By Steven Griffith
Edited by Christopher Heide
I was raised in a conservative Mormon family. My first introduction to the LGBT community was through drugs. I was about 19 years old and found a particular drug called Tina (AKA Meth). The day that I started to use Tina was the day I started to give everything in my life over to it. The shame and guilt of being gay was too much for me and I had to find an escape. I found that with meth. When I was younger and living in a Mormon household I was taught that being gay was immoral, and that terrible things happen to people that slept with other men. This brought up a lot of shame and guilt toward my thoughts and feelings as a young boy. During my first few years of my adult life I tried to fuck the gay away. I entered into a relationship with a women that I would later have a child with. We were together for about two and a half years. During this time I turned to meth over and over again. I was lying and cheating on her with other men. When she had my son he was my life. Although I was unable to stay off the meth and the relationship ended between us, I gave up my opportunity to be a father to my son. This was one of the most devastating events that has ever happened in my life.
As time moved on, I used more and more. I would eventually find the needle and other drugs such as heroin and Oxycontin. My life was nothing but a downward spiral. Through the years, I would be in and out of treatment centers and homeless. In February of 2010, I was diagnosed with HIV. My life was instantly changed at that moment. Hearing the nurse say “people live a long time nowadays” was something that made me cringe. Live? Why would I want to do that? Especially when I hear and read people in my own community refer to themselves as “clean” when saying they’re HIV negative. Feeling guilty about my sexuality, homelessness and now living on streets, and now this shame of being positive, I turned to prostitution so that I could get high. This went on for another two years, and when the money ran out I turned to suicide. After a few failed attempts, I finally got housing and moved into a nice apartment. By this time, my CD4 was extremely low and my viral load was through the roof. As everyday passed, I hated who I saw in the mirror more and more.
In February of 2012, I told my Mother that I was gay. This started a chain reaction that would later get me sober. I was 28 years old and had had enough. I was committed to a lock down inpatient facility that required a judge’s signature stating I was unfit for society and myself. Before I could finish my two months of inpatient, I was kicked out for fighting.
Another two months would pass by and I would continue to shoot up and drink. My tendency towards violence would increase. The more I used, and the more paranoid I got. Getting into fights when I was drunk landed me in the hospital. Eventually I ended up at another treatment center. This time I managed to make it all the way through to the end. This was my 8th treatment. After getting out of treatment, I had found a place called Seattle Area Support Groups (SASG). SASG is a place that provides peer emotional support, and I was given a Recovery Coach. Meetings like Strength Over Speed (SOS) was one of the cornerstones of my success in recovery. Once I started coming to SASG, I was instantly welcomed, and I found solace in people that had been through what I had been through and were willing to meet me where I was in life. Finding other gay and bi men who were like me, and had been down that same path, was crucial for me to stay sober.
Today, I have nearly two years sober from all mind altering chemicals and I am working as a Program Manager for the very place that gave me my life back, Seattle Area Support Groups. I am present for myself and the community that has lifted me up. I will never forget where I have come from and the struggles that I have gone through to make me the man I am today. Today I am not ashamed of my HIV and I am proud to call myself a gay man.