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Monday Essay: Twice Gifted

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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.

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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

DEATH …

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.


Friday: Special Essay … Growing Up

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The week is over. The Friday meeting was sparse. But I did see the people I really needed to see, and have conversations. While there is massive snow on the ground in Up State New York, and here in Quebec, my friends who have skiing and snowboarding passions, they are all out on the slopes this weekend, enjoying, what might be the last snow of the season.

I subscribe to several “thoughtful” pages on Face Book and I’ve been seeing thoughts being shared on my timeline that I happen to think, can apply to me.

One thought is: “BE who you needed when you were a kid” (insert age appropriate word here) …

When I was in school, that would be Junior and High school, I attempted to be sporty.

A fact of life, that came as a tidal wave, came on the first day of Junior High School. I stepped into the locker room, and I knew, right then and there, that there was something different about me. I knew what it was, I just did not say anything to anyone about it.

Knowing what Gay was, by that term, and knowing how homophobic my parents were and still are, never allowed me to identify myself as gay until I moved away from home.

I engaged in gym for a while, while sports was something I was engaged in and was good at because my friends were sporty, and I wanted friends and to participate. I wrestled in junior high, I played soccer as well. I was a pretty good soccer player, until I attempted to go heads up for a center position, which meant you had to go head to head with the boy who held that position. Sadly, I got pretty beat up. That was the end of that run.

In high school I was on the swim team for a couple of years and I even Lettered in my senior year.

My parents were not big on my competing or participating. They would not allow me to have the tools of the trade I needed. Even if I was spending my own money to buy shoes, cleats and gear. They were funny that way …

When I got to Montreal and began to settle down and build a home, growing into a man was front and center. And all along these years now, I have allowed myself things that I really did not have when I was a kid, like nice shoes, sneakers, boots, clothing, etc …

I am different from hubby, in that he does not see the need to have “things.” He will wear one pair of shoes until they fall off his feet before he buys another pair. And I am like, we have the money in the bank, why don’t you buy some shoes and some sneakers …

He usually just shakes his head. I am prepared for any seasonal weather that Mother Nature may throw at us.

Like a good Boy Scout, I am always prepared.

Growing up in the Rooms, I have a certain idea of who I am today, and what I want from my life, and what I believe is important for my emotional, mental and personal well-being.

I keep up with trends. I try to have some style. Lately my friends have commented on my wardrobe an awful lot. This was not a point of discussion in the past. In the rooms, there is a certain amount of decorum, style and dress. Getting clean and sober, in time, means getting clean and sober in all areas of life.

Once you begin to “Clean Up” you clean up inside and out.

I watch my friends, my Gay friends. They seem to be resigned to a certain “way” they style themselves, as they all age. I don’t have any gay friends in my age bracket. The gay friends I have are all ten to twenty years my senior.

Over the past decade or so, as my body changes, my appearance changed with it. And as my doctors took me off certain drugs, that caused me to balloon, the drugs I am on now, are allowing me to lose some significant weight.

They say that the first ten pounds are a bitch. A few weeks ago, while at the doctors, I saw that fact when I stepped onto the scale for the first time in a long time, and was pleasantly surprised to see just how much weight I had lost in the past year.

Feeling Sexy, and Feeling Good inside and out are very important to me. You might find that odd. But I just don’t want to sink into some deep funk going into fifty.

I am not some old man, who has to accept that he is ageing.

Fifty is the new thirty they say. I missed out on my thirties and did not begin to grow up emotionally until I hit the ripe age of forty.

If you want to feel good, I believe one has to look good doing it too. As long as I can pull off sporty and sexy, all in moderation, then why the hell not ?

For many years, well, the last twenty-two years or so, I was subject to side effects and drug interactions when it came to my body. And for a long time, I sat in my head, thinking, well, this is how I am going to look and feel, so I better get used to it.

Because that is what most people with AIDS/HIV say to themselves. Today, there are only a few, a very little few other men who are survivors, in my immediate community, or are living with what they call the new HIV, they don’t say the word AIDS ever anymore.

But I remember who I was, then. Nobody can take that away from me.

I’m not sure when the shift began, but I felt that I needed to pick myself up and make a change. I went back on my going grey look, and dyed my hair. I’m just not ready to be defeated by grey hair like some of my friends. I moved from my special haircut to growing my hair out, until I get sick of it. Not there yet.

When I realized that I had lost significant weight, I went on a clothes haul, and bought a few new pieces of clothing.

My friends noticed.

I saw some clothing I really liked on the web. And I thought, I could rock that look too and look good doing it too. So I spent a little money, and damn, I look good.

My friends noticed.

People pay close attention to what we look like in meetings. I remember a while back, when I started experimenting with hair styles. I made a huge mistake sitting in the chair one day, and I paid for that haircut mistake until all my hair grew out again.

Lesson Learned.

I don’t want to go bald, not yet at least.

I want to feel good in my skin. I want to feel sexy, even if hubby really does not pay attention to that, he really doesn’t. He thinks about style, because I know he shops at specific shops in the city and has a certain look, he just does not notice me.

I notice Me.

I may be getting Older. And Fifty is just around the corner. But I am not going to grow old, looking old. There are men out there in my age bracket who are more sporty and stylish than I could ever be, but I will damned well try at least.

As long as I can look good – I feel good.

Living life on the edge is cool. Living on Borrowed time used to mean, acceptance of a fate of dying or waiting to die.

I don’t live, waiting to die.

Mame Dennis Said it well …

Live, Live, Live, Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving …

I am going to look good when fifty comes, and I will die trying …

I love my friends, gay and straight, some of them are just old Fuddy Duddies …

I am NOT a fuddy duddy …