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Ismail’s story – Using chems to suppress trauma: “I felt like a broken person.”

“Growing up, I guess that I sort of knew in the back of my mind that I wasn’t straight, but I felt a lot of expectations from my family and my community to be heterosexual.”

“I was dating girls, but I was struggling with this inner part of me – I internalised my sexuality, pushing it to the back of my mind like there was something wrong with me.”

“Eventually, the need to explore my sexuality became impossible to ignore. I started having sexual encounters with guys – connecting through hook-up apps, keeping this side of me a secret from my family and from my community. I was living a double life.”

“It was through those sexual encounters – through the guys that I met up with on hook-up apps – that I started taking chems. Most guys were using mephedrone and G. The drugs enhanced the sexual experience and they helped me to feel less shame about having sex with guys.”

“When I was dating girls, it all felt very functional – there was no ‘me’ in it. When I was hooking up and taking chems, I’d be in a room full of guys who were touching me, making me feel loved, making me feel wanted. Through chems, I could get the love and affection that I’d been missing, and it was easily accessed – the drugs made all of that available to me.”

“Living that double life was really taking a toll on me – after a few years, I moved to London. It felt like that’s what I needed to do in order to fully embrace my sexuality – to really be me.”

“In London, the drugs were even more available than where I was from. Everyone was talking about Tina. Soon enough, I was also doing Tina.”

“I spiralled – I was massively depressed. Thankfully, I got a lot of support from my family – they picked me up and helped me get back to a place of physical and mental health.”

“Through that process, I came out to my parents – I came out to my family. They were supportive – I was really lucky. A lot of queer people from my community don’t get that kind of support.”

“At that point, I really should have been fine. I’d moved to London, I’d embraced my sexuality, I’d come out to my family, and they were supportive. I should have been fine, but I wasn’t – my head was all over the place.”

“I was still using chems as a way to try and hold it all together – to feel desired, to feel accepted, to feel part of something.”

“It was during the pandemic that things started to fall into place. I was having flashbacks, struggling to put the pieces together. Eventually, it hit me – the memory flooded back. I’d been assaulted. I’d been raped.”

“The assault had been many years before. I’d been drugged – they gave me something, I don’t know what it was. I had been completely passed out, and I still can’t really remember what they did to me. I had suppressed the trauma for many years and had lost my sense of safety and was only just beginning to piece it together.”

“Having realised what I’d been through, it was overwhelming – I felt like a broken person. I was struggling to make sense of who I was and what I was doing, and I was in a very vulnerable place. I could see how self-destructive my behaviour had been.”

“The fear and the fragility that I saw in everyone during the pandemic helped me to realise that I needed to liberate myself from the chems. Life is short – at any moment, it could all be over. I needed to sort myself out, to understand myself.”

“It’s been a long journey. I tried a couple of different addiction services, but they didn’t seem to understand what I was struggling with. A few months ago, through a Google search, I came across Controlling Chemsex.”

“Through the support of the team at Controlling Chemsex, it’s helped me to shift my perceptions about addiction – it’s helped me to realise that my story isn’t unique, I’m not alone. The whole process has helped to humanise me again.”

“I’m doing a lot of work on myself – understanding my experience, accepting who I am. I’m in my mid-30s now, but I feel like I’m starting over. In some ways, being assaulted robbed me of the joy of coming out – I started that journey from a place of distrust and hurt. I have to unlearn that.”

“I’ve also realised that I’ve been punishing myself, grieving for my own circumstances. For what? I have to let that go.”

“I’m sober now. I was using chems to numb my pain. I guess that’s what everyone is doing, in some way – we’re all carrying trauma of some kind, trying to find love, searching for whatever we’re missing. Maybe it’s just a way to try and feel alive.”

“I want to feel things, but I have to figure out how to feel things without chems and I’m still struggling with the intimacy side of things – I haven’t figured out how to have sober sex.”

“The assault has obviously left me with loads of trust issues, but I’m not admitting defeat. I’m trying massage websites, going on dates – I’ve got to find a way to get past the mental block that’s holding me back.”

“I deserve a good life. I deserve to be happy. It’s new territory for me, and it’s going to take time, but I’m doing the work that has to be done.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with issues surrounding the use of chems, contact Controlling Chemsex for free, confidential advice and support.

National Helpline for LGBT+ Victims and Survivors of Abuse and Violence: 0800 999 5428 Email help@galop.org.uk

Struggling with chems and chemsex? There is help.

Image by margodeco from Pixabay 

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