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
And take my child away
It was I who was
And the sands of time like
Shattering glass went past me
Like a tunnel to the seaAnd I who went to sleep as two
Woke up as one now only you remain
You’ll close your eyes and travel back
To the time when the light went fading fast
And the words you’ll never, never forget, oh no
As you slipped awayGoodbye baby
I hope your heart’s not broken
Don’t forget me
Yes I was outspoken
You were with me all the time
I’ll be with you one dayAnd I who went to sleep in tears
Woke up in tears, for all of the years
And I who never, never said goodbye
As I slipped away
I hope your heart’s not broken
Don’t forget me
Yes I was outspoken
You were with me all the time
I’ll be with you one day
I hope your heart’s not broken
Don’t forget me
Yes I was outspoken
You were with me all the time
I’ll be with you one day
Yes, I’ll be with you one day