by Bree L.

“We looked good on the outside but were highly dysfunctional on the inside,” said Marcus. He grew up in Glendale, California in a very religious Christian family with a domineering mother and a quiet father. Marcus had sensitive ways. He always felt different as the middle child with two older sisters and one younger brother. His parents wanted him to join the ministry and decided the best place was the home of their Presbyterian minister, an imposing, domineering man. Marcus’ sobriety date is February 19, 2007.

“Come and get me,” Marcus called his brother in the middle of the night. He had to escape from the abusive clergyman, who subjected him to long lectures during beatings while he was forced to lie on a bed naked. Life with the minister was pure hell. His spies reported everything from missing class to failing a test. From the pulpit, this man pointed to Marcus and exhorted him to change his ways. 

He’d ask friends to buy liquor or pilfer from his parents’ bottles

Upon returning to his family home Marcus still felt betrayed and alone. His solution was to drink. He’d ask friends to buy liquor or pilfer from his parents’ bottles. Sneaking off during the day, he drank and read pornography. His parents were not alcoholics, but they had cocktail hour 365 days a year.

The boys played bartender, making Jim Beam and 7-Up drinks. Life at home settled in, until Marcus came home to find the fireplace blazing while his parents threw one gay porn magazine after another into the fire. They were beside themselves with concern about what was happening with their son. Marcus’ mother began to search for gay articles through psychiatric journals trying to understand what was then considered aberrant behavior. At one point his parents sent him to a psychiatrist. Their one and only session consisted of the therapist asking, “Are you gay or not?” When Marcus answered in the affirmative, he said, “We have nothing more to talk about; you’re fine the way you are.” 

Marcus dropped out of college to do odd jobs and eventually became a flight attendant. He came out and made full use of the party scene. This was during the ’70s before the AIDS pandemic. There was never enough alcohol or drugs so he used everything he could. Dating bartenders usually did the trick. He continued working as a flight attendant and moved up the ladder until he showed up intoxicated at work and was eventually fired.

He went to New Leaf

Leaving a live-in relationship, he moved to San Francisco for a new start. When 12-stepped, his rationale was, “I’m too young and do not resemble any of these happy, jovial people.” His party life resumed unabated until more people told him he had a serious problem with alcohol. He found a psychologist, who refused to treat him without some sort of support. So he went to New Leaf.

Counselors there continually encouraged him to go to A.A. This time, A.A. clicked with him. He got a Big Book, a sponsor and began working the steps. Life got better. He met a special someone, fell in love and after a few months committed to a holy union in Golden Gate Park. 

Eight or nine years in the program, he decided there was a problem with A.A.’s concept of God. Thinking gay A.A. was the problem, he moved to straight meetings before he eventually decided A.A. was not for him. Around that same time, his sponsor and a few friends relapsed. He figured he was doing fine without A.A.

He found humility was the cornerstone of a life worth living

After 14 years without a drink, he relapsed at an art and wine event. There was free wine, and it seemed so simple. All his crazy alcoholic behavior came back lying, cheating and stealing. He felt worse than ever. Drinking heavily at a bar with a buddy, he’d declare, “A.A. was one of the best things I ever did for myself,” while stealing bar tips. 

Marcus was a blackout drinker and rarely remembered how and when he got home. He drove drunk and took many other risks. Relationships suffered, and some were destroyed. Finally, his partner said, “You need help. I love you, but I don’t respect you. Frankly, I don’t like who you’ve become.” After hearing these words from the person he loved most in the world, Marcus started praying to a God he swore he did not believe in. He has not stopped since. 

He was afraid to return to the meetings, thinking people would see him as a fraud. It didn’t happen. He was welcomed, embraced and supported. The first 30 days, he cried every day. Today he sees the relapse as the best thing that ever happened to him.

With a spiritual practice of meditation and prayer, he has found humility is the cornerstone of a life worth living. As it says in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions regarding humility, “To those who have made progress in A.A., it amounts to a clear recognition of what and who we really are, followed by a sincere attempt to become what we could be.” That’s how life works with a new higher power.

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