GMFA Clear head, clear fetish By Ralf 'Roco' Rasmussen | @RealClearFetish! Hello, my name is Ralf and I am an addict. This is something I have had to get used to saying. Back in October 2016, I had just turned 32. At the time I had stopped drinking but I was still using drugs, even after trying very hard to keep it under control. That birthday I headed out on a bender that took a dark turn. So how did this all this start? I have been on the fetish scene (leather, rubber etc) for over ten years. I am two-time title winner: Mr Leather Denmark 2008 and Mr Leather Europe 2008, which I did in my early 20s and I am still very proud of that. I then moved to London back in 2009 and like many other gay men here I sometimes enjoyed a little extra fun at the party in the form of drugs, but it was just that, a little bit of extra fun. I was very young and naive about it all, but I told myself this would not become a problem. But then came the cruising apps and a whole world of sleazy ‘fun’ opened up. After a few years, the drugs changed, and my weekends started to turn into more than just wild Saturdays in fetish clubs. They could easily turn into days straight at private ‘chill outs’ with no sleep, sometimes even longer. Slowly my fetish became the drugs and the leather and rubber was just something I had on when I did it, which I began to hate. I started to hate what I had become and the fact I was ‘the boy who cried wolf’, telling friends ‘I will not do it again’. I would go out with all the best intentions in the world, just a few drinks. But it would always turn into a mess with black outs, with no idea how many guys I’d had or where I had been. In 2016, I joined the London Gay Men’s Chorus after a very good friend had suggested it as he could see I was struggling and thought having a different kind of interaction with other gay men would be healthy for me. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had not got the love and support from the people in the LGMC when I needed it, I would not be here today. It was not enough to stop me but it was a start. But back to October 2016. It got very dark when I had my first full blown drug psychosis, but you have to know even with it not being real, it still felt 100% real to me, even two years later. I would not wish it on anyone, I was convinced my phone had been hacked and people were trying to kill and/or overdose me through Grindr. So, there I was, crazy on the phone to my mother at 2am telling her all this. The police were called out and an ambulance, but this was the turning point for me to try to make a change. It opened my eyes and I reached out to a friend from the chorus who had similar issues to me. I owe him my life and I will always be grateful to him for his patience with me. I would love to say that it all stopped there and then. But it would take me a year more of relapsing, with two more visits to the emergency room before I began to feel like the more whole person I am today, with support from amazing services like Antidote and London Friend, my friends who stuck with me, my wonderful family and a few other support networks with some truly amazing people who are like me. I am proud to say that I am a year clean as of September and have not had a drink since July 2017. It is still a work in progress but I feel strong and ready for what life will bring next and ready to see what being 34 years old looks like sober. Fetish is still very near to my heart, but I had to step away from it in my early recovery. That had been a very hard choice but a necessary one. But since January this year I have been working hard on a Facebook group, which is my way back into fetish, without drugs and alcohol. That’s why I created a group called ‘RealClearFetish!’. It’s a group for gay fetish men who may be in recovery and want a safe space to chat with other gay men, without the risk of alcohol and party drugs, or maybe just don’t want not to drink or use anything mind altering while meeting other guys. Whatever the reason may be, it’s not really that important. The point of the group is it’s a non-judgemental space and the main focus is fetish in all its forms, where we also just happen to be sober. So why this group? For me and lots of other gay men, fetish has become problematic, with the amount of drugs and alcohol there is on the scene. There is also a lot of stigma around people with alcohol and drug addiction. People ask, “why don’t you just stop?” If only it was that easy. I share my story to show sometimes things do spin out of control, but you can find your feet again with the right help and understanding. I want to break down some of the stigma around it all. Some may think we are weak people but the truth of the matter is, it can happen to anyone and you will not see it coming. I have now hosted my first sober fetish social back in July and have one more coming up this October as part of London Leather Weekend, using the hashtag #GoingInDry! For me, I am still on my journey, but I am now engaged with my kink side again in a healthy way and getting back to my fetish community which I still care for, even if it has been from the sidelines.