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.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
We’ve all done things, that we might not want to own up to. It is difficult watching the massive amount of strife going on all around us.
The easy out for what ails us here in Canada, is N.I.M.B.Y. (Not in my back yard). It is far too easy to just turn the channel and ignore what is going on in the world, but I cannot.
In the past little while, a good number of the women I grew up with for the last 40 years, have stated truths, that I had no idea had happened. What do you say to your friends, when they say, out loud, that they too, have been sexually assaulted as young girls.
In a time when we all spent inordinate amounts of time together, sharing meals, homes, and bedrooms. Somewhere in the middle of our lives going on, my friends were violated.
I had no idea.
Human beings are flawed. None of us are perfect. Show me a human being without a skeleton in their closet. I was raised by parents who had skeletons in their closets.
I was having a conversation in my head the other day with the brother who refuses to acknowledge my existence, when I ponder my dead father, and the possibility that my mother will die, and as I was told, nobody would tell me. So I talk to them in my head, when I sleep.
How can you be angry at me for my choices, when it was You to begin with who pushed me out into the street alone, with no street smarts, and left me to the wind, because you could not reconcile your skeleton with my reality.
My father abused me, in every way possible.
So when my friends say, out loud, their truths, I can safely admit that I get it. I understand.
They call it the Reckoning …
The world has exploded and chaos reigns at the moment. It is not safe for any of us, right at the moment. It has been said by wiser men than I that, “People who forget the past, are doomed to repeat it…”
Drinking is not an outside issue for many of us. The severity of just how much one drank, and the situations that followed are what worries us.
I can share a story about high school. A story that many of the boys who participated in this story, would never admit that they participated in them.
I know this because, at one time or another, I went looking for old friends, and they point blank told me to get lost. They had moved on, and I was not invited to join them, because “I” had the drinking problem, don’t you know.
Much drinking took place in my social circle. We even had our own dedicated “Funnel” that was employed at odd times of serious drinking.
Boys and girls drank together. Not that I knew what went on with my friends, to a great degree. But when boys and girls would drink together in the same room, the girls were afforded their dignity. I know this because if girls were invited to the party, they were given certain directions, prior to drinking with us.
We had designated drivers, and after such heavy metal drinking parties, my friend’s sister would gather the girls to clean them up, and change their clothes, and drive them around town, while they puked, to get it out of their systems, before a second designated driver, brought them safely home.
My best friend, who was my best friend for a number of years, transgressed our friendship, by sexually violating my cousin one night. That transgression cost us a friendship, when my father made a call, fifteen hundred miles from home, to my cousins father, who flew to Florida to confront my best friend to ask him “why did you take my daughter’s virginity?”
I don’t know, to this day, the words spoken by my uncle and my father to my then, best friend, because decades later when I quizzed him about that night, he rebuffed me and hung up the phone.
Not a shining moment for him I guess.
Drinking does take a toll on the drinker, and every single person in the orbit of said drinker. Because if you drank like we did, and we know, right at this very moment, a certain man, drank as hard as we did when he was a kid, and he refuses to own up for his actions.
I can tell you from personal experience, that blackout drinking is common. I can also tell you that my friends who were educated in religious institutions, along side the secular schools, drank hard, and some even harder than we did. Because if you were educated by the Brothers of St. Christopher, You’d Drink Too !!!
There are regrets I have to this day. Mistakes I have made. People I have hurt. Memories that won’t go away. Visuals that are burned into the back of my brain. There are things each of us, will take to our graves.
Sometimes, letting sleeping dogs lie, is the best advice.
There are just some stories that will never be righted, for one reason or another. There are some people, who will never allow us to be recognized as humans, imperfect humans, who just would like to be loved.
“… They show how the change came over them. When many hundreds of people are able to say that consciousness of the Presence of God is today the most important fact of their lives, they present a powerful reason why one should have faith.”
We Agnostics, page 51.
Tonight, we ended the month of July, with me in the chair, and we talked about God, Prayer, and Faith.
One over arching comment I heard from my friends is that for many of them, the thought of God, the practice of prayer, the admission of humility and the profession of faith, is a natural part of who they are.
They don’t necessarily “think” about God or Prayer, or Humility, or faith, every minute of the day. Those constituent parts of who they are present in everything that they do, every day. These parts are, in and of themselves, separate, but are unified in a single thought … Presence and Service.
The old story rose in my mind as I sat and listened. And I told it again. Even if my friends have heard me tell this story over and over.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away … Cue the Star Wars Theme …
God has been an integral part of my life, for the whole of my life. Memere and Grammy made sure that I knew of God, and that God loved me.
Memere, one day, when I was very young, took me to church and presented me to God, standing on the altar of that church, where she had a conversation with God, about me.
That visual is burned into the back of my mind.
I served God to the best of my ability, to the extent that in my second year of college, after high school, I ended up in Seminary, studying to be a priest.
I devoted my life to God, in every way possible. But I was not like the others. I did not do evil things that the others had done. I never broke my vows to Mother Church, during that year, and I thought that would get me by.
At the end of that year, the rector, whom I had issues with personally, said to me that I was not “one of them.” Therefore, it was his decree that I would be told to leave the seminary.
Talk about being resentful and angry about God.
My alcoholism took off full-bore. And lasted until my 26th year of life. I told God to go to hell, that I did not need Him. Took back my will and my life, and pursued life.
I had come out of the closet not long after.
That only added to my alcoholic woes.
On one morning, as I sat in that bar nursing a drink at 7 a.m. fate strolled in to greet me and I danced. That morning would be the last morning.
What I did not know would eventually almost kill me.
On July 8th 1994, I got those words. “You are going to die.” A few days later I called Todd home from vacation and told him I was going to die.
As God as my witness … I may have turned my back on God. But God, in His wisdom, got my attention once again.
Never be thankful for a terminal disease.
Sometimes a fatal disease is just that, a fatal disease.
I took my life in my own hands that morning, and did what I did. And I am the one to blame for my misfortune. It is my fault.
God got my attention. Then He stepped out of Heaven and soothed my soul.
What Todd did for me, I will never forget, will always be grateful for, and remember as long as I breathe air. I will tell his story as many times as I can, because if this story dies. I die with it.
It is the power of God that makes this story critical.
Todd promised me, if I turned my will and my life over to him and trusted him with my life, that he would see to it that I survived. I may have kicked and screamed for a while, but that did not last very long.
As my friends died around me, one after another, and every day that I lived, is a testament to the Power of Todd, Read: GOD.
On the day I said goodbye to him, standing next to his car, as he got into that car, and shut the car door, he forgot to give me one small piece of information,
“What was I supposed to do now.”
I lament that he did not give me that much-needed piece of information. We were so caught up in goodbye that I don’t think that thought crossed his mind, in that moment.
When he drove off, my life drove off with him.
I could not make it alone. I had no idea what to do or how to do it.
All of the people who were still alive, already made the trek West. I was the only one who stayed. I stayed because of my heart. I stayed because I was sure, my father would die, and I would make my stand and go to my mother, and reclaim her from my father, and care for her for the rest of my days.
Obviously, that plan never happened.
My parents would rather eat dirt, than accept me as a human worthy of love.
On January 7th 2018, my father died. I got that one wrong.
My mother spit in my face, once again, saying to me that I was a mistake and should never have been born. This is the very same woman I was hedging my bets of saving and being part of her life.
Got that one wrong too.
I did drink again.
At the end of my drink binge, I called out to God. Begged Him for help.
I prayed three prayers in order of necessity.
And Get me to a Meeting
God did those very things for me, in the order I needed them, miraculously.
I was on the return arc, when Troy walked into my business and his first words to me were: I did not drink today …
Troy was that blessed alcoholic whom God sent. Troy took me to my next, First Meeting. I stayed for the later 10 pm meeting and met the folks who would bring me back to life again. Those original folks are still in my life to this day.
God granted me a few dispensations. And created a number of miracles.
I ended up crossing the border, attaining Canadian Citizenship, I am still sober, almost seventeen years later. And had you told me, back in Miami, back in the day, that my life could have looked like it does today, I would have laughed at you and called you crazy.
God moved heaven and earth. And God’s saving grace has made me whole.
There IS a GOD, and I am not God.
Although, I did meet God. I spoke to God. I worked for God. I served God, every day I walked into work and served those men, who are all dead now, until they all took their last breaths on this earth. I was with many of them. When their families tossed them into the gutter and into the streets, I was there, with a few friends, who cared for the sick, until they eventually died, in our arms.
None of my friends died alone. Not One Of Them.
Nobody knows the intricacies of this story. Nobody really cares, even the gay men I know today. They know nothing about AIDS or Living with AIDS. They really don’t care for my stories, because they cannot identify.
If my story dies, I will die with it.
Which is Why, till the day that I take my last breath, I will utter the name of Todd and thank God for saving my life, all these years.
Have you ever loved something so much, that you thought at one point, that you would do that thing for the rest of your life ? Climb the ladder of success, in a field/job, a sport, in music, or a trade ?
And what happens when you reach the point of success, let’s say, “going to an Olympics in Beijing as a Canadian athlete at the top of ones game.” And then having the tables turn on you, and that sport you loved, and gave it all of your heart and soul, and then that passion for the game DIES within, and alcohol becomes your best friend and companion.
When I was a boy, I had a gift for music. Beginning as a small child with a little organ, and graduating into the BIG LEAGUE with a double Decker two keyboard Wurlitzer organ that I was a master at playing.
I took private lessons, had lessons in school, and competed at Regional and State musical competitions. 12 years of music, died, on one fateful evening, when my drunken father grabbed my organ seat,(Leather bound, heavy mahogany furniture) and threw it at my mother, to try to hurt her.
I grabbed my fathers throat and said to him that after that stunt I would never play that organ again, so he might as well, send it back to where it came from.
All those years of musical genius went down the drain. And I never touched another keyboard for the whole of my life.
The passion died, because of principle, not because the gift died within me.
When I hear someone talk about a passion that is specific, let’s say, sport, not everybody is cut out to train and compete at the Olympic Level.
The stress of being a young athlete, away from home, not knowing ones asshole from their elbow, and finding the companion of alcohol to fill the whole of the need for external approval, is a killer.
I know this also, the lesson about approval comes to mind with Todd all those years ago, thinking that I needed him to tell me that I did a good job, every time I did a particular job, because I did not trust myself or my inner self. He taught me that lesson, hard and fast.
When you cannot look yourself in the mirror and be kind to ones self and always beating ones self up, always needing someone else to affirm us, is the death knell for mental health and stability.
Oh how the mighty fall. I’ve known athletes who threw in the towel and sabotaged their careers because of drugs and alcohol.
Once you get that Olympic Tattoo on you, you can never remove it. It will always be the constant reminder of who you once were, and where you had been. Only Olympic Athletes get that specific tattoo. it is a rite of passage.
But we come in and we are messed up emotionally and mentally. Character defects running rampant. Arrogance and egotistical behavior abound, until we hit the proverbial wall of humility and humiliation, because of our attitudes, lies, and cheating.
And if we don’t get right, we will never get sober, ever !
Humility is a long hard lesson to learn for a lot of people, myself included.
But I know what it looks like and feels like today.
We all sabotage our lives with drugs and alcohol. The good news is, that there Is a Solution. One of the only solutions that work …
You – We – Us – Together – In a Church Basement – As often as Necessary !!!
You don’t have to go to the bitter end and sabotage a life of promise, you can always make that choice, for many, they could not make that choice alone.
Save for a few friends who did.
Self Sabotage is a familiar story line.
Sad that such promise went to pot, because of insecurity, ego, arrogance, and cheating.
Olympic careers are made out of a life of hard work, dedication and stamina
Very sad, that such a passion died for one of our young people.
But he is sober a few years now. Regretting nothing, because he is renewed every day.