This week we discuss people I haven’t seen for a few years. Phil the sparkie (not his real name) who breathed his last aged 36.

Phil was short and stocky. He was straight, married, and the person everyone would look at in a room — wondering why every eye focussed on him. It was his energy, life, humour.

Phil was made of money — he had 14 tradies working for him at one stage. He lived life to the full with holidays, great clothes, the best work ute. He loved his ’roids, acid, Es, cocaine, party drugs and some prescription ones as well. We, his friends, knew what was happening, but kept babying him — picking up the pieces and never confronting him with the reality that we loved him as he was.

Now he’s dead. We lied to ourselves that it was OK. It’s not.

I met Mark (not his real name) when he was 19. He had just been diagnosed with HIV. I haven’t seen him for 11 years. He has been in various ERs and pronounced DOA three times due to drugs gone wrong. At his 30th he was so whacked he didn’t realise what day it was — for three days.

John is an ice maiden who survived. Charles is 40 and unrecognisable in thought, act or physically since he began the downward spiral. Stuart prescribes his own medication to such excess that at 43 he looks and acts 73.
Why is our ghetto dying? For 30 years we have said it is OK to take anything that gives us that little extra on the dancefloor. Now the dancefloor is empty.

Hard on the heels of the ’80s AIDS epidemic, the sinister drugs epidemic has taken hold. The venues are empty in some cases because the people are dead. Stone cold dead. Many never made it to 40.

It is time to stand up and be counted. It is no strange phenomenon that sees our sporting clubs grow while many forms of social interaction decline.

It is on the sports fields that our bodies are allowed to move. Where we meet and make genuine friends, because what you see is what you get. There are no ‘Oh she’s just had a few too many wines,’ to justify one’s behaviour. If we lose our temper we are responsible for it, if we break the rules we are penalised.

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