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My Muscles, My Disease: A Snapshot of Drug Addiction

There is a folder, tucked within a folder, buried deep in my computer files. I shouldn’t be looking at its contents, yet I can’t bring myself to delete it altogether. It is labeled MARCUS, and inside the folder is my disease.

Pool ColoredDuring my years of crystal meth addiction I went by the name of Marcus, at least to dealers and tricks and fellow addicts. It helped me determine who was calling my cell phone — those calling for Mark or Marcus usually had very different agendas — and Marcus even became an alternate persona as my drug addiction progressed.

When partying as Marcus, I felt confident and aloof. I took awful chances. I never met a strobe light I didn’t like or a box on a dance floor I wouldn’t jump on. A steroid-crazed gym regimen and the dehydration of drug abuse transformed my body into the low fat, pumped up gay ideal.

Photographs of that body, in full, preening strut, are the contents of the MARCUS folder. The pictures were my calling card for online sex-and-drug pursuits. They suggest nudity but are cropped modestly — although God knows that much more damning images of me surely exist in the dark corners of cyberspace.

Shipwrecked EyesIn one of the few pictures showing my face, I stand under a running shower — a pitiful Playgirl pose, spray nozzle in hand — with a blank face and shipwrecked eyes. The only emotion on display, just around the edges, is a dull fear.

My life was precisely as pictured. It wouldn’t be long before my drug use trumped my gym schedule, and my status in online chat rooms devolved from intriguing hottie to that crazy mess that doesn’t look like his pictures.

Since then, my recovery from drug addiction has helped me understand that the Gay Strut is key to my disease. It is a sly porthole back to raging insanity.

MarkTorso2008 - Copy - CopyExplaining all this feels idiotic. What vanity I possess, asking you to gaze upon my former, overwrought beauty as I complain about the consequences. It feels like an invitation to tell me how much healthier I look now, or that recovery is “an inside job.” I know this. I’m just sharing the curious road that got me here.

My recovery depends on healing my mind, body and spirit. At the moment I’m two out of three.

My spirit is happy today. My smiles are joyful and plentiful. My mind is clear, although I don’t kid myself, there are remnants of a brain pickled in methamphetamine for many years. But healing is underway, and my mind and spirit are enjoying the process.

Only my body lags behind, injured, resentful, and suspicious of the path to well being. I’m sedentary and stubborn. I relate being physically fit with something traumatic that once hounded and eventually ruined me.

I want to be healthier, and to control my weight and rising cholesterol. I need to fix this, I tell myself, but I’m afraid to fix this. There’s the potential that I’ll go back to a lifestyle more horrible than my expanding waistline.

Torso2008Crop - CopyIt’s good to get in shape again, I tell myself with sincere intentions. The treadmill is really taking off the pounds and I should start weight lifting again and hot damn, that muscle recall really works just look at my arms and I should buy new tank tops and work out even harder and get steroids prescribed again and what’s wrong with hanging out at a bar shirtless and shooting pool and sure I’ll do one hit of that, thanks, and man this body of mine would look damn hot at a sex party right now and who’s your dealer and do you have needles…?

Getting back in shape is an easy call. Except my mind puts physical fitness on the same crazy train as my drug addiction.

There is a solution. There always is. And I’m working on it. The fact I acknowledge my insanity is a good start. Now I can begin the process of teaching my body new tricks.

There are traps on the road to recovery, as anyone getting clean and sober will tell you. I’m much better at seeing them clearly than I used to be. But the vigilance it requires is a full time job.

I get afraid that a dangerous choice might look perfectly innocent. Or be a reasonable part of life. It could be a healthy choice, even, at least for you.

But sometimes, my very reckoning can look as pretty as a picture.

This piece originally appeared on my blog last year, and is featured in Trevor Hoppe’s upcoming book, Beyond Masculinity. I felt obliged to show some of the Marcus photos, but have cropped and altered them into something less decadent. Any similarity to pictures you may have seen in online chat rooms is purely coincidental. This topic is also something I’ve done my best to separate from my series of fitness videos with expert Nelson Vergel. Why burden the guy with my insanity? — Mark



By | 2014-05-29T07:43:08+00:00 September 28th, 2012|Gay Life, Meth and Recovery, My Fabulous Disease|9 Comments


  1. David September 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Thank you so much for this article. As always, beautifully written, insightful, personal, non-judgemental but also SO much I can identify with as someone who is HIV+ and in recovery from crystal meth addiction. I still have the tendency to rip my shirt off and work out hard, but there is something even more liberating and fun doing that clean and sober. Thank you again for a wonderful article!

  2. Anne September 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    So easy to see clearly in the rear view mirror!

    Keep up the good work

  3. Paul September 29, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    It continues to amaze me to read about the pitfalls of addiction AND recovery! With a few words you convey the complexities of addiction and recovery! HAT is indeed your gift…one more important than the buff party boy image. Great writing. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Phil September 29, 2012 at 11:35 pm

    It is interesting to read your articles to say the least, and I find them well written and insightful… however I have to say, I find myself being somewhat disappointed when you use the language of the “anda” that of course meaning addict “anda” alcoholic, “clean and sober” which is kinda like saying I’m a rose anda flower.

    If you are to speak and write of your recovery at the level of press, radio, and films, social networking, blogs etc, you should at least do the best you can to respect the Traditions of what ever program your attending in your recovery process…
    The Wording and language you choose can send a mixed message to someone who know’s nothing of the recovery process..
    You speak of Drug addiction, and use the word “SOBER”.. The program that has saved my life is a program that Deals with the disease of addiction from ALL mind and mood altering substances (which of coarse includes alcohol, with that being a “drug” and all) and in that program we identify ourselves as ADDICTS and call ourselves CLEAN… NOT SOBER… If I wanted to say I was SOBER I would attend a meeting that would confine my discussion to that of only alcohol…
    It is important to me that I post this to you, being that my Personal recovery depends upon the UNITY of the fellowship I attend..
    with Respect

    (Except that I never mention any particular mode of recovery or identify myself as a member of any program. The traditions you reference do not apply. In any case, I am always entitled to identify myself as an addict in recovery. The co-founder of one fellowship did so repeatedly, on the level of press, radio, and film. — Mark)

  5. Garry September 30, 2012 at 1:30 am

    Thanks Mark,
    As a former addict myself I can relate to your story. It takes courage and honesty to tell these kinds of stories, I pray that the right set of eyes read it and believe it. Thanks for posting and I am glad to hear from you in such awhile.

  6. Phil October 2, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    What I meant to say in the third Paragraph of my post is…

    The program that has saved my life is a program that Deals with the disease of addiction, along with continued abstinence
    from ALL mind and mood altering substances……

    again, Thank You

  7. Sue October 7, 2012 at 9:40 am

    I think you are beautiful inside and out. Love

  8. HairdoDan November 6, 2012 at 6:31 pm

    As I read this article, I had flashbacks of my meth days and how “trim” and “defined” I looked was just as you described.
    Now that I am “in recovery” I see those exact pitfalls you talk about … often times scared to move forward yet bold enough to know that I CANNOT go back.
    The smell of a locker room or gym (ANY gym, YMCA, L.A. Fitness, Balley’s, etc.) sets my heart to pounding and those feelings of sexual energy come back strong and potent. What other guys look at as being healthy and active, “building muscle is good for a guy, right?” only incite dark seedy thoughts of meth crazed sex with whomever was in my path.
    I really want to meet you face to face sometime, sit and talk, cry and laugh and KNOW that I am not alone in this world. Knowledge is power and to know there is another person who really “gets it” from being in that same dark place we’ve been. Not to relive the past, but grow in the future, know I can and do have friends who don’t judge me for the path that I have taken, but will hold each other when the darkness falls. The lonely times when the damage that I have done to my body reminds me of how weak I was but how strong I have become.
    Not many people come back from where you and I have been. keep going strong my friend, and thank you for your honesty.

  9. Dave Rumsey June 18, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Wow! Great story. It’s kind of scary how the mind can link addictions. But if you’ve ever been to Vegas you can see one trifecta: gambling > liquor > cigarettes. You are describing another exercise > meth > sex. Thanks for posting. I would actually be interested in seeing the pics of you in your meth days. Not ever being a user, I’m kind of curious about what you are describing…

    (The photos used in the article are of me during that time — that is, until my addiction ruined my body as well as my mind. — Mark)

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