Shirtless FaceTime With Teenage Stud (Teenage Stud Not Pictured)


I decided on September 1, of this year, my 17th sobriety anniversary, that this year would likely be my last. And I blogged something of that nature. At 2:30 am. When I was stuck awake and looking at the disastrous end to my marriage, the betrayal of promise and the theft of a common goal—and my current state these things had lead me to. The blog stirred up the predictable shitstorm— one more example in my life of my acting impulsively, shooting from the hip without really thinking through what the ramifications would be. People scrambled to contextualize it for themselves and of course I had to do more than one “contract for safety” with friends and family. The truth is, as I said in my amends, if I were actually going to off myself, I wouldn’t announce it on social media because then somebody would likely stop me. If I ever got to that point again, I’m succeeding. But as I said in the ensuing “amends blog,” I don’t think I’d ever actually got through with it because, no matter how much recovery I end up making in the area of codependency, I couldn’t stand the thought of the grief and pain that such and action would heap on so many people that love and care about me. And as I’ve said before, that’s a shitty reason to stay alive, especially for someone like me who has a lot of talent and opportunity and so forth, friends willing to help me. As I noted in the blog when I essentially promised that I wouldn’t add my name to the select club of veteran suicides, I spent a lot of time thinking about my friends who’ve battled life threatening illnesses in the last year, my friends who died of AIDS, the vets that didn’t come back from “my war,” and the parents of those vets who’ve I’ve befriended over the years. How could I so cavalierly talk of casting away what is/was so precious to these people? Sure, I’ve spent a lot of time and effort—tried a lot of different things over the years to move beyond depression and suicidal ideation. But there are other things out there I hadn’t tried. Was that to be my sentence— to spend whatever is left of my life just trying one thing after the other hoping it will work? And all because I just feel horrible about what it would do to the living if I did take my life?

You’re not supposed to talk about these things publicly.  These are the things you keep to yourself or share with a few select friends and confidants. But so much of the chronic injury that lead to my having to deal with this shit for such a long time is because of the Culture of Secrecy in which I grew up. “There are things that one just doesn’t talk about in public.” And there are certainly “words a decent person doesn’t use—especially in public.” Since September 1, when I committed to daily blogging for this “one year to live,” I have regularly broken these two rules. I say shit I’m not supposed to say publicly and and I say “shit” and “fuck” a lot. It is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.  It violently and emphatically separates me from any pretense that I am ever trying to please and placate the “authority figures” of my past— be it “the church,” the government, or this sick society in general. And even though you may just think I’m doing it recklessly (or God forbid for shock value— if that’s what you’re after just turn on your TV), you should know that it is harder for me than it seems. But every time I get honest about some way which my ex, Adam, was abusive toward me or am honest about the way I’ve struggled with process addictions (look it up) since my chemical sobriety began, or any of the other myriad embarrassing truths I seem hellbent on sharing with the world, I heal a little bit. And oh my God does it feel great! It’s like breathing after being held under water for years. Coincidentally, when I’ve written those posts, I’ve also had other people write to me and thank me and “come out” about their own similar experiences of abuse, addiction, suicidal thoughts, and many other things I once thought I’d never share with anyone but which I apparently have in common with hundreds of you. When other veterans or other LGBTQ folk thank me for being so forthcoming, it reaffirms to me that the discomfort of airing my sloppy process so publicly is worth it— knowing that someone is helped has long been the sufficient reason for me to withstand “suffering” on any level. During my training as a Marine and subsequent deployment to Iraq, when it was hard (and it was often hard) I would just remind myself that I was doing it to help other people and somehow that always gave me the strength to go on. Maybe that would be a useful way to re-contextualize that whole “stay alive for the benefit of others” bit  at this juncture.

Why the thoughts about suicide again?

I’ve had another friend to take his life, this one five days ago. I heard about it yesterday. I really did love him. He was a sweet fellow, sort of quiet. Always had a smile. That’s disconcerting when it’s said about someone who got to the point of taking his own life. Maybe we need to smile less when we don’t feel like it. I met him through the recovery community so I know he had access to those resources (and they are many). I also worked with him for a time in the mental healthcare field— still more resources. And I know he’d tried a lot of things. And I know he wasn’t selfish or malicious. People who say that suicide is a “selfish act”— well, that just tells me that they are not the kind of people I would ever want to be associated with. I’m sad about Jim’s death. And I am very, very happy that he is not suffering anymore.

This afternoon I spent an hour talking on the phone with an Australian Marine, currently still active, a veteran of “current conflicts.” It means a lot to me that I get to connect so frequently and in such a deep and personal way to so many veterans. This is something for which I am profoundly grateful in my life.

Later this afternoon, I went to CrossFit with my brother and his wife. I love them so much and I love suffering with them in this way which provides such a benefit. (I am sure that my brother is absolutely horrified that this blog exists. He never mentions it to me. If he doesn’t know about it, for God’s sake don’t tell him.) We worked out at my cousin’s box ( that’s what we call gyms in CrossFit). I’m also very, very grateful to my cousin for making the box available to me during this time while I’ve been—shall we say facing big life challenges. I feel in some ways like CrossFit saved my life. (Haters pile on now.)

Then tonight, when I got home, I had a message from a nineteen year-old gay man whom I’ve never met in person but know through close friends in LA. He reached out to me and asked if I’d be willing to have a talk with him about life and such. What an incredible blessing. We FaceTimed for probably an hour tonight. It was so great to have the opportunity to share some of my life experience with one of the “young ones” who’s now about to face their whole adult life which I might be already halfway through already. (I hear you laughing.) As I told him and as I’ve said many times, my pain will only be tragic if I do not learn from it and if others do not benefit from it as well. Otherwise, as many disastrous mistakes as I’ve made in my life— I have no regrets. I have run the wheels off of it and I’m damn proud of that. I’ll keep the pedal to the metal as long as God allows me to— hmm, shitty metaphor— I was about to say “allows me to stay behind the wheel” but I have given over the “wheel” to God’s guidance and I’m just suiting up and showing up. Damn, now I’m mixing metaphors— this is getting worse. Anyway, back to the young stud from South Carolina— damn, did I type that out loud? I did. He’s a stud. We had our FaceTime shirtless which was great because at certain points along the way, it allowed me to feel like a lecherous old queen— which was also great because it gave me an opportunity to be honest with him about that and allowed him to be honest with me. I made sure that he knew that my help and advice was never going to be contingent on our being shirtless for FaceTime conversations or anything else semi, quasi, or overtly sexual. I know what it feels like to be on the other side of that as you all know and I’ll be goddamned if I’m ever going to be the perpetrator of that sort of “strings attached” bullshit that so many older gay man have pulled with me. The shirtless thing did make the conversation more vulnerable and we both commented on it in the end. It also made it intimate in a beautiful and innocent way which gave us both a great idea for a project. That’s all you get to hear about that tonight. But one of the main things that I’m taking away from my conversation with him (and he was very respectful about my request not to talk about the blog) but he did let me know that he reads it and that my being (sometimes painfully and embarrassing) honest had helped him a lot. That mean the absolute world to me— worth more than money any day of the week.

As I told Chad and Krystle (brother and his wife) over dinner, I feel like I’ve traded a lot of “regular life” security to be an artist, an activist, and an advocate for veterans, LGBTQ folk and others— but if I died tonight, I can tell you one thing that is the absolute truth: I would not trade having had all these people thank me for living so publicly and for writing about my struggles and for begin really honest about my life— and for sharing my heart through my art, for all the money and “security” in the world.

I’m struggling a lot financially right now and I ache to find the man I’ll spend the rest of my life with. But I do believe those things will take care of themselves as long as I “seek first the Kingdom of God” —and for those of you who know me well (and if you read my blog you sure know me well) you know what “seeking the Kingdom” means to me. It means focusing on following the guidance of my own heart, the way God speaks to me— and through being of service to my fellow travelers. And sense I already have my atheist, science-minded friends cringing a bit at one scriptural allusion, I’ll end with the one-two punch. “What doth it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” My spiritual practice as you are witnessing it is my way of not losing my soul.

I’m not only fighting for my life here, I’m fighting to retain my soul. And what the hell, for the trifecta, I’ll quote a third sacred text, Dreamgirls. “I got soul, man. You can’t kill a man with a soul.”

See y’all tomorrow.

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