It was January of 2005. I had returned a few days earlier from Guest House, an alcohol rehab facility for priests in Rochester, Minnesota where I had spent the previous 3 months working through the issues surrounding my alcohol addiction. All those being discharged were encouraged to find AA meetings in their areas to begin this “new life” of recovery.
I went online and located the page for the “Miami-Dade Intergroup of AA” where I was living at the time. There was no lack of meetings in the South Florida area but I was also seeking a special kind of meeting, the ones with the “G” next to the meeting description, “Gay”. I located the meeting schedule for a place called “Lambda/Dade”. It was not far from the university where I was living and working.
At the first meeting I attended I was warmly welcomed when I came in and was recognized as being new to the group. I introduced myself as “Warren, and I’m an alcoholic” but it would take months for me to introduce myself fully.
One night at an “S”, a Speaker Meeting, the scheduled speaker failed to show up. The secretary of the group approached me and asked if I would be willing to “share my story”. In that instant, every conceivable excuse that I could come up with to say no flashed through my mind yet somehow I heard my mouth say “ok”.
As I sat in the chair in the front of the room everyone quieted down and I took a deep breath and I said something that I had never said publically before; “Hello, my name is Warren, I’m an alcoholic, I’m gay, and I’m a Catholic priest”. Much to my surprise, the ceiling did not collapse, the walls did not cave in, the crowd did not rush at me to stone me and cast me out into the night. Everyone calmly replied; “Hi Warren”.
For a guy who lived his whole life in “compartments”, the “good little boy” compartment and the “gay boy” compartment it was no wonder why I resorted to the use of alcohol. If secrets make us sick, and they do, I had 2 big ones. With my family and friends, I was the good kid who was rather spiritual at a young age and who was going to be a priest (like it or not) but I wouldn’t dare mention my “gay” secret. When I would cross the river into New York City to be with my “gay tribe” I wouldn’t dare mention my “catholic” secret. It was only in a meeting of alcoholics anonymous that the walls of my “compartments” came crumbling down and I felt a freedom that had eluded me for most of my life.
There have been times since then that because of life’s circumstances I wanted to put the walls of the compartments back up but I knew that to do that would surely lead me to a drink. By continuing to go to meetings and staying in the center of the program not only do I not fear putting the walls back up but I realize that I just don’t need those walls anymore.