Gay Man Frees Himself from the Grip of Addiction. “My Life Started to Get Better.”

by Gary Lane

Hi, my name’s Gary Lane. I’m from Austin, Texas. 

I don’t remember exactly when, but I think it was either late high school or maybe right after. One day just at home with mom, and we’re at the dining room table, and just out comes the question, “Hey, so are you gay?” 

And I’m like, “Well, yeah.” 

Because my mom’s the way she is, she’s like, “Well, what did I do wrong?” My mom is a worrier. She likes to take on other people’s responsibilities sometimes, but that’s just her. She’s pretty awesome. Was then and still is.

Not that long after, also during my senior year, my dad just up-and-left without much explanation, without many words to mom other than, “I don’t love you anymore.” Because of the way that I grew up, not really understanding emotions, I was ill-equipped for that. 

I probably started drinking and experimenting with more drugs about that time, because I did understand that those chemicals and alcohol, those help me not feel. So that started to impact my first semester of college. I just didn’t do well and I dropped out after one semester. 

So after I stopped going to college, a friend of mine asked me one day, “Hey, my parents own a dance studio. Do you want to come work there?” And so I went to work for Fred Astaire as a ballroom dance instructor. All the guys, or most of the guys there were gay, and they loved to go out and dance at night. And this was like the mid ’80s, and the music was great and the clubs were fun, and the alcohol was cheap, and the drugs were readily available. 

So I remember one day, I’m at mom’s house. My brother and sister-in-law are there. I think I’m going into the bathroom, coming out of the bathroom. This was in the mid… mid to late ‘80s, so HIV and AIDS scare was in full-force. And my sister-in-law just stops me and says, “Hey, I just want you to know that when our son is born, I don’t want you anywhere near him.” And I’m just taken aback. I don’t know what to say. 

And my brother says, “Well, that’s just not going to happen.” And so I think they went off and probably had a little bit of an argument there, but I was furious. It just gave me another reason to go get loaded again and use some more. 

So really, my drug and alcohol use continued to escalate. I’d had some legal skirmishes, nothing too bad. But I could tell something was wrong. And so my pattern would be like, I would meet somebody, fall in love, then not know what to do with these emotions. What I know, what my default is, is go get drunk, or go get high. And then the drug use would escalate, and the boyfriend would leave. And then I would get sober, and then here we go again. 

Even though I would stop drinking and get sober for a bit, I would never do the work that the twelve-step programs suggest. At probably my deepest bottom, I came to the realization that I was done. And I dug in and I did the work, and things started to change, and my life started to get better. My last drink was November 11th, 2004, and since then, amazing things have happened, and my life is so unlike what it was. And so what it’s supposed to be.

In 2009, I had been really struggling trying to find work. It was right after the crash. I’m in the mortgage business, so that was not going well. A friend of mine that had asked me to give him his resume, that company that reached out in April said, “Hey, are you still interested in the loan officer job?” And this guy’s name’s Eric. So Eric and I had an interview. 

And at the end I said, “Hey, I just need you to know that I’ve had some bumps in the road, and so that’s going to show up.” And he goes, “You know what? I don’t have an opinion about that. That HR’s business.” 

Called the lady back and I said, “Okay, so here’s what’s next.” She goes, “Well, we’ll do your background check and your application.”

I said, “Well, here’s the deal.” And I explained to her what my situation was and she says, “Well, don’t worry about it. We’re just going to send this off and we’ll let you know when it comes back.” 

Two weeks later, she calls me and said, “Okay, we got a green light.” 

I’m like, “What does that mean?” 

She goes, “That means we’ll hire you.” And I started a career at a bank as a loan officer. 

I will say that 2014 was an enormously challenging year. Towards the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014, one of my best girlfriends lost a battle to ovarian cancer. Shortly thereafter, I got laid off my job that I’d had for five years. A couple months later than that, my partner died from the disease of alcoholism. Later that year, I think it was August, I found out I was HIV positive. 

And I think my doctor was really surprised when he called me to tell me. And I think he expected something a little more dramatic. My response was just like, “Okay, so what do we do? What’s the next step? Let’s go.” And after he got over his initial shock, then we talked about treatment. And I’ve been undetectable ever since. The first thought was not to go get high, not to go get drunk. And so I knew something was different.

The first thought was not to go get high, not to go get drunk, so I knew something was different.

I have a lot of gratitude behind that, mostly because I was able to do it without getting loaded, but also that I’m having all these feelings and I’m not running from them.

So towards the end of 2014, I think it was right before Christmas, I get an email from Eric. The one that was the hiring manager of the job I got back in 2009.

 And he said, “Hey, I have a job that I think you’d like.” And he gave me a description of the job, and he says, “Hey, just fill out the consent form and the application, and we’ll take care of it.” And that was all I heard from him. Day after Christmas, I get a job offer. 

A few years later, I was just having a conversation with Eric in the office and I said, “Hey, so how did you handle that situation with the owner of the company when you told him you wanted to hire me?” So Eric says, “Hey, I have this guy that I’d like to hire, and he’s got a few hiccups in his past.” And the owner of the company just basically asked him one question. 

He said, “Do you trust him?” 

And Eric said, “Yeah, I do.”

For someone like me that has gone through so much, and was very untrustworthy and so many other things, to come to a space where I’m trusted and respected, it’s so opposite of what I was. And it is so important to the man that I want to be and that I have become. Recovery from addiction is possible, not just possible, it’s absolutely doable. And it’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to not know. It’s okay to not understand. But the important thing is to make that ask.

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