A Fighting Chance for Fulfillment
In July 1993, six weeks after I entered a long-term drug treatment program in North Hollywood, I took the HIV test. I was positive.
Now it's 1996. My life has changed in many ways since that hot summer day. Before I entered treatment, my only personal experience with the virus was at a crack house where a painfully thin, stringy-haired female coke addict was sleeping on the floor. One of the addicts whispered, "She's got AIDS," as we lit up our freebase pipes.
No one wanted anything to do with her. She didn't appear to want anything to do with herself. Soon, upon awakening from her temporary reprieve from life, she would wash her hair, dig some cleaner clothes out of a pile, put on some makeup and hit the streets once more, selling her body and soul to earn enough money for a donut or a burrito and more rock cocaine.
Drugs and sex. Two very tempting available commodities. I was losing everything running with the crack addicts. I lost my job. I did other things for drugs that I had told myself I would never do.
While waiting to enter drug treatment, I was living at a friend's house. I started waking up with the sheets soaking wet. I was scared. I thought to myself, "My God, do I have instant AIDS?" After a couple of nights of this, I prayed for the sweating to stop. Miraculously, it did. I forgot about it until I took the HIV test several months later.
When I was told I was positive, I cried. I told the whole recovery house about my results. I told them because I needed their support. I had met many people with HIV/AIDS since starting drug treatment. Now I was one of them.
It felt like life -- as I knew and enjoyed it -- was over. The irony was immediately apparent to me: I finally get off drugs, I started dreaming of having a wife, kids and the little picket fence and them -- boom! HIV.
I started attending a Narcotics Anonymous meeting called "HIV in Recovery." Almost in spite of myself, I was beginning to deal with the virus by listening and talking to others with similar experiences.
I had basically been shy around women most of my life. When I found out I was positive I became even more shy and I was terrified of rejection. I felt damaged and unwanted.
In February 1994, I completed drug-treatment. I got my job back and had my own apartment for the first time. I immediately started using crack again. Looking back now, I think I was running from the HIV -- only it wouldn't go away. I used for five more months and finally "got clean" in July 1994.
Cleaner living produced clearer thinking. The dream of having a woman to love in my life returned. I told HIV-positive friends about my desires. One of them mentioned a support group for heterosexuals called Cosmos Circle. I attended, and met someone who told me about a party for HIV-positive heteros called Positive Friends for Life. This sounded exactly like what I was looking for.
At Positive Friends for Life, I found people there who were just like me. Some were long-term survivors, some were newly diagnosed, some were married, others were trying to find somebody. But they were living life and that was encouraging.
There were going to be many adventures ahead of me. Now I knew I wasn't alone. Once again, I felt I had a fighting chance for a full happy life.
This article has been reprinted at The Body with the permission of AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA).
This article was provided by AIDS Project Los Angeles. It is a part of the publication Positive Living.