©Photo: Sasha , ©Design: Boshra Jallali

« In the turmoil of Artifice »

Sasha (he), 29 years old

by Haithem Haouel

English translation by Yasmine BenSalah


Sasha* is a bit over 29 years old, and little over a quarter of a lifetime that has been fruitful, festive, hectic, wild, intense … and marked by unexpected events. At the dawn of his 30s, he unveils without any filters his personal Queer existence, one that’s fluctuating between mental vulnerability and artificial paradises.

It is by trusting that experiences are shared, and by reading these lines that  others can find their own way, and question or protect themselves. Testifying  will perhaps resonate with many Queer people (or not): Narrating the  intimate can be an attempt at reconciliation with oneself, a narrative of  resilience, and it is also about being at peace with oneself. “Not being in  tune with oneself gives way to fragile mental health… and being born  Queer, in a Tunisia that completely disregards Queer lives, the right to  be different, and marginalized communities, only accumulates insecurities, mental fatigue, fear, and uneasiness, over the years. It is  not directly my Queer nature which has accentuated my disorders, it is  rather definitely this hostile and even dangerous context which  gradually ends up crushing us.” So does he comment on the context in  which he lives and survives.


The emergence of this classic Queer life, full of chance encounters, online or in person, was ordinary. For Sasha*, it was by leaving high school, his  family home, his initial comfort zone, and his hometown that self-fulfillment naturally began. “Little by little, we create our own world, a bubble.  Around 17 or 18, a sort of “parallel existence” begins to take place.” He  quotes. Love and friendships, social life and partying already has shaped this  short existence, which subsequently merged with university life and the beginning of his twenties. First times come one after the other: Crushes,  flirting, relationships (casual or solid). “To cut a long story short, compared  to other people, I haven’t had any problems living up to my potential. I  succeeded without coming “Out” publicly or in front of my family. It  worked out…”. He said. 

To be Queer is also to build oneself while preserving oneself, it is to shape  oneself over the years by creating one’s microcosm, one’s own links, a  society within the society: it can be fulfilling, intense, and tricky. It also  means creating a sense of community for oneself. For S*, the beginnings of  an ordinary Queer existence took shape early on and hid certain mental  fragilities… already well established since adolescence, an ingrateful period  par excellence. 

A propitious environment

“I suffer from social anxiety and mood disorders, linked to constant fear  (conscious or unconscious). I would go through phases of weariness,  stress, and depression continuously. Basically, the discomfort was  permanently there. The context reinforces these disorders.” This is how  he self-diagnoses. Sasha* gives words to his woes: Sorrows that are diluted  in deep and recurring moments of solitude. A hollow dizziness to fill by  creating occasional escape routes. 

Frequent partying, going out, and going to electronic music festivals are  part of the pleasurable things to do again and again, every week, often over  the course of days… The entourage encouraged Sasha* to live like all young  people (Queer or not). 

Curiosity, discoveries, a thirst for meetings and parties merged… A festive  lifestyle gradually took over. It is a way, no doubt unconscious, of avoiding  loneliness and depression… right up to the first occasional, then frequent,  Ecstasy (MDMA) intake and the pleasurable ephemeral sensations that they provide. He comments: “For someone who is depressed, if they take these substances, they feel relieved, balanced, and liberated. This  provides a pleasant feeling of floating for a period of time. And from one  substance to another, the sensations change, stimulate differently…  until the discovery of Cocaine.”

This white addictive substance is considered more subtle to consume… but  more expensive. Consumers can get it… If they have the financial means. The consumer generally has a good socio-economic status: If they  work, they should be able to afford it. The same goes for Ecstasy pills or  other synthetic drugs: when the consumer works daily, every day, every  week, it’s not easy to take them often and continuously. The body won’t  support it. In fact, you need to regain your strength after each  consumption. This is called “the comedown”. Says S. A comedown that  is often difficult to bear. The consumption of “white powder” is different from  other drugs in that it is more addictive. 

At the same time, one would spend less money on alcohol; since alcohol  and drugs do not go well together. S. points out: “As the years go by, I’ve  seen more and more people using various drugs…and others who were  worse off than me. It’s very difficult to stay in control.” The addiction  eventually takes over and a feeling of constant craving settles in. 

A downward spiral

Today’s lucidity allows S. to comment with great hindsight on this addictive  state : “We never control a drug, it’s the substance that controls us. It’s  a lie to think otherwise.” When an “Addict” is drawn in, they see consumers  everywhere… because it is also a feeling of belonging to a consumer  community that is created, that endures and reassures. Here’s an observation that’s based on confirmed real facts : “Even on dating apps,  people have pseudonyms referencing various drugs… It’s like being  surrounded and overwhelmed: Over time, that’s all you can see, and you  can only think in terms of these consumable chemical narcotics.  Personally, I don’t know any Queer people who haven’t touched drugs or  at least had the opportunity to do so.” 

“Queer life” and festivities go hand in hand with the nightlife and its  excesses, an environment that encourages consumption, in general. A  consumption which remains more prevalent among Queer people, than in  “Straight” circles, according to Sasha. Between a wavering mental state,  periodic intake of anxiolytics, antidepressants, and constant use of  substances… Excesses reached their peak. 

Up to disinhibition

Like elsewhere in the world, and more specifically within the Queer /Gay  community, “Chemsex” or the use of drugs during sex is also emerging…  And there’s no escaping it… Sasha associates “Chemsex” with total  disinhibition or reaching a climax. 

Two regrettable experiences of “Chemsex” left their mark on him. One would  ask; what’s the point of this practice? It’s all about increased libido,  pleasure, and endurance. Always more sensational, more intense.  “Usually, I would take drugs at parties or at festivals. However, I did this twice.” He remembers bitterly. This practice is becoming increasingly widespread. Mainly rooted in the gay community, it intrigues as much as it  worries. Under influence, this practice is generally carried out without  protection, exposing people to a high risk of STIs or HIV. “And I know some  who contracted HIV as a result of unprotected sexual practices, due to”Chemsex “… You can only feel so bad afterwards that you burst in tears.” He goes on to explain: “Maybe not having enough love in life or not  loving oneself enough leads to disinhibition. Within the queer  community, we have vicious rules linked to bodies, in my opinion, which  accentuates this curiosity to indulge in more advanced physical  experiences.” 

Excessive consumption caused serious discomfort for Sasha*, an alarming  step for him. This was due to the side effects of Cocaine . “That day, I hadn’t  eaten, I took it on an empty stomach: it was a sudden drop in blood  sugar… after being awake for more than 35 hours. I stopped consuming it for 3 weeks because of this discomfort… Then back to the old habit! » 

To limit the damage…and stop?

Wanting to stop came as a wake-up call. Trials followed one another.  Practicing sports? In vain. Trusting one’s psychiatrist / Addictologist? It is a  priori the most redeeming option: Mood stabilizers were prescribed, and the  sessions went on… until his own psychologist suggested that he consult  another specialist. “I experienced it as abandonment… It was very hard  for me to take. I haven’t seen any of them since.” he comments. Consumption resumes but in a more organized manner with Sasha’s  pressing desire to stop… Two other main reasons which urgently push him  to slow down? His money was running out, and his work performance was 

taking a hit. S. nevertheless earns a good living, and if he had earned more, it  could have been fatal for him. 

Stopping turned out to be more complicated than he thought. He says:  “Nowadays, I haven’t stopped taking drugs altogether, but I’ve moved to  a new city, a new environment and a new group of friends. Goodbye  Tunis! Back to my hometown, back to my roots. Separating from my  close friends is painful, but it has to be done. It’s a whole lifestyle,  ordinary leisure activities and relationships that can accelerate  consumption, which is why I feel the urgent need to leave everything  behind in the hope of stopping. In Tunisia, we don’t have access to the  necessary care to treat addiction, let alone detox centers or competent  specialists. Which is disastrous.” 

With a heavy heart, S. says he is doing his best to get by in Tunisia…  depending on the options available. His behaviour remains addictive and  isolating himself can potentially be of great help to him. He has now stopped  taking medication and suffers from sleep disorders. S. is keeping things  under control and seeking for interesting work opportunities in other  countries. 

Queer people should have the right and the possibility to leave the country  easily if they want to, especially after such a heavy experience or bitter  despair. Having this primary right to feel good about oneself, to be in tune  with oneself, because by evolving in a healthy environment, drugs would not  have presented themselves. He says: “I must also manage to face this  fear: the one that if I completely stopped consuming drugs, it would  plunge me into a deeper state of depression, to the point where it would  no longer be possible to get out of it or to have the strength to deal with  other life concerns. For now, it’s constant escapism! »  

Addiction or excessive consumption remains unspoken, a taboo in our  society. A neglected scourge that eats away at many consumers who are  alone to fend for themselves. 

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