of a resurgence of crystal meth addiction in New York’s gay community. The non-judgmental revelations show us a scene that is quite alarming. Highly personal interviews with current and past addicts send us a message of mixed emotions that give us a feeling of both change and hope.
Crawford shows the start of the growing use of meth by gay men, most of whom are already HIV positive, comes from a real need to be able to lose any inhibitions when having sex. Any feelings of self-loathing about their sexuality or low self-esteem are cast away when they can have the most extreme and possibly deviant sex when on a meth driven high. Interesting enough one addict admitted that he had never had ‘sober’ sex in his entire life and was even unsure if he could.
Crystal meth, or Tina is a very expensive habit which several of the younger users financed by becoming sex-workers. After taking a hit they were more sexually liberated so it was relatively easier to satisfy the needs of older gay guys to get them to pay enough for their habits and living expenses.
Nearly all of the talking heads professed to having sober periods at one time or another, and even the ones that were the most successful in doing relapsed several times along the way. To stop using meth is not the hardest thing but accepting and dealing with what replaces it is what causes far more problems.
Most of the men feel a need to change and stop and are totally aware of the irreparable damage long-term use can do both physically and mentally. There are a very few, like Kristian who have come to terms with the fact he will never stop his addiction completely and resigned to however that affects his life’s outcome. Meth he says, gives him a feeling of not ever having to care.
One of the young addicts says part of the problem is that navigating New York on your own with no immediate circle is very difficult. There are many uplifting and positive stories in the film. Andrew swapped out being a rent boy to getting a job walking dogs regular sessions with a mentor and by the end of the film he is celebrating being sober for one whole year. Jacob, a long-time user is already 2 years sober and finds his hope and salvation by throwing himself into his art backed up therapy sessions with a professional counselor who is also an ex addict. Matthew who is now sober has found his way back to a career in music which he claims gives him a bigger high than his addiction to meth, and we see him now marrying Loic his very cute boyfriend just before the final credits role.
The whole conversation comes full circle with one guy saying that finally there is evidence that the crystal city is beginning to see the noticeable start in the decline of and this cannot come fast enough. Director Crawford gives us a well-documented and even-handed look at a major problem that we hope will disappear soon.