The past is but a memory and all those memories I want to remember today must be written down. Trying to recall certain memories take more strength and brain power. There are periods of time that have faded from my memory, looking at pictures from my past is difficult because in many of them I am young, before I began to suffer from drugs and alcohol and those snap shots of life tell me about a time before the suffering began.
But the time that stands out in my head most importantly was all the years I spent learning to live and learning about life under the sharp eyes of my Master Todd. Those years at the Stud were very instructive and some of them were downright painful. But I had to learn these lessons or else I would fail at life.
This is where you suspend your morals and think outside the box because the rest of this story falls under the “leather Speak” portion of my story telling. You can stop here or keep reading. but be warned … i move from one space to another quite easily….
For every action and chore ended with a lesson about why I had to do that specific action or chore. It all had to do with some aspect of my life and how I would cope with that specific issue had it arisen later on in my life. If that lesson had to do directly with myself or how I would get along with others and also how possibly others could and probably would treat me. You never knew if you had good people or bad people in your life until it was too late. Sometimes you had to take what you got, and then other times you could pick and choose who would be in your life.
Where we worked – we were hand picked. The entire staff was built from the ground up and we all became family over the fourteen day “build” when we were building the bar from the ground up. We all worked day and night, sometimes without sleep. I paid my dues and proved myself worthy to be part of the team by picking up glasses and bottles and cleaning up after people, through blood sweat and tears I earned my place.
But it was all joy in the beginning. I would hold off on my own tragedy for a while those first few months working at the Stud. I faced my own demons and issues with others in my life. And I was a crash and burn alcoholic by the time that ended. I was drinking myself sick night after night because of what was going on in my life, I tried to drink away the pain.
I had to face my diagnosis with courage. I had my Master who listened to me speak, who cradled my head on his chest as I cried. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for him. But I was still a drunk, I had to complete my journey to death with the drink. And that is what happened.
Then one day I was told a piece of information that I had to take to heart and use every day from that point on. You have a life outside the bar, and you have a life inside this building. What you carry to the door stays at the door when you cross the threshold. Do not bring it in here with you. Leave it outside.
You come to work and you do what you are told without question. Do you understand?
Every night there was something new to be learned. Every week I battled with my demons getting sober and dealing with the cascade of emotions coming from inside of myself. I just did not know what to do with them.
With every shift I worked hand over fist. It was some of the hardest times of my life. I would work happy hour from 5 to 8 p.m. by myself. At eight I would go into the kitchen to change up for the night shift. I was expected to prepare all the wells with beer, ice, liquor, fruit and cups. Then at 8 the bells would ring and the music would begin in the dance hall and the bar would open.
I worked like a dog. Throwing trash, filling buckets of ice, cases of beer and truck a shitload of trash out to the bin every night. And every time I completed a task I went looking for approval. I keep hitting lower case (i’s) i’m in bottom space.
You got to know what that means to understand the speak.
i would seek the approval from my Master to make sure i did something right. And it went on like that for a long time. Todd had them blue eyes like Jesus, that could bore into you from across the room. All i had to do was look at him and i would know what he was saying without a single word. But that was not the end of that. If he got angry his eyes would turn a stormy grey. You knew whether or not to speak to him by the shade of his eyes.
All it took was one look.
At some point, Todd caught on to what i was seeking. and he decided to teach me one of the hardest lessons i ever had to endure, which comes up as the one day that i would return to if i had the chance. i would come on shift and enter the office, kneel and i would get my marching orders for the night. i knew everything that had to be done for a particular shift. i was under Todd’s protection and guidance.
So the work began and the shift would come and go, and Todd and i had a special relationship of love and commitment. i needed him and he knew that i needed him in ways that no mere man would ever need another human being. And i worked for every word of praise and support that i could get. i thrived on that instant gratification. but that would end very quickly.
At one point, Todd took a tack, and did not tell me what was coming next. So i would get to work and work through my shift and the night would come and go, we had the best bar service team that ever was between Kevin, Tom and myself.
At the end of the night i would gather with the rest of the folks in the bar and the first night came as a shock, Todd would not look at me nor would he say a word to me. And that broke my heart. i would go home and sob. If you knew where i was in my head at that time of life, being ignored was detrimental.
The second night i would get to shift and Roy would give me my orders for the night, it was strange that Todd would not give me a word and that went on for days and nights. i knew he was watching me from the sidelines and i was not going to fail at my tasks, i would rather die than be told i did something wrong.
The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth and eleventh nights would come in succession and i would work through my tears and the pain that i was living through. This period of time came to pass not long after i was diagnosed.
i was working through all the things that had to be done. And nobody knew what was going on with Todd and myself except Roy. i don’t know if you know what it feels like to work day and night and know that the man you love is ignoring you and you don’t know why, but to complain was not my place. i had to take it like a man and do what i was told to do, no matter what came up. unless i was going to die or something i was never to complain, and i did a lot of complaining until i was back slapped into submission.
Finally the twelfth night came up. I don’t remember what day it was or what date it was, all i know is that i was wearing thin on being ignored by the man who meant everything to me. i would catch him watching me from across the room on several occasions but as soon as he noticed i was watching him watch me he would change tacks.
The shift came to an end and i was besides myself. i had gone twelve nights in a row working like a dog doing everything that i was told to do by any of the bar staff at any hour of the night. To disrespect someone in the bar was to disrespect my Master. That community saved my life and every drop of sweat and tears that i shed were worth every minute of it.
Todd called me into the office and i knelt before him, my head was hanging and i was sobbing. Whenever i would go into the office for shift start my role was boy and i knew my place so on my knees was where i would start.
He knew that i was in pain. He watched me struggle for those twelve nights. It was the harshest lesson he ever taught me. He got up and came round the desk and grabbed my chin with his big hand and raised my eyes to his, i was still sobbing…
“Well Done Little One …”
Those four words were gold.
i broke down and cried like a baby. He hugged me and held me while i cried. i don’t remember how long that lasted but the next thing he said was this …
“do you know why you were taught this lesson? no Sir. Sometimes we seek approval for things that we do and sometime later on in your life you might go to work for someone else who may treat you like shit.”
They may not appreciate the work you do and they may ignore you or treat you less than.
After that teaching, i never sought another word of praise from Todd ever again. i did my work and was proud to have work and a place to call home. The bar remained open for another sweep of seasons and we were all still alive. But people were dying left and right. i worked every night with pride in my heart and love on my lips. You’d have to know something about Leather Pride to understand this aspect of my life and why it was so important to my life.
Just reading this brings tears to my eyes …
Mourning, Death and Dying
One of the areas that set us apart from the healthy man or woman on the street is that when we are diagnosed, we are faced with the fact that this disease just might kill us, Which brings me to the following point, death and dying.
After I had been diagnosed in 1994, the doctors told me that I had 18 months, tops to live, so I better take care of what I needed to and enjoy the time I had left, then I was dismissed to do that. What did I know about death and dying? Not a thing.
I look back now and I can see why this point is so important to stress. When you are diagnosed with a terminal disease, well now, HIV and AIDS has moved from the position of a death sentence to a possible long term management project for living. That does not mean that this is any less important.
Death and dying is not dinner or coffee table discussion, until it directly affects someone or a family member by any degree of separation. I had an opportunity to study death and dying in a university class setting my first year at Concordia University, and my HIV was one of the topics raised in class because I was the token HIV positive student.
One thing that sets the normal human apart from those of us who have been diagnosed with a terminal disease is this, they do not have to think about their mortality until the end of their lives, we have to deal with it from the day we are diagnosed. Once the words are passed to you that you have HIV or AIDS, your life has just changed forever. Nothing will ever be the same. The mantle of responsibility for living has just been laid on your shoulders. Our normal notion of living a rich and full life has eternally changed. What you do with that knowledge is incredibly important.
When we experience a death in our family, or when friends pass on, we either stuff the experience or deny the feelings of grief, or we deal with grief in the ways that so many writers over time have talked about. Unlike the death of someone we know or love, mourning them is different than mourning your own life and death. This idea of the mourning process became important to me “after the fact” because I did not have this tool in the beginning. I could not articulate what I was going through, because I did not have proper education to do so.
Here is the idea, in order to process where you are going, you must first look at where you came from. Looking back at the path you are walking is important because it illustrates two very important ideas, one, that you have traveled so far already and that there are miles to go before you finish your journey. And you do know they say that “It is not about the destination that we should be concerned with, but it is ALL about the journey.”
Each stage of the “journey” is not something you rush through to complete in one weeks time, but I encourage you to give it some thought. Mourning ones own mortality is a totally different experience, as I said from mourning the loss of someone we knew or loved.
There are 5 stages in the grieving process, and they are:
- and Acceptance
We have this list of stages, but these emotions come in various different orders when one is faced with the words “you are going to die!” I know for myself that I did not get angry at first. It was more like utter fear. I froze for a long time, I had no idea how to feel or how to express it, and there were not many wise men or women to teach me about mourning, and so what did I do? I drank, and drank and drank so that there would not be any “feeling.” I was depressed for months in the beginning, then I got angry, and I stayed angry for a long time, but in hindsight that negative anger did me no good, until I learned how to take that anger and point it in a positive direction to help me deal with what I was facing.
Holding on to negative anger about ourselves or the past or where we are or other people is only destructive and serves no purpose but to bring us down and to make us miserable. This was an incredibly helpful tool which I use even to this day.
We all have issues to deal with in our lives, and right now I am concerned with giving you some necessary tools to help you cope with things from here on out. Had someone told me these things in the first few weeks after my diagnosis, I would not have wasted so much time spinning my wheels, “staying crazy in my head.” Into my head is not a place I like to visit very often and not alone or without a hardhat. The only thing negative anger did was to keep me focused in my head, and I could not see what was in front of me, I was blinded by my anger. And that anger directed negatively almost killed me.
There was no denying the very real fact that I was going to die. I had a daily reminder of that for months. I thought I had been prepared for this, I was wrong. The stampede of emotions came on so fast, all at once, that it seemed like a tidal wave hit my beach and I was floundering in water that was too deep for me to hold my head above the water.
I did not shed a single tear in the beginning, because as a young person in my family, we were taught that “feeling” was not something we did at all. Those emotions never leave us, eh? They follow us, through the rest of our lives. It is your job to learn how to manage them properly.
You see, all the issues that we had with self and family prior to our diagnosis are only magnified and the past will directly affect how we deal with our own personal and medical issues in the present and if you don’t get a handle on these truths now, they will affect how you deal with your medical diagnosis and life in the future.
Time is linear and everything that happened to us earlier on in our lives stays with us, no matter how hard we work to either stuff or forget those memories. I have learned in as many years that if you don’t deal with your baggage and if you let it pile up you will be sitting in a therapist’s office until you die.
That’s why it is important to learn that one should not create memories for yourself that you are going to spend the rest of your life trying to forget. Issues from childhood are a major theme in the writings of many people I know today. So let me say this to you, whatever choices your parents made when we were children, we NOT our choices, were they? Everyone has choices, so issues of the past will follow you forward, and if you had not dealt with them before, they will still exist after a diagnosis.
It took me years to figure this out and work on what needed to be worked through. Nobody escapes their childhood, or the sins our parents committed. I know very few adults in my life these days who did not escape having issues with their pasts. It is what you do with those memories and how you choose to let them affect your future that is the key to successful living.
I guess you could say that my addiction to drugs and alcohol was the first sign that I was and had been in denial for a long time, because there was not going to be anyone or anything that would stand in between me and my using. If there was something going on in my life, in order to deal with it, I had to drink and drug that was a very key problem from much earlier in my life.
For that first eighteen months of that portion of my life, I bargained with God to let me live, even though at the same time I was trying to kill myself with drugs and alcohol. I was walking a very fine line between life and the abyss. I didn’t want to die, I was still so young, and I had not even begun to live yet. For the last 5 years I had been on the razors edge. I got involved in relationships that ended terribly, I was broke, James was dead and I was trying to find myself. The one good point to remember here, I had a safe job, in a safe space, with all the safety I needed to help me live.
I was in self destruct mode in those days. A few of my friends had gotten clean and sober before I did in August of 1994. The dominoes were falling in a specific order, my boss had to step in and order me to help myself, and he forced me to deal with what I was going through after James’ death. Now a year later he knew that I was in trouble and he did not want me to die. I got help, I got sober and I started to climb uphill, and I must tell you that it was the most painful and in the same vein, the most wonderful period of my life.
If I could have one thing before I died, it would be a second run through this two year period of my life, not for the bad parts but to relive the good ones.
I have battled depression since well before I was diagnosed, and it is a manageable condition that is part of my daily life. There were times that I felt like I was drowning in misery and negative thought. I began to see a shrink just after my move back to Miami in 1995, and I have been on a few depression medical regimens. They ploughed me with all kinds of pills in those first few years, it was insane.
I had to come to a point that I wanted to deal with my personal issues and not just take a pill and “voila” those issues that were in the front of my brain would magically disappear! wrong!
There is not a pill or treatment on earth that will remove issues or memories from our hearts and minds. And I do not condone nor believe in electro shock therapy. For so many years all I did to escape the present and run from the past was to drink and drug. So long as I stayed in the fog, those issues would be masked and kept in the dark. But what I had to do was a three fold decision.
I had to decide that I wanted to live
- I had to stop using and drinking and
- I had to build up the courage to look at the past and deal with it
Those decisions did not come immediately and it took a long time to build up my self esteem and courage to look at what was bothering me in the present and what issues were dogging me from the past. I have to tell you that many of my problems in my life stemmed from the abuse that was heaped on me as a child and young adult. From the age of 26 through my present age of 38, I have worked on dealing with my past like an adult. And that is no small feat, growing up for me has been a trial and error journey of faith, prayer and hope.
Finally, we look at Acceptance. They say, in the program that “Acceptance is the key to all of my problems.” It has taken me a very long time to work on acceptance, because this key step has been a constant companion in my life. Accepting that I was going to die was an extremely bitter pill to swallow, seeing that I had no family to walk with me to the gates of hell. I mean, that’s where they would have walked me, not to heavens gates.
Getting sober in August of 1994 helped me greatly. The drawback of getting sober brought with it its own pressures. Have you ever tried to get sober in a “gay room” of alcoholics anonymous? Holy shit, queens are vicious when it comes to competition. I had to manage my sobriety, keep up a positive outlook on my life, I had to work to make a living and I had to deal with all the emotional issues that were looking me in the face, and I have to tell you that it was NOT easy by any stretch of the imagination.
My job was secure and my coworkers, my boss and his partner became the family I needed to help me begin to start rebuilding my life, because I had lost a lot in the preceding years physically and emotionally. We were all part of a very tight bar staff at a Levi Leather Bar called the Stud, in Ft. Lauderdale circa 1992-1995. It was the most awesome place to work, and I had the best time.
One day at a time, I walked, I reached the eighteen month mark and I was still breathing on the 560th day. Ok, I lived past my first “death date.” What the hell was I supposed to do now? I had no contingency plan set up in case I lived. I was totally prepared to die. I had accepted my fate and I was going to walk off the living plane with my head held high. From that day forward I have not looked back.
The happy bar existence was coming to a close as 1995, was passing us by, and by that summer it was apparent that things were not working out. The bar owner had, by then, lost his partner, many of our customers and patrons were dead, people and personalities were starting to clash. It had been decided by some that Todd and his partner were to be forced out of the bar, against all of our wishes and hopes. It was a very trying time for me, because if Todd and Roy had left, I was no longer safe and neither was my job. Alas, finally that day came, where Todd and Roy were forced out the door as I watched his friend Ray take control of the bar, and get rid of the one man who helped me and many other successfully fight this disease and live hopeful and prosperous lives.
Soon after Todd and Roy’s departure, we dismantled his house and they packed up the U Haul and left for the bright lights and big city of San Francisco, where they currently live. Many of the bar staff who worked at the stud made the westward journey. I was the one who stayed in the city. I was too young to make a leap that far away from the only place and life I had ever known. The other reason that I stayed in Florida was because I had hoped my father would drop dead sometime soon, I had spent many a night praying for him to drop dead, so that I could reclaim my mother and have her to myself for a few years before I died. I hated my father for many years, but like they say, “things change” and they did for me, I worked through that hatred, and now all I feel is indifference.
Here I had lost my mentor, father and guide. That broke my heart, and I became a holy terror at the bar, my anger knew no bounds, and I was out for total revenge and annihilation of the man who caused this rift in my life. This was a personal affront, and was going to stop at nothing to make him pay. I played the game for a few months, until I got a referral for a job in Miami come Labour Day 1995. I went down for a weekend to interview for a job at another bar, “playing lights.” By that time I was multitasking at the Stud. I was a really great light man. My knowledge of music from an earlier stage in my life helped me along in the profession that I had chosen for that period of my life.
Acceptance! I hated acceptance.
I had lost the stability and structure that I so badly needed during those first years. Now I was on my own. I had to make things work. I was literally “on my own.” I was sober now a little more than a year, I was moving to another city, I was starting a new job, and I had to find medical assistance to stay alive. Miami had begun to build infrastructure to help those who were sick with HIV and AIDS.
I made a few inquiries and visited the Mercy Hospital Immune Deficiency Assistance office. This interview was my saving grace. Every need that I had from that point on was taken care of through this office. I was forced to accept where I was in my life, and I had to make it work for me. I was forced to grow up again. Living with HIV is continual growth process. As you mature you learn and as you learn you evolve. Living with HIV / AIDS is not in any sense a “cake walk.”
It was not easy, but I had an excellent team of people and doctors who helped me along the way.
Acceptance is a daily practice. It comes over time and will make sense the more you work on it, choosing to live, is the first step in the art of acceptance.
Here is the story of that week from my journal. If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place.
July 4th 1994
it was a nice day. Josh and I prepared the house for company; we were hosting a “friendly” BBQ in Ft. Lauderdale. Alan and his hubby and other friends from the complex were coming, a veritable who’s who of my social circle back then. It was a great day. We cooked and ate at the picnic table out back – the drag queens in the adjacent area were entertaining, and the conversation was light and campy. The day wore on into night, and fireworks were going to be shot off over Ft. Lauderdale beach. So we piled into the convertible and headed out for the five-minute drive across the bridge to the beach. Parking was a nightmare, but eventually we found a spot to sit in. I remember that things were happy and there were no worries; we were out celebrating the holiday. After the fireworks we came home and imbibed a great deal, and sat down to watch the new film out on video, “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Little did I know how much life would…?
Imitate art that week?
I watched with a certain attention, as if saying to God, “I know what’s coming so please be gentle with me, because I am not sure I am ready to do this or die.” It had been a year since the first time I was tested at “Planned Parenthood” and that test came back negative.
The second test was done in a city hospital lab, and those results came back negative as well, but six months later we found out on the news that the lab had switched our (100 gay men’s) HIV tests with a retirement home lab list. It was freaky when 100 elderly folk got positive HIV tests back from the lab, OOOPS – someone made a HUGE mistake.
Anyway, that was that.
Around 8 o’clock I called my parents to wish them a Happy July 4th; there was another piece of information I needed to get across to them, and this was not going to be very easy, I had been feeling pretty sick since January, and checked 7 of the 9 symptoms off the list from “If these things are happening to you — you might have HIV” wallet card.
The conversation started light and airy, then all the air left my lungs and I could not breathe. And this is how it went
Pleasant conversation, then I dropped the bomb!
I have some news for you.
Yes, what would that be?
I’ve been feeling a lot sick lately and tomorrow I am going to see a doctor…
I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads. My mother had been working in Home Health Care for a number of years and she had seen what AIDS can do to a human being; couple that with what they were watching on TV and she was having worse case scenario visions in her head!!
They were watching “Philadelphia” at their house at the very moment I called. Suddenly my mother must have looked at the TV and she screamed. Yes, that’s right, I am sick, and I need to go get tested tomorrow, it’s time. My father was listening in on the extension, and I am sure he was beside himself; his fag son was sick and putting two and two together led to only one conclusion.
Josh was sitting in the living room while I had this conversation, he didn’t say a word. I had to prepare him for what was coming; Josh and I would never see the end of the week together. In the end, I would never see Josh again.
After a bout of hysterics, I told them that everything would be all right and I ended the phone call. That night I did not sleep at all, and Josh was all over the place. He was such a quiet and calm young man; we were both young then. We had only been dating for a couple of months by that point. Tomorrow’s test was just a formality; I knew already the answer I would get confirmed in a few days’ time. I did not tell any of my friends that night. Todd and Roy were in Provincetown on holiday. But I would eventually call Todd.
Tuesday July 5th, 1994
I got up this morning, with one item on my list of things to do today, and Josh did not sleep all night and was restless and upset. I got him up and ready for work and I drove him to work, and then proceeded to the clinic where my friend Ken was working.
It was in a little “medical mall” type building. The offices were on the second floor of the suites. I parked the car, put up the top and sat in silence and I prayed. “If there is a God up there, please, whatever happens, I am not ready to die.”
I find it peculiar that certain prayers at certain times remain locked in my memory on certain days of my life. I locked the car and walked the fifty feet across the parking lot and went into the office, where I was asked to take a seat and wait. Do you know what it feels like to be told “hurry up and wait?” I just wanted to get this show on the road.
You see, where I worked, at the nightclub, Ken, my friend, was the nurse for the masses. He worked off hours at the free clinic, he donated time to events, and he did home visits and took care of all of our friends who are now dead, at that time, so he had seen a lot of friends die in the five years we lived in Ft. Lauderdale. He was a very emotional man, who wore his heart on his sleeve and I knew that.
This was a hard week for him; any new diagnosis is hard when you are such close friends and part of a dynamic community where everyone knows each other intimately. We had seen each other over the weekend at the bar; I worked all weekend long. He knew that I was sick; because he was the one I went to when things got dicey. I think he knew as I did, but I think we both wanted things to be different. Alas, they weren’t.
Ken was preparing himself to do what he had to do and keep a straight face and be strong in front of me, you know, be positive about things, and keep up appearances so that I would not crack under the pressure.
It was time. Ken came and got me and escorted me to the lab, and he did not look me in the eye the entire time I sat there, tears falling from his face. It was quick, and painless. Afterwards he sent me off into my day. I signed the papers and went for the door; Ken was right behind me. He walked me to my car, and stopped and he sobbed in my arms. I was relatively calm. You see I was only 26 years old, and many of our friends had been gruesomely sick and died long drawn-out deaths. It was NOT pretty; many of my friends had KS, and cancer and some of my friends lost their minds and many of them died alone, because friends, lovers and family had thrown them out on the streets to die. Ken and I were people who cared for these people from the day they were diagnosed until the day they died. It was sad.
He said that he would call me in a few days and let me know when the tests come back…
And he tried to leave it at that.
I grabbed him and looked into his eyes and I told him,
“I know, and when you call I will know, just by the tone of your voice!”
He kissed me goodbye and I went on with my day.
I don’t remember what I did to pass the time until Josh got off work, but we tried to live normally and not get too upset over things. All I remember is that once the word went around that I had gone for the test, my friends started pulling away. It was the longest week of my life.
Friday July 8th 1994
the week passed by without incident. Thursday I waited impatiently for the phone to ring, and every time it did, I would jump through the roof. Alas, Thursday night I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow it would come.
I got up in the morning and drove Josh to work and returned to the house. It was around 11 am that the phone finally did ring. It was Ken. His voice was shaky on the phone, and all he said was “Jeremy, you need to come to the office, and you need to come now!” Then the line went dead. I got dressed and headed over to the clinic. I already knew the answer, but you never know, right? I parked the car, and said my prayers, and I rested for a moment.
I went up stairs and logged in at the reception desk. Ken was nowhere to be found. After a little while they escorted me into an examination room; it was blue in color, very sterile and cold. I sat down on the table and I waited. A few minutes later the doctor came in, file in hand. I guess he wanted to make sure I was prepared for this.
“Well, no better time than the present,” he said.
Let’s get this over with. “Jeremy, you have AIDS and that’s the bottom line. “
“You are going to die.”
The words rolled off his tongue with the flair and style of a practiced doctor. He sat with me for a few moments while I considered my fate. I think he was hoping that I would say something.
“Thank you for that information,” I replied.
He said that we would need to do a few tests to get started; those labs would show just how compromised my immune system was, and what the next course of action would be.
I did not know how bad things were, but I would soon find out. Back then, who knew from death or life? Drugs were hard to come by, and there surely was no system of treatment in place for me to go to.
He dismissed himself and said that when I was ready, I could leave.
So I gave him a five-minute lead on me, then I gathered up my soul and I walked out the exam room door and out to the car. I looked down from the second floor and Ken was sitting on the hood of my car, waiting for me. When I got down to my car, Ken stood up opened his arms and embraced me; he was sobbing. I stood there; I guess I was in shock. I stood there and held him, while the wave ran over both of us.
I guess I was not prepared to show my cards just yet. We talked for a little while and we set out a plan of action for the next week. I would return to this lab and get some baseline labs drawn to get a more total picture of my immune system and figure out how I was going to proceed. (That’s what eventually happened in the coming days.)
I drove home. I was relatively calm. It’s funny that I was totally prepared to stand up straight and tall and accept my fate, but watching my friends and coworkers and family crack up was very disturbing. People with AIDS were pariahs! You did not touch them, you did not hug them, and you surely did not want your neighbours or family members to know that you socialized with or employed someone who had AIDS, God forbid we infected someone you knew or even transmitted our disease to you by touch or breathing in the same space!
I got home, and I sat in my space and I tried to make some decisions. Who do I tell and when? I don’t remember what I did that day, but I kept myself busy. I called Todd and Roy, and they were on vacation. When Todd got the news, he was sad, and immediately he stepped up to the plate and became the man who would save my life.
That evening, Friday, I went to pick Josh up at work; I forgot to clear the tape deck in the car. The soundtrack to “Philadelphia” was still in there. It was around 5 o’clock when I picked him up; the sun was setting in front of us as we drove east towards the house. I tapped the tape into the deck, and it started to play…
I watched Josh convulse in the front seat, and throw up out the car door. He was hysterical. I did not have to say a word to him, but he knew. When we got home, he went into the bedroom, he packed his duffle bag, without a word, he looked at me, said goodbye, and walked out the door, got into his car, and drove away. That was the last time I saw him.
Whoa, OK, one down … two more to go.
I had some dinner and proceeded to call my parents. You would have thought that an atomic bomb had been dropped on my parents’ house. My mother, having worked in the health field, said to me that I had gotten what I deserved. She and my father had had a week to consider this topic. We discussed my plan of action, and I called a family meeting that would take place in a week’s time. I wanted everyone to be informed and I wanted to know that I was not alone.
That visit did take place. And it did no good to ensure anything but the disdain and ignorance by my family to step up and get involved in taking care of the future. I had made my choice, by doing what I had done, and I got what was coming to me. My father had made that perfectly clear.
I still do not know, to this day, if James was the contact point of HIV. All I do know is that James was a diabetic and was suicidal. That he was sick those last few months that we were together, and I did his blood tests with his pen. I handled the strips several times a day. And that they tell me was the transmission point. I did not know he had AIDS until well after his death, when a friend of mine called me at work one day back in ’93 to tell me he was sick and had AIDS. I guess it took me a few months to “seroconvert.” This is the process the body goes through when it’s finally hit with viral replication and inception of a virus that the immune system cannot fight alone.
Over the next week, I chose my battles wisely, I told my inner circle of friends. The ones on the inside of the AIDS circle (that I was part of at work.) On the other hand there was the other circle of my “social friends” that had partied with us just a few days earlier. They would never set foot in my house ever again, in fact, and it was as if I had walked off the face of the earth, because I never heard from many of them ever again. The stigma of AIDS back then was deadlier then the virus itself.
Todd eventually returned to Ft. Lauderdale. My landlord and his lover were notified.
Interesting that many years later, I was at a Pride Celebration in Ft. Lauderdale, and my landlord’s partner was in a wheelchair and sick with AIDS. When we were friends at the time of my diagnosis, they were a happy couple, with all the promise in the world. I had no idea. I did not lose my apartment, my rent was frozen where it was, and they helped me pay bills and buy food. Within days Todd had returned and he came over and we talked. (God, we spent a lot of time talking!)
I was in self-destruct mode. And the stress of being sick with AIDS took its toll. I drank around the clock, I drank at work, I drank after work, and all I wanted to do was die. Todd did what he could at the beginning to keep me on the straight and narrow. He outlawed drinking while on shift, (I was working in a nightclub then) so that kept me sober while I worked.
I would then head out after we closed to the “after hours” club called the “Copa.” It was down the street from where our club was, and they served alcohol till 6am. So I had at least two to three hours to get inebriated nightly. That lasted until the end of August.
One night, I decided that the pain was too intense that dying was a viable option, seeing that I knew what all of the men I knew went through. I was at the Copa one night, and it was hot and I had drunk myself into a very nice BUZZ. The problem here was, I wanted more, and I got more. That night, I collapsed on the dance floor in an alcoholic overdose of gargantuan proportions.
I woke up in my friend Danny’s arms. The ambulance was there and oxygen was administered. I was still alive. That was the last night I drank. That morning, Danny brought me home and he stayed in my house for a week. I could not go anywhere except work. Todd was worried that I was going to try and kill myself again. So I had babysitters when I was not at work. I hit my first meeting on August the 23rd, 1994. By that time, most of the bar staff was all sober, and three-quarters of us were sick with AIDS.
Todd had a safe rule in effect. We had jobs, and we got paid. If we got sick, and could not come to work, our shifts were covered by someone on staff. We did not get fired for being sick. The bar secured for us medical treatment through the local clinic, where one of our friends named Marie ran a community clinic/drug farm.
Ken came to my house weekly to check on me. My world got A LOT smaller.
Everyone outside my work circle walked away. It took me a long time to get over that. They were punishing me for getting sick. Like I needed any more punishment!
The religious fundamentals were making their cases for eternal damnation for gays and people with AIDS, and speaking out whenever we went in public. Funeral homes stopped giving services to people with AIDS and their families because of religious and social pressure.
Life was difficult, But, I survived, because of the community I lived in and the grace of Almighty God.
In retrospect, “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” and if God gave me a choice to go back and repeat any area of my life over again, it would be that exact period of time, and I would not change one single thing.
For years after my diagnosis, my friends died left and right, 162 people. The Names Project Quilt is a reminder of all the lives I touched and was a part of, and all the men whom I knew and loved.
All the men who were CRUCIAL to my survival (our survival) all the gay men who collected money for People with Aids, the drag queens we loved and admired and partied with over the year, the diehard supporters, are all dead now.
So many boys, so many men, cut down in the prime of life. We were foolish then, and uneducated. It was only after the storm hit that the reality start to sink in. When our friends started dying and we realized that “something serious is going on” did the community got smart.
We built infrastructure. We created homes and safe spaces. We cared for those on the streets, we collected money and food. We cooked and fed people, we washed clothes and in some cases we even changed diapers.
A year later, in 1995, I moved back to Miami, after Todd and Roy moved out west to San Francisco. I did not go with them, I was too young, and I had been banking on the fact that my S.O.B father would die and I would take back my mother. Well, he is still alive, all these years later, and I did not get my mother back. Do I have regrets? Sometimes I do. I sometimes think, “what if?” but that’s all they are, thoughts. You know what they say about living in “what ifs right?” So I don’t think about what ifs anymore, just what will be.
From my diagnosis date through the first eight years of my life with HIV/AIDS, I lived in the United States, and I speak about navigating a U.S. program of medical, social and government system. I immigrated to Canada in April of 2002.
Cue the music, fog the room… Time to write
M People, One night in heaven…
Shift change has started and I am off the happy hour shift that I used to work. Off to the kitchen to change for the night shift that is going to start soon. Farkle is in the booth and he fires up the first song of the night.
Jeans, t-shirt and chaps. The hot little stud is going to tempt the Temple of Earthly Desires once again tonight. A little tug here, and a zip there, I am ready for action. In the grand scheme of things I am a jack of all trades. Larry is in charge of liquor distribution, Kevin is in charge of incidentals, beer, ice, stock and supply. I am following up my fellows with the same.
But I have other responsibilities.
Open up your heart…
Aside from bar responsibilities, I am in charge of taking care of special guests and entertainers. I check them in at the door and escort them through the maze into the back stage area where all the real action is to take place. Nobody has access to the backstage area except employees and management. I am to make sure that they all have what they need, and that means, everything.
We are hosting the Leather man contests that are very common in the Leather community at that time. The schism of the Ft. Lauderdale leather men has not yet taken place, between the Old Guard and the New Guard. I am of the Old Guard group. I was born into this life by my Master Todd on that fateful night some time ago at the old location.
Someone to count on in a world ever changin’.
Here I am, stop where you standin’.
What you need is a lover, someone to take over.
Oh baby don’t look any further.
Strange when you think of the chances
that we’ve both been in a state of mind.
Too cool to be careless. Looking for the right thing.
Oh baby don’t look any further.
Tonight (tonight) we’re gonna taste a little paradise.
Rockin’ all night long. Rockin’ all night long.
Daylight (daylight) I’ll still be looking in your heavenly eyes.
Oh we rocked on and on and on.
I am in the position of leadership. Part of my education in those early days is obedience and respect. The hierarchy is set in stone and I know my place, I report to the Master, the guests report to me. I am in charge of taking care of their supplies and to make sure that they are treated with respect and the position that they hold in the greater community. This job, I take very seriously, because what the guests tell my boss later will reflect on my future as a man to be trusted and it will also either permit me further access or punishment. To be removed from community or silence is the greatest punishment in my world at that time. I learn that lesson the hard way at one point in the story…
Kevin has just walked in the door. He is young. He is a Leather man of the highest degree. I spent a night with him at the Caribbean Resort a few nights ago. I was caught in a moment of rapture. He is the finest specimen of a man I have ever seen and after the first introduction, I was taken. I was “Taken!” Sitting in the bar with him and his crowd was worshiping God. Kevin has my full attention and then some. There is nothing I would not do for him, and many things I would like to do for him.
He is competing tonight for the crowd, and I am going to make his competition the best of the night. In the grand scheme of things, he who is represented outstandingly is going to win this competition. But first they must prove themselves worthy of the award. A little conversation and a little performance that is going to knock to crowd off their high and mighty pedestals. This is where we separate the real men from the boys. That he is younger than most he is automatically at odds with them.
After all of my settling in work is done and everybody is checked in and I’ve seen to their comfort, I am off to take care of the rest of the bar. Everyone of our guests has a handler, and I am only to take care of Kevin. The lights are swinging at a fast pace, the music is pounding and I am dressed to the nines’ so to speak. I have rounded up all of the young leather men and we have discussed strategy for the night. As representatives for the young leather community, it is our job to look out for the interest of our club and the community at large.
As part of our education as a group, the bar has had weekly meetings of the Young Leather men. There are about 30 members and several Leather MEN to guide us and teach us about protocol, respect and personal safety. We have attended lectures and demonstrations and spent hours discussing situations and life experiences. When the bar is called on to host events, we are the first line of representation and service. I am the closest one to the center of the universe, by my position “to” my Master.
I am in charge of cleaning up the club all night. I am the one who is going to take up bottles and glasses and garbage on the main floor. It is my job to always keep the bar in a condition worthy of proper presentation. In addition to picking up refuse, I am the one who is going to keep the bathrooms up and running. Nasty pig men can be nothing but a head ache because while they are adults, they do not know how to clean up after themselves. They stop up toilets with glasses and mounds of toilet paper and this must be kept an eye on. Running toilets are detrimental to a proper nights business. This is one of the serious lessons that I must learn about because if I cannot clean up shit and dirty toilets, then I won’t be able to do it for myself.
I though about this last night after I wrote my last entry. I was dating a particular man at one time in this life. He was arrogant and yet I liked him. He did things for me that no one else had done. He made me feel things that I had never felt. He had room mates that were sick and could not go out in public without a diaper, because they were struck so hard by illness. It was very sad. They did not make it. but I digress…
The nights fly by one after the other and the job is the same. I am visible to everyone in the bar, because I have planned it that way. Part of my mystique is to get the right men to notice me. I have amassed quite a collection of gear to wear. I have collected it and some of it is custom made. This was the age of “High Leather” and I was at the center of the universe. I would troll the crowd as they came in looking at all the signs that were being flown. The hankies in the right or left pocket, what color they were, and what arm the armbands were being worn on. After a good hour of trolling I could go to my locker and replicate whatever “response” I was going to give back. It always worked. I could play the game just as well as the heaviest hitters.
Nothing pleased me more than to walk out of the kitchen in my chaps and usually by the late hours of the night, I wasn’t wearing a shirt. I could do that then and get away with it. I would be carrying a bucket of ice (they were small garbage cans) full of ice, over to a particular bar, where the heavy hitters would be gathered. I would bounce behind the bar, dancing to the music that was being played and I would fool around with a bar tender, we were all family.
What the ‘lookers’ were very cognizant of was that I knew that many of them were flying red or red brick HANKIES in their left pockets. I had responded with the same hankie in my right pocket. And we would stand there and I would watch them look at me and then they would make a fist and hold it up in front of their faces, pondering the thought, look at me, well, at my backside, and then back at their hands and then they would shake their heads, in disbelief. That was the most excellent feeling…
To know that they noticed me. I played the game and I usually won…
The music would change as mixes were played…
One night in heaven.
I’m on the dance floor, Farkle is in the booth, he is dancing as I look over to the booth from where I stand and I can see him pointing towards the speakers above the booth. He is in a good space tonight. He is playing “up” music and everybody has escaped into that place of utter bliss. It is all well tonight. We have done our jobs. The bodies are gyrating to the same beat, bodies move in unison. Sweat is falling down all around me, I fell arms around me. Hugs and pushes, tugs and tweaks. I set down my bag for a moment on the bass speakers lining the wall and I am engulfed in the arms of some of my friends, and we dance for all it is worth. I am watching the lights swing from one side to the other, and I am in heaven.
From my days at the Stud, I wrote this reflection many years later, at the end of the QAF series as it happened here in Montreal. (Mark) I refer to in this later piece is the same (Farkle) who DJ’d at the Stud during these years I have previously wrote about in the Temple of Sin.
In Memorium and to remember where I came from … I will be sharing with you stories that need to be remembered, because if we forget, they all died in vain … November 2013 …
*** *** *** ***
Cue the music – start the fog machine – blue light GOBO slow pans across the floor through dimly lit space, and the first beat comes…
I am alone, it is early, the bar is not yet open, but I am there alone. Just me, the music and the spirit of God. Well, what little spirit of God there was at that time of my life. It is mid-summer in Ft. Lauderdale. I have just told Todd that I was going to die…
Over the next few weeks, the teaching would begin. The team rose to the call, one of the boys was sick and was left on the side of the road with nothing but what little dignity was left in his soul. All I needed would be provided come hell or high water. Wild Horses would never stop the charge for life. We were all sick, we were all dying. Save for two people in the entire organization. My champions would save me, if I wanted it or not. Death was not an option and I would either get it or I would die…
So it began…
At that time, the temple of sin was alive and things happened so quickly that if you blinked you would miss it. The temple was filled with every earthly delight, Dante would have been pleased with our Garden of Earthly desires, carnal, profane and truly sinful. I loved every minute of it.
The rule was set…
You have a life, outside the temple. When you come to work, you leave your baggage at the door, do not bring it in here. No exceptions. Come to work, and you will serve me your Master and do whatever you are told without question without complaint, is that clear!
I took that time of my life as sacred and profane, but that is another story. You can read about the Sacred and the Profane over there in Pages… This is another thread to a long running story of how this boy was made a man, a saved man, a profane man, and in the same vein Sacred. You never know where your lessons are going to come from, and you are grateful for the wisdom and time people took out of their lives to care for you and teach you lessons that nobody else was going to teach you. So pay attention Little One.
This is your life we are talking about…
The gobos are tracking across the floor slowly through smoke and mirrors as the music plays just for you. I learned very early on, in that space that music would identify particular moods, paint particular pictures. Farkle and I had a ritual. He IS the only one left from the fray of men who lived and died from the temple of sin. We began each shift in our own way, begging god another night, another day, another minute. I was surrounded with warriors fighting their own significant battles with AIDS. I was not hit by the KS demon. I was not plagued by things I saw and witnessed, thank the creator. It was ugly. It was brutal and it was most importantly the fight of the century for all of us. Many men went to their deaths in our arms. We bathed them, clothed them and in the end we buried them.
When I got sober there was a man with AIDS named Larry, he was a drunk like me. But he was unique. He sat with a bottle on the table and a loaded revolver to shoot himself. He carried that gun with him and showed it to every one of us, and he told us relentlessly that he was going to kill himself. He got sober with the rest of us. Over the years following his spiritual awakening, he did something that no one else thought to do.
People with AIDS were being left in the streets. Mortuaries would not process sick people, they would not touch a body that had been infected with AIDS. Families would not bury their children. We did that. Larry opened his services to the community and he became another champion of the cause. I knew him. He eventually got rid of the gun, so I heard.
For a few minutes during transition, I would warm up the smoker, fire up the turntable and start the computer so that I could worship my God to the music of my soul. I did that every night. I worshiped whatever was going to save me.
I was servant to the men. I was servant to my Master. I was a slave for God, be he dressed or undressed. You never saw God until you witnessed true beauty of the soul in all its carnality. There is something sacredly profane about this part of my life. What went on inside the temple stayed in the temple. Many months would pass and I battled my demons of alcoholism before I finally fell into the pit of death, and there happen to be somebody watching from the sidelines.
Danny saved me that night. He was the man who cradled me in his arms, oxygen mask on my face and had called the paramedics to try and revive me. Danny took me home that night, and did not leave my apartment for a week. He fed me, bathed me and cared for me, under that watchful eye of my Master Todd. When the word was spoke, action was taken, and hell hath no fury if you did not jump when told to. Todd was very protective over his boys and men.
We were reminded that Todd had lost love to AIDS. Bob was buried across the street in the cemetery that faced our building. It was hard – it was painful, and it was sacred. Kevin and Larry did things for me that no man ever did for me in the real world. We were the three musketeers. We were the team to beat in bar management and service. We ran a tight ship and we were accountable, respectable and reliable. We proved a mighty force against the odds we all faced.
Let’s get it on…
Shift was begun at eight. The wells were filled the beer was stocked and the ice bins were full. Put your money in the drawer and let’s get the music thumping. Like clockwork at the strike of eight bells the first note hit the turntables. They were lined up around the building. Cars were parked all over the place. The temple worship had begun. Heaven was found amid the souls of suffering men who knew they were all marked for death, but for tonight, whatever you desired was fulfilled. You could drown away your sorrow and dip into the well of living water if you wished as well. You have never lived until you party like your dying with crowds of undulating flesh as far as they eye can see. The ghosts of those men now inhabit the fantasies and dreams I have still to this day.
One by one, two by two, they died in our arms. We held them until they took their last breaths. Memorialized in the careful and blood soaked threads of quilts, as the years went by, they started collecting by the dozen, then by the hundreds. If you’ve ever seen the entire quilt unfurled, all the men who were part of my life in those first years of my epidemic life, they are all together in death, as they were in life. Memorialized until the end of time. And we remember each of their names.
So many young boys torn from life before they knew what hit them. Men who infected them had died as well. Many of my friends were taken on trips that were detrimental to them, and just robbed them of life that was still left to live.
Todd saw to it that I would never go there…
You come to work, dress as you will, you obey me and do not waver from my eye, for I know your carnal desires and you are too young to tempt the devil with his dance. Because I surely did not know what could befall me if the right charmer enticed me into his web of desire, and they all knew I was fair bait. But in order to dine from my buffet, you needed explicit permission of my Master, who never allowed any man to defile me like many had been. I was off limits. I never crossed the line provided because that meant disrespect and I could never bear to break my Master’s heart with disobedience.
I loved Him, and He loved me – I had many problems. I was depressed and angry and resentful. I had the scars of traumatic visions of my dead lovers corpse in my head, and the words of his mother still ring in my ear today “I hope that every night until you die, that you see the corpse of my dead son in your field of vision.” That curse still lives with me and will go with me to the grave. Five day old corpses are not pretty. I had to identify the remains when all was said and done. Save that he was wearing jewelry that I could identify and part of him was still recognizable – God forgive me…
I remember that day, it was early afternoon the morgue called me from work to come and do the deed. I drove in and looked upon him in that room, I wept tears that burned into my soul forever. I just could not imagine – the pain was so hard to bear. I drove over to the bar. Bill was working behind the bar. I drank until I could not stand up on my own. I drank for a week, straight…
Todd and Bill needed to find me a solution and quick, because I was on the outs.
I started suicide therapy in a group setting that lasted 32 weeks. Nothing like rehashing death week after week, until the pain was purged from your soul, but is it ever? Months went by until I got my news.
But they cared for me in all my brokenness. A young angel would earn his wings back. Come hell or high water. In the end, when all was said and done, at the end of the day I survived, but so many did not. And each night I offer them prayers in hope that when I meet my death that all of them will be waiting for me in the Temple Of Earthly Desire in the promised land of the Kingdom of God, where the sacred and profane are mingled with the blood of the Almighty and the blood of my friends who have gone before me, on that day we will be cleansed of our sins.
And forgiven by God…
Goodnight angels of men
In a church,by the face,
He talks about the people going under.
Only child know…
A man decides after seventy years,
That what he goes there for, is to unlock the door.
While those around him criticize and sleep…
And through a fractal on a breaking wall,
I see you my friend, and touch your face again.
Miracles will happen as we trip.
But we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We get a little crazy
No we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We are a little…
…Crazy yellow people walking through my head.
One of them’s got a gun, to shoot the other one.
And yet together they were friends at school
Ohh, get it, get it, get it, get it no no!
If all were there when we first took the pill,
Then maybe, then maybe, then maybe, then maybe…
Miracles will happen as we speak.
But we’re never gonna survive unless…
We get a little crazy.
No we’re never gonna survive unless…
We are a little…
No no, never survive, unless we get a little… bit…
Oh, a little bit…
Oh, a little bit…
Amanda decides to go along after seventeen years…
In a sky full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
In a world full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
In a heaven of people there’s only some want to fly,
Ain’t that crazy?
Oh babe… Oh darlin…
In a world full of people there’s only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
Isn’t that crazy… Isn’t that crazy… Isn’t that crazy…
But we’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little crazy.. crazy..
No we’re never gonna to survive unless we are a little… crazy..
But we’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little crazy.. crazy..
No we’re never gonna to survive unless, we are a little.. crazy..
No no, never survive unless, we get a little bit…
And then you see things
Of which you’ve never known before
They’ll break it
Only child know….
Of which you’ve never known before
The weather is holding. It was a beautiful night to be out and about. I departed early for the church and my helper lady friend was waiting for me. We cranked out set up and coffee and then sat and chilled before the meeting.
We are finally at the stories in the back of the Big Book. This first chapter The Pioneers of A.A. speaks about these 10 stories that show that sobriety is A.A. can be lasting.
Pioneers of A.A. …
Dr. Bob and the nine men and women who here tell their stories were among the early members of A.A.’s first groups.
All ten now have passed away of natural causes, having maintained complete sobriety.
Today, hundreds of additional A.A. members can be found who have had no relapse for more than fifty years.
All of these, then, are the pioneers of A.A. They bear witness that release from alcoholism can really be permanent.
We began reading Dr. Bob’s Nightmare.
A co-founder of alcoholics anonymous, The birth of our society dates from his first day of permanent sobriety, June 10, 1935.
To 1950, the year of his death, he carried the message to more than 5,000 alcoholic men and women, and to all these he gave his medical services without thought of charge.
In this prodigy of service, he was well assisted by Sister Ignatia at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron, Ohio, one of the greatest friends our fellowship will ever know.
Through the beginning of his story, we learn where Bob came from how he did as a young child and teen, and into his adult life. And at some point he crossed the invisible line into uncontrollable alcoholism.
He became somewhat functional when applying himself. But there at the came time, we read, when alcoholism stunted his growth both emotionally and academically. But in the end he pulled out the stops and finished his schooling.
We stopped at this point in the story till next week.
It seemed everybody fixated on academic stories and how alcoholism made it into our lives as young people.
I guess I will share some stories with you about that time in my life as well.
Bob was an only child, he speaks about it.
I was the first of two children, and had three years on my brother who came later. And I was thinking about this tonight and what I had seen as a small child being raised in the homes of die hard alcoholics. My grandfather was much farther gone than my father.
He had to have alcohol – all over the house. He was a bottle hider. He drank around the clock and especially before bed, as there was a bottle under the kitchen sink.
My father was a heavy drinker, yet, he was functional. In hindsight, I don’t remember him ever being taken away from work because of drinking, in all the years I lived at home. He seemed to skate through unscathed.
I on the other hand, was raised in a “nobody speaks of it” and there “is no solution and you lived with your lot” mentality. Alcohol was a major food group and was a daily ritual.
I began the task of bartender for my father when I was able to reach the kitchen counter and be able to mix him his nightly highball after work. Growing up and moving house in grade school, we bought a huge house with bedrooms, a yard, in ground sprinkler system and a POOL !!! We had hit the big time.
My father had two cabinets for alcohol. And a standing bar in the dining room. My brother and I grew up not far from alcohol. My drinking started in high school and it was a big part of socialization.
It was beer, that I found satisfying. Until my friends introduced hard liquor into the mix. We would have binge and purge parties where we would serve copious amounts of alcohol to party goers. For the girls we had a fail proof system to bring them to a party, get them drunk, and then get them home sober after our tried and true sober work after the fact.
The girls would bring two sets of clothing with them to the party. We would all drink, and they would get sauced over and over. One of us drove the first sober car, driving around town until they puked up what they drank and sobered up.
Then we handed them off to a second house for them to wash and redress, before the third car would finally bring them home.
I drank heavily in high school. And it showed in my work. I was an athlete and swam in junior and senior year and finally lettered.
Two significant occurrences in high school come to mind.
One, our final S.A.T. test. By this point we had taken that damned test twice and in my senior year, we had to take it again, a third time.
The night prior we all got drunker than drunk. I remember my friends bringing me home, BOMBED !!! Telling my mother that I was just a little sick because of the test the next day.
The next day I went to the school and my test location was in the library, which was in the biology wing of the school, there was a bathroom and gym workout hall in the same wing.
The module would start and I would begin bubbling in my answers, eventually I would get the heaves and have to rush to the bathroom and purge and get back into the library to finish each module in the time allotted.
I know, when all was said and done, my third score was higher than the first two.
Two, in my senior year I was drinking heavily and my studies were paying the price. I was passing, albeit, by the skin of my teeth. I was no mathematician and hated the subject. No matter how hard I tried I could not “get it.”
I was not part of the “in crowd” that partied together and cheated together. I ran in another social grouping. On my last math exam, I knew I was not going to pass, but in a “Hail Mary” kind of motion …
The cheat sheet had gone around prior to the exam. And I was not privy to that cheat sheet. I took that exam, however impaired I was at the time, on the last page of the exam I offered this to my prof …
“The exam is complete. I would also tell you that I am the only one in this room that did not cheat on this exam … “
I passed math, therefore, I graduated with my fellows.
My drinking career began in earnest after graduation. I knew something about myself that others did not. I am sure my parents were picking up on it. And my racist, homophobic, bible quoting, but never went to church father, continued to “beat it out of me, because I was abhorrent.”
When I finally moved away, I could drink without impunity. I have stated in the past that when I moved out on my own, I knew NOTHING about responsibility.
Paying rent, buying food, and making a car payments came second and third to my drinking. To the point that my car got re-possessed. That was a clincher for my parents. Probably, resentfully, my father bailed me out. We never spoke about it, but I am sure he never forgot nor forgave me about allowing alcoholism take something away.
I am sure they thought that I could not hold my alcohol in check like they did, and they would have been correct. I was a step beyond than my father.
That period of my life from 21 to 26 I was sunk in the drink. I got sober once, and became responsible. I had a really good job. And men who loved me. They saved my life.
The story does not change. I went out and stayed out a number of years, until I returned in 2001. God moved heaven and earth. And I decided to grow up and become a man, finally, whatever that meant.
I would not figure out what my manhood meant to me until much later. That is another story.
Moving out of the country was the best move I ever made in my life, however hated I was for leaving the country of my birth, it was an absolute break from the misery I was living at the time.
Coming to Montreal sober began the next leg of my journey. I was 34 years old. I had failed out of junior college and could not afford University in the U.S. so I didn’t go on. I had a place to live and meetings to go to.
And at my First Anniversary, I was asked what I wanted to do next, by my aftercare counselor, and I said, that I wanted to go back to school. By then I was hitched and living with my then boyfriend. That was a nine year academic career which I graduated with two degrees, Religion and Pastoral Ministry.
I have not had a drink in almost twelve years now. I came here sober and this is where I am going to die sober. One day at a time.
I have this hindsight to parse my life, and those of my family to figure out what made us tick, what made us drink and where that led us.
I do not know my father or mother or my brother. I am pariah still to this day and in their lives, they have shut off my light switch as punishment for defying my father’s social gospel. It has been more than 13 years.
I do not mourn them any more.
Many emotional reasons, alcoholism, lies and secrets tore apart my family, I may be the only sober member today, but who knows. I will never know.
It is a living amends to stay sober one day at a time.
More to come, stay tuned …
“The verdict of the ages is that faith means courage. All men of faith have courage. They trust their God. We never apologize for God. Instead we let him demonstrate, through us, what He can do. We ask him to remove our fear and direct our attention to what He would have us be. At once, we commence to outgrow fear.”
Page 68 Big Book
Thursday. Location: Montreal. 18c with clear skies
The weather has been very amenable. It was cool enough last night to open the windows for a bit. The month is quickly coming to an end. When I was much younger and quite more stupid, the run up to my birthday usually began one week out. The barhopping and drinking in earnest would begin. And each night all the way up through my birthday would entail much, much more booze.
And we all know how that ended…
July is always a tough month. But it the most important month of the year. It is not only the month of my birth, but the month that I learned that my mortality is on the line.
July 8th comes and goes every year. And I mark it with respect and dignity. People seem perplexed that I would mark an event like this openly. At a meeting not long ago, I shared this piece of info in community and got stares and questions afterwards.
In the beginning I had to learn how to live one day at a time. In fact, I had to learn this lesson more than once. Both instances were based on certain factors in my life.
I would string a few days together. And mark a week. And if I lived a week, I would mark two. And at the end of a month, I would be brave and mark another month. Such is the case when doctors give you your actual “End Date.” And tell you to go home and settle your affairs because death is imminent.
This year I kept to myself mostly. But with Pride every year, come the memorial public television shows like We Were Here and Milk. Many people I assume who have lived through the dark times of the 80′s and 90′s may have book collections that mark the tribulations in print.
Paul Monette is the consummate author of the AIDS years, having lived, loved and died from the disease. I have all his books in my library. And for the most part, I keep them as memorials. To remember how bad it was and to be ever mindful that I may go the same way.
I spent the past week of nights reading “Living on Borrowed Time.” The book details with great pain the months and years that comprised the life and relationship that Paul had with his husband/partner Roger.
It is difficult to read but important for me to pay homage to the men who were there when it all began, who died well before I came along with AIDS. But times were not much different in the early 90′s – there were dedicated drugs, nor doctors to treat us. We were treated like hazmat patients. We would be quarantined in space capsules in rooms away from general population and doctors and nurses would gown up like martian hunters to come near us.
The Christians called it God’s revenge for homosexuality.
Employers fired us. Landlords threw us out on the street. Family and friends and lovers left us because we were sick. Mortuaries would not process nor bury the sick.
But we did. All of it.
Every year I live is a great big Fuck You to the Christian Right. For all those people who left me on the roadside including my family I can only say I lived and I have lived well. I am the man I wanted to be.
Because men of faith took me in and gave me life when you turned your backs on me. And hence the thousands of men who were sick and went to their graves with what little dignity they had in their souls.
I lived … And I am still alive.
Tonight;s reading speaks about God, and no apologies. Courage and fear.
To live with a disease that is going to take your life one day is courage. Not taking a drink one day at a time, is courage. Learning how to live knowing you are going to die with certainty of a disease that is ugly and dirty is harrowing.
AIDS is not pretty. But neither is alcoholism. Both are takers.
But in today’s day and age, both are treatable and manageable.
After 19 year living this way, the fear of dying still exists in the back of my head. But every day I take my pills I earn a day of life. It is my job to take pills every day, if I do nothing during my day, the two actions I make are to take my pills.
I do what I need to do every day, every week and every month to stave off the drink. I don’t know how else to stave off dying. But I don’t fixate on dying, because if I do, I will only hasten the end for which I have been avoiding for more than a decade and almost two.
Our little men’s group is holding its own. We get the by and by visitor to come, but for the most part, it is a conversation between friends in a familiar space.
Do you have courage? How do you live it every day?
More to come, stay tuned…
They say the weather is going to change for the worse overnight and into tomorrow. The usual plans are now up in the air depending on whether or not the heavens open up and dump torrential rain upon us like out in the prairies.
Just thinking about torrential rain brings back terrible memories because of what happens to our city when it rains a little too much. Highways flood, streets flood. Our 1800′s drain system of the city become overwhelmed and water goes everywhere.
If we are lucky the church won’t flood like it did some time ago. Hopefully that much rain won’t fall, and we will escape the ills of the city along with mother nature.
It has been a quiet couple of days. Lots going on down south to which I am proud to witness in my lifetime. Not the balance of the U.S. states who DON’T have marriage equality, in my opinion, once the tidal wave begins will fall like dominoes and everybody will be a participant in being “equal” — still Florida does not have marriage equality so it matters not to me or my life at this point. So we can be hopeful of the future.
It was a breezy night and I arrived at the church with plenty of time to set up and enjoy the weather in the garden before the meeting. It is my belief that if we get one, or better yet two newcomers at the meeting, we get to do our jobs and do God’s work well.
As was the case tonight, new faces came and participated. As the meeting progressed and the shares began we learned a great deal about each other. And what we have learned is that there is a whole “other” group of people out there suffering in their addictions and one of our men is part of that grouping.
Sadly, I have to concur that there aren’t many open and affirming A.A. groups that openly support and welcome LGBTQ members. I have seen it in my own life.
And today I ONLY participate in groups that folks are Open and Affirming to ALL and not just Some.
I was sorry for them and inquired at the end of the meeting what I could do to help, hopefully we will see our new friend again and be able to reach out and minister to those who need it and are afraid of coming …
We shared on the run up to Step Three … “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him.”
The notion of changing our lives, turning it over, letting go of ourselves and become interested in others, coming to know a Higher Power and allowing him to guide our lives from this point on.
But so many people get stuck here and some never move past the log jam. And this is all down to what the world, society, and religion has forced down our throats about who God is and what he will do to us if we err and sin …
I heard something that resonates … When one of our men came in and got to this point, his sponsor said this to him … God is God is God. However it falls, God is God. Find him in your own way and come to believe that He will help you if you are ready.
Group of Drunk
Going Out Doors Good Orderly Direction
It’s all the same thing. The biggest help that Bill and Bob gave to the fellowship come in one short sentence. “God … As we understood him.”
It opens the door to those who have had such issues with God that they can’t come to believe because of the hang ups. No two powers are the same. No two alcoholics are the same. But eventually we find a power greater than ourselves.
What is His Work, and how do we do it well ???
That line shows up on page 63 of the Big Book. In the beginning it was all down to service to a group. To begin rebuilding your life, you had to give of yourself at the group level and become Part Of so that you can become One Of.
Suit up, Show up and be one of many, instead of alone and lonely.
I’ve said in the past and I repeat it often that “PRESENCE” is the greatest gift we can give each other. The meeting before the meeting and the one that follows the meeting is very important to outreach and working with others.
I come early, I set up and make coffee so that when YOU show up, we can have a coffee and chat a bit and i can get to know you better. That’s the whole purpose of community. Man is not meant to be alone. But there are those out there who are alone, and it is always my hope that one day I could walk out into the field with my fellows and welcome and affirm folks who are out there suffering.
Changing Attitudes, Tuesday Beginners, and Sunday Niter’s, Vendome Beginners and North End English are ALL open, welcoming and affirming.
We will welcome you and be part of your lives. We have all known suffering and pain, and through our groups we will help you heal your souls.
That is what I believe that Jesus would have wanted us to do. Because He always did what was right in front of him, he never really had a plan, it all played out day to day. But he welcomed and affirmed. Loved and cared for the least.
And that is what we do too … What is in front of us.
Tonight we had work come, and show up, right in front of us. Hopefully the words we shared tonight will nest and foster our guys to come back and visit us again.
A good night was had by all.
More to come, stay tuned…
Courtesy: Iheefz – Chicago
WASHINGTON – A marriage made in Toronto was at the heart Wednesday of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down the Defense of Marriage Act on a historic day that also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California, the most populous state in the union.
The ruling on the federal U.S. legislation known as DOMA gives spouses in same-sex unions a full array of tax, health and pension benefits.
The challenge to the legislation was spearheaded by 83-year-old Edith Windsor, a New Yorker, who married her longtime partner Thea Spyer six years ago in Canada, where same-sex marriage has been legal for almost a decade. The couple’s marriage was recognized by New York state, but not by the federal government.
When Spyer died in 2009, the federal government cited DOMA to force Windsor, who’s now ailing, to pay $363,000 in taxes on her late wife’s estate — taxes that wouldn’t have been levied against her if she’d been married to a man.
Windsor wasn’t at the Supreme Court on Wednesday, but watched from her lawyer’s apartment in New York, where she was reportedly jubilant upon word that DOMA had been struck down. The law had been in effect since 1996, when it was signed into law by a now-apologetic Bill Clinton.
“Children born today will grow up in a world without DOMA,” a beaming Windsor told a New York news conference.
“And those children who are gay will be free to grow up and love and be married .… If I had to survive Thea, what a glorious way to do it. And she would be so pleased.”
Also on Wednesday, the high court cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California by ruling that defenders of Proposition 8, a ban on same-sex marriage, had no constitutional standing. That means a lower court ruling in California that legalized same-sex marriage is again the law of the land.
The two historic rulings will likely transform the United States on same-sex marriage, an issue now widely considered a civil rights battle — and one that is dramatically winning the support of Americans.
U.S. President Barack Obama, the first commander-in-chief in American history to back same-sex marriage, praised the Supreme Court in a statement on Tuesday released after he personally called the plaintiffs involved in the two cases to congratulate them.
“This was discrimination enshrined in law,” he said.
“It treated loving, committed gay and lesbian couples as a separate and lesser class of people. The Supreme Court has righted that wrong, and our country is better off for it. We are a people who declared that we are all created equal – and the love we commit to one another must be equal as well.”
As many legal experts predicted, it was Justice Anthony Kennedy, a libertarian conservative on the panel, who broke partisan ranks on the nine-member panel and voted in favour of striking down DOMA. Kennedy had already written two judgments for the court that upheld the rights of gays.
“DOMA instructs all federal officials, and indeed all persons with whom same-sex couples interact, including their own children, that their marriage is less worthy than the marriages of others,” Kennedy wrote in his decision.
“The federal statute is invalid, for no legitimate purpose overcomes the purpose and effect to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”
The latest polls suggest the majority of Americans now support same-sex marriage, compared with just 13 per cent 25 years ago.
It’s not just a generation gap that explains the profound shift, pollsters are discovering — even some older Americans are changing their minds about gay marriage, as are citizens in rural areas, from religious backgrounds and in traditionally conservative jurisdictions.
Amid that backdrop, the Supreme Court heard arguments in March against both laws. The arguments, made before the panel of five Republican appointees and four Democrats, were heard even as some high-profile Republicans, long consumed with winning over the social conservatives of their base, expressed support for same-sex marriage.
Ohio Sen. Rob Portman reversed his stance after his college-age son revealed he was gay. Jon Huntsman, a Mormon and a Republican presidential candidate in 2012, has also backed same-sex marriage and urged his fellow Republicans to do the same.
Even Karl Rove, the powerful Republican strategist who famously brought millions of Christian evangelicals into the party fold a decade ago, says he wouldn’t be surprised if the 2016 Republican presidential candidate — whoever that may be — backs same-sex marriage.
Obama has helped embolden fellow politicians on same-sex matrimony after he reversed his own stance on the issue last year. The White House had urged the high court to rule in favour of same-sex rights.
Hillary Clinton, eyeing a run for president in 2016, has also expressed her support.
Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, said he was “disappointed” in the Supreme Court’s DOMA ruling and suggested states may rule differently in the future. Same-sex marriage is currently legal in 13 U.S. states.
“While I am obviously disappointed in the ruling, it is always critical that we protect our system of checks and balances,” Boehner said in a statement. “A robust national debate over marriage will continue in the public square, and it is my hope that states will define marriage as the union between one man and one woman.”
The religious right vowed a battle.
In a series of Tweets, the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer wrote: “Sodomy-based marriage is an egregious violation of the ‘Laws of Nature and Nature’s God.’ May God have mercy on us.”
He added: “In our battle to defend marriage as God has defined it, we will never give in. We will never, never, never, never give in.”
Mike Huckabee, a onetime Republican presidential candidate, also took to Twitter to express his dismay.
“My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: ‘Jesus wept.’”
All the rain they promised us – did not materialize. However hard it tried to spit rain over night. Enough fell to wet the streets and douse the trees with a little moisture, but significant rain did not fall.
It has been chilly on the side of cold, cold enough to warrant a hoodie on top of a shirt, because I was cold wearing only a sweatshirt this evening. We stuck to the tunnel to transit from here to the church and back.
We arrived at the church and the hall was a mess of people, tables and chairs all over the place and people were coming and going hastily. We learned soon after that the great St. Joseph’s Oratory Choir performed at the church this afternoon, hence all the people.
We sorted out tables and chairs, and stacked the piles of chairs and put the ones we did not need back in the store room. Clean up took a few minutes and then we sorted out the room for the meeting that followed.
We sat a fair number of folks, and finished our reading of Chapter Seven, Working with Others. The final passage we read deals with family and relationships and how to navigate sticky places in new found sobriety.
The best I can be when working with others, is just to be present. And usually God will direct the scene as He sees fit. That’s why we have the twenty minutes prior and twenty minutes after guide. Because that’s when we got to work with others. Presence, the greatest gift you can give to your fellows.
*** *** *** ***
It is a parent day today. And navigating them is pretty artful. This is where I get to Debbie Downer a bit.
The last time I saw my mother was for twenty minutes on New Years Day 2001, when my parents arrived on my doorstep for an impromptu visit deigned by my father, but not long enough to create a “sticky memory” I don’t remember the substance of the visit or the words said, but I do remember the defiant “NO” I got from my father as to hosting a lunch for the three of us before they headed back on the road to Sarasota.
End of that thread …
Honor thy Father and Mother … The bible says so. I don’t see the logic in honoring someone who does not deign to recognize or honor me.
Being Gay and HIV+ were always the kickers in our relationship.
But I thought that when children grow up and become adults, they should be able to make decisions for themselves hopefully good ones that will help them prosper and grow further.
I made two decisions in sobriety – the first and second time, that served me. I took my right to exist and to move on from dire straits and was punished for making adult decisions. It was far better to be resentful and angry, rather than support a child in his decisions about his life. Fuck me …
My move to Montreal was fraught with anger. How dare I piss on my American heritage and dishonor my father by taking a birthright that was mine to take and leave all that I knew for a place that I would make my home.
Ohhh the anger …
My father spoke family gospel and what he said was the end all be all of any argument. And so it went. I spent a year, a calendar year, trying to salvage a relationship with my mother.
I wrote, called, sent packages, etc … to no avail.
My parents were so put out by my decision to move North that silence and punishment was their only recourse. But of course that was their modus opperandi.
The last conversation I had with my mother went this way … And I quote …
“If I or your father ever get sick or die, You will not be contacted, ever !!!”
That conversation took place more than 11 years ago. Fuck me …
Faggots do not get respect, nor dignity. AIDS ridden children get nothing but scorn and indignation. When the chips fell where they did people scattered, including my family. I had no choice or say in the matter.
I was fucked from the word Go !!!
So happy Mother’s day to you all.
How do you pray away the ache the rises in the heart about things you cannot change nor do anything to make better ???
I still don’t have the answer to that question.
It was a good day. Friends, fellows and a meeting. It can’t get better than that.
More to come, stay tuned…
The international Day of Remembrance has begun in Israel. The day that we remember the 6 million Jews, and many others that went to their deaths in Nazi concentration camps. Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.
These – Bad Arolson is where the millions upon millions of files for Nazi records have been kept and for years now been open to the public for research purposes.
Yad Vashem. The Holocaust museum in Israel.
You who live safe
In your warm houses,
You who find, returning in the evening,
Hot food and friendly faces:
Consider if this is a man
Who works in the mud
Who does not know peace
Who fights for a scrap of bread
Who dies because of a yes and a no.
Consider if this is a woman,
Without hair and without name
With no more strength to remember,
Her eyes empty and her womb cold
Like a frog in winter
Meditate that this came about:
I commend these words to you.
Carve them in your hearts
At Home, in the street,
Going to bed, rising;
Repeat them to your children,
Or may your house fall apart,
May illness impede you,
May your children turn their faces from you.
Survival in Auschwitz
Whew. What a week and weekend this has been. I remarked to a friend this evening that I haven’t been this busy with things to do in a long time. It is raining tonight, little wispy rain.
Our little meeting that is shaping up made a huge leap forwards today. The founders of the group met and we polished the minutes and readings, we talked about what we want to concentrate on and how things will play out. We also ponied up, paying our first months rent, which I will pay tomorrow. Word of mouth is working in our favor. All of the young men whom I have spoken to over the past few days seem positive that they will come. That may play out for a great showing on our first night (May 02 Thursday) …
We headed out to get the coffee perking and set up early for the Sunday Night Meeting. We sat a good group of folks. And we continued reading from the Big Book and Into Action through step 9.
” Made direct amends to such people, where ever possible except when to do so would injure them or others.”
We read in the book that “The Spiritual life is not a theory. We Have to Live It.
It was brought to attention that the end of that sentence is italicized, which means that it is important and should be made note of.
In my life, as it pertains to family, we had a tit for tat relationship. Many of the decisions I made, in sobriety the first time AND the second time, were in response to something that was done to me.
My father poisoned the well between my brother and myself and I haven’t been able to mend that fence. My mother was ambivalent, and she lives in resentment. In my life, if she copped a resentment against you, she would shut you off like flicking a light switch. And they did that to many family members, not only me.
Being Gay and HIV+ was a death knell. My father said some very hurtful things, and for a long time as I was growing up he would constantly tell me that I was a mistake and should never have been born. How do you counter something like that? What do you do? I did the only thing possible and I legally changed my name as to leave the family once in for all. And I was sober when I did that.
My father told me that I would never live up to the man he named me after, a soldier who was killed in Viet Nam. And a man I know my father felt something more than friendship, since a room in his house is dedicated to him openly.
Coming to Canada was another decision I made in sobriety. One because I could not afford to live in the states any more. And my mothers propensity for lying paid off for me giving me a birthright into Canada. How could I pass that up?
I tried for years to make amends. To keep communications open. I guess I expected blood from a rock, knowing my family history. The last things my mother said to me was that if they got sick and died, nobody would call me.
Fuck me for trying.
Amends are tricky things. And there were many takes on the topic tonight. Someday in sobriety I won’t be expectant of any kind of response, if there was a response. Silence is a bitter pill to swallow. But in my family silence is the tactic to punish those who have fallen out of favor.
That’s why we pray. To accept things I cannot change, and to accept that I am powerless over people, places and things.
I am grateful for the people in my life and the good things that come from meetings.
All is right in the world tonight.
More to come, stay tuned…
It is raining. The great spring wash has begun. As is usual, April brings showers to wash away the snow on the ground. It has been a couple of beautiful days with sun and warmer temps.
It is Easter Sunday and I had hoped for a good showing tonight, as for it is a holiday and the biggest night in bar traffic always comes on holidays after folks have spent the better part of the weekend with family, they need a night out for some liquor.
The same goes for members. Holidays, family, alcohol, a mix not for the feint of heart, beings people out of the house and to a meeting, which is why meetings are open on holidays.
As it was the last Sunday of the month, we read from the Twelve and Twelve. And it is the third month, so we read Tradition Three. ” The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.”
Have you ever …
Have you ever judged someone in the rooms, based on their story or circumstance? Have you ever felt that someone should go get sober somewhere else because it might happen that a particular person upset the delicate apple cart of members egos and attitudes? Have you ever shunned someone from a meeting because they were different ? Have you ever felt superior to someone new to the rooms, or towards one of your fellows ?
The only requirement…
The first time I got sober in Ft’ Lauderdale, I got sober in a gay room of A.A. a Lambda room. I was safe and amongst my people. As circumstances presented themselves, a couple years in I moved from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami to be treated for my HIV by a specialist. Because there was no infrastructure there to assist people with AIDS.
I began attending meetings at the Coral Room in South Florida. That was a club room, which meant it was open all day from 7 am to midnight, and housed many meetings a night – every night.
At one point, I was sober a few years, and I had never really shared my story with community up until that point. I was asked to share at a meeting, of course I said yes. I was at the podium talking and at the point where I got to where I came out and said that I was living with AIDS, many men got up from their chairs and went outside to wait until I was finished speaking. At the end of the meeting they took me outside and said …
DO NOT COME BACK HERE, GET SOBER SOMEWHERE ELSE !!!
Had I been versed on the traditions, I would have recited tradition three. This is a hindsight observation. I never attended that particular meeting again. I then settled at the late night meeting at 10, where people welcomed me with open arms. Just goes to show you that there are IGNORANT people in the rooms.
It was in that room that I planned and executed my slip.
I never returned to that place, when I returned the second time. The second time I got sober on South Beach in 2001.
When I moved to Montreal in 2002, I was hitting meetings all over the city. And it happened again that I went to a meeting on the West End, holed over by a family of sober folks. At the end of the meeting they starting plying me with twenty questions about my life and sobriety. A second time I stated the truth and once again I heard those words…
ISN’T THERE SOMEPLACE ELSE YOU CAN GET SOBER, OTHER THAN HERE ???
Once is enough to be told that one is not welcome, but twice is a problem. Being new to a city and meeting new people for the first time, it doesn’t bode well for a community to be so ignorant and intolerant of those with different struggles. I mean that’s what we pray when we recite the long version of the Serenity Prayer.
There are ignorant people in Montreal. To this day there are some who ignore me and will come to a meeting I sit in and ignore me as if I didn’t exist. I don’t know why this is, but I have my suspicions. Years ago, it was odd to find a queer in a straight meeting. We had queer meetings dedicated to the queer factor.
But over time, queer meetings fell apart and the LGBT folks scattered across the city to main line heterosexual meetings. We are everywhere today. And for the most part there is no qualm about it. We are all alcoholics, who want to get better, and far be it from anyone to tell someone that they are not welcome at any given meeting.
The only reason we would ask someone to leave a meeting is, and only when they get unruly and threaten anyone’s well being in a meeting. And in all my years I know of only One Man to be barred from a particular meeting, which is above and beyond the pale of any group conscience.
People come to a meeting because they suffer the same affliction we all do, a sickness of mind, body and soul. And the only way to get better is to put down the drink and come to a meeting.
I have always erred on the side of caution. When dealing with new folks, to allow them to sink in slowly, to be welcoming, to be grateful and to be of assistance. Never throw a book at them prematurely or to force them to “get it my way or the highway” or suggest they “come to” quicker than they are able, each according to their gifts.
There are meetings where old timers pound the book from the first meeting. I don’t agree with the heavy hand approach. Sobriety takes time, and all we have is time. Take as much time as you need.
Young people are suffering. We heard it again tonight. Conflicts about God, and spirituality are coming in between people. Egos and attitudes are coming to blows for some. And we hear as well that newcomer numbers are dropping on the young people groupings, all because of heavy handedness.
There are also some young people who deign to say the word God and have come up with their own set of steps rewritten to omit any reference to God, and that isn’t sitting well with older members.
Our book is meant to be suggestive only, we realize we know only a little …
It is written in the way it is written for a reason and the steps were written for a certain reason in the format they were set down to paper. Far be it from someone to rewrite them because of the God issue. In the end this is a spiritual program, and sooner or later we come to the God word.
However you get there … there is one who has all power that one is God, may you find him now … the words spoken in How It Works.
Seasons are changing. And people are shook up. And it is distressing to see these kinds of flare ups, but what can you do ? Always check your motives when dealing with others.
You belong when you say you belong.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking.
I am grateful for my friends tonight and every night.
It was a good but painful meeting, but that happens occasionally.
Pray for our young people.
More to come, stay tuned…
Another week has begun, Passover began for my Jewish friends and family, and it is holy week in the Christian calendar. The most holy or Highest Holy days of the year. We will be partaking in services at the Cathedral on Saturday night for the Easter Vigil Choir mass – which is always a good production.
It was a busy day today. We spent the morning writing letters to the government and the bank who holds my student loan – the government is trying to hold me responsible for paying a $3000.00 loan, that should have been converted to a bursary because AIDS is a major functional disability and they did not adjust my account properly – and they did this to hundreds of thousands of other students as well. So we are contesting the loan payback and requesting the government to retroactively correct my file. Let Us Pray !!!
After a short power nap, I got ready to go for tonight’s meeting at Trinity Memorial this evening. We sat a fair number of folks. 90 % had less than a month. And a few with multiples of years. And it is a beginner’s meeting, so precedence goes to the newcomers.
We read from the Big Book … 32-33.
… Most of us have believed that if we remained sober for a long stretch, we could thereafter drink normally. But here is a man who at fifty-five years found he was just where he had left off at thirty.
[the man got sober - and went back out and never returned]
We have seen the truth demonstrated again and again:” Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic.” Commencing to drink after a period of sobriety, we are in a short time as bad as ever. If we are planning to stop drinking, there must be no reservation of any kind, nor any lurking notion that someday we will be immune to alcohol.
There is that pesky warning once again repeated in the text. Some folks just don’t read the book.
Many of our young people, find it a challenge to pick up the book and really commit with their hearts, the tough task of self appraisal and inventory. Long before we get to the God issue, the admission of the problem is necessary. And being young and impervious, so they think, of alcohol, they either remain on the outside looking in, or stuck in the revolving door [ in and out and in and out.]
Who really wants to get honest with themselves and have to, in due time, speak those words to another, let alone God himself ? I suppose that if you are at the point of utter incomprehensible demoralization, there is no other way but up.
How do you impress upon young people that this is the only way to get better and that just thinking about it and saying the words and warming a seat will keep you sober and lead you to a happy and fulfilling life. However hard the task to begin with, if we can commence to drink, at some point, we will commence to get better. Because to drink for us is to die.
I waited for the end of the meeting to share, hoping that the newcomers would take up the hour talking, and they did. I’ve spoken about my SLIP experience ad nauseum.
What did I know, and when did I know it ?
Alcoholism was rampant in my family. Three generations worth. It was there, and because we were taught never to talk about it or seek a solution, God forbid, it existed untreated and undiagnosed. I never said to myself that I would never become my father or my grandfather.
I had to move away to be Gay, because my father would never had stood for a faggot under his roof. At 21 I moved away to begin my adult life, with not a one tool for proper living. Who knew from responsibility. Jackpot after jackpot occurred and I did not know what to do.
But stopping drinking was not a choice I entertained.
Would that someone said the word STOP … in my twenties ? Had someone that knew me and my life story, said the word stop, would I have listened ? And I imagine that my life would have been so different had I gotten help then.
Everything happens for a reason. And this is the cross I bear to this day. I am sure that my alcoholism and stupidity played a part in my diagnosis at 26. The boy who I was with at that time, lied to me then killed himself. So I was fucked from the word Go!!!
I got sober in spite of the fact that I was trying to kill myself with the drink, not to feel the sorrow of knowing that I was standing on deaths doorstep and that I was surely going to die in a matter of time. I had the date marked on a calendar, I knew the day I was supposed to die.
The powers that be made an executive decision on my behalf, and while they remained in my life I was safe, safe from myself, and safe my alcoholism. But like all good things, they also come to an end. And I was left alone in a world that I knew not, because of the world that I was living in the past few years.
I had to relearn how to live in the world without the protection and direction of Todd and Roy. I stayed sober for a couple more years, but it just wasn’t the same. Once I hit my death date and I was still alive, I had to figure out what to do next ? Because I had not planned on living that long and the world was at large.
I was going to meetings. I had friends. BUT …
The heterosexual men in the room that I spent most of my meetings were dead set against my attending meetings at that room, and they told me so to my face.
I stayed sober in spite of them. But after while, I strayed away from the book. I had no sponsor, and I wasn’t communicating with someone I trusted. And I made an executive decision in sobriety that doomed me to my slip.
They say we plan our slips ahead of time…
All the boys at four years went out, including myself. And the slip was worse because I not only drank, but I became a drug addict. Thankfully when I came to the end of my drug use, I moved away from the source, and I never looked back, and never returned to using, even though I kept drinking for more than a year before I was led back to the rooms.
I know that feeling of shame and remorse. Having to begin at the beginning and how others think of me, because it was all about everyone else at the start. And the book also says that
“at some point we get hit by the Grace of God and we get sober”
And that happened to me and countless others.
The desire to drink left me and never returned. I can attest to the words in the book, I have a healthy respect for what it says and how it applies to my life.
And at eleven years, safe and sound was not working for me and I needed to change it up to freshen my sober journey, so I started attending this beginners meeting. To hear stories and meet new folks. Because one day, I may be present at the right moment and say the right thing, and maybe help someone never have another drink again …
The message take away:
A. That we were alcoholic and could not manage our own lives
b. That probably no human power could have relieved our alcoholism
c. That God could if he were sought
You never have to ever drink again … It can be done, one day at a time.
There is a reason I posted the prior article from the Daily Beast, because it resonated with me so vividly.
Let me tell you a story…
I graduated High School in 1985. I spent a year at the local junior college, but all the while, I was actively working at my home parish, I was an altar server, and a member of the youth group and later a Eucharistic minister.
In 1986, I applied to the Diocese of Miami – Minor Seminary in Miami. I took all the tests and passed, I guess. My parents were neither here nor there. It was because of my grandmother(s) that my passion for God was so strong.
All I wanted was to serve the church, And I did that without question during that year. I loved God with all my heart and all my soul. And I wanted to do right by my upbringing. But men at the seminary did not think that I was suited for ministry, that is why I only lasted a year.
You could say that when I was dismissed, God fell out of favor. I did not come out until I turned 21 and was well away from my family. What I didn’t know at 19 I should have in hindsight.
I was all of 19 years old. I had eyes for the church, and I was accepted into the minor seminary in the Fall of 1986 – thru – Spring 1987. I was a boy trying to find his way in a community of men who, in most cases, were older than me, also, (and this is purely hindsight observation) most of my peers knew who they were, as in sexual orientation.
There was a dichotomy of states I observed. I kept my nose clean, I did not make waves, I did my studies, went to chapel, participated in community, but still, I was an odd ball.
In hindsight, there were many things that I felt passionate about. A certain priest, had a problem with the drink. He would drink and find himself in the lodging hall and some of us took it upon ourselves to get him back to the rectory and into bed without incident. This happened more than once, and more than twice.
He eventually got sent away to dry out. And it was upon this campaign that I seized upon. I lobbied for him to be returned to us. Because he was a priest in a certain position of authority when he was sent away.
The priest who was installed as his replacement, was a Big Frock Priest. He loved his vestments, and you would have thought he had aspirations to the Vatican, by the way he held himself, marched through the chapel and wielded his limp fist. I did not like him. Because he had an ego of authority.
There were gay priests in residence at the seminary. It so happened that certain priests were taken out of their own churches because of personal issues that seemed as punishments for their transgressions. And were sent to live with us.
Among my fellows, there were surely young men who were gay. I did see them OUT in community, when I was asked to leave the community. Some of my fellows did end up being ordained. I have since seen them on televised masses on tv, and over the past years I have posted reports about the exploits of some of the priests that were in residence during my year.
I can tell you that YES there are gay priests in churches. And It would not phase me one bit to know that there are gay priests ensconced in the Vatican. It does not shock me to read items such that I have posted here.
One of the priests, whom I know was gay at the time, when I was in seminary, studied at the Vatican during his formation years. So it is not a stretch that there are homosexuals in the highest echelons of Holy Mother Church.
I will defend some men. Because although they may be gay, many of the priests I have come to know in all my years, are good upstanding priests who serve their communities without fail. They don’t run around in the shadows and act out as we have read below.
Some I will not defend.I do draw a line in certain situations.
As a young man, at that time, I had not come to any realization about my sexual orientation. And I must ponder how I would have turned out, had I remained in seminary and eventually ordained like some of my fellows. I don’t know how that would have turned out.
There were gay men in my formation class. Some were upperclassmen, some from other countries. We had a good population of seminarians from other parts of the Latin world. And it was apparent that some of them were terribly gay.
It was a bit off putting. We had orientation weekends when new prospects would come to visit the school, and for some, would be followed by coming online with us. One particular boy who came after me, brought along his trunk with his assorted speedos and colorful underwear. Which he wasn’t shy about showing off to us as he unpacked.
He did not last very long. He came and went in less than a season.
The rector of the seminary … Big Frock Priest … was a character. I would name him, but I won’t because that would bring me too much grief. I imagine that in hindsight, as an older man myself, today, that he was a priest with a flair for the dramatic.
You know when you stand in church and a priest raises his right hand to offer a blessing to the people, there is the regular way a priest would hold out his hand to offer that blessing. Then there was Big Frock Priest, who, like I said, had aspirations of higher office, his pointed blessings with hand held high in mock of a bishop or the pope. I can see it in my minds eye.
We’ve talked about Gay priests … and If they are the problem?
We cannot discount the countless men of faith who have abused their positions in the church to abuse children. Actions that are morally and ethically deplorable. I cannot condone these men.
You come to serve the church, and you come to serve God first and foremost. With that in mind, if you desire to abuse children, then renounce your ministry and be on your way.
I have known a handful of men in ministry. Many of them straight. But since my coming to Canada, and being educated here, my affiliation with the Catholic and Anglican Churches has introduced me to a group of saintly Gay Clergy in both the Catholic and Anglican faiths.
One of them is one of my best friends, is to be ordained later on this year.
There are gays in Catholic ministry. That I can confirm. It is not a stretch to think that there are gay priests in the Vatican. This whole gay black male situation in Rome is perplexing. But it would not surprise me if these allegations are true. There are priests, then there are those men who over step their roles and bring shame upon themselves and to us by their actions.
It’s kind of repugnant.
But what do you do with all that pent up frustration of ministry work day in and day out. having to perform for the masses and the bishops, cardinals and the many who pass through the gates of Holy Mother Church?
The gay priests I knew, who were schooled in Rome, were certainly members of a particular community, and surely there were others there are well. This is not just a North American Phenomena. Gays come from most civilized countries.
Pope Benedict XVI was always known as the bulldog, for his strict stance on Church doctrine. The late Pope John II appointed him to his position for the Doctrine of the faith, because he was so learned and highly educated and well known for his smarts and clerical knowledge.
With this kind of cleric in the highest office of Holy Mother Church, I don’t think for one moment that he did not know what was going on in his church? A watchdog of this caliber had to have eyes in the community.
But what was an 85 year old frail pontiff going to do about these men? What recourse was he to take, and what punishment could he enact? Who ever wins the next conclave is going to have quite the mess to clean up, in addition to all the scandals that are rocking the church from the inside.
Some gay men have good character and are good men.
Some gay men are characters and give us all a bad name.
Some gay clergy are priests first and human second.
Some gay clergy have blurred the lines between the sacred and the profane.
But what is the answer to these situations? Do we punish all the clergy for the transgressions of some? Do you defrock those priests who have been implicated in these tawdry accusations? Do you close every sauna in Rome and take into custody all those gay men who (the reports say) have damning evidence on those so called (transgression priests)?
What will unfold, and what is truth and what is false?
I guess we shall see.
I’ve stood in St. Peter’s Basilica, I have climbed to the top of the cupola and looked down into the papal gardens, and I have visited the tomb of St. Peter.
I don’t understand how men of faith could spit upon the church and their vocations by doing such stupid and repugnant things…
Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.
God is perfect; yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
I can’t imagine what God is thinking about these things.
I would offer that he isn’t terribly pleased.
By Barbie Latza Nadeau | The Daily Beast – Fri, 22 Feb, 2013
Of all the rumors floating around about just why Pope Benedict XVI is hanging up his camauro, one has taken on a life of its own. According to several well-placed vaticanisti—or Vatican experts—in Rome, Benedict is resigning after being handed a secret red-covered dossier that included details about a network of gay priests who work inside the Vatican, but who play in secular Rome. The priests, it seems, are allegedly being blackmailed by a network of male prostitutes who worked at a sauna in Rome’s Quarto Miglio district, a health spa in the city center, and a private residence once entrusted to a prominent archbishop. The evidence reportedly includes compromising photos and videos of the prelates—sometimes caught on film in drag, and, in some cases, caught “in the act.”
Revelations about the alleged network are the basis of a 300-page report supposedly delivered to Benedict on December 17 by Cardinals Julian Herranz, Joseph Tomko, and Salvatore De Giorgi. According to the press reports, it was on that day that Benedict XVI decided once and for all to retire, after toying with the idea for months. He reportedly closed the dossier and locked it away in the pontifical apartment safe to be handed to his successor to deal with. According to reports originally printed by La Repubblica newspaper and the newsweekly Panorama (and followed up across the gamut of the Italian media), the crimes the cardinals uncovered involved breaking the commandments “Thou shalt not steal” and “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” the latter of which has been used in Vatican-speak to also refer to homosexual relations instead of the traditional reference to infidelity.
The trio of cardinals who authored the report, known in the Italian press as the “007 Priests,” were commissioned by Benedict to dig into the Vatileaks scandal that rocked the Holy See last fall when the pope’s butler, Paolo Gabriele, was convicted of stealing secret papal documents and leaking them to the press. The sleuthing cardinals ran a parallel investigation to the Vatican tribunal’s criminal case against the butler, but theirs was far more covert and focused not on the mechanics of the leaks, but on who within the Roman Curia might be the brains behind them. And, according to the leaked reports, what the “007 Priests” found went far beyond the pope’s private desk. “What’s coming out is very detailed X-ray of the Roman Curia that does not spare even the closest collaborators of the Pope,” wrote respected Vatican expert Ignazio Ingrao in Panorama. “The Pope was no stranger to the intrigues, but he probably did not know that under his pontificate there was such a complex network and such intricate chains of personal interests and unmentionable relationships.”
The existence of a gay-priest network outside the fortified walls of Vatican City is hardly news, and many are wondering if it is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of sex scandals. In 2010, investigative journalist Carmello Abbate went undercover with a hidden camera to write a shocking exposé called “Good Nights Out for Gay Priests”.
Abbate caught the priests on hidden camera dirty dancing at private parties and engaging in sex acts with male escorts on church property. He also caught them emerging from dark bedrooms just in time to celebrate mass. In one postcoital scene, a priest parades around seminaked, wearing only his clerical vestments. “This is not about homosexuality,” Abbate told The Daily Beast when he published the exposé. “This is about private vices and public virtues. This is about serious hypocrisy in the Catholic Church.”
Because so much of the secret lives of gay priests is actually not so secret thanks to Abbate’s exposé and subsequent book, Sex and the Vatican, many are wondering what else could be hidden in the alleged red-covered dossier. Vatican elite have also been loosely tied to a number of other secular scandals during Benedict’s tenure, including the ultra-tawdry affair between former Lazio governor Piero Marrazzo and several transvestite prostitutes, including one named “Brenda” who was found burned to death in 2009. At the time that Marrazzo’s relationships with the transvestites were discovered, his driver reportedly told investigators that several high-ranking priests and even cardinals were customers of Rome’s elite transsexual circuit, though no proof was ever provided and no one has ever been arrested tied to the transsexual prostitution circuit. Nor has anyone mentioned whether reference to these crimes might also be in the dossier. But Marrazzo was whisked off to the Vatican-owned Monte Cassino abbey south of Rome to do his penance, and he even wrote a letter to Vatican Secretary of State Tarciso Bertone asking for Pope Benedict XVI’s forgiveness.
Whatever secrets the red binders supposedly hold will have to remain just that until the next pope is elected. But Ingrao believes its contents are so important that the dossier will be like the 118th cardinal in the conclave. “Many new skeletons from the closets of the cardinals could come out until the beginning of the conclave,” says Ingrao. “Many voters know or claim to know the secrets of their brothers, but it is already clear that the new pope who leaves the Sistine Chapel will have to be scandal-free in order to proceed with cleaning up [what] Ratzinger has left for his successor.”
I am so tired …
I opened Pandora’s Box over the holidays, and now I find myself reliving memories, which for the most part, I have buried in my brain. After so many years one would hope that adults could look at a situation with time and thought and rise to the occasion and come to the table to rebuild. But when there are braces on your brains, and a patriarchal mandate over your head, people choose to live in the past and are unable to come into the present.
It is really sad …
Today was Sunday, and I needed a meeting. I left early and arrived in time to help set up as usual. We read from the Big Book and we finished the read through of More About Alcoholism. The room was packed. We needed to bring out more chairs as the meeting started to accommodate more folks.
Over the last few days my brain has been on overdrive. I spend my day doing what needs to be done, but when I lay my head down on the pillow for a nap, the rat gets on the wheel and the wheel spins at 100 mph.
My past is a veritable Pandora’s Box. And my sponsor is apt to tell me that I should just let it go and get on with living. And for the most part I can do that.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (YOU) (OTHERS)
The courage to change the things I can (ME)
And the Wisdom to know the difference.
I chose to open Pandora’s box this Christmas, by sending a card to my estranged family, to which they did not reply. I had a conversation with my aunt, who is in the same boat I am, (we call this the punishment cell)…
Just because I am sober now 11 years and a month, doesn’t mean that people in the past will consider allowing me entrance back into family, and in that I am forever damned.
And as of late, my brain has been on ” Haunt Mode.”
Every time I close my eyes, I get a playback of the past in HD color. And I can’t seem to shut the damn tv off. And I lay in bed and the images roll on like a film being played behind my eyes.
And it is driving me insane. You’d think I’d know better doing this every year like clockwork. But No, I just want to sit there with the hammer in my hand banging my head in because it feels soooo good.
I’m tired of this pain. Because it will never go away, until I hit my deathbed.
People stuck in the past are unwilling to rethink, and possibly forgive because there is fault on all sides. And that doesn’t diminish the pain that I feel because of the way people treated me. I do have feelings. I cannot change being gay and I sure as shit cannot get rid of HIV in my body. But to hold these things over ones head as punishment is terrible.
FUCKERS !!! that’s what you are. Unforgiving assholes .
So the Globes are on. I am gonna go watch.
More to come, stay tuned…
There are certain people in my life, or some I wished were part of my life that I would like to pose this question to … Because it pertains to our topic this evening.
But First …
There is snow on the ground, or what’s left of what fell the other night. In Westmount, all the yards I passed were covered in a blanket of snow that stuck.
I was up early today and as you can only sit in front of this box for so long before utter boredom sets in, I set off for the church a half hour earlier than usual to see just how much farther the Seville Project is coming along, and if my count is right, they are capping the 21st floor on Phase Three, It seems that another floor is going to go up next as the elevator shaft and columns for another floor were being poured today.
They are coming along quite nicely with the ground floor spots, which house a BMO Bank branch, they moved the rental office from the original space on our end to one farther West, underneath the Phase Three tower.
I cranked out chairs and two pots of coffee and a tea pot which went over very well tonight. It is quicker to perk a 10 cup pot of hot water, rather than use the tea kettle and having to wait for it to heat water, the stand alone coffee pot was used by many folks tonight.
We sat 45 folks. The room was full of new faces and a handful of newbies. It was a good crowd. The chair read from the Living Sober book, “Avoiding Anger and Resentment.”
It was an appropriate reading as it gives us a chance to read a passage that contains a spot checklist of feelings and emotions that may crop up in our days, not that I entertain anger or resentments, but looking at the short check list there are things I can ponder on any given day.
I am always on the lookout for pearls of wisdom from our women and tonight I was not disappointed as one of them spoke these words …
” An expectation is a premeditated resentment…”
I know that when I got sober this time, I carried around an expectation wish list for God of things that I thought I needed, now rather than later. And that list was dispatched with in due time. They did not quite fester into resentments. But more like annoyances, that were dispatched with “stay in your day” and “One day at a time” and “keep coming back.”
I’ve been angry in the past. And I can tell you exactly the day, location, and at whom I was angry at on that given day. It was volcanic, targeted and I threw my keys across the church and marched my ass out without another word.
Those I got angry with, did not stay long. And it was “be gone with you.” So it went. That was the last time I got really angry. It was one night, no more than twenty minutes and it was over with. I’ve never gotten so angry again. Needless to say that I don’t deal well with assholes with Egos… They just grate against my skin like petting a kitty backwards…
I don’t surround myself with people who would trigger anger. I have friends who are calm pools of water, Margaret Craven would call them “The Pool.” Then there are some people I know who are “Chek-wa-la” Fast moving water.
I try to stay out of Chek-wa-la.
Most of my friends from the rooms I see on a weekly basis. At meetings. Very few have graduated to “friendship outside the room” like “let’s go for coffee or something.” I have pissed some folks off here on the blog, and I know they copped resentments, it’s not my problem. How many times does one have to apologize in open community. any who …
I come from a family that was steeped in anger and resentments. My parents are the masters of cut and silence. My brother and his wife have followed in those social gospel teachings from my father, who preaches a solid line that must be followed or you yourself fall victim of the cut and silence.
I was the peacemaker. For the whole of my life, I worked diligently at mending fences and trying to hold together family. Over my lifetime, I watched my parents get pissed off for one thing or another and cop a resentment and cut and silence folks like my aunts and uncles, friends, neighbors, and especially my mother’s sister Paula. They ripped her to shreds.
I watched them punish people like 5 year old’s.
I did things in sobriety that were in my best interest. The first decision I made for myself I did during my first sober period. If I was the mistake that should never have been born, I just made sure that prophecy came true.
The second decision that I made for myself entailed my move North. Both these decisions were nails in my father’s casket. And I hammered them in quite deeply. BUT… once I was settled here, I spent the first two years here trying to mend fences and maintain family. I FAILED !!!
My mother told me in on uncertain terms that if she or my father got sick and/or died, I would not be notified and that keeping ties was unworkable. Those were the last words I heard from my mother more than 10 years ago.
And I battle resentments over family. I cannot change them. And every year I get to look at these resentments and I have to cope with what I cannot change. And it burns like hot chili peppers going down my throat.
11 years sober.
I finally decided to attempt communication. My mail would have arrived there this week. Now we wait to see if I get a response from them. I am not getting my hopes up. They are still angry at me, for many things, but because I am a non-person, a Persona Non Grata, Once the door is shut on you, you don’t exist.
Being Gay and HIV+ are my two killers.
I cannot change my sexual orientation and I sure as shit cannot change the fact that I live with a terminal disease. The door was shut on me well before I made these two life decisions. Fuck me …
I failed to follow the family gospel, because I did not share the same beliefs that my father passed down as gospel. I cannot change them. And I am powerless over them. It doesn’t elicit anger but a sickening in my stomach that people hold onto shit for years and years – choosing silence and punishment rather than communication and repentance.
Acceptance is the key to all of my problems…
What if you wake up one day and you’re not angry any more ???
I don’t get angry. You’d think that the next thought is …
I don’t get angry, I get Even!!!
My family was good at the ” tit for tat ” game. And I guess that in sobriety I played that game too.
There are only so many decades you can listen to “you were a mistake” and there are only so many times a parent can belittle or talk smack about you to your face that eventually you do something about it.
Your son is gay, instead of love, they chose hate.
Your son is HIV+, instead of support, they chose condemnation.
I was fucked from the word go, doubly so …
But my Belief is this: That everyone has a redeemable quality. At the root is the fact that we are not meant to be alone, and we only get one family, no matter how fractured that is. And I go barking up this tree every year. WHY ???
I don’t fucking know.
I want to be known. I was here. I lived. I survived. I have earned Respect and Dignity. Is that too much to ask for in this life?
What do you do? Get angry, Get even ??? People with AIDS were being thrown into the streets by family. I had nowhere to go. LGBTQ kids, to this day, are being tossed from their homes because they are gay.
That’s a familial tragedy.
I could no longer live under the hate/condemnation umbrella. I had to do something, or I was going to either drink or die. I chose the first.
And now I am here 11 years later. I am the boy who lived …
If you don’t want to be part of my life, so be it. But I tried. I am powerless over people, places and things. I don’t ask very much from my friends. And they say in sobriety, not everybody is going to like you or want to be your friend. Thank God I can live with that truth.
People with AIDS don’t waste time with people who aren’t in the gang.
You are either with me or you are not. It’s very simple.
I ain’t gonna chase you. I am 45 years old. I am sober 11 years. I survived the drink and the drugs. I survived AIDS – 19 years.
I’ve earned respect, because I am a dignified man.
I am not angry any more. It’s a waste of time and emotion. Why allow useless people to rent free space in your brain, for no good reason???
The end of the night came with whoopla and applause. My sponsor had a card, a medallion, and a small gift for me. We had cake. Everybody left happy.
A good night was had by all.
Wau Lam… That is all.
More to come, stay tuned.
Make a list of things you’d like to change. Expand one or all of the point into a post. How do they inform one another? What connects them? What does that say about you?
This photo was taken many years ago, I was a young twenty something, and the woman I loved more than life itself was still alive. My Memere …
This was a dream vacation we got to take together because I had a really great job and the ability to take friends and family aboard the ships on the odd occasion. There was no better way to repay her but with a trip to the Bahamas.
Oh by the way, this post is brought to you by Plinky.
It is Christmas. My 45th Christmas. Imagine, I lived to see 45 Christmases.
What would I like to change ???
I saw Sally Field on Oprah last night, speaking about her Human Rights Campaign Award for the Ally for Equality. And in her speech she spoke about her son, Sam. And how much she loved her son and that “God created him” so he’s gay, (then continued … Who the F*ck cares ???”)
And she said about the f bomb, that sometimes it is useful.
The holidays are really hit and miss for me. I love the holidays, and I hate them just the same. I find solace in doing for others on the holiday then reliving the knowledge that my family wants nothing to do with me.
I would change lots of things. I would love to see past resentments finally get rid of in my family. Instead of the way things are. Nobody speaking to each other, however I am in contact with my aunt in Florida. And my cousin in B.C.
Being gay is strike one on me. Being HIV+ is the second strike, and living abroad is the third strike. So what, I made life decisions for myself. It was all about me and not them. However I used them to get where I am today. Just luck my mother was still a citizen when I was born which afforded me a birthright.
I’ve been on the persona non grata list for more than a decade. And I wonder when do we stop punishing each other for growing up and making decisions in our lives. And when do we move from Resentment into Acceptance ???
It’s not all about Me – or all about You. It’s all about Us …
I sent out 25 Christmas cards today. That two boxes of cards, and postage came to more than $50.00 … A nominal expense, but I enjoy cards. Sending them and getting them.
I wrote out one card to my family, in the states. Just my signature and sealed and set it on the pile. Last night I got balsy and tore up that card and wrote out a second card. With an invitation to dialogue.
You know, I am 45 years old. I am past middle age, when it comes to HIV. I am living on borrowed time, as they say. What would you give to hear your mother say that she loves you? Or your father the same. Or your brother say that he was interested in dialogue after more than decades of silence.
I’ve earned every minute of my life. I am a big man. And though my family lived on tit for tat backstabbing, we all played a part in where we are today. Everybody is guilty, for things we did or said, and for things we failed to say and do.
If I could change some things in the past, like knowing what I should have done when my grandparents had their strokes – they might have lived longer and our family would not have self imploded like it did.
My Memere lived a long life. The regret of my life, is not going to her funeral. That is another sore spot, because my mother did not want her infected fag son to be seen by the family. So she barred me from the funeral and burial. What was I going to say, “f*ck you, I’m going anyways???”
People who believe in the bible so hard, they loose sight of what is really the meaning of life, and what the words in the Bible really mean. How can you espouse the bible and never set foot in a church? Did Vatican authority really force you to think, believe and say the things you all said?
Like Holy Mother Church was in the next room !!!
In sobriety we work our steps. And I have been through my steps. I made my lists and spoke to my resentments and pain. Some items on that step 4 list never get removed for good. There is still bitterness and anger. But what can I do, I am powerless over people, places and things.
I know better than to get my hopes up. My 11th sober anniversary is on Sunday and what a sober gift it would be to reconnect.
All you gotta do is Google me. And there I am. I am not hard to find.
What does this say about me? Family is everything, when you have none. No gay boy or girl, should ever be sent away or forced out of their family just for being gay. No way, No how, No argument. No gay adult should feel less than because members of their own family deny they exist because they are gay.
Time is a precious commodity, once wasted it can Never be regained. We all live on borrowed time, we are all going to die, and would you rather go to your grave with resentments in your life, or a clear conscience, surrounded by family?
Shit, I have a great friend in the sphere and on twitter who gave birth to a gay teenager (well he is a gay teenager today) and the second son is (Gender Queer) and son three is still too young to present. And she loves her boys. So does her husband Adam. I would kill to have a mom like Sam.
Times have changed, and You owe me at least respect.
The bible says “Honor thy father and mother.”
I find it hard to honor a human/humans who do not honor me. Love skipped a generation when it came to my parents. It seems they did not get the memo from the grandparents. They all died too soon to impart the message.
And I don’t know if I can teach an old dog new tricks.
Cue the music – start the fog machine – blue light GOBO slow pans across the floor through dimly lit space, and the first beat comes…
I am alone, it is early, the bar is not yet open, but I am there alone. Just me, the music and the spirit of God. Well, what little spirit of God there was at that time of my life. It is mid-summer in Ft. Lauderdale. I have just told Todd that I was going to die…
This was one of the hardest days of my life. How do you tell someone you love, that you are going to die? The day I was diagnosed, July 8th, 1994 was the worst day of my life. Bar none …
My then boyfriend packed his things and left in the car as soon as he heard the news. All of my friends found out and they all took off for the hills. The only people still standing by me were Todd, Roy, and a choice few friends at the bar that I was working at.
I called a family meeting and that proved to be a failure. Because I was first gay, now I was HIV+ and that was doubly sinful and abhorrent to them.
If you were around during the height of the AIDS epidemic you would have seen employers fire sick people from their jobs, landlords throwing tenants out on the streets. You would have seen families, lovers and partners toss their sick significant others out into the street as well.
We had nothing left but the little dignity we had left. And the ones who stayed were the ones who would care for, tend to, care for and bury the rest. Because back in the 90′s, there were no comprehensive care systems. We did not have drugs that we have today. We did not have doctors dedicated to taking care of us.
The medical systems had to be built from the ground up. Many doctors didn’t know from AIDS and they had to learn how to care for so many sick people.
I bought several poster boards that I made calendars out of and stuck them on my kitchen wall to mark the days I had left to live. That was 540 days …
My friend Roy used to tear them up whenever he came over because he did not want me focusing on the day that I was supposed to die. I had bigger fish to fry. And Todd kept me on a short leash. What he did saved my life. There will never be another man in my life like Todd.
Hundreds of people I knew died. HUNDREDS !!!!
Every year the quilt was rolled out, we went to see it to mark the new names added to the list of the dead. And we also went to see who was still alive.
This is why we celebrate World AIDS Day, because those who do not learn from the past are destined to repeat it. This generation knows very little of what it was like for us – back in the day.
That is one reason I opened this blog. To catalog and collect my memories. So that in case I die, I was here. I left my mark on the world with the stories of my life that I have collected here for you all to read.
Gay is still a dirty word in the world. And is still met with condemnation and abhorrence. The face of HIV has changed over the last decade. New medications have come along, and many of us who are left from days gone by, are now on those powerful cocktails of drugs that we must take daily to stay alive.
I was there when it all started for me. When there were no real set drugs and I tested every drug that came off the pike from the doctors I sought out after my diagnosis.
In the beginning, we had a drug farm in Fort Lauderdale, and they would collect medication from people who had died. They would repackage those drugs and give them to us, as we could not get medication very easily. And I did that for two years. I moved to Miami because there were doctors there who were trained in care for HIV positive folks.
And from those doctors, I tested every drug that came down the pike. And this has been what I have done here in Montreal, since the day I arrived here. I have the best in medical care here and a doctor who is on the cutting edge of HIV medical treatment.
HIV is not a death sentence, unless you live in a country that cannot get medication. Where death rates are terribly high. We need to do more to get drugs to countries that so badly need them. Drug companies need to do more for the world than what they are doing today. They are NOT doing ENOUGH !!!
Today we remember all those who have died.
We pray for their souls and their families.
And we ask you for your continued prayers and support.
If you don’t know your HIV status, then I suggest you get tested. If you are an active gay man, it is your DUTY to know these things. The owness falls on you to get tested and be RESPONSIBLE for your life and also for the lives of men you have sex with.
HIV knows no barrier, creed, color or sexual orientation. Straight people get HIV too.
Nobody is immune from getting HIV if you are not careful or diligent about sex. Doing nothing is stupid. There is no excuse for why you wouldn’t or shouldn’t get tested, it could SAVE YOUR LIFE !!!
Rapid treatment after diagnosis today can be very helpful to living a full and happy life. It didn’t use to be like this. In the 90′s HIV was a death sentence. Thank God I had what I had or I surely would not be here today writing to you.
Be Responsible. Be Diligent and Be Smart. Get tested !!!
Take care of yourself and each other.
“It’s not the cloud in the middle of the room, but the elephant in the room!”
It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Skies were blue, cool enough for a hoodie, and lots of time on my hands. Hubby was up and around early this morning and got some shopping done. Thank God for benevolent powers that be who upped my credit allowance on HBC.
Can you believe it that Thanksgiving is only a few days away??? The crunch of the holidays will soon be descending upon us very soon. There is a lot of discussion going on about the holidays, our group anniversary 54 years in December and the discussion about having the room open on Christmas and New Years day, since those holiday’s fall on Tuesday this year.
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It was a festive day today because we are sending one of our young people away to live in New York City, so we threw him a group going away party tonight. I wanted to do something special for him. We’ve watched him grow up over the last year and he’s a strong young man who will do great things with his life.
We read from the Big Book, continuing on Step 4 and our sexual actions list. One never knows where the discussion is going to go when dealing with such an intimate topic. It was very moving to hear what people had to share and do it so openly and honestly.
I never really think about sex, but it is a part of my life. I shared about some things tonight, but after I spoke, and the discussion went around the outer circle, more came to mind the longer I thought about the topic.
I have to say that sex was an ever present entity in our lives when I was a much younger boy. My parent’s were raised in the 1950′s. And were married in 1967.
My father’s reading library was always on display sitting by the toilet in the bathroom. And I knew very early in my life, I knew what road I was going to take because I had been “home schooled” in sexual activity and sexual orientation.
Lucky that when I was old enough to come home after school, I had plenty of time to investigate all the little secrets my parents kept. I remember when they would have visitors over, I would listen in on their conversations and I heard things that maybe a child sh0uld not know about.
It is amazing that my father had certain proclivities. And his reading material was skewed in a certain direction, but because (in hindsight) there was ample self loathing about certain sexual orientations that he always spoke in terms of as being Abhorrent.
When I was a boy, all I wanted was to be like my dad.
I thought sex was normal, either straight or gay. I didn’t see a disconnect here. And if it was good for dad, then it should be good enough for me as well.
There was a particular radio show on late night radio that I used to listen to that informed my desires as a young boy. I was engrossed in secrets. And by the time I hit puberty – I had complete knowledge of where I was going. And like any good father, he took each of us, (my brother and I) out for our traditional “Birds and the Bee’s” discussion dinner outing.
I never admitted my sexual orientation to anyone. Who knew that the direction I was headed personally, was sexual orientation (something different). I thought that it was normal to be sexually oriented in a certain way. If dad was reading about it – he must be thinking about it – so what is so bad about it?
My father has a very old skeleton in his closet. One that will never see the light of day. I have studied my life, and his life over the last 45 years, and I have come up with my own story, from the stories I was told as a young man.
As it turned out – my progression sexually was an outward reflection of what my father was internally. But he made a conscious choice to bury reality and marry into uniform society. One man – One Woman. Marriage – Home and children.
My father forced my mother on a number of fronts. One, to renounce her heritage. Two, to alienate her entire family, and Three, to vow a blood oath to her husband and fuck the children.
It was either your husband OR your children.
Some mothers get the luxury of having both her husband and marriage and her children. My mother did not have that choice. He abhorred me and loved my brother. I was a mistake, in his words. But my brother was to be the chosen one.
My parents surely knew the game was up when I was a teen-ager. My father was purely convinced that I was a mistake and the abuse he heaped on me is something no child should ever have placed upon them.
Being raised hard line 1960′s Catholicism, homosexuality was abhorrent. And had no place in his family. Gays, Queers, Niggers and Wops were just some of the words my father used on an every day basis. He was an equal opportunity offender. I had a best friend in sixth grade who’s family originated in South East Asia. Hence, they had dark skin.
One day I invited my friend over to visit after school. And my father almost had a heart attack. He opened with, what is that nigger doing in my house? He has dark skin, what if the neighbors see him here? What will they think?
That was just one example. That friend never set foot in our house ever again. All my friendships ever more happened away from home, in other people’s homes, not my own.
The first time my step mother introduced gay men into our lives, my father’s verbal abuse and physical abuse only got worse. He was so jealous that as a young man, I gravitated to those men, because they spoke to me kindly and shared stories with me and treated me like a human being. Where my father wouldn’t deign to even speak to those men, but he had to tolerate them sitting at my step mother’s dining room table. She would not allow him to spout his vitriol at the table.
I was schooled in all things gay by real gay men. My father would abuse me terribly after each dinner party to make sure he would “beat the gay” out of me. But once again, I offer this: If gay is so abhorrent, then why did you have gay reading material in plain view in the communal bathroom for everyone else to see?
And remember my mother swore a blood oath to him that said that she had to always side with him and never defend her children on any front. My father preached the social gospel for the entire time I lived at home.
I never shared my sexual orientation with anyone. Ever. When I was able, and dutifully unprepared for going out into the world, I packed up my life and moved to Orlando. I was too young, Too Green, and Totally unprepared to go into the world.
I was a raging alcoholic at 21. I moved into a high end apartment complex just outside the Tragic Queendom. I had no street smarts, nor did I know the value of a dollar, how to use that dollar and pay bills and rent and car payments. Because what other money would I have to drink with???
I had made exploratory forays into the community prior to moving so I knew gay people in advance.
And I was warmly welcomed into the community by a good friend who initiated me into the club. And I was off and running. All Good Boys come out at the Parliament House on Orange Blossom Trail. I did that. The Communards sang:
Never Can Say Goodbye … Patrick danced with me, and he was my first kiss.
What do you get when you mix the Tragic Queendom, alcohol and a band of boys fresh off the farm in a world of sex, drag queens, drugs and party time all the time?
I was a young boy, with cheek of tan. I was pretty. And I knew it. And that played in my favor for a long time. I could drink with the best. I had several room mates living in several apartments during those years. Boys were a dime a dozen, and seducing straight boys was a competition.
I was a sexually active young man. I won’t deny that. Everybody was having sex. This was Pre-AIDS. We never heard that word ever, until it started killing our friends. But like any naive young boy, we thought we were invincible and untouchable.
We never discussed AIDS among us. But when the first and second and third drag queen we knew died, it started to become reality. It did not impact me, nor would it for some time to come.
The one relationship that I had, that meant anything to me during that time was with a seasonal hire at the Tragic Queendom. His name was Charlie. I really cared about him. We got along famously. We slept together. The game was (Blender or Bottle). We would call one or the other and it was a one word question, Blender or Bottle.
That was code for – we are going to drink – and have sex.
Sex and alcohol was intertwined when I was a boy. It is our greatest asset. And for some a terrible weapon. It was difficult having honest relationships then. Because no man was off limits, even better if you were dating that man. Because if another boy could steal your boyfriend and sleep with him, that was a BIG score. Sex was an all out competition. That life did not last long.
I tried to marry out of that community. Meet a man, get involved and settle down. And I honestly tried that. But it never panned out.
From the age of 21 to 26, I was a sexual dynamo. And where there was alcohol there was sex. I had moved to Fort Lauderdale for a boy. He lied to me, he cheated on me, then he infected me. He never told me that he had AIDS. I found out after his suicide, with a backhanded comment by one of his friends who felt it her duty to inform me that he was gravely ill … so he killed himself.
I was tested once. It came back negative. Life went on. So did the drinking. I got a really good job. A job I wish, to this day, I still had with the same people, in the same place, alas, that time has passed, all those friends are dead, and the man who saved my life is across the country.
The day I tested positive for AIDS was the turning point in my sex life. I’ve told this story over and over again. You know how it goes.
I got sober a month and a half after I was diagnosed. I was diagnosed on July 8th 1994. I got sober the first time on August 23rd, 1994. My boss kept me on a short leash. I was too busy working and learning how to survive at the bar to even consider getting involved in a relationship. Because, if I am honest, who wanted a marked man?
I like this story. I was working at the bar for a long time. And I had a bartender position one night. And this really cute guy stalked me all night. After shift we went out to after hours to get acquainted. Which led to discussion, which led to me going over his house. He was undressed before he got through the front door of his house. And I panicked. Do I disclose ???
I chose to disclose right there on the spot.
I never saw a man put his clothes back on so fast in my life. He asked me to leave, and would you believe it, that man kept coming to the bar I worked at and never once did he ever acknowledge my existence.
I never had another relationship after that.
I was sober 4 years, living in Miami. I was coasting. Going to meetings, and staying sober. I had a tight group of sober friends. But I wasn’t buried in the Big Book. And I didn’t have a sponsor.
And you know Alcohol is Cunning, Baffling and Powerful, not to mention “PATIENT!”
I have heard it said that while you go to a meeting, alcoholism is doing push ups in the parking lot waiting for you.
I had been abstinent for a long time. But at some point, that little devious dragon called sex, started to beckon me. I had not drank, I was living alone. My friends were all taking care of me night and day. My friends actually all had keys to my apartment so they could come and go as they pleased, because they were all involved in my life. It was the most beautiful thing. I miss David and Logan.
I never spoke of this yearning to anyone. But I sought out the missing link. And I never told anyone what I was up to. My Bad …
I acted on that urge. I drank, I drugged and almost lost my life …
After that relationship ended. I moved back to Miami and into my solitary life. I had three friends. Mark, Ricky and Raphael. Mark my my using buddy, Ricky and his husband were caretakers for a while, until I was able to move out on my own.
You know the rest of this story.
I got sober again and took my last geographic move in sobriety.
I met a man, I fell in love and the rest is history.
Tonight a young married woman spoke these words to us: ” For the first ten years of our marriage, I kept waiting for him to leave! It took 13 years for me to realize that I don’t want him to leave…”
I can’t say that my early life was all bad. It was fun. It was what had to happen. We all grow up one way or another. I wasn’t ready for the world that I had placed myself into. Gay vs Gay is not very conducive for healthy relationships. I’ve known many backstabbing queens. I had relations with a few of them.
Would I relive that period of time again? Maybe. If I could have the same people who were there alive today. Alas, many of them died later on in my life. That first group where AIDS made its entry into our lives, followed me. It took friends in Orlando, Ft. Lauderdale and Miami.
All the pretty, young men, we used to be became sick, deformed and blotched. It was horrible. AIDS was the scourge that tore a hole in many lives.
The desire to live loose, drink and have nameless, faceless sex grew old. It is like two sides of a very sad story. Summing it all up … It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
I was waiting for him to leave…
Tonight’s post is brought to you by Step 11 …
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”
It was a busy day today. I was up early to get out to Wood this morning. Not sure how long that is going to last because I am not getting proper sleep, with late nights and getting up so early and trying to nap during the afternoon, this hasn’t been very fruitful.
I go to the meeting, open the door, open the kitchen and start set up. And I am beginning to nurse a resentment. It is one thing to ask someone to come aboard and do service because they really need people to get involved. Then have someone (insert name here) always running up your ass, correcting what you did for set up because it has to be “this way and not that way”
What do you call an alcoholic with control issues?
A PAIN IN THE ASS…
You just can’t come in and sit your ass down in a chair and let things be, I am far from being a perfectionist, and I do have my own routine when it comes to set up of my meeting, and others have their way for set up in their routines.
No, you got to get up and fix this and do that and put this here and that there.
Chill the fuck out for Christ’s sake.
And then after the meeting I am putting stuff away and I hear the snide remarks under ones breath about “there is a reason we put things away this way and not that way in the cabinet!” As if to say you are not doing it right !!!
So I walked away from the cabinet and left the kitty envelope sitting there and walked out of the building and off to Alexis Nihon to puck up hubby’s pills.
You ask for help and then you can’t just let someone else do what they are going to do, not that I forgot to put everything out properly or stand this book up here and not lay them on the piano, because God forbid someone not be able to see the freaking book there, like anyone is buying literature lately !!!
If you want help then you need to let go and accept help and not always walk behind someone sniffing up one’s ass all the time.
So I started putting out chairs this morning and a member came in and said that I was setting them up too close, that he needed to spread them out farther. That was one. Then I set up and it was not good enough. Someone needed to correct what I did wrong. That was two. And then another member came up to me after the meeting scolding me about counting the kitty before the end of the meeting, that was three and then cleaning up I get a smart ass remark about putting stuff away. That was four…
I am SO NOT dealing with this petty shit.
I left the hall and went on to do what I needed to do today. I got walked home and got here about 9, so I left to go vote. And I voted for the C.A.Q. candidate in a heavily Liberal riding.
Then I had to go to the bank to set up a new bank account. I got there early and sat and waited. The girl came out and I stepped into her office and she tells me that she tried to call and all she got was our voice mail and she didn’t leave a message.Why the fuck do we have voice mail but to receive messages.
(Later when I got home, there were no calls on the ID box). I don’t think she called, but was making up some excuse. The she proceeds to tell me that she can’t open the account as I was told WOULD BE DONE at the bank by a service man on the phone a few days ago. She said I needed either a Quebec Drivers License (I don’t own a car) or a valid passport. (I am not going to go spend more than $100 cad for a new passport just to open a bank account.
So fuck me, all those calls and setting up appointments were pointless.
I left the bank disappointed. I went to get some lunch at B.K. and came home on the metro. I was home around noon. And I attempted to nap for a few hours, but that turned out useless as well.
I got up and took a hot shower and set off for the church early as usual because the weather was going to go downhill this evening. Thankfully I got in and done and plenty of sit time before the meeting with no rain. It didn’t start raining until the meeting started.
We read from the Big Book. Step 11 …
Prayer is the act of sharing what is on our hearts. Asking for things from God, and meditation is the act of sitting and patiently waiting for the answer to come.
I’ve recently been wondering if I wasn’t doing enough for God. And I asked several holy men about this recently and they gave me their answers. Then God came through and answered me himself.
There have been a series of deaths in my circle of friends. Parents of long time friends coming down with illness and one father fell and is now paralyzed.
Another friend’s husband drowned in a river in Vermont about 2 weeks ago and he died and was resuscitated. And now is recovering at home. So God has given me things to pray about and people to pray for. It isn’t always about me.
I have enough on my plate. Thank you God.
One another side note:
The conversation of why the girls at T.B’s won’t sponsor gay men has been put on the table. I talked to a one of our women, who said that she would work with gay men in the future but at T.B’s she wouldn’t upset the apple cart because a silent mandate was given that the women would not sponsor gay men.
We heard this mentioned by a New York Sponsor last week that she (straight woman) sponsors Gay men. And it is a precedent. Because there was a standing need for gay men who needed sponsors so they got taken on by said sponsor. And those men came from a fellow (fellowship). And also were a part of AA.
That does not mean that all women at any given meeting are sponsoring gay men in another city.
I went to the woman (vivacious lady) and asked her directly why she made this proclamation. And she told me the story of WHY these few gay men are being sponsored by HER sponsor and not her sponsors Sponsor, her sponsors sponsor does not sponsor gay men. It is just something that was needed in New York.
Now, Gay women here in Montreal do sponsor gay men. But those women are based at the Sunday Niter’s meeting, and other meetings around town. That does not mean that all our women forbid sponsoring gay men. I think it has to be a case by case issue.
This is what I think …
If you are a gay man and you are seeking the spirituality of some of the women at T.B.’s you should directly approach the woman of your choice and speak to them privately and not through the group and let them decide what is best for both of you. It is possible to make change in the way things are done, but if you don’t ask then what good is the question first of all ???
At the end of the meeting we had a 15 year cake. Gluten free cake at that.
It was a packed house. A good night was had by all.
More to come, stay tuned …
In this photo Left to Right: My cousin Carol, My cousin Sandy, My cousin Michael in the front row on the polka dotted chair is ME and next to me is my cousin little Pete. The woman on the far left I don’t know and the man on the right with the beer bottle on the tray table is my father’s father Al.
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This photo was taken a LONG TIME AGO. Look how little I am there. This is in the back yard of our then home on Kennedy Drive in New Britain Connecticut. This is my first home memory it is where I was born as well my brother. We lived in this house until I completed first grade and we moved to Florida.
The house was a 3 bedroom raised ranch house with a nice front lawn and spacious back yard with the requisite swing set in the back and a sand pit under the second floor balcony off the back of the house. We had a basement that was well used and there was a huge staircase that led from the front door to the main level of the house.
Since tomorrow is Father’s Day, I thought I would get on the WordPress bandwagon and write something about my father.
From my earliest memories my father worked for Fafnir Bearings in downtown New Britain, and my father’s parents worked at the original Stanley Works tool makers just up the block from where my father worked. I remember visiting his work place on several occasions.
There were a few Holidays and snowy Christmases. I remember the holiday parties between all my extended family’s homes. My mother’s parents lived not far from our home and my father’s parents were not very far either. All of which could be triangulated in one neighborhood. I could walk from one location to another. And did quite often because we walked to school in those days, up the hill, in the snow, blessedly with our shoes. (if you get that reference, you get a gold star!)
Alcoholism is something that permeated our lives. As you can see above, my grandfather always had alcohol of some sort within arms reach of where ever he stood or sat down inside or outside the house. My father was not that alcoholic but he was an alcoholic. And I can say that because of the kind of man he was to his family.
Both my father and grandfather(s) were functional alcoholics, which meant that they could handle a job, wives and children. In hindsight, reading the Big Book, they really fit the bill in many stories.
In between the alcohol and the living of life there were bright spots. My father was a good man. He provided well above everything that we ever needed, at any given time in our young lives. He worked with his hands. He was a builder of things. Later on in life he lived vicariously through us when we entered scouts, much later on in the story.
I remember the holidays that he got up on the roof and hung Christmas lights, that theme would repeat itself over and over for the rest of our family life. Where ever we lived, there were always Christmas lights.
When we moved from New Britain to Homestead Florida it was a step down. We moved from a really big house to a little duplex in a shoddy little neighborhood on the edge of the Krome Avenue fields of South Florida. (we would learn that these fields were the bread basket of South Florida).
My father had movers move our stuff. But in between point A and point B, many of our things were stolen from the truck. It was a great loss to my father, in his bid for a successful relocation, we got hit on the way down.
We lived in that duplex for a year before my father decided to grow the family fortune and we moved into the city proper and we moved into another 3 bedroom house that we lived in from my second grade until 6th grade.
During those years there were plenty of family visits. Snowbirds from the North coming to bask in the Florida sun during the winters. Even family from Canada would come down to visit. Those were very happy times. My mother’s side of the family were from Quebec, where I now live.
There was the annual summer trip from Florida to Connecticut during the summers. Sometimes my brother and I would fly and other times, my father would pack the entire family into the all famous “family station wagon” and we would make the pilgrimage to Connecticut by car. And those were adventures.
We visited all points North on the way. The all popular South of the Border on the border of South and North Carolina. We drove the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and tunnel system. That freaked me out. To this day I have an aversion to bridges. But I am not averse to crossing the Jacque Cartier Bridge here for the fireworks festival during the summer.
We spent time in Washington D.C. We toured the Smithsonian and my father made his pilgrimage to the Viet Nam memorial in Washington D.C. That was a great road trip. We toured the Congress and House of Representatives. It was all very exciting.
And to this day, when I hear music from the 1970′s and 1980′s I can close my eyes and see in my minds eye, they exact place we were at when that particular song was playing.
We lived in that house on 33rd Street and 63rd avenue until I hit the sixth grade. Well, half way into it really. My father decided that it was time to move house and at that point we kids were put on notice to help my parents pick the next house we would live in. I remember that house hunt.
We looked at several houses all in the same locale much father South than where we had lived. We looked at what we called the Power’s House. It was a 3 bedroom house with a large garage, a yard FULL of fruit trees. We grew bananas, mango, avocados, oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons.
The house had a pool. That was the big ticket item in my father’s upwardly mobile move up the social ladder. We fell in love with that house. And so that became our next address from my sixth grade through to my adult life.
Our family had arrived…
A lifetime of working and raising a family all paid off in this stately house that would house memories and tragedies. In 1992, Hurricane Andrew blew through south Florida and demolished our home. My parents were up North at the time of the storm and when they finally got to come home, there wasn’t much home to come home to.
I did my best to serve my family during those very dark times. My parents lived in a travel trailer while they rebuilt the house from top the bottom.
My father provided for us and we wanted for nothing. But the trade off was that we had to deal with a growing problem with alcoholism. And it didn’t only affect my father, but my mother as well and all of the family business and social friends. Alcohol was a social lubricant.
A favorite story I like to tell is of the one night that my mother’s brother and wife were down from Canada and the four of them were drinking at the dining room table and they were getting quite drunk. And seeing my mother crawl across the floor into the kitchen where she tried to fit a GLAD sandwich baggie into the tall garbage can. Try as she might, she couldn’t get that bag to fit the garbage can.
Then they got in the car with us kids and we went to one of those BIG BOX stores that you went in and took a clipboard and wrote down the call numbers of what you wanted and they got the stuff from the back and delivered it to you as you cashed out… My aunt is walking around the store grabbing kitchen utensils and then she walked out of the store with these spoons and forks, and nobody was the wiser, and nobody stopped her on the way out …
My father provided all of our needs like I said. My brother’s sports stuff, I was a protege organist. My father spent a great deal of money to buy me successive sized organs as I graduated up the ranks of my musical education. I had music lessons. I had recitals. I was really good. And had I kept on with that talent, who knows where I might have been today.
My father’s pride and joy was Christmas holidays when I would entertain family parties with holiday music. It was truly joyful. It made my father’s heart sing. His favorite tune was “The Entertainer…” You know the tune don’t you???
I played that song hundreds upon hundreds of times. It eventually wore on me. And It was good and bad. Because as much as my father loved us, he also hated me with a severe passion. One night my father got drunk and threw the organ seat at my mother. My brother jacked him up against that wall that night and threatened him with death if he ever hit my mother again.
So he came after me …
With all the good things I can tell you about my father. There is a trade off to all the bad things my father dished out on us as kids. I’ve shared this before that from an early age, my father’s words to me were always the same…
” YOU WERE A MISTAKE AND SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN BORN!!!”
He beat those words into me for the whole of my life. When his alcoholism reached a fever pitch I swore that I would never play that organ again and that he could take it back to the music sellers and get his money back. I never played another note in my life.
My parents were devout Catholic. And after my brother was born and my mother got a tubiligation they were excommunicated from the church officially. And it wasn’t until I made my Holy Confirmation in tenth grade that they met with a priest and were absolved of their mortal sin.
My father did not take well to my coming out. He use of colorful language with others as well as with family and friends, he liked the words homosexual and the N word. He was a equal opportunity offender. So I never came out to my parents. I moved away when I thought the time was right. But we did come to blows over homosexuality later on in my life.
I don’t know where my father learned to hate like he did. It surely did not come from the church. And my father rarely if ever touched a bible. But he knew what he knew. And he had a terrible secret in his closet that never saw the light of day and when he figured out that I was gay, that was the end of things for us. Even worse when I got sick and was diagnosed with AIDS in 1994. He always believed that I got what was coming to me. And that I could die like all my friends.
My father was a good man.
My father was a bad man.
My father was a man.
The last time I saw my father and mother was on New Years Day 2001.
I had just worked an all night shift at a bar. And got home around 9 a.m. And my phone rang. My parents had been in Miami all weekend and were on their way home to Sarasota, where they live today. So they dropped by and I offered to take us all out for brunch, but my father declined the offer.
I had twenty minutes to visit with my mother while he waited in the car with the engine running. I don’t remember that conversation. But we walked around the block where I lived then and where I would eventually get sober.
My father gathered his wife and drove off …
That was the last time I saw either one of my parents …
Look ^^^ up there …
A new PAGE has been added to the blog. It is a presentation by Matthew Vines on the Bible and Homosexuality. I wish I could post video on this blog, but I can’t, so you are in for a good LONG read !!!
If you click on the page and scroll down to the bottom, you can directly go to his You Tube account and watch the video, which last a little more than an hour.
It is very sad – if you go to the video and read some of the vitriolic comments that have been left on this video, the theology is sound and has been proven by researchers in the field of scripture and theology. Some people are purely ignorant and stupid. You’s think that in today’s world – people could be so vitriolic.
It is all about acceptance…
For many years I contended with one writing that was written by a Pastor who I have known for many years. But Matthew, on the other hand, has spent the better part of 2 years researching this topic and his presentation is rock solid.
But it is well worth the hour you should take to listen to a young man who Loves God and Loves Jesus and speaks from his heart about the six passages from the Bible that many Christians use to demonize and perpetuate hatred and condemnation.
He has studied Hebrew, Greek and Latin and in depth covers all the scriptures and explains the history, context and meaning of biblical history.
Take some time to participate. Show him some love,
Because in the end :
Being different is no crime. Being gay is not a sin. And for a gay person to desire and pursue love and marriage and family is no more selfish or sinful than when a straight person desires and pursues the very same things. The Song of Songs tells us that King Solomon’s wedding day was “the day his heart rejoiced.”
To deny to a small minority of people, not just a wedding day, but a lifetime of love and commitment and family is to inflict on them a devastating level of hurt and anguish. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates that Christians are called to perpetuate that kind of pain in other people’s lives rather than work to alleviate it, especially when the problem is so easy to fix. All it takes is acceptance.
The Bible is not opposed to the acceptance of gay Christians, or to the possibility of loving relationships for them. And if you are uncomfortable with the idea of two men or two women in love, if you are dead-set against that idea, then I am asking you to try to see things differently for my sake, even if it makes you uncomfortable.
I’m asking you to ask yourself this: How deeply do you care about your family? How deeply do you love your spouse? And how tenaciously would you fight for them if they were ever in danger or in harm’s way? That is how deeply you should care, and that is how tenaciously you should fight, for the very same things for my life, because they matter just as much to me.
Gay people should be a treasured part of our families and our communities, and the truly Christian response to them is acceptance, support, and love. Thank you, and thank you to everyone for coming tonight.