Coming Out

I’m gay. That’s not a surprise to regular readers. I came out many years ago.

My story is complicated as most coming out stories are. I grew up in a rabidly fundamentalist household and learned at a young age attending church that God loves everyone except gays. There was no hope of salvation for LGBT people. None.

In fear, I married a woman and fathered children. The fear and dysfunction led me to become an active alcoholic. Finally, I was unable to drink enough to relieve the fear and dysfunction. After some events in late 1998, I told my wife I thought I might be gay.

That started my coming out process. It is indeed a process, and it continues for the rest of our lives. I don’t think most straight people realize that each time a gay person enters a new situation, they have to judge the safety of the people and area and decide whether to be out.

After 21 years out of the closet, I can state with confidence that out is much better than in the closet. I am free. I am authentic. I am me. What’s more, I have wonderful relationships with all my children and also with their mother. I have good friends gay and straight. I live completely out now, and it’s so energizing.

Now, I’m just looking for a man to share my life with… I’m taking applications.

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Emotions

Emotions are funny things. They constantly change.

I feel weird today. I’m sad, but I’m not depressed. That’s an odd combination for me. Sadness is always accompanied by the overarching gloom of depression. Today, it’s just simple, genuine sadness.

I know what it’s about. It’s just life stuff. It’s a simple combination of living with a chronic mental illness, being part of a sexual-orientation minority, lots of change in my life in the past four or five months (new bosses at work, dating partners come and gone, new therapist, new thoughts about old wounds, etc.), and being single for a long time. None of that has an easy fix.

At least today, I’m not looking for an easy fix. I’m kind of walking through it. One step at a time.

This will pass. Emotions aren’t permanent. I’ll be fine.

Changes

There are a lot of changes happening in my life, and I’m really proud of the fact that I’m walking through it and not freaking out.

The therapist I’ve been seeing for four years suggested that I explore other therapists to help me deal with childhood trauma that is resurfacing. I went to see two new ones. One of those was horrible. She spoke for 75% of the session and spoke in very prescriptive terms most of the time. It was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced with a therapist. The other potential therapist turned out not to handle trauma, so that was a non-starter.

I will see the therapist who’s been helping me with sleep issues this week. She’s excellent, and she does general psychology as well as her sleep specialty. It’s possible that she can help me.

All this helps me understand how difficult it is to find providers that fit. Getting a good relationship with a provider is so important and can be so hard some times.

I have a relatively new supervisor at work. She was a colleague before, and then she got promoted. Now she’s my supervisor. That change has taken a long time to get used to. It was complicated by the fact the office is reorganizing, so my position began to answer to a new level in the hierarchy. It’s all more change.

I broke up with one man around Easter time. I started spending a lot of time with another man, but that relationship was very ambiguous. I was the only one of us calling it dating. He disappeared a few weeks ago. The colloquial term used to describe a person in a relationship disappearing is ghosting. Ghosting is a form of rejection. The person doing the ghosting is avoiding what they believe will be unpleasant. The person ghosted is simply left with questions. My questions faded quickly, and I was left with the rejection. I got over it very quickly. It only took a couple of days.

I have had coffee with three new men. All those dates went very well, and one went particularly well. We’ve been out for a second date that was a lot of fun, and we have plans for more. I’m really pleased with this. He’s emotionally available. We met on a dating app, and his profile states he wants a relationship. This is a good change.

The period of extreme stress at work is completely over. I feel so much better with that behind me. I slept well last night for the first time in a while. It felt so good. I’m hoping it’s the start of a trend.

There’s been so much change in my life in the past few months. I’m really proud that I’ve managed not to go overboard with anxiety. I’m doing really well handling all this.

 

Ah Ha!

I survived the incredibly busy 3 weeks of work. It was monumentally draining. I’m still pretty tired.

The man I was spending a lot of time with has disappeared again. I’ve had one short text in two weeks, and that was ten days ago.

“The man I was spending a lot of time with…” I had to say it that way, because I was the only one who called it dating. That seems important. Hell, it is important.

I really enjoyed our time together. Honestly, he’s a good man to be around.

However, once again I’ve chosen a man who is emotionally unavailable.

I’m actually OK with the fact it’s over. I really am. I feel fine. I’ve been to coffee with two new potential men in the past two days. I have no clue if either of these will develop further. Only time will tell, and I’m completely fine with gaining two new friends out of the meetings.

And I had an “ah ha” moment:

I choose emotionally unavailable men, because I still believe that I am unworthy of love.

That hit me today. It’s startling in its simplicity. It seems completely obvious.

When a man is emotionally unavailable, it’s a form of rejection. I search for the rejection to reinforce what I learned as a child that I’m unworthy.

Today, I will step into the assurance that I am worthy of the love of a good man.

Healing

Healing takes time. Grief comes in waves. Work is not easy right now.

I’m sad about the break up, but I’m not in pain like I was the first time. This time was completely my decision, and it was amicable.

I went out with a man Friday night whom I’m interested in. I hesitate to call it a date, but we had a good time. And we’ve made plans to see each other again.

Yesterday, I was sad. I ran an errand in the morning, and then I stayed home all day. I tried listening to classical music, but the day just called for sad music, so I put that on. I lay on my bed and chatted with my best friend by text. I dozed for a while.

Then my best friend suggested I switch the music to some easy guitar, which I did. It was a good suggestion. My mood lightened.

I opened Tinder, which I hadn’t opened in many long months. There was a profile still on some page there that had evidently met the requirements to be some kind of match. It had sat there for months. I messaged him recognizing his picture from some of the gay dating apps.

I don’t know how Tinder works really well, so I went to the dating app and messaged him there. Some hours later in the afternoon, he replied. We had a good chat, and I’m sure we’ll chat again. He’s also very interested in meditation, so that’s a strong connection.

The other thing I did all day was read a new book of poetry from Walt Whitman: Live Oak, With Moss. It had new illustrations and was really very lovely. The cluster of poems as Whitman called them was about sexual love between men. It was very moving. Whitman never published this cluster as a separate group. He rearranged them and used them as part of the Catullus poems in Leaves of Grass. The illustrations, the poetry, and the included essay all made me feel very good.

I’ve been to therapy a few times since the break up, and I’m going again today.

I can see light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure how far away the light is, but it’s there.

Healing the Wound

When I remember my drinking days, the pain is what comes up first. There was tremendous pain. It was pervasive. It seeped into every corner of my being, and it oozed out of me in all my relationships. I was capable of happiness, but it was always fleeting. It was never enduring.

I drank for one simple reason: it gave me relief from the pain. What I did not understand was that the relief was fleeting. The drinking did not do anything to help heal the pain. The wound remained. The drinking was a kind of Band Aid on my wound.

It’s no secret that my wound was my warped perceptions of what it meant to be gay. The ideas inculcated in me about homosexuality were not compatible with living a happy life. I grew up convinced that god hated gay people, and that gays were beyond god’s grace. I also had good reason to fear ostracism from my family if they knew I was gay. Finally, society allowed violence against gay people. Some portions of society even condoned it preaching that gays were beneath contempt and unworthy of safety and fulfilling lives.

I became an alcoholic, because I got relief from my pain when I drank. The pain was so great that I needed a lot of alcohol to relieve it, and I needed it daily.

The day came, however, when the pain became more than the alcohol could cover. That day I faced the fact that alcohol no longer worked. That day I also discovered that quitting drinking was not a simple matter. I am grateful that I found AA. With the help of the 12 Steps and with the love from a sponsor and other members of the program, I found a way to live without alcohol.

Sadly, the pain was still there. The wound went untreated. I lost the Band Aid that alcohol provided. My next course of action was to find a way to heal the real wound. I am grateful that I found therapy as a young adult. I continued it through the years, and it proved invaluable for healing my wound.

Meditation also helped me slowly change my perceptions of what being gay meant. I learned I am not an abomination. I learned god loves me. Most importantly, I learned to love myself.

Gradually, I healed.

And I discovered that when my wound healed, drinking became unnecessary. It’s not even the slightest issue. I go to gay bars these days and feel nothing. I have no compulsion to drink alcohol.

AA gave me the tools to stay away from alcohol, but the AA I was exposed to did not direct me to the tools I needed to heal the wound that caused me to drink. The AA that I was part of treated the drinking as if it was the wound. It taught me that not drinking was enough.

But it wasn’t enough. I needed to heal the wound. I had to find the ways to heal outside the rooms of AA.

I doubt I’m alone. I am confident when I say that alcoholics drink because it provides relief from a pain-causing wound. We need to stop drinking because it is a destructive way of treating the wound. It does not heal. It masks only.

We are doing a disservice by telling people that the pain will stop when the drinking stops. This wasn’t the case for me, and I know many people who agree. We need to do our part to help individuals stop drinking, but we also need to actively direct them to the places where they can heal their wounds.

After 18 years of sobriety, I’ve seen countless people return to drinking after a period of sobriety, and I am convinced it’s because they could not find a way to heal their wound. They return to using the only Band Aid they knew that gave them any amount of relief.

It’s not enough to stop drinking if we ignore the reason the drinking started. The drinking is only a Band Aid. It is not the wound.

Again, we need to actively help individuals find a way to heal their wounds.

[I have been thinking about this for a long time. I’m reluctant to share it, but I have experienced my words reaching others who feel the same but are unable to speak for various reasons, so I’ll share.]

Healing Demons

I have now seen a meme twice. A meme is a viral phenomenon that spreads an idea from person to person in a given population. It’s also the slang term used to describe a trite saying usually accompanied by a picture on the internet.

This particular meme says, “We never lose our demons. We only learn to live above them.”

I can happily report that we can heal them. We do not have to simply learn to tolerate their rude behavior as they live downstairs. It is possible to completely heal them, releasing ourselves from their power. Why can I say this? Because I healed mine.

It’s popular to talk about our baggage, the stuff we carry with us from the past that weighs us down. Baggage is something we talk about with a therapist. In the early days of going to AA, I heard a lot about baggage, and I realized that I don’t simply have baggage. I had a freight train.

Indeed I did. I had so much junk attached to myself on many different subjects: homosexuality, religion, being an American male from the South, parental expectations, etc. The list is very long.

I started therapy when I was 23. The first big item I tackled was anger. It may surprise you to learn that I actually had to teach myself how to be angry. I remember it quite well. I had to keep a small notepad in my pocket and write down every time I felt angry. It took many months before I was able to recognize my real anger. I suppressed it before. I didn’t know that I was allowed to be angry. It was an enormously unhealthy way to live.

I haven’t thought about that episode in my attempts to unpack my freight train in a very long time. My anger is healthy now. I feel it. If necessary, I act on it. I let it pass. It flows like it’s supposed to.

That is a perfect example of healing a demon, and that’s what bugs me about that meme. Saying that the best we can hope for is to merely live above them does us all a disservice. We can indeed heal them. We can completely disarm them and free ourselves from their grip.

I have healed many demons. I don’t live above anything unpleasant.

I am free!

I am very happy to be a gay man now, but I used to loathe myself. I healed the loathing. I did the necessary self-care that led to a very happy realization that I like being gay. I live completely out now. It was a difficult journey fraught with upset, but I did it. I did it!

I am free!

If you think you have pain that can only be tolerated and never healed, you are wrong. If I can heal the trauma of growing up gay in a time and place that abhorred it, you can heal, too. You can. I promise.

The question becomes how to start. Therapy worked for me. I know that it works for a great many people, because they’ve told me it works. It’s also important to do some work on our own.

Meditation is an amazing habit to form. It teaches us to find our calm center. We each have one. Most of us need help to find it. Meditation doesn’t have to be scary. Sit quietly doing nothing. Don’t sit and rock. Don’t sit and drink water. Sit. Just sit. Let your mind wander, and look for the spaces between the wandering thoughts. Try to enlarge those spaces in between. Don’t judge yourself as your mind wanders. Just watch it.

Exercise is important for me, too. I powerwalk. It’s something I enjoy, and it only requires good shoes. It doesn’t take any other special equipment. Think about what you enjoy, and do it.

There are many ways we each can begin the journey of healing. What do you want to look like after you have healed? Think about it, and think about the ways you want to get to that place. Find the help you need, and use it.

You can be free, too. I promise.