My name is Al-Haq and I am a 29-year-old gay guy from a Middle Eastern and religiously Muslim background. I grew in a loving, caring, welcoming religious household. Family is incredibly important to me and I cherish the ongoing support afforded by my mother and my sister, both of whom I am very close with. My Muslim faith was a major part of my upbringing and remains a central part of my identity. I’ve undertaken studies in traditional Islamic seminaries, studied Qur’anic laws, theology and Arabic languages.
Adversity & Wisdom
There have been a few challenges in my life. I’ve faced cultural, familial expectations and internal beliefs that I should be heterosexual and married. Being a Middle Eastern gay guy, I’ve been alienated and isolated within my religious community, faced racial discrimination within Australian society and I’ve been isolated in the gay community as well. I’ve been homeless, admitted to psychiatric hospitals and subjected to the trauma of gay conversion therapies.
Sure, there has been a lot of pain but in all my experiences I find beauty. I wouldn’t change a thing about my story even if I had the power to do so. You can’t buy experience; you can’t buy wisdom.
For many of the last ten years I used drugs in a way that was self-destructive. At points, I completely lost myself. Six months ago, I was using GHB and injecting crystal every day. I was psychologically and physically dependent, hooking up left right and centre and occasionally experiencing psychosis. I’ve overdosed on G in public parks and on the side of the road, I’ve been in ambulances and spent days at a time in hospital.
Realising I Needed to Make a Change
Eventually I got to a point where I just looked at myself and I thought, how the hell did you get here? I just thought, far out this is so unfair.
For years I was not open about my sexuality. No one knew about me; it was all a secret. I realised that I needed to come out to my parents, I needed to set myself free, I was choking. The decision to come out to my family about my sexuality was a turning point for me. This realisation coincided with a recognition that I needed to address my substance use and pursue my career goals.
I’ve come to live my life in accordance with the belief that I must change what I can’t accept and accept what I can’t change.
Achieving My Goals
The last six months have been a steep learning curve. It hasn’t been easy, physically or emotionally but I’ve learnt that the mind is very strong. Before this attempt to stop, I had made earlier attempts, the lessons I learnt from each of those attempts have been helpful to me this time around.
Starting out, I set small achievable goals for myself. First, I needed to start eating and sleeping. I challenged myself to go to work and make it through a full day without using. I removed all temptations: this involved me avoiding situations, people or environments where I knew that I would be triggered to use. My drug use was always associated with sex, so I’ve abstained from having sex for now.
I have had to do everything very thoughtfully, making conscious decisions about the people that I need space from and people that I need close to me. Eventually I found myself making it through a whole day at work and in a regular eating and sleeping routine, not smoking or using crystal or G. This was a huge for me!
Once I had a routine down, then I started to treat myself to the things that were so normal in other people’s lives, things like going out for dinner and socialising. These things were completely foreign to me. Previously anything social had to do with drugs and sex. Going out to dinner was weird, it was exciting, like going on an excursion in primary school!
When you’re trying to make a positive change in your life, rewarding yourself and recognising your success is so important. The money I used to spend on drugs I now spend on other things, like nice fragrances, clothes and gifts for people.
A month ago, I arrived at a point where I had saved enough money to start renting my own place near my work. I now live in my own place with my own furniture and possessions. The feeling of pride and independence I got from this achievement was incredible. I am so proud of myself.
I still have a lot of things that I want to accomplish, and I am learning as I go. The more I taste and feel success the more I want success for myself. I am motivated to help others who are facing similar challenges. If sharing my story can help just one other person, then that alone is amazingly valuable to me.
If you use drugs in combination with sex and you’d like to make a change to how you are using or learn strategies to manage your use, please reach out to our substance support service or check out our PnP Peer Chat service. PnP Peer Chat is a service led by people who Party and Play, for people who Party and Play, who want to assess or manage their use, or learn how to make use safer.
Photo by Alex Rodríguez Santibáñez