Mark S. King

My Muscles, My Disease: Portrait of a Gay Drug Addict

Filed By Mark S. King | February 02, 2011 4:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: addiction and recovery, HIV/AIDS, My Fabulous Disease, recovery

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.

Thumbnail image for Pool Colored.jpgDuring 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.

In 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.

Shipwrecked Eyes - Copy.JPGMy 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.

Explaining 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.

Thumbnail image for MarkTorso2008 - Copy - Copy.jpgIt'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.


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 for my ongoing video blog My Fabulous Disease. Why burden the guy with my insanity?


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Sharing one's story of addiction and recovery requires courage. Thanks for exhibiting that.

To be honest, I'm grateful to have avoided some of the worst aspects of addiction. I was never all that active when I was using which at least affords me the luxury of at least trying to stay fit now, despite advancing years and three decades of living with HIV.

It's amazing how quickly I have gained weight since I stopped using (drugs AND cigarettes, which has something to do with it as well). I think I needed to get this out so I can get off my ass.

TravelsTooMuch | February 3, 2011 1:38 PM

Your body is actually healing. It's a good idea to help it along and get some good walking exercise.... no use in a pity party when your longevity is dependent loving yourself, and forgiving yourself for being bad. A healthy, even gym-bunny bod is a good thing. Avoid those prozac-like carbs that are an attempt to soothe your troubles. Replace them with your own oxytocin by getting back up on the treadmill, and pounding your addiction with your feet and brawn. It gets better, in fits and spurts. Forgive yourself; you're human and you need to move on.

Thanks for sharing this story, but this seems more like an indictment of a culture that's built on so much looksism that it excludes men who have any slight imperfection....

It's like those muscle boys who hang out at the bathhouse and walk and walk and walk around because they even find each other not up to their standards. It's really silly - there are plenty of attractive boys who hate the way they look just because we keep on searching for something that doesn't exist.

At least you are alive to tell your story, you should have submitted it to Lifetime. Lifetime is a good tear-jerker station for Women..and Gays.