Preferred Name: Jason
Jason is studying for a postgraduate degree and works casually in retail. He’s single and lives on his own. He describes his ethnic background as ‘Dutch-Australian’: he and his mother were born in Australia and his father was born in Holland.
In his late teens Jason started taking ecstasy and speed every few weeks with his friends and partner at the time. Several years later he tried ice and began taking it about once a week with friends and sexual partners. After his relationship with his partner ended in his early thirties, he started taking it more often and began to think he might have a ‘problem’. In an effort cut down he decided to attend Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Self Management and Recovery Training (SMART) meetings. He then moved to a new town and didn’t take ice for several months. He now attends NA meetings and takes ice every few months.
In the year before the interview Jason was in his final year of undergraduate study and says he experienced ‘a very bad spiral of depression’. He began taking ice more frequently and then decided to cut down so went back to NA meetings. Jason has now reduced his ice use to once every few months and in the future plans to only take ice on special occasions, in a ‘structured, planned and organised’ way. Several months before the interview Jason started postgraduate study and is planning to complete his postgraduate degree over the next year. He also plans to continue his ‘soul growth and development’.
For Jason (M, 34, studying, ice), ice enhances the experience of sex but he says he doesn’t ‘connect’ with sexual partners when he’s taken it. (Note: strong language)
So in sexual [contexts it] was just to let everything go […] I could be hypersexual and be able to play for a few days at a time […] It allowed me to regulate my mood. So when I was feeling sad or down, flat, depressed [I’d think] ‘Oh here’s a bag of crystal meth, I’ll feel better after that’, ignoring the fact that once that wore off, then I’d be feeling even more shithouse […] Going back to what I said about being functional. Yeah, it made me feel functional but then […] it would be all about the sex. It would become that’s all I’m functional for. I felt like a zombie, just trying to find more sex, and just for the sake of having sex, not connecting. So yeah [if I had] a little bit, I seemed to be, ‘Oh yeah, I’m upright, having fun’. But [if I had] a little bit too much […] that’s when I was a zombie, just zonked out.
According to Jason, his drug problem and his HIV status are both linked to the shame and stigma that he actively challenges in his daily life.
I just thought, ‘Okay, I’m going to call my mother and tell her I have got a problem’ so I did and I said, ‘Look, I’m going away for a little while’, that’s when I went to the hippie commune […] Yeah, so family and friends know. Everyone that I know, knows. I think they do anyway, I certainly don’t hide that […] In addition to my HIV-positive status, that’s also something that I don’t want to hide so they’re all interlinked in this shame and stigma. [I’m] just trying to give a face to all of these things. I think [that’s] very powerful and yeah, that’s part of the reason why I’m here on this earth.
Jason likes the ‘camaraderie’ of 12-step groups but says their emphasis on abstinence doesn’t work for him.
I felt that NA [Narcotics Anonymous and] AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] were great in the fact of having other people experiencing the same thing. However, I couldn’t say with any certainty that I would never use again and that’s a big part of what the recovery is for NA, AA.
So I went to an NA meeting a couple of weeks ago now and […] I enjoy the camaraderie around it, the family aspect and now I’ve relaxed a lot into it. I used to be very shameful when I used and then I wouldn’t go until I got some ‘clean time’ up again before going back.
I don’t like the abstinence model in the fact that whenever I say, ‘I can’t use again, I shouldn’t use any more’, that’s exactly when I want to use […] So yeah, abstinence doesn’t work for me.
Jason has cut down by practising mindfulness, planning his consumption and limiting it to special occasions.
I wouldn’t say that I meditate often, but that is there particularly if I’m particularly stressed. I will just stop for a couple of minutes and do a mindfulness breathing exercise. And if there’s a wave of wanting to get drugs and stuff, then I try to do the mindfulness with that.
So I haven’t used [ice] for at least five or six weeks now. I did do a bag wash about a week and a half ago. So there was a tiny bit in there and I injected that. I don’t consider that a relapse but I do see that I still have a way to go with not using, or discontinuing my use.
Ideally I would love to stop […] Part of me wants to stop. There’s a small part. And then there’s another part who wants to have that animalistic, tribal sex, and just go completely bonkers and nuts with it. Because I have been using on my own quite a bit, I am trying to […] use with someone else. Have it as a special occasion […] So I think about two months ago, I did have some visitors and so that was nice to have something different [and take ice with them]. And yeah, so as long as it’s structured, planned, organised, then that could work for me. But if all those things aren’t there, then I would more than likely not do it.
Jason says he prefers the term ‘maintenance’ to ‘recovery’ as it doesn’t imply he should stop consuming drugs within a set time frame. (Note: strong language)
For me, recovery and clean time is all – I suppose I use those words in order to gain access or to sound familiar within the NA/AA environment. So what would I use instead? […] ‘Being in recovery’ means not using [which] I suppose is why I like [the term] ‘maintenance’. Yeah, I’m in maintenance, so still using but with the intention of stopping eventually, but there’s no set time or no set expectation around that […] I suppose recovery is the only term that’s coming into my mind that sort of fits that. There’s no other term that I can sort of think of that is relevant. I look back on a few of the reasons why I was using drugs. I was even thinking about tobacco because I stopped [smoking]. I started to give up about a month ago but then I found a pouch of tobacco and thought, ‘Oh fuck, what am I doing? I want a cigarette but I don’t want a cigarette’. I was going through the whole process of what I would have done if I had crystal in the house and so I thought, ‘Put it away in the drawer, in the cupboard, lock it away for an hour and come back’. So I did. It was enough to make two big cigarettes but it made three. I stretched it out and I thought, ‘You know what, I’m just going to have them. I’m not going to get caught up in that shame of using them or having or smoking them […] This is it, I’m going to have those.’ So I see that addictive behaviour with both tobacco and crystal and I suppose I’m in recovery for tobacco as well. I’m on maintenance at the moment: I’m still smoking.
Jason calls for drug law reform and harm reduction approaches to drug use.
The war on drugs – that whole thing in Australia and across the world – is not working and I’d like to see that change. Rather than have a war on it, why not have a harm minimisation approach? At dance parties, for instance, have drug testing so people know what they’re taking, so they’re not taking them all before the sniffer dogs come along. So that’s where I would like to see [drug policy and law] go, yeah.