Friday, April 14, 2006

April 15th 1993... The 13th anniversary...

Here is my Chapter on the Anniversary Subject I was going to write about tonight, suffice to say, it is already written for publishing. It has been an emotional week, if you were paying attention, and now we get to the crux of why. Here is "the mental ballgame."

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Nobody warned me in the beginning how mentally challenged I would become, and how hard I would find it coping with where I was standing. I was alone, an island unto myself. Everyone had walked away. My boyfriend left, all my friends took off, my family fucked off on me, and in the end it was just me and my life. I had no coping skills. I had no idea what so ever of how I was going to live one day at a time. A month after my diagnosis I finally gave up the bottle and got sober on
August the 23rd 1994. Along with dealing with HIV I had to battle my addiction to alcohol and drugs. Oh, I forgot to mention that little bit of info didn’t I! Yes, I was a heavy alcoholic. And I was a coke head during that last year.

My boyfriend James was sick when we met and began to cohabitate together. He had a lot of secrets and he told a lot of lies. He was still seeing his old flame behind my back; he would take off for weeks at a time without word or contact. He was a diabetic, and at one point he began to get suicidal. His first four attempts were thwarted by my continued vigilance.

After a year of being together I decided that I had had enough of him, and I moved out. That was in 1993. I was working at the Stud by that point. James took off on us and disappeared. On April the 15th 1993, James had committed suicide. The police found him dead three days later in an apartment in Western Ft. Lauderdale. I was the contact point for the police, and on the 5th day after his death I was summoned to the coroner’s office and asked to identify his remains.

(As long as I live, I can close my eyes and see what was left of his corpse lying on that exam table behind the glass). That was his mother’s curse to me on the day I called to tell her he was dead, she said to me “ I hope that the last thing you see each night before you go to bed is my dead son’s body!” I signed the papers and James was sent back to his parents for burial. I was not invited to the service, nor was I included, but for three years afterwards James haunted me. After his death, I began to drink uncontrollably and destructively. I was drinking around the clock, I was doing coke at night to stay awake, and cocaine was a sexual component that was necessary. Yet, I don’t remember why I had to have it, I was that fucked up.

That destruction went on for a year prior to my diagnosis that took place in July of 1994. I had a lot on my plate. I had spent over 40 weeks in Survivors of Suicide therapy, by the order of my boss, Todd. Then my subsequent diagnosis took place, I was suicidal myself, and I needed to find some peace, and the bottle was my only salvation after days and days of the mental ballgame. I was shot to hell, I was sick, I could not function any longer, and I was surely going to die at that rate. Something had to give.

And it did… I had to decide whether I was going to stay on the destructive course I was on, or get clean and sober and figure out how I was going to live.

I started to learn about the mental ballgame, one day at a time, in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous of Greater Ft. Lauderdale.

Everything begins with a question, which in turn brings a thought. And the worst place to get stuck is in your head, with a million thoughts racing through it, and the rat spinning his wheel at 60 mph. Before you can do anything to get better, to deal with issues, people, places and things, you first need to think your decisions, actions and motives through. If you don’t think things through, then mistakes, resentments and anger will be the result. And I want to encourage you to “think” before you do anything.

Living in this world is not easy, and for the most part, I can tell you that once you conquer the mental game of coping, you have won half the battle. The phrase, “I don’t want to think about it” has to be removed from our lexicon of language. That’s the one thing that keeps people and societies in the places they are in, because as the generations have passed on, “I don’t want to talk about it” has been the norm, and I want to change that.

There was a mental priority for dealing with everything on my daily menu of issues. It took me 11 years to learn these lessons.

I stayed sober for four years while I learned how to live one day at a time. After my first year of sobriety I relocated to Miami, as I have said earlier. I had to find a new home group to go to, and I did. That group was the “Coral Room” in South Miami, where there was a great young group of sober people where I found my home. I was asked to “speak” one night in front of about 200 people. I got up and I shared my experience, strength and hope with a very heterosexual group of men and women.

The first time I mentioned HIV in my share half the men got up and walked out of the room, while I was speaking. After I finished my share, I walked out back for a smoke, and I hear “we don’t want people like you in our group, go find someplace else to stay sober!” Welcome to AA in Miami.

You know, I was dealing with enough at that point and I did not need that little comment from some self consumed member of AA. I did not leave that home group, and those men learned to deal with me or they found somewhere else to attend meetings.

I was going to meetings, but during that time period I was having the worst time medically. I was incredibly sick, I was on rounds and rounds of new medications, as they rolled off the production lines, and I was testing them for my doc.

In hindsight, and a 2 ½ year relapse after 4 years of sobriety, when I returned to the program in 2001 I began to learn that it was not a sober experience I was having, it was a living experience that I needed to go through.

It took me many years to mentally conquer my HIV. When I was sick there was no room for me to try and out manoeuvre the disease. It had hold of me and was going to take me down. I just had to hang on for the ride, do my best to function as I was able, and take my meds, rest and have faith, and believe that I was not going to die tonight. Because, let me tell you, there were days and nights when the pain was so bad that I prayed for God to take me. (Notice, He didn’t listen!!)

I spent a lot of time in bed sleeping off the daily problems that came with HIV. There are many mental pits for you to navigate around even before you hit the path. I am going to tell you what some of those pits are.

  1. A disease is only as powerful as you let it become.
  2. Side effects are only multiplied exponentially if you give them too much thought
  3. Positive thinking will get you out of many pits along the way
  4. Discouragement is NOT something you should give in to.
  5. Free your mind – free your soul – free your body.
  6. We can change the way our bodies react to illness.
  7. Getting in touch with your spirit will save your life.

1 Comments:

Blogger Mind the Bear said...

Jeremy,
What a journey, and what grace there has been. And what courage, real courage, you've shown.

It has been over 20 years since my bestest friend killed himself. Only later did I learn it was most likely because he figured out he was gay. We were in love, really, but it was that "love that dare not speak its name." We didn't even have it figured out, at least I didn't.

I still hurt, I still miss him, I am still angry as hell at him for leaving like that. ANd I still pray for him at every Eucharist.

I feel some of your sadness, your journey has been far more difficult, and you have been so brave. Thank you for sharing, for letting me in to your journey.

Grace, Peace, Healing, Health, and Cheers, from you friendly bear in Carolina,

Joe.

9:45 AM  

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