This One Tragic Event, turned my life and my sobriety upside down. And began a Year of wandering meetings, looking for God, Seeking help for myself, that did not come as it was needed, when it was needed. I walked this road alone, save for Elder Christensen who was a balm to my soul when I most needed God.
I learned that some things in sobriety have to be experienced, felt and spoken about, even if people didn’t listen to me. Or want to listen to me. Sobriety gave me a challenge and I walked through it, the best way I knew how. I did not drink over it either.
Which was One Serious Blessing.
I’ve not be shaken to my core like this in recent memory. In the end, I grew from this, in locating my grief and experiencing the pain that rocked me to my inner core.
I remember those young people, taken too soon, from lives that were yet to be lived. I mourn for their families who will gather tomorrow. My thoughts and prayers are with them every day that I walk this earth.
I have not Forgotten. And I will Never Forget Them.
Tragedy of the Heart – Revisited
Last night around 3 a.m. I saw the first report of a shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, and my heart sank. Why did he choose that club and not another, (The Parliament House) which would have been at max capacity at that hour as well, and then I was relieved that he did not choose that site as his first hit, because he would have hit my home, or, that place I called home for so long.
I chose to move to Orlando because I thought that that was a safe place to be Gay. That was where my journey of becoming a citizen of the gay community was to begin. So I moved there. I became part of a vibrant community of people I loved and respected. People who would shape the life I have today in ways I could never imagine.
Tragedy in other places, is not like a tragedy that hits at your home. Tragedy by extension and degrees of separation have less intensity when they are far removed, or far away. Last night’s tragedy hit me right in the chest. My heart broke to think that my brothers and sisters of life were targeted by a crazed gunman who wanted to kill homosexuals. Hate crime or religious ideology? That question is still unanswered.
In any case, I can imagine what that loss feels like having spent so much time IN that community for so long. I have a long and devastating relationship with death and tragedy. I lived through some of the darkest times in Gay history. And now another story of tragedy has been written.
Families lost loved ones, friends have lost friends, the community at large has lost souls to senseless violence, and the relative safety of a city that welcomed and cared for their own, is no more.
There are no guarantees of safety and freedom anymore. I look back at life some twenty or more years, and I know what relative safety felt like, to not have to fear going out to a public place and having to worry about some crazed human being stalking us like animals on a safari hunt.
Guns are too easily sought and bought. The availability of these firearms undermines the safety of every human being where ever you are. That is more so in the United States. Canada has its gun issues, but as long as I have lived here, I have never felt threatened to go out in public for fear of my life.
Every day, the fear of being killed is a new set of skills for the human being. This insidious fear has been forced upon us by those who would seek to kill us for a myriad of reasons, and nobody is safe, it seems, any longer. Relative safety is a thing of the past now.
I’ve been watching these mass killings day after day and it saddens me to no end. And now, with this latest tragedy, I am forced to speak these words in testimony to my brothers and sisters that lost their lives so tragically last night. I can do that because for a few years, I was one of those brothers and sisters.
I cannot tell you how this tragedy makes me feel. When religious ideology kills indiscriminately, my first reaction is “An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth.” If ideological killers kill to prove a point, killing humans in inhumane ways, the rage in me reacts first. All sense of Christian values leaves me.
It is reported that the gunman pledged his loyalty to Isis, which makes him an ideological killer, there is no forgiveness for those who kill senselessly because of ideology. I make no excuses for them, and I wish them direct judgment and death. It is all well and good that this gunman is dead. Because he killed his fellow humans in cold blood for reasons we still do not know, and there is no forgiveness for a human like that. Even though I know when that man made it to where ever he ended up, I was taught that whatever God there is, forgiveness will follow, even if I cannot.
There are no words I can say right now, that haven’t already been said by those who have been in the loop since last night. My heart is broken in this senseless loss of life. All I can do is say a prayer for those departed and for those who are left to pick up the pieces.
The Orlando Gay Community is family, they will survive this, in time. Phillip De Franco said this yesterday, “There is no silver lining to this story, no good ending, for now the pain is acute and one day this pain will recede and the intense feeling won’t go away, but will be less, but not forgotten.”
I stand with my brothers and sisters tonight in solidarity and hope.
I wish I could go back and be of some comfort, but that is not an option, so all I have is this place to tell you how hard this hit me and why, and to allow myself to feel this tragedy because it hits me right in my heart of hearts.
Eternal rest grant them and may perpetual light shine upon them.
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.