I was told once that an Eskimo is someone who brings you in from the cold. My Eskimos brought me from the cold, dark depths of my addiction to a light, warm, and loving room filled with people who care. My life as an addict changed through the years. Through the trials of my addiction, many people came into my life and saved or guided me to a better path.

It was hard to be openly gay growing up in a small, redneck, religious town. It didn’t help being brought up in a strong Hispanic Catholic family. My life was sheltered due to my upbringing. My dad had a cousin who was flamboyantly gay. He was the outcast of the family and was spoken of badly by others in the community. I knew I was gay by the age of 10 and I had to hide it because of my dad’s cousin. I developed shame for being gay at that early age.

At the age of 16, I found an outlet to express myself while hiding my sexuality. I discovered modeling. I was approached by a company to model kid’s clothes, and things took off from there. It helped that I grew up close to a large city within driving distance. My parents bought me my first car, which enabled me to attend modeling events in the big city. This was my big break because I was away from my parents and for the first time, and I could truly be myself.

One day at one of my modeling events, I met Michael, who was a year older than me. We started to talk. I learned he was gay and out to his parents. We started to hang out a lot. He was the first person who made me feel safe about being myself. He asked me if I had ever tried drugs or drank anything. I replied no because my parents kept me on a tight rein. He pulled out a bottle of vodka he had taken from his parents. We then shared our first drink. I didn’t like the feeling at first, but I did come to like it a lot later.

As our friendship grew, we started to like each other a lot more and we became boyfriends. We decided to go dancing together. We found a nightclub open to 18-year olds. We were having so much fun on the dancefloor. We decided to take a break from dancing, and we were approached by this guy and his boyfriend. They offered us a little bag of white stuff and this little blue pill. I later learned that the white stuff was cocaine, and the blue pill was ecstasy. Me and my boyfriend said we never tried anything like that. We agreed to try it if we kept an eye on each other. From my first use I felt like I was flying. It was an amazing feeling unlike anything I’ve felt before. We hung out with this couple the rest of the night. I wanted more of this stuff because I loved the way it made me feel. At the same time, it scared me, so I didn’t use anymore that night.

After dating Michael for two years, he finished high school and moved away to college. I was alone and scared again with one year left in high school. I reverted back to hiding my sexuality. I became one of the popular kids in school, but felt lonely inside because I could not be my true self anywhere.

I survived high school, and by the late 1980s I started college. I decided to move away so I could be myself without any judgment from my family or my hometown friends. College was freeing. One of the first things I did was join a gay organization on campus. I wanted to surround myself with people like me. This is where I met my next boyfriend of four years. This was also a time I experienced incredible grief from the loss of some of my new friends to AIDS. In addition, this was the beginning of my binge drinking and occasional use of cocaine to cover up my grief and shame.

After finishing college, I accepted a job as a medical auditor in Los Angeles. This was my first attempt at sobriety. I decided to leave my using, drinking, and the boyfriend behind me. I didn’t know anyone in the city, and things were hard and lonely for me. Then I met my next boyfriend, Aldo. We lived a very good and healthy life without using and drinking for the first five years.

After five years together, Aldo and I moved to Austin for my career. The next five years would include a career change for me to real estate. In that time, Aldo contracted HIV and passed it on to me. This was the end of our relationship and the beginning of my spiral out of control.

I started to travel a lot because of my job. Before I knew it, I was reunited with cocaine. I wanted to cover up the hurt and pain of having HIV. I felt like life was not worth living, and I doubted I’d ever have a person in my life that would love me because of the HIV. My cocaine use progressed within a year, and it went hand-in-hand with risky sex at the bathhouses, sex parties, and circuit parties.

I was traveling for work when I met this guy online who wanted to hang out. I went to his place, then he proceeded to ask if I had ever tried crystal. I said no. He took a pipe out, then took a hit off it, then passed it over to me. I was very nervous and didn’t know what to expect. I took that first hit. I thought I inhaled a cloud from heaven. At that point, I knew my life had changed. I was in love, so I thought, with crystal and with this man that I had just met.

I continued dating this guy, who became physically and mentally abusive, for over two years. I knew I could not get out of this relationship. I was so blinded by him, the abuse, and the drugs. The physical and mental abuse was getting worse, but I was in love. I became dependent on him and crystal. I knew I would not find another person who would love me and accept me because of my HIV.

I was suffering so much. My physical appearance and health were taking a toll. Self-care was nonexistent. I left my job in real estate because my health was getting worse. I almost died in the hospital three times from pneumonia, but continued my life with the abusive boyfriend and crystal. They became the loves of my life. I was using crystal every day. Then one day, I had enough. I told my boyfriend I could not be with him anymore, because I didn’t want to live anymore. My self-esteem was shot, and I never thought a healthy trusting relationship with another man was possible.

I decided to plan out my last big hurrah in a different city! I was meeting this so-called friend to party all weekend, so that I could use enough crystal to give me the courage to end my life. Things went worse than I planned. This person had a plan for me that I did not know. He drugged my drink and then shot me up with crystal. I blacked out for 48 hours and woke up to being raped by several strangers. I didn’t remember how I got to this place with these people. I was finally able to get dressed and run out the door. I found my car and drove for four hours attempting to go home. I was so high I could not keep my eyes open. I stopped at a friend’s place so he could take me to the hospital. By this point, I truly wanted to kill myself. I could not stop crying. The doctor asked if I was willing to do anything to help myself. I said “yes”.

I was admitted to detox for a week before being sent to a rehab for 90 days. I needed help because I couldn’t stop using. The abuse of my ex-boyfriend and nearly losing my job was a wake-up call. While in rehab, I decided to do anything and everything I could to better myself. I recall getting up every morning and climbing this hill to join a group called Seekers. We would have a short 12 Step meeting every morning and then watch the sunrise. At those meetings I would cry and ask my Higher Power for help. When I completed my 90 days, I started attending AA meetings because that’s where the counselors in rehab told me to go.

After three months of going to AA meetings, a friend told me about a CMA meeting being held once a week. I went to that meeting. I walked in not knowing what to expect. I sat down and listened as people shared. It was a mixed crowd, but it didn’t matter as they used crystal like I did. I finally realized I was not alone. There were people like me, and they were talking about my life, my feelings, and my thoughts out loud. These early experiences helped me develop the courage to start attending LGBTQ 12 Step meetings.

I met my sponsor Scott at my first LGBTQ AA meeting. I told him I was attending AA meetings at another clubhouse because I was not ready to deal with being around gay men. The LGBTQ meetings helped me develop comfort and extinguish shame around being gay which I carried for many years.

Around the time of my one year sober anniversary, a CMA meeting was created at an LGBTQ recovery clubhouse. I started attending these meetings, and put myself back into the gay community in order to continue facing my fears about being around gay men. After a year and half of going to CMA meetings, I built a strong sober family in recovery. I felt my program was getting stronger, and I’d never have to use crystal again.

I planned a vacation to Los Angeles for my birthday. I called a few friends to meet me at my hotel room. One of my friends brought crystal. I hadn’t been around crystal or seen it since I walked into recovery. I was so tempted by it and I relapsed. The problem, I realized, was I forgot about the paranoia I go through when using crystal. I told my friend to leave after only using for one day.

Stuck in Los Angeles and high—I needed help. I was in a state of paranoia and CRAZY. There was a large event being held at my hotel for two foreign dignitaries and a lot of FBI agents all around the hotel because of a bomb threat. This made things feel a lot worse than it was. I didn’t want to leave my hotel room, and at the same time I knew I needed a meeting.

I didn’t know where the CMA meetings were. I eventually called my sponsor and started reaching out to my friends back home. I told them I relapsed in this strange city. I was crying so much—I needed help. I received a call from one of my friends who reached out to a friend of theirs, who then reached out to another friend of theirs, who lived in Los Angeles. This stranger in Los Angeles called me and asked if I would like to go to a meeting. I said yes. I never met this person in my life. His name was Marc. Marc told me about a meeting happening that night and he was going to pick me up from my hotel so we could go together. He took to me to my first Los Angeles CMA meeting, and he spent the next two days with me before I flew back home. I realized this was my Higher Power working for me by connecting me with this man. The power of the fellowship!

When I returned home, my sponsor picked me up from the airport and drove us directly to a CMA meeting. At the meeting, I started to tell my story of the crazy experience I just went through in Los Angeles. I picked up my desire chip to stay sober. At that moment, I made a conscious decision that no matter what I wanted to stay sober.

I restarted my program by attending CMA meetings almost every day. I started to volunteer with our local CMA group, and at every LGBTQ recovery event being held. Before I knew it, I was serving on our CMA business committee. Then I became the chair for the CMA Group. I built a strong fellowship of CMA addicts around me. I even started to sponsor people.

After I established some clean time, thoroughly worked the 12 Steps, and sponsored others, I wanted to give back to CMA on a different level. I ran for and was elected as the next CMA delegate for the state of Texas. In addition, I was elected to serve as a board member for the LGBTQ recovery clubhouse where my CMA home group meeting is held.

As I became more involved in my program, I wanted to experience my first CMA convention. I returned to Los Angeles for CMALA. This was my first trip back to Los Angeles since my relapse. I surrounded myself with old and new friends from CMA. The convention was such a profound and enlightening experience, and I wanted to go to conventions in other cities. I continued my journey by attending the first Gay and Sober Men Conference in New York City. It was the first of its kind. This conference helped me focus on my gay shame issues, and I created great friendship in the gay recovery community around the nation.

For my fourth year of sobriety, I returned to Los Angeles to take a cake at a Saturday morning CMA meeting. I called my L.A. friend Marc and asked him to give me a cake and celebrate my anniversary with me. I recall talking to a friend about my Los Angeles relapse story, and what Marc did for me. He told me that Marc was my Eskimo. I told him I’ve never heard that phrase before. He told me an Eskimo is someone who brings a newcomer to their first meeting, or simply shares their experience, strength, and hope so the newcomer who is using drugs or alcohol can find their way—a divine intervention.

My recovery became my life, my journey, and my future. Having a strong recovery fellowship made me a better person. I give back by staying connected and bringing newcomers in from the cold by being an Eskimo.