Wednesday, September 28, 2011

bear hug

In the winter of 2004, I dropped into a Sunday service of The Denver Church of Religious Science at 1420 Ogden. To my surprise, there was a small dark room peppered with normal looking folks all hugging teddy bears  of all colors and sizes, some bears in bow ties and some bears in leather vests and chaps. Everyone was listening to this guy (turned out to be Jim Chandler) giving what must have been a sermon.  It was the bear-hug service. It felt as if I had stumbled onto the set of a “Will and Grace” taping. It was completely surreal and I hope I never forget it. Here’s a tiny blurb I found about Bearhug Service.
On Valentine’s Day, our little messengers will make their final trip to Hospice.  Each hospice resident will have the opportunity to select their special bear – a bear to be there even when their family or caregivers cannot.  A bear to give them comfort on their journey from this life expression.  The caregivers at Hospice who give so much from their heart will also choose their bear, to fill their hearts again with our love.  And, any family members or friends of those in care may choose a bear to help mend their hearts at this time of loss.
The next time I saw/met Jim Chandler was when a friend and I were looking for a space to house a recovery meeting for meth users. There was another genre of recovery meeting that has just moved into the Ogden location and it seemed perfect. Jim was a complete advocate to get us clearance to use the space. He talked about how many of his gay male church members continued to struggle with meth issues, many to the point of devastation of their lives. He indicated he felt it was like a plague and wanted to help with more than just lip service. It turned out he took quite a bit of flack from his board. Many were not at all happy that tweakers would be roaming the halls of the church in the evenings unsupervised. Those meetings that started in those days are still going strong and it is not completely known how many Denver gay men (and others) that have been supported in finding their way back into a healthier lifestyle. He would never have acknowledged it, but it was because of Jim Chandler that gay men in recovery from crystal meth had easier access to find their own sober voices.
These are my experiences with Jim Chandler. He did a lot more than this for our community without fanfare and without a calling card. He didn’t always require grant money and he didn’t require research strategies to do outreach and help provide services. He was not perfect by any means, but he was a valuable and colorful member of the Denver central HIV community.
When I started this newsletter, I immediately asked him to contribute. He always did, without reservation- something I struggle to get service providers who get paid very good salaries to care for HIVsters to do. He sent article after article peppered with his own brand of idealism and religious science. I was truly saddened to hear about his transition. And I am still sad. I feel for his longtime companion Steve.  I guess I will continue to have a bear hug service for the both of them. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

wayfaring stranger

image credit... sanjay kothari

I'm just a poor wayfaring stranger
Traveling through, this world alone
There's no sickness, toil nor danger
In that bright land, to which I go
I'm going there to see my mother/father
I'm going there no more to roam
I'm only going over Jordan
I'm only going over home

I know dark clouds will gather o'er me
I know my way is rough and steep
Yet beautiful fields lie just before me
Where God's redeemed, their vigils keep
I'm going there to see my mother
She said she'd meet me when I come
I'm just a going over Jordan
I'm just a going over home

I want to wear a crown of Glory
When I get home to that good land
I want to shout Salvation's story
In concert with the Blood-Washed Band
I'm going there to meet my Saviour
To sing his praise forever more
I'm just a going over Jordan
I'm just a going over home

i woke up early, fluffed the house with a 9am showing in mind, and headed out the door at 6:45 am to meet some afr board members, my co-host  and ivette torres from samhsa for breakfast. the day unfolded calmly and beautifully, but somehow i think the conversation and the meeting of intention at that breakfast changed me. it changed me in a way that is not drastic, but it opened a new corridor to strategic thinking that i have forgotten.
i know that nothing earth shattering took place, but i do believe that some metaphoric lock has been loosened. i felt it and i am quieted.  i have worked with afr for a while because of a few reasons. firstly, i believe in recovery as a positive aspect of life. i believe that addiction is far more rampant than we like to think about or discuss and afr challenges that societal norm.
maybe i have also come to understand that i enjoy advocating for an underdog, and recovery seems to fit that bill perfectly. so when i join direction with afr, i am rewarded with a sense of pushing for what i deem "right". in no way am i intimating that my opinion and my feelings about this are "the truth", but i share my personal experience around all this. so whatever part of me that is soothed by fighting for what is right gets a big stroke especially on a day like today.
the breakfast showed me a new game board, just like going up a level on any video game. i haven't started to play in this new level, but finding out about it was a big spiritual hug.
the fellow trudgers that shared their views on recovery today were simple and lovely. a 21 year old man shared his story of getting clean from heroin by pulling a geographical with his future wife. they left their lives, dried out and cleaned up, got jobs, got married, and have gone back to school. he has 5 years of clean time and his direct approach and his tendency towards helping others is hypnotic.
a woman shared about living with depression since her teens, and struggling with substance use, then discovered therapy and anti-depressants and her life has turned around. she has a purpose and a direction which is quite the antithesis of living with depression.
and the mother of a cocaine addict who has 2 years of recovery spoke about all the things she never realized (or had wanted to)  about addiction and all the tasks that have appeared for her life as she has walked through this recovery journey with her family. she has become an advocate and a mentor for other parents and in turn is healing more of herself.
another speaker was in department of corrections for 18 years. he went to a therapeutic community in lieu of serving out the other 18 years of his sentence. through all this, he reported finding a life when he never realized there might even be a different one available. the particular man has become a personal icon of mine. there is a genuine aura of love and healing when in his presence and as he teared up today talking about the sentencing judges remarks about never having to see him again, i again realized that i have so much to understand and learn.
we had the event at the park adjacent to some very well-known therapeutic communities for both men, women, and pregnant women. with those tc's, there were automatically 200 or so attendees. i believe we hit 500, but i didn't count. at the close of the rally, i sat and wondered if these glimpses and stories of hope, wonder, and recovery by people outside their existence would have an affect on any of them. i don't see how it couldn't. at least for one or two.
i saw a recent client of mine who has continued to struggle with meth who has been sentenced to tc. he saw me, recognized me, and decided not to acknowledge it. i understand this completely. i also believe that he may very well be one of those people who needs mental health treatment before recovery of any sort can truly happen. my experience of him is that he has no concept of self-comfort. and without that, how can one ever find peace? i empathize with a struggle to comprehend self-soothing on a very core level.
i am not sure how my interest in afr will evolve. i have volunteered to chair the rally committee for next year. i have a couple of other ideas, but then i always do. i look forward to doing the work. i am anticipating something wonderful.
until then, i am very happy to savor the blessings i have today. i don't remember feeling as carefree as i have this summer. when i finally let go of trying to submerge how i feel, i have been less overrun with those emotions.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

no need to kick tomorrow

i have been acting chair for the planning committee for the afr (advocates for recovery) rally and will emceeing with my friend kisty tomorrow. i have come to understand that this thing called recovery is very underrated. so much money is spent on prosecuting people who use and people who have addictions. so much more money is spent on incarcerating people for using drugs and alcohol and for being addicted. but so very little resources are spent on promoting and supporting this thing we call recovery. i guess it doesn't have quite the same glamour. for me, now, where my life has come, recovery is worth celebrating. it's worth shouting about. it's worth holding up to the light so that others might see.

2011 Rally Flyer_Final

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Repeal Repeal Repeal

The discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ban on gay and lesbian service members is officially in the dustbin of history. For 17 years, the law prohibited qualified gay and lesbian Americans from serving in the armed forces and sent a message that discrimination was acceptable.

Today is the beginning of a new chapter for the nation's military. Gay and lesbian service members previously discharged under DADT now have the opportunity to re-enlist. Gay and lesbian Americans eager to serve the country but not willing to compromise who they are as individuals will, for the first time ever, be able to openly join. And brave men and women currently serving will have the freedom to come out and be honest with their comrades about who they are and who they love.

HRC members and supporters played a critical role in getting us here. You sent over 625,000 e-mails to your members of Congress urging them to support repeal. You helped us gather nearly 50,000 handwritten pro-repeal messages for delivery to Capitol Hill. And you supported our efforts in states across the country, lobbying your elected officials and engaging with the 20,000 veterans HRC mobilized to speak out in favor of repeal. Today, the results of your dedication are realized.

Where We Go From Here

Despite today's milestone, there is important work to ensure meaningful implementation of repeal and full equality for gay and lesbian service members.There are several actions that are crucial to continuing down the path of full equality:
Opposing discriminatory legislative actions brought by anti-LGBT lawmakers
Supporting the Respect for Marriage Act as a means of ending the discriminatory DOMA law
Providing oversight of military personnel decisions related to DADT repeal, particularly as they pertain to the extension and fair application of benefits
Reviewing the barriers to transgender individuals serving in the military
Repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which criminalizes intimacy between same-sex couples

Learn more about what advocates for equality can do moving forward.... reposted from

Saturday, September 17, 2011

i'm lucky 7

image credit ... samuel hodge

“If we are painstaking about this phase of our development, we will be amazed before we are half way through.  We are going to know a new freedom and a new happiness.  We will not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.  We will comprehend the word serenity and we will know peace.  No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.  That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear.  We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away.  Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change.  Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.  We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us.  We will suddenly realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves.
Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us — sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them."

september 27 marks the 7 year anniversary of my sobriety date. I am preparing this as an article for a newsletter and it needs to be ready for print. the journey for me has been a true adventure into a world much like a grimm's brothers' fairytale. there have been snippets of wonder, intrigue, danger, heartbreak, all woven into a storylines which have meaning for my life in metaphors beyond  just the day to day.

the ideas that i have encountered in my journey to live clean and sober have far surpassed anything i could have imagined. on the days when i am grounded, i know i feel healthier, happier, and more whole (very queer as i used to repeat an affirmation with those words). and on the days when i am not on my game, sometimes i feel as if i have been turned inside out, like a wayward sock at the bottom of the dryer. all my insides hanging out and picking up lint, the pattern and texture of my life visible for the world to see-(as if anyone is really looking at that stuff but me).

my world view has expanded as  has my ability to hear others' stories. and all of the torture that i have witnessed and trudged through may just be leading me to a safer and higher overlook. i had no idea that many of the things i have thought about myself were based on misperceptions and circumstances- and not truth. i had no idea that i was not to blame for others' inappropriate behaviors. i had no idea that i had every right to be - just the way i am (i honestly had no clue about this- for the whole of my life before sobriety, i quietly believed that  somehow i was tainted and wrong)

i didnt' realize that a mental health issue was just like thin hair or brown eyes and could be managed and worked with- after a lifetime of thinking it called the shots. i have learned that not reacting is sometimes the best response to a situation. i am understanding that my impulses-although succinct and powerful- are not necessarily facing a good direction. and i have learned (albeit painful sometimes) that saying "no" to myself is sometimes the kindest thing i can do.

somehow, life has once again become an uncharted adventure for me. the unknowns have moved into my awareness more, but the fear of these aspects is diminishing. life has been full and savory. as i come up on an  anniversary and reflect, i let go of more and more regret and find gratitude for the lessons that regret ushered in. i am even in the process of forgiving my betrayers. it's so much saner than holding that jagged chard of glass called resentment (fear)

i always joke with my mother because she was in labor with me for almost 48 hours. it was 1958 and cesareans weren't as commonplace as they are today. i tell her that even though i had agreed to come down to live this life, i was there in the womb, lodging myself in her birth canal, because i was having second thoughts. i had changed my mind (pentimento). i got stage fright and couldn't go on. i knew how hard it was going to be and i didn't think i could do it. and i have echoed those thoughts at several junctions along the way.

yet somehow, with the help of something outside myself, i have managed to thrive. this fact, indeed, is a miracle. i know i am blessed. and i know i'm not alone. here's to a festive and fun-filled fall. i'm gonna enjoy my  good mood while it's in town. and if you can make it to AFR's Rally for Recovery, please do!

La Vie en Rose

Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Every day words
Seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose
I thought that love was just a word
They sang about in songs I heard
It took your kisses to reveal
That I was wrong, and love is real
Hold me close and hold me fast
The magic spell you cast
This is la vie en rose
When you kiss me, Heaven sighs
And though I close my eyes
I see la vie en rose
When you press me to your heart
I'm in a world apart
A world where roses bloom
And when you speak
Angels sing from above
Every day words
Seem to turn into love songs
Give your heart and soul to me
And life will always be
La vie en rose

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Friday, September 9, 2011

the ghost in you

The Ghost In You lyrics

A man in my shoes runs a light
and all the papers lied tonight
but falling over you
is the news of the day
Angels fall like rain
And love - is all of heaven away
Inside you the times moves
and she don't fade
The ghost in you
She don't fade
Inside you the time moves
and she don't fade
A race is on
I'm on your side
And here in you
my engines die
I'm in a mood for you
Or running away
Stars come down in you
and love - you can't give it away
on september 11 in 2001, i was living in a small apartment in san francisco. i had lost my corporate travel job and had found work in los angeles so was commuting back and forth to la 2x week and staying with a relative in manhattan beach. it was not an optimum situation, but it kept the revenue floating. i also had a job waiting tables in san francisco at an italian restaurant at fisherman's wharf, which kept a few hundred a week in my pocket.
it was a maddening pace and it seemed a little glamorous, but it started out taking a toll on my sanity. on the 11th, i was sleeping in the guest room and the tv had been left on. i woke up and saw some footage on the tube that showed a plane flying into the towers. i remember thinking to myself- "what movie is this" and then as the minutes dissipated a second plane hit the towers and well and it began to sink in that this was no movie at all.
i ran to wake the other family that was home and we sat mesmerized at the footage and kept wiping disbelief from our consciousness like a wiper swashing water from a windshield, only to be overrun with the same thing moments later.
the next days was a pastiche of sensations. fear, anger, horror, confusion, but there was focus in the house where i was staying because a family member had planned a wedding for the 14th in las vegas. it seemed absurd to go ahead, but the plans had been made, family and friends all needed to have a purpose, so the wedding was on. as i was readying for the trip, my la supervisor, also a friend, informed me that because of the projected travel freeze, my job would be nullified and i would lose that income, effective immediately. it was sour news and i was numb. i rode with an acquaintance to las vegas and during the first hour of the drive i got a call from the owner of the restaurant and was informed that staff was being cut there as well and i would not be working for an indefinite period of time.
the rest of the weekend is really a blur. it was a fijian themed wedding and i remember checking out early on. it was september 14 2011 and i had no concept of what was in store for the next day- let alone the next year. this massive event on that clear east coast morning, set into place a series of events that caused me to completely lose myself and the skin and bones of my life to addiction. it was a 3 year unhinging of the shipwreck i had called my life.

today as look back to this globally infamous event and consider the changes that have taken place, i feel detached. i am not angry about all the loss, because i have mourned it. i have made peace with it. i have accepted our part in it. even so, i don't think i ever want to do a dance that is even somewhat reminiscent of the "irish jig" that passenger bombs created in me.
10 years is a solid block of time and 20 percent of my life. it has certainly been the most challenging 20 percent thus far because i have worked to become present and available. compromise and loss, reliving trauma and forgiveness, and discovery and exploration have cut a wide and visible path in the backwood overgrowth of my emotional landscape. the journey still goes on and it is with much less fear and far more humility that i take each new step.
if i have learned anything these last 10 years, it is that all is not as it initially seems, that i am much stronger than i ever knew, and that fear and unknowing do not necessarily lead to a dark place, they may just be the dark before a brighter day.
i will observe some silence this september 11 2011, out of respect for all those that lost their lives, and all those who were affected because they were left behind to feel the pain. and i will observe some silence too, because in some eerie fashion, i started a journey that day to rediscover and reconstruct my own life.

this is a remake of the classic psychedelic furs from bt and last year's double "these hopeful machines" cd. the mood and the message somehow still tug at my psyche.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Amy Winehouse - Valerie (Acoustic, Live, Best Quality)

Geniuses are like thunderstorms.
They go against the wind, terrify people, cleanse the air...

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