“I am not my deterrent”

Project Description:

My insecurity about being HIV negative and eventually developing “full blown AIDS” has been a journey of negativity. I tested positive for HIV in 1984, most others testing positive at this time were dying quickly (3 to 6 months) and painfully, often feared and neglected by the medical community. I fully expected to meet the same end. I was terrified.

I have survivor’s guilt. In a two year period, every gay male friend of mine died. I keep my old address book, with names crossed off and a date next to it to this day. Why did I survive? I wanted to die, I was sure I would succumb to the disease just as they had. It was only a period of time.

Because of this I became extremely self-destructive. Drugs, alcohol, and unprotected sex became my new norm. When drunk, taking drugs, often in what should be lethal amounts, I thought I could “forget.” I’m ashamed to confess that I hoped by having unsafe sex I would infect another with the disease, just as someone had infected me. Alcoholism and crack addiction was the result. I stole from my company to support my habit. I lost my job, I became more and more reckless…………hoping to forget. It never worked.

My insecurity in regard having AIDS and being an addict turned me into a liar. I was lying not only to others, but also to myself. I withdrew into my own world, which became smaller and smaller. No longer able to relate to others, or to sustain even a small sense of normalcy, I found myself alone. Alone by my own design, my own actions, but alone all the same. I was righteously angry that family and former friends wanted nothing to do with me. I was angry at the world. I developed a “victim” mentality. No longer able to interact with anyone (other than a drug dealer). I had a death wish.

What’s different now? I still struggle with survivor guilt. I look for answers every day that might explain why I lived, when all my friends died. I guess there isn’t an answer to be had. I got clean and sober eight years ago. I continue to struggle in social situations, afraid that if someone knows “the truth” about me, I will be judged. I am extremely emotionally guarded, but try to find people and places I can fit in. I have had some success in this regard, and do consider myself blessed to have a small group of friends who know all about me and love me nonetheless.

I still avoid, no totally refuse, to interact with gay men. I’m not willing to lose anyone else to AIDS.

I think everyone judges me.

Thirty years after being diagnosed with what was once a terminal disease, I now realize I must have a purpose in life. What is that purpose? I don’t know, but I try to find it, and hope maybe one day, I can inspire another person living with this disease.