“I would have sex on meth for days”
Seven years ago, Arthur (49) abruptly quit crystal meth and focused all his efforts on music. He took singing lessons and joined several choirs. “I’m so much happier now that I sing. Music is my escape.”
Quiet classical singing by composer Bruckner swells in Arthur’s stylish three-room apartment. His living room window on the second floor offers incredible views of Amsterdam’s canals. “It looks very different now than it did seven years ago,” he says. “My apartment was a run-down hovel then. I frequently suffered from psychosis and paranoia. I thought the neighbours and Scientology were constantly monitoring me. In August 2016, I quit cold turkey and started buying new things for my apartment every month. I wanted to feel safe here again.”
Arthur used crystal meth for years. First occasionally, then almost weekly, then every weekend and finally daily. “I would have sex for days on meth, working in the events industry during the week and in the hospitality industry on the weekends. I also started going to work under the influence more and more often. No one said anything about it. They might have noticed, but they stayed nice. You can go on for hours under the influence of meth. The weekends started with my regular pub crawl—I visited darkrooms and used just about everything that came my way. In retrospect, I realised I had a sex addiction and that drugs offered me a lot of added value.”
“What did I want when I was a little boy who still had plenty of dreams?”
Arthur was offered his first meth pipe by a French tourist. He experienced the effect as amazing. They used together again the next day. A year and a half later, Arthur switched to injecting meth. “Things turned bad quickly when I started slamming. My rock bottom was when a very good friend said: ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ He was really angry, and things had to be pretty bad for him to be angry. Even other friends no longer saw me as ‘Arthur’ but as a junkie who could no longer decide for himself what was good for him. They started speaking on my behalf. That was close to intervention.” Arthur decided to quit. It was intense. Music proved his saviour.
“Listen to Musikalische Exequien by Schütz, the first unofficial German requiem. The third movement, in particular, is a gem. The piece was written in 1635!” When Arthur stopped using, he focused his efforts fully on the electric piano given to him by a friend more than a year earlier. “I smoked weed and practised scales for hours, often late into the night. I used headphones, of course, but I was hammering on the keyboard so hard that every now and then, the upstairs neighbour lady would come down to complain that I really had to stop.” A month later, Arthur saw an ad from a local vocal coach. “I immediately thought, ‘That’s what I’ll do; singing is what I have always wanted to do’.” His first singing lessons were very confronting. “After years of tense jaws and grinding teeth due to meth use, my tongue was an unwilling ping-pong ball between two stiff jaws. I practised hard to get my voice back, to shape and optimise it.”
Arthur learned to sing polyphonically and joined various choirs in search of his singing style and musical challenge. In the early 2020s, he joined a church choir. “During the pandemic, the church choirs were allowed to continue rehearsing. I met new people with the same hobby and became more and more enthusiastic. Classical singing is my thing now. I’m much less interested in George Michael or Sting covers, for example. When I stopped using, my challenge was: how can I turn my years of drug use into something positive? I had spent a lot of time on sex and drugs. I started looking at pictures of myself when I was eight or nine. What did I want when I was a little boy who still had plenty of dreams? You guessed it—I’m so much happier now that I’m singing. It is tremendously satisfying. Music is my escape.”