People who drink and drug, seem to forget their mortality, and their sense of well-being, once we pick up that first drink or a drug. I don’t know a single man or woman who has not said, in a meeting, that before they picked up, said to themselves, “this might kill me!”
It might not kill us right now, but given enough time and abuse, we bypass the jails, we bypass the institutions, and we end up Dead in the Ground.
There are warnings out there, from people in the know, that if you abuse drugs and alcohol, you too will eventually die. And usually quicker, when you play the mortality game with the Sacred Temple, that is our bodies.
A long sober lady friend of mine, who passed away last summer, used to say, about herself that, when she drank, in order to attain a certain goal, she would allow a man to “Touch the Sacred Temple.”
How many of us think about that fact ? None really, until it is too late.
I have many friends who tempted fate, with their excessive drug and alcohol use. We number in the double digits on Monday night. In many other meetings, those numbers are quite higher, because some of my long sober friends, tell horror stories about themselves. That is knowledge in the bank, for sure.
My sponsor, for instance, spent the last portion of his using days in New York City, shooting up and having sex. When he met his now wife, he had AIDS and HEP C. They procreated and produced a son who never tested positive. She never tested positive either, and when she learned about this fact, she was none too happy about it.
Imagine what she went through, getting tested over and over for nine months ? I can imagine, because I was on that end of a test myself a number of times, until I had hit that proverbial Jackpot and my diagnosis.
The good thing about my sponsor and I was this … We both ended up here in Montreal.
In the beginning, many years ago, I was treated in Miami for AIDS. And my doctors kept me alive. I was one of the first patients in that medical clinic to receive Phase One Issue drugs that had just come off the pike for use in general community.
That did not last long because of that little small voice that assisted my SLIP.
When I came back, I had fallen out of Florida’s State Medical insurance program, because I was out-of-state too long, and I had to start back at the beginning, which took longer than I had anticipated.
I had done myself in, so I paid that ultimate price.
My sponsor had been here for the entire 35 years he has been clean and sober. He, like myself, found the fountain of eternal life, in the doctors we both have today.
He had a double dose of reality with two major illnesses. HEP C is much more lethal than AIDS is, in the Big Picture. The liver is a serious organ. And if that one goes, the rest of you goes with it.
There is no coming back from HEP C, you are a dead human being.
I watched a very long sober man, when I first came in, many years ago, be well and healthy, living with HEP C. A number of years later though, his fate changed. The HEP C got the better of his body, and in a matter of four days, JUST FOUR DAYS, he was dead.
I saw him on a Sunday, and he was alive. On Thursday of that same week, he was dead.
My sponsor was treated by the best doctors money could buy, through the year 2014. After several treatments with Interferon, he went into remission. All the while, in Montreal, the city is well stocked with the luminaries of AIDS treatment professionals.
Doctor Mark … A life taken too soon. He was a master at his craft of saving lives.
We just lost a Major Luminary not long ago, our research Head of Science and clinical trials. My sponsor never took another drug or drink, after he got sick. He jumped the border and settled here with his family.
I was not so lucky.
After returning from my slip in July of 2000, to Miami, I would not jump the border until April of 2002. On my first visit, over Easter of 2002, I found a place to live and the doctor who treats me today. When I landed here in April of 2002, I was still not yet a citizen, and that took some time. In February of 2003, I was given my citizenship. Which cleared me for treatment in Quebec. (In the meantime – My doctor back home was sending drugs over the border to treat me while I waited).
Like our woman, in tonight’s story, who had found out her liver was failing because of the excessive way she drank, she had a choice to make when she got sober. For her, there were no two ways about it. She needed a new liver, and transplant teams, across the board hold to certain standards.
They aren’t going to give up a healthy organ to a drug or alcohol pusher…
So she had to walk through tests, some random, and some not. She had to adhere to certain rules of engagement. And like me, she waited for a liver to come, as I waited to get into the clinic I desired. Both of us put ourselves in mortal danger.
On our Own Dimes.
All three of us; our woman in the story, my sponsor and myself, all survived.
When I got into the clinic, I was given an ultimatum. I would be treated. In exchange for my drugs, I would become a drug test patient. And for the rest of my years, to this date, I am still testing new medications, as they roll out of the science departments in Canada.
Over these fifteen years, I have tested numerous types of drugs. Each patient with AIDS/HIV, is unique. None of us carry the same strain. In the beginning they tested all of us to Genotype and Phenotype our strains of the virus.
With that information on hand, as each drug came out of the lab, depending on what strain we carried, we would get certain drugs, that would work for us, so they thought. Which was why we were testing the drugs on ourselves. Because if they worked for us, they would eventually get passed into general populations around the world.
I had to adhere to certain rules and regulations. I was tested many times to make sure I was clean and sober, and every time I drop labs, to this day, they test me for substances.
There are no two ways about this sober life. I am not only responsible for my own life, I am responsible for every life that comes in contact with the drugs I am taking right now. There is NO ROOM for fucking up a treatment regimen because if they get failed regimen data, that drug becomes useless because we did not adhere to treatment protocols.
That Skews the data.
Folks who come to recovery, get off Track A – and they get to choose Track B.
If they choose Track B – they get their do over.
Medicinal patients in the program, know that they fucked up their lives, and if they want to live, they are going to make the Track B choice. Many of my friends who made that Track B choice, are alive because of cutting edge science, here in Montreal.
I can say that, without a doubt. I know several of my friends are alive right now, because they got clean and sober, and sought out medical assistance from our World Re-known Science Labs here in the city.
I know, like our woman tonight, for myself, I was in no way prepared to change what I was doing, when I got sober the first time. I knew I was going to die, and I also knew that I was not going to suffer like many of my friends did. I was going to kill myself with the drink, Until Todd got a hold of me and changed that outcome.
He did quite well, don’t you think ? He made a wise choice.
Until I take my dying breath, I will sing THEIR praises, because of the Goodness of God, made incarnate in Todd.
In the beginning we make the decision to drink and drug. To some extent we all know, we made that decision. It might not have been a logical decision then, and we may not nor never admit that in open community and for many an alcoholic and drug addict, the fear of death was nonexistent.
We chased the HIGH or the Magical Affect of Alcohol, not death in and of itself.
It wasn’t until we had that Mirror Experience, or we sat in a jail cell, or was told that we were very sick, and for a few of us, we were going to die, if we did not Shape the Fuck Up.
For many, that takes several kicks at the can.
Today, those of us who have made successive passes at the can, and did GET clean and sober, our jobs, in our community, is to drive that point HOME, that, if you continue on this path of self-destruction, You Too Will Die.
There won’t be another chance to get this right.
Many of our young women, early in the rooms today, were Itty Bitty Bad Asses.
The girls usually can out drink and out drug the boys. The Sober Women in Montreal, the young ladies and some of our older ladies, were serious party animals, and could quite clearly, out do their male counter parts.
Which is why we have to work twice as hard to keep the women, IN the ROOMS, clean and sober. Because if we fail them, they are dead women.
Some of our young men are just as bad, and always need that swift kick in their asses on a regular basis. I’ve lost several good friends to the beast over the last few months, and a handful of them as well, have slipped over the divide and are stuck in the proverbial revolving door of addiction and using.
I can’t seem to get them to be able to admit they are powerless over their drugs and alcohols of choice. They seem to think that a Friday “Night Cap” is good for them, instead of being responsible and smart.
How do you say that to your friends, and not alienate them from the fold ?
All we can do is be present.
We pay a lethal price for alcohol and drug abuse. But if we GET IT, we want you to KEEP IT and STAY. Because the alternative is jail, institution or
Bodies only last so long on this earth. Sometimes the damage is so severe there is no coming back from our using and drinking.
Some of us got very fucking LUCKY.
Never look at a chance to live again, twice. You might never get another chance.
Tonight, it rained … If there is weather going on, attendance is going to be down.
Tonight’s read: Virtue and Self Deception
I read the reading, and thought I knew what I wanted to say, and once I spoke my words, I realized that I had missed my mark. In retrospect, I lived my alcoholism in reverse.
The stories of most alcoholics usually begin with one innocuous drink, that leads to More. For most, but not for all, that’s the way it went down. Except for those people who started drinking full throttle from the very start.
I drank as a teenager. When I moved away from home, I started hard and strong. I’m not sure how I got through the first five years of my drinking. I do know that I would lie, cheat and rationalize my way into alcohol.
I was not a very honest young gay boy. Then again, none of us really were:
Young people today, have a sense of entitlement. Like we owe them something for just being alive .
I do know that I grew up in a home where alcoholism flourished. Nobody talked about it, and we always lived in fear, if we ever spoke about it to anyone outside of our four walls.
It seemed to me that silence gave consent. None of the men in our lives ever paid a price for their addiction to alcohol. My father was terribly abusive. In the end, he got away with his actions. All of them. He is a really fucking lucky man, that I did not retaliate, ever.
There were always loaded guns in our house. And Bats, and Chains, and Metal Tools, Knives and Machetes. He was very lucky that I never went in for the kill.
I do regret never beating the shit out of him, at least once, for the abuse he heaped on me. When I drank, I believed that I would get away with it. If the men in our lives did not pay for their problems, then I believed that neither would I.
I believed that if I pawned responsibility off on either of my parents, I would slide through, without being called on the carpet about my drinking.
Responsibility … That was the word I really wanted to talk about.
As a twenty-something, I was terribly irresponsible, EXCEPT when it came to being responsible for my drinking career. My drinking always came first. Everything else, came a FAR second and third.
I had a brand new car. I had to choose between paying off that car, or drinking. Can you figure out what choice I made ? A series of well told lies, brought the repo man. My father, did indeed, pay for the car, and I got it back, with nary a word about my drinking.
Did I feel guilty ? No. Not One Bit.
That motherfucker was going to pay his dues. He did.
Today, I live with that resentment high on the list of things I did that will never get forgiveness. My parents will never forgive me for my alcoholism. I will never grow up from that twenty-something that fucked them over, I will be guilty till they go to their graves.
Leaving home, was to find a life, a people, a group, ACCEPTANCE.
I was woefully unprepared to be an adult. And I did not have any clue about responsibility for my life, which is really ODD. When I lived at home, I was responsible for the house, for cleaning and the upkeep. I was my brother’s keeper as well. I had to go to school, which I did, willingly.
I graduated High School because I told a true statement to my Math teacher. I was a failure when it came to numbers, and I still am, to this day, albeit a bit better.
On the day of the final exam, I learned that all of my classmates got a preview copy of the exam and I did not. In the end I wrote a note on the last page of my exam. It said:
“I was the only student in this room, who did not get an advanced copy of your exam. Have a nice day.”
Regardless of how I did on that exam, he passed me.
I graduated High School.
When it came to employment, I was at the top of my game. I made good money doing that too, until alcohol began to cloud my judgment. As a much younger person, who had jobs, where alcohol was NOT included, I was successful.
When I began to work in my travel field, and you tossed in alcohol, all bets were off. I talk about this incessantly, many of the people I worked with and drank with, were as alcoholic, if not more alcoholic than I was. Getting on a plane on a Friday afternoon, to go somewhere exotic, so that we could drink, was not uncommon.
When I worked for a Very Big Cruise line, alcohol was served during work hours. And it was also not odd, to get on a ship on a Friday afternoon as well, to head to the Bahamas, and drink 24/7 while that ship was moving, and then some.
Many of the people I drank with got SOBER, well before I did. And nobody said anything to ME about ME.
I had to run my sordid, irresponsible, sickness ending road.
I WAS responsible for myself so long as alcohol was not part of my life equation. I knew what right and wrong were. I had morals, I was honest, I was responsible, at every one of my jobs that I had. My progression into alcoholism was jump started, when you added alcohol into my life, while I worked.
When I made the move away from home. My alcoholism followed me. And since my main goal, as I was directed by my shrink, to go to a bar, have a couple of drinks, and “see what happens,” was what I did.
My responsible sense of life went right out the window, because alcohol was the main ingredient, in my emotional, personal and sexual success.
I don’t know where my good values and honesty went. I think alcohol helped me to forget those values, virtues and honesty. Self respect went out the window as well.
I suffered from alcoholic delusions for a very long time. Like I stated above, my alcoholism began backwards. All those devastating things that usually take place at the END of ones drinking career, BEGAN on day one for me. I was an alcoholic who LOST BIG, from the get go.
I refined my drinking over the years, so as not to include anyone, but myself.
In the end I really did not need you. I had burned all of my bridges. Alcoholism helped me alienate family, friends, and coworkers. The one thing that alcohol still did for me, was to get me in the door when it came to the horizontal mambo.
Until I was diagnosed with AIDS.
Irresponsibility and really bad choices, mixed together with drugs and alcohol, pushed me over the edge, on one specific morning. In those days, in Fort Lauderdale, you could, actually, DRINK, twenty-three hours a day.
That MORNING, that I sat in a bar, and continued my drinking from the night before, I made a sexual choice, NOT a responsible choice, by any means.
The bullet was shot, and I had been hit with that bullet. Only, it took a year for that bullet to rear its ugly head in my body.
There was nobody saying to me – Maybe you should STOP. or Maybe, you should be more responsible. or Maybe you need to grow the fuck up, already …
Last night I shared with you Todd’s story.
The first choice I made, moving towards responsibility, was walking into Todd’s bar, that one night in 1993. Had I not done that, my timeline would have been fucked.
Todd – read: God, was waiting for me in that bar.
Another point I want to talk about is this: We know today, and we repeat this mantra to everyone who comes in the room that: If you put anything before your sobriety, you will fail, miserably.
I have AIDS, I was going to die, and Todd brought me to a meeting.
AIDS was a much BIGGER fish to fry than staying SOBER. I was juggling two very serious balls. And I had to keep both balls in the air at the same time.
If it were not for Todd, I would have died. I would not have made it out alive.
I was going to meetings, and reading the book, an Roy was my sponsor, who worked IN the bar with me. But Todd, was the Master in Control of my destiny.
I got responsible, it may have taken a while to get there, but I did get there.
Before Todd stepped into my life, for years before, not one human being, on my timeline, ever offered me a suggestion, a piece of advice, or uttered the word STOP.
I was working in the bar, drinking myself sick after hours, and my body was sero-converting all the while. The day I got those results, I figured that I would drink myself dead, instead of suffering the way my friends were suffering.
It was a very good thing that I did call Todd away from his vacation and asked him to come home, for me. He did that, gladly.
Todd took over and actually said the word STOP to me.
My education in survival began. My sobriety, took a back seat. If I did not survive, sobriety would not matter. I was going to meetings, marking time. The thrust of survival lead me where it did, because Todd was running the game.
For those few years, I earned dignity. I learned responsibility. I learned values. I learned morals. I learned Never to Give Up. To Fight for my life.
I was sober when Todd departed my life. I stayed sober for another two years. I moved to Miami, and went to a meeting, where alcoholics like me, heard me speak, and told me to Go Away and Not Come Back.
Imagine what that feels like, if you were fighting for your life, and fighting to stay sober, and have another alcoholic say the words: Go Away !!!
I disconnected. I became despondent. I took my life into my own hands. The HOLE in my SOUL, took over. Sobriety, took a back seat. I kept SECRETS. I told LIES.
I put the HOLE in my SOUL first.
I prearranged my slip, and orchestrated it to the best of my ability, because nobody at home really cared whether I came or went. Nobody was paying attention to me.
So Fuck It.
Eighteen months later, the cops were at the door, to extricate me from the house.
I came back home to Miami, with my tail between my legs. The year 2000 turned into the year 2001. I saw my mother ONCE.
On September 11th, 2001, we all know what happened.
Miami Beach was plunged into forced communal SOBRIETY – Because New York needed us, and drinking was outlawed for two weeks.
No bars, No Clubs, No alcohol and No drugs.
I would not get sober for another four months.
I was living in the DELUSION that if I just drank a little more, someone in the club I was drinking in, would notice me. I had lied to myself for years and years. None of those things I was told would happen, those things that needed to be lubricated with alcohol, ever happened.
I had my last drink. I was done, shattered, FINISHED.
I had to get over the border into Montreal, for my REAL SOBER EDUCATION TO BEGIN.
I was alive. I survived AIDS. I had money in the bank. A place to live. And I had meetings and the people in those meetings.
I no longer had any other fish to fry, I no longer had to juggle several balls at the same time. The only thing I had to do was STAY SOBER.
Responsibility began to set in. I had set myself up before I walked into Tuesday Beginners. And what did they do ? They gave me a job.
Coffee, set up, tables and chairs.
I did that over and over for all my years in the program.
In fact, I am still doing service at every meeting I attend, now almost sixteen years later. Because keeping it simple, always remembering that I need to act like a newcomer to keep it real, I do that gladly.
11 months in, Hubby came into my life.
My education in manhood and responsibility began in earnest.
The rest, you can say is history.
Today, I have values, morals, and virtues.
We all know that our “heads” are not places we go into, willingly, ALONE.
I know many things about myself. But I will never learn everything.
I am still alive. I am still sober. I am Responsible.
Fifty is not far off.
Responsibility got me here. Knowing I am NOT a saint NOR perfect keeps me here.
My belly button is NOT the Center of the Universe.
I am told that Step Three is very important.
Every day I have to make a decision to Turn my will and my life over to the care of God, as I understand Him.
There is a God, and I am not HE.
As long as there is breath in my lungs, and I get up in the morning,
it is going to be a good day.
This story is one of the most important stories i have ever recorded here. Among the many memories recorded on this blog, this story stands out as one of the worst days of my life.
Here is the story about the night i met Todd in 1993, ending on the day i said goodbye to Him in 1996.
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It was a normal night in my life. i had left James and was living alone. i drove to a particular strip mall and parked my car, got out, and walked into a little hole in the wall Leather Bar, i was not familiar with.
Nonetheless, that night began this life i live today.
i was a strange little boy, walking into that bar. i was not a regular, but a stranger. i knew, in my heart what i knew. Fantasies of magazines read, years before, in secret, when my father left them in the bathroom to be consumed, when he was not at home, were running in my head. i don’t think my father ever caught on that i was reading his gay smut left out, by a married man, who had a skeleton in his own closet.
Little did i know what was about to happen to me.
i ordered a rum and coke, and took a seat on a stool, in the area reserved for conversation. i sat for a little while.
There was CCTV in the bar.
And i was being watched.
From out of the shadows, walked a Shit Brick house of man. He greeted me, told me His name, Todd, and sat down next to me. He had those eyes of Jesus, water blue and as deep as the ocean.
i was transfixed.
One never knows when we will meet someone of His caliber, someone who can look into your eyes and divine what lies behind them. In a few moments, the man who sat down next to me, knew my innermost desires and the deep darkness of my hidden heart.
What happened next, stole my breath away and knocked me out of my known reality.
That Shit Brick House of a man, raised his hand, and slapped me clear off my stool and i flew across the floor. It was not a hit of malice of any kind, but a test of my heart. i think He wanted me to get up and say, “please, Sir, may i have another ?”
i don’t remember what i said, i think i was in shock, really. i knew that i loved him from that very moment. And i would do anything to be close to Him, in any way that that desire lead me.
From that moment on, i was beholden to Him. He knew what i was, who i was, and what i had intended on doing, when i walked into the bar.
In the days and weeks that followed, i spent every night in the bar. i met people. i met the employees, and in that bunch of men, would eventually arise, my first sober sponsor, Todd’s lover Roy. Who got sober one year before i had, in 1993.
i eventually quit my day job. And lived for my nights with Todd and His crew.
One night, we learned that the bar was closing, and would be rebuilt at another location on the other side of Ft. Lauderdale. This was my chance. I stepped up, with a few other intrepid men, and i became part of the wrecking crew. i remember that night, as if it were yesterday. The final view of that bar, was an empty space, that had been stripped and wrecked to pieces.
i had to prove my worth and i did just that. i worked for weeks, sweating, pushing and building the bar we called home from the ground up. Under Todd’s watchful eyes, i worked my way into Todd’s employ.
It was the most important decision i had ever made, up to that point in my life.
Todd took me in.
What we did not know then was, that Todd would become God as i understood Him, when i found out i was sick with AIDS, and was going to die.
i had survived James’ suicide, my diagnosis of AIDS, and i eventually got sober, at Todd’s command.
Todd would see to it that i would live. And here we are right this very moment.
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None of my friends today, would understand the life i had lived so many years ago. i am a particular type of gay man, who had a lived experience that nobody in my gay world today, lived themselves, which sets me apart from them, by this clear distinction of life experience.
None of my friends know AIDS like i know AIDS.
Many people, on the outside, in the real world, do not know the underbelly of the Leather World as i do. The world believes, in many circles, that Leather men are sick and deviant, and could not possibly know love, or live a proper life or have proper relationships. But we did.
And we Died.
When i studied religion in university, my mentor, friend and professor, taught a class about the Leather Lifestyle. He had a course outline, based on reading. i had life experience that proved very beneficial to the class reading and discussion.
i cannot express how these few years had changed my life and gave me tools that nobody else could have given me, in the way and method that Todd gave them to me.
I have said, retrospectively, that the day Todd walked into my life from the shadows of the old rendition of the bar we built together, God made manifest in my life.
I share this story now, because it is a good preface to the next portion of my life journey, because without Todd’s story, there is no life for me to speak of.
This is but one small chapter in a lived Book of Life recorded on this blog.
Writing is a full time job. Recording your life’s stories are some of the most beautiful and some of the most painful experiences you will ever write about.
This post is communion with the “God of my understanding,” who came into my life, when i most needed Him, and that “God of my understanding” has kept me here to share with you some of the most important stories and lessons i have in my memory arsenal.
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This is part of an ongoing story that i have shared here on the blog at great length. I was working at the Stud for a long time. From 1993 to i think maybe 1996. The bar had had it’s day and the crowds used to pack the house night after night. Those were the good old days.
At some point in the timeline, the owner of the bar had lost his partner Dennis to AIDS and things began to head south. We worked day and night to keep the bar afloat, but like i have heard it said before, sometimes you get your day and then it is over, and you have to move on to bigger and better things.
Certain people were brought into the organization and i was not very happy about that, in no uncertain terms. Ray was his name and he was bad news. He was a man who did nothing to gain my respect, but he muscled his way into the bar and into management – how that happened i cannot remember.
i was living a parallel life while at the bar. You’d have to know something about living behind the veil of the leather lifestyle. Living in this place for me was safe and secure. i was protected and cared for. And this strange man made his way into the bar and attempted to take over the running of the bar.
Todd was at a loss to stop this from happening. i did not like this man who came in and he did not like me because my alliance with my Master was absolute. And nobody was going to come between us, come hell or high water.
i went to work on shift one night and things had taken an ominous turn. Ray was sitting in the office and Todd and Roy were collecting their things and were escorted out the door by security. We had been overtaken by forces that we were powerless to stop.
i did not know what was going on or why? But i had my moment with Todd and He told me to behave and not make waves and to do my job. He walked out of the bar and that was the last time He and Roy ever set foot in the bar.
For a number of days – i don’t think it was very much longer than that that, i had had enough and ended up quitting my job, opting for a new position at another club in Miami. One of the DJ’s that worked with us landed me a good paying job at club Ozone.
Before i made that trek south, i had to deal with Todd and Roy. There was a secret that my Master never told me about, and i was never invited inside of that Fidelius secret for Todd’s own personal reasons. If you were invited into His dungeon, you did not speak of it to outsiders or anybody else. i knew one boy who was a friend who shared with me his secret.
Of all the fantasies i had harbored in my heart, none of them came to fruition. While working for Todd and living under the watchful eye of my Master, i was never taken into any man’s lurid world of S&M. Todd knew that i was a hard player and had i ever acted upon any of my fantasies with any chosen man in that bar, i could have gotten lost, hurt, or ended up dead.
There were men who abused boys in their charge. Some of them did die in the charge of some of those men.All of them died, within the space of two years.
This went on for a long time, and that’s why Todd had his rules about me in regards to other men that came into the bar. If you wanted to get to me, you had to get through my Master first. Nobody i knew of, ever asked His permission to claim me. It was better that way. i could come to work and dress any way i like and even act out all those fantasies going on in my head and had witnessed on a nightly basis in front of my eyes. Through the eyes and experiences of my friends and guests.
The day came when i was called to my Master’s home for one final job that was entrusted to me alone. He gave me the job of dismantling this secret room. Having heard about it in the past and finally setting foot inside of it, was a watershed moment for me.
Todd had taken me inside the Fidelius charm.
It took me two days to do all the work and it was then that i learned that Todd and Roy were leaving for San Francisco and there was no turning back. i was only 28 years old. i was still young and i had responsibilities that i thought were important.
Todd did not ask me to go with him. i think he thought it was better that i stayed where i was. i was still very sick and i needed the care that was being provided for me by Health Link. i had not ventured south to look for a new doctor to treat me yet. That would come later on.
i lived inside my leather head for so long that i was so used to what was going on. The day that i had to say goodbye to Todd came so suddenly. They packed up the truck and the car and i stood in the driveway at the house and sobbed. i wanted so badly to go with them, but i knew that i could not.
He hugged me and told me to remember all the lessons He taught me and that i knew where He would be. They got in the car and drove away. That was the last time i ever saw my Master, as the dust settled behind the car.
i was saying goodbye to the man who saved my life, the man i loved more than anyone else in the entire world. Todd took on the monumental task of taking care of me and by extension all of the men who worked in the bar. i was his favorite. It was me He chose to save at that time in my life. i lived every day to serve Him and by extension the men in the bar.
That life came to a screeching halt and the life i had lived for so long, was over. There was no turning back, i had to go on and find the way to survive without Him.
i cannot tell you how important a man Todd was to me … suffice to say, no other man has ever filled that spot in my heart. Not even my husband. He inhabits another part of my heart in other ways. There will never be another Todd in my life. i had Him for a season or two. And like they say, all good things must come to an end.
i had to go back into the world. i packed up my home and headed south to Miami to attempt reintegration. i had a job at the time and i had found a doctor to treat me. Dr. Jose would be my savior. He had access to drugs and treatments that i could not get in Ft. Lauderdale.
i remember walking around the city by myself trying to figure out how i was going to reintegrate back into the normal world and leave the world that i had lived in for so long behind.
i attempted reintegration. i failed, miserably.
i could not make it work alone, by myself.
When Todd and Roy moved to the West coast, i knew that i could not follow them, however, many of the men who worked at the bar did. Few of them are still alive, but a good number of them have long since died.
i harbored the idealistic fantasy that one day my father would die and i would go back and claim my mother back into my life and that i would remain at her side and take care of her as long as she lived.
But alas, my family never came together, my father did not die and the last time i saw my mother was on New Years Day 2001 for all of 25 minutes on their way back to Sarasota. This is one of those regrets that i have, that i stayed for family that never came to fruition. Family was a wasted idealistic dream.
i don’t know what would have happened had i gone to San Francisco.
i will never know. Because i am in Montreal and not San Francisco. i have spoken to Todd on few occasions since moving to Montreal. And I see Him here and there, in the business he runs today.
Protect in confidence this story, and please respect its dignity as well.
When I moved to Montreal, Dr. Mark Wainberg was researching AIDS drugs, like he had in decades past. I was one of his test patients at the Montreal General. Every drug that came out of his lab, went through Doctor Chris (my doctor today) and people like me, for the drugs to get to the world market.
I mourn his passing.
Dr. Mark is directly connected to my life as I live it today.
One of Canada’s leading AIDS researchers has died suddenly in Florida.
Dr. Mark Wainberg was in a Miami suburb with family on Tuesday when he had difficulty while swimming.
According to the Bal Harbour Police Department, his son noticed Dr. Wainberg was missing, swam out to where he was last seen, and brought him to shore.
“The victim had been in the water with his son, his son had lost sight of him. He didn’t know where his father was, so he swam out to where he had last seen his father – was able to retrieve him and swam back to shore with him,” said Acting Chief Mike De La Rosa.
“Other beachgoers assisted in bringing the victim onto the beach which is when we arrived. After fire-rescue was treating the victim, he was transported to hospital.”
Firefighters continued performing CPR as Dr. Wainberg was taken to hospital, where he died.
Acting Chief Mike De La Rosa could not confirm if Dr. Wainberg drowned or had some other medical condition that led to his death.
Dr. Wainberg was a world-renowned researcher who began his work on HIV/AIDS in the 1980s
His group discovered that 3TC, also known as Epivir and lamivudine, was effective in treating HIV.
As the founder and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, and the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital, he oversaw research into HIV and AIDS in conjunction with dozens of scientists and several companies, including BioChem Pharma.
He co-chaired the International AIDS conference in 1984, and went on to become the president of the International AIDS Society from 1998 to 2000.
He also organized the 13th International Congress on AIDS in South Africa.
Wainberg frequently lobbied for more funding and more education about HIV and AIDS — which is one reason he chose South Africa as a place to hold an international conference.
Friends and colleagues said Dr. Wainberg was fantastic about encouraging people in their research.
“Thirty-five years after the discovery of AIDS and Dr. Wainberg would talk about AIDS like it was the first days,” said Dr. Rejean Thomas.
“He would transfer his passion to colleagues, to young doctors.”
Dr. Thomas said Dr. Wainberg spoke last week at a conference in Montreal, and told him he had no plans to retire.
“Working hard with passion, that would describe him. And doing for the patients, first thing, doing for the patients,” said Dr. Thomas.
His recent work focused on trying to cure HIV infection and working on different strains of the disease and their drug resistance.
Dr. Wainberg said the world should also spend more money on getting antiviral drugs to the estimated 7 million people living with AIDS in the world who cannot afford treatment.
In 2001 Dr. Wainberg was named to the Order of Canada, and made an officer of the National Order of Quebec in 2005.
He became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2000, and in 2008 was named a Chevalier of France’s Legion d’honneur.
Wainberg is also known for advocating to change a controversial policy in Canada that barred all gay men from donating blood.
In a 2010 article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, Wainberg and his co-authors suggested the policy should be modified to allow gay men in long-term, monogamous relationships to donate blood.
Two years ago Dr. Wainberg was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame for revolutionizing the understanding of HIV/AIDS at the medical and political levels.
Born in 1945, Dr. Wainberg would have turned 72 on April 21.
Published Monday, March 20, 2017 10:13AM EDT
European researchers say they have identified a key protein that can help them identify immune cells that are harbouring dormant HIV, opening up a new way to target these cells and pave the way for a cure.
Although HIV medications can greatly reduce levels of the virus in patients, there is still no cure. The drugs can’t kill all the retrovirus because HIV has a way of infecting immune cells called T-cells and then going dormant. The virus can remain inside the cell for years or decades, hidden from the drugs designed to kill it.
But if an HIV patient stops taking her antiretroviral drugs, the dormant retrovirus will “awaken” and rapidly begin reproducing.
AIDS researchers have long sought a way to find these T-cells infected with dormant HIV so that they can target them with therapies. But it’s remained a mystery how to identify them.
Now virologists at the University of Montpellier in France think they may have found a way to recognize these “sleeper cells.” They have identified a protein called CD32a that sits on the surface of HIV-infected T-cells.
Their experiments showed that healthy T-cells do not express the protein, and neither do cells carrying active HIV. Only T-cells hiding dormant HIV make the protein.
The team made their finding after placing T-cells in lab dishes and then exposing them to fluorescently tagged HIV. They watched cells become infected and searched for differences in the gene expressions between the infected and non-infected cells. That’s when they noticed the CD32a protein marker.
The researchers then tested their theory by taking blood samples from 12 HIV-infected people who were on antiretrovirus medication. Using an antibody that sticks to CD32a, the researchers were able to extract all the cells expressing the protein. As expected, all the cells were T-cells harbouring dormant HIV.
The research team says their finding paves the way to a better understanding of viral reservoirs. It’s also possible that CD32a could one day become a reliable marker of cells that are infected with dormant HIV, which could help in the creation of drugs to target these latent cells.
The findings are published in the journal Nature. France’s CNRS (National Center for Scientific Research) has now filed for a patent for the diagnostic and therapeutic use of the biomarker.
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Insitute of Allergies and Infectious Disease in Bethesda, Maryland, told Nature that the next step will be to replicate the findings by screening blood from patients of different ethnicities, ages and stages of the disease.
Fauci said he is excited about the potential of CD23a but remains cautious about the finding given the decades of research that have gone into HIV without the discovery of a cure.
My Aunt Paula and my cousin Sandy.
What would the world be like with NO Women ???
How often are women treated as second class citizens, toughing it out, trying to climb the ladder in work, taking care of babies at home, shopping, cleaning, cooking and everything else that us men, don’t do ourselves.
I think men fail to realize that WOMEN make the world go round. Women are under appreciated, and mostly scorned for wanting better for themselves.
I am a man of the late 1960’s.
My life was filled with women. Across the board.
It fell to the women of our family to do all of the heavy lifting, when it came to family, because all of the men in our family were saddled with work and alcoholism. And the women bore their crosses well, and rarely complained about their lots in life.
If it were not for the women in my early life, I surely would have ended up dead, because that is what my father intended from the very start.
We lived in Connecticut. Most of the family were concentrated in New Britain, but aunts and uncles were scattered in other areas, one needed a car to get to.
My Grandmothers, Camille, and Jeannie, and my Aunt Paula, were my main caregivers. I could not have asked for better people in my life than them. They provided for everything that I might have needed.
Back in the day, we lived simple lives. We did not want for anything, because we had everything we needed. I don’t ever remember any of them going without. But back then, there really was not much else we needed to “get,” like I said, life was simple.
We had a large family that was extended from Canada. The Québécois faction of the family always gathered at Aunt Paula’s house during the summers. Aunts, uncles, cousins and everyone else in between.
I knew I was loved by everyone else, except my biological parents. The women in my life fought to keep me alive. In the words of Toxic Parents, my mother was the silent woman in the family. She did what she had to do to survive.
My father imported her from Montreal, and began to strip away every vestige of who she was, who she knew and he pried her apart of every family member that stood in the way of him making my mother, “In His Image.”
She would become an American Wife, if it killed him in the process.
For a long time, my mother gave us what we needed, and growing up, my brother and I, never wanted for anything. We climbed the social and economic ladder very quickly and very successfully. My mother was not perfect, but she provided. My mother, like my father, was a successful functional alcoholic.
As a young person, I listened very carefully to every word I heard come out of my parent’s mouths. And it was from those words, that I made my life decisions, because they openly shared what they abhorred, and sooner or later, I would become all of what they abhorred.
My mother suffered. And today she is a shell of who she once was, and is a miserable, insufferable, vindictive, bitter old woman. I don’t know who she is today.
I was the one who got out. Who broke the mold, and lived the life, in the end, today, that I was meant to live.
As I grew up, illness began to creep into our lives. And little by slowly, the women in my life began to disappear. My brother and I would travel North to visit family on vacations and during the summer.
Memories of my brother are negligible. He is not a person who is heavily imprinted in my memory at all. My brother, taught to be my adversary, kept a fair distance from me, even if we were in the same house at the same time, and that included during family vacations.
Camille and Jeannie, and Paula, kept a good eye on me. They taught me about life, family, love and devotion. And I was devoted to them, and still am to this very day.
In the eighth grade, Jeannie suffered a tragic stroke, and the woman she was disappeared, and as hard as I tried, I could not bring her back from the abyss. She was gone. She lost her memories, most of her movement, and much of her speech.
She remained a tragic disabled woman, along with my later stroke ridden grandfather. They lived in rest home after rest home, in Miami, until their eventual deaths, when I was in High School.
Camille languished in a rest home in Connecticut, as I grew into my twenties. When I got sick with AIDS in 1994, my mother banned me from family gatherings, however, I did go home once for Christmas, where my parents humiliated me in front of a dinner table full of friends and family. I never returned…
In my twenty-ninth year, I was living in South Miami, I had been very sick at the time, and Camille died. For weeks after her death she visited me. I wrote letters to my mother, dictated to me by Camille, and I mailed them blindly, as they came to me. My mother must have thought I was crazy, because she never mentioned the letters to me ever.
When the funeral was arranged, in Connecticut, I was devastated. Now the only other woman I was connected to, who I knew loved me inside and out, was dead. My mother banned me from going to the funeral. I had a lump of cash, I was sitting on, and I thought to myself that I would go anyways, but that did not happen.
My mother did not want any other family to know I was sick. Because she was ashamed of my presence. I knew, from listening to her talk over the years, before I left home to “come out” I knew what she thought of homosexuals, and especially, men who had AIDS.
I was now, one of them. I had become abhorrent.
It was my experience, that my grandmothers, and my aunt loved me unconditionally. My mother, did not, in the end. Like all human beings, we fear and abhor what we do not know or understand. And it was my experience that normal human beings who loved their families and children, turned into raging animals, who did not know their asses from a hole in the ground when it came to AIDS.
I’m kind of glad that Camille and Jeannie never saw me, as sick as I had gotten. They had only seen the best of who I was, as a young child, into my early teens. AIDS came after they began to depart my life.
All of my family, Alexander, Jeannie, Camille, Carol … Each one of these people, came back to me after they died, in one form or another. I knew them. I saw them. I experienced them in the spirit world.
Jeannie came back to me and used to stand at the foot of my bed for years. When I got sick, living in Fort Lauderdale, Jeannie, had come back and she watched over me for a year. I know this because a friend of mine, who was a medium, at that time, visited me, and confirmed she was there in my apartment.
Alexander came back, when I was in high school. So did my uncle Paul, who returned to my uncle’s house in Connecticut. As the story went, in the end, Paul and Alexander, brothers in life, reunited in death at my uncles house, after they both appeared in two cities, for two families at the same time.
My Aunt Paula was a dignified woman, along with my cousin Sandy. My mother had a love/hate relationship with them. Resentments ruled our family dynamics. At one time or another my mother was pissed at one or the other, throughout my entire young life.
AIDS killed my family. It shattered the very foundation of all we had been.
I moved to Canada in 2002, to follow the maternal blood line of my mother, back into the historical past of our family, much to her consternation.
I then met my great-aunt Georgette, who was living just two blocks from the apartment I live in today. I had two years with her, before she died of cancer, I collected all the stories she had of herself and Camille, because sister Georgette’s family, took Camille in when the Spanish Flu killed thousands of people in the twenties and thirties. Camille had been orphaned by the flu.
My life, is a testament to the dignity and love that I received from the women who made me who I am today. I had but a few generous years of them in life. My life today, is a testament to their spirits that inhabit me.
You might not consider the strength of the human spirit, but it is a life force that can sustain human life. Because I am still alive.
My aunt Paula and my cousin Sandy are a part of my life today. They love me for who I am and both of them contribute to my life today and I am grateful for their presences.
Now, in sobriety, I know many women. In the beginning it was the women who helped me get sober. All the women who ran Tuesday Beginners, when I came in, taught me How it Works, and What to do to stay sober. Margo, my therapist, the first two years of sobriety, took care of me in every way possible. Margo set me on the road to my university education. It was she who afforded the decision to do “something for me” after reaching a year sober.
There are too many women to mention all of them in this post. All of those women who have been or are, presently, part of my present sober life.
Like I said, at the top, Where would we be without the women in our lives ???
Women make the world go round.
Today is February 20, 2017 … And we revisit the stories in the back of the book. I wrote on this story back in May of 2016, the last time we crossed this story in reading.
This read comes, inside of a new group of people, in a new year, and the shares generated by this read were varied. There are a handful of LGBT folks in this meeting. Both men and women.
In the group, now, there are two of us who are HIV+. I did not know this before. And after the meeting I spoke to my friend who has more than 35 years being POZ, from back in the First Gen of the AIDS crisis in the 1980’s.
He is heterosexual, and has a wife and children. And comes from the Old Gay Men’s Health Crisis in New York Crowd. I am the other. I am Gay, and have lived with AIDS for more than 22 years now. I now have a new benchmark to aspire to. Because when I first moved to Montreal, when I met men who were sick, all I wanted to know from them was how did they get further up the road than I was at. They are all dead now.
I don’t know but a couple of people, over the years, who are like me.
And I said again tonight to a room full of heterosexual alcoholics, that I would gladly trade my medicine cabinet for theirs or give them sickness for a bit so they can understand what it is like to really suffer with an illness that has no cure. Which leads back to last night’s entry about Re-Orientation…
So I am sharing the post that I wrote more than a year ago, because it says everything that I wanted to talk about tonight. The sentiments I wrote about still exist today in our rooms here in Montreal. So you stay away from those sick meetings and abhorrent people.
**** **** ****
May 31, 2016 …
There is something to be said about “tolerance for those with different struggles.”
Somewhere I heard that it is easier to ACT yourself into a new way of thinking than to THINK yourself into a new way of acting …
This line appears in the above titled story when our man gets to his first series of meetings, after a crash and burn drinking experience. He sits with his sponsor, not so sure about God or Higher Power, and the suggestion of “Act as If” comes.
This story, appears in the fourth edition of the Big Book. Our man, in this story, is Gay. He cites that he is three years sober, he had surgery on his back, his father died, a relationship ended, and the AIDS epidemic started to hit home among his friends and acquaintances. Over the course of the next few years, almost half of his gay friends had died.
This is a Fourth Edition story. Because of the time period cited above. It could be placed anywhere from the 1980’s through the 1990’s, for the sole reason he cites the AIDS epidemic, specifically.
This story and mine are very different. But the writer says, in the beginning, that he comes from a conservative religious family, where alcohol was present. And he had not “Come Out” until he was in college when he began to consider his sexual orientation.
A familiar story in the gay world, in the beginning, when considering whether to come out or stay in the closet, the many lives we live and the faces we put forward, trying to fit all the boxes, with what society says we should be. A business man, a professional, an alcoholic, a friend, and maybe a lover.
So for some, we play the “Straight game” and we play the part, until either we hit that proverbial wall of self discovery, and stop the denial and make the jump, or we remain in the closet hating ourselves and everything about us, because we are living a lie, that, in the end, will eventually, end badly.
I had to play that game, for fear of loosing my life, until I could not do it any more.
Hence the death march into Alcoholism and Drug Addiction and Suicide for many.
Our writer, grew up, and moved away and began attending college, where he began to explore his sexuality. By then he was already drinking.
I grew up in a home where alcoholism was the norm. I knew I was different well before I learned what it meant for me. But my father, with homicidal tendencies, was never my friend. However he had his moments.
I remember the night he took me to the 94th Aero Squadron – a restaurant on the airport runway system at Miami International, for my Birds and the Bees discussion. I could not tell him the truth.
My story may not be unique, but I never tire of thinking about it, and how my life would have been very different, had I STAYED IN THE ROOMS the first time I got sober. But that was not my experience.
Getting sober in the age of AIDS was difficult. Because I could not drink, I had quit. Todd had given me that ultimatum and made it stick. So I was getting sober, and learning how to survive, while all my friends around me were going down in flames. Every night, was as if they were living the last night of their lives, with the copious amounts of drugs and alcohol that went around under my nose.
They are all DEAD.
I think that when it came down to it, with the bar, and Todd’s influence, I had everything I needed. I could have done without the room I was getting sober in, because those men were not kind at all, and made the first year hell for the newcomers.
Having to compete for your year chip is much harder than working for it freely. Sobriety is NOT a RACE. There are no horses to bet on, just a human being trying to get better, under seriously awful circumstances. And this truth did not make it any easier, although it should have.
Then you move to a new city and a new room. And you get asked to speak. And after that event, a man walks up to you and says: “We don’t condone people like you here, leave this meeting and don’t come back!” W.T.F.
Obviously this story had not been printed in the late 1990’s, and from what I remember, not many of those folks, had even the Big Book in the room.
During this time, the preceding years and for many years after, straight people, straight businesses, churches, funeral parlors, you name it … banished sick gay men to the gutter and left them there to die alone. Awful Hateful Abhorrent Prejudice.
That event in my early sobriety just killed any ambition I had towards sobriety.
To this day, there are hateful people, in our rooms.
With all that is going on in the world, we need all the help we can get. Rooms should welcome and be supportive. But that is not always the case.
Even today, being any shade of L.G.B.T.Q is perilous.
There is no room, in this world, for hatred of a human being because of their chosen way of life. I talk of just how fluid life has become, and how binary it has been for eons of time.
There are a handful of people I know in the rooms I go to who fall under L.G.B.T.Q.
Some are allowed, and nothing is said, then there are those, who, for one reason or another, come and go, and many of them are back out there drinking, because of intolerance and stupidity.
Here is the kicker in this story …
In all the service positions our man held (GSR) and others, He never felt obligated to conceal or deny his sexuality. He says… I always felt that the representatives of the groups in my area were concerned only with HOW we carried the message of recovery, NOT with what I might do in my personal life.
Only if that were reality for ALL meetings in general.
It is not…
Today is a very special day. The day Canada and other places, shed light on a very important topic, that still, seems to be Taboo in many places.
The topic is Mental Health.
If you’ve ever suffered from something tragic in your life, or know someone who has, or you just know someone who is over their heads in the water and they can’t seem to find solid ground, or you have that friend or family member who is suffering in silence, there is something we can do, for us and for them, We Can Talk …
You never know when a conversation will happen that might change a life in ways, we could not imagine.
I’ve just finished reading Romeo Dallaire’s book, Waiting for First Light, my ongoing battle with PTSD. War is a place we see in the movies or on the news, it does not affect us directly, but it does affect many, who have been to conflict zones, or war zones, or on peace keeping missions, war for them is real.
You cannot imagine the visuals that they have seen, the atrocities they witnessed, seeing men, women and children die all around them, and watching their brothers and sisters in arms get killed in action.
And when they come home, they are shattered human beings. And we as a society have failed these brave men and women, over and over again. The Canadian Military has continually failed their own people.
PTSD is something the military has yet to fully comprehend and do something about in concrete ways and means.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of men and women suffer with unimaginable horrors and night terrors, and addictive behavior to quench the pain with drugs and alcohol.
Some take their own lives in Suicide because they have no way out of the pain.
PTSD is an old problem. But in decades past, we had different names for it.
In the Viet Nam Era, when my father came home from the war, in stories he had told me, he and many others came back and they were Shell Shocked.
But in reading Romeo’s book, I see very similar parallels in what happened, and how my father coped with his issues. He never talked about it, until one season when I was in High School, he actually had film, photos and a story to tell.
Meanwhile at home he was drinking himself to death, and abusing his wife and children.
All those men who came back from that war, were bad mouthed, and ridiculed. What happened ? They went without, and many went to their graves mentally cracked.
Living through the scourge of AIDS, was terrible. For many of us who were on the front lines, dealing with terrible sicknesses and ailments, then watching families, churches, friends and lovers, toss their sick partners into the gutter to die alone and penniless, without an ounce of dignity, was horrifying.
I’ve witnessed my share of tragedy. And suffered my own bouts with depression due to Suicide, AIDS and almost loosing my own life. I would not say that I would call my problems PTSD, but tragic sickness and death is part of my story.
Soon after my diagnosis my doctor hooked me up with a good psychiatrist. Along with medicines, and therapy, I was put on an anti-depressant regimen, that I am still on to this day.
I lived, thankfully. I am also clean and sober, which only enhances my life and my personal well-being. I had people to talk to. Therapists, Psychiatrists, Counselors, Todd, and the myriad of people who have been involved in my sobriety.
A few months after I met hubby, he got very sick. And he was cycling rapidly, over and over again, obsessively. A few weeks in, he had a nervous breakdown, and fell to pieces. Doctors and shrinks came on board, and he was diagnosed as Bi-Polar Rapid Cycling.
For ten long and arduous months we plied him with pill after pill, trying to find the right mixture of a “Little bit of this and a Little bit of that…” until we found the mix that worked for him. For that almost year, I was chief cook, cleaner and chief bottle washer.
I got him out of bed, fed him, got him on the sofa.
And at night, I fed him, bathed him, and put him to bed.
A ritual that still exists to this very day.
I was going to school full-time, taking care of house and home, going to meetings, and taking care of hubby, who was comatose on the sofa for the entire ten month period, catatonic.
I remember the night that we had found the magic pill … The next morning he got up, he was coherent, lucid and alive.
It was like Lazarus, rising from the grave.
There was still working to do, to bring him back into full participation in his own life.
And that stared with simple occupational therapy, to get him to do simple things, that led to him getting back into the saddle and living once again.
Mental health is a top issue in our home. Having two people who have mental issues is a task in itself.
I believe that a human who suffers from a mental illness NEEDS a SECOND set of eyes on them all the time. So that they aren’t doing it themselves. That there is someone else actively involved with their daily care and to watch their medical progress with whatever medication a doctor puts them on, because we don’t necessarily catch things on our own, we need that SECOND set of eyes on the case.
I have worked with kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism. That is some of my most rewarding work, to date. I have sponsees who have mental illnesses as well. Depression, PTSD and Schizophrenia. Everybody needs to be loved and cared for. My time is not only invested in helping men and women stay sober, I also try to help them to stay sane.
To make sure they are on their meds, seeing their doctors and case workers and making sure that they are taking care of themselves, and each other, as well taking care that their homes are safe, clean and void of drugs and alcohol.
Mental Illness is a scourge on our city. many, MANY of our homeless men, women and kids, (read: Young People) on the street, suffer from mental illness, and they go about their lives, and nobody really gives a damn, unless you see them on the street.
We don’t have the amount of resources that the city needs to tackle that problem, because not only do you have mental illness to contend with you also have addiction to alcohol and drugs as well. So you have a triple cocktail of sadness …
Too many of our young people are killing themselves over bullying and mental illness.
What are we teaching our kids, when so many of them are dying and nobody knew about what was going on with them! We have to talk to our kids and actually give a damn about them instead of leaving them to their own devices and video games and their phones.
SUICIDE IS NEVER AN OPTION – EVER !!!
Give a kid a chance … talk to them for God’s Sake.
There is help. There are solutions. You don’t have to be alone. We are here.
We will help you in any way we can. All you have to do is ASK …
Let’s Talk …
After a day of insanity and politics, we return to our regularly scheduled programming.
I’ve said what I am going to say.
It is an odd thing that happens, not very often, but tonight, we had one of the deepest meetings, we have sat, in a very long time. So many people are suffering. From a great many things, not necessarily drugs, or alcohol, or sex.
And it was mentioned after the fact, from friends, that when we compare notes, some of us are seeing and hearing the same things from many places. It is terribly unnerving to me after so many years, that so many of my friends are hurting, and there is nothing I can do for them, until they ask.
It is a very good thing that there is a handful of us on Friday night, who are tight. My Greatest friends, those who have been around the block and then some, those friends who at times were at odds with each other, have found that we want friendship more than anything else.
When the chips were handed out at the start of the meeting, two men got up. One, sitting behind me reeked of alcohol, and was sobbing in his beer all night. He said …
“What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. And he SOOOO wanted to stay in Vegas, but he decided to come into the hall tonight and take a chip.”
He disappeared after the meeting, after one of our women said no to him when he asked her if he could drive her home.We got her a taxi instead. But the man slipped out before we could stop him driving home, being intoxicated as he was.
A second man, who was terribly plastered hung back, had driven to the meeting intoxicated to begin with, instead of allowing him to drive home, at the end of the meeting a group of us, (we never travel 12 step alone) decided to sober him up a bit over coffee at a coffee-house not far from the meeting.
We drove him home. Because he was in no shape to drive.
My friends are suffering. And as we listen to each other, when we talk, there is so much more shit going on than we can address in any meeting. It was spoken tonight that the holidays were not kind to our men and women. And now we are reaping what has been sown for months and months.
People are beginning to crack around the seams.
I’ve been saying this for weeks and weeks … Months really, I’m not sure what I am doing right, or what my fellows are doing wrong, but I am in a totally different place, than many of my friends who have comparable time in the rooms.
And it’s not a point of judgment, just plain skills of observation and listening.
GHOSTS IN THE ROOMS
At this point in my journey, after listening to people talk for the last few months, I have seriously worked my ass off for the whole of my sobriety. What I am hearing and what I am seeing is that there are too many GHOSTS in the room.
I can share with you this poignant story …
There are some of us, who are still alive, twenty-five or more years after the AIDS crisis. In many big cities, Ft. Lauderdale, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc … Thousands of people died, ugly, serious, and terrible deaths.
Handfuls of men survived. We are a new breed of men. About five to ten years ago, we crossed a new life line. Those of us who had survived the carnage and are still alive.
Twenty plus years away from the epicenter of AIDS.
Some of those men, who had seen the worst, and lived, did not integrate back into society, they became GHOSTS. Many of them did not find their way back, after all the suffering we witnessed. And in many places, we know who they are. We can see them, but you might not necessarily be able to distinguish them, but we can. They walk around alone, lost.
Today, in the rooms … There are GHOSTS among us. People who have some serious issues that have never been dealt with. Yet they are in various lengths of sobriety. They might have the time, but, like I have said before, many times, many of my friends are cracked emotionally. I’ve been hearing these ghost stories for months.
I don’t know what to do any more. I know so many people, because I hit the same routine meetings week in and week out. I see them and have watched them for a long time. And you cannot connect with everyone. Not everybody wants to know you past the chair you are sitting in on any given night. There are only so many people who want to invest.
But I am told, by a good friend, that there are certain men with some time from the Friday night meeting, that when we talk, people listen. They might not say anything to us, but when I talk, I am honest. I tell the truth. I only talk about what I know, and what I have observed and heard, and how all that information relates to me soberly.
I want something more. I have worked the rooms for everything they can give me. I’ve pounded the pavement for the whole of my sobriety. And now, at this point, I know, for certain, just what a good chunk of friends have been doing. Because I listen to them talk.
I am told, by my friends that I’ve walked a certain path, that has brought me to this point, that my journey is unique. From the very beginning, I made a decision, that I would listen and observe my friends. And from that, my sobriety would be built by what my friends were either doing well, or not doing well. I think I’ve made wise choices, because I see where my decisions paid off, in the ways my friends are cracked today.
I made sure that I was never alone. That I wasn’t making decisions on my own, and that I had people, across the board to talk to about various things, along the way.
Not everybody took that same route. And now I know that for sure. I’ve got enough time and the skills to hear it for myself, just how cracked many people are, and just how hard they are suffering. And for many of them, I can do nothing but listen, and where possible say something that isn’t stupid and pithy.
The rate of return for those folks who went out over the holidays are low. And we are working very hard to keep those men and women “In the Loop.” But some of my friends are still walking around shell-shocked. One of my friends in particular, is just a mess, but he is hanging on by a thread. I say very little, beyond Hi and Nice to see you again.
I don’t know what is worse … Being sober, where I am right now, or not being able to do a God Damned thing for the many who need it. I don’t have the ability to help everybody and not everybody wants help.
Some just want to be left alone. And we have to respect that.
When people need us, they will say so. We just need to keep showing up.
And we need to be honest and willing to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure, that when needed we step up and do what we need to do to safeguard the lives of those who come to our rooms.
As was the case tonight.
What to do with the new year ? What do I do with myself ? Where am I going with this blog? I’ve been writing here for more than a decade now. Almost 12 years.
Many things have come and gone. If you told me, when I first got sober, this time around, what this life would have looked like, I would have laughed at you.
But I do know this one thing is true … The day I set foot in this apartment we still live in today, I was on my way into a life that I never imagined.
I have friends, gay friends, who love men who lived through AIDS, and are still alive. I have friends who stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park when it came to us.
Those of us who made it out alive.
Let’s just say, that I have seen a great many things over the last twenty-two years of staying alive. I see now, how every human being I knew, played a decisive role in my life that helped me to survive the horrors of a deadly disease.
Our marriage, has been a series of trials and errors. Even before we got married, we were tested through several harsh trials and errors. Practice, I call it, for the vows that we speak when we get married. Practicing non negotiables, and how to get through them.
I have a life. I have an education. I have sobriety. I have a husband. I have good friends. There is money in the bank. We have heat. Food in the fridge. Clothes in the closet.
The world has changed over the last 50 years. Well, almost 50 years for me. I did not follow the cookie cutter cycle of life choices. I took the more, harder, longer, beg, borrow, and cheat path. I thought that if I struck out on my own, on my own capacity that I would finally arrive.
That did not work. I never arrived …
God has a funny sense of humor. He never ceases to amaze me, in what He can do, when I get out-of-the-way. Over the last year, handfuls of people came into, and departed from my life.
I spent SO MUCH TIME investing in communities, and people, who, in the end, did not care one iota, in giving back, or investing in me. Now I see, where my time is best spent.
Friday afternoon I got a phone call from a friend. One I care a great deal for. Who, had to journey on his Odyssey only to return full circle, back where he started.
Drugs and Alcohol are very patient and very cunning.
Even though, over the years, I have watched my friends, and I watched them make not so good choices, and end up in a black hole, after I warned them to NOT DO THAT…
They did it anyway. And did not listen to one word I said. How many people, in the last six months have I seen fuck off and turn their backs on themselves and us ?
Too many to count.
Today, I sat with a friend for the first time in almost a year. He returned from his Odyssey, a little worse for wear, but he is still alive, barely …
This year, I am pulling back my time, talent and treasure. I will not offer those things freely, any longer. I will not put my life on the line for everyone. I have curtailed my meetings. I have set a course to hit meetings, with good people.
I invest in my meetings, and those people who come to those meetings. I have long time friends who know me in each of them. I have a solid bank of people, whom, if I needed them at 3 a.m. I could call any one of them.
I know what circle I will invest my time, talent and treasure.
I have some basic rules that I live by. Values, Morals, and Codes.
I have friends. They exist in concentric circles around me, based on how well I know them, how well I trust them, and what they can give me. This is not a selfish “give me,” but more in the sense of, most of my friends have expertise in one area or another. They do certain work in the community, and we all serve certain purposes in each others lives.
I try, the best way I know how, to give back to my friends. I will never turn my back on a friend. Because that is low down and dirty. You don’t back stab your friends.
I learned a long time ago, from Todd, how to give back. I learned how to care for human beings, on a Macro and a Micro scale. You don’t walk away from people.
Yet, in the past year, how many people walked away from me ??? And how many people, it turned out, were dishonest, and untrue and hateful ? How many times did I have to get my heart-broken in the last year, before I learned the valuable lesson that
NOT EVERYONE GIVES A SHIT ABOUT YOU … Even if you wish they had. Not everybody has the capacity to be like us … To give a shit, to bend over backwards to be of service, only to finally see, just how little some people think about us or about our feelings.
Find your passion, DO IT, money will follow …
I used to believe in these words. I thought that, after I finally decided to grow up and do the right thing, and follow the logical life path, of any right-minded human being, that life would pay out financially.
Well, it paid out, just not in the way that mere mortals get/make money.
When People were diagnosed with AIDS, back in the day, to get something out of life, many thousands of people, sold their life insurance policies for cash, while they were still alive. That money did not go very far, when we had to pay out-of-pocket for meds that were not covered by insurance, because there was no insurance to speak of.
I had to practically kill myself, and set myself on death’s door step to get government help. Help that today, pays the rent here. If I did not have that specific help, we would not be where we are today.
Fifteen years ago, I began this journey again. And dammit I was going to make it this time, come hell or high water. Unlike many of my friends, who cannot be bothered to do what they are told, I did everything that I was told to do, and then some…
If Todd taught me one thing, it was Follow The Directions Given …
When I went back to school it was my choice. And I attacked my education with every ounce of energy I had. History has shown us, just how much we pay out in blood, sweat and tears, for a Degree, a Masters, and then a PhD, only to have the doors to the future, slammed in our faces, and all that work goes into the crapper FOREVER.
How many people do I know who did the education route, all the way up the food chain, get university jobs, never make tenure, then get fired because their jobs become obsolete, and they are replaced with Yes men and women, and we got the shaft !!!
Today, young people all over the world ask the eternal question, Should I go to University, and if I do, where is that going to take me ? Those answers are not so set in stone any longer.
People are trying to find their way into life, marriage, kids, a house and a mortgage, and a job that will pay the bills. And how many people, world-wide, work 9 to 5 jobs, making barely enough to pay the bills, and have money left over to buy food for their families ?
Jobs that just pay the bills, a cubicle job, that holds no passion or upward mobility. Jobs where people just punch a clock for that meager paycheck.
So many are starving for a life, that is more than just punching a clock. Money makes the world go round, and following your passion, will not necessarily put food on the table.
You’d need a really good gig, (read: Your passion) that would make enough money to make it profitable and workable. But the world, based on money, is never kind to those who would turn their noses up to a 9 to 5 gig.
There is so much inequality here when it comes to financial stability. Do you know that there are populations of people, here in First World Canada, that cannot take care of their families needs because they are paying out 150% of their pay into bills. People are going without heat and safety, because they have to choose between buying food to feed their kids, and paying out a shit ton of money for Hydro (Read: Electricity).
There are the very rich. There are the middle rich. There is the middle class. There are those who can barely make it from paycheck to paycheck. Then there are those who live in First World Canada, who live in Third World Conditions, the disparity is glaring …
The disparity between those who have, and those who have not is getting closer together.And the disparity between First World Canada, and Third World Canada is horribly wide.
I believe that if we as a nation, took all the money we spend elsewhere, giving to every charity known to man, and giving hand over fist, millions of dollars in aid to others, and for natural disasters, if we spent that money in building a better Canada, the disparities would vanish. Communities would be built, and the nations would come together and nobody would go without basic means for survival.
I’ve learned, in all the years, that I have lived in Canada, is that, yes, life is better than I would have ever imagined it would be, knowing how poor an existence I was living in the United States.
- Life is very different here.
- Truth is very different here.
- I am very different here.
Canada has its issues. Just like any other country around the world. But we don’t have half the problems you do, South of the Border.
Let me tell you …
I have a lot to say about the ILLEGITIMATE man taking office on Friday.
Nobody wants to hear what I have to say on that matter though. But I will say this:
All those people, who believe in their bibles and theology, and nothing else, those of you who voted in HUGE numbers for a man who is incapable of being president, are in for a huge rude awakening.
Pandora’s Box is open. And the Monster is approaching. And mark my words,
Those who think they know God and speak for God, will very soon, come to the realization that they made a huge mistake, and they will call out the name of God.
And God will turn around and say to them …
YOU THINK YOU KNOW ME, BUT YOU DON’T …
Here is the story of that week from my journal. If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place.
July 4th 1994
it was a nice day. Josh and I prepared the house for company; we were hosting a “friendly” BBQ in Ft. Lauderdale. Alan and his hubby and other friends from the complex were coming, a veritable who’s who of my social circle back then. It was a great day. We cooked and ate at the picnic table out back – the drag queens in the adjacent area were entertaining, and the conversation was light and campy. The day wore on into night, and fireworks were going to be shot off over Ft. Lauderdale beach. So we piled into the convertible and headed out for the five-minute drive across the bridge to the beach. Parking was a nightmare, but eventually we found a spot to sit in. I remember that things were happy and there were no worries; we were out celebrating the holiday. After the fireworks we came home and imbibed a great deal, and sat down to watch the new film out on video, “Philadelphia” with Tom Hanks. Little did I know how much life would…?
Imitate art that week?
I watched with a certain attention, as if saying to God, “I know what’s coming so please be gentle with me, because I am not sure I am ready to do this or die.” It had been a year since the first time I was tested at “Planned Parenthood” and that test came back negative.
The second test was done in a city hospital lab, and those results came back negative as well, but six months later we found out on the news that the lab had switched our (100 gay men’s) HIV tests with a retirement home lab list. It was freaky when 100 elderly folk got positive HIV tests back from the lab, OOOPS – someone made a HUGE mistake.
Anyway, that was that.
Around 8 o’clock I called my parents to wish them a Happy July 4th; there was another piece of information I needed to get across to them, and this was not going to be very easy, I had been feeling pretty sick since January, and checked 7 of the 9 symptoms off the list from “If these things are happening to you — you might have HIV” wallet card.
The conversation started light and airy, then all the air left my lungs and I could not breathe. And this is how it went
Pleasant conversation, then I dropped the bomb!
I have some news for you.
Yes, what would that be?
I’ve been feeling a lot sick lately and tomorrow I am going to see a doctor…
I could hear the wheels spinning in their heads. My mother had been working in Home Health Care for a number of years and she had seen what AIDS can do to a human being; couple that with what they were watching on TV and she was having worse case scenario visions in her head!!
They were watching “Philadelphia” at their house at the very moment I called. Suddenly my mother must have looked at the TV and she screamed. Yes, that’s right, I am sick, and I need to go get tested tomorrow, it’s time. My father was listening in on the extension, and I am sure he was beside himself; his fag son was sick and putting two and two together led to only one conclusion.
Josh was sitting in the living room while I had this conversation, he didn’t say a word. I had to prepare him for what was coming; Josh and I would never see the end of the week together. In the end, I would never see Josh again.
After a bout of hysterics, I told them that everything would be all right and I ended the phone call. That night I did not sleep at all, and Josh was all over the place. He was such a quiet and calm young man; we were both young then. We had only been dating for a couple of months by that point. Tomorrow’s test was just a formality; I knew already the answer I would get confirmed in a few days’ time. I did not tell any of my friends that night. Todd and Roy were in Provincetown on holiday. But I would eventually call Todd.
Tuesday July 5th, 1994
I got up this morning, with one item on my list of things to do today, and Josh did not sleep all night and was restless and upset. I got him up and ready for work and I drove him to work, and then proceeded to the clinic where my friend Ken was working.
It was in a little “medical mall” type building. The offices were on the second floor of the suites. I parked the car, put up the top and sat in silence and I prayed. “If there is a God up there, please, whatever happens, I am not ready to die.”
I find it peculiar that certain prayers at certain times remain locked in my memory on certain days of my life. I locked the car and walked the fifty feet across the parking lot and went into the office, where I was asked to take a seat and wait. Do you know what it feels like to be told “hurry up and wait?” I just wanted to get this show on the road.
You see, where I worked, at the nightclub, Ken, my friend, was the nurse for the masses. He worked off hours at the free clinic, he donated time to events, and he did home visits and took care of all of our friends who are now dead, at that time, so he had seen a lot of friends die in the five years we lived in Ft. Lauderdale. He was a very emotional man, who wore his heart on his sleeve and I knew that.
This was a hard week for him; any new diagnosis is hard when you are such close friends and part of a dynamic community where everyone knows each other intimately. We had seen each other over the weekend at the bar; I worked all weekend long. He knew that I was sick; because he was the one I went to when things got dicey. I think he knew as I did, but I think we both wanted things to be different. Alas, they weren’t.
Ken was preparing himself to do what he had to do and keep a straight face and be strong in front of me, you know, be positive about things, and keep up appearances so that I would not crack under the pressure.
It was time. Ken came and got me and escorted me to the lab, and he did not look me in the eye the entire time I sat there, tears falling from his face. It was quick, and painless. Afterwards he sent me off into my day. I signed the papers and went for the door; Ken was right behind me. He walked me to my car, and stopped and he sobbed in my arms. I was relatively calm. You see I was only 26 years old, and many of our friends had been gruesomely sick and died long drawn-out deaths. It was NOT pretty; many of my friends had KS, and cancer and some of my friends lost their minds and many of them died alone, because friends, lovers and family had thrown them out on the streets to die. Ken and I were people who cared for these people from the day they were diagnosed until the day they died. It was sad.
He said that he would call me in a few days and let me know when the tests come back…
And he tried to leave it at that.
I grabbed him and looked into his eyes and I told him,
“I know, and when you call I will know, just by the tone of your voice!”
He kissed me goodbye and I went on with my day.
I don’t remember what I did to pass the time until Josh got off work, but we tried to live normally and not get too upset over things. All I remember is that once the word went around that I had gone for the test, my friends started pulling away. It was the longest week of my life.
Friday July 8th 1994
the week passed by without incident. Thursday I waited impatiently for the phone to ring, and every time it did, I would jump through the roof. Alas, Thursday night I went to bed, knowing that tomorrow it would come.
I got up in the morning and drove Josh to work and returned to the house. It was around 11 am that the phone finally did ring. It was Ken. His voice was shaky on the phone, and all he said was “Jeremy, you need to come to the office, and you need to come now!” Then the line went dead. I got dressed and headed over to the clinic. I already knew the answer, but you never know, right? I parked the car, and said my prayers, and I rested for a moment.
I went up stairs and logged in at the reception desk. Ken was nowhere to be found. After a little while they escorted me into an examination room; it was blue in color, very sterile and cold. I sat down on the table and I waited. A few minutes later the doctor came in, file in hand. I guess he wanted to make sure I was prepared for this.
“Well, no better time than the present,” he said.
Let’s get this over with. “Jeremy, you have AIDS and that’s the bottom line. ”
“You are going to die.”
The words rolled off his tongue with the flair and style of a practiced doctor. He sat with me for a few moments while I considered my fate. I think he was hoping that I would say something.
“Thank you for that information,” I replied.
He said that we would need to do a few tests to get started; those labs would show just how compromised my immune system was, and what the next course of action would be.
I did not know how bad things were, but I would soon find out. Back then, who knew from death or life? Drugs were hard to come by, and there surely was no system of treatment in place for me to go to.
He dismissed himself and said that when I was ready, I could leave.
So I gave him a five-minute lead on me, then I gathered up my soul and I walked out the exam room door and out to the car. I looked down from the second floor and Ken was sitting on the hood of my car, waiting for me. When I got down to my car, Ken stood up opened his arms and embraced me; he was sobbing. I stood there; I guess I was in shock. I stood there and held him, while the wave ran over both of us.
I guess I was not prepared to show my cards just yet. We talked for a little while and we set out a plan of action for the next week. I would return to this lab and get some baseline labs drawn to get a more total picture of my immune system and figure out how I was going to proceed. (That’s what eventually happened in the coming days.)
I drove home. I was relatively calm. It’s funny that I was totally prepared to stand up straight and tall and accept my fate, but watching my friends and coworkers and family crack up was very disturbing. People with AIDS were pariahs! You did not touch them, you did not hug them, and you surely did not want your neighbours or family members to know that you socialized with or employed someone who had AIDS, God forbid we infected someone you knew or even transmitted our disease to you by touch or breathing in the same space!
I got home, and I sat in my space and I tried to make some decisions. Who do I tell and when? I don’t remember what I did that day, but I kept myself busy. I called Todd and Roy, and they were on vacation. When Todd got the news, he was sad, and immediately he stepped up to the plate and became the man who would save my life.
That evening, Friday, I went to pick Josh up at work; I forgot to clear the tape deck in the car. The soundtrack to “Philadelphia” was still in there. It was around 5 o’clock when I picked him up; the sun was setting in front of us as we drove east towards the house. I tapped the tape into the deck, and it started to play…
I watched Josh convulse in the front seat, and throw up out the car door. He was hysterical. I did not have to say a word to him, but he knew. When we got home, he went into the bedroom, he packed his duffle bag, without a word, he looked at me, said goodbye, and walked out the door, got into his car, and drove away. That was the last time I saw him.
Whoa, OK, one down … two more to go.
I had some dinner and proceeded to call my parents. You would have thought that an atomic bomb had been dropped on my parents’ house. My mother, having worked in the health field, said to me that I had gotten what I deserved. She and my father had had a week to consider this topic. We discussed my plan of action, and I called a family meeting that would take place in a week’s time. I wanted everyone to be informed and I wanted to know that I was not alone.
That visit did take place. And it did no good to ensure anything but the disdain and ignorance by my family to step up and get involved in taking care of the future. I had made my choice, by doing what I had done, and I got what was coming to me. My father had made that perfectly clear.
I still do not know, to this day, if James was the contact point of HIV. All I do know is that James was a diabetic and was suicidal. That he was sick those last few months that we were together, and I did his blood tests with his pen. I handled the strips several times a day. And that they tell me was the transmission point. I did not know he had AIDS until well after his death, when a friend of mine called me at work one day back in ’93 to tell me he was sick and had AIDS. I guess it took me a few months to “seroconvert.” This is the process the body goes through when it’s finally hit with viral replication and inception of a virus that the immune system cannot fight alone.
Over the next week, I chose my battles wisely, I told my inner circle of friends. The ones on the inside of the AIDS circle (that I was part of at work.) On the other hand there was the other circle of my “social friends” that had partied with us just a few days earlier. They would never set foot in my house ever again, in fact, and it was as if I had walked off the face of the earth, because I never heard from many of them ever again. The stigma of AIDS back then was deadlier then the virus itself.
Todd eventually returned to Ft. Lauderdale. My landlord and his lover were notified.
Interesting that many years later, I was at a Pride Celebration in Ft. Lauderdale, and my landlord’s partner was in a wheelchair and sick with AIDS. When we were friends at the time of my diagnosis, they were a happy couple, with all the promise in the world. I had no idea. I did not lose my apartment, my rent was frozen where it was, and they helped me pay bills and buy food. Within days Todd had returned and he came over and we talked. (God, we spent a lot of time talking!)
I was in self-destruct mode. And the stress of being sick with AIDS took its toll. I drank around the clock, I drank at work, I drank after work, and all I wanted to do was die. Todd did what he could at the beginning to keep me on the straight and narrow. He outlawed drinking while on shift, (I was working in a nightclub then) so that kept me sober while I worked.
I would then head out after we closed to the “after hours” club called the “Copa.” It was down the street from where our club was, and they served alcohol till 6am. So I had at least two to three hours to get inebriated nightly. That lasted until the end of August.
One night, I decided that the pain was too intense that dying was a viable option, seeing that I knew what all of the men I knew went through. I was at the Copa one night, and it was hot and I had drunk myself into a very nice BUZZ. The problem here was, I wanted more, and I got more. That night, I collapsed on the dance floor in an alcoholic overdose of gargantuan proportions.
I woke up in my friend Danny’s arms. The ambulance was there and oxygen was administered. I was still alive. That was the last night I drank. That morning, Danny brought me home and he stayed in my house for a week. I could not go anywhere except work. Todd was worried that I was going to try and kill myself again. So I had babysitters when I was not at work. I hit my first meeting on August the 23rd, 1994. By that time, most of the bar staff was all sober, and three-quarters of us were sick with AIDS.
Todd had a safe rule in effect. We had jobs, and we got paid. If we got sick, and could not come to work, our shifts were covered by someone on staff. We did not get fired for being sick. The bar secured for us medical treatment through the local clinic, where one of our friends named Marie ran a community clinic/drug farm.
Ken came to my house weekly to check on me. My world got A LOT smaller.
Everyone outside my work circle walked away. It took me a long time to get over that. They were punishing me for getting sick. Like I needed any more punishment!
The religious fundamentals were making their cases for eternal damnation for gays and people with AIDS, and speaking out whenever we went in public. Funeral homes stopped giving services to people with AIDS and their families because of religious and social pressure.
Life was difficult, But, I survived, because of the community I lived in and the grace of Almighty God.
In retrospect, “it was the best of times, and it was the worst of times.” and if God gave me a choice to go back and repeat any area of my life over again, it would be that exact period of time, and I would not change one single thing.
For years after my diagnosis, my friends died left and right, 162 people. The Names Project Quilt is a reminder of all the lives I touched and was a part of, and all the men whom I knew and loved.
All the men who were CRUCIAL to my survival (our survival) all the gay men who collected money for People with Aids, the drag queens we loved and admired and partied with over the year, the diehard supporters, are all dead now.
So many boys, so many men, cut down in the prime of life. We were foolish then, and uneducated. It was only after the storm hit that the reality start to sink in. When our friends started dying and we realized that “something serious is going on” did the community got smart.
We built infrastructure. We created homes and safe spaces. We cared for those on the streets, we collected money and food. We cooked and fed people, we washed clothes and in some cases we even changed diapers.
A year later, in 1995, I moved back to Miami, after Todd and Roy moved out west to San Francisco. I did not go with them, I was too young, and I had been banking on the fact that my S.O.B father would die and I would take back my mother. Well, he is still alive, all these years later, and I did not get my mother back. Do I have regrets? Sometimes I do. I sometimes think, “what if?” but that’s all they are, thoughts. You know what they say about living in “what ifs right?” So I don’t think about what ifs anymore, just what will be.
From my diagnosis date through the first eight years of my life with HIV/AIDS, I lived in the United States, and I speak about navigating a U.S. program of medical, social and government system. I immigrated to Canada in April of 2002.
“No one can teach you how to be a storyteller, you have to live to be able to do that.”
If there is one thing you should do right now, if you don’t already, Go to your You Tube Account and SUBSCRIBE to Casey Neistat. Right Now. Today. Now, Right Now !!
I’ve learned, at this point in my life that, maybe it’s not always about trying to fix something broken. Maybe it’s about starting over and creating something better.
That is so freaking true for me right now.
Tonight we talked about Honesty. Honesty is one word that appears early in How It Works:
Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path. Those who do not recover are people who cannot or will not completely give themselves to this simple program, usually men and women who are constitutionally incapable of being HONEST with themselves. There are such unfortunates. They are not at fault; they seem to have been born that way. They are naturally incapable of grasping and developing a manner of living which demand rigorous HONESTY. Their chances are less than average. There are those too, who suffer from grave emotional and mental disorders, but many of them do recover if they have the capacity to be HONEST.
Before I say anything else, we must begin this discussion with the fact that we are all HUMAN, we are FALLIBLE, and we all make MISTAKES. Alcoholism is a human disease, and when we come to the rooms, however damaged and hopeless we are, some tend to forget the human quality and hurriedly ascribe some nasty word to describe fellow humans sitting in the same room with them, forgetting, that at one time, THEY were just as damaged and hopeless as newcomers are.
What have I learned in 49 years of life ?
We are born into families, be they rock solid and honest, or broken and hard pressed for any semblance of honesty or love.
As children and well into our teen years until the day we walk out of that house we were born into, walk out of said house and strike out into the great unknown.
We all carry that around with us, and that taints what we do next, (for many) and how we see the world. For me that was the great challenge. I lacked many things when I left home.
And I see that today.
Knowing all the secrets at home, and watching people live inside a secret and watch them produce a show for the outside world, where they were not their true selves, fucked me up.
My thoughts always centered around, “Well, if this is good for you (read: Your Secrets) then it is good for me.” (Read: What’s Good for the Goose, is Good for the Gander).
Gay IN secret was better than being gay OUT in the world. That was an abomination.
While all the while, I heard my parents demean me and many others, with racist, ethnic and homophobic hatred. In the end I knew I had to go. And I did.
But like I have said before, alcoholism followed me, and so did some seriously bad behavior. Namely, dishonesty, lies, and immaturity.
Honest was not something I aspired to.
In my twenties, I hit several serious situations that put me between a rock and a hard place. At first, I drank to drown. And I failed at coping with suicide. The second, when I got sick, I again, drank to drown, until Todd stepped in.
If he was one thing, he was honest. And I had to get honest to begin with, or there was no future. I learned the hard way what happens when you have to get honest, and remain silent for your own good, because the truth would cost you a lover, a home, a job, a family, and your friends.
Been there Done that …
When people show up, they bring with them everything that happened to them, everything they believe, and everything they have lost. Hope is the last thing on many minds in the beginning. And if we are honest with you, life is not a dress rehearsal, and this is not a trial run, there are no do overs.
This is it. You only get one shot. So you better make it a good shot.
Sadly, many don’t learn this the first time around. I surely did not.
Almost fifteen years later, I am still working on my Good Shot.
Honesty is something I struggle with every day. Honestly, I’ve expected better of people, and hoped in people to rise and grow up, when they are not able to do so. I’ve held onto idealistic expectations, that I will never see “This side of heaven.”
I have known for a while now, that when I turned fifty, I was no longer going to be willing to wait for people who are not part of my life today, to become part of my life. Because, as a wise man said to me tonight, “Twenty five years later, is a long time to make an amend to someone that might be sunk in their way of life, and that outcome be anything else but a big HUGE disaster.”
Good for me, my spiritual director cut me to the chase and made me see, how I was not being Honest with myself or GOD. Withholding my trust in God, and thinking that my will was the better will, and that God did not have the right answer, because the answer I have long wanted had not come YET, yet I was willing to hold on until it came, come hell or high water.
Over the years, being Gay and POZ, I watch people, when I tell the truth. I watch what they do, and I listen to what they say. And it is in what they Don’t Do and what they Don’t Say that I find appalling.
Sober people are just as guilty of this kind of behavior as those who live on the outside.
Today, I know what I know. And I’ve seen what I’ve seen. And I know, for damned sure, who I want to hang around, and who I don’t. They say that “Who we are is directly related to the top five people we have in our lives.”
Rafa is right up there at the top of my five list.
When we come, we bring what we have. And we cope the best way we can, based on each of our abilities to do that. Making sobriety the first priority, when we bring life into the room with us, is the challenge in making sobriety work, Honestly.
I was ready, this time around, to do whatever it took, at what ever cost, no matter what.
And I will have, very soon, fifteen years of making that system work for me. I have accrued all those years of work, honesty as I was able, and truth as I spoke, and love and care where it mattered to give away.
Not Many People are interested in my honest attempt to be a good human being.
And I have to let that be.
I know my elder friends who I speak to and trust implicitly are all on their journeys. My elder man is heading towards 65 soon, and my elder lady friend is heading towards 63, I am headed towards 50, my spiritual director just hit 53.
We are all trying to figure out wisdom of our times. We are all trying to figure out what we are supposed to know, and what is coming around the bend. I know what happened in my twenties, my thirties, and my forties.
I hit sobriety at 34. Wisdom did not begin to set in until I hit 40. I’m not sure what is going to happen when I hit 50. We all know what happened to some, who have hit the 70 mark. They got OLD very fast, became despondent, they suffer from old age that came on quite suddenly, and tragically. I don’t know but I watched what happened, I watched several of my friends age FAST. And they have faded into obscurity, by their own choices.
I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of old ideas and old expectations.
Sometimes being honest is not the wisest counsel.In certain situations.
Today I had a conversation with a friend, who is not in a good space, so I’ve been on top of that with her. She made a decision today that was detrimental to her, despite what we’ve been through together, and I know why she did what she did, and I could not be totally honest with her, because I am not her, and I am not in control of anyone but myself.
The only honest thing I could say was, Do you think that choice was wise ? Good or Bad ?
The scales of the past fall from us, the longer we work on ourselves. And truth and honesty comes in stages, and not all at once, because we are HUMAN, and we can only progress forwards, with TIME, WORK and with FAITH. As we are able, with what we have at each moment we need it.
I see that wisdom now, about how dishonestly I began my adult life. And just how long it took me to figure all that out.
That is twenty eight years later …
Better late than never.
I would rather you be honest with me, than give me the silent treatment or ignore me. Some of my friends just walk away. I’m not sure why, because I work very hard at relationships, it’s just that for some of my friends, I don’t have that kind of relationship, let’s say, that I do with my best friend or my husband.
Certain friends of mine when I ask them to be honest with themselves and me, have turned around and told me to go fuck myself.
One, they can’t be honest in recovery, And Two, they can be honest in telling me to go fuck myself.
That doesn’t make sense to me.
You cannot be all things to all people, its just not possible.
I’m honestly working on being better at honesty, all the way round.
How Free Do You Want to Be ???
When we put down alcohol, because we are alcoholics, we know that we can never pick it back up. And when we stop smoking POT we also know that we can never smoke again.
Times are changing, and the rules of engagement are also changing.
Living with AIDS for so long, in the very first few months, I was given medicinal marijuana because I was told that it would help me eat and bulk up, and not waste away and die.
So I smoked up.
When I stopped drinking – I had to stop smoking and using recreational drugs as well. Until the day my slip began, and I picked up and began using again, only that time, the using was far worse and had serious consequences when I was done.
When I finally relented and stopped drinking, I had not smoked a joint for over a year, the drink still existed, until December of 2001.
Fast Forward to 5:30 a.m. this morning.
I had gone through hubby’s backpack a couple of hours earlier, and found a zip bag, with all the accoutrements a good pot smoker would have.
As his caregiver, when his behavior changes and he becomes despondent and catatonic sitting in the same room, I needed to figure out what was going on.
He’s just been stoned …
When we met and began co-habitating, we got rid of copious amounts of empty beer bottles and all the pot rollers, papers and assorted other things.
Color me surprised when I made this find earlier this morning.
I was LIVID …
Hubby is smoking. He made an executive decision for himself, assuming that because I was clean and sober, that I would judge him and condemn his using, and toss his shit down the toilet. That was my first word in fact. Toss It …
He did not TRUST me.
Since he kept this a secret, I was absolutely angry and pissed off.
I tried to go back to bed, but only tossed and turned. He got up to pee at 5:30 and I called him into the living room and lit into him like a madman.
Words were said. Threats were made. Tears were shed.
Many years ago, in the beginning of his Bi-Polar disorder, he was drugged heavily for ten months until we found the mix that worked. During that time, the drugs emasculated him, robbed him of who he was, and left me with someone I did not know on the back end.
I had to mourn that loss, and decided to stick and stay, because I remembered who he was.
Over the last two or so years, his shrink has been trying to get him off all those pills and to give him back some of his “Self.” That has only worked so far.
Hubby found that the odd joint, now and then, made a real difference in his Bi-Polar state (read: manic depression) and his mental functionality, so he kept smoking.
He did this by himself, here at home, when I was not here.
We have a funny service in Montreal. Pot Delivery systems. You call, they deliver.
I’ve heard of this service from some of my guys before who used it themselves.
I may be clean and sober, that doesn’t mean I am a flag toting militant judgmental prick.
I think, when circumstances warrant, and choices of what we want to do for our personal health and well being, that decision IS up to US, and nobody else. Who am I to judge?
If that time came for me, I would want the same latitude and acceptance of the choices I make when the time came. I know, I am not going to mt death miserable and shitting in a diaper, nor deluded with dementia. I have already chosen my exit plan.
What was I supposed to say, after hearing his explanation of why he made that choice, and what it means to his mental functionality and his happiness ?
Our Canadian Government is on track to legalize POT across the board in the next few month hopefully. But medicinal marijuana is available here in Montreal.
One can get a compassionate use card from Health Canada, and you can order pot online and have it sent to you through Canada Post.
There is no shame in being KIND and UNDERSTANDING.
Times are changing in many places, and we have to be accepting of those changes, knowing full well, that I cannot drink or smoke. Again.
In the end this is a Page 417 issue …
ACCEPTANCE IS THE KEY TO ALL MY PROBLEMS.
For Leah, she just wanted the love of her husband, JacobRemember, Jacob thought that Leah’s younger sister Rachel was beautiful. Jacob had been tricked into marrying Leah when he wanted Rachel..
Genesis 29:14-3531 When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless. 32 Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”.33 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” So she named him Simeon..34 Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” So he was named Levi..35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children..For Leah, she was not loved, something which she craved. So she did what women of that time were to do, have babies, male babies. And she did it really well. She thought that if she had God plus her husbands love, she would have all she needed..And so she kept trying to gain his love, by producing male babies..“Leah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Reuben, for she said, “It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.”.“She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Because the Lord heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.”.“Again she conceived, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.”.Each new baby you see her heart torn out that maybe now Jacob would love her. But he never did..All these sons she was producing, and the reason was to gain the love and respect of her husband. She craved his love and affirmation just like many of us do today. She was willing to try the best that she could to gain his love. But it didn’t work..We think if only we could have the love of someone close to us, then it all would be ok, and life would be good or better or we would feel heard. But that equation never worked for poor Leah. And it really doesn’t work for us either..And then we see with her last son, a shift in her heart..35 She conceived again, and when she gave birth to a son she said, “This time I will praise the Lord.” So she named him Judah. Then she stopped having children..This last time her focus was not on her husbands love, but on her God. Her heart changed and she decided to focus her needs her value, on God who was worthy of praise..And when she did that shift, Judah was born. When she stopped trying to gain value and love from her husband, and just from God, life came. The line that Jesus would be born into, came through that line of Judah. Life came then and there.And interestingly enough, Rachel would die in childbirth and Jacob was buried with Leah..God took notice on the unloved Leah (and he took notice on the “unloved” Jeremy too). When she stopped trying to gain Jacobs love, she was free. When she decided to gain her value and self worth from God, who was worthy of praise, she was free.