Take A Chance On Yourself
I was living in a halfway house in Delray Beach, Florida, and I was sick, which I thought was the flu. It was persistent. I had a high fever, and it was lasting probably over a week, not being able to get off the couch and calling out at work. Finally, one of the roommates came home and said, bro, you haven't gotten off the couch, are you all, right? Someone who ran the halfway house ended up coming over and took me to the hospital. They did some tests and they suspected that it was PCP Pneumonia, which I knew nothing about. I said, well, wait a minute. I'm a 32-year-old male, with pneumonia, that's raising a red flag for me. The doctor asked me if I had ever been tested for HIV.
It was World Aids Day in 2006. A bunch of doctors came around my bed and I just knew. I had seen the commercials all week long for WAD and I felt like, oh God, this is God preparing me. At the time I had, I think, seven T-cells. When I was told seven, I knew that was drastic. I was numb at first and then I broke down.I went through the, oh my God, I don't think I'm going to get out of this hospital, which was very much a possibility, you know? Thankfully, I did, and was introduced to medication. They kept telling me and stressing the point; don't ever stop taking this medicine. Make sure you take your medicine every single day as prescribed. It was reiterated so much that I remember questioning to myself, why are they telling me this? Obviously, I know this is serious. Why would anyone stop taking their medicine?
And then comes my addiction. I understood, that's why they said it. Because when addiction takes hold, things happen. You miss appointments all the time, and then you're not worried about taking your meds. And then, because you've been doing so well, or you go into the” it can't touch me” phase again, you think “Oh, now I'm fine, missing one day isn't going to do any harm.” Then one day turns into a week, turns into a month, turns into my Ryan White is not recertified.
This is my third time here at Broward House for treatment. I say that as an embarrassment, but I also say that with pride. It depends how I look at it. My journey is my journey. If anyone ever comes to treatment and fails the first time, so have many of us. It, unfortunately, can be part of the journey. As long as they introduced me to this whole recovery lifestyle, it was money well spent. I may not have gotten clean and stayed clean then, but the seed was planted. Regardless of if somebody enters into treatment and fails, leaves for whatever reason, or completes as I did, and then comes the day you get out, there's no shame in that. The shame is if you stay out there. The shame is if you don't pick yourself back up.
In counseling I learned “Just know that you deserve an amazing life.” I have used that mantra, that chant, for years and years. I've been to prison since I first came to get treatment for my addiction and to build a routine to get back on my HIV medication. I can't tell you how many times I've sat in my bunk, a very dark, isolated, lonely place that prison can be, and I kept telling myself “You deserve an amazing life. You deserve an amazing life.”