You never know what you’re going to get at Came to Believe. Tonight the room was packed. With new and young faces. People that I know, people I call my friends. And hey I am a homosexual with non-judgmental friends, who knew!
But it isn’t about me is it?
We are there to stay sober and clean.
one of my angels chaired the meeting, which was really cool, because I really like Mike and he is one of those special people in recovery. We fly by the seat of our pants at the Monday night meeting which is always exciting. I heard this young man speak, his name was Owen. He was glowing with the light of God. It emanated from him throughout the room, I wanted to inhabit his light. I needed that energy. I wanted that energy to fill me up.
What Owen spoke about for fifteen minutes was just what I needed to hear. His gratitude, his love his energy and steadfastness for the program was amazing. I wanted so bad to get that feeling once again. Was I that grateful at five months of sobriety? Was I that illuminated and blessed? I don’t remember – that was so long ago.
At the end of the meeting I spoke to Mike and Owen and I said to him, “you know if we could bottle and sell this little gift of grateful blessing, we could make a mint! Go home and write this feeling down. Remember it, and inhabit it as long as you can, because one day you might need to draw on this bank of goodness and light, when things may get dark and you forget how grateful you are tonight.”
I know that when I walk into a room, all labels of difference drop away and the commonality of one sober member talking to another takes precedence. Pity the man and woman who do not know this feeling. Those who will never know what it means to be united in a life and death struggle for life, that is recovery.
I am grateful to be alive, sober and clean.
That I can pray with my friends at a meeting and know that God hears my prayers just as he hears everyone else’s, that God knows my heart and that is good enough for me. I don’t need to justify or defend my homosexuality before any of you, because unless you are part of my daily life, I really don’t give a shit what you think of me or my brand of Christianity.
When all is said and done on that last day, It will be God and myself and I know I live a good Christian life and God will judge me, not man, not YOU nor anyone else who reads my blog. I am really happy that I have hit a meeting tonight, that I don’t have to drink or drug and that I am forgiven… seventy times seven…
Those who know me love and respect me because of WHO I am, not for what I am and what I do for my community at large. That I am trustworthy and kind, I forgive and I serve my God with complete abandon. That I love unconditionally, and that I am good. People respect me because I am respectable. People love me because I am loveable. My husband married me because I was worthy of his love under God and before friend and family. God blessed us and continues to bless us every good day that passes.
Deuteronomy Chapter 6:-
Hear, Israel: Yahweh is our God; Yahweh is one:
And you shall love your neighbor as yourself…
I needed a day off. I needed to regenerate because I was tired. Too many thoughts going on in my head, baggage that is not mine, responsibility that has been thrust upon me as of late, friends in difficulty, what’s on television. Disaster, mine collapses, hurricanes, fires and floods. It’s the god damned Armageddon!
Icheb is our guide.
It seems that some of my blogging brothers are creating drama for one of my friends, who happens to be dealing with a medical situation that I am all too familiar with. And I tell them now, this too shall pass. The internet is fickle and people will find something else to focus on eventually. Just remember that when you write, you are responsible for what you write. The truth or lies, the facts or the fiction. You are also responsible for the reactions because of what you write. We call that publishing responsibility. YOU are RESPONSIBLE for what you write, every word, every feeling every opinion. So beware what you write.
Over the last few days I have written a great deal about God’s Warriors and I have to say that I have reached new highs in traffic that this blog has ever seen. I taped the first segment of Judaism from Wednesday night. The more I think about it, in watching the documentary again, I find myself wanting to learn more about the conflict. Something to bring up in my theology classes in the coming months. I am still a strong Christian Zionist.
Last night I watched a two hour documentary about “Surviving Katrina” on the Discovery Channel. I remember we sat here that week and watched on live television the march of hurricane Katrina over New Orleans. We lived it here as they lived it there, minus the direct one on one experience. It was hell. Discovery took the time to explain the minutiae of what happened, even to employ “brownie” to explain his role in the failure of all levels of government to adequately take responsibility and care for those in New Orleans and in other hurricane affected areas. I was mortified to say the least.
Of Special Remembrance: August 24th, Friday, was the one year anniversary of the death of the sainted woman, my great aunt Sister Georgette Cote. There was no call from the mother house, no memorial mass, one year on. I knew the date was coming and I did my best to ignore it because that meant I’d have to write about one truly painful time in my life, since coming to Montreal:
August 24 2006 – Blog Entry
At 11:30 a.m. this morning, Sister Georgette Cote peacefully met the Lord and entered into her heavenly inheritance.
I had literally just went to take a nap, and the phone rang, it was the hospital.
She waited for me to leave.
Blessed be the Lord our God
Eternal Rest grant her and may perpetual light shine upon her.
Blessed be Marguerite D’Youville.
I had spent the previous 18 hours with her in the ICU ward of the General up the hill. It was me, sister Agathe and sister Monique that last night of her life. The buzzing and whistling of the machines were upsetting her with that huge oxygen mask on her face, she just wanted everything off. So it went. They hooked up the Morphine drip and the clock started ticking.
By midnight the sisters thought that they should get back to the Mother House, so it was just the two of us. I sat reading the Tibetan Book of the dead, while the single nurse came and went without a word. It was dark, quiet and morbid. I had walked home to shower and change out and get some food before the last conversation at 3 a.m. when her surgeon came in to check on her, a very sainted woman, strong of character and voice. You will be ok Ms. Cote. I am here with you. Sister Georgette was fading, her hands waving in front of her face. The surgeon left after bidding us a good night.
Sister Georgette has said to get to devil away from her and to find a priest – well it was 3 a.m. in the morning, who was I going to call then? So I grabbed my rosary and I began to recite prayers over her. She said that “I was a good boy and that God would bless me” then she closed her eyes, and that was the last thing she said. That would be our very last conversation.
As the sun rose – we had a great view out th windows to the South Shore and the Victoria Bridge. She was gone, mentally and emotionally. The male nurse that came on shift started to clean her up and bathe her and change her dressing gown. It was around 9 in the morning. The two sisters had come back from the mother house and around 10 am I set off for home to rest.
I got home and changed out. Had a bite to eat and crawled into bed. While I was lying there, I could smell her and it waifed through my room. A few minutes later the phone rang – it was the hospital, Sister Georgette was dead. She waited for me to leave. It has been a year. I miss her more than most will know.
When I entered the world of mentoring and the foster parent program I nested. I learned that I was exceptionally maternal in my motivations, yet I kept very manly counsel. I found myself channeling my father at times. I have few rules. Do not lie to me, Do not steal from me or anyone else. If you need something you ask and if I can help you I will. All of my boys know the ground rules. The ground rules are set in stone. If I catch you in a lie or you manipulate me into a position then you have lost my support and your right to be trusted.
He lies to us and he cheats and he is dishonest. He manipulates us and forces us to the wall with his tests to see how far we will go to punish him and stop his manic anger tantrums.
I am not going to have any of this. As of late, I take this boy to bed with me and I ruminate in my head at night, because I want to be a good example. Now I am parent and I am setting the law of the land. And this child has cheated, lied and manipulated. This is a waste of my time. His behavior is unacceptable. If he thinks he is going to push me to anger myself, then he is getting nothing from me until he learns that there are rules in my house and failure to follow these rules will be met with swift execution of consequences.
I have accepted this “location” because mom has failed to exact rules and regulations on her son so I have to step in and set the rules down and play daddy. While the biological father, who has NO RIGHTS, who gave up his parental rights long ago works behind the scenes to manipulate him and he works against everything that we (mom and I) have been working for. And for what? Jesus H. Christ…
Now I have contracted for daily visits with the “wild child” and I have a schedule book to make sure I can fit him into my schedule when school starts. If he thinks I am going to put up with his bullshit – he can think again. I must be patient and understand that he is not like all other normal kids. I get that. And I am patient and kind, but what do I have to do to get him to understand that this is NOT a game.
I am not in this to play games.
Fuck with me and you will learn what it feels like to get on my bad side. And I promise you that I am not fucking around here. Do Not Test me young man because if you do, You will Loose, I promise you, there will be certain consequences for pushing me to the limit of my patience. I am not going to be taking extra baggage to bed with me at night and I surely am not going to waste my time working with kids who do not listen or cannot learn.
You know what I am talking about and you sure as shit know when you are manipulating us and when you LIE to us as well. We know where the money is coming from, and if this happens again, we will bring the law down and you won’t be able to access the daddy bank again. You are smarter than you look, and you know I mean business. I sure as shit am not going to waste my time and talent trying to help you – while you back-stab us and continue to push us to the brink of insanity. I am not going to have this, PERIOD!!!
I am starting to get resentful and angry because you fuck with me, You will not fuck with me. If I am in the role of parent, then you will see what it means to suffer consequences for your behavior.
Jesus, the drama… end of rant…
It seems that Mother Teresa has brought traffic to this blog that has never been seen before, more than the God’s Warriors traffic. If you look in the PAGES section of this blog you will find that I have written much on the topic of Mother Teresa. I believe that every Christian goes through the Dark Night, and at some point questions, “what the hell am I doing here, and why do I waste my time? (Read above)
Is there a God and if there is He needs to make himself present to me before I loose my mind! It is interesting to see how traffic changes every twenty four hours. I mean it is great that traffic has doubled in recent days. That means that religious writing has changed again. That what I do here is important to many readers and I thank you for stopping by. No one I know has written one word on any topic that I have addressed from my blog list in recent days.
Yet there are blogs that have stopped by that I have never seen before, and I get closer to the Top List blogs. Those who are really knowledgeable about world events, they are critical of writers and they know things that I don’t which is in itself very educational because I know there is a slant in cable news reporting, but what I did not know from this writer – “Right Truth,” helped to inform me to a level I had not been aware of.
As a writer, I am responsible for what I write, and I accept that. I took a step to write about topics that I am educated about, and others come by to read and they impart certain knowledge that I did not have before. Which raises the bar for me as a writer. The more I study and the more I write the higher up the level of professional blogging I rise to. It’s all about being informed and educated on the topics we write about and it is up to us to take the time to read other bloggers points of view so that we can more roundly write on what we are writing about. The article at Right Truth, linked above is very informative. Take some time to visit that blog because they are a great Blog and the writing is incredible.
Well, that is a lot of writing for today, So I am going to close and bid you all a good night.
1. Episode IV: Star Wars – A New Hope, Were we all that young once, 1977? I was 10 years old when Star Wars opened. I was in New Britian Connecticut and we saw the movie at the Twin City Theatre, across the street from Twin City, a department store that my mother worked at when I was a young person. I have memories of that time, for some strange reason. A lot of them.
I loved movies and I went to the movies every chance that I got. Along with music and reading, I had free access to go anywhere I wanted at a moments notice. Over the last forty years, we see certain movies come and go – we collect them like wisdom manuals for future reference.
Did we think then, that Star Wars would have such an effect on young people as it did then? I know adults who were in my life at that time, who did not take to the archetypal themes and wisdom as the young people did over the years – as the following films made their debut’s.
2. Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, came out in (1980) I was 13 years old.
and it had a huge effect on me. I remember sitting in the back of the theatre at “The Falls” in Miami when it came out. I was in junior high school. The Star Wars movies repeated throughout my life. We watched them like time markers at certain life intervals. To see how we had changed and evolved since the first time we watched them.
I was at Movie Land today and I was looking for something to watch on DVD, and I had picked up a couple movies, but then after wandering around, I ended up in the Science Fiction section and I was thumbing through the Star Wars movies. And brought Episodes IV, V and VI home.
I find myself watching them again, and I posted the Yoda sayings and I mused on the fact that for me, I have followed most of that advice over the years. That Star Wars did play a factor at the way I see the world around me and live my life. It may have been slow and coming and sometimes seemed to stop all together, but in the end, we find our selves here, discussing the spiritual teachings of The Archetypal figures from Star Wars and the value of the Star Wars wisdom.
You imagine, or I imagine, what the world would be like, if the adults of that time, took to the figures in the movie, would life have changed much or very little? If the world was in a different ‘place’ spiritually, economically and socially? I think those of us who grew up in the light of Jedi Wisdom benefitted more from it than perhaps our parents.
3. Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, came out in (1983) I was a junior in High School at age 16.
That was a very impressionable time in my life. A lot of personal and emotional upheaval. I lost my grandparents, and my parents were in self destruct mode, and let’s fuck up the children mode. So any escape out of reality was fantastic.
4. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, came out in (1999) I was 32 years old.
I was amid one of the most painful periods of my life. Being far away from anything in the middle of no where did not help me. I was in slip-self destruct mode. I was living with evil incarnate, and I had that battle with the Dark Side that almost cost me my life. But somewhere in the universe there was the force, because it saved me from imminent death.
5. Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones, came out in (2002) I was 35 years old.
Ah, the light at the end of the tunnel had come. I was on my way to a new life in another country, sober and cleaned up. I was going to finally make something of my little life, which up until then had not gotten very far. Gay boys with HIV did not get very far in the united States, some have succeeded, but I did not. It was either a life of substandard poverty or a move to greener pastures. I was in Montreal by Spring 2002, I was on my way.
6. Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, came out in (2005). I was 38 years old.
The watershed movie of the Summer, the final episode of the Star Wars Saga was coming. We would finally have the last installment of the six films – where we learn how Vader came to be and where Luke and Leia came from and where they grew up. The journey was coming to an end. I had lived 40 years to see the culmination of George Lucas’ dream come to fruition.
How did Star Wars affect you in your life? And what reflections do you have over the last 40 years, in regards to the way you live, and how certain films made an impact on you throughout your life!
We will discuss this topic in Comments:
NO!! Try Not …
DO, or DO NOT!! – There is no TRY!!
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.
If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.
A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.
The dark side is quicker, easier, more seductive.
Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try.
Size matters not.
Your ally is the Force. A powerful ally it is.
Life creates it [the force], makes it grow. It’s energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we.
You must feel the Force around you.
Through the Force, things you will see. Other places. The future…the past. Old friends long gone.
You must learn control.
Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.
Only a fully trained Jedi Knight with the Force as his ally will conquer Vader and his Emperor.
If you choose the quick and easy path, you will become an agent of evil.
Strong is Vader. Mind what you have learned. Save you it can.
When nine hundred years old you reach, look as good you will not. Hmm?
Vader. You must confront Vader. Then, only then, a Jedi will you be. And confront him you will.
Do not underestimate the powers of the Emperor
I’m tired. I’m fed up with my home group. Something is going on spiritually and all the men in my home group have left. The ones that matter – the ones with time, the ones with wisdom. The women are fighting over themselves and their egos and that has nothing to do with me and I don’t want to sit there and mediate any more bitch fights. I’m not a referee and I sure as hell have better things to do than waste my time playing parent.
Newcomers have left as well. My boys are gone, now I know why, and I am not happy at all. In fact I am pissed.
I’m Bored. The same old shit, week in and week out. I’m very honest with this thought. I study God in University. I know who my God is and I know that staying sober and clean is a decision. If I pick up – that would be a decision I make, and no one else’s.
I’ve been in the “Anchor” position for a long time. Afraid that if I leave that many people would follow me out the door. It has come to pass that a fellow came to the meeting and we chatted and then he left “post preamble” and I was questioned about why he left so early, I was like, “you know he comes and goes as he pleases and that is his choice!” And people get indignant. I’m so over indignance.
Like I said, I’ve been the balance of power in my home group now 5 years, as treasurer and set up point man. Nobody else claims responsibility for set up except for me and Ms. Nikki. Nobody else comes to set up. And nobody gives a shit, yet at the business meeting last week there were 15 people!!! 7 of us are long time members…
A good portion of our older sober members (older in age) not in sobriety come to meetings week in and week out because they have nothing better to do with their lives and because I am there, I take care of them like children. I have coffee with them each week, like clockwork. I center my life around these people – as I have since I got sober. It is comfortable and easy.
But my fellow pointed out to me that something is going on and that the men are fleeing from that meeting like they have been shot out of a canon. The energy has shifted. The women are in heat, our newcomers have been propositioned for sex within weeks of getting sober and that ain’t right, by WOMEN at my home group with TIME.
We all know the rules of engagement.
Meetings have been a source of comfort and structure and guidance. I can survive on my daily prayers and meditations. I love my religious faith, it is the most certain part of my existence today. I just feel the need to find something more. I told my fellow that I have not been ‘fed’ in some time, because the well has run dry. All the teachers have gone and I have a degree in Religion and so I know the deal. I don’t struggle with addiction nor with God. I don’t desire to drink or use and that is fact.
But I can’t carry a community because I have evolved spiritually to the point that this home group is not offering me anything challenging to feast upon. Today we talked about the turning point of why we got sober. I know those points, I pray about them daily. But I am no longer miserable and hopeless, I am no longer spiteful or arrogant. I am no longer powerless and weak and I, sure as shit, am no victim any more.
It’s time for me to find my friends where ever they might be. I need to cut this home group loose, because I cannot continue to engage myself in this negative female vindictive energy any more. I feel it, and others have felt it and now all of my guides have said to me, “it’s time to go Jeremy.” This move is going to hurt a lot of people in ways I cannot explain that they would understand, but maybe some will. I don’t live in the past, I honor it and respect it. But for now, I need to seek something greater than what I am bored of now. I’m only enabling others by allowing them to remain stagnant. They won’t grow – unless the gardener tends to the garden and fertilizes it and prunes the bushes.
God knows my heart and I know what I feel. I’ve prayed on this for the last week, and my answer came through discussion with someone who’s been sober much longer than I have who called to tell me he would not be returning to the group again…
It is time to go…
One of the issues one deals with (read:Me) is tolerance. Over the years I note that much has changed in as many years. Today was very hard. Being ‘present’ sometimes draws on every fibre of my being to listen attentively and knowing what to say and also what not to say.
Sometimes, I find that being a spiritual adviser has its challenges. Today especially because a very good friend is in a very tough situation and I am powerless to do anything about it but be present and available. I just pray so hard that life is good to us as long as it can be. Sometimes there are just no words to say to make things better. I don’t have all the answers, and I think that’s good in times like these, because it means we will have to figure it out as we go along. If we had all the answers, life would be too easy.
Today’s topic is tolerance. I reflect and I meditate on this word and I can honestly say that I have been intolerant and impatient and I know that. But what can we do when we read the insanity of some people and we point out the obvious? I find that over the last few months I read some peoples offerings and I just shake my head. I read daily so there is history to what I comment on.
I find that when I offer up advice or comment on the obvious, people seem to be intolerant that I would even dare suggest I have some truth or some understanding of their situations, and in some cases, I ask a question and I receive indignation. So what I am in a program of recovery. And I don’t believe I’ve forced God on anyone. Yet I find, as of late that when I offer up advice or point out the obvious – it is you who are intolerant of me. And in return I become intolerant of You.
I know that when I ‘Think’ I know the answers to your problems, that somewhere in there is my intolerance of your situation. I can’t make you better or heal your infirmities or addictions. I can only point the way to sanity and offer up a possible solution. I don’t believe that I am arrogant nor insincere. I don’t think I am better than you, but I do have some solutions, because I have lived to see them come true in my life through lived experience.
I am intolerant to the affect that I won’t waste my time on you if you live in that insane place and I’ve offered you advice or pointed out the obvious and you’ve responded with indignation or arrogance. I will just live and let live and move on from your insanity. I am intolerant to a flaw. Newbies to the program who have to question every little bit of advice we offer you is a pain in my ass. Active addicts and alcoholics are especially painful and those who knock a program of recovery are useless to me. I find as well that active users who mock a solution or scoff at the mere thought that spirituality or a God might save them are helpless. I just don’t have the patience to sit here while you spin in place and piss and moan about how tough things are for you and I know I have a solution, yet you mock us. So fuck me…
I guess at my age, I have a lot of experience at life, I have a very wide berth when it comes to lived experience, and when people react with indignance, I just don’t have the desire to be tolerant of those with different struggles. Because all the words I have to say aren’t going to change anything until you are ready to listen and possibly consider. In sobriety I have learned to choose my battles wisely. I bank on those who show up week in and week out.
Over the last few months I have found myself in that great big “Pin Ball Machine of Life” and I am stuck in ‘play’ mode. I’ve been looking for my place in the grand scheme of things and I just can’t seem to find that static place to “be.” I spoke tonight of the fact that I guess I am going to be a free agent who is just “out there” in the universe, open to whatever comes my way – and ready for whomever decides to chat me up. I keep being bounced back into play by those great BIG bumpers in the great pin ball machine of life, so I guess I need to stay the course and see where I end up. I’m racking up those points dontcha know!!!
Chad, over at Stop Touching My Food, shared a story with his readers. This next writing is an homage to his story of insanity.
At one point of my life, I had made a crucial mistake, and my father decided to take an action upon me, and I had to find a place to live, quite quickly. A friend whom I had worked with, drank with profusely in the years prior, offered me space in her house.
I moved in and we started co-habitating. I was “Out” and she was a very “motherly figure” in my life at that time. I was working still in the travel field. I moved from small office to Corporate Miami, and I was playing in the big leagues. I was also a very serious alcoholic. I was working for a major cruise line in the years where ships were being cranked out yearly. With every big ship entry came with it a no holds barred frenzy of parties and alcoholic debauchery. The friend that I was living with now, who was once a raging alcoholic like me, had gotten sober, she was working on a program of recovery. I was clueless. (I did not know that she was in recovery)
Over a period of time, I was drinking my rent away. I wasn’t particularly concerned with anything but sex and drinking. I pissed away a lot of money. And I pissed away my respect, my self respect and friends along the way. I look back at that time, today, and I am so grateful that I did not hurt or kill anyone with the ways I drank and drove. I guess the thing that saved me was my mother’s warning once that ‘I better not hurt anyone because if I did, she was not going to bail me out of jail.’ That stuck with me. So I learned how to drive, shit faced and all. This unscrupulous activity would come to bite me in the ass. I went out on a binge for three days, I didn’t pay my rent, and upon returning home one afternoon, I had been locked out.
I had a week to go until pay day and I could not get in to get any clothes or anything else. I had to stay with the (Then) boy I was dating in Ft. Lauderdale. The same boy I moved in with after the fact, who later killed himself. But that’s another story…
I paid the rent a week later and moved out. Our living arrangement had ended. I moved to Ft. Lauderdale and life went on. James got sick, James killed himself, I got diagnosed, and I got sober the first time in August of 1994. In 1995, I moved back to Miami for medical treatment. I was going to meetings at the Coral Room. One afternoon I walked into the room, and there was the lady I had so badly hurt, sitting in the room. Needless to say, it hit me right then and there, the pain I caused her so many years prior. She told me that when I hit that first bottom, she had to cut me loose because she was getting sober and I was the addict – alcoholic living under her roof. To This Day I pray for her eternal forgiveness. Because she was one of the most important people in my young life.
We once again worked together for a short time, and after a while decided that business was not my forte. I had so much shit going on in my life at that time, trying to stay sober and remain ‘living’ that I could only do one thing at a time. I was really sick from 1995 through 1998. There were times when I did not think I would survive…
She moved on and out of state. I stayed sober for a few years. I took a geographic that sealed my fate and enabled my slip to hell and my almost dying. I returned to Miami and got sober once again in December of 2001. And thanks to the program of AA and my higher power, I have not had the desire to use drugs or drink alcohol since December 9th, 2001.
I remember Gloria and I pray for her still.
I keep this memory fresh and when I say my prayers, I still pray for her forgiveness, because at one time in my life, I was really an asshole and I was hurtful to one of the best friends I could ever have in my life. And today I try to live up to being the best man I can be because of her love and care.
A snapshot of what was added to my Mission Statement above…
All I need is some serious investors that want to help me build it. If you know anyone with a cool few million dollars to spare, let me know.
**Updated May 9, 2007**
We Now Have a floor plan drawn out for designers and real estate companies. It is quite incredible. I sat down and sketched out what my vision of the location will look like. I know what colors will be incorporated and I am thinking of getting some of our “urban artists” to paint murals on some of the interior walls. Oh, this is going to get exciting.
Imagine the following: We call this the Camille Levesque Centre.
I find myself drawing out floor plans, decorating the space in wondrous colors and comforts of home. On one floor a dedicated space to a “Club Room.” A club room for recovering people that opens at 7 a.m. and stays open until midnight. Manned and staffed with a kitchen, coffee bar, facilities and comfy sofas, tables and chairs.
Where we would host meetings all day into the night (Imagine a dedicated meeting space in the same location every day, throughout the day). This DOES NOT exist in Montreal, but it does in Miami and is a very big draw to recovering people.
Imagine that there are offices to be housed by facilitators and recovery advisers. My office, open to anyone for spiritual direction or counseling. We would have outreach for kids in distress, for Pop’s kids to come and rest. We’d have an open kitchen to feed people who needed it. We’d have dedicated space for child care for parents who need to come to a meeting and need to keep their children and young people occupied for an hour or so.
We would offer HIV counseling. LGBTQ support for young people and adults. We would have a gathering place to have meetings and support for these very important groups. having personal experience in these areas gives me insight to what I know is important, and to build a space that I would want to visit. There are so many areas we could hit all at once in one comprehensive location.
Does this exist in Montreal? No it does not. But we can build it…
With all the recovery experience I have had since 1994, I have seen countless “recovery rooms, spaces, rehabs and such and so forth.” We would combine the best concepts in our location that I have visited and been part of over the last 14 years. In one area of the building we would have a dedicated chapel for prayers.
This is such an amazing concept and brings with it such promise.
I have floated these ideas to my home group participants and they all think that this is a wonderful idea that should be realized. This is more than ‘church’ this is Home. A place that I could build and coordinate and build into a community home that would rival any spiritual/recovery center in the city. I have people already lined up, who would work for me where ever I set up shop. I have people who would utilize the space immediately, upon opening. The desire exists in our community, all it would take is someone to build it and I want to be that someone.
We would have a youth center where we would offer bible study and religious education and counseling services to the community. Young people could come and be fed spiritually in safety and serenity. Just imagine the possibilities…
Those are my ideas today…
I’m tired, it’s been a long day…
Come on, folks, let’s build this dream center. It will change the face of Montreal in ways we could never imagine. I know how to do it, I have the inspiration to create this and the desire to see it to fruition.
Have you ever been to a meeting that was just outstanding? That the spirit of God was so present you could see it in the room? I think tonight’s Came to Believe meeting, was the best meeting I have ever chaired. I’ve chaired a lot of meetings in the last five years and I have to say that I was just amazed tonight.
This ‘little meeting that could,’ HAS. I asked two very special people in my life to share tonight. The matron of my home group who celebrated 20 years in February, was away for the Winter and returned last week to Montreal. She admitted that she has not ‘shared’ in a meeting for seven years. And she agreed to speak for me tonight, well, I really gave her no choice when I asked her. AND her groupies came from all over the city to hear her speak tonight, so it was a double blessing. I was so happy to see her friends come out on a miserably cold and blustery night to support her.
My buddy was my main speaker. I just want to grab him and hug him and tell him that he is not alone and that I care for him and I wish that I could take away the ache in his heart. I was weeping inside listening to him share. I guess we learn a lot from people we’ve never heard speak before. He is courageous and shy. He is wonderfully funny and spirited. He calls himself shy, but if you ask him about his ‘tats’ he is willing to share. I am really proud of him, and I stand behind him and I support him 100% … I’ve got you and you’ve got me.
It was just a blessed night tonight, and I am so grateful to be in the rooms because miracles happen, and people come to believe and they are saved from a life of crazy insanity and they are restored. Both of my friends have been through such horrible pasts, and they have seen such pain – but today they are both sober and they are free.
I will miss the next 6 Monday’s due to school, but I will return.
And that’s the kind of day it’s been the 30th of April 2007…
I have added new meeting times over in the ‘Meeting’s Widget.’ The Saturday Night Young People’s meeting is going through another incarnation. Please, if you can support them.
Cue the music, fog the room… Time to write
M People, One night in heaven…
I’ve been stuck in this period of my head for the last few days. But what a great place to be stuck for a time. Memories are good, especially when they explain what gay was like in the early 90’s and how it deeply impacted me. Here is another memory from that time.
We are headed somewhere, so stick with me…
All will be revealed in the coming weeks.
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.
M People, ‘Don’t look any further…’
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 feel 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.
The nights would pass by, and this same story repeated itself, for many months. The music, the dress or states of undress, the games and much more important, the fact that we more alive during this period of time, than we would ever be again. We laughed and we cried, we partied and we recovered. We we loved and we were cared for by our champions, My Master Todd, gave me a life I would never have had if I was a stranger in this world. It was as close to Babylon, as we would ever get, no matter where I worked, lived and partied, this ‘place’ would never be seen again, in any incarnation or my greatest wish for it to be.
I became a light man years later and I moved from the main floor to the booth, which was a great time in my life. To be able to get a crowd on the floor to scream and shout because of ones ability to ‘play lights’ to great music was the greatest feeling. But that is another story for another night… maybe later…
From my days at the Stud (The Temple of Sin), 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.
The end of an era has come; the boys and girls of QAF have taken their final bow here in Canada. Tears rolling down my face, she sang, “What have you done today to make you feel proud!” Five seasons and two countries and a lifetime of memories set to the music of the thumpa, thumpa, thumpa.
I was on my slip during this time of my life from Summer 2000- until December 9th 2001 when I got sober this second time. This shows you how insane my life got when I started drinking and doing drugs after four years of sobriety. It was amazing, it was painful and it was another chapter that I lived through.
In my earlier life, QAF would play on Saturday nights before the bars would open for business. I would always watch and I would dream, then I would shower and shave my body bare and dress in the skimpiest shirt and tightest jeans I owned and hail the cab that would spirit me away to “Salvation!” This club was in a HUGE warehouse on the west side of Miami Beach, it was a $5.00 taxi ride from home.
I would work all week, to save enough cash to get as drunk and as high as I wanted every week without fail. This was prior to my second coming! The early boys would gather in the retaining area for free drinks before midnight and we would take the time to do our selected drugs in the hopes that they would kick in by the tolling of the midnight bell as the doors would swing open and the darkness and thump of the music would beckon.
Slowly we would file into the main dance hall and stake our claim to our section of the dance floor as the lights and lasers would begin to spin. The drama began with the opening welcome number performed by the greatest entertainers that Gay Miami Beach could offer. We would sing and dance and cheer on the show and salute the dj from the floor. As the show ended the lights would bow out and once again darkness would envelope the crowd.
The only reason one left the dance floor was to further the high or the buzz. It was just an hour till the real show began, the 1 a.m. tolling of the bell, and as it rang everyone would be pleasantly tipsy and totally spinning in the clouds as one by one we would remove our shirts and the bare cheated SOBE men would appear from under their safe and sane muscle shirts, I was one of them. I was a lot thinner and much younger looking and I thought, well, I prayed that One Day I would become one of those “Babylon boys!”
Each weekend it was the same ritual, an episode of QAF, the proper grooming and dressing with the hopes that each successive Saturday might bring me closer to the nirvana I sought. But, I would always end up dancing alone in the same spot week after week. My friend Mark would find himself too pumped up on special K to remove himself from the stairs that took one to the second dance area upstairs.
On Sunday we would talk about just how terribly high we got the night prior and we would pledge not to do that again, because Sunday’s were a bitch. I would end my Saturday night around 6 am on Sunday Morning, by pouring my inebriated and tweaked out self into a taxi, and I would come home and crawl into my apartment and I would always do the same thing, I would shower, make some food and put on The Cider House Rules to which I would pass out for the few hours that stood between me and work where I had to be at 11 a.m. each Sunday morning.
For some reason, each weekend, I was fixated on one thing and that was to retain my SOBE party boy, Babylon seeking youth. I wanted that life, it was all about looking good and being seen in a sea of men who were no less than perfect in every way, shape and form, except for one thing, the entire weeks efforts were spent working out, tanning on the beach and buying the most fabulous clothes to dress to impress the goggling men who would come to Salvation to find their Salvation.
At one point in my SOBE experience I worked for a friend in his tanning salon, just across the street from where Salvation stood. And you’d never guess this, but a tanning salon on South Beach did incredible business on Saturday afternoons and evenings.
I wanted; well I coveted many things in my younger incarnation. The hot “to die for” body, I wanted the affection of those men I so followed each weekend. Fuck my HIV and the whole being responsible bit, I didn’t care if it meant for a few hours on a weekend that I could be just “one of the Babylon Boys.”
The music was thumping, and for a few hours I could “escape” and that is what it really was, an escape from reality. Sad though, how reality always wins when it comes to fantasy. The fantasy “escape” ended for me on the night that I prayed for the eternally nasty Hangover. God did not disappoint me on that prayer. He made sure he made his point perfectly clear. “THE PARTY IS OVER!!”
I got sober shortly after that response from God.
After I left Miami for the bright lights and big city for Montreal I was sober. And it’s funny that Salvation closed its doors, and here I thought that they closed because I was no longer a paying, drinking customer! HA, HA, HA, HA, the bar closed when the drunk left the establishment.
It’s all about me right? Wrong! Funny huh, I went from the life of Brian Kinney, the bar hopping wonder single boy who lived for Babylon, in Miami, I MOVED to CANADA and met a man whom I eventually MARRIED and became Brian Novotny, but I never forgot who I was, or left that person and memories behind.
There are really bad and nasty memories in my past, but there are also some
Wonderfully special great memories as well, As Melanie and Lindsay reminded us that it good to have bad memories because they keep us grateful for the good ones. Miami was NOT a bad place, I mean I grew up there, emotionally and sexually, and I would not have changed anything at all, save for one thing, I would want all my friends who have died since then to be here again, for one last night at Babylon.
So we say so long to the crew from Liberty Avenue and we say Thank You for what you did for the gay community in the United States and in Canada as well. I thank you for reminding me that as Michael said “Maybe some things are meant to stay the same!” but as Brian has said, “life changes we grow up and get older” but still at age 38 I refuse to grow up and let go of the young man who used to dance until the sun came up, and the boy who STILL appreciates good dance hall music, and the boy who still needs to be seen and loved for all his flawed humanity.
There will never be another series like Queer as Folk, and I for one will miss your visits on Monday nights, but I am forever grateful, that for a little while I was able to dance and party as if I were in “Babylon” itself. Brian said it so eloquently “No apologies and No regrets!”
Good bye boys and girls…….
I am sad that it’s over but as they say
All Good Things Must come to an End!!!
‘Do not pursue the past.
Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is.
The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is
in the very here and now,
the practitioner dwells
in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today.
To wait until tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly.
How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who knows
how to dwell in mindfulness
night and day
‘one who knows
the better way to live alone.’
Text: Adapted from the Bhaddekaratta Sutta,
translated by Thich Nhat Hanh
Seen over at: All Things But None
This is the only review that matters for me because the man who wrote it was my inspiration for writing the paper in the first place.
Sitting by the sea side
Counting my blessings one at a time
Only I know the truth
Tomorrow it may snow
Thanks to my friends who know me well
! am Blessed…
I have read your paper twice, and was quite pleased with your views on Fear and Trembling. I have read a number of summaries of this work, and yours is one of the few that grasps the centrality of its message – that despair is not antithetical to faith. Your summary of Kierkegaard’s treatment of Abraham was spot on.
I wish this was better understood in theological, and especially pastoral, circles these days. It seems that people are under the pop-psychological assumption that suffering is only good if it leads to something good. I just finished reading Wilder’s “Bridge of San Luiz Rey,” (excellent, BTW), where in the end the reader is attracted to believe that suffering lead to something good. What if it didn’t? Is it ok to have faith when despair DOESN’T illuminate a victory?
You of all people are well equipped to provide this pastoral perspective. You’ve been in the place where there is no (or little) hope. It will be of comfort to people who, like you did, wonder whether despair disqualifies them from faith……….
You can read my “Fear and Trembling” paper up at the top of this Blog.
I have come full circle in the study and writing on suffering, from the words of the Late Pontiff who suffered the debilitating disease of Parkinson’s, to reading and understanding some finite points in the presentation of “Fear and Trembling” by Soren Kierkegaard, I am very well qualified to speak on the topic of suffering.
For as long as I could remember when upon hearing my own news of medical demise, I turned that negative and sometimes debilitating and painful suffering into positive energy. Not a day goes by that I am not grateful for every day I have because I live on borrowed time so my suffering has lead to a victory of sorts. I won, and the disease has been abated today. One does not know about tomorrow, but my prayers to a just and forgiving God have been heard so far.
For most people with AIDS don’t know about the victory, because all of the people I knew then are long since dead. Suffering from an incurable disease does one of two things, One – you either give up and you die, or Two – You learn to fight and you find that kernel of faith that is going to sustain you. In my apologetic to the church, I always believed and was told by certain men of faith that if I prayed and went to mass and offered my suffering to God as my duty to the church and those who went before my, that I would be forgiven and blessed by God. You see, the church has her vision of homosexuals and AIDS and they tow a pretty tight line around the world, so yes, I used the church to my advantage. My prayers were honest and came form the right place. And so from John Paul II to Soren Kierkegaard (You can read my paper at the top of this blog), I have fully explored the Christian notion of suffering.
The Late Pontiff writes in his encyclical Salvifici Doloris: The 29 page document is located on the right in (Pages)
“Declaring the power of salvific suffering, the Apostle Paul says: “In my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church”
My answer to this statement is this:
“Are our bodies our own, to do with as we please, or is there a greater meaning and use for them, for the greater good of mankind and the Glory of God?”
In the study of religion, one can say that suffering is a common theme that can be found in all the worlds’ religions. Each religious tradition has its own approach and method to addressing the problem of suffering. I introduce suffering as a problem to begin with, because in the West, (let us use North America as a locale for the purpose of discussion), suffering is seen as problematic and time consuming. It gets in the way of daily living, and takes people from freedom into bondage to a myriad of “problems” associated with suffering.
Firstly, we are spoiled in this life, with ways to make things easier. If there is a shortcut available to get things done faster, we must have it. Secondly, if there is a way to avoid suffering at all costs, we will find it, and thirdly, if there is a drug or treatment available to prevent, stop, or remove suffering, we will spend every cent we have to attain it. We live in a society that is self centered and self absorbed. Yet, in our neighborhoods and cities and around the world, there are millions of people who live within their suffering.
Society as a whole, in my observation, does not like to talk about topics that will force them to look at others and see things that are uncomfortable to them, some of those would include famine, poverty and disease. Suffering is a fact of life, that we all must face at one time or another in our lives, hence this assignment is focused on the idea of the salvific value in suffering.
I chose this piece because it was written by John Paul II, a man I admire and identify with. That “identity” is very important, because if you cannot identify with your subject, the message is lost in the telling. John Paul lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease and died in his Papal Apartment on April 2nd 2005.
There is not a truer example of faith in action under such adverse conditions, than in the life and death of His Holiness John Paul II.
In today’s world, suffering is unacceptable to many. We do not want it to impact our lives, and we surely don’t want suffering to impact anyone in our families for sure. Yet, as facts prove otherwise, there is suffering all around us. As a Catholic man, I ask some hard questions, such as the one this paper opens with, “Are our bodies our own?” In the case of the “religious Catholic” the answer is no. The control of our bodies by the church began when we were but children. And if you followed your faith throughout your life, the church still controls your body in how you should or should not treat it, how you should respect and care for it, how it should be used, to either help your fellow man or procreate children, and as a last thought, the church gives us rules so as not to engage in bodily sin. “For all men are sinners and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
What is the message of suffering and why is it important to the life of a Christian?
I am a Christian, and so this writing will focus specifically on the Christian approach to suffering. In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus is heard to say “then Jesus said to his disciples, if anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt. 16:24)
What is important for the Christian to realize here is that to truly follow Jesus, one is called to be “like” Jesus in thought, word, action and life. This life that we live, will then not come without suffering for ones faith, it is that suffering that defines, and transforms the Christian through their suffering. That does not mean that life will be “all” suffering.
The answer which comes through this sharing, by way of the interior encounter
With the Master, is in itself something more than the mere abstract answer to the
question about the meaning of suffering. For it is above all a call. It is a vocation.
Christ does not explain in the abstract the reason for suffering, but before all else
He says: “Follow me!” Come! Take part through your suffering in this work of
Saving the world, a salvation achieved through my suffering! Through my cross.
Gradually, as the individual takes up his cross, spiritually uniting himself to the Cross
of Christ, the salvific meaning of suffering is revealed before him. He does not discover the meaning at his own human level, but at the level of the suffering of Christ. (S.D. p. 23)
The subject of suffering is as painful, as the conversation itself. It elicits an emotional response as well a physical one. Suffering is not only a physical problem for it crosses many lines into the mental, social, psychological and the emotional areas of a person’s life. With this knowledge one must make a choice on how they are going to deal with said pain. The church says that suffering is a “transformative” tool, turning the weak into the strong, turning suffering into grace, by uniting us in commonality.
“The world of suffering possesses as it were its own solidarity. People who suffer become similar to one another through the analogy of their situation, the trial of their destiny, or through their need for understanding and care, and perhaps above all through the persistent question of the meaning of suffering.” (S.D. pg. 4)
There are myriads of groups to help one deal with suffering but there is also “one holy church” that will help pray you through your suffering.
I have learned some very important lessons early in my life about suffering. Unless pushed against a wall, the mortal human will never admit that they have a problem until their mortality is in jeopardy, and for the most part, at that point, it is too late. Most people do not have the faintest clue how to deal with their suffering beyond being told they are sick.
The reactions of family and friends, for the most part, shape how someone will or will not deal with what they are suffering from. And in some cases, we know that certain suffering is said by some, to be punishment from God for sins committed.
Suffering is a double edged sword, it either makes you or it breaks you.
Having lived with certain suffering gives me pause to consider how I chose to deal with my suffering, and how I ended up at this point in my life.
When suffering comes, the first question we ask God is “why?” I do not have an answer to this question, and for most, when one questions God on “why is there pain?” – along with that question is this one as well “why there is evil in the world?” and no answer comes, for some that is unacceptable, and some make the choice to abandon God, because they feel that God has abandoned them to their suffering.(S.D. pg. 5)
Having walked this road myself, gives particular insight to how my faith stood up to my questions and gave them a place to reside within me. There are only two choices in this life, to choose the easy path or you choose the right path, it is funny that the right choice and the hardest choice are usually one in the same, choosing the right path is a tall order for normal men and women because pain is unacceptable and will only get in the way of the pursuit of life and the attainments of “things.”
There are many biblical stories to show us how suffering was dealt with in Christian history. For some religious people “suffering” came as a punishment for sins from a God who is judge, jury and executioner. Then there are some who had faith and saw suffering as a path to the attainment of grace and enlightenment through pain. This is a big step in the process of understanding suffering at its core value. Suffering can strike the most innocent of people, the children of this world, and we ask God why do little children suffer?
That is a valid question, and the only answer I have is that the suffering of another acts as impetus for the observer to join in that suffering and become part of it, thereby showing compassion for them, and in that we are transformed into good Samaritans who partake in our lives and not just walk by unaffected and unmoved to try and help.
It is sad to see so many children suffering with illnesses. I can tell you this; suffering transforms everyone when one walks through it. Nobody escapes the truth and fire of transformation. For children, suffering transforms them into adults well before they should become adults. We become attuned to the feelings of others, we become intuitive to things that normal people are not aware of. We are forced by suffering to grow up a lot faster than others who are not sick in our age groups. And that puts distance between us and them. Suffering forever steals youth and innocence from children and the young. Suffering forces us to make decisions that we would not necessarily have to make at that stage of our lives. For some, suffering forces us to have to deal with our own mortality and face our own process of death, when we should be out playing and living well.
Suffering forces us to find our creator, for if we are to survive, we must make that spiritual connection with God. If we don’t that suffering grows exponentially and will eventually shorten a lifespan. I have seen this happen in children and in adults who are sick. Yet I’ve found that with a spiritual connection to God, it seems that suffering finds its context and its place in our lives.
And that directly impacts our doctors and treatment specialists. It also transforms our families and friends. With the bad you take whatever good can be gleaned from the experience.
And this experience is one I do not wish on any child, let alone an adult. To see someone loose their innocence and freedom to sickness, disease and suffering is life changing for anyone who witnesses the transformation, you are never the same after that. And this is what we give to the human who is well and may not know what real suffering is, until it knocks on their doors. Suffering forces normal life to face reality in its worst form. But there is a way to get through it.
When we are introduced to the suffering of Christ we are invited to share in every aspect of his life and our relations with that Jesus calls us to walk with him and to learn from him and by his example.
In order to perceive the true answer to the “why” of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of the meaning of everything that exists. Love is also the richest source of the meaning of suffering, which always remains a mystery: we are conscious of the insufficiency and inadequacy of our explanations. Christ causes us to enter into the mystery and to discover the why” of suffering, as far as we are capable of grasping the sublimity of divine love…We must above all accept the light of Revelation not only insofar as it expresses the transcendent order of justice but also insofar as it illuminates this order with Love, as the definitive source of everything that exists. Love is: also the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering. This answer has been given by God to man in the Cross of Jesus Christ. (S.D. pg.8)
So what does this mean for the person who suffers? Does this make our suffering any less painful or necessary? NO, it does not. But it gives someone who has a faith life a template to sit with to help them deal with where they are in their journey of suffering.
“Born of the mystery of Redemption in the Cross of Christ, the Church has to try to meet man in a special way on the path to his suffering. In this meeting man “becomes the way for the Church,” and this way is one of the most important ones.” (S.D. pg.2)
Here is where ones faith is found within the guidance and direction of the church. It gives us a model to follow, a true path to grace, and life and on the last day, eternal life. Most people, in my observation, do not immediately turn to faith and prayer as a solution to suffering. They will exhaust every medical, psychological and therapeutic avenue to make sure they have tried everything that could possibly bring an end to their suffering, and in some cases, that proves to be useful, but for many of us, there is no cure for what ails us, it is us who know that the only way that suffering will be managed and lessened is in the ways of faith and prayer.
“Human suffering evokes compassion; is also evokes respect, and in its own way it intimidates. For in suffering is contained the greatness of a specific mystery. This special respect for every form of human suffering must be set at the beginning of what will be expressed here later by the deepest need of the heart, and also by the deep imperative of faith. About the theme of suffering these two reasons seem to draw particularly close to each other and to become one: the need of the heart commands us to overcome fear, and the imperative of faith – formulated, for example, in the words of Saint Paul quoted at the beginning – provides the content, in the intangible: for man, in his suffering, remains an intangible mystery. (S.D. pg.2)
“To Saint Paul, suffering seems to be particularly essential to the nature of man. It is as deep as man himself, precisely because it manifests in its own way that depth which is proper to man, and in its own way surpasses it. Suffering seems to belong to man’s transcendence: it is one of those points in which man is in a certain sense “destined” to go beyond himself, and is called to this in a mysterious way.” (S.D. pg. 1)
What does this tell us about suffering and how we should see ourselves in the light of that pain, and how, by the church’s example, are we supposed to deal with our suffering? Very simple, we are to imitate Christ in all things, we are to pray and meditate on our pain and suffering and we are to allow that prayer to transform us into spiritual beings who can sustain whatever God sees fit to throw at us, with courage, strength and faith.
We are to sacrifice ourselves and our suffering to God. This is a bitter pill to swallow for many people. I have learned in this life that whatever pain I have suffered and persevered through has made me a stronger man in ways that I have thought about in great detail recently. If I have walked this far being HIV positive, a recovering alcoholic and addict, and dealing with my emotional and psychological baggage from the past, that I can do anything through God who strengthens me. Life teaches you many things, if you are prepared to learn, not many would have made it this far, only the strong survive.
And you see enlightenment comes when your vision is widened and your spirit is open to the whisper of God’s voice. My marriage has presented its own suffering, with my husbands Bi-Polar diagnosis a couple of years ago. I must share that this period was very dark for me, and it was painful for him, getting used to meds, and it took a toll on me spiritually as well. Many nights I sat here in the dark and begged God, Why me, and why us? I learned the fine art of “pin point accuracy prayer,” and I received the gifts of those many late night prayers in the dark.
Amid the darkness and the suffering came grace, peace and inner healing. I learned how to become useful and obedient, willing and able to care for another’s suffering and to know and to feel and to intuit things before they ever occurred, I learned how to place the needs of another before my own. I learned that from God, through faith and trials.
If I had not the courage and faith to walk through this darkness knowing that God would be there for me, I surely would have walked away from this challenge very gladly. My own trials and tribulations afforded me the ability to learn from myself and others around me, which helped me immensely to feel compassion and understand what it is truly like to suffer something that I am powerless to change.
The suffering from mental diseases is just as horrid as dealing with a physical illness. Mental illness takes life just as easily. Suffice to say that suffering teaches you how to help another through their pain. And that grace can only come from God alone. There are no books to teach you about real “faith in action;” it must be learned as one walks through the fire. I have been forced and blessed to have learned a great many lessons across the wide spectrum of suffering and that education began before I entered puberty as a young boy. That knowledge is a blessing and it is a curse, sometimes I wish I never knew about some of the pain I have seen in my lifetime. And God knows I have done my best to help those that I can. With time and age comes wisdom and grace, many are afflicted, and most do not find it, before it is too late, lesser men have failed at such tasks, I did something right. God has blessed me with these insights for you to read.
If we are baptised into Christ’s life and resurrection, then through our suffering we will be reborn on that last day, free from the pain that we had once suffered. The focus on bodily mortification, for some, the saints and martyrs, was the road they walked to attain the status that they now have in the church. The denial of the body is a common theme in Christian literature. I know what it feels like to deny oneself in the service of God.
Our bodies are “temples” that house the spirit and the words of God, and to deny the body pleasure, food, water and abuse is to become “saintly” in God’s eyes, as I have been taught. The practice of fasting and bodily denial was a common theme in my formation years in seminary. To become Godly, one had to act Godly. In all honesty, that was a tall order for me to follow.
When I was diagnosed with illness in 1994 with the AIDS virus, I was met by two types of people, firstly those who condemned and ignored me, and secondly the Samaritans who took care of me and encouraged me to pray and have faith. There was an answer to suffering that would be found within prayer by faith, as long as I believed and showed up for God to work his miracles. The suffering I have walked through over these many years has been at times excruciatingly painful and there were days and nights when I prayed God would take me, it seems in hindsight, that God had other plans for me, it took me many years to intuit that message. And then things changed, and I believe it is my faith that healed my body and soul over the years. There is only truth in these words, and backed by faith, they sustain me and keep me alive. Nobody can take that power from me.
At one stage of my illness, I was attending church during one of the worst times in my life, and I thought I had it hard, until I saw a priest with Multiple Sclerosis say mass on crutches. It was by his example that I vowed on that day, never to take for granted where I was at any given point of my life. If this holy man could live well and minister to his flock as he was handicapped in the way he was, without the use of his legs, then I should never complain again about feeling sick, hence the transformative nature of suffering.
We all have our crosses to bear, and for some they are too heavy, and when that cross becomes too heavy for them, God says a prayer and brings them home to him, where there is no more suffering.
I have said that the “normal population” does not think about suffering until it hits them in their own back yard. The first response is “Why me God?” I have learned in as many years that the question “why me,” the prayer of the suffering soul, has for me become a prayer of wonder, at this stage in my life.
I have attained a certain grace of understanding. In the beginning I used to cry to God, when I would hurt “why me God, what did I do to deserve this punishment?” That lasted for a long time. When I reached the other side, and was entertained in the garden, and returned, I began to see the answer to that question.
All these years later with a terminal disease that is repudiated as a brutal and ruthless killer, I ask the same question “why me God, but now I add, and not them?” I have learned to live with adversity, and it is only by the grace of God that I still breathe. I just wonder why all of my friends are dead and I am still here? Maybe this is my answer,
I guess the reason that I am still alive is that I have learned the lesson about the importance of suffering and how that impacts my life and the life of those who keep my company. I am attuned to them, to God and to myself. I see people for who they are and love them all the same, unconditionally, and I know how my long term survival and my tenacity to live have impacted them. I know that my testament of faith, within the diseases that are part of me has changed everyone who knows me for the better.
There is the gift right there in suffering. The true meaning of suffering, “Love is: also the fullest source of the answer to the question of the meaning of suffering.” (S.D. pg.8) I have learned to love others through suffering. Suffering has transformed my life, my being and my soul to into an action, a testament to and of the grace of God. Suffering and time has tempered my soul. I have been proved by the fire and strengthened by faith.
With this understanding, each and every soul that I touch is transformed by the grace that inhabits my very soul. My body is not my own, for I am a vessel for the spirit of almighty God. I am a walking, talking miracle of God’s grace, and I believe that one hundred percent.
I may not agree with the church in the way she governs her flock, but I can talk about the impact that John Paul II has had on my life. The two times I met with him he was vibrant and strong. A man who was filled with God’s love and grace. To know that I have stood in his presence and listened to him speak was a gift.
Over the years we all watched disease ravage a sainted mans body and steal his spirit, voice and ability to function properly, yet in his darkest of days, he suited up and he showed up, even if someone else had to speak for him. John Paul II will one day be counted among the saints in heaven for his life, for his love of God and the people he served, for the suffering he ministered to and finally in the end, for the suffering he endured until his eventual death. His body was a temple, a sacred vessel that bore Gods truth, and when God was finished with him, God brought him home to a place that he would be free from the pain that ravaged his body so badly. I believe that many would agree that he suffered for his faith to his end.
What better example could we have that teaches us what the meaning of suffering is, and how it will end? John Paul II is the testament of a man whose body belonged to God well before disease took him. He served the greater good and mankind in all that he did and in the end he was glorified by his heavenly father.
Before millions of people in St. Peter’s Square and around the world John Paul was given a heavenly funeral service fit for a man who lived a long, Godly life, a life of service to the church to God and his followers, to faith, prayer, belief and of suffering.
- Salvifici Doloris, Apostolic Letter, from the Holy See at (www.Vatican.va) online
document, by John Paul II, written February 11th, 1984.
At Step Three, many of us said to our Maker, as we understood Him:
“God I offer myself to Thee – To build with me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy Will. Take away my difficulties, that my transcendence over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy power, Thy love, and Thy way of life. May I do Thy will always!”
We thought before taking this Step, making sure we were ready. Then we could commence to abandon ourselves utterly to Him.
As Bill Sees It, pg. 210
I’ve stepped up my meetings once again, because I am taking care of me, and it is nice to get out of the house and see people I don’t necessarily get to see often. Over on the side bar I have listed the meetings that I attend during the week. These are staple meetings on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights. They are all downtown and very local. So if you are in the area and want to stop by and participate, please do so. We’d like to see you.
Monday – Came to Believe – 2176A Ste Catherine’s (Right near my house) 8:00 p.m.
Tuesday – Tuesday’s Beginners – St. Leon’s Church (Westmount) 6:30 p.m./8:00p.m.
Friday – Meeting Someone – Padua Center – Little Bergundy – 1950 St. Antoine W. 5:30p.m.
This is that story I should tell you now…
Reflecting on my life (I will be 39 in a couple of days), there was a time when I thought I would never get to this point in my life, so buckle up and read on. That was last year when I edited this chapter for my manuscript. (July 2006)
There was always one question that that haunted me. “When does a boy become a man?” I was thrust into adult decisions while in junior high school. My father’s parents both had strokes, and for some reason he was under the impression that I would be the one who could rouse them from their states of silence. I was the firstborn son, and the apple of my grandmother’s eye. Alas, I failed at my task; she never came “out of it” so to speak. And I think my father never forgave me.
********** EDIT **********
My father was an alcoholic, that I know. He was also abusive, that I also know. My grandfather was one too much more than he. Generational addiction traveled across three generations. In hindsight my father was an abused child so was my grandmother. So was my mother and my brother. I was his main attack point. “I took it for the team” so to speak. My father also has an unnamed skeleton in his closet. I know that for a fact. On his return from Viet Nam he was shell shocked and sick and I am sure he did not ever talk about it or seek help, what was there back then? not much. Men did not talk, feel or discuss. As long as we don’t talk about it, it doesn’t exist…
My grandfather had a package store next door and a tavern to visit daily and he did until he had his stroke. He kept bottles of booze in every place he could think of. In the furniture, in the cabinets, in the bathroom and by his bedside and even in the yard hidden in the bushes, THAT is one heavy alcoholic. He drank around the clock when I was growing up. He abused people, my grandmother, myself, he verbally abused my adult father. In turn my father abused me because the women of the family tried to protect me from him trying to kill me.
And on several occasions, my mother’s mother and my father’s mother stood in the path of Hurricane Roger who was out to literally kill me as a child. They threatened him to near death to get him off of or away from me. I remember all those times because he was an obsessed evil bastard, and he wanted me dead. At least the women of the family kept him away from me, by keeping me away from him as long as they could throughout my childhood and adolescence.
My parents were kids of the 1960’s when they had children. A very Catholic time in the North East in Connecticut. So Church was ingrained but so was silent abuse. I know now where I came from and I have forgiven him. Much of my addiction stemmed from his model of abuse. He did what he did because of how he was raised and taught. War destroyed a generation of men.
Men and women our age can attest to this truth, if your father went to Viet Nam. I pray for his soul, but he did what he did and I retaliated and paid for my choices by their eternal punishment and ignorance. It was tit for tat, and My last TAT was the final nail in my proverbial coffin… My father was sick, and he never recovered, although I tried to save him to, he denied my efforts blatantly. So fuck me…
My mother was at a loss, God forbid she countered anything he said, preached or laid down as family gospel or law. She would have lost her life. He used to threaten her by saying if you counter me, you will loose more than your marriage, so she lived in fear of him and I think that became comfortable for her because what was she going to do, divorce the bastard? No, she would have rather died than do that. He gave her several ultimatums in my life that I know of now, he imported a wife, threatened her with immanent death and threats.
And she married him. She told me over and over that she chose HIM and not her children. So I was fucked from the get go, no matter how much she tried to protect me – he still abused me until I left home, and for the rest of my life he abused me verbally, at home and in public… Gay was Gay was Gay and unacceptable and I was damned. Add HIV to that mix and I was doubly damned… He was a freak of nature that I had no control over. Until I left the states and became my own man and Stood for my truth in light of the past. In spite of the past, I saved myself. And one day God may save him, but that is between Him and God… and that is good enough for me.
As a young person, in my family, I took on a lot of responsibility that should never have been placed in my lap so early on. I am a third-generation alcoholic who comes from a sturdy line of heavy and abusive drinkers. I did a lot of work as a child. I was a lawn boy, a maid, a cook, I was my brother’s keeper, and, best of all, and I was a bartender by the age of 10. I knew my “place” in my family early on.
The life of children of alcoholic parents, in my opinion, is tough. Although my father provided for his family, I know that he was a fully functional alcoholic. But who am I to judge and say that? My father had a funny way of saying he loved me; as he swung the belt or whatever he could find, he would say to me, “You were a mistake, and should never have been born!” I guess that’s the demon I wrestled with for many years.
I drank my way through high school and college, and eventually found refuge inside a Catholic Seminary for my second year of college, circa 1986. I had faith in God, it never left me, and although I left the “path” several times in my life I know now that God never abandoned me. I left that seminary because I could not put God and Politics in the same sentence.
There was something different about me, my parents knew, and so did everyone else. That was news to me. The day I realized that something was different was the first day of 7th grade. It was a new school, a new schedule and a new routine. Gym was something we did every day, the compulsory hour of physical activity. I knew the first day I walked into that locker room that I was “different.” That was 1979.
They say in AA that “if you have a problem with someone, it is usually a reflection of what you don’t like about yourself!” My father had hated me since the day I was born, and now from this point he would have a new reason to hate me. In retrospect, I think this was the truth he didn’t or couldn’t look at in himself.
They also say that when we start drinking we remain the age when it began. Well, then, I was a teenager for most of my life, which proves how difficult most of my life was. You see, my father was not an active part of my childhood or adolescent development, and today as an adult he is absent from my life; this includes my mother.
I didn’t know how to grow up, so I did the best that I could, with what I had and what I knew, which I have to say wasn’t much. Those good and reliable role models were something that most of my life lacked. I had years of experience in doing adult things from my childhood; I just had no courage to sit down and realize that I had to do that for myself.
I had a good life as a child. I got what I wanted from my father, and it was a trade off. He beat me more than my brother and my mother; in trade he paid for my silence in a really big way. Was that a mistake? It probably was.
My drinking took a toll, and in my 20’s “big things” started to happen to me. I fell in love, and moved to Ft. Lauderdale from Miami to have that relationship. James eventually committed suicide on April 15th, 1993. He was sick and did not tell me. I was told that he had AIDS only after his death. On July 8th, 1994, I was diagnosed with AIDS myself. The doctors gave me 18 months to live.
WHOA! 18 months? My boss became my father, my caretaker, and my friend. My education about growing up began in earnest. Todd had lost his lover to AIDS a couple of years before we met. He began to intensively teach me everything I would need to know how to do, to take care of me and cope with what I may face in the future. There was a lot of work to do in those years.
I got sober that same year in August 1994, and I stayed sober for 4 years. In retrospect, that first sobriety was a time of learning how to live and survive, rather than work a program. I stayed sober; mind you, for those four years. I went to meetings, but I was so sick during those four years you could not imagine.
I learned all those lessons that Todd could teach me in the four years we lived in the same area, and worked together. I believe that if Todd had not been in my life then, I would have surely died sooner. (This is where you all roll your eyes and say I think God had something to do with that, don’t you think?) Yes HE did.
Insert Slip here… Fall 1998 – Fall 2000 into 2001.
God has a funny sense of humour. I was living in a studio apartment, and my landlord got me a job in an antiques store run by a “member.” I was barely surviving on what I was making. It was OK, but I was still drinking and using. Go figure!!! I hired an employee a couple of months prior to reaching my bottom. And he used to say to me every day he came into work that he “didn’t drink!” Well, good for you I would say. In the grand scheme of things, Troy would eventually take me back to my first meeting.
On the morning of September 11th 2001, I was lying in bed when the phone rang. It was my friend Ricky, and he said, “Turn on your TV, something is happening!”
It had begun.
The city of Miami Beach just shut down. It was incredible, how that one event transformed the world, my world, the city and the people who lived in that city and all over Miami. Every one started trying to find ways to help. The city’s nightclubs and bars shut down; the nightlife, as it was, was no more. For two weeks I worked online trying to get relief items to New York, via Oprah’s Message Boards.
Those two weeks of my life were a complete blur. We all got sober during those initial two weeks. The mourning period ended two weeks later. We were all catatonic; nobody knew what to do. Eventually the bars started these promotions all over town. Come and donate some cash to the relief effort and drink free all night. That’s what the entire community of Miami Beach did for the relief effort. We raised a TON of money!
The beach rose out of its stupor and I think the people on Miami Beach drank every drop of alcohol we could find, to “help those in need!” That went on for weeks. Through a series of well-said prayers, and like I said, Troy eventually took me to my first meeting on December 9th 2001.
I went to a 10 p.m. meeting and was welcomed into a community that was tight and strong. That’s where I picked up my sponsor, Charlie. He was a retired Marine, and he was one of the men who set me on my path of growing up, because until then I was coasting on God’s grace. I still have friends I talk to from that “home group.”
Four months later I came to Montreal for Easter to visit, how auspicious a religious holiday to start my “journey” in earnest. They say “Montreal is where it all started.”
And so it did for me. I came for one week; I ended up staying for two.
I returned to Miami, packed what little I had and took the next flight out. My mother was a Canadian citizen when I was born, a little lie she sat on for many years until anger pushed me to play the last ACE card in my sleeve. The distance between my parents and me was eternally ruptured the day I left the United States. They branded me a “deserter” and my father swore me off for good. With a birthright application in hand and A LOT of God’s help, I set off for the new world, never looking back.
I hit a lot of meetings during that first year of sobriety. I came to Montreal with an expectations list, as long as my arm for God. And it was no joke, when God would look over my list and I could hear HIM, in retrospect say to me, “Uh huh, well let’s see here, No, No, Not right now, I don’t think so, maybe later, and I think you should rephrase that question!”
My second attempt at sobriety would be the greatest four years of my life. Firstly, all those lessons that Todd gave me years earlier started to make their way out of my head. I found a place to live, and I started building a home while I waited for my citizenship to come, as it eventually did on February 17th, 2003.
Meanwhile I went to meetings every day and I figured out ways to survive with what I had and the money I had banked up till then. In October of 2002, I met the man I was going to eventually marry. We began to build a life together.
I was seeing a therapist, whom I still see to this day every week. Margo is one of my best friends today. It was the spring of 2003, and I had worked really hard on my program. I had climbed a really BIG mountain in Margo’s opinion. And one day she asked me, “Jeremy, you’ve climbed this huge mountain, now you are standing here looking at it, what are you going to do for you?”
I sat on that question for two weeks. I was sitting at home, here (right here) where I am now, typing this out, and I was looking at the wall – at my Citizenship Certificate, and I said to myself “A University diploma would look good up there!” So it went. I applied to Concordia University at age 34, and was accepted. I began my studies at Concordia University here in Montreal in the fall of 2003.
I was making adult decisions with my life, for the first time in my life. The move out of the United States was the best decision I had ever made in my life, because I had to learn how to survive in a foreign country, get to meetings, and work an intense program of sobriety. It forced me to put into practice “everything” I had learned up to that point. I had great guides and teachers, and I have a great sponsor, who tells me like it is. He’s a no bullshit kind of man.
In the spring of 2004, Peter got sick and had a nervous breakdown, and we had to extricate him from his former place of employment. He was diagnosed with Bi-Polar 2 (Rapid Cycling) disorder. He spent the better part of six months on the sofa catatonic from the different medications; it took that long to find the right “combination” of drugs to take him out of the stupor and set him up for his re-entry into the world.
I think that’s about the time I came across Chuck and the Real Live Preacher (Gordon). I started blogging when Peter got sick, as a way of relieving my sorrow and do something with myself at night. Chuck and Gordon have been incredible role models, fathers and friends to me over the last year. I respect them and admire the men they are in the world. We should all be so lucky to count men like these as friends.
I prayed for direction and I decided that I would “stay the course” and not walk away from someone I loved, just because there was a problem. Lesser men would have just walked away citing inability to cope or put someone else’s needs before their own.
Peter has become the greatest man I have ever known, because when push came to shove in the last year, he stepped up and took charge when I was sick.
I grew up really fast. I had to manage the house cash, take care of Peter’s medical needs, and mine as well, eh? I had to shop for food, cook and take care of the house and Peter. And during that time I was a full time student at Concordia.
I became accountable and reliable. I also learned how to put someone else’s needs before mine and that’s when “the boy became a man.”
We were married in a small ceremony at the Loyola Chapel on the Concordia University West Campus, on November 20th, 2004, which happens to be my mother’s birthday. Talk about re-appropriating family holidays, eh?
I became the man I wanted to be. I achieved things that I never knew were possible. I grew up A LOT in the last four years alone.
I have begun my third year of Religious studies at Concordia University this summer (2005-2006) and will continue in the fall. In December, one day at a time and by the grace of God, I will have attained my four years of sobriety once again (Dec 9 2005).
This month I celebrate my 13th year of being POZ. Back then the doctors estimated that I had been carrying for over a year when I was diagnosed; there is another entire story there. I survived!! That in itself is a miracle.
That question of “when does a boy become a man” no longer haunts me, because I know who I am today. It took me a long time to “get it!”
It was in the “realization” of who I was, and I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and to learn to love myself and to have faith in my own abilities. Today that is vitally important. I ran from who I was for many years because I was afraid I would end up like my father, and I am glad to say, I am nowhere close!
Children suffer for the sins of their parents; it took me a long time to work through these issues. I pray a lot, and I hope, and I believe in the redeemable qualities in my parents, and one day I pray that redemption may come; then again, it might not, and I am OK with that today.
Where is God in my life? He resides in my heart and in my soul. I’m still on the path, and still searching for a place to call home. The church is not what I wish it could be, nor what I want for me today. So I belong to a group of blogging Christians who follow a man called the Real Live Preacher.
They say with age comes wisdom, and in sober terms, the longer you stay sober and work an honest program, every time you share your experience, strength and hope with another human being, one learns to see the world and one’s life in a more critical way, hence the honesty and humility in the way one shares that information.
There are ways to find the paths to enlightenment, life and life more abundantly. But the wise men and women are few and far between, and finding them along the journey is like trying to find a needle in a moving haystack.
I have been blessed in the last 13 years to meet and get to know some phenomenal people who helped me along my journey. There are even men and women of fame and fortune who have impacted me so deeply that some of their stories will appear later in this book. How they impacted me and the lengths I went to to “Get Honest” with myself and others is a testament to my continued survival and good health.
I may not be a parent, nor do I speak with the tongues of angels, and there is no easy way to face the future when doctors tell you that you have been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS and that you are going to die. At least for me, that’s the way it was just a few years ago, in the year 1994.
There are lessons we all must learn in our lives. There are things that cannot be learned from a book, and there are ways to survive that won’t necessarily come from a physician so navigating your way out of a diagnosis and into your life of the future can be a daunting task. Everyone’s journey is different, but at the same time all of our journeys are the same.
I want to share with you, my readers, some of the issues that face us all here today. I would like to share with you the many pieces of the road maps I have collected over the last 13 years. I would like to give you some hope that there is life after a diagnosis.
Things are much different than they were just a few years ago. I would like you to know the “whole story,” that there is more to life than just taking a few pills each day to manage your health and well being.
There are things we must talk about, and there are questions you must have for me. The first thing we need to recognize is this, “Your diagnosis and your future is all about you, and not about your family!” After all is said and done and the truth is let go, families and friends, lovers and partners, husbands and wives will learn to cope with this issue in time.
Or they won’t and they will choose to walk away, suffering from their own inability to cope with what you are facing. That would be very sad, but it happened to me.
The desire I want from this book is to give you the tools and information that you will need to confidently listen and cope with the situation that you now face.
We know that AIDS/HIV is not a selective disease, as was first thought. The HIV virus knows no barriers, and it does not see race, color or creed. It knows not who is straight or gay, man or woman, adult or child. All it sees is a body to infect and a life to destroy. I’ve come to you, by way of this book, to illustrate to you that there is “Life after diagnosis.” I would like to show you how I did it, and give you some necessary skills and information to help you navigate family, friends, significant others, the world around you and the medical challenge that now face you.
As technology changes and the world of science broadens, the hope of a living a future to the best of your ability is possible. I am of the mindset that with the right guidance and a positive look at life, and the right motivation and information, we can help you navigate through the minefields of emotions and reactions, friends and foes and the good days and the bad days.
The caveat here is this; I will not promise you a rose garden free of the stresses that come with this disease. I will not tell you that drugs and treatments are not trying on every fiber of your being, because I know of what I have seen and experienced in my own life.
I will not share information with you that I have not worked through myself. I will not lie to you and give you a false sense of hope. I will not tell you that death is avoidable and will not happen eventually, because in the end we all must die, of one thing or another.
Like I said, some of these things you won’t learn from anyone else than from one who has walked this path, and can speak to you in the first person. I hope to show you some of the pits I fell in over the years and how I got out of them, I will talk about the problems I had with my family and the distance that lies between us to this day. I will tell you all the little secrets that I have collected over the years that may give you some courage and ammunition to battle the “dark” and show you where the light is.
Whoever you are, no matter how young or old you are I want to share with you my message of health, life and hope. Because where there is hope, there is faith, and where there is faith for some, there you will find a god of your own understanding. I believe to navigate your way out of despair and confusion; one must find a spiritual axiom to hold on to.
Life with the HIV virus is not easy, and some days it is a challenge just to stay above the water. The roller coaster of life has begun for you, so you better buckle up, put on your crash helmet and get ready for the ride of your life. And I promise that if you stick with me throughout this book, when you reach the last page, I hope that you will say two words, “thank you!”
There are times in every life, that we should not be alone, when news of an illness and facing one’s mortality meet in the same room at the same time. I have stood in that room myself, and I hope through the course of the book, to show you the skills I have learned and applied in my own life, and I hope that you will find them helpful so as to give you some guidance on your journey that life has given you.
My book was written by a gay man who had a gay experience; I am gay and HIV positive. I hope that the story I write here will cross the barriers that separate us, by race, creed, and sexual orientation. All of the stories are universal, and as well so are all of my principles. Everyone who is diagnosed with HIV or AIDS goes through many of the same issues. I hope to share with you some of my own lessons and personal experiences and anecdotes over the last 11 years. I encourage you to read without your own prejudices and preconceptions about the homosexual lifestyle.
HIV and AIDS is a “world problem,” not just a gay problem. I believe that commonality is found in our differences, not in our sameness.
How do you begin writing a book about HIV and AIDS? I have an answer for that. First you tune your television to the channel that is airing the movie “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Why is this important? Because it always brings me back to the day I began this journey. The day I decided that knowledge was better than denial. The day I said goodbye to the life I had, and began to mourn all the losses that I would incur because of what was to come, and the sheer fact that people in 1994 were still ignorant and stupid.
How do you share experience, strength and hope with people like any other good author of the times? Find your voice, I can hear Lucas saying in my ear, just go ahead and write because this is the most important story you will ever tell, this is what you’ve been talking about for the last 13 years, so sit down, start typing and with any luck you might just find your groove and in that groove you might help one soul out there with the struggle they are facing today.
What I can tell you from this life, to help you out in your life, is that they never promised us a rose garden; in fact, living with the HIV virus and AIDS is more like a bed of weeds and brambles. It is a long road to wellness and only the strong survive the long haul. I am the last of a dying group of people I call my “core pod” of original diagnoses from 1994.
All the friends I knew from that period are dead. Many of my friends, those I knew personally and those I knew by association (of common disease) live on quilts, immortalized in fabric, painfully stitched, one stitch at a time, by those who loved them, in the AIDS Memorial Quilt.
Where to begin? Hmm, they have said that “the truth shall set you free” so let me tell you my truth. In the beginning I did not think I was set free. I was enslaved to a life that I did not expect, nor desired to live. In fact, there was a time when all I wanted to do was die, and though I tried to take my own life, the creator had different plans for me.
Still to this day, 13 years later, I question the Almighty God in the heavens and ask him, “Um, God, what am I still doing here?” and “Is there a purpose for my existence?” You see, I talk to God a lot, which came over time. The longer I lived, the more I wanted to talk to God, because in my “faith life” I expect an answer, it may come on my deathbed and it may come before, so this dialogue with the “One Most High” continues.