It’s about the us in all of us
by John Winston, 21 April 2018
I registered to do the AIDS LifeCycle again this year right after the first time I did it June of last year. I have been riding my bike at least once a month since then. But I faltered in raising funds. I stopped riding last February and wanted to quit when I never really put in an earnest effort to raise the money. I need to hit a minimum too which secures my entry to ride.
My difficulty lie in my thinking. I doubt I knew enough people who would support me being a foreigner and did not grow up here in Los Angeles. I forestall asking money because I foresaw my inability to receive it and would take it personally as a judgment on me and my character. I failed to see it is not wholly about me. I failed to wholeheartedly and consistently believe in the cause. I forget. I am healthy and I get to do this because of the people who came before me who did the work and fought for basic human dignity of people afflicted and affected by HIV. I was reminded of it when my friend Dr. Terry Grand died from AIDS last Wednesday. There was a billboard ad on HIV of him amongst his friends as the only one left surviving - until this moment. He is quite the prolific activist in the days of ACT UP and an ardent supporter of the LGBTQ community. Even after his death, his body was taken away for autopsy/study by UCLA.
Dr. Terry planted the seed of recovery in me and introduced me to a psychologist when I seroconverted. I had to see one because I did not have health insurance and the center that was to provide me with free HIV medication had to ascertain I was going to be diligent about taking it. My psychologist had doubts because at that time I was at the height of my addiction and in it goes hand in hand the risky behavior that got me infected not only with HIV but also with Hepatitis C. She is my Eskimo. She got me out of the cold. She pointed out that I already got two strikes of life threatening diseases and that I did not realize my addiction is a disease that could be the third strike that will kill me. When I did realize I was still addicted to methamphetamine, out of a job, my ten year relationship with my boyfriend was on the rocks, had been homeless, and already in a rehab she got me into that introduced me to a twelve step program which is responsible for paving this new way of life I am trudging. I now have 3 years and 9 months clean from drugs, alcohol, and any mind altering substance. My viral load is undetectable and my T-cell count is over a thousand just like any healthy person and I have been cured of Hep C. I am gainfully employed for four years, living in a safe place, and a productive member of society. I now find fulfillment paying it forward simply by taking men in rehab to 12 step meetings I still frequent.
Earlier today was “Day on the ride.” It is especially for the new riders to get a taste on what a day on the right is like. On the opening ceremony we were asked to take a moment to think about why we do the ride? I was not sure until now. I was able to participate today because yesterday in spite of an overbearing self-doubt and lack of faith I got a phone call from three of my team mates urging me to continue and not to quit. After a hiatus in training I got to finish the grueling 80 mile ride because again two other teammates were there and rode with me the whole time. I fed off the love and the energy of the support crew and people I met in last year’s ride and this year’s training rides. All making a difference in their own little way.
In closing the words of this morning’s speaker echo in my head. It is about the us in all of us.
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