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Aug31

My Life with Tina - part two: the day I stood up

Monday, 31 August 2015 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Gay Men, Lifestyle, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Population Specific , Revolving Door, Guest Authors

Toronto guest writer Miguel Torres continues his story of his crystal meth addiction, and how he conquered it.

My Life with Tina - part two: the day I stood up

This is a follow-up to my first contribution which was published here on PositiveLiite.com on August 19, 2015. 

Theres a point in the video for the song Not Ready to Make Niceby the Dixie Chicks where all three members stand up in unison and dust themselves off. Whenever I remember June 28, 2014, I also remember that image of a person dusting himself off.  It was the day I last got high on crystal.  Heres the full story of what happened that weekend.

******

I had been getting high for days. After shooting up and, later jerking off to porn as was my ritual, I got up from my chair Saturday night, turned off the computer and went to bed. I woke up Sunday morning to find out that I was late for my volunteer shift as a parade marshall for the Toronto World Pride parade. I had several missed calls from my friend with whom I had volunteered. I quickly showered and took the subway to the parade staging area. Of course, i made sure to cover up my track marks with make-up before I left. 

When I first came out to my friends in the early 2000s, volunteering for Pride was something I got to do with them.  It became sort of a tradition. 

So throughout the afternoon, she and I herded participants into the parade. At one point, I received a text message from my sister-in-law asking how the parade was going. I responded by inviting her, my brother, and our parents to come out and join in the festivities. My family and I have lived in Toronto for 20 years, and Ive been out as a gay man to them for the last 15, but Ive never had the pleasure of experiencing Pride with my family. This time, I was really hoping that my family would come join in. 

But to my dismay, they didnt come. I thought, This is the problem.  This is what I need to deal with.  If I wanted to move on from my addiction, I needed to address what was really bothering me.

I come from a very religious background.  I grew up in the Philippines attending a Baptist church.  My family used to say that I should be a pastor when I grow up since I can recite many Bible verses. I was a good Christian boy. 

Like many Filipino immigrants in Canada, my family found kinship with others in a Filipino congregation. Growing up gay and a devout Christian in a new country wasnt easy. For years as a teenager, I believed that I sinned every time I had thoughts about other guys.  It wasnt until a year after my HIV diagnosis, in 2007 when a boyfriend took me to one of Metropolitan Community Churchs Sunday services that I realized that its possible to reconcile my spirituality and being gay.  Realizing that they didnt have to be two separate facets of my life was a huge shift in my perspective.  I no longer needed to choose between the two. 

It was also around that time that my family hosted a party at our home to celebrate my parents’ wedding anniversary. The guests were mostly from the church. As is customary, the pastor took a few minutes to say something, more like a mini sermon. The only thing I remember him saying to us who gathered that night was that a marriage is only between a man and a woman.

What hurt me most was seeing my parents, seated beside the Pastor, nodding in agreement. I should have said something. At the very least, I should have stood up and left. But I sat there in the audience, in shock. I couldnt believe it. How dare he? In my own home! I was pissed. Years later, I realized that maybe I was more mad at myself for just sitting there doing nothing. 

The fact that my family still went to a church that did not welcome people like me hurt. I thought that they were siding with strangers, rather than standing tall and proud with me.

And so whenever I got high, my mind would think about the hurt. These thoughts repeated over and over in my drug-addled mind while at the same time, I would hallucinate about snakes crawling around me.  Every time! 

I was tired of it. And so after the parade in 2014, I went to my parentsplace. My brother was there with his wife.  As we ate at the dinner table, I spoke up. I told them how I felt that night in 2007 when the pastor stood in front of everyone and spilled misinformation about what its like to be gay. I told them that it didnt matter to me where they chose to go to church. What mattered to me was what they thought of me and whether I have their acceptance or not. 

In that conversation, I tried to explain to them that it wasnt my choice to be gay, despite what their church preaches. Yes, there is a contradiction between what their pastor says about being gay and what I say about being gay. But, I reminded them that Im the gay one, and so I asked them, If you wanted to know how a car engine works, would you go ask a dentist or a mechanic? 

That discussion I had with my family that evening was a rollercoaster ride of emotions. My brother surprised me that night because he stepped in a number of times in the conversation when it got heated. Whenever I felt that I wasnt getting through to my parents, I looked to my brother and sister-in-law for help. And help they did. They would translate what I was saying to my parents in words that my parents understood, although we were all speaking in Filipino.

In the end, though, I did get them to understand that it wasnt my choice to be gay. There might have been more issues for me to bring up, but I thought it was a good start. Besides, that was the root of the problem anyway, I thought. I believed that if they understood that it wasnt a choice, then all else would fall into place.

***** 

I went back to my apartment that night feeling like I was walking on clouds.  It might have been the after-effects of crystal, but I really dont think so. I felt that I finally had what I had been waiting for all these years: my familys understanding. They finally heard me. 

I still had some crystal around in my apartment but I didnt touch it.  What did I need it for if I already had what Ive always wanted? Tired and emotionally drained, I slept like a baby that Sunday night. No snakes this time. After ten years of using crystal, I finally had enough. I flushed what was left of it down the toilet the next day because, at last, I felt at peace. 

I stood up and dusted myself off. 

MarketPlace