Tuesday, July 26, 2005

For Mary should you come to read

This post is for July the 16th

When Does a Boy become a Man?

Reflecting on my life, I will be 38 in a couple of weeks, there was a time when I thought I would never get to this point in my life, so buckle up and read on.

There was always one question that that haunted me. “When does a boy become a man?” I was thrust into adult decisions while in Junior High school. My father’s parents both had strokes, and by some coincidence, he thought that I would be the one who could rouse them from their states of silence. I was the first born son, and the apple of my grandmother’s eyes. Alas, I failed at my task; she never came “out of it” so to speak. And I think my father never forgave me.

As a young person, in my family, I took on a lot of responsibility that should never have been placed in my lap so early on. I am a 3rd generation alcoholic that comes from a sturdy line of heavy and abusive drinkers. I did a lot of work as a child. I was a lawn boy, a maid, a cook, I was my brothers keeper and best of all; I was a bar tender by the age of 10. I knew my “place” in my family early on.

The life of children of alcoholic parents, in my opinion, is tough. Although my father provided for his family, I know that he was a fully functional alcoholic. But who am I to judge and say that? My father had a funny way of saying he loved me, as he swung the belt or whatever he could find, he would say to me, “You were a mistake, and should never have been born!” I guess that’s the demon I wrestled with for many years.

I drank my way through high school and college, and eventually found refuge inside a Catholic Seminary for my second year of college, circa 1986. I had faith in God, it never left me, although I left the “path” several times in my life, I know now, that God never abandoned me. I left that seminary because I could not put God and Politics in the same sentence.

There was something different about me, my parents knew, and so did everyone else. That was news to me. The day I realized that something was different was the first day of 7th grade, it was a new school, a new schedule and a new routine. Gym was something we did every day, the compulsory hour of physical activity. I knew the first day I walked into that locker room, that I was “different.” That was 1979.

They say in AA, “that if you have a problem with someone, it is usually a reflection of what you don’t like about yourself!” My father had hated me since the day I was born, and now from this point, he would have a new reason to hate me, in retrospect, I think this was the truth he didn’t or couldn’t look at in himself.

They also say that when we start drinking we remain the age when it began, well then, I was a teenager for most of my life, which proves how difficult most of my life was. You see, my father was not an active part of my childhood or adolescent development, and today as an adult, he is absent from my life, this includes my mother.

I didn’t know how to grow up, so I did the best that I could, with what I had and what I knew, which I have to say, wasn’t much? Those good and reliable role models were something that most of my life lacked. I had years of experience in doing adult things, from my childhood, I just had no courage to sit down and realize that I had to do that for myself.

I had a good life as a child, I got what I wanted from my father, and it was a trade off. He beat me more than my brother and my mother, in trade he paid for my silence in a really big way. Was that a mistake? It probably was.

My drinking took a toll, and in my 20’s “big things” started to happen to me. I fell in love, and moved to Ft. Lauderdale from Miami to have that relationship. Joey eventually committed suicide on April the 15th 1993. He was sick and did not tell me. I was told that he had Aids, only after his death. On July 8th 1994, I was diagnosed with Aids myself. They gave me 18 months to live.

WHOA! 18 months huh? My boss became my father, my caretaker, and my friend. My education about growing up began in earnest. Todd had lost his lover to Aids a couple of years before we met. He began to intensively teach me everything I would need to know how to do, to take care of me and COPE with what I may face in the future. There was a lot of work to do in those years.

I got sober that same year in August of 1994, and I stayed sober for 4 years. In retrospect, that first sobriety was a time of learning how to live and survive, rather than work a program. I stayed sober, mind you for that 4 years, I went to meetings but I was so sick during those 4 years, you could not imagine.

I learned all those lessons that Todd could teach me in 4 years we lived in the same area, and worked together. I believe, that if Todd had not been in my life then, I would have surely died, sooner. (This is where you all roll your eyes and say I think God had something to do with that, don’t you think?) Yes HE did.

I made a lot of mistakes growing up. I think we all have. I planned a great slip/geographic just after my 4th anniversary. That slip lasted until December of 2001. I had returned from Miami after that relapse, beaten and broken in July 0f 2000, a mere shell of the man I was when I left 18 months prior.

God has a funny sense of humour, I was living in a studio apartment, and my landlord got me a job in an antiques store run by a “member.” I was barely surviving on what I was making. It was ok, but I was still drinking and using. Go figure!!! I hired an employee a couple of months prior to reaching my bottom. And he used to say to me every day he came into work that “he didn’t drink!” Well, good for you I would say. In the grand scheme of things, Troy would eventually take me back to my first meeting.

The morning of September 11th 2001, I was lying in bed when the phone rang, it was my friend Ricky, and he said “turn on your TV, something is happening!”

“Well, it had started.”

The city of Miami Beach just shut down. It was incredible, how that one event transformed the world, my world, the city and the people who lived in that city and all over Miami. Every one started trying to find ways to help. The cities nightclubs and bars shut down, the nightlife, as it was, was no more. For two weeks I worked online trying to get relief items to New York, via Oprah’s Message Boards.

Those 2 weeks of my life was a complete blur. We all got sober during those initial two weeks. The mourning period ended respectively two weeks later. We were all catatonic, nobody knew what to do. Eventually the bars started these promotions all over town. Come and donate some cash to the relief effort and drink free all night. That’s what the entire community of Miami Beach did for the relief effort. We raised a TON of money!

The beach rose out of their stupor and I think the people on Miami Beach drank every drop of alcohol we could find, to “help those in need!” that went on for weeks. Through a series of well said prayers, and like I said, Troy eventually took me to my first meeting on December 9th 2001.

I went to a 10 p.m. meeting and was welcomed into a community that was tight and strong. That’s where I picked up my sponsor, Charlie. He was a retired Marine, and he was one of the men who set me on my path of growing up, because until then, I was coasting on God’s grace. I still have friends I talk to from that “Home group.”

Four months later I came to Montreal for Easter to visit, how auspicious a religious holiday to start my “journey” in earnest. They say “Montreal is where it all started.”

And so it did for me. I came for one week; I ended up staying for two.

I returned to Miami, packed what little I had and took the next flight out. My mother was a Canadian Citizen when I was born, a little lie she sat on for many years till anger pushed me to play my last ACE card in my sleeve. The distance between my parents and I was eternally ruptured the day I left the United States. They branded me a “deserter” and my father swore me off for good. With a birthright application in hand and A LOT of God’s help, I set off for the new world, never looking back.

I hit a lot of meetings, during that first year of sobriety. I came to Montreal with an expectations list, as long as my arm for God. And it was no joke, when God would look

over my list and I could hear HIM, in retrospect say to me, “Uh huh, well let’s see here, No, No, Not right now, I don’t think so, maybe later, and I think you should rephrase that question!”

My second attempt at sobriety would be the greatest 4 years of my life. Firstly, all those lessons that Todd gave me years earlier started to make their way out of my head. I found a place to live; I started building a home, while I waited for my citizenship to come, it eventually did on February 17th 2003.

Meanwhile I went to meetings every day, I figured out ways to survive, with what I had and the money I had banked up till then. In October of 2002, I met the man I was going to eventually marry. We began to build a life together.

I was seeing a therapist, whom I still see to this day every week. Margo is one of my best friends today. It was the spring of 2003, and I had worked really hard on my program, I had climbed a really BIG mountain in Margo’s opinion. And one day she asked me, “Jeremy, you’ve climbed this huge mountain, now you are standing here looking at it, what are you going to do for you?”

I sat on that question for two weeks. I was sitting at home, here (right here) where I am now, typing this out, and I was looking at the wall – at my Citizenship Certificate, and I said to myself “A University diploma would look good up there!” So it went. I applied to Concordia University at age 34, and was accepted. I began my studies at Concordia University here in Montreal in the fall of 2003.

I was making adult decisions with my life, for the first time in my life. The move out of the United States was the best decision I had ever made in my life, because I had to learn how to survive in a foreign country, get to meetings, and work an intense program of sobriety. It forced me to put into practice “Everything” I had learned up till that point. I had great guides and teachers, I have a great sponsor, and who tells me like it is. He’s a no bullshit kind of man.

In the spring of 2004, Peter got sick and had a nervous breakdown and we had to extricate him from his former place of employment. He was diagnosed with Bi-Polar 2 (Rapid Cycling) disorder. He spent the better part of 6 months on the sofa catatonic from the different medications, it took that long to find the right “combination” of drugs to take him out of the stupor and set him up for his re-entry into the world. I think that’s about the time I came across Chuck and the Real Live Preacher (Gordon). I started blogging when Peter got sick, as a way of relieving my sorrow and do something with myself at night. Chuck and Gordon have been incredible role models, fathers and friends to me over the last year. I respect them and admire the men they are in the world. We should all be so lucky to count men like these as friends.

I prayed for direction and I decided that I would “stay the course” and not walk away from someone I loved, just because there was a problem. Lesser men would have just walked away citing, inability to cope or put someone else’s needs before their own.

Peter has become the greatest man I have ever known, because when push came to shove in the last year, he stepped up and took charge when I was sick.

I grew up really fast. I had to manage the house cash, take care of Peter’s medical needs, and mine as well, eh? I had to shop for food, cook and take care of the house and Peter. And during that time I was a full time student at Concordia.

I became accountable, reliable I also learned how to put someone else’s needs before mine and that’s when “the boy became a man.”

Here is a story for you, you can click and read it.


This blog entry was written the night I intuitively understood where my place in this universe was. After hearing this story on the radio that night, I sobbed like a baby. I remembered WHO Peter was, and I vowed never to leave him for better or worse.

We were married in a small ceremony at the Loyola Chapel on the Concordia University West Campus, on November 20th 2004, which happens to be my mother’s birthday. Talk about re-appropriating family holidays, eh?

I became the man I wanted to be, I achieved things that I never knew were possible. I grew up A LOT in the last 4 years alone.

I have begun my 3rd year of Religious studies at Concordia University this summer and will continue in the fall. In December, one day at a time and by the grace of God, I will have attained my 4 years of sobriety once again. This month I celebrate my 12th year of being POZ, back then the doctors estimated that I had been carrying for over a year when I was diagnosed; there is another entire story there. I survived!! That in itself is a miracle.

That question of “when does a boy become a man” no longer haunts me, because I know who I am today. It took me a long time to “get it!”

It was in the “realization” of who I was, and I learned to be comfortable in my own skin and to learn to Love Myself and to have faith in my own abilities. Today that is vitally important. I ran from who I was for many years because I was afraid I would end up like my father, and I am glad to say, I am No Where Close!

Children suffer for the sins of their father’s; it took me a long time to work through these issues. I pray a lot, and I hope, and I believe in the redeemable qualities in my parents, and one day, I pray that redemption may come, then again, it might not, and I am ok with that today.

Where is God in my life, He resides in my heart and in my soul. I’m still on the path, and still searching for a place to call home. The church is not what I wish it could be, nor what I want for me today. So I belong to a group of blogging Christians who follow a man called the Real Live Preacher.

Thanks for reading, and thank you for my sobriety.


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