Here boy, come to Jesus!

A tornado picked me up a while back somewhere, only snippets of faces and places flashed and swirled in the stew of wind and debris as I flailed around trying to figure out which way was down. Or up. It depended on the day; days that began to blur into each other in the dim light, throwing my internal clock by shadows cast from cities and towns and buildings and bars and strangers and stage lights, all caught in the mix. Sometimes I would see through the flying dirt and catch a glimpse of the world outside the cyclone – calm and sunny, people walking along on the ground, heading in the direction they’re going, sure to get there more or less when they planned to, to do what they intended to do. What a weird and foreign reality…

I have been plopped here in my mild mannered hometown. The noise still echoing in my head, my ears still ringing, scrapes and bruises reminding me of where I just was, I sit dazed… I feel like Dorothy. My clothes are clean, I am in a safe and familiar place – and you where there, and you, and you!! It was all so real… Even stranger, it was.

I have a love-hate relationship with AA. I was introduced to it not long after my chemical adventures began, and it has plagued my drinking and using career ever since. At times I have been fully involved, loving the open free-talking folks with their heart breaking histories and common struggle for survival, drinking coffee and toasting to gratitude with the best of them. At other times I have despised the old 1930’s white male Christian-centric literature and their corny slogans, relevant or not, flinching every time the word “God” was flung about, fuming with resentment over what I felt was the blatant robbery of my blissfully innocent partying days. The truth is – I never had them. My innocence was broken long ago, with the weight of a reality that most children didn’t have to lose so much sleep over. I drank and used to cushion the blows of what felt like an incessant assault of my identity and my dreams, and that’s why it got so bad so fast. Not to mention I definitely have the gene and had excellent role models. Transition gave me a new lease on life and music kept me afloat for a long time, but somewhere along the way, it too couldn’t hang on to my ankles, and I was swept away. As far as AA goes, I desperately need the community, and I don’t give a shit anymore. Those folks have made it work, so I guess I’ll stick with them. I grudgingly knew I was with my people back in the day, and that remains true.

My people are the drunks, the junkies, the queers, and the crazies. The hippies, the pagans, the sex workers, the criminals, the fat folks, the coloreds, and the cripples. The too young, the too old, the too short, the too smart, the too poor. The people who’s appearance and position in life do not accurately tell the world who they really are. I identify with the struggle to be seen and heard through that disguise. This camaraderie strikes me as funny, as I sit now in my white middle class hetero-normative drag. In an AA meeting. Who’da thought.

I am and will remain eternally grateful for this time to rest and rebuild. I couldn’t keep it together in the midst of our crazy touring schedule. Ingrid and Michael made a tough decision on my behalf, when I couldn’t ask for help. I have been staggering around on the cliff’s edge, fighting off despair and misery like heckling pecking crows, and loosing fast. The ship was about to go down with me, despite appearances. After my crash landing, things never felt to screwed up, so shot in the foot. What a mess I have made. What an ass of myself I have made. How did I get so far from my center, and how do I get back? Those answers will come in time with the work that is calling, and I am willing to do it.

After just two weeks of clean time, I am able to look around and am blown away by the force that is cradling me. I’m not a God person in the sense of a grand personality somewhere out there in the sky with human thoughts and emotions that is separate from us, I use the word in a much more abstract way. So when good ol’ Bill Dub tells me I should find a power greater than myself that loves and supports me and cares about my well being, I have generally been stumped. But in the flood of Facebook comments, emails, letters, calls, and monetary support, I saw it – it’s you.

I am humbled. ‘Thank you’ seems like a pipsqueak of a response to what I have been given. I hope to give it back out to the world when I get myself sturdy.

“Evermore, Thanks” ~ Shakespeare


32 thoughts on “Here boy, come to Jesus!

  1. I believe in Recovery. In a society largely stripped of any vital coming of age/growth/maturity paths and rituals, it is one way to incarnate – become human – live as a vested person – wake up – fully. I honor your path, Joe.

  2. That’s awesome Joe. I enjoyed reading your blog and in my own way, can definitely relate. The love of friends/family/people can be incredibly helpful. Lots of love.

  3. Sending you lots of love and support from Oregon! We may not always understand why we end up in particular situations in life, however I have no doubt that this is an important stepping stone on your yellow brick road — and I have nothing but faith that you’ll find your Oz.

  4. My dear sweet Joe. My heart is with you on this journey, as always. Your worth is more than what you can see but hopefully you can feel it thru all the love that is sent to you. I’m so sorry for what you are going thru, and I am profoundly proud of you for taking this chance. I know you will do great and come out shining just like the star that you are. On the day you were born the world automaticly became a better place. Your words have changed and paved the way for so so many people. We all need you here, safe and sound. Take all the time that you need to get better, and know that we are all here with arms wide open.

  5. May the love and support of this family of friends cushion you and protect you in this cocoon while you journey through this metamorphosis. Sending love, love, love, your Song School sister Cindy in Colorado.

  6. Joe, you’ve been in my heart and in my head ever since Song School 2010 when you told me your story in Paul Reisler’s class. You are just about the most courageous person I have ever met, and sometimes having the courage to do things that are so far outside the box that most folks live inside means that you end up off center for a while. I am so glad that you are taking the time to really work on your recovery and figure out where you are and where you are going. (And that you have people who love you so much that they will put the brakes on and wait for you.)

    Thank you for being an example, both as a trans man and a musician, but don’t let the fact that a lot of people love and admire you make you feel like you owe anybody anything. You owe yourself, well, your self. That’s all. We get one life to live, and you have already left such a huge legacy of music and love and courage that I think you have earned some rest and a chance to just BE for a while.

  7. You will be missed in your time away, but know we will be here with open arms ,. Ready for your encore. Much love my friend ox

  8. You are such an amazing and wonderful person. I will never forget “our” time together. I so relate to your blog, but I still go and will have 17 months tomorrow. I love you. You are my rock star!!! Maridee

  9. Beautiful essay Joe. My version of a hp is also manifests in mere mortals.
    We got yer back, we got each others’ backs. Life is good. peace and love.

  10. Joe u have been an amazing inspiration to me in so many ways I take a good hard look at my life where its going and where its been and have to decided to make changes accordingly. Wishing you all the love and support my friend I look foward to seeing the rejuvenated you!

  11. Joe…I admire your bravery to lay it all out in a public blog…to own it, share it and be so raw. It is a giant leap in the right direction. As a therapist I used to work with people with chemical dependencies and I saw first hand the absolute HURT underneath every urge to use. Every individual had to find their own way to heal that pain and sometimes I could help and sometimes I couldn’t. Sometimes the hurt is just too much, too strong and there is no one there to say “you matter to me.” Thank god this isn’t the case for you, as clearly you MATTER to so many people…

    Furthermore, as someone who is genderqueer I know how much growing up in the wrong body fucks with your head. Even when you are able to fix what is wrong and the body starts to match the soul, you cannot undue the years of feeling wrong. And the habits that were formed to cope with that overall feeling of being fucked up and wrong are not easy to shake, even when you start to finally feel right. When I first heard you speak about your story, heard your songs…I was blown away, once again by your bravery. Holy shit, a Transman on stage! I couldn’t believe it…

    I had top surgery that went terribly wrong in 2003 and it resulted in severe neurological damage in my right pectoral muscles and nerves…as such, I’ve had to be on narcotics ever since. For someone who *never* drank, or even smoked a hit of weed, this was a mindfuck. And the anger over the fact that the Dr removed 10lbs of breast tissue (man, I had awful HUGE boobs prior) but fucked the surgery up so badly that I still have awful “frankenboobs”, not the flat chest I went in expecting to FINALLY have when I woke up…that anger turned into severe depression over the surgery fuck up, needing to be on narcotics for the rest of my life, having to spend a lot of time in the hospital over the course of 2yrs due to the fuck up in the surgery and I was a perfect candidate for slipping over the edge into the bliss that I imagined being constantly altered would offer. I can’t tell you how many times I looked over and wanted to jump, wanted to just be over it all and not have to deal with anything. I even wanted to die sometimes.

    But, and it was a big ol’ BUT, I had a 4 year old daughter and she needed me. She saved me from that great jump over the edge. Add in a wife and son 2 years later and I had my support system. I am on the lowest possible dose of meds and when I feel like I cant stand another minute of being a freak, I rely on the fact that somehow, this is MY journey.

    I didn’t mean to blab on about myself…I just want you to know that this is YOUR journey. You have the support of so many people, those you know and love in your family and friends and those of us who you don’t know personally, but whom you have touched so deeply that we are sending you every ounce of strength and love that we can, and will continue to do so, no matter what!

    You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to always be at peace, you just have to find a place where you can be okay…where you can create music and follow your journey, knowing that people like me will be there at the shows clapping and feeling SO GRATEFUL to see such bravery on that stage. You were the first performer I saw that was open about being Trans and I just sat in awe…and I am still sitting there.

    Take Care and stay strong…

  12. Much love, Dear One. Happy to know you’re taking the time to heal & care for your sweet, angelic self. Love you! V

  13. Hey Twin…Life moves like the ocean, progressing and receding. Your battle (as with mine) will never end and you are not perfect. Your understanding and how you react to the lows are clearly progressing even as you come off of your latest slip. Soon, you will be confident and strong again but never forget this pain and shame. It probably feels like trying to swallow battery acid but the deeper your memory of this time, the stronger your distaste for your own brand of f-ing up the better your chances are of truly calling recent times a real bottom. I believe in you. One minute at a time,

  14. Hiya Joe. I met and spoke with you breifly at the White Horse a couple years ago. We had a nice conversation, although the topic eludes me at the moment :)… You are a kind and considerate man with an extreme talent. I believe in you and your strength to complete this journey. Addiction is a beast that can be mastered, even though its shadow will forever haunt, lurking about waiting to grab you in a moment of weakness. The journey is a tough one, but the reward of finding yourself, your desires and goals through eyes unclouded by drugs or alcohol, is so incredible.

    I have been sober for about a year now. My wife and I are having a baby, and since she cannot drink, I support her by not drinking either. I am finding great pleasure in taking part in my family life with my mind and perceptions unaltered. I find I have a broader spectrum of creativity. I wish the best for you and believe in you.

    I am writing you today in my post op hospital room. I had my hip replaced last night, so I am actually in a pain and drug induced mind altered state. I must say, I do not like the cloudy head, but can’t handle the severity of the pain.

    If perhaps you bring yourself down to the bay area sometime for a day of music in the park, I would love to bring the family so we could listen and appreciate you šŸ™‚

    Hang in there, buddy, you can do this!

  15. I feel similarly towards OA. I am glad to read your words (though obviously not glad about your struggles), but thankful you are getting some help. I saw CG perform when you came through Indy and cherish the experience. Be well, get better, and see you back out there soon I’m sure. šŸ™‚ ā¤

  16. Dear Joe, My experience of recovery is secondhand but intense, having loved and lost a wonderful man who continues to relapse despite his involvement in AA. I finally couldn’t stand to go on witnessing at close hand the extremity of his suffering, and I’ll keep hoping that he lives long enough to finally “live life on life’s terms.”

    That aphorism brings me to the real point of writing this: yeah, plenty of the slogans are corny, and besides, who wants to belong of any club that’ll accept you as a member, right? But I’ve come to view the 12-step program as a sort of American Zen, summed up by the piece of paper that another, long-sober friend pasted over his watch face, that simply reads, “Now.”

    A lot of it seems pretty damn profound to me, in its conviction that the present moment is really our only arena, the only place in which we can actually experience love, truth and beauty. Certainly the only place in which we can grow or change or learn.

    You’re a beautiful man with such rare gifts, Your life story is rare and powerful too, and touches people so deeply. But you’re also like the rest of us…a regular Joe! The hazards of “terminal uniqueness” are also explored in AA…

    Sobriety, as difficult as it will no doubt be, will be an amazing offering to your own sweet, dark soul, and to everyone who esteems you. Peace and love on your journey.

  17. Joe,
    As an addiction counselor, I applaud your strong effort to recover the life you were intended to have, the person you were intended to be. You have been making this journey toward your real self since you were born. It’s you, the real you, who is greater than the other “you”. As part of the Queer community, the community that has only bars in which to commune, I am personally impressed with your strength and honesty. We who are “family” all join with you on this part of your healing path. We nod in understanding when you say you drank to absolve your discomfort. We shudder with the chill of truth when we read of your reaction to the personal pain of not feeling comfortable with self. We are humbled to be part of the greater consciousness you rely on to heal. It’s you. You wake up to more of you every day. Walk into the healing that is ready for you. Namaste

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