The Blue Footed Boobie in the Room

I’m the Blue Footed Boobie in the room.

A long time ago, Todd taught me the lesson about approval. In short, the lesson of approval was this … I don’t need approval, (in the context of work) from anyone, if I know I did the best job I could.

Because one day, you might work for an asshole who will abuse you and not respect you, nor say anything nice to you, so you need to learn how to be nice to yourself, in any situation, by doing the best job you can all the time.

That lesson still sticks with me today.

I’ll tell you a story. When I was a kid growing up, my parents were really strict at what I could have and what I could not. For the longest time, while I was an athlete in school, over the years, they did not allow me to have certain clothing items, shoes, cleats for sports. If I bought them, I had to keep them in my locker at school, for safe keeping.

They also kept us on a short leash when it came to clothing. Not that clothing was that big a thing back in the 80’s. I did go through my Duran Duran clothing phase in high school, and that was allowed, but only to a certain degree.

When I moved to this apartment, I became a collector. I love shoes. Especially shoes my parents would never allow me to buy, let alone, wear outside the house. I have a modest shoe collection, for every outfit, I have corresponding shoe color or style. And also several sneakers sets.

A few years ago, when my Diabetes was in good shape and I was loosing weight by the month, I met a few men on Instagram who made clothing. Athleisure tights and shirts. I was like, I could rock that look, and since that time a couple of years ago, I never looked back. My tights collection is quite extensive, and I wear them all year round, even in Winter, with the appropriate under gear, warm base layers beneath.

Like I said I am the Blue Footed Boobie in the room. I see some of my straight friends rock tights, WITH SHORTS on over them, because they would not be caught dead, wearing tights alone, for the “man factor.”

That’s what my friend Jeffrey calls, “the modesty pad” that comes with his clothing line for those men who want to be a bit more discreet, with their packages.

Most men like my clothing, although some crotchety old timer, traditionalist call me the “wearing my underwear in public guy.” They just cannot fathom wearing something like that themselves. I buck the dress code for sure, and some traditionalist think I am a bit irreverent, and non-conformist, and inappropriate for social gathers (read: Meetings).

I’ve learned in sobriety that “What people think of me is none of my business.” However, I do get upset when someone makes an unsolicited comment in the negative to me. I bite my tongue and walk away. I try not to respond. Then I come home and I ruminate over it all that night long. And have conversations in my head about what I would say if I had the balls to say it.

My collar – like a friend said this morning that “It locks me to the most important relationship I have, with (Todd:Read:God). I’ve written about this in another post, but, the collar is a substantial piece of clothing, re/Jewelry that a Dom can give his sub. It marks us a “Taken” “Loved” “Respected.” it is the highest honor a Dom can bestow on his sub, because our Dom’s think us worthy of wearing an item of clothing that links us to our respective Dom, in a way others are not privy to.

When I got my collar, it was just that; a linking back to the time when I was most loved and cared for by the one man who knew me inside and out, good and bad, good kid and trouble maker. He knew I was up for trouble, and so to curb that, He claimed me as His, in the way Doms do.

The Dom/sub relationship is part of the Leather subculture. Folks today, in the rooms, would not get it. The one word I heard from a Lady Friend the other Sunday morning when I was working at the Old Brewery Mission, Homeless shelter was this … she said … “Oh that’s all about BONDAGE.” I did not correct her, because she need not the deep dive story in full.

Leather is not all about bondage, where I come from. it is partly that, but not all that. Where love in concerned, Todd loved me. And I knew that. He took me in and cared for me, and marked me as His, because, for all purposes, I was.

My community was dynamic, while it was still alive and viable. But in the end, only two of us were left standing when everyone else had died. Mark and I are the only two survivors from that sinking ship. If it were not for Todd, I would have been a casualty myself.

I told my friend John, on the way home last night, I don’t know why I lived, because those first two years were hellish and we really did not have the medication to keep us alive. It was all Todd, 100%.

All I had were experimental drugs found in dead folks medicine cabinets, that were passed on to me before I found a doctor in year three. In a different city altogether.

So my collar is a source of consternation, because people have their preconceived notions about it, and some are not shy about sharing those notions with me, even if they are way off base. I do not wear it to wrangle people, I wear it for me, because it keeps me centered on

Todd:Read:God.

It keeps me humble and reminiscent of those years that mattered so much to me because:


“IT WAS THE BEST OF TIMES AND IT WAS THE WORST OF TIMES.”

Charles Dickens…

I don’t tell the entire story to just anyone, because what will they do with it, tell other people, share it behind my back, would they keep my confession confidential and sacred? I don’t think so, because not everybody is steeped in BRENE BROWN and the ANATOMY OF TRUST.

I dress to look good to me, it has nothing to do with outward necessity of approval or consternation. I might not consciously be thinking about approval, but in the background, like a dos program, I might want to hear that “yes, I look damn good in my clothes.” Who does not want to hear “Hey, you look good in that!”

For that momentary rush of satisfaction.

Flower Basket Tights

Yes, I can rock that look, because somebody noticed and said something nice. One night I was at a bus stop waiting for a bus, wearing my Flower Basket tights, they are RAD, and a guy driving by, stopped his car in the middle of traffic to say …”Hey, I love your tights man!”

I will never grow up to be an old, miserable, frumpy old man, like many of my friends are. They could never see themselves rocking clothing or jewelry like I do today. And maybe, like I was told earlier this morning, it might spark something within them, not necessarily right now, but maybe farther down the road. I just want to be free to be me, as I am.

I don’t know how much longer I am going to live, so I try to live my best life, for me right now, wearing clothing I like, loving the people I love, and respecting the most important relationship I’ve ever had:

TODD Read GOD.

Yes, this is all about me. And if you came from the world I came from, you’d live for you too. Damn the torpedoes, and full steam ahead …

You might not like, or question my choices, but like Brene Brown says, do not become party to Common Enemy Intimacy .. If you don’t have nothing nice to say, come sit by me …

I don’t tell people everything about my life, because I don’t trust them to keep my words confidential. If I don’t know you and you are not someone I trust, I am not gonna tell you my most intimate secrets and stories, Period!!

So I get rattled when someone says something that just reeks of judgment. it is not very sober behavior on their part. I think people should know better than to shoot off their mouths with me, when those folks who do that, are not “Friends” of mine. They don’t know me, nor do I know them either. They see me in the rooms, and because I am always present they feel they can offer me unsolicited advice, because I guess they feel emboldened to say whatever they feel is appropriate at that moment, feelings be damned.

I’d rather people I am not intimately connected to, to just, “Shut the fuck up and leave me alone.” Keep your shit to yourself.

I’m in a meeting to stay sober, to stay stopped. If you are my friend, all the better for both of us. But I know MANY people, I see MANY people on a nightly basis, for years and years, and people know me for me because I am always reliable and there.

I make the room hum, before anybody sets foot in the room for that first cup of coffee. I know people, I just don’t KNOW many people intimately, except what they tell me in confidence.

My collar is a confidence story.

If I am not confident you will respect my story and hold it respectfully, then I don’t owe you that story. People fear what they don’t know, and they don’t necessarily respect a certain backstory. But my story is also a sober story, so we have that in common.

Just not my Todd Story. That’s mine and mine alone.

Just some thoughts.

Disrespect …

Tonight, like every other night, I did my service. I get there early, I do my job, then I sit and wait for folks to show up.

I don’t owe anyone the privilege of the explanation and the telling of the story of the collar I wear, and why I wear it. I reserve that right to only explain myself to those closest to me.

One of those women arrived early and she inquired, and I told her the truth, and she understood my truth, and respected my choice. This is my life and my statement of self.

A second lady showed up and sat with us, as we talked, and from her mouth came these words: “Jeremy, why are you wearing that piece of shit necklace? It looks like shit, you should take it off.”

Bitch …

It is obvious that since the day I put this collar on, people have been judging me left and right, and seem to know the truth, and they tell me what they think it means, however, no one has come close.

It seems, what I wear dictates how people treat me in public, in meetings, so to speak. They see something different, they make a judgment call, and they run with it.

I will not be disrespected. Period !!!

That’s the problem with straight people, and alcoholics are lumped in that grouping, because all of my friends, be they men or women, are straight. I haven’t seen many gay fellows I know, and for that matter, they want nothing to do with me, so that is a non issue.

Most of the men I hang with, have said nothing to the negative about my choices lately. They treat me with respect and dignity.

Other alcoholics, not so much.

If you cannot respect me then keep your fucking mouth shut. I don’t owe you an explanation, if you don’t really matter to my life. You can sit and wonder.

The Collar Story in Full

When I was a boy, merely 25 years old, I met Todd the first night I walked into his bar. i was looking for trouble and he knew that from the first time he set eyes on me.


We had a conversation, and if you looked into Todd’s eyes, you would have thought that you were looking into the eyes of God, Jesus. I knew from that moment I needed to know him. And so I set out a plan to work for him, which did come to pass, soon thereafter.

I don’t know if you are familiar with gay subculture, it might not be something you’ve ever encountered before. But before i got sick (at 26) a year and a few months prior, Todd opened a second bar, where I was employed.It was a rough and tumble leather bar. You know, leather clothing, rough and tumble clientele, all that jazz.

It was the world I sought out, after the education in Gay I got from my father, I knew exactly what it was I was looking for, and the night I first met Todd, he knew that as well, without ever having me to explain it to him. There was only one reason I walked into his bar, and it wasn’t for pleasant conversation.

When I got sick, and told Todd I was going to die, he told me Not on his watch.

Todd became my Master, My Protector, My Guide, My Friend, all the while he was my employer.

Every man in our world knew that Todd was on my side, and they knew, by His Words, never to touch me or engage me physically or sexually.

I was protected from the get go, without my knowledge at that time. He passed a decree in the bar, and everybody obeyed his rules while under his roof. Nobody ever touched me. And I did not have sex with anyone for a very long time. It was a bitter pill after I had found the holy grail of what I really desired, but Todd, like I said, knew that from the get go, and he knew that if I was allowed to explore my darkest fantasies, I would end up in real trouble or even dead.

Too many of my young brothers got mixed up with the wrong men and all of them died. I was the only one who lived in that grouping along with my friend mark, who now lives in Florida. He was the dj in the bar. And I worked with him too in the dj booth.

In the beginning when I was in my head about death, Todd has to curb me in and sort me out. And the relationship we formed did that for me, because he knew what he was doing, and I am still alive here with you, so he did something right from the beginning.


The chain and lock, is a significant item of clothing between two men. We call it a collar. The collar, in our world, signifies that we have been spoken for, because the man who provided it to us, is the man we are in relation to. it is a ritualistic piece of clothing, because it is not an item freely given to just anyone. But it shows that the man who gives it, thinks we are worthy to wear it, and respect the man who gave it to us. It marks us as untouchable to other men in the leather world, that we are “Spoken for.”
And other men see that outward token on us and they know to leave us alone. 

Wearing a collar is an outward sign of inward desire. Todd will always be the man who saved my life. He was the Master of my sinking ship, that he kept from sinking. Nobody else did that for me. He chose me to save, and he could have saved any random other boy in that bar, but before all the others he chose me. He loved me. And I knew that. And for the rest of my life I think of him daily when I get up in the morning and I am still alive.

You know, I am tired of some of our sober men in the rooms. All I get from them is critical judgment about my weight, my body, and my choice of clothing. And that irks me to no end. because I am not going to become a fifty plus year old frumpy miserable man, like they are.


I fucking work my ass off, I am in the book, I work with others, and I do service. I do a hell of a lot more than many of those men, but they would never criticize my sobriety openly, because I work my ass off and they come and sit in judgment and are miserable. And I see that and I know what I’ve done, and how I got here. And I know what they do not do on any given day in sobriety.

Yesterday morning I went to Home Depot and bought the chain and lock I am wearing right now, because it reminds me of the commitment I had with Todd and that he had with me, and how he loved me more than any other boy in the world then. And I thought to myself that I would no longer hide the most important part of who I am because of some assholes in the meeting, if they cannot deal they can go fuck themselves.

Nobody can take my story away from me, because I am the ONLY gay man who survived AIDS on the English side, Everyone else is dead, and all the gay men we know together, don’t want anything to do with me, because of their prejudices and judgments. You saw how they treated me when I was at my worst when we were at that Monday meeting for those 14 months.
So I am wearing an outward sign of inward desire.

Todd is in my heart and in my soul, and honoring that man for the rest of my life, as I do, just grew out in another dimension in my outward life.

It does not make me sick, or demented. Because most straight men, think I am demented to begin with, so that is a no brainer.

It just means I was loved, by a man who saved my life, when I was supposed to die. The last word I will utter on my death bed will be Todd’s name.

Friday Night

My friend Jacob, in his Rocket Tights from LED Queens. I have a pair myself.

Tonight we had a great discussion about One Day at a Time.

And I thought to myself, how crazy my life once was. This being July and all, and I reflect on my life, as it turned out. From what it began as twenty five years ago. Then I was age 26.

When I got sick, I could not focus my thoughts, until I learned how to do that, thanks to Todd. I relate this story, as it happened.

The week I was diagnosed, I had gone to the store and bought poster board squares. I plastered them to my kitchen wall, and drew out a calendar, for three months. I numbered the months, as usual. And I began counting the day until I was supposed to die.

I had 576 days … according to my doctor.

I was waiting to die. This was even before I got suicidal. And that episode go me into recovery, at Todd’s insistence.

His lover, Roy, was my first sponsor. He came over the house one day and saw my calendar on the wall, and asked me what I was doing ? I told him, “counting the days until I die…”

He stepped into the kitchen and ripped the calendar off the wall and tore it up into pieces. He then said, You are not going to do this.

When he left, I went out and bought more poster board, and did it again, the same reaction happened. I then did it a third time. And once again, he ripped them down off the wall.

Over the next eighteen months, Todd taught me focus and control. He gave me a method to cope. And it worked famously.

I lived.

But, for the longest time, I was living with one foot on the floor, and the other on a banana peel. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because, I was still waiting to die.

I was sick for a long time. But I felt that my suffering was salvific. And that if God has a sense of humor, he would not let me die, miserably, like all of my friends did.

I lived.

The change happened, I reckoned tonight, about the ten year mark, that would have been in 2004. I was already living here in Montreal, and my doctor treated patient Zero, the French Flight Attendant.

He promised me life. A good life. If I followed his direct orders, which I followed dutifully.

I guess, at some point, in this sober time period, I was more consumed with staying sober, and not thinking about Dying.

My Higher Power was working for me. God, that is …

I stopped waiting to die. Finally.

In the last eighteen years, my life got BIG. And my life got good. At the thirteen year mark, going into fourteen, all 12 Promises had come true, Albeit, very slowly. But they did.

A friend said, tonight, that the main ingredient for a good life in sobriety, all has to do with one thing… GRATITUDE.

He said that if you can be grateful every day, you will stay sober. Despite yourself.

I concur.

Spiritual awakening happen at the oddest times, and we don’t necessarily realize what they are until they are in the rear view mirror and you have some hindsight behind you to look back and say …

Oh Yeah, that WAS a GOD moment, wasn’t it …

Grateful.

We Will Lose Interest in Selfish Things

They say, or it has been said, “That at some point, you are going to hear someone tell your story.”

When it comes to storytelling, there is not another human being, on the English side, who has a story like mine. All the men I knew, in early sobriety, who had AIDS, are long since dead. I am the last.

Which leaves a sparse gay community of men, in my social circle, who are still alive today. I don’t have anything to do with those gay men, because our community is quite fractured.

Reciprocal friendships are hard to come by.

I am grateful that I have a handful of reciprocal friends. It may be a character defect that, people might think of us, by the by, and make the out call. I don’t sit at home and wait for an out call. I cannot be bothered to do that today.

I spoke about the Old Brewery Mission Meeting, that I attend on Sunday mornings. I like my Mission folks. They are great men and women. The Matriarchs are headed to Egypt right now for a three week tour of Cairo, the Nile river, and Saqqara.

The cycle of speaker/chair was interrupted Sunday. So I stepped in to chair and one of my friends, was asked to speak, as we restart the chain again.

Like I said above, at some point someone is gonna tell your story. I also said that nobody in this city, has my specific story. But, I heard my friend, on Sunday, tell his story. There are common themes between us.

When we drink and/or use, that theme is a constant because, if you are in the room, you abused the drink and the drugs. I’ve been dissecting my story over the years, and I can say that, when I was much younger, I was a good kid. I was a good son (take that or leave it), I was a good citizen, a good employee, and I was responsible, until alcohol took over.

As a younger employee, I really was not interested in drinking all the time, it wasn’t something I did regularly. Only when invited out to drink with friends, or when we threw a party in high school.

When alcohol was present, I became absent. I know this.

I had some of the best jobs a kid could have, growing up. I did really well, under pressure, and I did my job, as was needed.

When I moved away from home, with the delusion that was given to my inner memory bank, I was of single vision.

“Drink your way in, Wait for fireworks.”

I had eyes for one particular apartment, in a particular complex, that I clearly could not afford. I had a new car, that I could not afford either, and I had a job, that I went to, but in the end, everything was lost.

It is amazing to me, how selfish I became when it came to the procurement of alcohol. You cannot imagine, the amounts of alcohol I poured into my system on a weekly basis. And how narrow my honesty became.

The alcohol might have “gotten me in the door” but it did not “keep me in the club,” so to speak. Addicts and Alcoholics will lie, cheat and steal from their mothers, to score …

I justified my alcoholism against the abuse heaped upon me by my father. I called it Pay Back. All the lies I told, to hit my father where it hurt, worked.

I got the car.

But a lifetimes worth of resentments followed. And my father went to his grave, never knowing me, or even speaking my name on his deathbed.

We believe, for a while, that the drink and the drugs work, because we are getting one over on everybody else. Until that stops working.

OR

UNTIL A STOP SIGN APPEARS….

Like my friend on Sunday, we both got hit with the Stop Sign.

We both got deathly ill, and death WAS a foregone conclusion. We were both supposed to die. Thankfully, we are both, still, very alive.

We both knew what we did, once doctors told us we were going to die. My friend had serious health issues, that he found a work around to drink. Even at the worst of times, he figured out how to get and drink alcohol.

In my worst of time, waiting for the other shoe to drop, was excruciating. I was watching what was going on around me, in real time. The very ugly, painful, miserable, march to death, for my friends with AIDS.

I knew what was coming, and I had decided from the get go that I was not going to go out that way. I wasn’t doing drugs so much, but I was surely drinking to kill myself. As fast as I could hasten death, would have been good.

My friend, at his blotto end, found recovery, via rehabilitation.

I did not.

Rehab came to me, in the guise of Todd (read:God).

I had a room to go to. And I had a job. The room was not so healthy for me, neither was the bar, because what right alcoholic in recovery, makes his money working in a bar, of all places ?

I did. Because Todd was my boss.

All those negative things we do in active addiction, at some point, comes to a halt. And we have a choice to make. Go on to the bitter end, or we decide to live.

Selfish things, became something I was made aware of early on. The easiest way to change this tape, in our heads, is to actively do work against our wills.

Those would be: Hitting a meeting, or working with others.

I did hit meetings. but more importantly, I did not only work with others, I worked for others. Todd knew, that the less I thought about ME, or thought about what was going on in my head, the better.

The Brain/Thought Partition method worked wonders.

My friend having lived this long, volunteers several days a week, at Hospitals, Rehabs, and the Old Brewery Mission. He knows what to do today, to lengthen his life.

It was through hard work, on a daily basis, that saved me. You cannot avoid the specter of death, when everyone around you is dying. And selfishly, they choose to drink and drug themselves sick, into death. I watched this selfish behavior go on under our roof.

True, that family, friends, lovers, and employers had tossed all of these very sick men to the curb to die alone. We could not care for so many, all at once. It was way too much to take in and handle.

It was truly the worst of times.

But, there were some of us, who did whatever we could, on a nightly basis, to ease the pain, somewhat. We had what were, at the time, the best healthcare providers, we could find. Because there were NO dedicated doctors or clinics.

Hospitals would begrudgingly take AIDS patients into lock down, sterile wards, as nurses and doctors would MOON SUIT UP to touch us, fearing for their own lives, like we were there to INFECT THEM, by our mere presence in their wards. That was truly heartless and cruel.

Friends, seeing what had gone on with patients in hospitals, decided that they would never go to a hospital. But die, outside, on their own terms. Is that selfish ? I mean, really, when you have no choice, but to take what is left of your life, into your own hands, what is the other viable choice?

Todd knew many things about me. He knew how destructive I could become, if left alone. He also knew, the dark inner sanctum of my heart, and he went to great lengths to keep me at arms length from any man, who walked into the bar on any given night.

He was protecting me from myself, across the board.

You cannot remain selfish, when the work you do, every night, is working with others, or for others. I had a job. A really great job. I loved that job.

I wish I could go back in time and revisit that time, with one proviso: All the people who were there, need to be there again.

The Promises speak of many things changing, as we get sober. They don’t all come at once, and for sure, they might take a lifetime. I know how long they took to come to me.

The job we have in sobriety, is to be vigilant, on all those warnings that the Promises speak of, as changing. If we remain in our alcoholic stupor, we will suffer the negatives, for as long as they are given fuel.

We have a choice in sobriety, which wolf we are going to feed.

Illness, with a death diagnosis, does not discriminate.

When it comes to death, when someone mentions that word within a share, I sit up and listen. That commonality, is stark among us. People get sick, some get better, or end up in remission. But a good percentage do die.

Death is the end for everyone.

For some of us, we have faced our death days, and lived to tell the tale.

Which I do proudly, whenever I get the chance.

If you want to get OUT of yourself, work with OTHERS.

When Hope Fails …

This piece was written by my Spiritual Director. I wanted to share it, AND write on this subject, because I have experience with Hope.

When Hope Fails

I was talking with someone who has decided not to hope any more. “Why?” I asked. “Because when the hope is unfulfilled, it hurts too much, so it’s better not to hope.”

There’s something wrong with that. But I understand it.

Proverbs 13:12
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but when dreams come true, there is life and joy.”

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.
“but when dreams come true, there is life and joy”

I want to talk about hope a bit today. And I want to start in the Psalms.

Psalm 33:13-22
13 The LORD looks down from heaven
and sees the whole human race.
14 From his throne he observes
all who live on the earth.
15 He made their hearts,
so he understands everything they do.
16 The best-equipped army cannot save a king,
nor is great strength enough to save a warrior.
17 Don’t count on your warhorse to give you victory– for all its strength, it cannot save you.

God has a wonderful perspective of us and our little things. Nothing is hidden from his eternal, creating eyes.

He is able to see the whole human race, every heart, every mind, every one of our thousand secrets.

He’s able to see your motivations, that indeed you meant well even if it didn’t come out as you had hoped.

He created the hearts of men and women, to beat and beat and beat and give them life and breath. And Hopes and Dreams.

So, it says, “He understands”. Like no one else in creation.

He understands our desires. He understands our wishes. He understands our hopes. He understands our dreams.

He understands, and wants to remind us that sometimes our perspective isn’t great. Sometimes we can only see from here to the other side of the room. He see’s into eternity.

See, we often place our hope in the wrong things.

He reminds us…
A powerful army isn’t strong enough for a king. A good horse won’t give you victory, it can’t save you.

Strength won’t save us, neither will might.

The health system, blessed as we are to have it, won’t save us.
The government can’t save us.

We place our hopes in these powerless things.

We hope in due process. In the legal system.
We hope in our money, to provide a way out.
We hope in others to help us out.
We hope a relationship will work out.
We hope for a great job.
We hope in our children to make the right choices.
We hope for great presents.
We hope in our parents, to be perfect.
We hope that the pastor will have some answers.
We hope to roll up the rim and win!

Yet John 16:33 says “In me you will have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Take Heart!

What happens when our strength isn’t enough? When our armies fail and our warhorses are not enough? What happens when hope fails and is deferred?

Lets continue in Psalm 33

18 But the LORD watches over those who fear him,
those who rely on his unfailing love.
19 He rescues them from death
and keeps them alive in times of famine.

Remember the one who’s perspective is from eternity?
The one who see’s everyone, who knows your heart?

He says he will watch over those who respect Him.

Those of you who rely on his unfailing love.
He will rescue you from the anguish of death. He will keep you from eternal death, and provide you with eternal life.

And, he will keep you as you live through seasons of famine. Not just physical hunger, but emotional hunger, spiritual dryness.

He won’t always stop the famine from coming, but he is able to keep you alive through it!!!

He won’t always stop the illness, or the poverty, or the joblessness, or the dryness. But he can keep you alive through it.

He will walk with you through the hopelessness. Through the heartsickness of unanswered hope.

You see, often we place our hopes in the things that can’t save us. In the temporary things that we can’t change. In our power and might.

We may even place our hope in Christ to change the story, the situation, yet that may not be the very best for us.

When our hope is deferred…
When it feels like God has not heard us…

We have 2 choices.

1. Get bitter
-Get angry. At God and humanity. And yourself.
-Never hope again because it always fails you anyway.

Or

2. Trust in God. Refocus your hope.

Remember, the one who loves you, who knows you, who made you.
When hope fails, we need to raise it up a level.

PSALM 33
20 We depend on the LORD alone to save us.
Only he can help us, protecting us like a shield.
21 In him our hearts rejoice,
for we are trusting in his holy name.
22 Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.

When our only hope is in man’s strength and ability, and that fails, it means we’ve been aiming to low. We need to lift our focus higher.

Only He can help us. Only He can protect us as life goes on all around us.

Because our hearts rejoice in him. They find life and meaning in knowing Him.

A few weeks ago I attended the funeral of a friend who had been ill for some time.
1970’s heart attack. Heart disease for years.
Put on a heart transplant list, became too ill for that.

As he was dying, and his human hope was deferred a final time, he was able to rejoice and be glad. Because he knew the one who knew him. He trusted in God and his heart rejoiced.

For his family too. The funeral was a real, true celebration of hope. And Gods faithfulness through life and in death.

This is how it is possible for those who have experienced tremendous brokenness and hopelessness, to actually rejoice and be glad. Because they knew the maker of their hearts.

Where is your true hope? In the things of this earth? Or in the things of Heaven?

Have you had hope deferred, even by God? He who knows and created your human heart understands.

Lift up your eyes, your broken hearts.
Trust the one with the higher perspective. Trust in God.

This is my story about HOPE.

When one is faced with a terrible situation, and the end of the line is your next stop, one really learns about hope. When we are faced with odds that are against us, we learn about hope. When doctors tell you that you are going to die, go home, kiss your ass goodbye, and wait to die …

You learn what hope is. Because before you get there, hopelessness really does set in, because there is no light at the end of the tunnel. And the light you do see, is the train coming at you, at 100 miles per hour.

Before hope sets in, if the odds are really dire, you think to yourself, that “no, I’m not gonna die that way, so I am going to take matters into my own hands, and do what I think is best for me.” ” No, I am gonna kill myself, my own way, so as to defer sickness and pain, in the short term.”

Then, GOD steps out of Heaven, and says … STOP !

Heaven is always respectful of our free will. Heaven never pushes itself on us, but holds its breath, to see which way we will choose ?

I had two choices. I could STOP, or I could go to the bitter end, and blot out the suffering, until Death did come for me, on my twisted terms.

I know God. I’ve met Him. I walked with Him, and I communed with Him.

God had other ideas. Hope was not one of them, because there was no hope. True, I was gonna die, sooner or later. I knew that. But words were spoken, out of love and compassion.

Those words told me that I did have a choice, about how I was going to attack death, and live to tell the story. That was he decision I made.

God was there. I was not alone. All I needed to do was follow directions.

Now, you might ask, how did you find the path to hope ? I didn’t.

I don’t know how you bounce back from being told, “You are going to die, there is no hope, so get on the ride, and ride it.”

Sometimes, when you are marked for death, there is no return. Sadly, the percentages of life after death diagnosis are slim. I’ve seen both sides of this coin in as many years. I know, that sometimes people die. That illness and sickness is capricious.

I can tell you what I did, every day.

Inside the four walls of the bar I worked in, was a safe space. The good thing about psychology is this, “sometimes it works.”

I had much going on in my mind at that time. Worries that were beyond my capacity to grasp them. I had serious issues. Death, was just one of them. My alcoholism was the other. I had to attack BOTH at the same time.

Needless to say, life had become Hopeless.

I was not moaning over the fact that I could not drink any longer. Once I got passed the point of acceptance, drinking became a non issue. I was working in the belly of the beast, in a BAR, for God’s sake.

Really, death was the only dance I had to dance.

I had to start stacking alive days. So we could say, in Jimmy Settle terms, was that July 8th 1994, was my first death day.

Every day forwards would become another “death day.”

I came to work. But the day this all began, it was a challenge. I was loved, and that’s what mattered. I was told that I could follow directions, and if I did, I would live. I was down for that from the get go, no matter how hard I battled against my worse nature, because I kicked and screamed and cried an awful lot, in those first few months.

But I listened to advice, and I did what I was told. And every day that I lived, I trusted in the advice given. Come to work. Leave the baggage of the outside world, OUTSIDE the door. When you cross the threshold, the only thing you need to think about, is the job you are given, on any given night, and ONLY that.

Getting to shut off my brain, for a few hours, on a nightly basis, worked.

I did not have to think about dying, inside. Because I watched it come for everybody else around me, in the patrons who were sick, who patronized the bar I worked in.

They all Died. I survived them all.

I stacked enough days, that when I got to my literal “death day,” and I was still alive, I went on with life. I don’t think you can call this hope, because, I was still very sick, and death, was still a “Clear and Present Danger.”

When you live with “Clear and Present Danger” one learns how to govern expectations, and life itself.

I have twenty five years of living with Clear and Present Danger.

I take nothing for granted.

I’m no longer hopeless. I don’t suffer from a three fold disease, Mental, Physical and Spiritual disease. Alcoholism is an every day job. Living is a bit higher on that list. As long as I live, and I don’t drink today, I have a fighting chance.

If I take my will back and decide that I am going to go it alone, I am literally FUCKED !!!

I know God. I’ve met Him. If I close my eyes, and sit still and be quiet, I can see Him in my minds eye, and I can even hear His voice.

I’m alive. And if you find hope in this story, then I did my job.

Hope comes, when you stack enough ALIVE DAYS together, and you live, longer than you thought you would, not only does hope come, but more importantly, GRATITUDE comes.

Gratitude does amazing things when you have no hope. Because if you can be grateful for one thing a day, there is hope.

You cannot have hope and NOT be grateful, because a by product of gratitude is hope.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.

The Lisbon Patient

A number of years ago, back in 1993, the year prior to my AIDS diagnosis, a serious problem began to arise in communities, that were thought to be anomalies. That problem was HETEROSEXUAL Elderly Men and Women, who became infected with AIDS.

In Fort Lauderdale, in those times, the ratio of Women to Men were 10 to 1. For every man living in any condo community, there were upwards of 10 Women. It became apparent that those men and women were sexually active, either between themselves, or with others, outside of any specific community. If the virus was introduced to a community, Women were becoming a serious statistic.

We called it the “CONDO COMMANDO EFFECT.”

Educational awareness programs were begun. And the AIDS crises centers and Planned Parenthood got involved. It just so happened that the first test center I visited, was a Planned Parenthood office, in Fort Lauderdale.

So nobody can tell me that Planned Parenthood was not useful.

The story I can share about this time, was that after my test results came back Negative, we also learned, in hindsight, that the test results of AIDS patients who WERE actually positive, came back Negative. However, an entire community of elderly people, were mistakenly diagnosed with AIDS, when we learned that test results were mistakenly switched with a living facility and an AIDS test clinic.

The other night, a report was shown on the CTV National news about a man who is 99 years old. And has been living with AIDS for more than twenty five years. He was actually infected in his seventies. Because they said, in the report, that he has been living with AIDS for a quarter of a century. Which would turn into a window in his seventies. The physician treating him, also said, that he believed that the man had been INFECTED years earlier.

The television news report was focused on the man’s LONGEVITY.

Longevity is a key indicator of life expectancy for people living with AIDS. Because when I was diagnosed there were no specialized doctors, but those who worked off hours, hunting for needles in a haystack and drawing at straws to try and keep people alive, against the odds.And there were no drugs to take either, not for another handful of years to come.

I was one of those people.

I crossed the twenty five year mark this year. Today I am 51 years old. I survived several death calls, and live to tell the tale.

They say that the reason the Lisbon Patient is still alive, is because of his lifestyle, his attention to life, AND his taking his pills religiously, every day.

They did not name him or show is face, because his family fears retribution and hatred. It seems, even in Lisbon, AIDS is not a very welcome illness.

We know today that AIDS has moved from a terminal death sentence to a daily managed chronic illness.

I lived through phase two of the AIDS crisis. I was a second generation gay man who contracted AIDS in the mid nineties. I know of some men, who were diagnosed much, much earlier, in the eighties.

Very few of those men survived. However, there are pockets of men in San Francisco, Chicago and New York, who did live, and still live today.

Out of the 500 men who were diagnosed in my Social Circle, only two of us are still alive. My friend Mark, who lives in Florida, he was diagnosed years before I was, and then, myself.

Longevity and Quality of life are paramount when dealing with ANY Chronic Illness or Terminal Disease. After a few years waiting to die, when I did not die, I went to work for Cedar’s Sinai Cancer Hospice, where I spent time working with people who were very ill. Some of them survived, many did not.

My experience, strength and hope was not wasted.

I was very lucky that I had the right doctors, who believed in very specific treatment strategies back in the day. In 1996, I moved to Miami, in search of a doctor that specialized in AIDS treatment. I believe he set me on the path to living a long life, because he took care of the TOTAL patient. We had comprehensive IV, drug, treatment, mental and social treatment.

That founding treatment set my body up for success.

When I moved to Canada and met my doctor I have today, he promised me a long life, if in trade, I did him a favor. For more than ten years, I tested every drug that went into market here in Canada. We saved lives for sure.

I can tell that story confidently, because I am still alive.

AIDS in our fifties is another story about Longevity.

The Lisbon Patient shows us that men in their late nineties, who live with AIDS, as a chronic Illness, survive.

The Lisbon Patient is a Rubicon. Something we should all look at as example of what can be possible, if we too, take care of ourselves.

It’s all about LONGEVITY.