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HIV/AIDS & 12 Step Recovery

Part of my story is that I shot drugs from early 1970's to the early 1980's the last four years were almost daily. I remember some of the old time junkies that ran some of the galleries that I frequented were going to the hospital with this weird pneumonia that was killing some of them in the early 1980‚s they found a name for my disease, they called it HIV/AIDS.
I took the HIV test after a routine physical showed that I had a low white cell count. I had about ten days to wait for the results to come back. During this time I reflected back on all the people who had died of AIDS related illnesses that were from my circle of close friends that I shot dope with. Knowing how many of them close friends of mine were real blood brothers mixing blood because you get in a hurry to get your fix then shaking like a leaf for a minute or two. The fact that we used the same works or used the shooting gallery works instead of new one should have made me want to take the HIV test many years earlier, but I believe that subconsciously I did not want to know. My denial could have landed me in the hospital had not the GOD of my understanding intervened and do for me what I was not willing to do for myself. November 9th 1997 I was diagnosed with clinical AIDS. I was clean nine years at the time of my diagnosis and one month shy of celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary. I was lucky my wife rode this our with me as she rode out living with me in active addiction. Some are not as lucky as I was their wives, lovers, or partners think they can but soon find out they can not handle living with a person who has HIV/AIDS.

By the time I went to the doctor to find out what the test results were I had through the principles on our program already accepted what I knew he was going to tell me. Once the diagnosis was confirmed it was actually a relief, I had no idea how heavy the weight was until it was gone. The poor doctor kept asking me over and over "do you understand what I have just told you?" my reply was yes Doc I am in a 12 step program my concern is not how I got this way, my concern is what are we going to do about it starting today. I then told him as long as you give me what you gave Magic I am going to be ok; he said that is just what we are going to do. I have through the course of my therapy had a pill count as high as 33 pills a day. Even though I have a program the regimen I was on at first wore me down after a year and I became very depressed as a result. It was a bad situation to have any disease run your life. The disease of addiction is one we can take charge of and keep arrested using the NA program. The HIV/AIDS meds I was taking were ruling my life, they had to be taken on time every time to be effective. That was not so bad I could do that, but when I would meet with you after a meeting and you say come on Ron lets go get something to eat, I would have to look at my watch because I had to wait 2 hours after or 1 hour before I took my meds. It sucked having pills dictate your eating habits. I sought some outside help on this issue and fought with my doctor to change my meds to something I could take and eat when I wanted to. That is what NA taught me that I am responsible for my recovery from all diseases.

I used the principle of acceptance to deal with my situation, no one but me had put myself at risk to acquire HIV/AIDS. I used the principle of surrender to move on and take responsibility to take care of my new disease just for today. I used the 4th, 5th, and 8th steps to not let guilt interfere and cause me to not take my meds on time every time. Through prayer and meditation I was able to disclose and be open about my AIDS status from day one. I hear you tell me for years that my secrets will keep me sick. I got rid of all secrets writing my 4th step, so I was not about to start keeping news secrets.
The bottom line was that through the practice of the 12 steps and 12 traditions I was able to look and my new disease as a gift. I know some of you as you read that line will ask how he can look at such a life changing disease as a gift. I'll tell you how and why.

The GOD of my understanding has taken care of me since the day I asked to be taken off the streets and not let me use drugs any more. When I was in treatment and did not know where my wife and kids were I got mad at GOD and demanded to see my family, being the loving and caring GOD that he is I saw my family the next day. He has reunited me with my family after I got out of treatment. He has restored me to sanity. He sent me to NA to get a sponsor and learn through the 12 steps and 12 traditions exactly who I really am. So with all the good things he has given me why not look at this as just another gift from GOD. That‚s right I said gift.

You see the day I disclosed my AIDS status people inside and outside the rooms made it their business not to be in my life any more. There even was a few NA members who I did not get hugs from or when I did get a hug it was not the same tight hold on for you life hug. Well let‚s look at what a gift that was. If they can not accept me the way I am they did not need to be in my life anyway. So GOD removed some people who did not believe in me and want to help me in my recovery. There was lady friend of mine who after the meeting came up to me and said „you have been helping us in NA for a long time, GOD wants you help some other people now who have a different disease‰ man talking about GOD speaking through other people. I was blown away but I was also able to take what that lady had told me and run with it.
Here is another way this has been a gift. We have people in NA who are not as comfortable as I am with my AIDS status and they do not feel that they can disclose their HIV/AIDS status, the reasons why vary but the bottom line is they ask if they can share with me what‚s going on with them in relation to their HIV, I am willing to be of service and give them the recovery from HIV/AIDS I have learned. So I know felt pleased that I was able to be open with my HIV status because they could not.
The 12 steps and 12 traditions play a big part in my HIV therapy. I had a job making $50,000 plus a year. It was in the chemical industry, and I was also working shift work, all 3 shifts every month including most holidays. You can not find a doctor that will tell you that is a healthy way to live your life. It actually takes time of the end of your life. Then there are the safety and EPA regulations you have to abide by. I just wanted to paint the stressful environment I was working under. Mind you when you are in the process of doing this day in and day out you don‚t feel the stress. How I found out was I had come to the point where the money was not as important as my health. And after 18 months away from that job my T-Cell (CD4) count went from 221 up to 587, my doctor said that was a dramatic jump. This is what the 12 steps taught me. It was and still is a painful decision I made. My family suffered because I lost close to $30,000 in income, but we are making it just for today.
On the back of our medallion it says „We share and care with others the NA way‰ to me others meant everybody. I am a certified HIV educator. This is another gift; I was able to get educated to HIV/AIDS at no cost, you can't beat free education. I do a lot of speaking to a lot of different audiences. I always share as if I am in a NA meeting and it always goes well. I don‚t have to tell a person that I am sharing the 12 steps with them as long as they benefit from what I am telling them it is all good.
I am also Hepatitis C positive. Again another result of sticking needles in my arms. The 12 steps of NA helped me to take and own responsibility for my actions. We all have our wreckage of the past that sooner or later we have to deal with and these diseases are my wreckage. I also became Diabetic as a result of the meds, the virus, or the way I was eating, again it‚s not how we got it it‚s what we do about it. The doctor told me that if I lost 30 pounds I would not have to take Diabetes medicine. I have already told you how many pills I was taking and I was not trying to add any more. I went from 231 lbs. to 205 lbs. my goal is 190 lbs. I am so into my recovery that I laughed when I found out about acquiring another disease, thinking to myself, when is this gonna end and knowing that the answer is when you guys hear that I have left this world and gone on the big meeting in the sky.

My sponsor beat into my head a few things some of them go like this; "Don't take anything personal". So when all this happened I did not take it personal, the 12 steps ease the pain of living life on life‚s terms not remove it. He also said; „Once you identify the problem it is half solved, you just have to put some positive action to it and you are in the recovery process‰. He used to use this analogy, if there is a quarter on the floor and its heads up, you know tails is on the other side but until you bend down and flip it over you can't see the other side. Action had and continues to have to be taken for me to remain in our recovery process. Life is good when I am in the recovery process.

I am taking better care of myself today then I ever did prior to finding out I was AIDS positive. Today I work in the HIV/AIDS field helping other people who are positive get their medicine and see a doctor so they can live a quality life. I am coming up on 15 years of recovery. I have been in the same homegroup for 14 years, we are a group that meets to help each other stay clean and we practice the 12 traditions to the best of our ability. I will end this by saying this. I have seen many HIV+ people. They all do not take their diagnosis the say way. It takes many of them a long time to come to grips with their situation. I am so grateful that I am a member of NA and had a program to help me deal with my situation. Some of those people do not have a good outlook on life. I love knowing the fact that I have a program that has already been proven in the lives of many addicts. So I know it can be the guide through any thing that life throws my way, and I never have to use over it
Ronald R.


Sent via email Mar 11, 2004 from Suffolk, VA, USA.

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