On February 9, Dr. David Fawcett presented a reading and discussion on reclaiming sex and intimacy after methamphetamine based on his book “Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery” in Seattle. The event was a held in collaboration with Gay City and was moderated by local Seattle therapist Peter Jabin, M. Div, LMHCA. Following a 45 minute presentation based on critical information about recovery from the book, Dr. Fawcett led a lively discussion and answered questions from attendees about meth use in the gay community. Over 50 people were in attendance, filling the Calamus Auditorium to standing-room only. The number of participants is an indicator of the intensity of the meth epidemic among gay men nationwide, as well as the need for solutions. To order a copy of “Lust, Men, and Meth,” or to learn more about the book and Dr. Fawcett’s upcoming appearances, visit david-fawcett.com.
Dr. Fawcett will present a book reading and discussion followed by Q&A and refreshments on Tuesday evening, February 9, 2016 from 7:00pm to 8:30pm. The focus of the evening will be reclaiming healthy sex and intimacy after getting clean from meth. The event will take place at the Calamus Auditorium at Gay City, 517 East Pike Street, Seattle, Washington 98122. The event, moderated by Seattle psychotherapist Peter Jabin, will feature both excerpts from “Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery,” and plenty of opportunity for lively discussion. The reading is free and open to the public.
For more information see the Facebook page here
Kris Drumm and David Fawcett have announced their 2016 Personal Transformation Intensive (PTI). This experiential workshop provides an accepting and supportive environment for the challenge of profound personal growth. The PTI takes place over five weekends—one weekend per month for five months. Groups start Friday at 6pm and end Sunday around 6pm.
The Personal Transformation Intensive process is designed to break through barriers and accelerate personal growth exponentially. During each weekend participants move beyond traditional cognitive therapy to deeper levels of mind-body awareness. Modalities include meditation, hypnotherapy, psychodrama, and breathwork. Group size is limited to 10 people, providing a safe space for therapeutic work. The PTI facilitates the release of stored emotions and integrates healing into healthy change and new behaviors.
On December 13, 2015 Dr. Fawcett presented a reading and discussion called “After Meth: Rebuilding Your Life, Intimacy and Sex” to a packed house at the Bureau of General Services Queer Division at the LGBTQ Center in New York. Based on his book “Lust, Men, and Meth: A Gay Man’s Guide to Sex and Recovery,” Fawcett outlined key points about the physiological and psychological impact of methamphetamine as well as critical skills and tools to promote recovery and healing. After his presentation and reading, Dr. Fawcett had a lively question and answer session with the attendees followed by a reception.
Portions of the workshop are available on video:
This article was originally posted on TheBody.com on David's blog "Riding the Tiger: Life Lessons from an HIV-positive Therapist"
Public apprehension about recreational drugs, especially those that impact HIV, seems to come in waves that swell with increasing alarm and then peak and fade away, always to be replaced by the next "drug du jour." Heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, each with a well-deserved reputation for putting people at risk for HIV or, if HIV positive, for interfering with their ability to properly manage their health, have all gained notoriety in recent years.
While the popularity of various illegal substances rises and falls, alcohol consistently remains the granddaddy of recreational drugs. New forms of alcoholic drinks began appearing in the 1980s, first with wine coolers and then flavored alcoholic beverages (that's FAB, for short) and energy drinks. They have gained popularity, especially among youth. Now, just months after the FDA urged the removal of caffeine from alcoholic drinks such as 4Loko, beverage companies are once again shape-shifting their fruity-tasting concoctions and they're literally bigger than ever: they've been supersized. The new packaging, still largely targeting young (and often underage) drinkers, features a 23.5 ounce can with a 12% alcohol content. That's equivalent to four or five beers. They're cheap, accessible, and highly potent.
Why is this a concern? The numbers tell the story. 10.7 million underage youth drink alcohol, and about 70% of those youth binge drink, resulting in harmful physical consequences, poor judgment, lower inhibitions, and an abundance of high risk sexual behaviors. And the concerns extend beyond youth. Excessive consumption of alcohol is a significant health concern for everyone, but especially for those at higher risk for, or living with HIV.
Some speculate that if alcohol were introduced today it would never be legalized. It is, of course, here to stay. Because it is so easily available, socially acceptable, relatively cheap, and widespread, it's easy to forget its risks, which are really worth a second look. It's not fair, however, to demonize alcohol. There is little evidence that moderate drinking (described in most literature as one drink per day) impacts persons living with HIV. Excessive drinking, however, can be destructive for persons living with HIV for a number of reasons. Here are a few:
Excessive Alcohol Weakens the Immune System
The physical toll of too much alcohol is expressed in a number of ways. It taxes the liver, which is already working overtime metabolizing medications. This situation is made even worse, of course, when someone is also dealing with Hepatitis. Alcohol also interferes with the body's ability to create white blood cells and is disruptive to other factors necessary for health such as hydration, nutrition, motivation for exercise, and sleep.
Interactions with medications
As noted above, alcohol can affect the absorption of medications necessary to fight the virus. This can result in reduced efficacy, more unanticipated reactions, and alteration of the effects of some drugs. Alcohol also results in medication adherence problems due to altered states and inconsistent behavior.
Speaking of inconsistent behavior, alcohol impacts reflexes, inhibition, and judgment, which can clearly compromise the health and wellness of the drinker. This can lead to poor sexual choices and a loss of motivation for safer sex. Despite that fact that alcohol impairs physiological sexually functioning, people under the influence can still engage in enough risky sex to get them in trouble!
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant which directly affects mood. It can be misused to numb feelings of sadness, anger, and fear, and can quickly become a crutch on which people depend to avoid uncomfortable emotions. Persons living with HIV are at greater risk for addictions of all kinds, and it is incumbent on anyone who is HIV positive to be vigilant about their alcohol consumption.
"I'm recovering from drugs and alcohol isn't my problem!"
I have patients in recovery from amphetamines who question why they need to abstain from alcohol. Many proclaim their dislike of an alcohol high: slow and sluggish. They prefer the perceived clarity of amphetamines and see no reason why they can't indulge in a beer or glass of wine with their friends. After all, they say, alcohol isn't the problem, it's meth (or cocaine). Unfortunately many discover that a few beers in the bar with friends reduces their ability to resist the impulse to use their drug of choice (such as cocaine and meth) and their resilience and sometimes their recovery crumbles after a few drinks.
Despite the numerous risks, excessive alcohol consumption remains a common problem that requires routine monitoring. Most people won't volunteer this information unless specifically asked, and even then their responses may be less reliable until a level of trust is established. There are quick screening tools for alcohol such as the MAST (Michigan Alcohol Screening Test) that are effective and easy to administer. Of course it is dangerous for a heavy drinker to just stop using alcohol, but with proper medical supervision there is no reason for excessive drinking to jeopardize anyone's health.
Some years ago a friend of mine sold his successful veterinary practice in the midwest, bought a van, and headed to California to pursue his lifelong dream of writing music. People no doubt thought he had lost his mind, or at least regressed from being a responsible adult to a frivolous adolescent searching for himself. Years later, he has had some success with his music, but most of all, he has experienced the thrilling notion that he followed his heart.
Not all of us, of course, have the opportunity to drop out of our lives and begin anew, but we all certainly have the chance to discover what gives our life meaning and follow it to our best ability. The daily satisfaction is enormous, and so are the health benefits. A study at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that people who followed their life’s purpose were only about half as likely to die over the follow-up period as compared to people who expressed less sense of purpose. These findings have been replicated in other studies: following your dreams is a protective factor for your health.
For many of us, identifying our personal mission, goals, and objectives is not an easy task. There are many helpful resources, one of which is Martha Beck’s Finding Your Own North Star. She outlines several steps that are useful in identifying and following through on living your dreams.
The first step is articulating what is important to you. Many experts recommend sitting down without distraction and writing freely about questions such as what makes you smile; what activities cause you to lose track of time; what do people ask you for help with; or what would you regret not fully doing, being, or having in your life. It will take time and numerous lists before a convergence of themes appears, but it will. These are your core desires.
Once you have a notion of your own purpose, it’s important to compare it to how you live your life. Many of us have unconscious beliefs about ourselves that hold us back – these need to be identified and repaired. For example, a client of mine had a childhood learning disability that affected his performance in school He not only had trouble studying, he also believed (and was told) that he wasn’t as smart as others and would never be able to succeed in school. As an adult he wanted to become a nurse, which required college courses in biology and chemistry. He took a chance and enrolled, asked for help where he needed it to overcome his learning problems and develop good study habits, and became an “A” student. He realized his core belief about his intelligence and learning was wrong.
A second critical step is to compare what life offers you with your own mission and objectives. The opportunities we accept must align with our goals. Without the guidance of our life’s purpose in making choices about which to pursue and which to let go, we can become frustrated, disillusioned, or simply burn out.
With practice it becomes increasingly easy to know when we our activities resonate with our life’s purpose. Nurturing our intuition can be a corrective force when we temporarily get off track from the real source of satisfaction and health: cultivating and living our dreams.
David Fawcett, PhD, LCSW
This article first appeared in Out in the News, Volume 3, Issue
21 (April-May 2010), a publication of the Broward County Health
Department, S-Men Campaign for a Safer, Healthier Community.
For anyone who has ever seen the show Intervention on cable and who is familiar with crystal meth, this is hysterical.
The holidays, and especially Thanksgiving, are supposed to reflect the principle of gratitude, being thankful for the people, places, and things that have blessed our lives. But, ironically, in these uncertain times blessings may appear to be in short supply. Most of us are bearing extra tension that can be amplified by the approach of the holidays themselves. Many LGBT persons experience significant emotional stress during this time, and for good reason. Money problems may seem overwhelming and emotional stress may result when our friends, and sometimes even our partners, aren’t welcomed by our families of origin.
So how can we achieve an attitude of gratitude? Or should we, as one client of mine pointed out, "save it for the greeting card companies?" No, I don’t think so. Gratitude, the practice of being grateful, is increasingly being recognized not as a cliché or as something to be cynically ridiculed, but as a powerful tool that can actually change our outlook and our moods.
I know from personal experience that there is nothing harder than being grateful when things are difficult. Whether due to personal illness, a major loss, or even worry generated by watching too much cable news, the idea of having gratitude when you are experiencing pain or fear seems ludicrous, if not offensive. I have had many clients stare at me in disbelief when, during a painful period, I suggest they try and find even a few things for which they might be grateful.
Most simply ask, "why?" The reason is because it not only makes you feel better, it may even change the world (more on that in a minute). The shift in personal consciousness created by the act of identifying gratitude can move us from a state of need and resistance to one of acceptance and healing. I recognize this is sometimes easier said than done. In the past year I have experienced sadness and pain around the declining health of a parent. I certainly haven’t yet found a way to be grateful for that situation, but even on the worst days I can be grateful for a ground orchid in my yard, or my dog’s relentless playfulness, or the steady support of my partner. Taking a few minutes to consciously acknowledge those things somehow breaks a spell and brings me back into balance.
While many spiritual traditions have long recognized the wisdom of gratitude, its power is now being increasingly documented in scientific literature. For example, one study by Emmons and McCullough in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology used a double blind study to demonstrate that a conscious focus on blessings has empirical emotional and interpersonal benefits. Many other studies link gratitude with numerous positive effects ranging from well-being to goal attainment.
Even if being grateful can help us feel better, can our personal expression of gratitude have an impact on the world? Increasingly, many people think so. A number of metaphysical traditions (as well as quantum physics) acknowledge the power of our thoughts to change our very cells and even our reality. Today there is a heightened awareness about the potential of shifting human consciousness based on what we as individuals think about and what we do.
The internet is increasingly being used to facilitate such shifts. I recently learned of one free site (www.gogratitude.com) which is attempting to create a wave of gratitude that will sweep the globe. One can sign up to receive 42 brief, daily messages that help develop such awareness. To date, over one million people have signed up.
Thanksgiving and the other holidays can be inherently stressful, but we do have the power to choose where we lavish our attention. Personally, I feel a lot better if I can find at least something to be grateful for. And when I can’t, there is help – here comes my dog with a toy in his mouth.
For three hours the finger never stopped. It grabbed a lock of dark hair, expertly spun it around four or five times, rolled it between thumb and finger for a few seconds, released it, and then began the process all over again. I witnessed this strange behavior from my airplane seat, captive to the nervous antics of the passenger in front of me. Only the top of his tortured head was visible, along with that relentless finger.
The poor guy was in the throes of an anxiety disorder called Trichotillomania (use that in a sentence and impress your friends!), an irresistible urge to pull one’s hair. And he wasn’t the only one with symptoms of anxiety. We were all traveling on a recent day when yet another financial giant had collapsed, there was a general mood of uneasiness, and it seemed that we were all being pulled helplessly into very frightening territory. At the airport the mood was somber, people were unusually quiet, and many stood around watching the television monitors broadcasting endless bad news and dire warnings.
It seemed that Mel Brook’s joke about the very, very nervous really captured what we were all experiencing and it reminded me of some basic skills I teach patients to help them deal with anxiety. I thought it would be useful to list a few of them here.
1. What can I control?
A great deal of energy gets consumed compulsively worrying about things in the past, things in the future, and generally things over which we have no control. This is frustrating as well as emotionally and physically harmful. It is very useful to determine where you actually have some influence over any given situation. It may be that choices are truly limited, but there is usually something we can do to assert a sense of empowerment. Even the act of making lists to organize our plans can help us regain a sense of control.
2. Take action, then let go of the results
Once you determine where you can be effective take deliberate action. Don’t shoot from the hip, but also be wary of becoming paralyzed, a trap experienced by many people experiencing anxiety. Remember that doing nothing is in fact an action, and the results may not be in your best interest. Once you’ve done what you can do, monitor the results and re-evaluate where you go from there. Twelve step programs utilize the Serenity Prayer which captures this beautifully:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
3. Identify your safe place
Think of this as your “safe word” when life’s scenes gets a little too intense. Select a place you can imagine in your mind that is soothing, calming, and comforting. It can be the beach, or the woods, or a mountaintop – whatever works for you. Anchor this spot in your imagination with as many specifics as you can: What time of day is it? What is the season and the temperature? Is there a breeze? What colors do you see? Are there sounds? Can you smell grass, or leaves, or the sea? Once you have determined your safe place, practice going there until it becomes effortless. It works because your mind can only focus on one thing at a time and it’s easily distracted. Spending a few seconds there can have remarkable physiological and emotional effects, actually calming nerves, reducing blood pressure, even averting panic attacks. I use this when working with patients who have experienced trauma – it’s powerful.
Like it or not, anxious situations seem here to stay. The more tools we have to deal with them, the more we’ll be able to move through life with some sense of serenity, not to mention (at least for some) a full head of hair.
From the Blog
- The Gifts of GratitudeOctober 23, 2018 - 6:30 pm
The Gifts of Gratitude Gratitude, and the many means by which it can be practiced, is a powerful resource for anyone working to build emotional and physical resilience in their lives, whether in recovery from an addiction, struggling through a difficult period, or managing a physical illness. READ MORE HERE. (This is a repost from […]
- Fawcett Chairs SunServe Conference on HIV/AIDS and SeniorsApril 10, 2017 - 8:20 pm
Individuals over the age of 50 represent half of all people living with HIV and they face challenges from both aging and HIV. On Friday, March 31st Dr. Fawcett attended and presented at the 2017 HIV/AIDS Seniors Conference sponsored by SunServe and AIDS United. Serving as conference chair, he assembled a panel of nationally known […]
News & Events
- Learn more about David Fawcett's upcoming appearances:
- Learn more about Dr. Fawcett’s upcoming workshops and presentations.
- February 23, 2015 - David Fawcett and Kris Drumm begin an ongoing therapy group. Participation is limited - a 12 week commitment is required. Group meets Tuesday evenings 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm. For more information contact .