“You’re the inspiration” is not only the title of this blog but the title of an amazingly schmaltzy Chicago song from the 80s. I named this blog about addiction, disease and recovery after that musical masterpiece because it occurred to me years ago that whenever I was in my local Rite Aid buying alcohol, some corny love song like this one or this one or anything from the Celine Dion (more on her at another time) catalog was always playing. It was as if the musical director for the drug store chain had masterfully crafted a soft rock tapestry perfect for purchasing everything from cheap wine and cat litter to copies of Soap Opera Digest and Fleet enemas. The humor and irony that songs of love and downright co-dependency (See: “Without You”, the Mariah Carey version for further proof) were blasting as I purchased the only thing that I loved at that time was not lost on me. My alcoholism had a soundtrack and much like my disease itself, it wasn’t pretty.
These songs are played at weddings and are the kinds of things that wind up on late night CD compilations that you secretly want to buy. And it’s funny that most of the lyrics of these heartwarming hits could be applied to the way I felt about drugs and alcohol. Take “Through the Eyes of Love”-please!- for example.The lyric “Please don’t let this feeling end, it might not come again and I want to remember” pretty much sums up my never-ending search to get high and hopes that I can recapture and hang onto the feeling. Not only is this a great song to summarize my addiction but it’s also the appropriate thing to play if you’re an ice skater who goes blind. Yet the romance of my drinking unlike these pop music cockroaches, didn’t last for long. It was ugly for the better part of a decade. In my mind though it still sounded cool like the real music I loved like PJ Harvey or Phoenix or Bjork (who’s Post was a favorite of mine to listen to high). In reality it was out of date, old and tired like the songs at Rite Aid.
In a way, urtheinspiration is my greatest hits. Thoughts I’ve had, secrets I’ve kept, memories that have come back, memories that are still fuzzy and new theme songs. Also, You’re the inspiration refers to you, the people I know and don’t know who battle addiction and adversity who routinely tell me, “yes, you can get through this.” So let the music play and no I don’t take requests. Okay, maybe I’ll take requests as long as it isn’t anything by Air Supply.
When I was drinking and using drugs, I used to tell myself “everything is going to be okay.” I said this especially when things were really fucked up. Like I honestly thought just by saying everything was going to be okay that it would be instantly better. I know now that yes, everything will be okay but it helps if I’m actually doing something to insure the road to okayness. Things are less likely to be shitty when I’m not contributing to the overall shit-fest.
At seven months sober, I had run away to live by the ocean and go to AA meetings and go back to school. I left my hipster part of town, my relationship of 12 years, and my daily drinking friends to get my act together. I didn’t know what getting my act together would exactly entail. Like did that mean I was going to rehearse dance numbers and sew sequins on a top hot or did it mean admitting I had a serious problem with drugs and alcohol and asking for help? I’m afraid it was the latter, less glamorous and more daunting set of tasks I had to take on. I gained some clarity and started to face parts of my life that previously scared the shit out of me. Through this lifting of the fog, I decided it was time to go to a doctor and get a HIV test. I was a 36 year gay man who snorted and screwed his way through Los Angeles in the 90’s and had only been tested once. It was time. It’s never a good sign when the clinic that took 3 hours to take your blood and tells you they’ll call you in two weeks blows up your cellphone three days later at 8 o’clock in the morning. They needed me to come in for my results. As soon as possible. Fuck. The grey haired gentle RN, whom I’m sure I owe some sort of apology or thanks to, told me I was HIV positive. It was as if she said those words and then I was submerged underwater. The next 5 minutes were a blur as my face grew hot and red while tears dripped down my cheeks like a leaky faucet. I barreled down the stairs of the clinic desperately trying not to collapse or vomit. Great, I thought to myself. What wonderful timing. Divorced, trying to get sober and now HIV positive. Given my current streak of fabulous luck, I assumed it was only a matter of time until I found out that I was adopted or that I needed to have a limb removed. Once on the bus, I called my sister. I told her the news. And told her I really wanted a drink. She told me I couldn’t and told me to go home and lay down. While blubbering tears, I said “I never wanted to be somebody who had to overcome things. I never wanted to be an inspiration.” She wisely replied, “Well sweetie, it’s not up to us.”
Two and a half years after that diagnosis and days before my third sobriety birthday, I’m still not sure that I’m ready to be an inspiration or if I even qualify. But I do know this, I have gotten through what I’ve gotten through largely because when I thought my world was crumbling, people who had lived through similar things told me “you are going to be okay” and I believed them. I wasn’t like when I lied to myself that everything was just fine. Oddly enough it was admitting that everything was supremely fucked up and having the courage to laugh about it, that made everything okay. So that in short, is why this blog exists. Sharing a laugh or talking about uncomfortable things makes me feel better. And maybe I can do that for you too. Hopefully others who are addicted or positive or heartbroken will read this and believe me from the bottom of my heart that everything, will in fact, be okay.