“How’s my little monkey?”, he used to say. I remember running as fast as I could, jumping into my Dad’s arms. He would swing me around in his arms and tussle my hair. All the other kids would stare in wonder at him.
Let me preface this piece with a sincere thank you to everyone who has taken the time to send me messages, emails, and PM’s, while I was absent. I apologize to each of you for being so unresponsive over the past four months.
Most of my close friends were keenly aware of how out of character this type of behavior is, for me. And, many of you who have come to know me through my posts and more so, through my writing…were aware that I was in distress.
As I mentioned in my last piece, I was prescribed a medication called Klonopin. It was prescribed shortly after my ex lover committed suicide in 2013. Though, my psychiatrist was weary of prescribing a powerful narcotic to a recovering drug addict, I had already been hospitalized twice from debilitating panic attacks. I also mentioned in my last piece, how controversial Klonopin is, in the recovery community, due to its addictive components. My sponsor, as well as several close friends, were aware that I was taking the drug. My sponsor referred to it as “a very nasty drug.” I was just grateful that it was preventing me from having any further panic attacks.
So, let’s fast forward to this past April. I had just come back to San Diego, from a month long work trip to NYC. I was dating someone who operated on what I would call a very low frequency. He was constantly whore shaming me, and seemed quite jealous of the attention I received, publicly. He was the least of my problems, though. I had come home from NYC extremely sick. I had developed a lower GI infection. Anyone who has ever suffered from this, already knows how painful and gross it can be. But even that, was the tip of the iceberg.
The 3 year anniversary of Tony’s suicide was quickly approaching. (He died May 7, 2013) And, I was beginning to, as I do every year since he died, to unravel. Being in a miserable relationship. Experiencing terrible physical pain from the infection, and dealing with unreconciled grief and guilt over Tony’s suicide, was tearing me apart.
My sponsor was reaching out to me. Friends were attempting to contact me. Yet, I was recoiling further and further from my support group.
This is not an unusual story for any addict in recovery, who may be reading this. I stopped going to meetings. I stopped contacting my sponsor. I stopped communicating with close friends. And, I stopped writing.
It’s not hard to guess what happened next.. I had forfeited every tool, which provided me a daily reprieve from my addiction. Sinking into a sea of sadness, emotional, and physical pain. And, there was a bottle of powerful narcotics (Klonopin) sitting in my kitchen cabinet. And, I wanted an out from all this pain. I wanted it all to stop.
I took a handful of Klonopin, and I slowly sank into a cloud of nothingness. I was numb. The pain was gone. And, I had relapsed.
There’s no candy coating this story. I didn’t have a “slip”. I didn’t “fall off the wagon”. I made a conscious decision, and I had a full blown relapse. This was the first week of May. In 48 hrs, I had gone through a month’s worth of Klonopin. I had sunken into a vaporous hole of nothingness. Taken In large quantities, Klonopin completely wiped my brain. And the moment I realized that my prescription was out, I wanted more. Klonopin isn’t the easiest drug to find on the street. But, being the resourceful dope addict that I am, I found other drugs in the benzodiazepine family, which were readily available. 10mg pills of Valium (blues) and 2mg bars of Xanax.
The vicious cycle had begun. I purchased 100 Valium and 25 Xanax, bullshitting myself into believing that the amount of pills I purchased would sustain me for the next 3 1/2 weeks, til I would refill my Klonopin, and just go back to being sober again. But, there was no turning back. I was moving forward. Downhill. Fast. The 125 pills I had purchased to last 3 1/2 weeks, lasted 5 days. And, I was purchasing more, and more. This went on for months. I would black out. Days would blur into one another. I would regain consciousness on the floor, in my living room. I even “came to” one late afternoon, on the floor in my kitchen. It was tragic.
And, I was alone. Ma was gone. My friends were gone. My sobriety was gone. And, I was gone. Long gone.
I don’t think it’s productive to sit here and drone on and on about the disease. However, I do feel that it is necessary to qualify, in case anyone reading this story might be thinking that pills are the answer to their problems.
So, what happened? What was “the moment of clarity” for me? This is not something I wanted to recount, but this is what happened…
In late July, I was still fucked up on pills, unreachable to my friends, and a complete non entity. I called my best friend, Chicken Titty, while I was in a blackout. She told me later, that I insisted she come pick me up because I was hungry. I do remember getting in the car with Chicken Titty, and I recall her driving us out of my complex. That’s all I remember. Several days later, I called her up and asked her, “Where did we go eat dinner, and when did you drive me home? She replied, “Drove you home? You drove yourself home! You were complaining that I was driving too slowly, and you drove my car back to your house, at over 100 mph. I have no recollection of me driving her car, to this day. That was it. I had put my best friend’s life in jeopardy, along with my own. In a complete blackout on pills.
I had to get clean again. I wanted to get clean again. More than anything. I was terrified of the physical withdrawal, that would be inevitable…coming off benzos. If you’re not familiar with this class of narcotics, benzodiazepines are the only class of drug which you risk death, detoxing from. A grand mal seizure is usually what kills people, who are trying to kick benzos, “cold turkey”. I was scared out of my mind. But, there is something inside me…Call it stubbornness. Call it utter determination. Call it stupidity. But, once I decide something…it’s done. And, I’ll die, fighting for it. And, that day, I made the decision to get sober, again. To save my life, again. Death was the only thing that could have stopped me.
I called my psychiatrist. The same one who had prescribed me the Klonopin. I told him everything. The amount pills I’d been taking. The amount of time I’d been in a relapse. All of it. He had me come into his office the very next day. We met. I confessed. And, what I appreciated most about that visit…the lack of judgement. And, his genuine concern from my safety. OF course, he told me I could never take Klonopin again. He suggested a 10 day medical detox, which would help me to avoid the physical symptoms from the benzo detox. On July 29th, I began a 10 day medical detox, taking a muscle relaxer called Flexeril. By Day 5, I was down to half the original dose of Flexeril. And, by Day 11, I was weaned completely from prescription narcotics.
I need to add that halfway through my med detox, I decided to fly to Pompano Beach, Florida. Against my psychiatrist’s advice, I went. I needed to remove myself from the apartment I had mad my tomb, for so many months. Florida turned out to be the best decision I could have made. It was tranquil. There were no familiar faces to influence me. It was ideal. A beach front high rise. Time to get back to basics. Staying with a buddy who was sober, and who knew the predicament that I was in. He never left my side.
I would like to add that during this period, one person from the industry reached out to me. Because he’s in a 12 step program, himself, I’ll leave him anonymous. Of course he said to me, “You stopped doing your sober day count on social media. You stopped posting anything at all, on social media. For addicts, that’s a telltale sign.” He wasn’t accusing me. He was approaching me with genuine concern. And, I told him everything. He listened, and he responded with something I won’t ever forget. He said, “I had multiple years sober, and I relapsed. My sobriety today, is better than it was the last time. Because my approach to my sobriety is different.”
That gave me hope. Enough hope to reach out to a few more of my sober friends. Another buddy of mine, who lives in NYC, told me, “You don’t need to tell the whole world right away. It’s your life. You do it when you’re ready.”
That took so much pressure off of me.
You may just see me as some mouth breather, who shoots skin flicks…fair enough.
I see myself as a little more than that. Over the years, I have actively used my platform which was created from the porn industry, to reach out to others…through sobriety..And more so, through my writing. And, if I can hold myself accountable to the public for my success in sobriety, than I feel it necessary to share my struggles, and setbacks, as well.
I should be dead. And my best friend should be dead, by my hand, as well. I drove the two of us at over 100 mph in a complete blackout. But, we survived. I survived. I survived a detox from a class of drugs that has killed other addicts, who have tried to come off, “cold turkey”. And, I believe I was spared because I still have shit to do, in this life.
A little time has passed since that fateful night in July, when I so recklessly out myself and Chicken Titty in harm’s way. I’ve opened up to more people who are sober. And yes, I’ve also been approached by a few members in San Diego gay recovery community with their patronizing bullshit.
At the gym, someone with a few years sober came up to me and said, “Are you done this time, for good?” My response:
- A) Go fuck yourself.
- B) I’m done for today. So, hopefully I’ll be done, again tomorrow.
I’d love nothing more than to say, “I’m never falling down again.” But, I’m no demigod. I’m not a guru. And, if I fall again, I’ll get back up, and keep fighting. That is all I can guarantee. I will never stop fighting, until I die.
Before this relapse, I took my sobriety for granted. I did believe that I would never relapse again. I know now, that I am NEVER immune from relapse. I will never “fake it, til I make it”, either. There are so many things I didn’t say, when I was in pain. Fear of judgement. Fear of being seen as ‘weak’. I can’t afford to let those fears burden me, today. My life is at stake.
And, all the things that were suddenly gone, while I was loaded on pills. They are slowly coming back again. My Ma. My friends. My self worth. It’s all coming back to me.
And yes, I realize the haters will come to. “Poor little porn star. Poor little bleeding heart.” They come out of the woodwork, like roaches. But, it’s cool. Bring it. There is absolutely nothing anyone can say to hurt me, that I haven’t already said to myself, while I was loaded.
I know that My true friends are here with me, til the wheels fall off. And, my true fans…they get me. They aren’t going anywhere.
I’m so happy to finally be publishing this piece to the public. Now, I can let it all go.
Last, but certainly not least:
To my friends, fans, and followers…I’m sorry if I let you down. But, I can’t be your “sober champion”. I’m an addict, just like every other addict. Trying to make it through each day, clean.
I will continue this fight. And, I will continue to write my stories. And my hope with this piece, (as with all my stories) is that one more man or woman, who is out there…Who thinks they have lost the power of choice..They will read my little story. And, they will decide to fight for their lives, as well.
I know what it feels like to look into a starlit sky, and see only darkness. I also know what it’s like to be swallowed by the darkness, and to find my light, once more.
I hope you can find yours, too.
We stood underneath the large tree in the front yard, as dusk settled. Me and Ma. Tears running down Ma’s face. I was so confused!
My best efforts to make Ma smile had led to tears. In my spinning, whirling, ADHD driven world, I thought I was going to make my mother proud. Yet, there she stood. Looking down at me, trying to smile through tears. I threw my arms around her waist, hugging her. “Ma. I’m sorry! Whatever I did wrong. Just tell me. I won’t ever do it again. Please don’t cry, Ma. Please!”
I didn’t understand. I was just trying to be myself. But, there was too much of me. And, at 6 years old, I felt like an utter failure. A burden to my family. An embarrassment. And, I hated myself.
No matter what I did. My brain was always flying at warp speed. From one intense thought, to the next.
Ma took me by the hand. And, we walked back to the house together. As we entered the foyer, I abruptly stopped in my tracks “When I grow up, will God make me normal??” Ma looked down at me with a loving smile. “You already are normal. Just a different kind of normal.”
2nd grade rolled around. Not much changed. The kids grew a little crueler, and more judgmental. I began hearing the word “faggot”, more often. And, I became more hyper sensitive. More self aware. And plagued by insecurity.
What finally shifted for me? How did I find my salvation?
There wasn’t any “magic” therapy. No ‘burning bush’ moment.
My 2nd grade teacher was a very animated woman. And, every afternoon, after lunch recess, she read to the classroom.
What was cool about her:
She would change her voice, to create the different characters, in each book she read.
Something about all of the different tones and speech patters she used to mimic each character, held my focus.
At that particular time she was reading us the book, “Harriet The Spy”, by Louise Fitzhugh.
It was the story of a 10 year old girl, growing up in NYC. Harriet was an only child (like me) and she was, what other children would consider, “weird”…
Harriet had a daily “spy route’, consisting of several eccentric neighbors. She spied on each of them. And she would write every last detail about her neighbors in a little notebook.
What really intrigued me about her Harriet?
She didn’t just write the “dirt” about her neighbors in the notebook. She wrote about herself. Her feelings. Her triumphs. Her fears. Everything she learned about herself, she wrote in her notebook.
There were so many layers to Harriet. And, at 7 years old, I could relate to every single one of them.
She was unusual. Yet thoughtful. She didn’t see the world the same way as other kids her age.
I remember rushing to the drug after school.
And, I purchased a 5 subject notebook. I went directly home, and opened it up for the first time. I stared at the naked pages.
Then, I began to write. And, boy did I have a lot to write about!
First, very random thoughts. A few lines about a classmate I had a crush on. (yes, it was a boy!). Another few lines about how much I loved the smell of my grandma’s Gardenia perfume. Then, on to another subject. I wrote and scribbled across the pages of that notebook, just as quickly as my mind processed thought, after thought.
I was having a conversation with the notebook.
But, there was a significant difference between this particular conversation I was having, and any other conversation I’d experienced in the 7 years I’d been alive.
The notebook was capable of understanding every word I had to say. It followed my swirling, fast paced speech pattern, with ease. I never once received an eye roll, or an exasperated look, while I was confessing my long winded narratives. The paper kept up with me. The paper was patient. Even as I careened towards one self revelation, then veered off to another.
As time passed, I found that there were days I could write an entire story, on just one subject.
And, For a little boy, with undiagnosed ADHD…that was such a triumph!
There were also many days, when I rambled on, and on, and on. About a million different things. But, that was okay, too. Because there was never any judgement.
I found safety, when I wrote. There was a sense of completion, when I wrote.
But, most of all…there was freedom.
I began to write more, and more. I never made up stories. I was never interested in creating characters, or writing non-fiction. I always wrote about my personal experiences. Journal format.
That year was 1983.
I began to grow from a spastic, little ADHD child…Running home as fast as he could, to cry. To, an excited little boy…Running home to write.
I would finish my writing. Slam my notebook shut. Go play. Come back to my notebook. Open it. And there, before me, were all of my crazy, erratic, impulsive, nonsensical narratives. Little sparks of my soul. Spread out, into stories.
I share this chapter of my life with you, because I know that I am not the only adult who grew up with a diagnosis.
Maybe you’ve experienced depression, PTSD, OCD, ADD, ADHD, bi polar, etc…
I believe we all share a common denominator:
We are all extremely sensitive people. We see and internalize things differently. And, that leaves us yearning an outlet.
Maybe you’ll find your outlet in extreme sports, dance, drawing, yoga, science, or teaching.
As long as it’s a safe, non-judgmental outlet. And, it gives you a sense of freedom…
Over 35 years later, I sit here writing my experiences into a 5 subject notebook. Then, I transfer everything to my computer.
The writing still produces a feeling of satisfaction and freedom, inside me.
The difference now:
I’ve become brave enough to share my stories, with others. With you. And strangely, some of you started to respond. Relating your similar experiences back to me.
That has been life changing. I’m not alone! And, hopefully, when you read some of my stories..You aren’t feeling so alone, either.
Please, don’t misinterpret what I’ve written. My writing didn’t “cure” my ADHD. But, It eliminated some of the self loathing and pain that my ADHD produced.
I am a firm believer in getting medical help for any diagnosis that may prevent you from living a productive, fulfilling life. Therapy has played a huge part in mine.
I’m sure many of you are wondering if I use medication to treat the symptoms of ADHD. Unfortunately, I found meth, as a teenager.
Once I received an ADHD diagnosis, I was already addicted to meth.
The meds used to treat ADHD are amphetamine based. So, I was never a candidate for treatment.
In sobriety, doctors were exploring different ways to treat my ADHD, (and the massive anxiety attacks it produced) with non narcotics….To no avail.
In 2013, I was prescribed Klonopin, a benzodiazepine used to treat acute anxiety. Klonopin is controversial in the sober community, due to its habit forming components. But, l was suffering such terrible anxiety attacks, after my ex lover’s suicide. I was hospitalized twice.
My doctor stepped in. He believed that because I was firmly rooted in my sobriety, Klonopin would be the answer.
And, for several years, it was the answer…until it wasn’t.
THE CAPRA DIARIES WILL CONTINUE…
THE CAPRA DIARIES
“ADHD and the 80’s”
Growing up, I never felt “normal”. Obviously, there was the gay element.
But, all gay things aside…
There was something much more, which made me different from your typical 6 year old kid.
I was hyper. And, I don’t mean your typical hyperactive 6 year old. I couldn’t sit the fuck still. I was extremely impulsive, and easily distracted. To the point where my Ma was starting to receive phone calls from my concerned first grade teacher…on the regular.
“We were in the middle of a spelling test and your son abruptly got up, before he finished his test! He went to the music closet, and pulled out a tambourine. He disrupted the entire class, playing the tambourine, and singing, It’s a Small World!!”, she exclaimed to my Ma.
When my Ma tried to calmly extract a reasonable answer, as to why I was creating chaos in the classroom, I answered as honestly as I could: “I got bored.”
This was 1982. It was a time when ‘psych diagnosis’ was reserved exclusively for people who were having psychosis, mania, or what was considered a complete “psychotic break”.
Terms like ADHD hadn’t really been established. And, psychotropic meds were barely on the horizon.
There was such little knowledge and information regarding ADHD. And, when there is no knowledge.. Ignorance rules. I think we all know what ignorance can breed.
For me, it bred “labels’. From my teachers. From my friends and peers, in school And, generally from anyone who shared more than 5 minutes with little 6 year old, me.
“Slow down!” “I can’t understand a word you’re saying. You talk so fast!” “Sit still!” “Why don’t you ever listen?” “Spastic!” “What’s wrong with you?!?”
Today, when I hear other adults, who grew up with similar issues. Many of them share with me how quickly they became immune to the name calling and insensitivity. And, I find myself feeling somewhat envious, when I hear those stories. That wasn’t my experience.
Because for me, at 6 years old… Being gay. Extremely sensitive. And desperately wanting to feel some kind of acceptance. Every single time I was judged for my “weirdness”. Or shamed for being too loud, and speaking too fast. And called terrible names on the playground…I died inside.
I remember running home from school. So fast, I could barely catch my breath. I would throw myself on my bed. Grab one of my stuffed animals. And, I would cry. I wished and wished that something out there would make me “normal”. I hated myself for being defective. I felt hopeless. And most of all, I felt unlovable.
My Ma would hear me sobbing, and come into my bedroom. She would sit down next to me on the bed, and hold me. “I love you more than anything in this world.” she would tell me. “But, you only love me because you’re my Ma!”
She would shake her head and say, “You are such a creative, beautiful boy.. God made you exactly this way, for a reason. You just haven’t figure out why, yet.”
She loved me, and I knew it.
But, even she was pushed to the edge, by my ADHD.
It took many years for Ma to come to terms with the fact that my intensity, my lack of concentration, and my infinite amount of energy, couldn’t be simply disciplined.
But, boy…did she try.
I was always a physically active child. And, I had absolutely no fear of injury. No matter how many bruises, scrapes, and stiches my physicality brought me.
There was a large tree in our front yard. It stood, easily40 feet high. It’s long branches extended in every direction. And, I knew each branch, like the back of my hand. I remember climbing to the highest branch that would carry my weight.
I screamed at the top my lungs, “MA! MA!! MAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!”
She came running. I heard her burst out of the screen door. And, I hung upside down by my legs.
“Ma! Look at me! Look up, Ma! MA! LOOK AT MEEEE!. I felt the blood rushing to my face.
Sprinting towards the tree. My poor Ma was hysterical. “Get down from that damn tree before you kill yourself!
She was gnawing on her fist (Italian style) and pacing in front of the tree.
And, I just kept swinging. “But, Ma! I’m a fancy daredevil! Look up, Ma! No hands!!”
Ma’s face contorted in horror.
I realize now she feared for my life. But, at the time, I was too consumed by the adrenaline that pushed me faster, and faster, and faster.
“JEEZUS CHRIST! HELP ME! MADONNA MIA! HE’S GONNA KILL HIMSELF, THIS KID! JOSEPH!!! GET OUT HERE NOW, BEFORE HE BREAKS HIS NECK!”
I saw worry on her face. But, my mind was whirling so quickly. I continued swinging faster.
Ma ran back towards the house, screaming for my father.. “God Dammit! Joseph! Get your son down from that God awful tree, before the neighbors call Child Protective Services, and they haul us all off to God knows where!”
My father finally emerged from the house. Newspaper in one hand. Beer bottle in the other.
He was a burly Italian man. Standing 6’4″. 220+ lbs.
There was no mistaking my father’s intent. Standing under the tree. Rolling up the newspaper, like he was gonna swat my ass.
My little circus performance was officially over!
I climbed down from the tree.
My father was standing beneath it, holding the rolled up newspaper, ominously. Ma was pacing the front lawn, like a tiger.
Yep. I was in shit water!
Logic entered my mind, vaguely. It told me that my best bet was to ‘cool it’, once I hit the lawn.
But, the intense urge inside me, which always outweighed rhyme or reason. The whirling mass of intensity which dove me. It prevailed.
“Ma! Didn’t you just see me? I’m gonna join the circus. Not like a clown,. But…but, like an acrobatic person. Maybe they’ll decide to shoot me out of a cannon, Or, I can walk a tightrope, while I juggle fire!
Or, Ma! What about a trapeze? Did you see how I was up there, Ma?! Can I take trapeze lessons next Summer, when school lets out? Like, real trapeze lessons? Oh boy!! I’m gonna be a famous trapeze person! And, you both can be in my act, too!! And, we’ll be real famous, like the Brady Bunch! Except, we’ll be the Brady Bunch in the circus, without Marcia, or Greg, or Peter,or….
I paused. But, only long enough to gasp for air.
“Oh, Hi, Mrs. Elliott!” I waved furiously at the neighbor, who lived across the street. She stared incredulously, at this little six year old tornado, who was just spinning round and round.
“Did you see my tricks, Mrs. Elliott? Wouldn’t that be a really neat circus act?”
Back to Ma..
“Or Ma, I could be a fireman, and rescue kittens, stuck in people’s trees!! What about that, Ma?!?”
My father just shook his head. He walked back inside the house. Ma was still pacing the front lawn. Holding the sides of her head.
“So, Ma. When the circus comes, can we show them my act? Do you think it was good enough yet, Ma? Or, do I need more practice?”
Finally, she bent down and gently squeezed my lips together, in an effort to silence me.
All you could hear were my stifled exclamations. “Buh, Muahhhh..We shuh john da circuhhhh!!”
Ma knew I wasn’t being a little asshole. She knew I couldn’t stop. I could barely pause to catch my breath!
I remember that day, so vividly.
What I remember most about that day:
Despite my misconduct. Despite scaring the living shit outta my mother.
She was still trying to smile at me. To console me. But, tears rolled down her face. I think that was the moment she realized that there was nothing she could do to stop this disorder, which drove me.
I saw the deep sadness beneath her smile.
And, I felt like an utter disappointment to the most important person in my world.
2016 started for me with a BANG!
Well, more like a crash.
On January 11th, I was taken to the ER, for some flank pain and trouble breathing. I was convinced it was an anxiety attack. Anxiety is something I have struggled with for years. However, In 2011 I suffered from bi lateral pulmonary emboli. Since then, any medical issue regarding my breathing must to be taken seriously. So, I went to the ER. They ran X-rays of my chest and a CT scan of my lungs. The doctor came back with the results. “You are clot free. However, your liver is swollen. Have you been excessively drinking?”, he asked. “My liver?! I don’t drink at all!!”, I replied defensively. The doctor responded, “Well, what are you taking that could be making your liver swell?” I immediately blurted out the first thing that came to mind: “Anabolic steroids??” The doctor peered at me through his glasses, “Yep. That would do it. How long have you been on your cycle?”
How long have I been on my cycle? Excellent question! That is where this story begins. For those of you not familiar with steroid use, the average steroid cycle should last no longer than 12 weeks. Then you take 6 weeks off. The reason you go “off cycle”, is to allow your system..the pituitary glands..the adrenal glands..basically, your entire endocrine system, to function normally again. And I was all for that. I had every intention of taking a break once 12 weeks rolled around. But, time waits for no one. And once that 12 weeks did come, I found myself full of wonderful excuses as to why I needed to continue a few weeks longer. I was busy! I had work. Bookings. Shoots. Appearances. I told myself that I just needed a few extra weeks to get all these shoots done, and then I would “cycle off” the steroids.
My steroid cycle officially began December 2013. It started with Testosterone Cypionate. Just some extra testosterone to give me that extra edge at the gym. But as my work load increased. So did my mental obsession with cultivating the ‘perfect body’. I wanted more bulk. Naturally, I added some DecaDurabolin to my regiment. But, after a few weeks of that, I noticed I was getting too thick. So, that’s when I decided to add the most sought after ‘gay steroid”, Trenbolone. Trenbolone, for those of you who don’t know, is a steroid that was originally used on livestock to increase muscle growth before they are slaughtered. But, we gay men love it because to adds bulking AND cutting to the body. One of the only anabolics to give you both. So, there I was. Going from 1 to 3 injectables in the blink of an eye. That was a perfect combination! Until I heard that there was an oral steroid called Anavar, that really gave anyone who was taking Testosterone, the most benefits. Well, how could I refuse? And before I even knew it, I had become a walking science project. I used to joke to people who knew about my steroid use, and say that I was the “hormone whisperer” Yeah. Those hormones were doing a lot more than whispering!
But, it seemed like everything was working out gloriously. I was still working a ton. I looked amazing. And I just kept going. That’s the way it always starts out, right? Everything is amazing. Until its not. Then, the very thing that seemed so amazing, started to turn on me. It took awhile. Over a year passed. I was still on my “12 week cycle”. And I started to get back acne. The acne was annoying. And then it got really bad. It wasn’t just the acne. It was the marks the acne was leaving on my back. I was starting to get nervous. But, it never occurred to me to just stop. I tried to control it. Dermatologist visits. Anti bacterial pills to battle the oils from the steroids. Salicylic acid treatments. You name it. I did it. I did everything a person could do…except stop. And more time passed…and I still hadn’t gone “off cycle”. So now, we’re looking at me in January 2016…2 years have passed..And I’m in the ER of the hospital with a swollen liver, wondering what the hell has happened. Sure. My 12 week cycle ended up lasting over 100 weeks. But who was counting?!
My liver was. Thankfully.
Had my liver not blown up, I would have most likely continued my cycle til I suffered renal failure. That’s what my endocrinologist says was next on the list for me.
So, I stopped. I quit the moment I left the ER. 3 injectables. 1 oral. All gone. And yes. my body crashed. Hard. I slept over 12 hours a day. I felt weak. I had no energy. I was morbidly depressed. And I cried. Not from physical pain. But, from the knowledge that my broken thinking had, once again, taken me back to another dark place in my life.
My broken thinking tells me that steroids are gonna make me whole. Make my life perfect. That even though studies have proven that performance enhancing steroids are dangerous, I’m going to be an exception to the rule. For people like me. Addicts. Just because I stop using dope and alcohol, doesn’t mean that my broken thinking stops as well. This is not a story for people who exclusively used steroids. This is a story for anyone who excessively uses anything that they believe will fix them.
But speaking along the lines of steroids, I would like to emphasize something here…there is no one in the porn industry who tells performers it is mandatory to take steroids. Do many performers use steroids? Yes. That is a given. There is pressure to have an extraordinary body. But this goes a lot further than my industry. Steroids are an unspoken “secret” amongst many gay men. And for those of you who manage to use steroids successfully…Mazel, to you! That simply is not my story.
Trust me. This is not the first essay of 2016 that I would like to be sharing with my friends, fans, and followers. I feel exposed. Vulnerable. Raw. All of it. But this is my truth. And maybe, just maybe..there will be someone else out there who is reading this, who can relate. And hopefully, they won’t feel so alone.
I crashed. Hit the floor. I learned. I grow. And my journey continues.
Here is a selfie taken last night. My natural body!
The Holidays are upon us. And though traditionally this is supposed to be a time of reflection, gratitude, connecting with family, friends, and loved ones..I find myself being swept away in a sea of resentment, anxiety, and financial stress.
Ever since I was a boy, I’ve been drawn to ritualism. More specifically, the rituals of the old rites.
I’m not exactly sure where it comes from, because my parents were both raised in strict Italian Catholic homes. However, anything with depictions of moon, fire, ocean, crystals, candles, and mysticism; make my spirit soar.
I don’t personally feel any allegiance to the Catholic church. Nor, do I judge anyone who does. It’s simply not relatable to me.
When I envision ritualism, I see moonbeams, shining down upon woman, dancing in silver waterfalls. Thick layers of incense burning, as men cloaked in mystery, rise from citadels…running through a forest, hunting the King stag for his antlers. Then, returning from the hunt, to make love to a virgin Priestess…celebrating the Beltane fires. (the birth of Spring)
Ritualizing Spirit and sexuality makes perfect sense to me. As they are both God given.
I never understood why the Catholic church circumcised sexuality from their religion; and turned sex into such a taboo.
Women had to either choose to align themselves with the Virgin Mary: pure, chaste, and holy. Or, the Mary Magdalene: wicked, condemned, a whore.
I always saw the sexuality in the Virgin Mary..and the deep spirituality in Mary Magdalene.
And long before them..there were the pagan rituals…which often took nature elements: earth, air, fire, water..and incorporated the human body; movement and sexuality.
When I was approached by Paul Van Vleck, my very favorite location photographer. And he asked me if I wanted to so some nature photos, I told him: “I’ve been shooting porn pictures for almost 14 years. So, If I’m going to take the time to do a photo shoot, I’d like it to be a reflection of something that interests me.” In this case, it was the Old Religion. The celebration of spirituality and sexuality.
I realize that this can be a touchy subject for many people..So, my hope is that despite whatever religious or spiritual practice you align yourself with. You will see the beauty in this pictorial. And maybe even feel connected.
In Darkness…I Found My Light
The most common question I receive: How did you get sober?
I’d like to be able to tell you, I made a decision, one day, to get sober…and it just stuck. But, that’s not my story. I was a chronic relapser. One of the ‘hopeless variety’, as some would say.
In my addiction, I was not the type of addict who took “Molly” and did bumps of coke, at circuit parties. I shot dope and smoked crack cocaine. I didn’t use drugs to “party”. I used to drugs to die.
I don’t think I ever got past the pain of my childhood. Growing up with an abusive father who never loved me. The scars of my childhood, burned and emulsified within me, like lava, eating away at my impressionable soul. To the point where I didn’t feel worthy of anything more than the pain, suffering, and demoralization that addiction offered me.
I did dope every single day. To numb the pain. And, to slowly die.
There were half hearted attempts at sobriety, many times. Starting at 19 years old. But, I never addressed the emotional pain, in order to change my belief system. . At my core, I believed I was unloveable. I believed I would always be abandoned, if I tried to love a man. I told myself that if you really knew who I was…a monster. You would run from me. And, that’s exactly what I became. A monster. A liar. A junkie, who stole from his own mother. An unloveable, self destructive human being.
I would like to tell you that a ’near death experience’, was what got me sober. But, that wouldn’t be the truth, either. Looking back now, it makes perfect sense as to why being ‘near death’, could never perpetuate my desire to get sober. How can a person make the decision to live, when all he feels worthy of, is death?
And so it was…In 2005 I suffered a type 2 respiratory failure, from a combination of crack cocaine and shooting heroin. The doctors in ICU explained to me that it was the heroin which caused high levels of carbon dioxide in my lungs, which inevitably stopped my breathing. I remember, right before I lost consciousness, begging the junkie I was with not to call 911, cuz I was already starting to lose my peripheral vision, and feel shortness of breath. When I passed out, she immediately called 911 and pretty much saved my pathetic life. I was rushed to the hospital and treated with (IMV), invasive mechanical ventilation. A tube with a ballon at the end of it was shoved inside my mouth, down my throat, and inflated to allow air back into my lungs again. I spent several days in ICU, while they ran tests, treated me with IV sodium chloride, for my chronic dehydration. A cardiologist took a sonogram of my heart to see if there was damage to the muscle from the crack cocaine. I remember him telling me in a very matter of fact tone: “The blood vessels around your heart muscle are constricted from the crack abuse, but the actual heart muscle is not damaged…yet. Thankfully, because you’re 31 years old, and aside from the fact that you’re a drug addict..you’re in reasonably good health. But, you need to know that your heart is not going to be able to withstand the amount of crack you smoke daily. Crack cocaine will stop your heart. I can’t tell you when, but you will be taking a hit, and you will experience chest pain, beyond that of which I can describe. And death will not happen right away, like it does with heroin addicts who OD, and simply lose consciousness, as their organs shut down. It will be slow, and incredibly painful. 90% of crack overdoses, are fatal. So, you need to live knowing that.”
I broke down and cried. I shook with terror, and pain. I knew that crack was going to kill me, if I didn’t stop using it. And, I didn’t want to die anymore..I just didn’t know how to live.
I left the hospital several days later, resigned to never use drugs or drink again. 11 days later, I was smoking crack. I had surrendered the power of choice, to dope. Living with the knowledge that I was risking my own life. And knowing that smoking crack could kill me at any moment, wasn’t enough to stop me. As addicts, we generally need to lose something, or be faced with losing something (our jobs, our lives, our freedom, our loved ones, our homes) to really want to get sober for good. Losing my own life wasn’t enough get me sober. Losing something that carried far more depth and weight had to happen, for me to approach sobriety with the desperation of a drowning man.
On December 17th of 2007, I made another attempt to get sober again. What got me sober this time? Sheer misery, I had no friends. Because I was incapable of being a friend to anyone or anything..other than my dope. My Ma had to keep a healthy distance from me. It was too heartbreaking for her to watch me killing myself. I had no relationship. How could I be a partner to anyone? I was married to my dope. My apartment had become a tomb, which I never left.
I wanted to try life again. I wasn’t convinced I was done with dope. But, I was determined to try. So, I went to some AA meetings. And, I did as they instructed me to do. I Got a sponsor. And, I continued coming back to AA meetings. Several months into my sobriety, I began doing a workshop that took me through the 12 steps. We covered all 12 steps over the course of 22 weeks, The woman who led the workshop, translated the steps to me in such a way, it would forever change my heart. After the workshop ended, I asked her to sponsor me. And she did. She gave me insight to the steps that I could recognize and apply to my life. Before her, the steps were always this cryptic code that I could never seem to wrap myself around. And, I continued to grow in my sobriety. But, the pain of childhood, though addressed in my step work… still gnawed at my heart. My sponsor suggested I seek outside help. Therapy. I declined. A mistake, on my part. But, looking back now. I see that I just wasn’t ready to address those core issues. I continued attending meeting, doing step work, and I even began sponsoring people.
Shortly after I celebrated 2 years sober, I met a man. He was like no other man I had met in my life. His name was Tony. Tony was this guy that I used to stare at longingly at the gym. For years. I never approached him. He was so beautiful and carried himself so well, I was terribly intimidated by him. Every time we were in the gym together, I would watch him from the corner of my eye. Stealing secret glances at him. Like a puppy dog. He was Italian, soft brown eyes, dark hair, sculpted body. His voice was deep..yet soft.
Strangely, he messaged me on Facebook, out of the blue. He asked me why I always stared at him, but never spoke to him. I told him honestly that I was too intimidated. He told me to get over it and said, “So..are you gonna ask me out??” And, that was our beginning. Tony calling the shots. And me chasing. Happily chasing. I would sometimes, over the course of our 2 1/2 year relationship, be reduced to a bumbling idiot when I was with him. Tony just had that effect on me. The only man to this day, to ever take my breath away. Tony knew how much I adored him. And, he loved the attention. And I loved giving it to him. But, still. There was that gnawing pain in my soul. Unresolved trauma, no matter how old it is…when it is not dealt with properly…trauma does not go away. It manifests in other areas of our lives. And though I loved Tony…loved him more than anything in this world. I was still fragmented by the abandonment and abuse from my father. I tried to escape it by being a more attentive boyfriend and a better sponsor to my sponsees That didn’t work. And, as my relationship with Tony grew. I began to make it a bigger priority than my sobriety. And, unfortunately…as I have learned through experience…anything that I value more than my sobriety, I will lose. I deluded myself into believing that if Tony loved me enough, the pain from my father would resolve itself. And when Tony and I began experiencing challenges in our relationship, I fell apart. It wasn’t even the issues with he and I. It was the unresolved issues I had with my father, which I displaced onto my relationship, that caused me to unravel. And with 4 years and 4 months sober… I relapsed again, on dope.
And though Tony wanted to work things out. I was already long gone. Back to my deadly love affair with dope.
I wanted desperately to be back with the man I loved again. But, its true when they say relapse isn’t progressive. You are literally right back where you left off in your addiction. And that was the case for me. Isolated. Phone turned off. Locked in my apartment with my dope.
I would look at photos of Tony and I and I would cry, I believed I would find a way to get sober again. I told myself Tony and I would reunite, and we would be better. I would be better.
But, time waits for no one. 9 months after I relapsed. And, Tony and I broke up. Tony took his life. At 45 years old, my baby was dead.
I remember being strung out, receiving the phone call that Tony was gone. And I remember, feeling a part of me dying. My baby is gone. My baby is gone!
And the guilt. And the shame. And the remorse. That I had chosen my addiction over my lover, flooded through my veins. Like a sea of mercury. It devoured me. I was inconsolable.
And I fell into a mushroom cloud of dope. I would occasionally catch glimpses of myself in the mirror. Face gaunt. Unshowered. Bruises all over my arms. Blisters on my lips. Skin burnt off my fingers from crack pipes. I weighed less than 175 lbs. That is 40 lbs under my weight today. I would see my reflection, and I would cry. I would think of my deceased ex, and I would cry. I would think about all of the friendships I had made in the 4+ years I had been sober…now gone. And I would cry.
I was gone. Hopeless. Lost. Never coming back.
I remember looking at the beautiful magazine covers and layouts I had taken over the years, and think to myself: You will never take another beautiful picture again. You are done. I remember looking at all the beautiful cards Tony had written me over the 2 1/2 years we had been together and seeing the photographs of us over the years, and thinking to myself: You will never experience love with another man again. That part of your life is over. I tried to write about what was going on with me. But, I was blocked. There was so much pain inside my heart, that needed to be released. But, dope was the great dam, keeping my feelings from surfacing. And, I remember thinking to myself: You will never write another piece that will bare any meaning to you, or another human being.
It was a deep and dark corroding thread, woven through my very existence:
You will never. You will never. You will never…
Something happened less than 6 months after Tonys suicide. I had been awake, on a multiple day binge..smoking crack. And when I finally lost consciousness, and fell asleep; I fell into dreams… Tony came to me. I couldn’t hear what he was saying. But he was crying. Trying to reach out to me. But he couldn’t reach me. Seeing the look of sorrow on his face. Knowing that even in death, he wasn’t at peace. Seeing me killing myself on dope…. That dream was so vivid, and so haunting. I awoke the next morning. And without thinking, I destroyed all of my drug paraphernalia, flushed the remainder of my dope. Packed an overnight bag full of clothes. And went to my Ma’s house. Without telling her in so many words, (she already knew) that I needed to detox in a safe place, I asked if I could stay with her for a little while. She hugged me and let me cry. I shook in her arms. The pain of losing Tony…Of our love, forever lost. Shook me. To the core. I collapsed in my mothers arms like a child. She set me in her spare bedroom. After 8 days of sleeping and eating, crying, and grieving… I made my way back to my first AA meeting. I immediately grabbed someone with over 5 years sober, after that first AA meeting. I asked him if he would have coffee with me. At coffee, I told him everything that had happened since my last relapse. About Tony’s suicide. My unresolved issues with my father. The dream that I had about Tony. And, that I desperately wanted to be sober. And for the first time in my life.. I did. I wanted to be sober, more than I wanted anything else in this world. This man asked me if was willing to do anything he asked of me to stay sober. I said Yes. And, he offered to sponsor me. He referred me to a cognitive therapist who specialized in grief. She helped me immensely. I felt safe communicating to her my most irrational, painful feelings. First, surrounding my father, Second, surround Tony’s suicide.
My sponsor And I began working the steps. First, On Tony’s suicide. Then, on dope and alcohol. I continued attending 5 AA meetings a week.
Slowly, I started to feel a little bit better. No longer feeling like I was completely broken…Just bent.
At around 90 days sober, I came back to the industry that had been a part of my life for nearly a decade. I realized that I had already saturated porn, several times, over the course of 9 years. I was prepared to not succeed. But, I tried. I went to the gym, working out relentlessly. And I took some new photographs and sent them out to studios that I had first worked for, over a decade ago. People in recovery were telling me I couldn’t possibly go back to the porn industry with such little sober time, and maintain my sobriety. But, something in me had shifted.
That voice. That overbearing voice in my mind that had told me for so many years: “I will never. I will never. I will never..”
It was gone.
And it was replaced by an even more compelling voice, inside of me which said, “Yes, I can.”
I was welcomed back to the adult industry. Bigger and more popular, than I had ever been before. Old fans were happy to see me return. And I also connected with an entirely new fan base, as well.
I started writing again. About my truth. About addiction. About love found. And love lost. I began counting my sober days on social media. And my connection with my followers grew into something bigger than just a typical porn star. Some of these followers became dear friends to me. Through the writing we connected through similar circumstances…loss, pain, self doubt, body dysmorphia, addiction. And, some of these followers became more than friends. They became Family.
And though my career had re-invented itself in the industry, I had reservations about forming relationships with other industry people. I’m not the type of guy who likes to get caught up in the industry “Frienemy”, bullshit. So, I made a decision to keep my business, as business. And form friendships outside the industry. Despite my reservations, I found myself connecting with someone else in the industry. At first, it was a work thing. Where we could connect on set. Great conversation. But then, go our own ways. She is a director. Yes, that is not a typo… I said SHE. And over the last 18 months, she has become my confidant. The sister I never had. And my best friend. I laugh, trying to explain to people, that in an industry dominated by men, and with whom all the performers are men…The only person I trust with my life, is a woman. And any man I date already knows, off the bat that she and I are absolutely married. smile emoticon
Since I’ve returned to the industry, I have worked for almost every major studio again. And, I was inducted into the Grabby Wall of Fame. I have traveled the country many times. And I have continued working my steps, writing my experiences, and living my life again.
Don’t get me wrong. My Life hasn’t been a “pink cloud”, since I got sober. There are days that I will smell Tony’s cologne at a department store, or hear a song, or see a sunset he would have marveled at…and I’m reduced to tears. There are days that I’m chasing my tail, like a mad person. Screaming and fighting the flow of the Universe. But, no matter how good or bad my day is…I don’t drink or use dope..no matter what.
And yes, I will take another beautiful picture again. And yes, I will write another piece that is honest and resonates with others. And yes, I will love again.
In November of this year, God willing…I will celebrate 2 years of consecutive sobriety.
And so…Hope Springs Eternal.
I try to make my life a living testament to that notion.
Its important for me to remember that not all of us make it. My Tony didn’t. So, I try to live every day, making choices that he would be proud of. Tony never gave shit about what I did for work. He just wanted me to be sober, surround myself with good people, and write.
No matter how badly your life may currently seem. Even, facing death, loss, and tragedy. It doesn’t mean its over. It’s never over until you stop breathing.
If you believe in yourself. Get honest. Face your demons. Work your ass off. Anything is possible.
I believed in myself.
I believe in you, too.
All my love