I just knew Wednesday’s brief post would come back and bite me. It did so today as I reread someone’s thesis which I was uploading to AfricaFiles.I read about how HIV/AIDS, before it was even named, had started showing up in North American gay men in the 1980s. I identified. I remembered.
Clearly I was infected on the cusp of revolutionary new treatments so, as I cared for – and then buried – scores of friends from support groups, I went on to survive to this day.
It has not been without its “AIDS days”, those times when I attribute my feelings and sense of well-being (or lack thereof) to the disease which continues to lie within me. What may not be immediately apparent in my early postings – the letters from 1993 through 1996 in particular – is how deathly ill I was. With the benefit of hindsight my specialist, Dr. David Fletcher, boasts (tongue-in-cheek) about how close to death I was and implies that, under his watchful care, I survived thanks to him. Frankly, I don’t under-estimate some of the truth in his words. It’s been a partnership, however.
As I look back over these years I wonder, knowing what I know now about my survivability, would I have done anything differently?
My problem drinking, arrested when I finally stopped in 1988, flared up in another form a decade later during a brief, but costly, mis-adventure with drugs.
What was going on there?
It was, I believe, a spiritual crisis in the form of a new sense of promise, of hope for survival. In short, all of the assumptions I had been living under since being diagnosed HIV-positive were open questions now. My destiny, it seemed, was no longer to be among the circle of friends, increasingly shrink-wrapped, unto my death. Yet I could not seem to rewrite the script that I had set out for the remainder of my life. I panicked. Spiritus contra spiritus.
Thank God – whatever that is – that I found the help I needed to get back on track. This led me to begin a deeper faith journey, lived out – to this day – at Trinity-St. Paul’s United Church (which I joined on Pentecost Sunday just over a year after that disastrous holiday weekend in 1998). That means that this coming Pentecost will mark five years since I entered into relationship with this wonderful community of faith – my family away from, and occasionally with, my family of origin.
It is a faith not of certainties but of legitimate questions and wonder, encouraged in a loving community.
Despite some evidence to the contrary I am richly blessed!