After Glen died I disconnected from the gay community – I ran away because I didn’t want to face any more death or what was going on with the AIDS epidemic. I rented a farmhouse in the middle of Illinois and cut myself off from everybody except my younger brother who lived nearby. I spent two years living alone in a very straight world and drinking by myself.
One of my friends, the same person that had offered me my first bartending job in Saugatuck, called me up one day.
“What are you doing with your life?” He said. “You need to get out of there and come down to Miami.”
I took his advice and moved to Miami.
Initially I worked for the Archdioceses of Miami but eventually I got a great job at a high end restaurant. I ultimately helped open new restaurants, I did work for the Miami Dolphins and was just partying and going wild…
I was forty years old and owned a house with my partner who was from a wealthy family from Hollywood, Florida. But our relationship became more and more violent – at one point a gun came out – and everything started falling apart. I thought to myself, ‘How do I keep getting into these situations? How do these people find me?’
There was a pattern that would happen every three years: things would be nice and together and then they’d completely fall apart. Usually the falling apart involved a geographic change. But I asked myself what the common denominator in all these situations was, and realized it was me.
I had to take responsibility for what was happening in my life and I decided to enter rehab. I went to rehab as sort of an escape plan – at that point I was more afraid of what could happen in the relationship than what life would be like without alcohol. I went to rehab and didn’t tell anyone where I went. It was a big dramatic scene when my partner found out, but I was done with alcohol and done with him. I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I knew in my thirties that there were patterns that happened when I drank. I never drank or did anything in moderation. I did it to get totally f*cked up out of where I was. The whole ‘being condemned’ thing also really fed into my alcoholism. When I realized I was gay I figured I was doomed anyways so I might as well go for it.
In Alcoholics Anonymous you celebrate sobriety on your anniversary. A lot of groups have you tell your story as a way of qualifying you as an alcoholic. There is a drunk-a-logue to show where you came from and where you are now. It’s like a badge, a look-at-all-I-have-gone-through type of thing, but I stopped doing it a long time ago because I’ve moved past it. My life is so totally different now because twenty-five years ago I got sober. I began to take responsibility.
But alcohol led me to the life I lived and the situations I experienced. Being able to sit with Glen while he was dying was such an important thing – it validated the importance of being present in every moment of the day. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? All I know is that I have this specific moment now. These experiences brought me to the life I have today. Such a vibrant and exciting and passionate life – I embrace every moment.
Most alcoholics and drug addicts are actually spiritual seekers, but they don’t know what’s going on inside of them. They don’t know how to deal with spiritual connections and it becomes really challenging. In the west we don’t have appropriate coping skills. We don’t know how to filter things out. We are actually taught to develop dependencies rather than be strong without them, to show everyone how good we’re doing because we live in Westchester and drive a BMW. But the eastern philosophies have so many spiritual practices to cope with the rigors of daily life: meditation, yoga, breathe work, etcetera.
Anyways, I gave up alcohol, sold my business in Miami and moved back to Chicago…"
Goose Chronicles Outtakes:
“Where do you think you would be today if you didn’t get sober?”
“I would be dead. When I came to the point of needing help I looked at all the things I was doing in my life and realized that I wanted to die. I was slowly committing suicide with my life decisions. It was a subconscious desire to die, but there was another subconscious element saying, ‘no – there’s more.’ I didn’t know what was telling me that there was more, but I believed it and I continued fighting…
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