Born at the tale end of the baby boom, I came of age in Champaign, Illinois. That was where I finally surrendered to reality and sought recovery through a twelve step fellowship. I had a wide array of friendships with people throughout particular Midwestern towns — church people, college friends, citizens, druggies and now recovering folk. I continued with my career in human services, and generally survived economic downturns by moving within the networks of people and places I have known.
Being gay and finding companionship in recovery is made exponentially difficult by having to avoid bars and the like, especially when one does not participate in any religion. As a result, I have been celibate for long stretches of my recovery; I can still count the lovers I have taken since getting clean on the digits of one fist.
Near the end of last century, I moved from Champaign to a Midwestern river town in the fall of the year, and I was welcomed by the local fellowship, such as it was. I got really involved, started a new meeting, joined the service structure, and life moved along smoothly. Sometime after the first of the year, things seemed to darken. Folks were friendly on the surface, but in almost no time at all, no one would join me for coffee after a meeting. I was slow to become conscious of this, as I was spending up to half my weekends on the road, visiting and continuing to serve the region I had moved from.
A year went by. One of the few local recovering friends I had was visiting one day when I asked what the deal was with no one ever hanging out with me after a meeting. My buddy said, “Well….” And proceeded to tell me that two of the powerful personalities in the local area had let it be known that anyone choosing to befriend me was on the outs with them. I guess they saw me as a threat to young newcomers, assuming I was a predator because of my sexuality.
I complained about this to the few real friends I had in the local fellowship. One particular old-timer had been ignorant, and was incensed. He went to every meeting in the area — *repeatedly* — bitched up a storm, quoted our texts, pounded on the table, and shamed the collaborators (though not the instigators) into abandoning the boycott.
That was a decade ago. There are alleyways in our society where being gay sometimes remains as foreign as it ever was. I am happy to report that I experienced a time when principles proved superior to hate and fear.