Today I’m grateful for life itself, for this day – the shortest day of the year. 12 years ago today, I was going to end my life because of the deep shame I felt at my core for who I was. Decades of societal and religious messaging that being gay is an abomination, a sin, a brokenness that needed to be healed. I also realize now I had some deep unresolved trauma from my adolescent and young adult years.
In 1990, I moved to Indy for a job at Lilly after graduating from University of Michigan. I was largely closeted at first, living in fear of being found out. I ran from myself, pouring my energy into my career. I sold my soul to the devil of money, status, material wealth. I did well for the most part – but sacrificed intimacy, community and connection for the corporate ladder. Eventually the strain of living a compartmentalized existence caught up with me.
At 33, I started using drugs because the alcohol was no longer sufficient to numb the pain. Over the course of the 8 years, I became addicted to crystal meth. In the last year or two, I was using every day – sometimes even smoking at work on breaks in the restroom. I was a functional meth addict until I could function no more. I had become irritable and aggressive at work, stemming from my using, lack of sleep and depression.
On December 21, 2009, I decided to take enough meth to burst my heart by sticking a large quantity up my butt. Whether or not that would have worked is immaterial. In my mind, I wanted to die.
In a moment of clarity, I decided that wasn’t the answer. I knew I wanted help, but all attempts in the past had failed. I called 911 and reported a failed suicide by lethal ingestion of meth. I wanted to put into motion a plan that I couldn’t stop. I also called my pastor Mike Mather who brought a small contingent of reinforcements to be there with me. They met me at Greenfield ER and took me to Fairbanks for treatment. That act of presence is one I’ll never forget.
It would be another 8 years before I finally put the pipe down in 2018. In those 8 years, I wrestled with my demons. I also went through a series of losses. I was fired from my 19 year career at Lilly in 2010 because I was arrested based on what the police found that night I called 911. I blew a plea bargain and ended up with two felonies on my record in 2011. I was diagnosed with HIV In 2012. I lost my mom to a heart attack stemming from her untreated alcoholism in 2013. I was sexually assaulted once and robbed twice in 2014.
Looking back, that’s when I started rebuilding my life. Therapy has helped me deal with the shame and trauma, the isolation, the inability to feel anything other than loss and shame. I reconnected with my photography, and have fully embraced the artist and artivist in me.
In these past 12-18 months, I have found the three most important things I was missing: identity, purpose and connection.
Today I remember my roommate from Fairbanks who died from this disease. I remember my friend Graham Karwath who died from this disease. I know too many gay men who are addicted to meth. We don’t talk about it. We offer them black and white solutions that push them away. I was judged and ostracized when I relapsed. But I was also shown love, compassion, and grace.
If you or someone you know is struggling, tell them to hold on. Tell them you love them. Love them without condition or strings or expectations. Love them where they are at.
There is hope. There is healing. Find your way.
I’m here if you want to talk.
Thanks for listening.
Keep telling the story
Signed ever faithfully,
The Right Reverend Lord C Todd Peacock III
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