HIV

world aids day 2013

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world aids day is preceded by thanksgiving by just a few days. i am publishing a post from my former blog “kickintina” which describes the footprint that connects both of these very significant days in my life. the emotions and the intentions of remembrance and gratitude, loss and illness have shaped my psyche, my heart, and my perception. i wrote on facebook that my friendship with paul was very influential in the structure of my adult personality. this cannot be truer- caring for my friend matured me. feeling helpless around making him well right-sized me, and feeling blessed by knowing him has helped me feel protected – almost cocooned from danger (if only that were real 🙂


i am working on my thanksgiving post a bit early as i have a full day on thursday. i am supposed to jog with my buddy first thing in that morning, but it is also supposed to be very, very cold and i don’t know if i will make it. i am cooking a turkey for the rocky mountain roundup speaker/dinner, dropping it off, and going to my cousin and his partner’s home for my actual meal. my mom, aunt and uncle are going and they haven’t done a home dinner in the last few years. they have eaten out because they don’t have to cook or clean up after which makes some very good sense to me.I am looking forward to the whole day, and i’m spending tomorrow night at my cousin’s house. i’m sure we’ll hear some of the same old stories that usually get told at family functions. we were a pretty close knit crew in illinois and that has carried over to most of us here. it’s not the same, but it’s very familiar and that is a blessing. 

one of the stories i will not hear this year is my last thanksgiving in chicago. i am going to write about it here and hopefully the tale will unravel itself a bit differently than it has in the past. i have spun this yarn on a few occasions, but i have always kept the focus the part where i am the victim. and honestly, thanksgiving still is a challenging emotional trek because of the drama on this day. it really is the day i stopped dancing. the last day that is until i started channeling velvet- but that’s a tale for another day.
in 1985, i had gotten an apartment with my best friend paul the previous year. we had shopped and hunted for 3 months for that beautiful soon-to-be condo on logan blvd. 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, full kitchen, dr, front and back balcony. it truly was stunning. but on the day we were moving in, paul was completely tuckered. i remember him sitting on the back of the rental truck, saying he just couldn’t move any boxes. He was exhausted. and before we finished, he insisted he go to the hospital. we complied, and he was admitted and was in the hospital for about a month.

i went to visit him in that place every day. the first couple of days, i donned a hospital gown, mask, and gloves, but soon decided to put them aside after that. i wasn’t going to be looking at him dressed like an alien, or like i was afraid to be near him. i wasn’t. i loved him. still do. and i wasn’t going to cause him any extra anxiety. i would bring him meals from some of our favorite restaurants. the hospital food sucked, of course, and i knew he needed to eat. we had a very pleasant time being food snobs in there and would laugh together and became closer, without ever really discussing the elephant in the room. i couldn’t go there emotionally.i now know it’s called denial, but then i thought of it as survival. i remember one day going to visit him, and finding him in his room alone, with a fever so high that his body was convulsing, jumping up and down on the bed with no assistance. it scared the shit out of me, watching him jerking up and down like darryl hannah losing life in blade runner. i left in horror and came back a couple of hours later, never speaking a word to him about what i had seen.

my drug use started to escalate after this. the cocaine use was incessant and i drank vodka to counteract the effects of the cocaine. numbing became my priority. this actually caused paul to move back in with his parents, and my friend robbie (foxy)moved in. poor fox- he had no clue as to the mess he was entering. but that’s another story. 

fast forward to thanksgiving 1986. paul had been living with his family for a few months now. he had been in and out of the hospital. i had invited about 8 friend over for a holiday feast. i spent all day preparing the food. turkey rubbed with butter and tamari, baked with apples, onions, and cranberries, stuffing, brussel sprouts, home-made cobbler, etc. as the day progressed, the weather took a turn for the worse. a thunderstorm took hold. one-by-one calls with cancellations started to come in. it had become dark outside, and the last call came from my friend blue. i think he really had waited until he absolutely knew he couldn’t get there. no cabs were running etc. i remember sitting at the head of the table, looking at the fitz and floyd and the crystal candle holders and feeling stunned. the phone then rang again, and it was paul’s brother on the phone. he wanted to let me know that paul had passed a few hours earlier that day. he had gone peacefully and was no longer suffering. i returned back to my seat and looking over the empty but well laid table, clutched my wine glass and took a big swig. a huge lightning bolt back lit the entire sky, was followed by an earsplitting crack of thunder, and the power in my apartment was knocked out. there i sat in the dark, and found myself feeling more alone and more confused than i could remember. and i was a victim. and i had imprinted that pained mask onto myself and held it there for a good 20 years. 

i have managed to let go of that branding i did. i honestly loved paul, and was completely a mess having lost him. i laughed so freely with him, and he understood so many things about me that i always felt shame around, and never did anything but expect me to succeed. we dined a lot, and we read a lot of books- mostly the classics, and the “gay” authors. we participated in a salon of a sort with a few other friends, and would drink wine and read aloud from books like “To The Lighthouse” by Virginia Woolf, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite “Orlando” by Woolf as well. We talked about Vita Sackville West and Virginia, about Paul Bowles and his entourage, Kerouac and his mary-men lol, Stein, Toklas, and the ex-pats….

today, i am thankful i have let go of that old albatross that was choking me through the years. i have moved on to another perception of that time and that day. i am not frozen, i am living and participating again. i am again among the living, and am not in the throes of the walking wounded. i can celebrate today without anesthetizing. i can struggle and maintain. i can look forward and think of a future in practical terms, in lieu of living in a fantasy and only seeing the future as a sparkling illusion. i am so very glad paul was in my life. i am so blessed that he saw me for exactly who i was and loved me because of it. this is something that will never be replaced. and something that will never be lost.

today i see that life is a banquet, and i spent way too much time 
starving myself. there is more to life than one singular sensation.


practicing mindfulness

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It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now… with its aches and it pleasures… is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.
Ok, maybe it’s also important to have food, clothing, and a roof over our heads for many of us to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive. Let’s not let that small point take us away from the brilliance of this quote.

What’s so brilliant about it? For reason particularly driven by subtle messages from the media driven into our forming minds, we are a culture driven by a need for “more” in order to feel alive or happy. For other reasons we are also a culture driven to try and eradicate discomfort. Both of these messages are partly driven by business trying to make a buck and spending billions of dollars are marketing to drive this into our minds.
The price?

A constant feeling of dis-ease within us. We’re can’t be content with where we are in any particular moment because our minds are either trying to flee away from some discomfort or toward some comfort.

Pema Chodron is simply trying to remind us that aches and pleasures are part of the human experience. There may not be a catastrophe when a pain is there, it may just be part of being “fully alive.” There may not be a need to get the wheels anxiety or distress to be set in motion. Of course, if you are under extreme distress or have an inkling that something is off physically, it’s important to get it checked out by a medical professional.

However, next time you’re feeling physical or emotional pain, know that this is temporary and say to yourself, “maybe this is exactly what I need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” See if you can bring your attention to it with a sense of compassion and caring. Next time you are feeling pleasure, also know that this is temporary and part of being fully alive… reposted from monday’s mindful quote
wow- what a very uncomfortable week this has been. i started feeling a sort of gurgling discomfort in my sinuses on monday and stayed in bed for 3 days with a fever and runny nose missing both my day job, but also cancelling on a catering gig which did leave a hole in my monthly budget.  when i spoke with my doctor’s office, i was informed that they recommended that i let the infection run its course and would be offered antibiotics after 10 days or so. i felt betrayed by this news which is ironic because i rarely take any meds (, aspirin, cough syrup, cold pills other than my hiv and psych meds for any reason. however i have had a sinus infection a few times before and have found that to be something that i am susceptible to and very weakened by for some reason. back in the late 80’s, my sinuses swelled onto the surface of my forehead giving me a cyclops sort of presentation that caused me to scream when i saw my reflection in the mirror. even that time, i didn’t take medication, i used steam and vapo-rub for about 4 hours. luckily, the channelling of a lon chaney type creature vanished with not much residual affect other than that gorilla i saw in the mirror. 
anyway, a couple of years ago i had another infection and it went on ad nauseum. i couldn’t shake the fever and the nose might as well have been training for a triathlon. the only relief came very late in the game in the form of amoxocillin. and this week i found myself wanting that same order and with the response from my caregivers that i didn’t qualify, my sense of balance seemed to waft away like the scent of a freshly baked pie flows out of the kitchen. 
i had to pull myself up from my bootstraps and visit them in person and plead my case- with several sales pitches in tow. “i can’t lay around for days doing nothing”- ” i feel like i am being punished for being healthy” ” i don’t really want to use up a week’s pto with a crappy fever and box of kleenex. somehow i got my way. 
what also became apparent was that the mercury-in-retrograde stage directions had been put into place. my car wouldn’t start, my dishwasher ran some sort of leak, the order of snacks for my group didn’t get placed, the meal i planned to pick up for another group didn’t get handled because of the car. in spite of all these mishaps ( quite plentiful for one  day) were also met with an answer from my life which caused no real trauma other than to my sense of balance. the early groups survived with no doughnuts- the second group had no attendees so i disappointed no one directly- my friend loaned me a car for a week, and nothing seems damaged by water all over the floor. 
with all the blows to my plans for my life this week, there also has been a net that showed up to catch me from any imminent fall. in other words, i didn’t crumble or suffer- other than in my own mind. actually my life protected me – even from me.

that’s the good news. and it is good. the other side of the story is that i have not been on my best behavior nor in my best frame of mind. i have wallowed in a little pity, played a bit of the victim, been a bit gamey and childish,  and worked it more than i would like to admit.  being human is really damn humbling…

am offering 2 selections with today’s post- 1 with homage to the mindful part of myself and the other with a nod to the diva that walks the catwalk inside my head with repetition…. mercury in retrograde leaves november 10- fingers crossed we make it without too much more destruction and re-creation..the title of this post is practicing mindfulness – the emphasis is on practicing.

true

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hereafter image credit fxguide.com

I bought a ticket to the world, 
But now I’ve come back again 
Why do I find it hard to write the next line? 
Oh I want the truth to be said

august 26 2012 i will have my 54th birthday. it seems very surreal to even be walking in this truth. i am living well today and manage to find contentment most of time. i am happy and at peace. i went to the wedding of a friend (alone) and was reminded that deep in the recesses, there are some things i believe will never be part of my journey. for some reason i have found myself a little weepy this week.

in 1984 i was at the precipice of something remarkable in my life. i lived in chicago and held court at an after hours dance club in chicago. the party had been going for a decade, but some unexpected turns had begun. boys were disappearing like cattle in the darkness being abducted by aliens. in my world, it started with john bennet. i remember him talking with my friend blue in the loading dock recounting his fears of this virus thing. john was gone within a few months. and soon it was almost like he was never there. then there was hot rod- a dj friend of my friend mark stephens. hot rod left earth early on. i will never forget the night that mark spread his ashes on the dance floor at medusa’s per hot rod’s request. it was at once pagan, macabre, as well as celebratory..

a year or so later my best friend, paul pfohl, who was living in nyc and going to columbia was unexpectedly returning home to chicago. when he arrived back in town he had lost so much weight it was shocking. for so long we had spent so much time trying new restaurants and basking in conviviality, but upon his return and a gnarly case of  thrush, food made him cry in discomfort as his tongue was unable to take the stimulation.

he continued to deteriorate over the next 13 months or so. he died on thanksgiving in 1985. but one month before he did, after nearly fainting in an aerobics class, i was diagnosed with that new virus and dr. bernie blau put a check mark in a column next to my name just in case quarantine might somehow become reality. i went numb that year. not until these last few years did i realize that some old trauma was reignited and new trauma was unleashed. but paul’s death that next month really sealed the deal.

i had been dating a young man named todd thennes from mchenry through about 6 months of this 1985 drama. he was sweet and definitely a welcome distraction. my drug use had already begun to morph from fun to frightening. todd was sweet and a rascal- which was kinda perfect for me. but of course with the diagnosis and the terror that came with it, i cut that relationship out just like a benign mole at the dermatologist. it sealed the deal as he informed that he had tested positive as well.  he had befriended my entire social circle by that time though and he became part of the family of choice that was ours at medusa’s.

1985 signaled the onslaught of the tsunami that was the holocaust of our time. hot rod, mark stephens, todd thennes(who did a lot of the holiday decor at the club and for david), neil adams (nealina), bruce bliss and rick(who did much of the styling for the club the first couple of years), paul pfohl, sugar(medusa doorman), michael hamburger, jc, chicky are only a handful of the medusa boys who went to carousel. there’s a scene in the beginning of “hereafter” where a tsunami hits a beach town in thailand and washed over people and takes them with it. some are gone and some miraculously are not touched. this is precisely how it felt. once we were all there, but in what seemed an instant they were gone. and there i stood in a holding pattern.

it took awhile for the fear to recede – about 12 years actually. research, science, and advocacy changed the course of that story. after i started meds, i found myself really angry. angry because i didn’t have a plan, i had spent 1/3 of my life waiting for that tsunami to take me. and it fucking didn’t. out of that anger came a decision to move to san francisco. albeit an incredible city without compare, it took me on a darker path than i had traveled. and it left me like wicked witch of the east, crumpled up silently by the weight of a dark empty house.

in my recovery- which started in september 2004, i have made a conscious decision to not be like some men i know in my long-term position. i don’t want to be bitter, burnt out, sarcastic and cranky queen. it wouldn’t seem respectful to all those boys that got swept away. what would it say if i was a complete asshole when i had been granted an opportunity that they were denied? no better to embrace joy and work for happiness and to give care and love to others. besides, with all my experience in the darkness i can understand  fear, denial, and drug abuse in a real and connected way. so that is what i do.

i was 27 years old in 1985. that was exactly 1/2 my life ago. i have traveled the world, laughed out loud, cried in silence, made messes and cleaned them up, engaged in 2 careers, gone broke, started over more than once, and still i am here.

i have been weepy this week, mostly thinking about those boys i loved that went missing 1/2 my life ago. i don’t ever want to forget them. it is by grace that i am still here. that is the only explanation that makes sense. and believe me boys- i haven’t at all forgotten about you. this much i know is true.

justified and ancient

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image credit…. kriistina wilson

Fortunately analysis is not the only way to resolve inner conflicts. Life itself still remains a very effective therapist.

this year has opened up the realization that i still have some anger issues. not just current ones, but some residual leftover justified and ancient pissed off. haven’t actually taken the time to figure out what the f**k i am angry about, but i have learned that it’s okay to move one step at a time.

as i do the work again with my sponsor i find that the revelations are more intimate. at the same time, my work grows in intensity- both quality and quantity- at the hospital. i am discovering just how primitive and how intricate working with others can be. 

what i do know is that this hidden side of me- the angry side- has protected me for years. it has allowed me to operate “as if” when i most definitely could not have otherwise. this makes good sense to me, but i honestly had no clue that my rage and i had formed a symbiotic relationship. i’m not even sure i have a clue as to how not to be angry- that’s a scary statement.

now i am not talking about typical garden variety anger here. no, no, no. i am talking deep rooted thistle type anger that keeps coming back even after you pull it, burn it, dig it. that’s the kind of rage i think there is. rage so thick that it protected me from all the times i was used and discarded, all the names i was called growing up. anger that encircled me in denial for the 1st 12 years of being hiv positive- that double helix kept me alive and strong for over a decade as if i had an inner layer of titanium protecting me from the environment.   i know it has been there since my childhood. and i know that it has been my soldier and hero. but i can definitely say it’s not serving that purpose in my life today.

this is probably the 1st post of at least a few to process and saute this issue. i pray that i am actually ready to let go of this no longer needed companion. i ask for the strength to trust life today. no doubt this will take time. and i’ve already been given more time than i had ever imagined.

They’re Justified, and they’re Ancient,
And they like to roam the land.
(just roll it from the top)
They’re Justified, and they’re Ancient,
I hope you understand.
(to the bridge, to the bridge, to the bridge now)
They called me up in Tennessee
They said “Tammy, stand by The Jams”
But if you don’t like what they’re going to do,
You better not stop them ’cause they’re coming through
(bring the beat back)

here’s to life

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No complaints and no regrets.
I still believe in chasing dreams and placing bets.
But i have learned that all you give is all you get, so give it all you got.
I had my share, i drank my fill, and even though i’m satisfied i’m hungry still
To see what’s down another road, beyond a hill and do it all again.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life the dreamers and their dreams.
Funny how the time just flies.
How love can turn from warm hellos to sad goodbyes
And leave you with the memories you’ve memorized
To keep your winters warm.
There’s no yes in yesterday.
And who knows what tomorrow brings or takes away.
As long as i’m still in the game i want to play
For laughs, for life, for love.
So here’s to life and all the joy it brings.
Here’s to life, the dreamers and their dreams.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.
May all your storms be weathered,
And all that’s good get better.
Here’s to life, here’s to love, here’s to you.

i wrote about an encounter with someone who was deeply lost in his drinking last week. 4 days later he had died. i was very saddened by it all. feeling quite helpless and ineffective is just a fraction of the things that i have tried on. it’s better today. i am accepting and letting go. it is a process though.

the flip side of course, is that the struggling soul- my friend- is struggling no more. he doesn’t have to hate his hiv and his hep-c any longer. he doesn’t have to deny that he doesn’t feel his best.any more. he doesn’t need to imbibe till the blackness rolls in any longer. and he doesn’t have to hide who he is and how he is. he is free.

this space i now find myself in is part of my reality. strangely, it has been for half my life-in one way or another. in the 80’s and 90’s it was the virus that was taking out many of my contemporaries. drugs and alcohol took out a few too, but it was mostly aids. now i find the opposite to be true. working within the hiv field, the virus takes out a few, but more than anything else, i see multiple earth departures fueled by substances.

i am practicing staying grounded as i continue to remember that people die. this death is not an isolated incident. thankfully, it is not a daily one, but it happens more than i would like. i am thankful i am able to available for others. the 80’s found me numbing out myself. today i am listening.  i honestly am changing. one day at a time.

“There is a story of a woman running away from tigers. She runs and runs and the tigers are getting closer and closer. When she comes to the edge of a cliff, she sees some vines there, so she climbs down and holds on to the vines. Looking down, she sees that there are tigers below her as well. She then notices that a mouse is gnawing away at the vine to which she is clinging. She also sees a beautiful little bunch of strawberries close to her, growing out of a clump of grass. She looks up and she looks down. She looks at the mouse. Then she just takes a strawberry, puts it in her mouth, and enjoys it thoroughly. Tigers above, tigers below. This is actually the predicament that we are always in, in terms of our birth and death. Each moment is just what it is. It might be the only moment of our life; it might be the only strawberry we’ll ever eat. We could get depressed about it, or we could finally appreciate it and delight in the preciousness of every single moment of our life.” 

tough transitions

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tough transitions is a book written by dr.elizabeth neeld and it speaks to the tough times in life that are driven by circumstances, mostly unavoidable. these times come and go in life. this is undeniable. undoubtedly i have not met the challenges at my potential at every given turn. to reflect on a transition that worked me instead of working for me, i look back to 1996. i had been pushing myself to get through my community service hours to satisfy my probation requirements for my dui. at the time i worked about 50 hours a week and then put in 8 hours on saturdays shelving books at the public library and finished hours out shelving at the school of mines. with all the pressing on, i became weary and overtired. i went to the doctor and my doctor ran blood tests- it was confirmed that i was hiv positive. the wanted to start me on meds to address the onset of viral replication.

since i had been confirmed positive once before in 1995 and kept that truth in the dark corners of my mind, there was once again a process of acceptance that was required. and i agreed to start meds, even though for the 11 years prior i had renounced the medical field because of their naivete around hiv and their willingness to prescribe and over prescribe. yet, here i was in 1996 imbibing meds that were not self-prescribed and had a nervous breakdown. i didn’t sleep for a week, lost touch with good sense, and became paranoid and goofy. i finally slept after being diagnosed bi-polar and given more meds that helped bring me back into general focus(along with regular sleep).

funny thing was , after about a month on these new meds, i felt better physically and energetically than i had for as long as i could remember. and strangely, along with this renewed feeling, a very fearful sense that these past 11 years had been in vain as i had not really planned for any kind of future. yet there i sat with a bleak and black future in front of me. what followed was my usual practice in life- act on instinct. i quit my job of 11 years and started a new gig. i started partying heavily again, worked out a transfer with my new company to san francisco, and kept the party going. soon cocaine and meth were on the guest list, and i couldn’t keep up with my own version of a grimm fairy tale that was reflected in my life. buildings in new york toppled after swallowing planes, economies tumbled like stacks of jengo logs, and realities shape-shifted just as quickly as my waistline did with 2 full years of daily meth use.

this transition in my life, the onset of hiv meds and the conquering of my denial, was an opportunity that was missed, or at least very painfully delayed. instead of being open to moving forward with my life, i became intoxicated with not feeling the strangeness that acknowledgement and treatment delivered. i kicked away my stability and concentrated on trying to rebuild a foundation, in lieu of remodeling an already sturdy casement.

according to dr. neeld, transitions such as these happen in our lives. and they will continue to happen. we age, we lose jobs, we divorce, we lose friends, we become ill, etc, etc..  and her insight is finding the poise to recognize when we are in a transition and find a way to look to the outcome in lieu of becoming lost in the process drama.  there are 3 questions she offers to guide us through highly troubled times. i believe that some of the power of change is in the asking of the questions, and some comes in our own answers.

How can there be any hope when we have already lost what we hold most dear? Where does hope live when we hear the words announced to us, “There is no hope”? We cannot bring the person back. We cannot return to life as it was.

For a long time people have been thinking about this dilemma. One of these individuals was Immanuel Kant who lived and wrote in the 1700s. Kant thought a lot about the kind of subjects we might label as “the eternal verities”: hope, ethics, God, morality, the meaning of life. Kant came up with three questions that he thought expressed the central human concerns. Here are his famous questions:

What can I know?
What can I do?
What can I hope?

this is an ongoing topic for me right now…. more to follow…

brenda…

why the pain

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Hungry Ghosts:



Characterised by – Greed; Insatiable cravings; Addictions.


“I want this, I need this, 1 have to have this”.


This is the realm of intense craving. The Hungry Ghosts are shown with enormous stomachs and tiny necks – they want to cat, but cannot swallow; when they try to drink. the liquid turns to fire, intensifying their thirst. The torture of the hungry ghost is not so much the frustration of not being able to get what he wants. rather it is his clinging to those things he mistakenly thinks will bring satisfaction and relief. The Buddha in this Realm holds a Bowl from which the ‘gifts of the gods’ are distributed. This is to entice the hungry ghosts to desire for the Truth which is the only way that the deepest longings and hungers can be satisfied.
Consider: ‘Gollum’ from Lord of the Rings; The obssessive nature of Video Games; Addictions of various sorts; We can be helped in this Realm by our willingness to ‘look up’, to see beyond our obssessions…… reposted from buddhamind

i went to a dinner hosted by the harm reduction action center in denver last night. the hrac work with injection drug users to reduce health risks and also inject human kindness into their worlds. the evening was also benefiting improbable pictures who have been filming the creation and development of u.s.e.d (underground syringe exchange denver) as needle exchange has been completely illegal in colorado until may of this year. btw, exchange has not been implemented anywhere in colorado to date, the only legalization was that local governments can now decide for themselves about appropriateness.

the keynote speaker was dr. gabor mate, a vancouver physician who has been working with idu (injection drug users) for 12 years and runs a residential program in that city. he recently wrote a book that i have previously written about briefly called “in a realm of hungry ghosts”. it refers to a buddhist concept of the 7 realms that we move through in life. the realm of hungry ghosts is depicted by a very thin dark creature who is always eating and never full. his perspective on addiction and causation and treatment. he blends  20 years of addiction science with a sense of common sense and simple human kindness to highlight a whole new direction of treatment which makes the assumption that the reason someone is over medicating is due to pain. and he maintains that instead of asking individuals “why the addiction”, we should ask the question “why the pain” and his experience demonstrates a completely different response. he frankly finds that all the female addicts he works with were sexually abused when they were young.

“why the pain” is a question that seems so simple, yet i don’t actually think there is an easy answer at all.  i don’t mean that the response “my mother abandoned me” or ” my uncle molested me” or ” my father abused my mother during my childhood” are not simple. the words are simple. not more than 7 or 8 strung together at one time. no, the complications are not in the expression of the concrete aspects of theanswer. the challenges in the answer come forward in the manner in which the individual comes in the treatment door.the bio-psycho-social factors that have brought them this far. they have a lifetime of (not) coping skills that have been built up. a trauma that happens early in life (especially when repeated or endured over time) can cause a person to shut down so as to stop the emotional pain.  it makes complete sense that these individuals would find external chemicals such as opiates or alcohol that help them feel (especially pleasure). what makes even more sound sense is that letting go of these compounds is not an easy task, especially since for most of them, they may connect to the only pleasure these individuals have felt for as long as they can remember. btw, they usually forget a lot of the pain that led them to addiction with good intention- survival.

for me, i look to the explosion of crystal meth use in the gay male population in the industrialized world in the last two decades, with the highest percentage being hiv positive. this reasoning brings clearly into focus an explanation of this madness. is it not common that gay men identify feeling love and intimacy through their sexual contact, and being hiv positive would directly inhibit this process. crystal meth no doubt allows men to circumvent this inhibition and refill their emotional coffers. but when the emotional coffers never feel full, happiness is elusive, and continues to be chased.

it’s a simple question… why are they doing meth? to feel better. to connect with ohters sexually, to feel loved.  if sex is how we communicate- how else do they make this happen?  the only way they have known to feel loved has been diminished and neutered?

hayride

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i met with a man today who is struggling with life. he’s been wooed by tina for about 10 years and lost his way home probably a long time ago. feelings of futility, uselessness, frailty, and abandonment seem to be his greek chorus. and their songs return him to inertia with overwhelming regularity. about 4 months ago he began to hurt himself after arguments with a partner.  it is a trend that has caused pain and scars in different dimensions and it’s a trait that continues to rear its head. frankly, he has opened my heart.

without a doubt, men who overuse meth develop hollow interiors. perhaps it’s like being the remains of a scraped out melon after making classic style melon balls for a cocktail party. what remains is a sticky, runny, meatless shell that is just aching to be filled and seems such a waste. i understand that ache well and i respond to this man’s predicament from my core.

as i sat with him, i found myself remembering a time when i had just tested positive for that damn AIDS virus. it was the mid 80’s and there was not much information about what it was and certainly no medication of any kind. there were guys like me all over this country who were struggling with fear and a helplessness. out of la, there was a woman who began working with some of these guys, helping them to regain a bit of their balance and composure. she would infuse their hearts and minds with the idea that our thoughts had power and that we had the ability to have an effect on, my sponsor  our own lives. even if the scientists, doctors, and nurses didn’t have that ability.  her name was louise hay and she facilitated a weekly group called the hayride and wrote a wondrous small book titled ” you can heal your life”. she not only touched and transformed hundreds of gay men in california, she is credited with sparking a movement in our culture. but i remember her mostly for the profound affect she had on me then and again.

strangely enough, 20 years later, i found myself trying to dig myself out of a very dark and dingy hole that my dance with meth had dumped me in. paralyzed with fear, anger, and frustration i turned to 12 step to help me figure a way out because i felt completely bamboozled. in that process i began working with a man who suggested i develop some spiritual practices that would intermittently and consistently keep me connected to a spiritual force. as i worked through this task, i remembered this song and the gift it gave me. i incorporated it into my daily routine again and i have found it reborn in its magic and grace.

i know that her voice, her ideas, and her words, comforted me in ways that nothing else could  during two very painful and pivotal times in my life. and i still carry some of that ideology within me today. i don’t know if sharing the lyrics to this song she included on her taped affirmations offered my companion any solace, but if it gives him even a fraction of the power it has imparted on my life, then it is a good move.

              I Love Myself

I love myself the way I am,
there’s nothing I need to change.
I’ll always be the perfect me,
there’s nothing to rearrange.
I’m beautiful and capable of being
the best me I can.
And I love myself just the way I am
I love you just the way you are,
there’s nothing you need to do.
When I feel the love inside myself,
it’s easy to love you.
Behind your fears, your rage and tears
I see your shining star.
And, I love you just the way you are.
I love the world the way it is,
’cause I can clearly see, that all the things
I judge are done by people just like me.
So ’till the birth of peace on earth,
that only love can bring,
I’ll help it grow by loving everything.
I love myself the way I am,
and still I want to grow.
The change outside can only come,
when deep inside I know,
I’m beautiful and capable of being
the best me I can.
And I love myself just the way I am.


~written by Jai Josephs ~

HIVSTER – A Fresh Voice From Seattle

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TEN encourages you to take a look HIVSTER at a new site from Seattle featuring a collective of writers with some fresh perspectives and thoughtful points of view. click on the link below and read a bit about the soul of this new project. My previous post indicated it was in collaboration with gay.com, however this is incorrect. it is the efforts between Jesse Kendall and Brad Crelia of Seattle, WA.

Staff

seattle’s new hivster- a look back in silence

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Look back in silence; the cradle of your whole life.
There in the distance, loosing its greatest pride.
Nothing is easy, nothing is sacred. Why?
Where did the bow break?
It happened before your time.

a new hiv site has been borne from collaboration in seattle. gay.com has sponsored an hiv friendly site that brings cultural competence out in the open. it feels right. here is one of the articles i found posted. i am gently reminded yet again that being different has a dark side.

Today marks 12 years since Matthew Shepard’s tragic death. In 2001, my Mom wrote about his death and how it deepened her fears for about me being young and gay. Written almost ten years ago, her story still speaks directly to the violence and turmoil we endure. My mom passed away 7 years ago but I know wholeheartedly she’d be fighting with all her might to help the LGBTQ youth who are hurting today.


Judy Shepard, mother of murdered gay teen Matthew Shepard, is determined to use her grief over her son’s death to make a difference. She is now speaking to audiences nationwide about what they can do to prevent hate crimes in their schools and communities. To find when she might appear in your community or to sponsor her appearance, contact Keppler and Associates, at 703.516.4000 or visit http://www.kepplerassociates.com. –


Seeing it felt like a blow to my gut. My eyes immediately stung with tears, the kind that grip the corners of my eyes, refusing to fall. I came across it while researching the Internet for information on Matthew Shepard.

There wavering on my screen was an image of Matthew Shepard’s disembodied face frozen in a sad expression engulfed in animated flames. The words jumped off my monitor: “Matthew Shepard has been in hell for 838 days. Eternity — 838 days = Eternity.” Even the URL made me grimace — www.godhatesfags.com.


On October 7, 1998, Judy Shepard’s world shattered. I can’t begin to imagine her pain at knowing how her son Matthew suffered, just because two sick young men hated gays, found a victim on which to unleash their rage, and left her son Matthew to die on a Wyoming fence.

I remember seeing Judy Shepard on TV. She said, “In a perfect world, because your child is gay, you don’t worry about their safety.” A chill ran through me. I couldn’t help but try to imagine Matthew Shepard’s terror, his parents receiving that awful call….. read the rest of this article at hivster