Thursday – If I sit down …

tumblr_lxerkgWVPI1r556eno1_500 followeed

Courtesy:Followeed

It is December and it has been one hell of a week so far. There is much to say, and there has been plenty of opportunity to speak words, or better yet, write them down. Tonight is that night.

Tuesday was December 1st, World AIDS Day. The yearly date when we honor all those who have died, and for those of us who survived that period of tragic times, we remember.

A particular story came to mind on Tuesday, that I thought about writing down “Again” but decided against it. Suffice to say that those of us who were diagnosed with AIDS or today, HIV, we go from Hero to Zero in no time flat.

Back in the day, AIDS was a death sentence. Today they call it a “manageable condition!” Every new diagnosis under ANY circumstances is very sad.

You would think, in today’s gay community, and for that matter, anywhere in the world, that an ounce of prevention would go a long way, yet there are those who continually decide to play Russian Roulette with their lives. Or are caught up in behavior that is detrimental.

One cannot claim ignorance about disease today.

There are still millions of reasons why we can’t stop marking this day, until a cure is found, that would be available to every single human being, to eradicate this scourge.

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Once again, now in the U.S., two deranged killers walked into a service center, and killed 14 people in cold blood, and injured many others.

This is just terrible. And there are not enough words to say that is going to make a hill of beans difference, to those who could do something, but they don’t. There aren’t enough prayers to be said, or vigils to attend that are going to change anything.

Sometimes it is well and good to just not say anything, because someone already has said what we are all thinking, and we are powerless to do a god damned thing.

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Sometime last weekend, I did something to my back. I am not sure what it was, or when it happened, but I have never felt the degree of pain I am feeling today, in all my life. My back is killing me, and I have resorted to taking pain killers just to be ambulatory.

Addicts and painkillers are not a good mix.

At least here, I can phone up my pharmacy and get over the counter medication. In many Canadian pharmacies, they keep assorted drugs behind the counter, so if you know this, that opens up treatment. I don’t need a script nor do I need to see my doctor, but I will see him on the tenth, if I survive that long …

This afternoon baby mama came over to use my computer and as we sat together, she remarked that etched on my face was the look of pain. I can sit down, but there is no guarantee that I will be able to get back up. During our visit, I had several Holy Shit, moments, where I thought I was going to pass out.

I have only so many pills left, before I need a doctors note, and it is the weekend, so no doctor till next week now. And I sure as shit ain’t going to no E.R. because I will sit there for hours and hours, um NO!

It has been rainy / cold the past few days. Rain, that falls in conjunction with below zero temps, means ice on sidewalks.

I half thought to stay home tonight, but decided to go to St. Matthias and hit a meeting. I left earlier than usual, because walking, reaching, bending and stooping is quite the task, which requires some serious deep breathing and equilibrium.

I got to the church and visited with friends before the meeting, and as a friend sat next to me, I had a Holy Shit moment, and I told her that if I sit down, for any amount of time, that I may not be able to get back up.

I waited until the seventh tradition was started and tried to get up, gritting my teeth, because I had to pee … That was a tedious moment for sure. I did get up, but it wasn’t pleasant.

It was a good meeting, nonetheless.

I was talking to my sponsor and a few friends on Tuesday night, and I was explaining that I was riding that “roller coaster of insanity” and what was going on in my head and they responded with, “yup, you are one of us …”

We pushed my cake back until the 20th, because next Sunday is early, and my anniversary falls on Wednesday the 9th. And superstition dictates that you never take a medallion early.

The 13th, is my sponsors Home Group Anniversary on the West End at Loyola. So He will be there, while I do service at my Sunday Home Group. Which leaves the 20th as the first Sunday we can both be in the same place at the same time.

What is good about living in Canada, is this … When shit goes down anywhere else, the media goes crazy. And for the most part, for what it is worth, Most shit going down elsewhere, has nothing to do with us, and when necessary, which is often, I can either turn the channel, shut down my computer, or turn the tv off …

There is so much tragedy. I can only take so much saturation about death and destruction, not to mention, Republican Presidential hopefuls.

I have little patience for crock of shit politics.

Thank God for cable t.v.

More to come, stay tuned …

I’m Always Ok

tumblr_ma62hlMxSo1rdkscno1_500 rthompson80Courtesy: R.Thompson 80

How often do we say to our friends, that, “yeah, everything’s fine, and I’m ok?” And how often do we tell ourselves that everything is fine, and we really want to believe that everything is fine, when in reality, everything is not fine. In fact, things are in really bad shape.

When we are always going, doing, and being, amid the business of our days, we (read: I ) tend to forget myself, because as long as I am not feeling it, or do I feel in distress, I can keep going, until that proverbial wall comes up and smacks me in the face.

Many people run on the premise that as long as I look good to you, then I don’t have to look at me. As long as I put up a good front, you won’t see what a mess I am on the inside, and how unmanageable my life is, as I am trying to manage your life instead.

Try as I might, I never want to admit defeat, in any sense. Try as I might, I feel like as long as I am breathing, and can do things, that I must do them, to the detriment of myself. I tend to take for granted that I am not twenty any longer, and that I am closer to fifty then I am to twenty.

I tend not to, or ever admit that I am that old. Nor do I ever admit that I can’t do everything that I have always done, to the extent that I put myself in mortal danger of sickness, and in the worst case scenario, death …

I’ve been living on borrowed time for so long, that always doing “something” all the time, is natural.

There is a story that comes to mind about Bill W. He never said that he was an alcoholic, however he was. In his life, we alcoholics, wanted to be near him, with him in meetings, and or talking to him about a great many things. Bill could not go out to a meeting and be himself. He never could walk in an anonymous room, and be anonymous. He was saddled with who he was and what he represented to everyone in the rooms.

He just could not “go to a meeting, for himself.”

For a long time now, I have been responsible for many meetings, meaning, I either had the key and had to open, come rain, or come shine, or snow. Or I had to do service, be it coffee, or set up or something else. And I have been doing this for years now. There are not many folks, who come to mind at the moment, who have stuck around, to take over or do something other than coming to a meeting here and there. People just don’t stick and stay where we need them to.

And you can’t ask or force anyone to do anything, either.

For the last month or so, I’ve been sick. The proverbial wall came up and smacked me in the face. And I did not like it, to admit that, I could not do something, kicking and screaming all the way, I had to give up responsibility for some of my chores to someone else. I really needed someone else to step up and be accountable.

My doctor said to me that for a while, until I finished treatment, that I had no other choice than to stay away from the baby, because babies are toxic breeding grounds for sickness and infection, inherently because they go to day care. And kids get sick. And they carry that sickness home with them.

And so over the last few months, being immuno-compromised, found that every time the baby coughed or sneezed, I got sick. This last round got worse and needed professional drugs to get better. I finally got “the message” when over the counter drugs stopped working. Because I was not “getting better.”

So I followed medical advice. I stepped back. And others stepped forward. And I took care of me for the past two weeks. I cut back my schedule. I turned things over to friends. I only hit half the meetings I usually hit, and I spent a great amount of time sleeping and resting, because that’s what my doctor said to do.

This week, as it happened, I began to return to my old life. But now, I am not as “responsible” as I was a month ago. I don’t have to do anything, at the moment. On Tuesday, I visited Baby mama and the baby for the first time in weeks. I also hit the Tuesday night meeting, for the first time in a month. I went for my visit, I stayed a little longer than usual, because I did not have to be “ON.”

I was able to just be me. I walked into the meeting, a friend is opening for me, the coffee was made, another friend was in the chair, and I could sit down, and go to a meeting, and just be me.

I can tell you that there was an entirely different vibe, that I had never felt before.

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The best gift we can give our friends is our presence. Being there, sitting with, showing up, and not necessarily having to do anything beyond, just being there.

I can do this today. Just be present.

Yesterday, I sat with one of my guys, and I listened to him work his Fourth and Fifth Step, in progression, in real time. I’ve never done that before, and I wasn’t sure just how to do that, so I prayed about it, and decided that it was necessary to see him through this portion of step work and that it just HAD to work.

Presence …

Tonight, it rained. Well, it pissed rain was more like it. Enough rain was falling to warrant an umbrella, but pissy enough that you really didn’t need one.

A young lady spoke. Turns out she is “family.”

So young to be so wise. She walked a long road to get here. But she is here, nonetheless.

In the end, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.

She speaks about God and how she sees God, and connects to him.

She also said that when things are good, she is connected to God. She really doesn’t think about God. But when things hurt or things get tough, she tends to forget God, and she disconnects.

And she has learned that lesson the hard way. Now she respects the connection with her higher power, which she chooses to call God. and she says …

I am Always Ok …

We are always ok. It just depends on how we look at things.

A good night was had by all.

More to come, stay tuned …

Sunday Sundries – Celebrations

tumblr_ln3takPnYT1qemrxpo1_500 dyingwontkillyouCourtesy: Dying Won’t Kill You

Another weekend is in the books. Today is day 4 of Nuclear Antibiotic Treatment. I was warned that they are the strongest antibiotics on the market, and they are also doing a number on my innards. I was very sick to my stomach this morning. UGH !!!

It has been an interesting week, and I get glimpses of clarity here and there.

I’ve spent so many months, being all things to all people, to the degree that I forget to pay attention to my own needs, mentally and physically. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends for so long, that the time came when I got knocked out of rotation, because I got really sick.

My doctors warns me to take it easy. “Taking it easy and just being” is difficult when you are always moving and engaged. God, in His infinite wisdom, has done for me what I could not do for myself.

Only this weekend, my voice is starting to return.

I’ve been hitting meetings, here and there, but I am not back to full steam with all my responsibilities across town.

tumblr_m1lyltsDdZ1qgwqw9o1_500 pjbudI’ve been seeing the ugly side of my friends recently. And I don’t like what I am seeing, nor what I am hearing from their mouths. Sitting on Step Seven, God is showing me Character Defects and Shortcomings in the guise of my friends and fellows.

Everybody in the rooms is on their specific journey. Not all men and women sit at the same place on any given day. Some are taking it easy and trudging along as they are able, and for some of my friends, they are judgmental about the status progress of their fellows.

Judgmental enough to state that they have specific expectations of their fellows, and that, if you aren’t in it to win it, working your steps and being On Top Of Things 100% at their behest, that there is a certain price to be paid for lack of action.

And that price is the friendship and attention and care that some may bring others, because they feel as if they need to punish some for their inability to “get things done, on their time frame, to their liking.”

And I the thought came that those same friends who expect so much from others, aren’t even engaged in their own step work, none of them. Every time we bring that subject up, they are all busy.

I don’t suggest any work for any of my guys, unless I am it in myself. And I am.

How can you suggest something for another, and not be doing the same yourself?

A certain man I am working with is trying his best, and it hasn’t been a cakewalk.

But I stick with him, because I have faith in him. My personal motto is “You Don’t Turn your back on your friends, ever…”

Others do not share my vision. Having ongoing conversations with some of my friends, about what I can do, or what I should do, have been fruitless. Several suggestions were floated to try and get a pay out. But some of my friends, are unwilling to devote time to people, who aren’t in the solution, as they see fit. They either don’t have the time, nor are willing to spend the time necessary to see things through. (Oh, that’s too much work…)

After a heated conversation the other night, I spoke my opinion. That did not go over very well.

You don’t turn your back on your friends, ever …

That is treason to the soul.

Over the past month, my phone has rung less than usual. And I find that odd.

While I was here all summer long, keeping the meetings open and serving my fellows along with a rag tag handful of friends, who were not leaving the city, I did my best.

A second group of people were traveling the world, seeing other places, and working out of province. Now we are all back under the same roof. And everybody is where they are on the journey of life, as we speak.

We celebrated six months of clean and sober time last night, for one of my guys. And I opened the meeting and chaired, because our guy who was supposed to be there, was a no show.

I asked a friend of mine for a topic, and she suggested Step Seven. That was a fruitful discussion when all was said and done. The one word definition of Step Seven is “humility.”

When we need help, most of us, don’t realize we need help until it is too late. Or we think that we just could not ask for help, because we should man up/woman up, and do it ourselves. But that’s what our Higher Powers are for right?

Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Most of us say we believe, but when push comes to shove, we forget our belief.

God, it seems, in lots of cases, seems to step in right when we need it, as we need it , as long as we need it. And that has been the case for my friends and myself as of late.

Tonight, I headed out for the Sunday Meeting. I was flying solo for set up, and I had only one chore for tonight, to give another of my men his first year medallion and cake. He has not had a drink for 365 days. We are all so proud of him.

Another of my friends, a fellow woman of our group, took a 24 year medallion and cake from her sponsor. It is still amazing to me every day, how much our women change when they get “into the work.” This is the model that I use for my guys. Reading the Book, doing steps, calling, tenth steps and honest hard work, really does pay off in the long run.

Many are at the stage in sobriety that they are “willing to go to any length to get sober.”

We hear that line read, every time we hear How It Works.”That if you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it, THEN you are READY to take certain steps.”

It took me almost twelve years in the rooms to understand quite succinctly, what that line really means. Because it happened to me. And it has happened to many others as well.

And so, with a little courage, and faith, we work with newcomers and each other. And we invite them to participate. The odds are against us/them. But there are those few who are ready to step up, because stepping back, would mean much more suffering.

The other line that means the world to me comes from A Vision for You …

“Obviously, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.”

Wow, is that line packed with meaning. For how many years, did I have to trudge this road, to figure out succinctly, what that meant as well?

I had to practice the work and do it myself, and see the results come. Along the way, I was working with a sponsor who cares about me and is always there, work my own steps, go to meetings, hit retreats, and hone my message, and find that voice that suited me.

And voila … God did for me what I could not do for myself. And the men and women who were put in my path, came for a specific reason.

It has become seriously obvious that some of my friends, in the rooms, are sober, (or not so sober) at the moment,(read: Dry) are sick individuals. My sponsor warns me to steer clear of them, and do not react, and not to say a word.

He did tell me to pray for them for 21 days.

I just cannot understand how friends can turn on each other at the drop of a dime.

I watch them act around each other and myself. I listen to the words that come out of their mouths. This is where my sponsor warns me to be vigilant with my words, thoughts and actions, and to pray. The words are incongruous, and I don’t understand detestable language or action.

Friends don’t turn on each other, friends don’t disrespect each other, and once again I repeat, friends don’t turn their backs on their friends.

Sadly this is going on right in front of us at the moment.

I learned a while back, that people may be in the rooms, and have time, but not be very sober.

We have been seeing this thought play out in open community.

Steps Six and Seven take time to present themselves, at least that is how it happened for me.

The diligence of time, and the grace of God and not drinking, has its perks.

It was a good night, capped off with laughter and lots of cake.

In a few weeks time, I hit the 14 year mark.

One day at a time. And by the Grace of God.

More to come, stay tuned …

Tuesday – The Express Lane is “8” Items or Less …

tumblr_kzh2y6mHMA1qzmauvo1_500You don’t know you are doing something right, until you read that suggestion in a book, and you realize that you have been using that suggestion all along. That for years and years, you’ve heard the same suggestions, the same slogans, and read and re-read the same books over and over again. And only with a good amount of time and hindsight, can you honestly say that, you have learned to incorporate those lessons into every day life, and be able to safely say that “yes, they really work…”

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Last Night was a Marathon Television experience. Elections are usually that way. Early on in the evening, we were sitting here watching Labrador, New Found Land, and the Maritime votes come in, and they were all Liberal Red. By 8:15 p.m. with the science of mathematics and statisticians crunching numbers at the highest levels, CTV called a Liberal Win.

I was flummoxed !!!

I was screaming at the tv, like “how do you know this shit? How can you call this election so early?” Thankfully, hubby was there to explain a little more.

This wasn’t my first Canadian election so this was not new news for me.

When the polls closed at 9:30 p.m. across a major swath of the country, the numbers started coming in fast and furiously. It was then we knew that the Red Wave was on its way across the country. We just did not know then, if it was going to be Minority or a Majority.

I think people were surprised to see just how well Justin did in the end.

We got rid of our Prime Minister. The A.B.C. vote worked.

We also recovered many Orange Wave NDP seats, and turned them Liberal Red.

Over time we learn about the men who lead us, and a good friend of mine wrote tonight that:

“The test of a man isn’t shown when he wins but when he loses.”

Both Mr. Harper and Mr. Mulcair got the raw end of the deal.

The government was replaced, the Prime Minister lost his job, BUT, he won his seat. Close to the time he was supposed to make his concession speech, his press core published a release saying that even though Mr. Harper won his seat, but lost his government, that he would indeed step down as the Conservative Leader.

He did not mention stepping down in his speech. But He spoke eloquently and kindly. It could have been a slash and burn concession, but Mr. Harper took the high road.

And he should be commended for that. Mr. Harper has true character.

Mr. Mulcair, in the same vein, took the high road. He also won his seat in Parliament, but he lost the election to Mr. Trudeau. It was apparent, well before election day, that the NDP was on life support, and that the tide did indeed swing out of his favor over the Niqab debate.

I also heard from a commentator last night that:
“The tide, raises all boats…”

If you stayed up until Prime Minister Elect Justin Trudeau made his acceptance speech, you would have heard him echo many of the ideas he had stated along during the campaign.

I’m really proud that Justin won. I’ve supported him, unfailingly since he was elected Liberal Leader, when not many people were in his camp.

The hopes of Canada rest on his shoulders.

As Rachel says: “Watch this space.”

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At this point of my life, hubby has given the the ability to chart my own course in life, to do what I do best, and to know that he has my back. The relationship pendulum has swung in his direction for this portion of our journey.

I have my daily routines. My daily chores. And then everything else.

What I choose to engage is my choice. What I choose to invest in is also my choice.

Today was a busy day, as it turned out, and I was also reminded that I was not in control.

I had a doctors appointment. And knowing from past appointments, no matter what time I get there, I am going to wait, and wait, and wait …

I scheduled this appointment so that it would not run up to my early evening activities. I had thought, that I would get in and out in short order, and have room to play.

Not so Grasshopper !!!

It took me 40 minutes to make my transit, I arrived 45 minutes early for a 1:30 p.m. appointment. Thankfully I brought a book with me. I read until my eyes crossed, then I listened to the Virgin Radio station that was playing in the office overhead.

I finally got to see my doc at 3:30 p.m. He was on call for three of our hospitals, all of our hospitals, patient records and information are on one massive main frame that can be accessed remotely from any hospital or doctors office, needless to say, he was no happy.

The office was full of people waiting to see him, and at one point, I sadly got up and had to ask where I was in rotation, because I had someplace to be at 4:30. Bad Boy !

My numbers are really good. Seeing where my body was traveling that week. The night before I dropped labs, mama and the baby were in hospital, sick. Tuesday morning when I got home, I dropped labs. Wednesday night was Madonna, and at 6 a.m. Thursday morning, i got so sick, I thought I was going to die.

I was up over a thousand again this round. Go figure …

I was sure that my numbers would have tanked, seeing that I was heading for a major illness.

Wrong !

He also spoke to me about a medication change. This has been an ongoing discussion for the last year or so. Finally he agreed that the time had come. My numbers have been high enough that he has decided to begin changing my medications to new single dose HIV meds.

Round one begins tomorrow.

I got out of there, around 4 p.m. and a 40 minute transit to travel to be on time.

Thankfully the trains were on my side. I made it to my next point with ten minutes to spare. Since it was on the Orange line, just below my Blue connection.

The Tuesday meeting is not doing well. And we heard tonight that two more meetings in town, in the English side are closing. That would be five meetings that have shut their doors in the last three months.

There are projects on the table to try and bump up our numbers, but it seems that option one, is not going to happen. The logistics of mama’s and babies and finding the right time, space and help is not easy. Option two begins in November with our newsletter push. If that doesn’t work, then it might come down to option three … shutting the doors.
We are just not bringing in the seventh tradition to warrant keeping a dying meeting open.

I got home and hubby ran some errands and I went grocery shopping …

And wouldn’t you know it, I had six items in my cart and I was in the express lane. As I approached said lane, the couple ahead of me had a pull basket, FULL of SHIT !

Yes, I counted all twenty five items in your basket …

UGH !!!

Easy Does It they say …

Sunday Sundries … Always in the Right Time

jimmy carter

Three things we learn, when we are diagnosed with a terminal illness, are humility, grace, and courage.

Well, for most of us that is …

Many people, take life for granted, until death happens in their lives, either to someone they love or someone they know. Most people don’t even pay heed to mortality because they are too busy working a job, paying the bills and trying to eek out a living, a marriage, a house, kids and cars.

Death, well, it hasn’t come for me yet, so why worry about it? I don’t have time to worry about it.

I think everybody should take a class I took a few years ago called “Death and Dying.”

Learning about death is as important as learning about life.

Because I tell you, with complete certainty, that nothing compares sitting in a non-nondescript doctors office and hearing your doctor tell you that “You are going to die, so go home, kiss your ass goodbye and prepare for the end.”

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt.

My friend Adam, when he got sick, fought like a bad ass for every day that he lived, and on the day he died, it was said that “He went down like a fighter.” Coming to the realization that our life sits in the hand of God and our time of coming and going is according to His plan, is something that took time for me to wrap my head around.

I’ve seen many people face adversity. And I’ve watched them make decisions that might not have been all that prudent or life affirming, but those were their decisions, what to do, knowing the end was coming. I did not have the luxury of throwing in the proverbial towel and to end up living fast and self abusing like many of my friends did in the end.

Todd would not give me that privilege. He knew better.

After doctors tell you that “you are going to die,” and you live to see that day come around and you are staring it back in the face, you go one of two ways. One, you get cocky and decide to take life into your hands and do something stupid, or Two, you remind yourself that now, you live on “Borrowed Time” and that fucking this up is not recommended …

I hit that death date several times. And I am still alive.

I can’t answer the question as to WHY I am still alive, but it seems God is not done with me yet.

I don’t live, like we have discussed, waiting for the other shoe to drop, or for someone to pull the rug out from under me. Amid my daily ritual, I am mindful of where I am, and why I am, (for me in the moment and in my day) and I go on with my life.

I acknowledge every day for what it is, a gift. It may seem, on the outside, that I am ungrateful most of the time, because I really don’t think about gratitude every moment of my life, and sometimes that bothers me, because it may seem prideful or egotistical, but it is not.

I am alive, and breathing and I don’t know why, But God does. So I trust Him.

We are all going to die one day. And some know for sure that they are going to die, because certain diseases are illness specific. Once the clock begins ticking, time is never on our side.

But, we are fighters. The ones who say that, “NO we will not go into that dark night miserably”

But it is we who say, “Win or Loose, I am going out on my own terms, in my own way.”

I know both sides of this acceptance and where it can lead.

But acceptance is the the key.

Former President Jimmy Carter, has cancer. We all know that this could end up very badly. Cancer is a no holds barred sickness. Truthfully spoken, once cancer hits one organ, and or has moved throughout the body, and if it gets to the brain, the odds are against you. It just goes that way. There isn’t enough chemo nor radiation that is going to make it all go away.

For some, I know, when cancer makes its last stand, medical assistance becomes useless.

In the end, for some of us, all we have is our faith in God. At some point, we will hit that point of no return, when the end is nigh, and God in His infinite wisdom is going to do what He is going to do. Regardless of what we want.

I can’t say that I am fearless, and that when that day comes, I will make my last stand and give it all I have got. I’m not sure what that will look like. But if my friends are my guides, I will try my damnedest to be courageous.

If there is a God, then why do people get sick?

I don’t have an answer for that question. Nobody does.

My faith tells me that God knows what God is doing. My sobriety encourages me to trust in that power greater than myself to give me what I need, as I need it, on a need to have basis.

It was written in tonight’s read that after many mishaps and failures and expectations that did not come to pass, we find that, in the end, we will get just what we need at the right moment.

It might not be what we want, when we want it,

But it is always what we need, when we need it.

That might not be the answer you were looking for, but it is the truth.

The point of sobriety, in the words of a good friend, is to become right, on the inside. And allow for that right energy, to transform the outside, so that we live in union with “right sizedness” then we become great people. To live with integrity.

We lead from the heart. We learn to live for others and not just ourselves. Instead of angry, resentful, taking and abusing alcoholics and addicts, we learn to be happy, giving and right sized men and women.

I think, this is what God wants of me. To accept my life on life’s terms. To know and trust in God, to be good to the ones I love, AND to be good to anyone whom I meet on any given day.

tumblr_md2lb5P8Ep1qenwdto1_1280 laurenmarekThis was the message I was trying to give to a friend earlier tonight. It is true.

I think God sits in his heaven and He watches us battle our demons, and He watches people live, learn, make mistakes, and then clean themselves up. At that point, if we accept that axiom, that perfect, spiritual assistance, is there and available to us, God grants us a little more time to perfect His grace and humility and courage.

Terminally Ill patents don’t usually get that privilege, because it becomes do or die, and it is the fight and how they fight that shows us what they are made of, to the last breath they take. Once that clock starts ticking, time is not on our side.

We pray for all the sick. That God will be merciful and hearing our prayers, grant us eternal life when that moment does come. And it will come, in God’s time.

That is all for tonight.

More to come, stay tuned …

Crazy S.O.T.B. – More Memories 21 Years On …

b-down-gobo1

Cue the music – start the fog machine – blue light GOBO slow pans across the floor through dimly lit space, and the first beat comes…

I am alone, it is early, the bar is not yet open, but I am there alone. Just me, the music and the spirit of God. Well, what little spirit of God there was at that time of my life. It is mid-summer in Ft. Lauderdale. I have just told Todd that I was going to die…

He wept.

Over the next few weeks, the teaching would begin. The team rose to the call, one of the boys was sick and was left on the side of the road with nothing but what little dignity was left in his soul. All I needed would be provided come hell or high water. Wild Horses would never stop the charge for life. We were all sick, we were all dying. Save for two people in the entire organization. My champions would save me, if I wanted it or not. Death was not an option and I would either get it or I would die…

So it began…

At that time, the temple of sin was alive and things happened so quickly that if you blinked you would miss it. The temple was filled with every earthly delight, Dante would have been pleased with our Garden of Earthly desires, carnal, profane and truly sinful. I loved every minute of it.

The rule was set…

You have a life, outside the temple. When you come to work, you leave your baggage at the door, do not bring it in here. No exceptions. Come to work, and you will serve me your Master and do whatever you are told without question without complaint, is that clear!

Yes Sir…

I took that time of my life as sacred and profane, but that is another story. You can read about the Sacred and the Profane over there in Pages… This is another thread to a long running story of how this boy was made a man, a saved man, a profane man, and in the same vein Sacred. You never know where your lessons are going to come from, and you are grateful for the wisdom and time people took out of their lives to care for you and teach you lessons that nobody else was going to teach you. So pay attention Little One.

This is your life we are talking about…

The gobos are tracking across the floor slowly through smoke and mirrors as the music plays just for you. I learned very early on, in that space that music would identify particular moods, paint particular pictures. Farkle and I had a ritual. He IS the only one left from the fray of men who lived and died from the temple of sin. We began each shift in our own way, begging god another night, another day, another minute. I was surrounded with warriors fighting their own significant battles with AIDS. I was not hit by the KS demon. I was not plagued by things I saw and witnessed, thank the creator. It was ugly. It was brutal and it was most importantly the fight of the century for all of us. Many men went to their deaths in our arms. We bathed them, clothed them and in the end we buried them.

Angry Larry…

When I got sober there was a man with AIDS named Larry, he was a drunk like me. But he was unique. He sat with a bottle on the table and a loaded revolver to shoot himself. He carried that gun with him and showed it to every one of us, and he told us relentlessly that he was going to kill himself. He got sober with the rest of us. Over the years following his spiritual awakening, he did something that no one else thought to do.

People with AIDS were being left in the streets. Mortuaries would not process sick people, they would not touch a body that had been infected with AIDS. Families would not bury their children. We did that. Larry opened his services to the community and he became another champion of the cause. I knew him. He eventually got rid of the gun, so I heard.

For a few minutes during transition, I would warm up the smoker, fire up the turntable and start the computer so that I could worship my God to the music of my soul. I did that every night. I worshiped whatever was going to save me.

I was servant to the men. I was servant to my Master. I was a slave for God, be he dressed or undressed. You never saw God until you witnessed true beauty of the soul in all its carnality. There is something sacredly profane about this part of my life. What went on inside the temple stayed in the temple. Many months would pass and I battled my demons of alcoholism before I finally fell into the pit of death, and there happen to be somebody watching from the sidelines.

Danny saved me that night. He was the man who cradled me in his arms, oxygen mask on my face and had called the paramedics to try and revive me. Danny took me home that night, and did not leave my apartment for a week. He fed me, bathed me and cared for me, under that watchful eye of my Master Todd. When the word was spoke, action was taken, and hell hath no fury if you did not jump when told to. Todd was very protective over his boys and men.

We were reminded that Todd had lost love to AIDS. Bob was buried across the street in the cemetery that faced our building. It was hard – it was painful, and it was sacred. Kevin and Larry did things for me that no man ever did for me in the real world. We were the three musketeers. We were the team to beat in bar management and service. We ran a tight ship and we were accountable, respectable and reliable. We proved a mighty force against the odds we all faced.

Let’s get it on…

Shift was begun at eight. The wells were filled the beer was stocked and the ice bins were full. Put your money in the drawer and let’s get the music thumping. Like clockwork at the strike of eight bells the first note hit the turntables. They were lined up around the building. Cars were parked all over the place. The temple worship had begun. Heaven was found amid the souls of suffering men who knew they were all marked for death, but for tonight, whatever you desired was fulfilled. You could drown away your sorrow and dip into the well of living water if you wished as well. You have never lived until you party like your dying with crowds of undulating flesh as far as they eye can see. The ghosts of those men now inhabit the fantasies and dreams I have still to this day.

One by one, two by two, they died in our arms. We held them until they took their last breaths. Memorialized in the careful and blood soaked threads of quilts, as the years went by, they started collecting by the dozen, then by the hundreds. If you’ve ever seen the entire quilt unfurled, all the men who were part of my life in those first years of my epidemic life, they are all together in death, as they were in life. Memorialized until the end of time. And we remember each of their names.

So many young boys torn from life before they knew what hit them. Men who infected them had died as well. Many of my friends were taken on trips that were detrimental to them, and just robbed them of life that was still left to live.

Todd saw to it that I would never go there…

You come to work, dress as you will, you obey me and do not waver from my eye, for I know your carnal desires and you are too young to tempt the devil with his dance. Because I surely did not know what could befall me if the right charmer enticed me into his web of desire, and they all knew I was fair bait. But in order to dine from my buffet, you needed explicit permission of my Master, who never allowed any man to defile me like many had been. I was off limits. I never crossed the line provided because that meant disrespect and I could never bear to break my Master’s heart with disobedience.

I loved Him, and He loved me – I had many problems. I was depressed and angry and resentful. I had the scars of traumatic visions of my dead lovers corpse in my head, and the words of his mother still ring in my ear today “I hope that every night until you die, that you see the corpse of my dead son in your field of vision.” That curse still lives with me and will go with me to the grave. Five day old corpses are not pretty. I had to identify the remains when all was said and done. Save that he was wearing jewelry that I could identify and part of him was still recognizable – God forgive me…

I remember that day, it was early afternoon the morgue called me from work to come and do the deed. I drove in and looked upon him in that room, I wept tears that burned into my soul forever. I just could not imagine – the pain was so hard to bear. I drove over to the bar. Bill was working behind the bar. I drank until I could not stand up on my own. I drank for a week, straight…

Todd and Bill needed to find me a solution and quick, because I was on the outs.

I started suicide therapy in a group setting that lasted 32 weeks. Nothing like rehashing death week after week, until the pain was purged from your soul, but is it ever? Months went by until I got my news.

But they cared for me in all my brokenness. A young angel would earn his wings back. Come hell or high water. In the end, when all was said and done, at the end of the day I survived, but so many did not. And each night I offer them prayers in hope that when I meet my death that all of them will be waiting for me in the Temple Of Earthly Desire in the promised land of the Kingdom of God, where the sacred and profane are mingled with the blood of the Almighty and the blood of my friends who have gone before me, on that day we will be cleansed of our sins.

And forgiven by God…

Amen

Goodnight angels of men

In a church,by the face,
He talks about the people going under.

Only child know…

A man decides after seventy years,
That what he goes there for, is to unlock the door.
While those around him criticize and sleep…
And through a fractal on a breaking wall,
I see you my friend, and touch your face again.
Miracles will happen as we trip.

But we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We get a little crazy
No we’re never gonna survive, unless…
We are a little…

Cray…cray…cray…

…Crazy yellow people walking through my head.
One of them’s got a gun, to shoot the other one.
And yet together they were friends at school
Ohh, get it, get it, get it, get it no no!

If all were there when we first took the pill,
Then maybe, then maybe, then maybe, then maybe…
Miracles will happen as we speak.

But we’re never gonna survive unless…
We get a little crazy.
No we’re never gonna survive unless…
We are a little…
Crazy…
No no, never survive, unless we get a little… bit…

Oh, a little bit…
Oh, a little bit…

Oh…
Oh…

Amanda decides to go along after seventeen years…

Oh darlin…
In a sky full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
In a world full of people, only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
Crazy…
In a heaven of people there’s only some want to fly,
Ain’t that crazy?
Oh babe… Oh darlin…
In a world full of people there’s only some want to fly,
Isn’t that crazy?
Isn’t that crazy… Isn’t that crazy… Isn’t that crazy…

Ohh…
But we’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little crazy.. crazy..
No we’re never gonna to survive unless we are a little… crazy..
But we’re never gonna survive unless, we get a little crazy.. crazy..
No we’re never gonna to survive unless, we are a little.. crazy..
No no, never survive unless, we get a little bit…

And then you see things
The size
Of which you’ve never known before

They’ll break it

Someday…

Only child know….

Them things
The size
Of which you’ve never known before

Someday…
Someway…
Someday…
Someway…
Someday…
Someway…
Someday…

21 Years on My memories as they happened in real time.

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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

Hello…

Hello…

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…

Silence.

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.