Memories of a Time Gone By: Day 2

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.

Memories of a Time Gone By: Day 1

Here is the story of that week from my journal. If we are to start anywhere, here is the best place. Today is July 4th 2019. Twenty Five years have passed.

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.

I would eventually call Todd.

Conversation

Jacob in Synth Pop LED Queens

It is the last weekend of June. Monday is the 1st of July, Canada Day, and the beginning of my retrospective of July. As usual, I always post the tragic news of my AIDS diagnosis, because I get the opportunity to reflect on another year of survival. Who knew I would live this long, and live well, this long ?

July 31st is my birthday … Also Harry Potter’s Birthday too.

I am chairing for the month at Monday Central, and Chairing the men’s meeting on the Wednesday of my Birthday. Let’s just say that I do a lot of service. Because they say, Service will keep you Sober… It definitely has.

I’ve been hanging around with some long sober men, whom are my friends. I added a Wednesday meeting called Brothers in Recovery, a closed Men’s meeting that reads the Twelve and Twelve. July is Step Seven …

Humbly Asked Him to Remove Our Shortcomings.

June was an interesting month, as we discussed Step Six, and Tradition Six, this past Wednesday. The most important two words to come from the month of reading the Step were the words: Entirely Ready.

Hanging around with good people, who have good lives AND good sobriety is very important. The purpose of Sobriety is to live your best life, sober, and not to be miserable and just DRY !

Tonight, one of my friends showed up early for the meeting, so we had a good hour to just talk about anything and everything. I am uber early for Friday set up to make sure the coffee is perked and ready to pour when the first guest shows up.

We can grab a cup of coffee and go outside and sit on the stairs and just visit with each other. The meeting before the meeting is a very profitable two hours. And if someone shows up uber early that makes it much more enjoyable.

Usually I just sit outside and people watch the neighborhood. If you follow me on Instagram, I posted the pictures of that location.

This week was very eventful. After 17 1/2 years, I finally put down the cigarettes. On Tuesday I was at the mall grocery shopping and down on the ground floor is a Vape sales cube. The cube is a black cube that sits in front of The Canadian Tire store and houses a Vape sales point. You can’t get in unless you are of age and have valid ID. It is highly guarded.

The entire purchase cost me $30.00. For the Vape, that came with 2 bottles of juice, and the UBS port to charge. During the week I went back to buy the Berry Fusion vape juice, that comes in a cartridge that goes into the Vape.

Overall: $30.00

That is the price of 2 packs of cigarettes.

Overall, I am saving more than $130.00 a week in smokes. Let’s just say that saving all the money in the long run is going to be very profitable.

More to come, Stay tuned …

Primary Purpose

Each group has but one primary purpose – to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Tradition Five … That is the resounding answer I received from the many men I count as friends over the last two days.

There is a reason the fellowship has done well, for over 80 years. They did not get it all, RIGHT, on the first pass. It took trial and error, mistakes and failures, to find the solution to make us work together to help the alcoholic who still suffers.

The first bit of advice I got about the topic I wrote about last, was this:

A meeting is there for one purpose. To help the alcoholic who still suffers, to keep the doors open for those who need it most, and to help those who not only want it, but are WILLING to do the work to get better.

I heard that last week … The program is not for those who need it, or those who want it, the program is there for those who are WILLING to do the work, which is outlined in the Big Book.

We read a passage from the back of the book on Tuesday night, and the writer was talking about Big Book meeting she went to in the beginning of her sobriety, and she writes …

“What I found out was that people who attend Big Book meetings on a regular basis tend to READ THE BOOK AND DO WHAT IT SAYS.”

She learned how to be sober, by watching other sober men and women get sober themselves. In simple terms one of my sponsors said was this …

MONKEY SEE – MONKEY DO !!!

If you want to quibble over semantics and words in the literature, you must ask yourself, ARE YOU AN ALCOHOLIC ? Because if you are, then sit down, take the cotton out of your ears and put it in your mouth and listen.

We aren’t concerned with what word you use to signify who you are, you are in the room for one reason, to STOP drinking and GET sober. If you aren’t here to do that, then maybe you should go back out and drink, until you are ready to get sober.

The old timers I call my friends were adamant about this last night.

People are so hung up on what we call them, as it relates to the literature, and we know that the literature is dated, and sexist, and God oriented, but the literature has stood the test of time. And so will you, if you stay the course.

The fellowship is evolving, but if we begin changing the core values and significance of the hallowed literature to appease one faction or another, we loose the spirit in which those words were written, by Bill, Dr. Bob and the first 100 sober people in the 1930’s.

When Is Accommodation A Step Too Far ?

The Literature we read in every meeting, was codified into being when the fellowship began, and the meeting scripts and literature were finely tuned.

Being gay in A.A. has not been pretty. I’ve been told to leave meetings, and not come back, because some alcoholics found me “a human who was not condoned to sit in the same room with them.”

That caused a Slip back into drinking and drugs, that almost killed me.

When I moved to Montreal, that happened a second time, in a meeting in the West End of the city. I never went back to that meeting, and in as many years, I’ve never stepped into a meeting with any of those men and women, to this day.

Back when I first got Sober, there were dedicated GAY meetings. For Gay men. Even so, there were also dedicated meetings for the GAY Women. Over the years, as gay men died, I was and still am the only surviving man living with AIDS on the English side.

Over the years those gay meetings closed, because they could not be populated to sustain a meeting. And in the early years, LGBT men and women began to assimilate into Straight meetings, into general population.

I know, for a fact, that way back when, there were TRANS men and women, in the system. And I made sure I knew who they were, so that if I was present in a meeting, they knew that that meeting was safe to attend, that nobody was going to harm them or disrespect them, so long as I was there.

Many of those TRANS people have disappeared. I’ve not seen many of them in a number of years now. My folks on the spectrum, have more than alcohol in their stories, those making transitions, so forth and so on. Many of them went back out under pressure and never returned.

In the last year, we have seen the LGBT Spectrum widen. More than we had seen in as many years. With the broadening of the sexual orientation spectrum, the terms Gender Neutral or Non-Binary have become stock.

We have a handful of kids in this gender non-binary grouping. Along with the Gay men and women, and TRANS men and women.

The discussion at business meetings and Group Consciences has turned into fighting matches to AMEND our hallowed literature scripts to accommodate everybody in a meeting.

We’ve now reached the point where the words MEN and WOMEN have been removed from the preambles across the city. The word GOD has been removed to Higher Power, for those who do not even deign to say the word God in community.

AA Preamble. Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help other to recover from alcoholism.

This is the way the script has been read for over 80 years.

We’ve now amended that script to say “People.” And Not Men and Women.

Tonight … Was a business meeting that got heated and contentious.

At the Group Conscience a couple of weeks ago, the issue of wording came up and the script changed, voted and with a majority of support is what we read right today.

There are two TRANS women in our group. They come tonight to the business meeting because they had a bone to pick, because they are upset the wording was changed with out THEIR approval or discussion.

They did not attend the group conscience meeting, so they did not get the opportunity to be dissenting voices to the changes.

They came tonight and wanted to verbiage to be changed BACK from “People” to “Men and Women, AND People.” Words were spoken, curses were offered as well. The discussion got very heated.

At one point, I put the motion on the table to change the verbiage back to Men and Women and People.

Sadly, our NON-BINARY kids were in the meeting. Those who offered the change to “People” at the meeting.

I put the motion on the table and we voted.

The motion was voted down. So the verbiage remains “People.”

Our two TRANS women left the meeting in tears, because they feel slighted that Men and Women have been removed from the script, and they, as trans women want inclusion as Men and Women stated in the original.

They left, after Myself and my friend Jim spoke to them. I was outside with one of our women, and Jim was inside with the other. We tried to smooth it over and talk openly and honestly.

We both failed at that.

They will come to the next business meeting next month and try again to raise the issue to put it to a vote to change the wording back to

“Men and Women, with the additional People.”

We’ve tried with difficulty to open the meetings to everyone and not single anyone out or intimate that Everyone is not welcome. That sexual orientation and identity are outside issues, and this is a meeting, and we do things one way and one way only.

We’ve been very accommodating to everyone.

But the Non-Binary camp is powerful and they want things the way they want it, and they don’t want to bend and see that the trans community is just as welcome as they are, and that if we are going to amend the literature as they would like, we have to accommodate everyone equally.

This is the issue of the week right now.

I don’t know quite what to do now.

Suggestions are welcome.

Intervention Update

I wanted to write a medical update from the other night. I’ve been off Jardiance for 4 days now. I have 150mg of Fluconazole in my system. They gave me a one pill dosage, instead of the 5 day treatment regimen.

I also have a topical creme that I use at night before bed, it’s a little messy, but it is what it is. I’ve cleared up and my skin condition is getting better by the day, back to the normal state of personal care.

It is vitally important for me to stress that certain side effects of some drugs can cause long lasting problems, if not caught right away. At the beginning I did not attribute the problems I was having to my drug regimen, because, as I said then, I’ve not had major issues come up before so I really did not pay attention, until the problems occurring began to really increase.

People on large drug regimens for their various medical issues, should really know what the flip side of good drugs can be. My issues, those dealing with genital issues are of paramount importance, for both Men and Women. One does not want to allow genital issues to become exacerbated and become painful and problematic.

If genital issues re not caught right away, both men and women can have long lasting issues internally and externally, that might not get resolved, hence, immediate attention to situations that have grown out of control.

I don’t usually pay attention to drug commercials on television, because usually, they show a drug then rattle off all the side effects throughout the commercial, and usually I roll my eyes.

When a drug commercial tells us that death is a possibility when you take said drug, I pay attention. You never know how one is going to react to the myriad of drugs on the market.

It was good that I had seen the Jardiance commercial multiple times, because at one point I was listening well to the side effect list.

And that saved my bacon, so to speak.

I think we need to pay attention to drug commercials if we are taking or pondering taking a new drug. That little 30 second commercial might just save your life.

Buyer Beware …

Jardiance – Drug Failure Report

A few months ago, when I started my chastity run, I started having medical issues, that went un-diagnosed until today. I thought, when talking to a couple of “men in the know” who advised that it might just be my problem and to stop. I persisted.

I am on a massive regimen of drugs, both for my HIV and my Diabetes. Both programs must work in concert together. The failure of a drug is not common for me, because I usually tolerate medication without side effects. I really do not focus on the negative, which helps me move forwards every time we begin new medication.

This time, I did not heed the warning that had been in process for almost two months.

Because I do not see my physicians until later this summer, however, I did get medical intervention via phone and fax, and took the two rounds of Fluconazole in late April and early May. The infection was stemmed, but it was not apparent that a particular drug I was taking was failing.

One of the side effects of Jardiance, a Diabetes drug, is genital infections, that, if not addressed quickly, can spin out of control and can cause serious problems, both for MEN and WOMEN.

I’ve been watching the JARDIANCE drug commercial on television here, and they do speak about all the side effects of the drug in the ad.

For some reason, I was paying closer attention to the commercial.

This morning I called the Diabetes clinic and spoke to my nurse assistant who assigns my drugs and has been working with me for many years.

The pain and problems grew over the last 2 weeks, to the point that the pain I was feeling was getting out of hand. We spoke this morning and right away she knew that I had failed the Jardiance. And she said that we would stop the drug immediately. She got me another round of Fluconazole and some creme, that I got at the pharmacy tonight.

It is important to share this information because if you don’t catch a drug failing quickly, that failing drug can cause extensive medical issues for you.

As of tonight, I am off the Jardiance, full stop. I have my Fluconazole that I took earlier and then next time I see my primary care physician at the Diabetes Clinic, we will find a new drug to put in place, because now I am off a drug that not only maintains my A1C and my sugars, and helps my heart health.

I got my new CB-6000 a couple of weeks ago, and I like it much better than the previous chastity incarnation I had, at first chosen. I am unlocked until I finish this drug treatment and my body responds to medical intervention, again.

HIV and Diabetes are critical medical issues, and if you are on certain HIV or Diabetic drugs right now, you need to know that certain side effects can rear their ugly heads and cause you unnecessary medical problems.

So take this as a warning.

Be mindful of whatever is going on IN your body or ON your body. Genital issues, yeast infections can devolve into serious problems that can affect your body, both for MEN and for WOMEN.

BEWARE …