Filmmaker Terrence Crawford’s stunning documentary debut is an impressive eye-opening investigation of a resurgence of crystal meth addiction in New York’s gay community. His non-judgemental revelations depict a scene that appears to be alarming to us in the outside, but from his series of highly personal interviews with current and past addicts, the overwhelming message of mixed emotions does thankfully leave one with a feeling of both change and hope.
Crawford equates the start of the growing use of meth by gay men, most of whom are already HIV positive, with a real need to be able to lose any inhibitions when having sex. Any feelings of self-loathing about their sexuality or low self esteem are swept aside when they can have the most extreme and possibly deviant sex when on a meth driven high. Interesting enough one addict admitted that he had never had ‘sober’ sex in his entire life, and was even unsure if he could.
Taking crystal meth, or Tina, as it is colloquially called, is a very expensive habit which several of the younger users financed by becoming sex-workers. Evidently after taking a hit they were more sexally liberated so it was relatively easier to satisfy the needs of older gay guys to get them to pay enough for their habits and living expenses.
Nearly all of Crawford’s talking heads professed to having sober periods at one time or another, and even the ones that were the most successful had relapsed several times along the way. Evidently stopping using is not the hardest thing but accepting and dealing with what replaces it is what causes far more problems.
Most of the men seem accepting of a need to change and stop and are totally aware of the irreparable damage long term use can do both physically and mentally, There are however a very few, like Kristian who has come to terms with the fact he will never stop his addiction completely and resigned to however that affects his life’s outcome. Meth he says, gives him a feeling of not ever having to give a fu-k.
As one of the young addicts says part of the problem is that navigating NY on your own with no immediate circle is really tough. However there are many uplifting and positive stories in the mix. Andrew swapped out being a rent boy to getting a job walking dogs regular sessions with a mentor and by the end of the film he is celebrating his ‘watch’ ……the term for being sober for one whole year. Jacob, a long-time user is already 2 years sober and finds his hope and salvation by throwing himself into his art backed up therapy sessions with a professional counselor who is also an ex addict. Possibly happiest of all is Matthew who now sober has found his way back to a career in music which he claims gives him a bigger high than his addiction to tina, and we see him now marrying Loic his very cute boyfriend just before the final credits role.
An expert rounds up the whole conversation by saying that finally there is evidence that the crystal city is beginning to see the noticeable start in the decline in users, which after avidly watching the film, we know cannot come fast enough.
Kudos to Crawford for his well documented and even-handedness in making this excellent thought-provoking film that we hope will find the audience it so richly deserves.