Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Seaside Sobriety

I spent this past weekend in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware (yes, in February) at an event called a "Roundup." Roundups, in the recovery community, are opportunities for special interest groups within 12-Step Programs (in this case, the LGBT communities) to get together for a little sobriety and a lot of fun.

Well, I'm here to tells ya, Blanches, I had a LOT O' FUN! We were parked in a big motel, right on the boardwalk. It had to be big because we were nearly 400 strong. The mix was good, too. About 55% women, 44% men and 1% transgendered. Within the gender groupings, about 80% identified as totally gay and about 20% identified as bi-sexual.

There were folks there from the outer banks of North Carolina to Akron, Ohio. All the major east coast cities from New York on south were represented.

Everyone started to arrive around noon on Friday. The organizers had been there since Thursday night. The kick-off was a 12-Step meeting (with the guest speaker always being the previous year's Chairperson of the weekend), followed by a rousing evening of Bingo with prizes guaranteed to be appreciated by Queer Folk.

I had made a dinner reservation a couple of weeks back, for two, at a place called the Blue Moon. The Blue Moon is one of the fancy-schmancy places in town. It's also the biggest gay bar in town. It was the scene of many a drunken evening for me in the late 80's and early 90's. But I had never eaten in the restaurant section, even though it's always been highly rated. I wound up going stag, which because it was the off-season turned out to not be a problem. I got a window seat so I could "check out the action" on Baltimore Avenue (La Via Gay in Rehoboth) while I dined on Ceasar Salad and Filet Mignon. I liked dining alone. I like being with me. I don't "need" somebody sitting across from me in order to feel normal or complete. And I don't feel the least bit odd about it, either. What would be odd would be to sit there with somebody I've been sleeping with for 10 years and yet deeply hated, or at the least, deeply resented. I had iced-tea and bottled water with dinner. Nobody, including me, thought that was odd, either.

I got back to the motel (a whopping block away) in time for the Bingo game and sat at a table of strangers. I made it a point that weekend to sit with strangers whenever I could, to force myself to make small talk in order to get to know people.

Oh, there were a lot of people there whom I did know, and I also spent a fair amount of time reconnecting with folks whom I'd not seen since my last roundup, three years ago.

What was wonderful was how comfortable I was. Rehoboth is MY turf. I grew up there (practically... I am a Delaware Boy by birth and spent a lot of time on the DelMarVa shore as a kid and, later, as an adult). But I was also very comforted by being there with hundreds of people who understood me on a deep, fundamental, level. I was flirtatious, probably for the first time in many years. I "came on" to a couple of guys, and quite a few guys came on to me, too.

This was enormous progress for me. I have been very emotionally shut down and unavailable for many years. That was all fear-based and I was enabled in it by well-meaning family and friends who didn't want me to get hurt again, the way I was for 15 years in a terribly sick relationship.

But hearts are useless if they're not available to love and be broken. Otherwise they're just mechanical devices that keep us breathing, but hardly alive.

I learned a lot about myself this past weekend. I learned how to make myself more a part of life than I've been for a long time.

I'll talk more about the weekend over the next few days.

But for today, take this with you, dear reader; I am alive. More alive than I've been in many years.

And I am truly happy.

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