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Dedication

I'd like to dedicate this article to all the many, many friends I have lost to AIDS over the past 25 years and also to the many long term survivors of the disease, like myself. 2007 is my "BIG" year as I will turn 50, celebrate 15 years clean and sober and will be 20 years HIV+!

 

For me the disease came as a Valentines gift. It was Valentines day, 1987 and as a gift to me, my boyfriend at the time had arranged for both of us to go to a clinic in Chelsea to get tested. I thought it was a very sweet gesture and had no problem going even though I was in the "high-risk" group of a gay man living in NYC. At the time I had not had many partners, nor had I ever been to the notorious 'gay baths' or back rooms, so I was sure I was negative. So, we gave blood on February 14, 1987 and were told to come back in on March 1st for the results. On March 1st as we headed back to the clinic, my mind was on the 30th birthday party I was throwing for myself on March 15th at my parents home in Westhampton Beach. That same day was also the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade in WHB and I was promised a spot on the float that my brother Billy and his partner Aram were building for the parade. So my mind was anywhere but in that clinic in Chelsea until that nurse said : "Your results show that you are HIV+". Suddenly I felt very present and very faint and I must have turned white as the nursed continued by saying: "honey, try not to think of it as a death sentence, you probably have a year to a year and a half before you get sick and", She was kind enough to leave off the word "DIE!" I was in shock, especially since my boyfriend Jeff had just been told he was negative! When I met Jeff outside the clinic I had tears in my eyes and he knew what those tears meant. I then told him that I needed to get drunk and coked out of my mind so that I could forget what I had just been told. Little did I know then that this was the beginning of my descent into the disease of Alcoholism and Addiction that would become my life for the next 5 years.

 

My 30th birthday party was a huge success! I appeared in the St. Patrick's Day parade as a Mermaid , enthralling the crowds of thousands. After the parade, I joined family and friends at Club Mack to celebrate my 30th birthday all the time thinking it would be my last birthday celebration. I got very drunk that night and every night for the next 5 years and why shouldn't I, I was going to die any day now! But it turned out that the disease of alcoholism would have a far more devastating affect on me than the disease of AIDS. Within 6 months of my diagnosis, my boyfriend Jeff had left me because he said he wasn't going to watch me kill myself with booze and drugs and I was unwilling to get the help I needed. That help would come years later in the form of a beautiful woman named Leslie.

 

I met Leslie on a business trip to San Francisco in 1991, she was the college roommate of my dear friend Kim. Leslie was so beautiful, it was love at first sight and I would have married her, but I'm gay. So, I did the next best thing and called my younger, straight brother Billy to come out and meet her and six months later they were married. It wasn't long after they were married that Leslie wrote me a letter saying I was an alcoholic and needed help. My response, how dare she! I bring her into my family and she has the nerve to call me an alcoholic! I burned that letter, but on Memorial day weekend of 1992, that letter came back to haunt me.

 

I was in Puerto Rico and partying away as usual. On the last night of my visit, I wound up in a crack house smoking crack and doing heroin to come down from the crack. When I came to the next morning, I was lying in only my underwear wondering where my clothes, shoes, wallet and watch were. So, I crawled over to the only person left to ask where my stuff was and found him lying there cold and dead. My first thought was that I wished it was me; my second thought was that letter Leslie had written me. I swore off the drugs right then and there but my drinking escalated to an all time high through the summer of 1992. On Labor day weekend of that summer I flew out to San Francisco to be with my friend Eric before he died of AIDS. Eric told me that if I didn't get help I would be the next one lying on a death bed and it would have nothing to do with AIDS and everything to do with the disease of Alcoholism . He made me promise to get help and then he died. The next day, I called my parents and asked for the help. On October 4th at the 30th birthday of my sister Gussie, I had my last drunk at Club Mack and the next day Leslie drove me to Seafield Center. I have been clean and sober ever since. Thanks to God, my sponsor Jonathan, my wonderful family and friends, sobriety and the new HIV medications, I celebrated my 50th birthday this March. 15th!

 

Sent via Email March 21, 2007 from Southhampton, NY, USA.

 
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