Research shows higher rates of Crystal Methamphetamine (ice) use in the LGBTIQ+ communities than among the general population. However, it is possible to find help and recover from ice dependence. Following a decade of ice use, Alex Bartzis found the help he needed. Alex says living your best life involves moving beyond the shadows caused by past trauma. Help is available, and recovery is possible.
Growing up in South East Queensland, Alex never imagined he would one day battle drug dependence.
“As a high achiever at school, friends and family had high expectations of me. However, in the nineties, that included a template for my future. Do uni, get a good job, marry a pretty girl and raise a wonderful family. But I was gay, and when I came out at school, that led to bullying. It took me many years to understand the hurt and trauma that discrimination caused me.
“I escaped by moving to Sydney and plunging into big city gay life.”
After his initial introduction to ice, Alex used infrequently at first. However, after finishing his second university degree, he began spending more time in clubs
and using more often.
“I had never confronted the trauma I felt over the bullying for being gay, and the drug made it easier to ignore. As long as I kept on partying, I could keep those shadows at bay. I used partying as a band-aid. But it was just a distraction and didn’t help heal the deep issues.”
FRIENDS AND FAMILY
“My brother tried to help but didn’t really know how to and gave up, leaving me feeling rejected.
“Often families want to help but don’t have the tools and simply reinforce the stigma and shame of ice use.”
Alex says friends and family can help but need to understand they can’t solve the problem. They can open the door, but you have to walk through.
“The first time I got any help, a friend booked me into a pilot program specifically around ice. They booked the appointment, dropped me at the front door — everything. The therapist was lovely and non-judgmental. But it wasn’t enough. I began using again.
“What I was really missing was compassion.
“I felt alone with nobody there for me, wanting to talk to me or trying to understand me. I had no one to share my feelings with and no one to care about me.”
“I moved to Brisbane and dabbled in a lot of different therapies. But at a gay yoga group, I met a psychotherapist, and things really began to change. He connected me with gay men’s groups, and I finally had people who cared about me.
“I eventually went to group therapy. And although I had to be dragged there, kicking and screaming, terrified of facing my issues, I felt so much better even after the first session. I no longer felt alone. In fact, I felt supported to deal with my underlying issues.
“Finally, I faced my shadows.
“At last, I felt wholeheartedly accepted for who I was, all of me. I learned to think of myself as worthwhile and lovable. It meant cutting adrift and moving on from people who put me down, even those who meant well.
“I learned to love myself and no longer felt the need to use.
“Once I believed that I was good enough, that I was enough and that I was loved, I changed my behaviour.
“I took a job in Cairns and started going to the gym. With my newfound self-esteem, I took an interest in my health, wellbeing and fitness. And I surrounded myself with people who were wholeheartedly supportive and compassionate.”
“I won’t pretend I never stumbled. I used ice for over a decade. It’s an addiction, and healing from addiction takes a long time. But it became easier over time because I had the tools and the help I needed. I knew where my hurt and trauma came from, and I had supportive and compassionate people I could turn to who accepted me wholeheartedly.
“It took commitment, but I became dedicated to living my best life and moving on from discrimination, bigotry, stigma and shame.
“I feel resilient now. Recovery from ice use involved confronting my past traumas and dealing with them. I now feel better equipped for life. I am enough.
“I learned to love myself and no longer felt the need to use.”
Help is available, and recovery is possible.
People who use ice can and do recover.
If you’re concerned about your own or someone else’s drug use, contact the Alcohol and Drug Information Service (Adis), a free 24 hour, 7 day anonymous and confidential service on 1800 177 833. Family Drug Support also provides support for people impacted by the alcohol or other drug use of a family member. Phone 24 hours, 7 days a week on 1300 368 186.
Alternatively, visit qld.gov.au/icehelp for information.
QNews thanks Queensland Health’s Ice Help campaign for their partnership on this article.
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