Carl, age 29

Executive Director of PhillyGayCalendar

Can’t tell you how many times I’d go to the bathhouse, “just for a couple of hours,” and come back three days later. All I’d have to do is walk by somebody’s room and hear them sniff; it meant I could get a bump from them.

Then it’s a constant walk – everybody just going around and around in their little towels. Or I’d sit on my bed and the room would be spinning. A lot of times, I was so high I couldn’t even do anything but watch everyone walk by, asking You want company? You want company?

It might sound stupid, but a lot of it wasn’t even for sex. Sex happened, but really, I think I went so people would look at me. Just so they would look at me and say nice things to try to get me in bed. It was more about the chase, you know? After I got the guy I was over it, but it was nice to know I could get him.

Well I don’t want this to be too raunchy. I could give you the gory details but you know what happens at the bathhouse, so use your imagination. For the real story, I want to tell you about what happened after I found out I had become positive.

At first, so much was going on in my life I just tried to forget about it. That worked for a little while, but eventually it just wore me down. I remember I woke up this one morning and it all just hit me. I was 20 years old, HIV-positive, addicted to crystal and addicted to the bathhouse.

That was a harsh way to see myself, but it was a big moment when I finally said it that plainly. For once, I had no excuses or bullshit. It scared me to death, but it was also a relief cause I knew it was the truth. Being in denial takes so much energy and you don’t even realize it. I was exhausted.

Realizing where I was, I also started to see what I’d really been doing. Like I said, the whole time at the bathhouse, it was always about the chase even more than the sex. That made me think, it really wasn’t the sex I was after as much as the acceptance.

It felt like I was changing myself all the time, like I would do anything just for a compliment or a smile. I was trying so hard and felt so disgusted with it. So I thought well, if my problem is that I try too hard, I’ll just stop. I’ll stop trying to be acceptable to everyone and just be myself. That was hard, cause I knew that meant I had to tell people I was positive. I couldn’t handle being in that closet anymore – but I wasn’t sure how everyone would react, you know? Funny thing was, that’s exactly when things started to work out for me.

First was my mom – that one was hard. I just had to sit her down and say, “mom, I’ve got this thing – the doctors say I’m fine – my counts are good, I don’t even have to take medicine yet – ” something like that. We were both really upset, but at least it was out in the open.

We talked some more and I finally told her about the meth. She said, “you know your uncle just went to N.A.” I had never heard of it before – Narcotics Anonymous – but she gave me the number and I got hooked up with them. That’s how I eventually got clean, and if I hadn’t talked to my mom, I might not have found out about them.

Talking about it really helped in other parts of my life too. I play on this gay soccer team in the city – they’re really good friends – and one day I decided to tell them. It was amazing how well my teammates took it. People tend to think that all poz guys are these scrawny, skinny little twigs – that’s not me. When I told my team, they were all amazed that I was doing so well, that I was so healthy, and that I didn’t give two craps about them knowing.

Finding people who understand me has helped so much I decided to start a website. It’s an online community like Myspace, just for other positive people to meet each other and find a safe place. The most rewarding thing is to hear from people like me, who never had people who understood them, and found them on the site. Now I know how important that can be.

Like I said, it’s about acceptance. I looked so hard for it for so long and it got me nowhere. Finally, being positive taught me to just let it all go and be who I really am. After that, it all happened naturally. I had to accept myself before anyone else would. Now I’m in a pretty good place.

Read Related Posts...