My Ex’s Death Another Casualty of Gay Men Abusing Steroids
The phone rang and a voice announced himself as "a voice from my past with news of my ex-boyfriend, "Jim."" Immediately my mind went to other occurrences in my life when I had heard similar messages about others who were once very close to me. As expected, it was sadly similar: news of the tragic death of another man whom I knew and loved. Despite the time and anger that separated us in time, the details were both painful and shocking to hear.
Jim apparently died of a massive heart attack while working out at his gym in Florida. Sadly, I was not entirely surprised: I was well aware of his ongoing abuse of anabolic steroids, as well as HIV status. But, upon hearing this upsetting report at that moment, I was actually grateful that at least he did not die alone but had others around to comfort him. That was until I heard that he was found lying dead on the floor in the exercise room with no one around.
Thoughts of his dying alone with no one comforting him is something I wouldn’t even wish on my worst enemy; and most certainly, not on someone whom I once loved. Now that Jim is gone and his friends, co-workers and family are preparing for a memorial to honor his memory, it’s all the more important to remember the deaths of so many due to excessive steroid usage.
It’s well known that many gay men use steroids to promote muscle size and hardness. This is probably even more true for gay men who are HIV-positive, since many of them are legally prescribed steroids to counter wasting. It’s also true that having a pumped-up, buff body is a way of presenting an image to the world of health and especially fitness.
Steroids, however, are a dangerous game. With their use comes a host of medical side effects, including high blood pressure, aggression and cardiovascular problems. Jim experienced all of those symptoms at various points in his life. One of his closest friends is still raging at Jim’s passing specifically as a result of his steroid usage. He angrily recalls how Bennett would often ask his friends to give him injections when he was unable to do so, despite our protestations.
Jim’s was not the first death in my life from steroid abuse. Many years ago, a well known professional bodybuilder in the gay community was found dead in his apartment. His death was apparently attributable to his excessive steroid use.
Many of his friends and admirers, including myself, were shocked by the report of the death of this very popular and admired bodybuilder. The only positive note to this man’s untimely death was that several gay men stopped using steroids after hearing of Sam’s sad demise.
So in tribute to someone I used to love and in honor of all those who have died way before their time due to their addiction to steroids, I ask that all those using steroids for building muscle mass in order to look more sexy and attractive take a moment to think about their actions. After all, would you rather be hot or dead? Is that message strong enough for you?
Dr. Vince Pellegrino has PhDs in educational theater and drama therapy from New York University and is a board-certified psychotherapist in New York City and Connecticut. He teaches communications at Hofstra University. He is currently working on a book, "Gay Communication Game," about "Gayspeak"; an interactive TV program featuring real-time therapy sessions in development. Go to Dr. Vince TV for more information.