Until today, the only person who has known the full details of the incident I am about to relate has been my sponsor.
The reason for my not sharing this before now is simply due to the total complete humiliation I felt when the event happened.
Yet, when it did happen, I knew I would have to write about it in this forum; the mission of this blog is to let others like myself know that they are not alone in the daily trials that come with living as a person with AIDS and dealing with addiction, even if that addiction is in remission. Because of that self-imposed charge, I must now share what I still view as a humiliating event.
Last year I had set a goal of seeing every movie nominated for an Academy Award before the televised ceremony – I didn’t meet the goal, but only missed some of the less popular categories. The film nominated in the five categories most people watch the show for (at least the most people I know), Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor & Actress, Best Film, I managed to see before my goal had come and gone.
When I could, I would rent, download or watch the movies on pay-per-view. I could only find a few films in theaters. Biutiful starring Javier Bardem was one of those films. Despite the inconvenience of doing so, I went to the only showing I could make – a 10:20pm start time (I prefer to be home and snuggled up under my comforter no later than 10pm). The fact that I went with a good friend who ended up liking the movie as much as I did helped ease the annoyance of being out so late.
When the credits had rolled, we went our separate ways home. He stopped to use the men’s room before we exited the theater. I did not. I did not need to do so – at that moment.
Halfway during my six-block walk home, I felt an unpleasant yet familiar gurgling in my lower abdomen. I knew from recent experience that sensation meant I had less than sixty-seconds to make my way to a toilet. The problem was that, even if I doubled my pace, something difficult to do when this feeling begins, I was at least three-minutes from my front door.
With an overwhelming panic, I began to penguin-walk, clenching my lower body from my cheeks to my knees. The non-stop bubbling in my belly became more intense with every step. At approximately one hundred yards to go, I broke into a penguin-sprint that then turned into a penguin-run. The whole time I was saying aloud, “Please, please, please, please, please!” Yes, it was quite a sight!
I made it to my building with no incident.
A glimmer of hope replaced the dread.
I hopped up the flight and a half of stairs to my apartment, my lower body still squeezed tight.
I dug through my pockets and found my key.
The grumbling began to scream.
I was sure, however, that I would make it to the bathroom in time.
I unlocked the door.
I opened the door.
I stepped over the threshold…….
The dam broke when I separated my legs to enter the apartment; one foot in the apartment, the other in the hall, a gallon of sickeningly pungent brownish-greenish-orangey fluid was released from my bowels.
There I stood in jeans that were no longer blue, standing in a massive puddle of my own liquidized feces.
It soaked my underwear.
It soaked my socks.
It filled my shoes.
I somehow managed to strip down enough so that the mess remained only on the hardwood portion of my entryway and the parquet tile of the hall. I walked on the tips of my toes, crossing the carpet to the bathroom where I gave myself a very cursory wipe-down. I grabbed a pair of jeans out of the dirty laundry bin, put them on, double-checked my bare feet to make sure they were free from residue, and grabbed several towels before making my way back to the scene.
I cleaned the hallway first so I could shut the door and hide my shame.
Nearly one-half dozen towels were needed to soak up the gooey excrement. When I was finished, each towel was so damp, you would have thought I had dropped them in a full bathtub.
The entire time I was cleaning, I sobbed. More accurately, I bawled like a baby.
I cried as I cleaned the area with bleach and disinfectant.
I cried as I took a shower.
I cried as I put on clean clothes.
I cried myself to sleep.
Even now, I am tearing slightly as I write these words.
One of the reasons I so dislike taking my HIV meds is because of that very side effect. Granted, at that time I was just getting over being sick for three months, the last one during which I was virtually bedridden. In addition, the fact that I was just starting a brand new medicine regimen to which my body needed several weeks to acclimatize properly. A year later I still have similar reactions to my meds; at least now my insides give my at least five-minutes warning. And, at the risk of being vulgar, the waste I produce is closer to ‘normal’ (whatever ‘normal’ waste is).
When I shared the embarrassing episode the following day with my sponsor, he told me of a friend of his who had similar experiences – actually that person, my sponsor said, had the misfortune to experience what I did, only in public. Oh, and did I mention that my sponsor told me his friend was HIV+, too?
I felt slightly better about myself after learning that I was not the only person to whom that happened. Intellectually I already knew that, but when something like this happens, I tend to think more with my emotions – especially the ones that make me feel bad about myself. Still, I felt bad enough that I promised myself it would be a year before I told anyone else.
What prompted me to write this today? Well, it was because it almost happened again last night while I was walking to a late night meeting. Fortunately, I found an open movie theater. Even though the doors were locked, the young man who was staffing the candy counter came to the door and asked what I wanted. When I told him that my meds wanted to make an unwelcome visit, he permitted me to use the restroom. I don’t know if he will ever read this, but, if he does, I hope he recognized who he is so that he knows how extremely grateful I am for his compassion.
That’s what got me thinking about my humiliation from last year, not what prompted me to write this down.
What prompted me to write this down is this: just as my sponsor let me know I was not alone by telling me about his friend, I want others who read this who happen to have similar issues resulting from a life-threatening condition, whether it be AIDS, Hepatitis-C, Cancer, etc.), and who need to take medicines which effect them in ways that they think is embarrassing, that they are not alone. Many of us who are living with (the key word being living) chronic-illnesses who deal with embarrassing situations on daily basis.
No, it’s not an easy life, and I don’t like when I experience any side effects, but I have to remember that what happened to me a year ago does not make me any less of a person. What happened to me a year ago is nothing about which to be humiliated. What happened to me a year ago might happen again, it might not. If it does, I’ll deal with it then.
Until then, I am going to continue to share these parts of my life that have caused me to feel shame when they happened because I hold onto the eternal hope that sharing my daily trials as a gay man living with AIDS who has been six plus years clean and sober will help even just one person. Even if that one person is me!