June 12, 2016 – I Remember

tumblr_orfx54cIDW1qzh7bfo1_540

On Sunday night, June 12, 2016, I was sitting in front of this box, watching this news come in. That night, I threw in my religion towel and told God to go Fuck Himself, that He would let this happen to kids, hanging out in a bar, that I hung out in, when I was their age, and that gunman killed all those young men and women.

It turned my world upside down for more than a year. It was the WORST, cathartic emotional event in my life, since the day I was diagnosed with AIDS on July 8th, 1994.

TURNED MY WORLD UPSIDE DOWN !!!

I remember them. And will never forget this night.

Happy for Harry …

rs_1024x1280-171221044618-1024-PHMM-MK122118

The world will witness Prince Harry marry his sweetheart Meghan on Saturday, in St. Georges Chapel in Windsor Castle. So much has changed for the young prince, Brother to Prince William, and uncle to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

I remember, long ago, the image of a much younger Harry, his brother William, Father Prince Charles, and Earl Spencer, on September 6, 1997, walking behind his mother’s funeral cortege, in front of the whole world.

DIANA-FUNERAL-952545

It might not have been the best choice to have the boys walk that walk, but, the wisdom of the day, dictated that action. Harry later said, that it was the hardest thing he ever had to do in his life, save, fight in a war …

I remember, the night Diana died. Where I was, what I did, and the days that followed. I remember the day of the funeral, watching with the rest of the world, that had fallen into a sadness never seen before, in my lifetime.

A few days later, a funeral mass was held in Miami, at one of the Anglican Cathedrals in downtown Miami. For that event, I sat down and penned letters to William and Harry. letters about my experience, watching their mother marry. I had a tv in the car, that day as I went to work with my father, and watching the wedding sitting in his office.

And for the rest of my life, being witness to a force of nature like the world had never seen before. I told them many things, many things that escape my memory today, seeing I wrote those letters in a fog of mourning.

I always wonder if William and Harry, received letters like mine after the funeral when all the books of remembrance were carried to London from all corners of the world.

That is one question I have always asked of the universe, whether they read those letters or are they just collecting dust in some storage location. I would have been honored had they done so, but seeing how difficult life had become for both boys, then, I imagine that any reminder of that sadness was quietly stored away for posterity.

My lifetime has been full of Royal Wonder. I loved Diana, and everything that she represented to me, primarily then, Living with AIDS, and knowing how much she cared for people like me, gave me a sense of hope that I did not find in many places then.

Diana loved her boys, William and Harry, very much.

I remember one poignant memories, The Royal Yacht was berthed behind the RCI Building on Port Miami, and Diana was to meet the boys for the first time in as many weeks aboard. We all know of that image of Diana greeting the boys.

I’ve witnessed William and Harry grow up and become men. Both William and Harry have grown into fine young men, with promising futures. I think we can all agree, Harry did not have such an easy time of it, during younger incarnations of himself.

I imagine how hard life must have been for both William and Harry.

Diana hated the press, and did her best to shield her sons from the glare of photographers and paparazzi. Sometimes she succeeded, other times she utterly failed. William and Harry learned a valuable lesson about the press throughout their lives, and both William and Harry, have kept the press at bay for the most part.

Now all the cameras of the world will be focused on Windsor Castle this weekend. The little town of Windsor has been inundated with spectators and press. I would think that rankles Harry to no end. But I am sure he will be well protected from prying eyes, while he marries his sweetheart Megan.

We should all be proud of Harry. The final young royal son to be married in our lifetime. We have witnessed Royalty at its best in watching Diana become a woman, AND a Royal, be married in St. Paul’s, seeing her have her children, and being blessed to see William and Harry grow up into fine young men.

I imagine Diana is looking down on them tonight, and she smiles.

Imagine what it would have meant to William and Harry to have their mother present for both their weddings and child births. Alas, I am sure Harry will honor his mother in some special way on Saturday. I’m sure she is not far from his mind and heart, during this very difficult time for Meghan.

Let us remember Diana, in the lives of her son Harry this weekend and be glad for him. Harry has walked a long road to redemption and honor. And we should honor his commitment to becoming the best man he knows how to be. He intimated as much during interviews during the Invictus games here in Toronto.

Well done Harry. Welcome to Married life. Now life REALLY gets REAL.

Once you utter those vows, the real responsibility begins to your wife.

People don’t necessarily use an engagement period as homework for the real thing, but I had that experience myself. I warned Stephan on the day he married my niece Melissa, that they might have had 11 young years together, before their nuptials, but now the rubber meets the road.

So will it be for Harry and Meghan.

Let us all wish them the best.

Hip Hip Hooray Harry and Meghan.

Essay: Knowledge

o-BRENE-BROWN-ORIGIN-MAGAZINE-facebook

A long time ago, in a galaxy, far far away, I went back to school at age 34. Growing up, my parents told me that they would never pay for my college education. However, when I graduated high school, Junior Achievement gave me a scholarship to the local community college in Miami where I grew up.

There was a trade-off for the gesture though. One that I did not pay back accordingly. Telemarketing is an evil business, and one I highly recommend you avoid at all costs.

But I digress …

That first year was not all of a washout. I did pretty well. Took a psychology course that rocked my socks off, taught by a female professor who rocked my world.

I could never get the hang of writing term papers. All those steps, and papers, and note cards, and bibliographies … ugh !!!

Over the river and through the woods to grandmothers house we go …

After that, in my second year of studies, I landed in a Catholic Seminary. The church paid for that, even though I was asked to leave after only a year, because I was not part of the men abusing boys club. That was a dirty little secret.

After that, alcoholism took its toll on me. That ride into hell began swiftly, and ended in a grand crash and burn at age 26.

Today, I walk on hallowed ground, that has not been trodden by men, such as myself, at the age we are in, living with a fatal disease, “now manageable” that was supposed to kill us ages ago.

But like a fine wine, we will not be uncorked until the right time.

From my parents, I learned a great many things. Early on, I learned how to be responsible for a house, by gaining the key to the front door, at an age, in today’s world, kids that young need constant supervision. Back then, we were free range kids.

It was such a simple time, the 1970’s and 1980’s.

We did not fear the world, and the people in it, like we do today. Freedom was something we did not take for granted, but appreciated. Neighbors, were neighbors. Kids in our neighborhood would travel in packs from one house to another, day in and day out.

We were not saddled with smart phones, or a PHONE for that matter. We were not attached by umbilical to a computer day in and day out, like we are today.

Taking care of a house, and being responsible for my brother, was a big deal, however my brother never paid me any attention. And memories of him are negligible. He does not seem to want to know me today, because he lives in his resentments like both my parents do. My father went to his grave resenting me, and my mother would rather eat dirt than acknowledge me in any way, shape or form.

I learned how to work, well, early on. I had some of the best jobs in my life, throughout my life, in certain stages. My first job was in a grocery store, bagging groceries, and cleaning and stocking. I scooped ice cream for a season. Another great job, was a short order cook in a chicken shack, (2 actually).

Skip ahead a few years, and many alcoholic drinks later, and I land the most important job I will ever have in my life. Working for Todd, (read: God). Hands down, the best of times and the worst of times, were spent cleaning garbage, plunging shitty toilets, filling ice buckets and stocking beer, bar tending, and the best job, Working in a DJ Booth.

I learned practical life lessons, that I still draw on to this very day, from Todd (read:God). What I failed to learn from the Big Book, that first round, was that I needed practical life knowledge that would help me survive. Sobriety was important. If I had died prematurely, what would have been the need to learn anything. I could have just decided to kill myself slowly with drugs and alcohol, like all my other friends did.

Todd (read:God) had other ideas for me.

When I started this blog 14 years ago, its main goal was to catalogue all of my memories, while I could still access them, before they were forgotten. What I have learned about life is PAGED –> over there.

When Todd, departed my life, and his solid voice of counsel was gone, his steady hand, and voice, and physical presence in my life, was gone, I thought I was going to die. I had no idea how to make it alone in the world, at age 29, circa 1996.

I did fail miserably.

Years later, in 2001, I got back on the horse and began riding for my life. It took me a while to begin to work my way out of my hole of insanity. Opportunities opened to me and I took each one of them as they came.

Providence was in my favor. I set myself right with God, and He moved heaven and earth for me, that I am solidly sure of today.

God is the fine thread that is woven throughout my life. The year I spent in seminary, I devoted my life to God, and I promised to serve Him and Him alone, for the rest of my life. Interestingly enough, it took me a long time to figure out HOW I was going to do that, after being dismissed from the church proper.

Troy took me to my Second, First meeting. I stayed for a second Second meeting an hour later, and met the folks who would carry me back into life, as it happened. Some of those initial friends, are still friends to me today. Albeit, from farther away.

A year into Sobriety, my rehab counselor Margo, asked me what I wanted to do with my life, now that I had achieved a year sober. I had to think about it, at first. The answer I came up with was I want to go back to school.

What did I know then ? I had my lessons. I had some solid, terrifying life experience to bank on. I had survived, 9 years, I was still alive… 2003 was a good year.

On February 13th 2003, I became a Canadian Citizen. In September of that same year, I began my university career. At age 34. A long time ago, I promised God that I would serve Him and Him alone. Religion and Theology was given.

However, I began my university career in Psychology. That was short-lived.

From the very start, when I began to write about myself, there were many detractors, who used to batter me with vile shit. Saying things like, “A gay cannot be a Christian, and why would a gay study religion and theology, when gay is incongruous with scripture?”

Some say they know God.
Some say they know their Bibles.
Some say that they speak for one, and believe in the other.
Then there are those who know neither.

What I did not know then, I know now. I may not have known, all that I needed to know, and I used to get in the mosh pit with the vipers at first, (Not very sober, mind you) until I stopped being taken for cheap.

I boded my time, and I studied hard and well. And over a ten-year period, I finally collected two very important pieces of parchment.

University bachelors Degrees in Religious Studies, and a Certificate in Pastoral Ministry.

All the while, getting sober at the same time, and caring for my husband, because he is mentally challenged, and was very ill for a very long time.

For years, I was chief cook and bottle washer.

I know a great many things about a number of topics. I may not know everything there is to know about certain subjects, I have my truths.

I know how hard mental illness is on the human who is ill. And I know what mental illness does to significant others, and families by extension. I learned this all the hard way, one day at a time. 15 years later, we both survived it.

In sobriety, I thought to continue into the Masters of Theology.

What I did not know, was a harsh lesson.

All the men and women I studied with over the last ten years, followed that track into the Masters Program. However, I was an outside, one, because of my age, two, I was getting sober, three, I was married, and four, it wasn’t all about ME.

On the very first day of Master’s Classes, I walked into that first classroom, with my fellows, and it was obvious to me, something was WAY OFF.

My friends had outgrown their pants. Their heads we double their original size. They had coupled and tripled up together, congratulating themselves on conquering the world and holding it by the balls.

It was obvious that I did not get the memo that went around telling me that over that last summer I should have stoked my EGO and carried it into class.

I did my best. But I knew very soon, that I could not produce Masters Quality work, in the academic sense, to the degree I needed to produce. I got to a point, in my studies that I could not compete, nor was academically astute to continue any further.

And as fast as the Theology department had swung the door open for me, they swung it shut so fast, it took my breath away. They did not even blink an eye.

I went from hero to zero in minutes flat.

I still write, as often as the mood hits me. I, like some of my friends, I have made over the years, have a career. It may not pay the big bucks, but it suffices.

How do you parlay degrees in Religion and Theology, into a career in Sobriety ?

One day at a Time.

The Preachers Circle I belong to, still exists. My mentors Elder Christensen and Pastor Randall, and Father Donald are true and solid men in my life.

I read like a mad man. When I got sober this time around, part of my daily routine, at the end of the day, is a little prayer and meditation. Then I crawl into bed with a good book.

To my credit, I have at least a couple hundred books on shelves in my bedroom, in my library. They come from Indigo, and begin life on my bedside table. When I finish each book, they go on the “READ PILE.”

Knowledge … I may not know everything there is to know about MANY things. Gladly, I can say, that I know a few things, about my area of expertise. I read, to learn about subjects that interest me.

I know better than to state categorically, that I have certain knowledge. because that would invite pitchforks and fire.

I was talking to a friend the other night. He had just returned to Canada from a world-wide trip over seven months. Going from Canada, to India, to Nepal and then ending in Israel.

Israel and Palestine is a topic fraught with complications. To pick a side, is dicey. To say you agree with one and not the other, you take your life into your own hands. I don’t know everything about that area of the world, but I do have an opinion, based on solid reading, written by solid trusted sources, ON THE GROUND.

My degrees in Religion and Theology come in handy when broaching the subject of lands steeped in Religion and Faith.

A long time ago, when people would say vile things to me about what I was studying or denigrating my abilities of what I know, I caved under that kind of scrutiny.

I cave No Longer.

When I turned 40 … That little door in my brain opened. And little by slowly, I realized that “I knew things for Sure.” I had forty years of hard-earned and fought experience behind me, that I have a story nobody can take from me. And experience that would curl your toes if I discussed the nitty-gritty of the scourge of AIDS, and what I experienced on the ground, as I lived it.

My forty decade was a watershed for me. It changed the way I see the world around me.

I survived 25 years. And I have that story in my arsenal of knowledge.

Now in my fifty decade, I am still waiting to see what is going to come next, because I am in uncharted territory, medically, spiritually and physically. This is the task a hand, to make the most of every day, every moment.

Life is all about what you know, how you learned it, and how you apply all the knowledge you have inside you, to better the world around you and the people you call your friends, and the family you have.

My biological family wants nothing to do with me, even though I have worked terribly hard at reconciliation over the years, to no avail. My father went to his grave hating me, never giving me that chance to amend that relationship, and my mother is on that same hateful and spiteful road herself. My brother is also on that hateful road too.

Fuck me for trying.

I heard last night that mining the past for the missing key to life, is pointless, because the answers are NOT in the PAST, but reside in the present.

However, I have spent the past fifty odd year data mining the past, divining all the secrets and lessons I could remember and write down, hoping to find the key to who I am and why I am here, and what it all means.

Some of my friends find this kind of task too daunting. This was the choice I made in my sobriety, to learn the stories that needed to be learned, to mine the past for nuggets of truth, and synthesizing all that information and incorporating all that knowledge into the bank for my own personal use.

I’ve spent a lifetime, bettering my life. Life is hard work and not for the faint of heart.

Once you get told that Jeremy you are very sick and you are going to die a miserable death, so go home and kiss your ass goodbye … I did that for a short while, and tried to kill myself in the drink.

THANK GOD that TODD (read: GOD) stepped in.

Because I live to tell that story as often as I have to, to make sure you know that there is life to be lived, as long as you believe you are worthy of all good things.

There IS a GOD and I am not HE.

Knowledge is Power. Use it wisely.

Thursday: Sinking into God …

21751811_10155665400987731_4009539288824048357_n

I wrote this letter to my Spiritual Director the other night. It is pertinent to my life today, because it reflects my growth in certain areas of my life at the moment.

I hope that things have gotten a bit better than they were a few days ago. Sometimes it’s a bitch having to recite and accept those pesky slogans …

They might come in handy when necessary, but when they become prayer mantras, that’s the worst, because you know, you have to totally “Turn it over, right ?”

How many times had I heard, Stick with the Winners, and Stay until the Miracle happens, and This Too Shall Pass … UGH

I thought about you last night, while at my Monday haunt. I was talking to a young man of my acquaintance, his name is John. He has quite the story, in summary though, he got to the bitter end and his marriage was in the toilet.

He came to us, and has stayed. The marriage is a work in progress. They are better for the ware and tear that took place. He’s in our rooms, and she is in Alanon …

A couple of weeks ago, John told me that he had found gainful employment finally, after his crash and burn. Starting off at ground level, he found a job as a manual laborer. In a school.

Answer: He’s a janitor.

Sweeping, mopping and shoveling snow… menial tasks but labor nonetheless. He started this week. And seems to be at peace with it.

He has found the meditative art in the quiet. His saving grace, it seems.

His wife is working in a kitchen preparing food for the restaurant, working with a friend of hers who took her under her wing so to speak. She seems to like that small quaint space. The Kitchen. It suits her well.

They got through the holidays, this year, just barely. John was one of the grouping from Monday night, we worked very hard at keeping sober over those two weeks. Everybody is still sober. Thanks be to God.

I had told John, before the meeting about my relationship with the man who saved my life, when it was most needed. Todd kept me focused and on point while at work.

He had a saying that stuck and worked miracles for me. He said early on that I could trust him, and I did, implicitly. I thought tonight, that I have not trusted anyone to that extent before or since. Now or before.

He said that as I approached the building we worked in, whatever was on my heart and worrying me, that I needed to leave it outside the doors, and once I crossed the threshold, the only thing I needed to worry about was the work I had to do each shift.

That pin point focus saved my life in the end.

So with my friend John, with all that is going on in his life right now, I shared that thought with him, that while he was IN the building, the only thing he needed to focus on was work, and not what had been going on in his head upon the approach.
Hopefully that piece of advice will stick and keep him on the beam, so to speak.

Then a God moment happened for all of us. The chair introduced for discussion, Step Three, in the Big Book, Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understood Him.
How appropriate.

And here I just told the story about turning my will and my life over to the care of TODD, (read: GOD) as I understood Him.

If there is a God, I met Him in the flesh, all those years ago, and I am still alive to speak about Him to others.

Which bring me round to you … A while back, at one point, you said to me that I could not bullshit God that whatever I was holding back, needed to see the light. hence, I heard you say that and I took that last step into God.

But it wasn’t until I tell this little story to my friends that God makes perfect sense, in that, I knew without a doubt what it felt like to sink into Todd, (read: God) with complete abandon. I knew it, because I had practiced it. over and over.

With my father’s death, I have written about him. And lately I focus on his generosity when it came, and his goodness when it showed. and that when my father was good, he could do no wrong. Even if he tried.

I’m not sure that all the goodness in the world, when it came to abuses, if that cleared his good points off the score board. I’ve been trying to dream about him at night. No success there. I’m not sure he would think to come to me now. Too much water under the bridge I think.

I wonder how he died, if he was at peace, my brother was there, and the day he called me he asked me if I had had any questions about my father’s passing, at that time I said no, because there was too much anger on the dashboard to think clearly and have a lucid conversation about death. But I wonder now.

I wonder what God said to him, after this life he lived, and the manner he chose to live it in, including my mother, because I am sure she is going to have that same conversation with God He did, at some point.

I believe that they both want peace on the other side, after the lives they chose to live, and the way they chose to live them. I believe God would have wanted that for them finally. And I muse about the fact that my sainted grand mother was waiting for him when he finally got there, she was an amazing women who loved deeply.

I hope the three of them are there together, where ever that may be. My mother will have the same cheering squad when she goes, because Memere was all-powerful and saintly. She had the 1-800 number to God for the whole of my life. When she died, she came back to me for a long while.

In fact, all of my grandparents came back to me, in specific form, we all knew them when they showed up because we all saw them and interacted with them. When I was sick and going to die. grammy used to come and visit my home.

I know this because I slept with my bedroom door closed. And every morning I would get up to scattered magazines on the floor and the painting on the wall tilted. A friend who was a seer came to my home not long after and grammy was there, waiting for us.

She told him to tell me not to close the bedroom door, for some reason she could not find her way through the door closed. hence I never slept with a closed-door again. She comes to visit often and stands at the foot of my bed. But I see her. If she has that power to come back, then maybe she will share it with my father at some point, and he will find his way back to me eventually.

Sadly, my father has not made the journey back across to see me. That kind of bums me, I kind of wonder if he thinks about me there, and if he sees me from where he is. That is quite a question I have.

I kind of know what redemption feels like because I am still alive. I’ve felt the true power of God in motion. Here on earth. Very few people harness that kind of energy for me. Todd was one of them. The only one for what he was able to do for me.

Surely, if that were God, then I know. I believe that we all have One redeeming Quality, deep within. Deep in my father’s heart there was goodness, kindness and love. It just got buried with all that abuse and crap he went through.

If I know God, like I think I know God, my father was redeemed. And was forgiven. In keeping with thoughts of how good he was, I can forgive him as well. Because God would want that from us, right ?

I know how to turn it over to the care of God as I understand Him, implicitly. Been there, Done that.

Every time I know I am in deep water, spiritually, all I have to do is close my eyes and see Todd in my mind’s eye, and I know God loves me, and all of us.

So I sink into God fully and completely. Without reservation.

Another Sober Holiday Success

18048514-3d-happy-new-year-2018-Stock-Photo

In 1998, at four years sober, every man I knew, at that four year mark, walked out the doors and drank and used again. Including myself.

At that time, it was the messaging, that just solidified my decision to take my life back into my own hands and go out. When an alcoholic walks up to you and says Get Out and Don’t come back … what are you supposed to do, when you figure out, your options at that point are very slim, on the ground.

The day I packed my moving truck, there were sober people standing outside my apartment saying to me … “You think you should think this over again?” “Are you sure, this is what you want to do?”

By the time the truck rolled up, I was resolute. I was going. Nobody was going to stop me. In hindsight, I should have listened, it would have saved me great pain and loss, across the board. It would have saved my sobriety.

In 2001, when Troy walked into my life saying that “He did not drink today,” led me back to the rooms. That Divine prayer I uttered to God, came to pass, as I needed it to, on the timing that I needed it as well. God gave me this little edge. But I know now, everything is on God’s time-table.

I had returned to Miami, and moved to the beach. Where, the first time I got sober, I was in South Miami, IN the city limits, on the mainland. The second time, I was getting sober, ON the beach, in a room, I believed was safe from the prying eyes of those people I had fucked over, on the mainland.

Like they would not talk about whose back and where ? Like nobody would know I was back, “In the rooms, again…” I got sober in the month of December. The worst month to come and attempt sobriety, with the holidays right around the corner.

I had no choice. It was sink or swim.

Thankfully, the men and women who welcomes me the second time, asked me to STAY, they did not TELL me to GO AWAY. I stayed. For those first few weeks, I was safe and insulated. I did not venture far from the SOBE room.

On Christmas Eve, 2001, my friends decided to take me to a Christmas Eve Meeting, In the city, ON the mainland, where I might cross paths with people I knew, and with people who knew me.

I stepped into Poinciana that night. It was a dark, candle lit meeting. Everyone I knew from the first time around was sitting in the room, as I walked in. And you know that look, from people who watched you go, think to themselves, and you know what I am going to write here and say out loud … “Look at that poor sod, back around again.” The look that crossed their faces at me. Pity and Sadness.

That I had to go out, to come back in. I still remember how my friends looked at me that night. If I could have crawled under a rock and disappear, I would have.

On Christmas night, Fonda and Ed, took us all to their house for my first sober holiday meal and fellowship. They took care of me every day that I showed up.

Dr. Bob’s Nightmare …

I spend a great deal of time passing on what I learned to others who want and need it badly. I do it for four reasons:

  1. A sense of Duty
  2. It is a pleasure
  3. Because in doing so I am paying my debt to the men and women who took time to pass it on to me.
  4. Because every time i do it I take out a little more insurance for myself against a possible slip.

Sixteen years have passed now. Sixteen sober holidays in a row. And we can call the holiday season of 2017 a success, because all of our young people are still sober. Having survived their first Sober holiday with us.

Overheard at the meeting tonight:

  • I went to sleep on New Years Eve – Alone
  • I WOKE UP this morning – Sober
  • I did not have to wonder what I did last night
  • My bed was warm and cozy and the sun shone
  • I don’t remember the last time I was sober on New Years Day

At five years sober, I was at our Tuesday meeting, and bitter Bernadette was scheming her holiday plans, thinking out loud to the room, as we listened to her talk.

I’ll be sober on the ground, and drink on the plane, and be sober on the other end. No, maybe I will be drunk on the ground and sober in the air and drunk on the other end … No maybe I’ll just say fuck it and drink all the way across the Atlantic to the UK to see my kids …

I stopped her and spoke these words …

I know you are fresh and vulnerable. I know how you think this scheming is going to work in your favor, but it won’t. If you cannot stay sober, and this trip to see your kids is going to push you to drink, THEN DON’T GO. CHANGE YOUR PLANS… You can CHANGE your plans, you know. You DON’T HAVE TO GO.

She looked at me incredulously. And she asked if I had kids, which I do not. She had kids. ADULT kids, at that. She said that I don’t understand what it is like to be a parent, and I don’t. I responded with this … If your kids are adults, then if you explain the situation to them, about your sobriety, they will understand, if you decide to change your plans and go later, or when you are stronger in sobriety.

She once again looked at me, she grabbed her purse, and walked out of the room, and she never returned. I don’t know what ever became of Bernadette.

It was my first pass at some semblance of sober thinking, at five years sober for me. I thought at the time, that advice was sound. Obviously, it wasn’t, because she was not listening to me at all.

TO THIS DAY, my friends and fellows do not listen to one word I say to them.

Like I have written earlier in the week, my fellows stayed sober, suffering through their first holiday sober. And I said to them, quite confidently the other night that:

Yes, you are sober for Christmas, AND Suffering is entirely OPTIONAL.

They all laughed at me.

Tonight, at the regular Monday meeting, all those kids who laughed at me, were not laughing when they responded with what I wrote above. They were dead sober serious. It was a first for all of them.

Our kids are ALL SOBER TONIGHT.

By the Grace of God and the fellowship of the Program.

Thank God, there is a God and I am NOT HE.

Christmas Dinner – Traditions

IMG_0014 (2)

Growing up, over the holidays, in our home, those holidays were filled with lots of people, lots of food, good conversations, and always ended in heaps of physical abuse.

When we arrived at the final iteration of home, in my 6th grade year, my parents were introduced to social circles that they had never experienced before, as of yet.

Meeting new people always invited others to ones dinner table, over the holidays. Those dinners became the stuff of legends. My mother perfected her cooking while competing for the top spot ranking of who threw the best soiree…

Hands down, my Step mother had this competition IN THE BAG.

We grew up in the company of several local families who hobnobbed together at festive times of the year. My step mom, Nancy (not my real step mom/but close enough), she and Fred had The House, The Wealth, and the Alcohol, to win the grand prize of best party hosts.

My father, as hateful as he was, and as judgmental he was, and as HOMOPHOBIC as he was, relented when it came to dinner parties, even if those dinner parties had invited guests of the HOMOSEXUAL stripe. Elton, Garcia and Bob, were the three gay men I grew up with.

My step mom knew I was gay, before I openly admitted to anyone that I was gay. So did my parents. It was like, they all knew, and nobody told me. However I had, all along, been doing my gay homework, reading the assorted “Material” my father left out, in their bathroom, for public consumption.

I can’t, for the life of me, believe, that my father did not know, I was reading his smut. I mean, you can’t be that stupid to think that if you leave something in the bathroom to read, that someone isn’t going to pick it up and PERUSE …

Yet, after every dinner party, where gay men were on the field, that I could carry on conversations with, that I never carried on with my own father, made him IRATE. And when we arrived home each night, he would beat the shit out of me, hoping to BEAT THE GAY, out of me.

My step mom had the huge house, with the appropriate dinner table that sat an army of men and women, all at the same time. When we were kids, the kids would find themselves at the kids table in the breakfast nook, off the kitchen. Separated from the adults, until we grew up and had “Come of Age” and were invited to dine WITH the adults.

I was telling my friends at dinner tonight, parts of this story, minus the gore.

Nancy taught us social skills, she raised all of the kids/Nee teenagers, into quite well-behaved and respectable young adults. Alcohol was always available to us. When we crossed the room, into the main dining room, with the adults, we had arrived.

The other day, Nancy’s oldest daughter said that she missed mom. Nancy died a couple of years ago, so holidays are a bit bleak for her daughters. Me as well. Because if it was not for Nancy, we would have never had the life experiences we did, growing up.

I told Dawn that yes, mom is gone, and we miss her terribly. But, the silver lining to missing someone is that Mom sure knew how to throw an A-List dinner party with panache and style.

Juan and Nadia are two very important friends. Juan and I have been friends since the day he walked into Sunday Nighter’s more than three years ago. He is still sober.

When Juan and Nadia got engaged, Hubby and I began to include them in special events, or dinner “Double dates.” Bringing friends into your social circle is an important part of growing into well-rounded sober adults.

So it went. Juan and Nadia had gone to Toronto for Christmas with his parents, to visit his brothers and sisters, down south of us. The weather was NOT stellar, so the drive down and back was fraught with danger.

I had decided this year to change-up my guest list. We put off Christmas dinner until this evening, so that Juan and Nadia could have Christmas Dinner at our place tonight.

This dinner was special. Because my in-laws had gifted us a ton of money in HSBC gift cards for The Bay. We really did not have the proper tools to entertain, because we only have the one set of dishes from our wedding registry.

And in Mom’s honor, I wanted to do this the right way.

I shopped new earthen ware dishes, in yellow, hubby shopped cutlery and glasses. I cooked a turkey dinner to feed a small army. We spent all day yesterday cleaning and scrubbing the apartment to standards that aren’t usually seen.

With the stage set for success, today, we did the shopping that needed to be completed for dinner, and this afternoon we cooked.

Dinner was a grand affair. We learned a little bit more about each other. And as a married couple, our jobs, as friends, is to paint a picture of what married life is going to look like, in a general way. Socializing outside of a meeting can be fruitful and is also important. I don’t invite many people to my table.

Out of respect for my elders, my GAY elders, in the rooms, I always invited a particular friend over for holidays. But after my gay friends turned their backs on me over the last year, my jaded and bruised heart was resolute. No more charity for people who aren’t charitable towards me.

Our little spartan kitchen is not huge. And space comes at a premium. And making a grand holiday dinner work, takes a bit of work. I have a system that I have polished over the past sixteen years of holiday dinners. It all worked.

A good time was had by all.

I think I did Mom proud tonight and I know she was smiling down at me.

December 1st: World AIDS Day 2017

world-aids-day

It IS December 1st, in Montreal, at this hour.

On July 8th, 1994, at 12:00 noon exactly, a doctor entered my exam room, sat down, and said these words to me …

“No Better time than the present. Jeremy, You have AIDS, you are going to die. Go Home, Get your affairs in order, time is of the essence.” I thanked him for the information, he gave me five minutes to collect myself, and leave the office.

I went outside, because my friend Ken, the clinic nurse, was nowhere to be found inside. As I looked down at the car, he was sitting on the hood of my car waiting for me. He, in fact, knew, what the doctor knew.

I approached him tentatively and he opened his arms and folded me into them, as HE wept for me. He was the nurse, who cared for all the sick, in the bar we worked at, after hours, for FREE. We saw hundreds to their deaths over those two years.

Now I was one of those men who were going to die.

I’ve shared this entire story with you back in July, as it happened in real-time.

I called my folks, after my boyfriend left me, my friends all bolted for the doors, and could not run away fast enough. I called Todd and his hubby in Provincetown to come home immediately. They did come home, immediately.

I remember meeting Todd at the bar, a couple of days later. We were sitting alone together on the stage, on the main dance floor. I told him that I was sick, and that I was going to die.

Todd Wept…

He took on, taking care of me, because in the end, everyone else had fled. It was too much to bear for any of my fellows AND my family. I had lost everybody.

Todd crafted a plan of action. He chose to save me, when he could have easily walked away, but he did no such thing. Everybody working in the bar was sick, in one way or another.

It was me he chose to focus on.

Hindsight does show me that, in Spiritual terms, Heavenly Father had stepped out of His heaven and walked with me, in real-time, for the whole of Todd’s and my relationship.

Todd saved my life.

Bob was buried in the cemetery across the street from the bar, directly. Todd had lost already, and he knew the drill. After attempting to kill myself a few week later, Todd was at the COPA with my friend Danny and the paramedics, as they revived me from an alcoholic stupor and alcohol poisoning.

Danny took me home and stayed in my apartment for a week, on suicide watch, on Todd’s orders. The following week, I went back to work. I had also gone to my first meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Todd told me that I would get sober, if it killed me, and it almost did, seeing that many of the men in that sober room, were not very sober. As they bet on me like a race horse, waiting for me to go back out and drink again.

Thankfully, Todd’s lover, Roy, was a year sober then, worked at the bar, had a Big Book on his cash register, that we read together. Because for the year prior, while that Big Book was on that register, I asked him, what that Big Book said, because it said BIG BOOK on the front.

His response was always the same:

When you need to know what it says, I will tell you. That took a year to get there.

I did stay sober that first year, despite the assholes who hounded me for a year. I stayed sober another year, and then a third year. At the end of year two, Todd moved to San Francisco, with the entire bar staff.

I was too young to go. Too sick to travel. And in my sick, and deluded fantasies, of my father dying and my eventual moving to be with my mother for the rest of my life, never happened.

I lost my Mother and my Father.

To this very day they still believe, and have said repeatedly that:

I was a MISTAKE and should never have been born.

On July 31st, 2017 – I turned FIFTY years old. I am still alive.

Because of God’s good grace and Todd’s intervention.

When all else failed, ONE human being walked into my life and affected change that changed my life in ways I could never repay. I cannot tell you the price Todd paid in caring for me, personally, and what my illness did to him, because he never batted an eye for one day or even one night.

His love never wavered. His Words were Gospel. His cup overflowed every day that I remained alive, under his watch.

YOU never know when YOU may save a life, in being there for another human being.

AIDS is still a disease that kills. Not like it killed indiscriminately, back in the day, because there were no drugs to come by, or speak of. No doctors to take care of us. Only a woefully prepared group of physicians in MOON SUITS, who did not know their asses from a hole in the ground.

It was total MAYHEM and FEAR, unlike any fear I had ever seen.

My friends suffered terribly. Doctors treated them indignantly and in death they all died alone, save myself, Ken and a few others who sat death watch for over 100 men who died on our watches.

I skated by, by the grace of God, and Marie Wansiki, who ran the local 411 Drug Farm, Health Link, they collected drugs from dead men’s medicine cabinets. Repackaged them and gave them to us for free. That was the beginning.

In year two, was when I met my first real AIDS doctor, who set out to continue to save my life. And get me drugs that did the job quite well.

In 2002, Eight years later, I landed in Montreal, and found the doctor I have today. He treated patent ZERO. He maintains my care to this day. For all the years that followed, my agreement with my doctor is this: He gives me new drugs that our medical GROUP test among ourselves, if they work, they go to the government for national and international dissemination world-wide.

I am still alive – At fifty years of age. And almost Twenty Five years from Diagnosis.

I did DRINK and USE again, in year FOUR the first time around. I returned to Alcoholics Anonymous on December 9th, 2001.

In just a little while from now, on December 9th 2017, by the Grace of Heavenly Father, I will reach SIXTEEN YEARS Clean and Sober.

Today we stop to remember. So many died. Horribly. Undignified. Alone. Family less, friend-less, lover-less.

I will never forget the debts that I owe Todd and Ken.

I will forever be grateful for my life, because without Todd, read GOD, I would certainly have died a very long time ago.

Remember them.