A strange sight at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) last Thursday, 5 a.m. at the height of the virus scare

My hand empty of a cup of my beloved coffee! The terminal devoid of the usual throng of soon-to-be airborne passengers

Caffeine—my lasting addiction—beneath my skin, it seems, an extra internal organ, shaped like a coffee bean, filled with grounds

My flight East would be departing soon, and a woman nearby took great care to douse a chair with a cleaning wipe, and don a paper surgical mask

I’ve been taught that what we believe will or won’t help us, probably will or won’t…because of our belief

Earlier that morning, the cord to my iPhone charger had broken, snapped right off…concerns about battery drain; I’d printed my boarding pass, just to be safe

A man with one arm sat across from me, skillfully popping the top of his Starbucks cup, sipping outside Gate Sixteen

Not far from the new Harvey Milk Terminal, named after and built to honor San Francisco’s first openly gay Supervisor

(A Supervisor is like San Francisco’s version of a City Council Member)

I thought back to a time in 2008

When I’d exited an underground BART station, after the California State Supreme Court had legalized same-sex marriages

It was Pride Day, and as the sun hit my face on Market Street, the roar of engines sounded

The Dykes on Bikes were riding

Since 1976, the Dykes on Bikes have gathered at the head of the San Francisco Pride Parade to support non-profit, community, and education efforts in the LGBT and women’s motorcycle communities

I’d recently begun my own attempts at community service, having worked for Joe Alioto’s campaign for City Supervisor

Joe and his wife Erica were some of my most positive influences, as I shed the skin of meth addiction, a barrier to the world which…so it seemed…would not accept me for who I was

Erica and Joe…and many others…inspired me to learn to contribute to, instead of suck energy from, the world around me

(you can read more about Joe in a previous blog)

The pride I found in myself, thanks to others’ belief in me, gave me the power to stay clean

That day in ’08 I remember noticing how many Dykes on Bikes weren’t wearing helmets

And feeling more than a twinge of emotion in the pride I felt for them, and the warm light of victory in the struggle to find freedom

On another recent trip through the SFO Harvey Milk Terminal, I’d taken time to stop and read the stories about Milk lining the well-lit walls, and gaze at his pictures

It’s a fantastic display, if you’ve not been exposed…a wall greater than that of China’s, in some respects

Depicting Milk’s rise through San Francisco leadership, his tragic death

From what I remember, he inspired many to break past the facades they’d felt forced to erect

When I let my memory further take flight, it goes back to the hanging out in gay bars, in the Castro District

Having been brought by friends from my first professional job out of college, at a firm called Interaction Associates

A heterosexual man like me, having lived in San Francisco five years, yet never been exposed to the gay community…the community accepted me

Which may have planted a seed of self-respect, later nurtured by the Joe & Erica Aliotos, and many others, as I stayed clean from meth

In my book, I describe how I believed I’d inadvertently befriended one of the 9/11 hijackers, and how the ensuing paranoia and obsessions dominated my life

For years, I felt the world refused to give me what I thought amounted to a satisfactory ending to my story…allowing fear and shame to prevent me from bringing the world what small amount of value I could

From somewhere above Gate Sixteen, a voice boomed, as my flight began boarding

I realized: I’ve felt frustrated at times, with a lack of what I felt the world should give me

Yet the world gives back to us, what we put forth…we manifest not what we want, but rather who we are

In my case: When I’m tempted to feel the world doesn’t completely appreciate what I have to offer

It’s because I’m not fully appreciating all the world is giving me

Thankfully, I haven’t become ill from the virus, and am able to say a solemn prayer for all those who have, and who’ve lost those who have

And for all of you who have lost someone…to sickness, of any sort

May you find the power to rise above your losses, further even than you already have

In honor of those who’ve come before us, made sacrifices, showed us their strength despite what obstacles they’ve faced, and made our lives better

To all of us who wear masks, for whatever reasons, may we find the strength to give our best true selves to the worlds around us

Today I’ve re-understood the value of gratitude, how it brings us more of what we’re grateful for

Thanks to all of you who’ve inspired me so well

Resources For You

If you know or are a person who is struggling, check out my free PDF: Ten Helpful Questions to Ask When Someone You Love is Recovering From Addiction

Simply go to my website, and hit the “Download PDF Now” button in the lower right. When you enter your email, you’ll be signed up for my weekly newsletter, Meditations on Meth. Feel free to unsubscribe if you don’t want it.

4 Responses

  1. Beautiful article, Ed. I was in Dykes on Bikes that year (and many others as well); I hope I waved to you as I rode by! Looking forward to the book – congratulations on the birth of that.

    1. Hi Sandi, thank you so much for your comment and for sharing your story! And for your amazing support through the years. Here’s wishing you the best.

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