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I like to have a martini, two at the very most. After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host.

Dorothy Parker

My first sip of alcohol was in the fifth grade.

My buddy Mike built a backyard clubhouse from scraps of wood and fabric. There, a small group of us could just be 10-year-old boys from 1964 Northside Tulsa.

Occasionally we would gape at a Playboy magazine someone had smuggled into our den. (“Girls of Russia and the Iron Curtain Countries” stirred more than our espionage interests.)

Once Mike snuck some rye into our clubhouse. He had taken it from his dad’s cache. We all tasted some.

It was nasty.

By the time I was a junior in high school, my outwardly gregarious and confident personality masked the chasm of fear that was widening within. During an overnight school theatre competition trip, one of the others in my room pulled out a bottle of Southern Comfort. We all tasted some.

It was perfect.

That night, I continued to drink until blacking out. I was 17.

In fact, I pretty much continued to drink and, eventually, use a wide range of drugs for another 11 years.

I thought my drinking and drug use was a big secret. It was not.

The chasm within me never filled up enough to smooth the surface over the fear and self-loathing. There was just not enough alcohol, weed, cocaine, or a rainbow assortment of pills. Others could tell. Especially those who joined in with me.

I still had my standards though. I never did needles. I never drank gin.

Gin was nasty.

But I did vomit violently in a crowded subway in New York City, clearing the car out of all passengers but me. I also regained consciousness with who-knows-who in plenty of who-knows-where places across the U.S. And, during one of my last binges, I laid flat on my back at a rooftop party, watching fireworks overhead. I could not remember the sequence of actions my body needed to take in order to stand up.

On the morning of July 6, 1982, I woke up on the floor of the third-floor walk-up I shared with my girlfriend in Brooklyn.  Next to me on the floor was some guy I had picked up in some bar overnight. He slipped out without declaring his love, leaving me there, foggy, frightened, and finally defeated.

That was the moment.

I picked up a phone. That call connected me with a group of people who would begin to save my life. They started me on a road of recovery that has lasted to this day. With these new friends, I also began to unknot my fears and stereotypes of what it meant to be gay.

After admitting my powerlessness to a packed Lenox Hill Hospital meeting room of strangers (and many rooms of strangers since) today I celebrate 39 years of a vastly different life.

It is possible. There is hope. Even when, like me, you think you’re too smart to go through all this.

I am incredibly grateful for the life I have been given. And I am in more than just a bit of disbelief.

10 comments
  1. Thanks for your testimony, your example, and the reminder of how we always find pieces of our story in the stories of others. My Spiritual Director, in the process of kicking my ass firmly into the rooms of AA nearly 9 years ago said, “Buddy, you think you’re too smart for AA but if this mess you’ve landed in doesn’t convince you otherwise, heaven knows what will.” xoxo

    1. Spiritual advisors can be real pains in the ass.

      Thank you, Buck.

      Our stories weave in and out, don’t they?

      Some day I will discreetly write about my first marriage ceremony, to which you bore witness.

      I wish I knew the ancient text used for those secret vows.

  2. You continue to amaze me! Your life has certainly taken you on a whirlwind journey but you have arrived as the same talented, accomplished and brave man I know as my friend, Randy White. You are inspiring!

    1. I am the lucky one to have had help from so many along the way.

      You have also been a source of inspiration, Edie. From some medical insights you once shared, to the life you live in the world in which you live, I carry a bit of you.

      Thank you.

  3. Thank you for sharing your pain and recovery. I only saw you as a cute and very talented boy in high school. Like so many I was just a self centered yet insecure teenage girl oblivious to the strife and struggle of my classmates. I admire your strength and perseverance and rejoice with you and the wonderful life you and Jeff have made.

    1. Thank you, Carla.

      Few of us know what churns beneath the surface of others near us. Especially in high school.

      I am glad we’re still in each other’s orbits and love the life and family you have built with Mike.

      1. I’ve come to understand that fate is proof of God’s will at work. Who would have imagined a year or so removed from college, a guy from Oklahoma would take a chance on me, hire me, and start me on the professional path to where I am today.
        Life was all about me, chasing the brass ring and desperately seeking happiness — while for many years I carried and stuffed loads of fear, pain and anger.
        Then one morning, when I had finally grown weary and couldn’t stand the pain any longer, full of anger that God wasn’t supporting me in MY plan— I realized that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. That same morning, I saw post from that Oklahoma thespian on Facebook about celebrating 30 years. I never knew, but I knew then who my next call would be to.
        As God’s will would have it, you answered the call, pointed me in the right direction, and started me on a journey toward healing and forgiveness and removal of years worth of junk that had led me to the cliff of desperation, the deep depths of depression and almost daily self-medication.
        Today I know a life so radically different than what I had planned. It is better than anything my plans had previously dictated. Most assuredly, your life and your testimony have touched the lives of thousands, leaving a lasting positive impression or change on each person along the way. Well, count me as one of them. I will forever be grateful to you and to a God who was always there and never gave up on me. You are proof of this. Yes, fate perhaps. Thank you, Randall.

  4. I am at awe with your testimony. Thank you for sharing as it really puts things in perspective. Thank you

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