A prolific London DJ, the infamous, multi-talented Stewart Who? once said of me in QX Magazine” If he was assassinated on Old Compton Street they couldn’t get a Police Station big enough to hold the usual suspects, because for well over a decade he has held the secrets of DJs, Club Promoters, Bar Owners, Escorts, Musicians, Lawyers & City Boys as well as counseling those affected by HIV/AIDS since 1984.
He was there at the beginning of AIDS “
When I read it in print, in stark hard copy, the thing that stuck out was the fact that “He was there at the beginning of AIDS “. It was such a fact that I ignored the impact of it. Yes I was, and sadly HIV/AIDS is still with us, but I’m still here. Prior to the arrival of GRID ( Gay Related Immune Deficiency – the given virus name before HIV in 1984 ) I was diagnosed in 1981 with incurable chronic active hepatitis B virus and cirrhosis of the liver, and was told surprisingly, that alcohol was not the cause, but early death was inevitable as no cure was available.
At the same time a mysterious virus was hitting New York, San Francisco & Miami and as the Royal Free Hospital in London was a major teaching & research hospital, doctors came from those American cities to test people on the trial, because early USA cases were also chronic Hep B too. They sampled from us hair, blood, saliva & semen to take back to the US, but none of us seemed to have GRID. Within a year or so the Doctors at the Royal Free Liver Unit became HIV/AIDS pioneers opening up units in all London hospitals. In 1982 I was one of 10 guinea pigs on the first human Interferon drug trial in a famous London teaching hospital, which failed to find the cure to halt chronic active Hep B virus. Everyone died on the trial – except me.
The 80′s were tough. I was able along the way to own my sex addiction, and deal with the financial wreckage of the past by declaring voluntary bankruptcy in 1984, with no credit for 5 years, the consequences of addictive behaviour. As HIV/AIDS came along, I started counselling addicts, alcoholics and those dying of AIDS, and by 1990 I had lost over 50 friends, past lovers and clients to the virus, while I was in and out of hospital myself with liver failure.
How I survived I have no idea, but the promise of death is a motivator to beat it. In 1991, after a 3 year training I became an LRT (Loving Relationship Training) Relationship Coach & Rebirther and in 2010 was made an Honorary Member of The Australian Academy of Rebirthing & Breathwork, accredited to the Australian Government, for my work and service over 2 decades as a Breathworker, Addiction Specialist, Life Coach & Trainer. I have also led residentials, seminars and workshops in the UK, Australia, South America, Canada, Sweden, Italy, Austria, Estonia, Spain, Morocco and Goa in India.
So yes, things did get better, and I am still alcohol, drug and nicotine free since 1982, plus I recovered from Hep B without using medications, and sero-converted my Hep B status using Yogic Breathwork. It took 11 years of constant attention, affirmations, therapies, friendships and hope. In the end I wanted to release Hep so bad, that the universe delivered and I never gave up. So be the lesson.
Coming to terms with an addiction is not easy, but for gay men the task can be harder. Walking away from a hedonistic social life in order to recover is challenging, and the addictions bring secondary issues, like debt, denial and emotional deceptions. Having used for 17 years and being clean & sober for over 30 years, it’s been a journey that reflects gay and personal liberations from struggle, debt and dysfunction. Off course I didn’t have the challenges that young gay men have today, in health or choices.
In 1967 when I came out, London had less than half a dozen gay bars & meeting places, now we have over 500 plus internet hook-ups, so it was very different scene. I came out 6 months before homosexuality was decriminalised, and offered electric shock aversion therapy, but declined it, and went on prescribed medication instead, then my drinking and drugging increased till I crashed into a space of awareness.
The first 15 years of my recovery were, I now see, the backbone to the next 15 years. Times of crisis, confusion or ill health are there to act out the art of growing up, building trust, reducing expectation & demands on self and others, and relinquishing all forms of codependent patterning.
The only attachment that matters to me now is queer spirit and the joy of not knowing what the world will bring. It’s ironic that I spent 17 years getting out of control, thinking I was in control, only to discover that being in control of your life is the biggest drug con of all. The most spiritual thought I hold is ‘I know nothing’. I have no idea why I recovered from an incurable disease, or why I needed to watch people dying of AIDS to be taught more about living, but If I can recover from this level of experience, then anyone can. It just takes diligence, practice and experienced support.
This blog of mine first appeared in the online JUNE 2013 Edition of HIM-MAGAZINE “For the Man Who Invests In Himself!”