Beneath Josh Williams’s warm smile and attractive face, hidden by his sculpted physique and bubbly personality, was a tortured and vulnerable soul that would soon be overwhelmed by a struggle an increasing number of gay men are battling. After three years of unrestrained crystal methamphetamine use, Williams spent New Year’s weekend “partying” at a home in Duluth, Georgia, where his lifeless body was discovered January 2, 2007 after an apparent overdose. The Atlanta resident was 32. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware of just how deadly this drug is,” said Josh’s older brother, Heath Williams. “They start recreationally, like Josh did, and don’t realise that this drug is much more insidious than, say, cocaine, or any number of other drugs.”
Heath Williams, along with other family members and partners of local gay men who've recently died after using crystal meth, spoke at a February 15 forum at Outwrite Bookstore & Coffeehouse hosted by the Atlanta Meth Task Force. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for people to share their thoughts and feelings about the impact meth is having on our local community,” said Brian Dew, a gay professor at Georgia State University who leads the Atlanta Meth Task Force. The grassroots task force continues to try to deglamorise crystal meth among gay and bisexual men in Atlanta, highlighting its potential dangers. “It’s not that everybody who is using the drug is going to become addicted, but we know for some individuals, the speed, or the rate with which they become addicted to crystal meth, can be quite quick,” Dew said.
Before first injecting crystal meth on February 21, 2004, Josh Williams was striding through life — making between $80,000 and $120,000 a year working in a Buckhead hair salon and living in a Peachtree Street condo, according to his brother. Williams chronicled his first time injecting meth, and his later history with the drug, in an email he wrote to a friend after one of his two attempts at rehab: “Scared at first, my breath was taken away and I began to cough. The coughing lasted about 3-6 seconds, then came a rush and a feeling that I came to love and desire on a very frequent basis. This day would be a day that I so regret now.”
Williams’s hair business provided a salary comfortable enough for him to begin using “outrageous” levels of crystal meth — going from using it every weekend, to daily, to in the back of a taxi cab during rush hour traffic. After a bitter split with his roommate, Williams, who lost his job, condo and car, began sleeping on the floor of a drug dealer’s house. “His house was like a revolving door for users and soon-to-be addicts,” Williams wrote. “I began to team up with him and host these hot sex parties with slamming [injecting crystal meth] being at the forefront, and the focal point of every party.”
Williams traded the drug dealer’s floor for sleeping in day-rate motels, the streets of Atlanta, and occasionally renting a U-Haul truck, placing his belongings in the back and sleeping in the truck’s cabin, according to his e-mail. After two interventions — including one where Heath confronted Josh as Josh was leaving his apartment to shoot-up and a fight ensued — Williams appeared to have regained some control of his life when he wrote the email to his friend. “Then he came back to Atlanta in June, and that was his biggest mistake — coming back to Atlanta and getting involved with the same people he was with before,” Heath Williams said.
During his last period of sobriety, Josh Williams wrote about speaking to 250 high school students about the dangers of crystal meth, while confessing to his friend that “it is very hard living a sober life…I struggle everyday. I don’t want anyone’s pity, but do want someone to learn from my story what crystal meth can do to your life.”
By Ryan Lee (c) Southern Voice
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