Archives for posts with tag: gay aa

Bill Wilson VT

I am responsible. When anyone, anywhere, reaches out for help, I want the hand of A.A. always to be there. And for that: I am responsible.

Today is my sober birthday.  My 18th year.

The non-sober people who warmly congratulate me on my sober birthday are unaware that within the benign cult of Alcoholics Anonymous abstinence, is not good enough.  The first question many non alcoholics reasonably ask, “Why, after so many years, do you still go to meetings?”  The truth is, sobriety as defined by William Griffith Wilson has become an absolute way of life: a total immersion, a divine calling, a cross onto which we nail ourselves and each other,  a commitment to a God of our own invention that leads unquestioningly to a daily reprieve from the disease of alcoholism.

Last week, I traveled north to East Dorset, Vermont to the birth place and grave of Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous.  I was shown a plank, casually nailed to the wall, behind which Bill Wilson was born.  The gentleman sitting beside me pointed at it, lowering his eyes, telling the story of Bill’s birth with the same reverential gravity christians afford the Nativity.  The following day I sat at my lap top and wondered out loud to fellow gay alcoholics (on a gay sober Facebook page) how things have changed since Bill W and Dr Bob Silkworth framed the beginnings of what would become a world-wide phenomenon.

Much has changed in the rooms of AA since I got sober 18 years ago.   AA has evolved.  When I walked into my first meeting the message was clear.  AA was a ‘bridge to normal living’,  it was the nearest a person like me would get to being ‘born again’.  It was suggested that I look for the similarities and not the difference when people qualified.  It was suggested that I find a sponsor.   A sponsor is a man or woman willing to take an AA new comer through the ubiquitous 12 steps.

Men sponsoring men and women sponsoring women to avoid romantic complications.

Sponsorship used to be a humble service, a helping hand, unraveling the mysteries of AA.  A familiar face to show a newby around the rooms… as well as to go through the 12 steps.  That first year I did whatever I was told to do.  I made tea, cleaned up cigarette butts, I diligently read the Big Book.  I was advised to find a sponsor who had what I wanted… all  I wanted was peace of mind.  I met Vince who took me swiftly through the steps.  I remained willing and teachable.  Vince was the perfect introduction to AA and to him I will always be grateful.  It is because of the solid foundation Vince helped me build in early sobriety that I remain sober today.

Since then, sponsorship has become a monstrous beast riven with ego, co-dependence and self-aggrandizement.  Sponsors congratulate themselves for the number of sponsees they have.  Sponsors throw extravagant anniversary parties, positing their bloated and wholly personal ideas about sobriety, none of which has anything to do with Bill and Bob’s original intentions.  Sponsors have become demi-gods, using and abusing their sponsees at will.

They say: Call me every day, don’t have sex for a year, we’ll do this my way… or the highway.

Originally the newcomer completed the first 8 steps in a day with someone who had already completed all 12 steps.  Step 8 to step 12 would be worked a few weeks later.  Today sponsors can take years to go through the steps, they might not have completed the 12 steps themselves.   Too many sponsors make step work as hard a task as becoming a brain surgeon.

These sponsors use the book of AA against the newcomer, a hopeful… enthusiastic day counter (a day counter is someone who publicly announces how many days sober they are until 90 days have elapsed) may become disillusioned with the huge amount of written work he or she is required to do.  These ghastly sponsors tell the newcomer that they have to be thorough, scrupulously honest, that half measures avail them nothing.

Step 1: the simple act of owning up and surrender is now a protracted treatise on powerlessness and unmanageability.  Step 2: accepting God into my life as a power greater than myself requiring me to bow to anything other than my own will… has become a religious conversion.  Step 3:  the elegant proposal that ones life has been so poorly managed that it is best handed over to a higher power or… God.  Step 4: (a moral inventory) designed originally to swiftly clear away the wreckage of ones past so one might better embrace God and sobriety has become a monster of self-examination, scrutiny and fear.   A monster so fearful most will not get beyond step 4 to step 5.

This is not all.  There are endless stories of Sponsors taking advantage of their sponsees sexually, taking their money, abusing their trust.  In gay AA, because men are sponsoring men, romantic and sexual entanglements are rife.

The problem is:  many gay men I meet in AA or NA are not alcoholics or addicts.  They are lonely, friendless and stuck in a miserable half-life that the gays offer in lieu of community.  They are drinking and taking drugs and hooking up.  The gay dream.  When they realize this is all there is… they turn to AA where they find friends, fellowship and community.  A frat house of sober gays who never had a drinking problem in the first place.

When real alcoholics, desperate drug addicts wander into this clean white environment the gays simply don’t know what to do.  They look askance at the homeless, the beggar and scarcely offer their manicured hands.

The gays have created a ghetto at the edge of AA where they get away with murder.  Literally.  Only last week I heard of another man who killed himself because he couldn’t connect or feel included by gay AA.  If this gay sober cabal were working to keep the majority sober (happy joyous and free) then I would have no argument with gay AA but the facts are: many, many gay men leave AA after 5 years.  This is evident from the ‘countdown’ where we celebrate anniversaries. After seven years there is a chasm, a ten-year gap… between those who stayed and those who left AA.

The enthusiasm (pink cloud) a new comer experiences during the first five years tails off into abject misery as they realize AA isn’t about making friends, fucking cute sober boys and going to sober circuit parties.  It is about being present for ever.  For ever and ever.

As with any small, incestuous group of men and women desperately holding onto cultish beliefs… anyone who challenges what and how they believe is destined to be ostracized. It happens in Gay AA, LA AA, Men’s Stag AA.   Christ,  I sat in a men’s stag AA meeting above a Palisades bank at 7am for nearly a decade.  I witnessed and experienced bullying, homophobia, misogyny, ageism, racism… every day.  Yet, somehow within the rooms of AA, this is perfectly acceptable.  I returned recently to that room above the bank after having written about the ogres who live there.  Those I had written in my blog looked disgusted… then conveniently reimagined AA in their own image.

A sniveling, grey haired, Dickensian lawyer called John told the group how ‘unsafe’ he felt that I was sitting in ‘his’ home group.  Choosing to ignore the AA ‘suggestions’ and ‘traditions’  he personally attacks me.  His greasy hair limp on his pink, mottled forehead, his uneven yellow teeth, his waxy hands trembling with fury.

Another pompous member of that same group, perhaps the vilest of them all, surrounded by the vapid newcomers he sponsors… momentarily forgets his ‘singleness of purpose’ and tangles himself in a crippling scribble of resentment and self pity.   To the amusement and horror of the other alcoholics in the room he lambasts a recent widower who had foolishly delivered a favorable pitch about forgiving and forgetting.  Warning (me obviously) that he holds onto resentments… then magnificently back tracks… realizing how pathetic he sounds to those recent converts to Alcoholics Anonymous he hopes to inspire.

Too many men have left that dank room above the bank and killed themselves.

Online, the gays reacted very badly to my mild critique, my gentle questioning.  They told me I wasn’t sober… that I was ‘dry’, (dry is a pejorative term in AA meaning sober without working the 12 steps of AA) they tell me to go have a drink.  They tell me to leave AA.  More evidence of the sickness that exists not only in gay AA but also within our larger gay community.

I am not leaving AA any time soon.  If I drink (as they suggest)  I will return to AA a hero.  If I don’t drink I will return to AA a hero.  There’s very little they, my detractors, can do.  When they tell me to drink they are really telling me to kill myself… and many will attest that is exactly what the weak-willed have done.  Excluded by the cult of gay AA they have taken their own lives.

Each Alcoholics Anonymous group ought to be a spiritual entity having but one primary purpose — that of carrying its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.

Bill Wilson Grave VT

 

Tyler Sunday

Last Monday I qualified at an AA meeting in the East Village.  A twenty-minute qualification.

I skipped the drugs and drinking part of the story and talked exclusively about  how I got sober and how I stay sober.

Since returning to NYC I had thrown myself back into AA.  90 meetings in 90 days.  A new sponsor and a new sponsee.  I quickly realized that there was no place for me in the gay meetings and opted for the straight/mixed meetings in far-flung places.

I could blast gay AA if I could be bothered… but I can’t.  Needless to say, it’s just not for me.

Monday morning, during the qualification, I nearly burst into tears.  In fact, I nearly burst into tears three times.

Once describing seeing the word God in the written steps of Alcoholics Anonymous at my first meeting,  the second when describing how humbling it was spending time with the tranny hookers I met in jail and thirdly when I remembered the final moments of my using.

I have never ever cried when qualifying.  I knew by the end of my share that something was seriously wrong with me.

I had a fun weekend with a young Texan.  We visited the New Museum, had various lunches and dinners with friends but all the while I felt listless, irritable, prone to bad temper.

We had HIV tests, we explored Williamsburg.  We looked at art, we bought action figures.

Tyler left on Sunday.

Within hours of his leaving my pee had turned a dark umber.

I felt the return of the pain in my chest that I often commented, when ever I had it, on Facebook.

Helpful people told me it was acid reflux, they told me to go to the doctor.  They told me to touch my toes.

I told them:

Is this flu or depression or anxiety or kidney failure?  Guess what folks… the terrible chest and back cramps have returned with a fever…

The terrible chest and stomach pains that I learned to dread, that had plagued me for the past two years were getting progressively worse.

Now, added to everything else… the pale brown pee.  I knew things were… serious.  But I remained optimistic that by the morning the pee would return to normal.

On Tuesday morning, despite my optimism,  my pee had turned the colour of coca cola.

I called a doctor friend at Cornell who made an appointment to see me immediately.

In huge pain I made my way to his office on the upper east side.

He prodded and poked then had me take a sonogram which revealed the cause of the problem:  gall stones… lots of them.

One of them, he suggested, may have lodged in the bile duct and the bile was now backing up into my blood.

By Tuesday afternoon my eyes were bright yellow.

I told my doctor friend that my mother had her gallbladder removed and my father had died of pancreatic cancer.  He baulked.  He couldn’t be sure that this wasn’t cancer until they had probed a little more.

He took blood and sent me home, making an appointment to see his urologist friend this week.

When I got home I went directly to bed.  The pain worsened.  I was in difficulty.  I called my doctor.  He told me to go to the ER.

I called my landlady and she kindly drove me to the NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The doctor called ahead so I was quickly admitted and given a massive dose of morphine.

Hospital Portrait

In a painful daze, during the next day, I had the blockage removed.

The young gay man who removed the stone was incredibly chipper, explained what he was going to do and soon I was asleep.

They shoved something down my throat and into my tummy.  They cut into the bile duct and removed the obstruction.  They checked my pancreas.

It was ironic: the gall bladder and the pancreas irritating each other.  My mother and father at war in my tummy.

I woke up.

Thank GOD it wasn’t cancer.  It was a gall stone.  But my pancreas was angry.  The doctors urged me to have the gallbladder removed.

The following day I was wheeled into surgery and had my Laparoscopic Gallbladder Removal.

I woke up with a dull thud in my belly and four small incisions.

The surgeon described my gallbladder as ‘severely traumatized’.

The bladder had been suffering for many, many years and within hours of surgery I knew that I was waking up without just the physical bladder but without a huge emotional burden.

I felt free. I feel free.

Little Dog

A day longer in the hospital recuperating and they sent me home.

Dear Cristina sent a car to fetch me and Stephen and Roy filled the fridge with wonderful things to eat.

My time in the hospital was made so much better by everyone who works there.

The doctors, surgeons, specialists, nurses and orderlies.

Every one of them treated me with respect, kindness and the level of care I received was without comparison.

Each doctor looked me in the eye, introduced themselves and shook my hand.  They described in detail what was going on and gave me options.

The surgeon bantered and made one feel at ease.

The nurses said goodbye to each patient when they left their shift.

Every person I met wished me a speedy recovery and good luck.

Even though the hospital remains over crowded (since hurricane Sandy) and we were housed in former waiting areas and reopened buildings the staff were sublimely professional.

The other patients, however, were terrible.  They complained about everything.  The staff remained, in the face of this rank ingratitude, resilient.

I saw drug addicts in the ER demand morphine.  I heard men rudely tell nurses that they ‘didn’t do’ wards.  I heard cantankerous men demand their diapers changed.  The nurses were treated like care slaves.  Like servants.

The lack of any kind of humility from most patients was stunning.

I apologized whenever I could for the behavior of my fellow patients.

I’m sure that fear and pain determine the behaviors of most people in hospital.

I’m sure that the entitled rich expect so much more because of the high insurance premiums they pay and the poor… well, they  never get to treat anybody as they are treated.

Still, it’s no excuse.  Bad manners prevail.

It was another peculiarly American experience, one I will never forget.

The dogs were happy to see me but I was less happy to see them.  I couldn’t deal with how much attention they demanded.

I lay in my bed watching the Oscars.  A long way away from that terrible, cruel world.