The Club – 06/12/16

The Club – 06/12/16

On September 11th 2001, I remember distinctly what I was doing when I found out that a plane had flown through one of the World Trade Center Towers.  My boyfriend Matt and I were awakened in our apartment in West Hollywood by a distraught call from his best friend Susan who lived in a high-rise not far from the towers in New York City.  Susan frantically told Matt to turn on the news and within minutes, the second plane had flown into the second tower.  While Susan and her boyfriend Patrick watched and photographed the attacks as they played out live, Matt and I stood by and watched the televised live broadcast on CNN.  Hours passed as more breaking news unspooled of the attack on the Pentagon and the fourth plane that was taken down in Pennsylvania.  I remember feeling disbelief, fear, anger, and sadness.  I feel confident to say that most people who were cognitive at that time remember where they were, what they were doing, and who they were with on 9/11/2001.

On the morning of 6/12/2016, I woke up alone reminiscing about my DJ set that I had played the day before at LA Gay Pride.  My laptop hadn’t synced up properly with the DJ equipment that was provided for me and I basically had to rig up the system to work.  Although my set was compromised by the malfunction, nobody seemed to notice my “broken set.”  “Oh well, next year will be better,” I thought to myself.

I could hear the rumbling of LA Pride through the window in my bedroom and it motivated me to get up and get ready for the parade.  I have lived in the same apartment where I share an alley with Santa Monica Boulevard for twenty years and a rush of adrenaline hits me when I hear the familiar laughter, floats, cheers, and helicopters associated with the annual LA LGBT Pride Parade.  The sound of pride triggers a learned instinct, similar to the Pavlovian dog theory, that guides me to put together a comfortable outfit for the day that incorporates a rainbow flag or something representative of the love for our LGBT community.

I love Gay Pride celebrations.  Always have, always will.  Like most cultures, the LGBT community is broken down by subcultures.   The obvious differences within the group allow us to mock ourselves and poke fun at each other.  Some of the more apparent differences are; Gays, Lesbians, Bisexuals, Trans-Genders.  Then we are broken down even deeper as ethnic groups, twinks, bears (and other animals associated with looks and roles in the community), butches, fems, drag queens, drag kings, straight-acting, daddies, sons, activists, circuit boys, sobers, religious affiliates, singers, dancers, athletes, leather, and kink.  At times, our subcultures separate us.  The Rainbow Flag represents a community of people united together.  I like to refer to us as the Rainbow people.  A rainbow is literally defined as a bow or arc of prismatic colors.  This year, I attached a rainbow flag handkerchief to my backpack as a miniature cape.

My tradition was interrupted this year when I participated in my morning ritual of checking my phone for messages and Facebook notifications.  My news feed was filled with bits and pieces of a story about a bar where a gunman shot and killed around fifty people and injured another fifty.  My roommate was in the living room and I asked him if he had heard about the tragedy.  Both of us had been out late celebrating pride the night before and were blind to what had happened while we were out having a good time.

At first, we both felt a jolt of shock, sadness, and disbelief.  Really… who wants to entertain the possibility or reality of this sort of tragedy?   I read a few articles online and had CNN Breaking News coverage streaming in the background on my living room television.  I was shocked again when I heard that it was a terrorist attack.

Another story surfaced as we stared uncomfortably at the live coverage.  In Santa Monica, a tip was reported to local authorities by a resident describing a suspicious man hanging out in his car.  Police arrived and searched his vehicle and found a massive amount of ammunition and chemicals that were described as a recipe for making bombs.  When asked by cops what he was planning on doing with the explosives, he indicated that he was heading to LA Pride.

WTF???!!!???

The Orlando story was inching its way closer to my personal space as the details unfolded.  It was a dance-club in Orlando.  Though I had never been to a dance club in Orlando, I have been to dance clubs in most cities that I had visited.  And having been a club DJ for about two decades, I have certainly spent a good portion of my life in these venues.  This can’t be real.  How?  Who? Why?  No, I didn’t ask myself these questions… I wasn’t ready.

Then I came across another article that offered the detail that completely detached me from my emotions.  The dance club was a bar called “Pulse” that catered to the LGBTQ Community.  That did it.  I couldn’t read or hear any more.

Many people outside of the gay community don’t realize the symbolic nature what it means when Gay people say “We’re going out to the Club.”  The Club represents much more than a place to go drink and get laid.  To me, The Club represents a “space” where I danced with another man for the first time.  In fact, I came to realize that it was okay to be gay at The Club by speaking with others about sexual orientation and what it is like to be different.  I had my first gay kiss at a night club, met the man that I had sex with for the first time, and met my first boyfriend (not the same guy).  The Club is where I heard music that lifted me to a spiritual high that I never felt when I attended my synagogue.  It was a place to congregate, be myself to the best of my ability, flirt with other men like straight kids have the privilege to do with each other in grade school, sing the lyrics to the songs we know all the words to, and dance.  When I came out of the closet, I loved to get on the dance floor, feel the music, and let it speak through me with my homemade dance moves.  I could easily feel like I was on ecstasy (even when I wasn’t).  It was my safety zone, place of worship, community, fellowship, party, and dating life rolled up into one.   I loved the feeling of inclusivity I found at a gay dance club so much that I trained myself to DJ so I could share the feeling with others.

Therefore, the attack at “Pulse” in Orlando struck a deep chord within me and it horrifies me to think of the beautiful souls that were taken.

It was time to walk down the street and join in the parade.  The parade was bittersweet.  As I walked down Santa Monica Boulevard, my heart was warmed as I passed by the PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians & Gays) float, local bar floats, and the Los Angeles LGBT Center float led by 7 individuals carrying large posters of the letters O R L A N D O.  At that moment, I realized that I wasn’t the only one attending pride with the victims of the Florida shootings in my heart.  It set my mind at ease to keep walking rather than retreating back home to watch more unfolding breaking news.  The news was unfolding live at LA Pride where many, like myself, were trying to grasp the mind-baffling attack on our brothers and sisters.

I continued to walk down the strip feeling slightly euphoric as I exchanged hugs with friends that I have met over the years, witnessed gatherings of prideful celebrations in loft balconies, and listened to the thumping music and celebratory cheers from the patios of supporting local businesses.  As I neared the entrance to the Festival, I passed by a more personal landmark… the crosswalk between Revolver Bar and Flaming Saddles at Larrabee Street and Santa Monica Boulevard.

At this crosswalk, about fifteen years ago, my boyfriend Matt & I were attacked – gay-bashed.  A gold-colored van came to a quick stop to us as we were crossing the street.  Matt responded with an arm gesture implying “Don’t you see the crosswalk?”.  One of the four guys spat out, “What are you looking at, faggot?”  Within a minute, three of the guys managed to get out of the vehicle, attack us with fists and a beer bottle over my head, then drove off.  My first instinct was to blame Matt for acknowledging the strangers’ dangerous driving with his arm gesture.  It was hard for me to see at that time that we were the victims of a hate-crime who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ironically, the West Hollywood Sheriff Department was located across the street from this intersection, and I chose to walk across to the station and report the incident.  Matt was barely out of the closet at the time and he insisted that we just go home.  But I was adamant that we make the report so the city would be aware of these dangerous men who were likely going to attack again.

I uncomfortably entered the building with a false sense of confidence with a beer-bottle-induced bump on my head and approached the deputies at the reception desk.  I explained what had happened and asked how to file a report.  Being a victim who was still in shock from a bashing that had occurred within the hour, it was difficult for me to articulate what had just happened.  All I had was my story, a boyfriend that reluctantly shared his story, a few digits of the California license plate of the gold van, and a basic description of the assailants.  The Sheriff seemed more concerned about filing the paperwork when he asked us, “Are you sure you would like to file a report”?  We didn’t have the full license plate and names of our attackers, and it seemed as if he was ready to call this a cold case.  Reluctantly, the deputies obliged and filed away the report.

Although Matt and I quickly recovered physically from the attack, I have relived the attack numerous times over the years when I have crossed this street or when I hear of another attack on our community.  Reflecting on my personal incident fifteen years ago and feeling the sadness of the Orlando attack highlighted the relevance and my purpose for celebrating Gay Pride each year.

As I entered the gates of Pride, I felt safe and at home.  I was surrounded by people who wore rainbows and gleamed of a communal high… a similar feeling to how I described The Club.  Strangers were family and nothing more needed to be spoken other than “Happy Pride”.  The response, “Thank you, Happy Pride”.  The 2016 LA Pride Music Festival was a conglomeration of entertainment stages, food vendors, retail vendors, Non-Profit Organization booths related to the LGBT Community, and recreational areas.  A large portion of those who attend the parade (400,000) also enter the festival.

IMG_0336

At LA Pride on 06/12/2016, there was dancing, singing, warm embraces, and a common feeling of heartfelt prayers for our Orlando family,  and for all of those who were affected by the incident.

A couple weeks have passed since the Orlando tragedy and I continue to feel mixed emotions.  I am grateful to have been able to witness the outpouring of support from so many different people, organizations, and countries around the globe.  It saddens and angers me to see the pop-up groups that continue to demonstrate hate towards the LGBT Community.  It frustrates me that I am still a moving target that needs to constantly be on-alert because of my sexual orientation.

Every One of the forty-nine lives lost in Orlando has a story.  At first, I was in denial.  But now, I feel the need to observe each individual face.  The closer I look, the faces become people I know.  My heart sadly and reluctantly insists that I have crossed paths with each of them at The Club.

the club pic

 

Advertisements

Remembering DC

DC.jpgAlmost ten years ago in 2005, I arrived at a convention for people who have a desire to stop using crystal meth: this after a 6-day run of using that drug, having no sleep, and barely having had any food or water.  I was confused, slap-happy, and run down.  All I can really recall is feeling awkward as I watched people laugh, share stories, and speak a language I didn’t understand.  It makes sense now as I reflect on my own experience growing with this group.  I remember curling into fetal position next to a cool window in a rec room and falling into a nap as different individuals were murmuring something about gratitude.

Last year,  in March of 2015, I showed up to this same convention in a similar state of mind even though I was now ten years clean and sober.  I felt sleepy, hungry, and anxious.  I was sleepy because I had woken up early after staying up a bit too late watching House of Cards on Netflix.  I was hungry because I didn’t allow myself to grab a bite during my long work day.  And I was anxious because I have learned that my insecurities creep up on me naturally when I attend large functions of any sort.

Upon arrival, I mentally prepared myself in my car then walked towards the entrance of the venue where I was met by the greeters.  “Greeters” are volunteers who welcome you, then direct you to registration.  I proceeded to register, hugging and acknowledging friends I have made over the years, and picked up my name badge and weekend itinerary.  Although I was surrounded by bright and shiny familiar faces and others who seemed as uncomfortable as myself, I felt the need to flee the scene.  I made my way back to my car where I proceeded to collect myself.  I convinced myself that since I was early, I should leave and come back a bit later when most others had registered.  This way, I would be able to blend in and go unnoticed.  But my gut was feeling queasy about this decision.

If I were to leave (probably go home and shower, then return), I would likely return a bit tardy, enter the convention alone, and would likely convince myself to leave before the welcoming ceremony ended- because I would be alone amongst the hundreds in attendance.

Bearing this in mind, I fought my impulse to flee the premises, exited my car once again, and found my way to the entrance of the convention- and was re-welcomed by “greeters”.  I encountered a close friend of mine and secured a reservation to sit with him at the welcoming meeting.

I found myself actively engaging in conversation with others as we nibbled on fruit and cake that was supplied for people like me that needed sustenance.   I noticed a friend of mine, David, sitting alone and seeming deep in thought.  This was not an extraordinary circumstance being that I had known he had just undergone his third of fourth chemotherapy treatments.  I cautiously approached him, offered our traditional hug and let him know I was happy to see him.

39844_134030733307442_6132484_n.jpgI met David nine years ago, just a small amount of time after I had reached my one-year sobriety milestone.  At that first meeting, David appeared lost and extremely worn down.  His story would prove to be jaw-dropping, and it included many years of surviving homeless on Los Angeles’ notorious skid row.  He shared vividly his experience of sleeping on the streets and how uncomfortable it was to sleep pressed against cool concrete.  As much as I wanted to help, my instincts told me that I should keep some distance and that this poor man was a lost cause.

Month after month, David continued to show up and participate in the group’s fellowship.  His gaunt, distant eyes and muffled incoherent speech evolved to focused and articulate.  I witnessed this brave man crawl into sobriety from the streets, get on his feet, graduate school, and become a huge inspiration for other recovering alcoholics and addicts. When the cancer card was placed in his path eight  years into his sobriety,  I couldn’t help but think that this man had beat odds on many levels and that this was just another challenge.

I have learned from experience that asking someone who has been struggling with cancer, “How are you feeling?” is not the best approach.  To me, the logical answer would be “I have cancer, how do you think I am feeling?”  But after a few moments of engaging in general conversation, I popped the question … “How are you feeling, David?”  

I was humbled by his response.

David explained that he was doing great.  He was preparing for his final chemo treatment and was in a very positive space.  He had been using the tools acquired from his nine years of sobriety and was able to acknowledge that he had recently overcome an obstacle with his battle with cancer.  Initially, about five months before, when his tumors had grown to overwhelming sizes, he began to feel that he was becoming the cancer, or a visitor in his own cancer-stricken body.  But David demonstrated his confidence through a God-filled smile that this cancer battle was almost behind him.  He said that he had been following his doctor’s direction religiously while simultaneously showing up for other recovering addicts and working his program.  

Now, David looked me in the eyes and shared that he was no longer a guest in his own body and that his tumors were significantly smaller.  It was clear that David was not about to listen or surrender to cancer.  I told David that I admired him for all that he has experienced and asked if it were okay that I share his story in detail on my blog.  David’s eyes lit up like he had just been chosen from the audience to be a contestant on Price Is Right.  He nodded eagerly and said that he was looking forward to reading it.

The convention evening continued to surprise me with small miracles: hugs, smiles, and meaningful moments.  My night concluded with a late night dinner with a group of friends.  The anxiety had passed and so had my ninth year.  The clock struck midnight as I drove home, and I was officially one decade sober.  When I entered my apartment, my cat Kiki greeted me at the door with a snarled “meow” implying that I was a bit late for his tastes.  He forgave me when I rewarded him with some catnip, tuna, and his second half of a can of Fancy Feast.

I washed my face, took my evening medications, brushed my teeth with my Sonicare toothbrush, put moisturizer on my face, picked out my clothes for the next morning, got into bed, snuggled with Kiki, and meditated.  I fell asleep filled with gratitude that my life is no longer an experiment.  I am no longer a self-proclaimed guinea pig for street chemists.  I’m certainly not morally perfect, but do care about myself and those around me.  I am grateful for what I have and anticipate more obstacles and accomplishments along the way.

A few months later, my friend David (DC) took a turn for the worse.  I ran into him at a meeting and almost didn’t recognize him.  I approached him slowly and attempted our usual, friendly embrace.  When my arms wrapped around him with a very slightly squeeze, he snapped back and quickly retreated with an “ouch.” David was clearly in a lot of pain and his speech was unclear and barely lucid.  I sat down beside him and he began to share with me that he had not been well.  I noticed the tumor on the side of his neck had returned and was now the size and shape of a squished baseball.  Although slightly unclear, David expressed to me that he had been isolating in his apartment and unable to get out or ask for help.  He said that my coming to him had motivated him to show up for the meeting and be with his (sober) people.  I asked “So I came to you in your dream?”  David said to me with clarity, “No, you were in my apartment.”  Being that I did not know the exact location of David’s residence, it was highly unlikely that I was physically there.  But I am a firm believer that if something is real to someone, it doesn’t matter if it was a dream or vision because it is their truth.  He said that the words I had shared with him at convention months ago were reiterated to him when he saw me at his apartment.  And that was enough to get him out of his apartment and seek the help of the group.  David then asked if he could read my blog that I told him about months back.  “I really would like to read it,”  he said.  I hesitantly assured him again that I would be posting it soon and promised to tell the story of his journey. I gave David a ride after the meeting and it was difficult to see him struggle to get into my car.  I had to carefully pull and fasten the seatbelt around his aching body.  When he exited the car, I had a suspicion that this might be our last ride together.

I received a message from David’s Facebook account a couple months later.  It was sent from David’s dearest friend, Mark.  Mark had taken on the messenger role for David as well as many other roles.  The message stated that DC’s decline had escalated and he was hospitalized.  Another message was sent to David’s friends expressing urgency,  and  that if we wanted to say goodbye to David, to come to the hospital as soon as possible.  Many of the friends that David and I have in common were away at a weekend retreat.  It would be stretching the truth to say that David and I were the best of friends.  However, it is absolutely the truth that we had been significant in each other’s lives.  The decision for me to go to the hospital was simple because I have learned to do whatever I can, when I can.  I needed to go for David, Mark, myself, and as a representative for all of our friends who couldn’t be there.

Before leaving for the hospital, I forwarded Mark’s post on my Facebook page to other mutual friends of mine and David’s who may not have been aware of the situation.  I quickly received a message from an acquaintance, Jimmy, that he had no way of getting to the hospital and he asked for a ride.  Although Jimmy was more stranger than friend, the company was certainly appreciated.  I couldn’t ignore my conscience that was telling me to print the rough copy of the blog I had started months before.  I had promised DC that I would share it with him, yet my finalizing of it had been curtailed by a highly stressful event in my life. Even so, my plan was to read it to DC in his hospital room.

I picked up Jimmy and we became acquainted as we shared feelings and stories about our departing friend.  I told him about the blog and wasn’t sure if it was appropriate that I read it to David.  Jimmy asked if he could read it.  I hesitated since it still seemed premature for public perusal.  As Jimmy read, I kept telling myself “It isn’t ready.”  His response, though positive, reaffirmed my decision to leave the blog in the car once we arrived at the hospital.

Jimmy and I were greeted by other friends who had just arrived moments before and we followed them to the elevator and up to the third floor.  More friends were clustered together upstairs and guided the new arrivals to David’s room.  Because of the small space, we took turns filtering in and out of David’s room to say goodbye.  There was quite a bit of tension in the air.  Sickness and death had brought out a large range of emotions from the 15-20 people that were needing to find some sort of closure.

When it was my turn, I walked up to find David on the hospital bed with tubes down his throat and a machine to his side that was acting as his lungs because they no longer functioned on their own.  I struggled to find the right words.  I found it difficult to speak to David, who may or may not have been able to hear what I was saying.  It was especially hard for me to express myself while I felt my friends and some strangers critiquing my one-sided conversation.  I tuned everyone out and spoke directly to David, “David, it’s Jonathan and I am here to be with you.  And I am going to help guide you to your next home.  I promise DC, that I will share your story as long as I am able.”  Others in the group took their turns having one on ones with David and then the  announcement was made by Mark that we had an hour before David would be taken off life support.

I stepped outside of the room and decided to post something about David on my Facebook wall.  It read, “If anyone would like me to pass on a message to DC, please message me or post here. He is surrounded by friends who love him… And will be taken off life support within the hour.”  Of course, this is a touchy subject- making a public notice about our friend whose physical life was coming to an end.  I took it a step further and asked DC’s friends if it would be okay to take a couple group photos of us surrounding David.  Everyone present agreed that it was appropriate.  No one was forced to be in the pictures.  Many of us were total strangers to one another and the only thing we had in common was that not one of us was a blood-relative of David’s.  The majority of the group had met David during his last nine years when he became clean and sober.   We were his family.

The next hour was spent reading to David the constant flow of messages coming from several of our Facebook pages. Each time a message was read into David’s ear, his heart rate would increase, which lead us to believe that he was hearing the words of love and support we were sharing with him. We literally had hundreds of messages that continued to collect even after DC’s final hour had passed.  The group joined hands,  participated in group prayer, shared final thoughts, and prayed out one last time.  Once the life support machines were shut down, our friend was gone within a minute.  There was no struggle to be seen, just an eerie sense of emptiness.   We all took our last looks at DC’s body and said our last goodbyes, parted, and went our own ways.

20160401_011637_001-1.jpgA week later, Mark requested that I join him and  a small group of DC’s friends to go through David’s belongings.  I said yes because, as I mentioned before,  I do what I can when I can… and I could.  We sorted his items in different piles: items to be donated, items to be on display at his memorial, stuff to be given to friends, and trash.  I was sorting through a box of random items and came across a cd that was labeled “Adventures In Sobriety, 10/20/14, DC”.  I asked Mark if I could take it with me and find out what was on the cd.  I promised if it was of value, that I would make sure he got it back.

When I got home, I inserted the cd in my laptop, and realized I had struck gold.  The cd was a 37 minute audio file of DC sharing his life experience, strength, and hope.  I transfered the file to my computer, uploaded it to my Google Drive, then shared it with DC’s friends.  A path was now cleared for me to help spread his message just as I had promised him.  DC’s story is so inspirational and he was a survivor on so many levels.  Cancer may have taken him in the end, but miraculously, he beat the odds and died a sober man.

A month later, I attended DC’s funeral and made my personal contribution of handing out copies of the cd I had found.  Each person who took a copy expressed immense gratitude because they desired to once again hear his powerful message.  Some had only seen David around and were curious to hear his story.

I sat towards the front of the memorial at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles. The church was gorgeous, the sermons and stories shared by David’s closer friends were nice, but I found the service to be unsettling.  I chose not to volunteer to speak up and say a few words because I didn’t want to seem intrusive.  The friends who spoke had more experience one on one with David.  I had some slight regret afterwards because I believe what I had to say would shed some light on the other side of David.  The missing voice of his extended friendships that may not have always been by his side.  David’s voice was heard by people who witnessed him from afar, across the room, in the nosebleed section of the auditorium.  David was seen and heard… he was kind of a legend, even to those who hadn’t actually known him on a one-to-one basis.

When I got home from the memorial, once again I uploaded David’s share on his Memorial Facebook Page.  Sharing it helped me feel better about not speaking up at the service.  

And I also believe that David would have appreciated the gesture.

Like clockwork, this year, on March 25, 2016, I attended the annual convention again.  This year, I wasn’t nervous as I was greeted, registered and welcomed into the celebration.  Maybe I was less distracted, maybe I was in a better, mental place, maybe I woke up on the right side of the bed, maybe the location of the convention had something to do with it.  The convention was held on the grounds of the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles, the same location as DC’s memorial service.

Time had mended the discombobulated feelings associated with the loss my friend.  I was celebrating my 11-year Anniversary of committing to sobriety, and was proud to finally be in a place where I felt comfortable sharing my story:  The story of a guy who was addicted to Crystal Methamphetamine, came to believe he needed help to fight his disease, surrendered to sobriety, achieved eleven years sober one day at a time, and learned that life isn’t easy- with or without drugs.

Though DC never had the opportunity to read this blog himself, I hope that by finally posting this I am fulfilling at least part of the promise I made to him.  He was a good man, he was a brave man, but most of all he was a sober man who spent the final 8 years of his life inspiring others to overcome addiction. I hope that this blog entry, and the audio below of DC sharing his experience strength and hope might help inspire others who are struggling with achieving sobriety, and further inspire those who already have.  

DC, you were loved.

The Shoe and the Doormat

ishot-62I think obsessively.

I wish I didn’t, but I do. I offer my heart and time to pretty much anyone. And I like that about myself. I eagerly empathize with souls around me – even if it takes me to dark places – simply because I care, and because I have probably been there or nearby.

I don’t know when to stop and have a tendency to overstay my welcome, and this hurts me. I need to break the cycle because I have been focusing on a soul that sucks in my energy like a black hole and leaves me with little energy to take care of myself.

It has been my choice to feed this soul and I am left starving for reciprocation that most likely will never happen.

I am angry because I am sad.

I have a choice to make: do I linger in purgatory or do I step into the pain of freedom?

I reluctantly choose to block this soul on Facebook.

I reluctantly choose to delete this soul from my contacts on my phone.

My choices are not ones of spite or detest for this soul.

It is an act of love for myself that has gone buried in petty thoughts.

Nine Years Off Meth: What Happened

despairNine short-long years ago (Monday, March 27, 2005), I found myself sitting on the steps in front of my apartment complex feeling nothing.  I had been on a final walk after being awake for nearly six days and I knew the marathon had come to an end.  My body and soul were beaten into a comfortably numb state of shock.  I didn’t want to go to sleep, knowing that my body would need a few days of a xanax-induced coma just to begin recovering from the damage I had done to it.

Earlier, the first stop on this shameless walk had led me to the apartment of some guy I had met in an AOL chat room.  He greeted me with a bright smile (give or take a tooth).  I didn’t want him sexually, I just knew that he was partying (ie, high on speed) and that I could have some brief companionship with another human who was also high.  I snorted some of his meth, watched some of his porn, tinkered with his projects, and – insultingly – departed when he wanted to breathe a cloud of meth smoke onto my penis.  I didn’t enjoy smoking meth because it always gave me pneumonia, so I certainly didn’t want to know what that stuff would do to my penis.

I left his apartment and vigorously yet aimlessly walked down Santa Monica Blvd. at about 8am.  Knowing that I only had about one line left in my final stash, my mind was mapping out my journey home (about a five-minute-walk).  I held my flip-phone up to my ear and pretended I was having an intense conversation so passers by wouldn’t strike up a conversation with me.  I knew a lot of people in my hood and feared someone might notice me on the walk.  Looking back, I realize I was just like the crazy man I used to mock, the one I’d frequently see talking to himself on a payphone. My next stops were Los Tacos – a 24-hour Mexican restaurant so I could provide myself with some of the nutrients I’d deprived myself of for nearly a week (a tamale and enchilada combo with rice and beans), and then one last stop at 7-Eleven where I picked up some Gatorade and a bag of Nantucket chewy chocolate chip cookies.  I then floated home and found myself seated on the walkway steps that led to my apartment complex.

I sat peacefully, plastic bags of food at my side, as the bright morning grew even brighter. Finally, I made my way to the dust-filled apartment that I called my home.  My cat cried out for food as I entered.  I immediately tended to Kiki and pried open a can of Fancy Feast for my neglected baby even though my hunger pains screamed louder than his deep meows.  Fortunately, I was an addict who treated my pet better than I treated myself so he remained pleasantly plump. Physically, my body was speckled with infections.  I had small, itchy bumps on my arms, legs, and ass- jestingly I would call them my speed bumps.  Once again, one of my eyes was infected with mild conjunctivitis.  The edges of my nostrils and the corners of my lips were cracked from days of dehydration and poisoning myself with meth.  My asthmatic lungs were slightly filled with fluid making it hard for me to catch a full breath without yawning.

My friend Greg was in my living room, where I had left him before I had set out on my final journey.  He fearfully watched as I gorged on the food I had purchased.  I could tell by the look on his face that my eating manners reflected an animal that was consuming its first meal after a long period of starvation. I pushed the bag containing empty containers of food aside and told Greg I was done.  He had witnessed my week-long party and it was clear he doubted that this was my finale.  I looked him in the eyes and said:

“Seriously, this time It’s over.”

I reached into the pocket of my jeans and pulled out the Bic pen-cap that contained a rolled-up miniature zip-lock bag of crystal.  Then I opened the bag and poured the remaining contents of my crystallized speed on the table where I proceeded to smash the meth into powder form.  I used my California Driver’s License to line up the substance, rolled up a somewhat crisp dollar bill, and snorted my last line of meth.  I looked up at Greg and said:

“That was it, that was my last line.”

I threw away the bag of food along with the empty bag of meth and proceeded to shower off my filthy body.  I cleaned up well enough to be seen in public and put on my signature going-out outfit (jeans and a white t-shirt.)  I cleaned my apartment to the best of my ability and spent the rest of the day organizing things. The evening approached and I told Greg “It’s time for me to go to the meeting”.  Greg insisted that it would be rude for me to show up at a recovery meeting for crystal meth addicts while I was still high.  I replied that it was my only option and that I had to go.

I was greeted at the meeting by bright smiles, hugs, and “welcomes.”  The speed had worn off so I was struggling to return the smiles. It didn’t matter, though: these people understood me.  The meeting started and the leader introduced the “chip guy” – someone who presented little key chains to reward members who were celebrating sobriety milestones.  When he called upon those who had less than 29 days of sobriety, I stood up, dragged myself to the line of newcomers, and hugged the chip guy (who whispered in my ear “Welcome, keep coming back.” I faced the crowd of about 70 men and women and said:

“I am Jonathan.  And I am a crystal meth addict.” 

The crowd replied, “Hi Jonathan, welcome”. The lights dimmed which meant it was time for the main speaker.  I can barely remember what he said.  My mind was so spun and kept tuning in and out – I just wanted it to be over.  Then, something he said caught my attention: “If you are new here and used meth today, I thank you for being here.  Without your presence, I would not remember how bad things are on the other side.” After his share, I thanked the speaker – his name was Donato – for addressing me personally without even realizing he had done so.  He invited me to come to his home the following night where he hosts a recovery meeting for alcoholics every Tuesday in his backyard in Hollywood.  Although I didn’t realize at the time that I was also an alcoholic, I said yes.

Vitamin-D(2)Tuesday night at Donato’s has since become my recovery home group (ie, a meeting that I attend regularly.) My first day of total sobriety was March 28th, 2005.  Since then, I have had to change just about everything about myself and my life.  Some times have been extremely rough, while other times have been so full of joy that I am overwhelmed with happiness.  The main difference now is that I am living rather than surviving.

Each day is a gift and I thank God regularly to be blessed with the next dawn.