I have been to hundreds of AA meetings. At some point in my life my parents fell under the all encompassing label: Addicts. I still cannot fully grasp, for lack of memory, the extent of what that means. I did not grow up with parents with addiction problems that effected my life. I grew up with parents in active rehabilitation, which had an effect all its own. I was actually one of those kids in high school that really heeded the warnings of school counselors and those weird, low budget PSA's about drugs and alcohol. This made discovering gay culture in my college years all the more jarring.
The queer community has always been a refuge for the marginalized. Which almost certainly led to it being synonymous, at times, with any thing and everything considered alternative, not the least of these things being: substance abuse. The CDC reports being a gay or bisexual male as a risk factor to developing addiction to drugs and alcohol, while the International AIDS Society estimates Methamphetamine use to be 5 to 10 times more prevalent in urban gay culture.
Walking in my first gay club in Memphis was like anything you've ever seen on TV or in the movies about an acid trip. People came here to escape. One person that really experienced and lived this side of Memphis was JC Deshae. Ironically, I met JC for the first time in a gay club. Since then, however, JC landed in Georgia, and we have remained friends via Facebook. Human nature being what it is, Facebook is where we put our best foot forward. This past weekend that foot changed for JC.
These days JC's facebook page is laden with gym updates, pictures of physical accomplishments and healthy foods, and inspiration for others, like myself, who need the motivation to exercise (or generally move at all). That is until Sunday when he posted a startling picture of himself in the hopes to reclaim a narrative. A friend posted the picture, that showed an emaciated JC, for "nostalgia" not aware of its true meaning or effect. JC took this opportunity to share his story and the real differences he has made since that picture was taken.
Tell me, what brought you to the place you were in when this photo was taken?
Sure! I was raised Jehovah's Witness in a very strict household. From the "spare the rod spoil the child" generation of parents. They definitely knew how to handle a belt, or a switch, or whatever they could get their hands on. My dad was especially physical with his "disciplining". I took my last physical encounter with him the night before i ran away. I drove 7 hours away from my parents house, where i marginally knew a handful of people. People that turned me out in one way or the other, whether physically or emotionally. These were people i considered friends, and people that i ran too. Sadly they turned me over to the JW Kingdom Hall elders, who then strong armed all these people into abandoning me, by using their spiritual well-being and salvation as a method of persuasion.... It was like this, if they support me and continue to allow me to stay with them then they'd be punished by the church.... And to a JW, the church it's members and the promise of life everlasting is all you have. There is no room, acceptance or even tolerance for people of the world, or " apostates" as they'd go on to call me.
With everything id ever known turned against me, SO many unanswered questions about who i was, what i was. I ran, again. This time to Memphis. Which is where I immediately immersed myself into the gay culture, because i found acceptance there. I found love and support there. I also found drug addiction there. From that day to this one (12 years) I've moved approximately 37ish times. Memphis, New Orleans, Birmingham, Jackson, Atlanta, etc etc etc. Completely transient.
What was the drug of choice?
It started out cocaine, a lot of cocaine. And then one early morning at aftershock in the bathroom i experimented with crack cocaine. I never really felt an affinity for it, i saw it as pure profit because I'd rather snort a powder than smoke it. Not long after that i was introduced to ecstacy. Really good ecstasy pills. So it became a combination, on the weekends we would party at backstreet and celebrate the weeks profits by taking pill after pill after pill. It was a nice break for our sinus cavities.
Eventually though it all lost its powerful effect. We all built up a tolerance, and were consuming in such large amounts that it was basically selling drugs just to stay high. Bills were completely blown off, responsibility's, etc.
If i could go back and alter the course it'd be the night i went in search of the next best thing for my group and found meth. It was NOT a household name yet, that was around the beginning of the epidemic. And it's what changed us all.
I went the farthest and got the worst. I found everything i thought i ever needed in that drug. I felt superhuman and completely untouchable.
The top pictures in that post are at my worst point with meth in Memphis. I was dating a supplier that had convinced me we couldn't connect because i wasnt injecting....that too truly open my mind i had to experience the drug in a pure form, straight in the veins. He sold me a phenomenal tale, or maybe i was just that impressionable and willing to go to the next level
Those pictures were taken by my mom right before they quit having anything to do with me and gave up their mission to save my soul and be my salvation. She sent them to me in a final email basically likening me to a starved live 8 child. I promptly went ballistic and we didn't have anything to do with each other for quite sometime.
What would you describe as the link between gay culture and addiction?
I think it comes from a place of needing validation. The gays I've met along the years, not all but most, have a similar back-story. Feeling like they don't belong, like they don't fit in.... looking to fill a void left by family that's ousted them, searching for validation that they never got at home.
So at what moment did you throw your hands up and say "That's it I've had enough!" Or was there even a moment like that?
There was. It stopped right after new year 2014. I was making money hand over fist in New Orleans after absorbing a smaller dealers customers and reaching out to connections I've had there for a while. It was nothing at all to bring 5-10 k a week in because the French quarter, specifically the fruit loop (gay neighborhoods) are thriving with dope hungry people. I was trafficking from Houston to New Orleans sometime 2-3 times a week large quantities of meth. The person who's business i consumed ended up living with me... There were several moments where in our high states we'd have sex and play around but i never wanted it to be anything more than that, and he did. I wanted to handle everything on my own, and he didn't like that. So, around Thanksgiving he started crushing up Xanax and mixing it with blue koolaid (which was my favorite drink ever). In an effort to sedate me and make me unaware of him trying to take back over the business and be the head man in charge he nearly overdosed and killed me. My roommate, caught what he was doing.... She found me unresponsive and labored breathing in bed, woke him up telling him to help her get me to the hospital and he refused, indicating all i needed was some more medicine, and that id be okay.... Needless to say after the ensuing fight she found the bottle of Xanax and sleep aid he was crushing and putting in my drink, and i woke up in the emergency room surrounded by doctors and nurses slapping my hand telling me to hold on and stay with them. I remember when i finally came around enough to talk, that i couldn't tell anybody what happened. I honestly didn't know. I had no clue how i got there or where I'd been previous. I got labeled that day, I'm sure on my permanent medical record, as a drug abuser and an OD patient and was discharged with instructions on how to seek help.
When i got somebody to get me home, my dog Jaycee was there locked in his kennel in his own filth,, my roommate's dog was in the process of walking around pissing on everything in my room to mark his territory since Jaycee was locked up. And i just totally fell apart. I went and sat in the bathtub and cried and shook and screamed.
I called someone who's been my adopted maternal figure all these years and told him everything that was happening...everything that i'd been hiding since i been down there. He didn't judge or even pause, he said "baby get your stuff, get Jaycee, get in the car and come home, you know you always have a safe place here with Mama"
God damn got me crying tellin you all this
Anyway, i did...i got Jaycee and everything i could take in my car and for the last time in my life ran away from what i was and what I'd been doing. I was bed ridden for probably a month or two after i got to Honey's house while i forced detox on myself.
Wow, it takes a lot of will to do that on your own. Where did that come from within you?
My friend, he held my hand and guided me through it. That's why I took his last name, Deshae.
So what's your given name.
Mills is my given name, but I stopped going by that a long time ago.
What is your relationship with your family now?
It's better. We have come to the realization that I'll always be my own person. I'll never conform. I don't identify with any particular sexuality or label, the last person i slept with was a female...but they can't condone that. It has to be either the way of the faith or not at all. There's no middle ground.
and with faith?
I chose my path and they chose theirs. They are taught to believe, as was I programmed my entire life to believe, that there is no afterlife. Hell doesn't exist. from dust you are and to dust you'll return. The only people who will live forever in paradise, the only people who will see resurrection from the grave are those that dedicated their life to Jehovah. That religion and it's overreaching power into peoples mind, cost me my family. Any chance at a family that can accept me or welcome me and whomever into their home unconditionally
In closing, tell me what's good about the life of JC Deshae today.
I've found purpose. I fell in love with my 4 legged pal, who made me fall in love with responsibility and accountability. I rescued him and without even trying he rescued me. He gave me a purpose and gives me a reason to wake up every morning and come home every night. I'm healthy, in the best shape I've ever been in and working diligently with the help and guidance of a trainer to keep improving. I'm happy, I've reached a point of stability and mental well being that I've never known. I wake up with a yawn and a face lick, my little alarm clock wagging his tail to go for a walk...i go outside look up at the mountain take a deep breath and smile....i'm totally fulfilled and don't feel like anythings missing anymore...i have everything i could ever want or need, and I'm on track to make some really great advances in my personal and professional life. Legally.
As the fabulous Rupaul says, " As gay people, we get to choose our family."