Holding back my tears, I managed to say, “I was diagnosed with HIV.” I waited barely able to look at him…
Read on to hear a Kali member, Adeel story and how The Quest Course has impacted his life.
Club Kali has been offered some subsidised spaces for The Quest Course for BAME people. The course usually costs £395 but for Kali patrons you can get the whole course for a special price of £50 with code: KALIQ when applying.
Click below for more information.
A Jigsaw Piece of Peace – By Adeel
Broken and defeated I lie on Asif’s couch with tears streaming down my face. Stupidly longing for the chains that God had just helped free me from. The look on Asif’s face told me that my eternally patient friend was running on empty. And rightly so. My ex-boyfriend cheated on me the whole time, manipulated me so that I was kept away from my support group and used all of my resources as if they were his own. Worse than that, he was actually selling his ass on the apps!!! Why the hell would I want to go back to a psychopathic narcissist like him? Why would I miss him?
It’s not smart but it’s the way I felt. He was Whatsapping me and FB messaging me his profuse apologies begging me to come back to him, “I’ve changed. I’ve already deleted Grindr!”
I didn’t understand how I could have been so naive, nor could I understand why such a big part of me wanted him back. But this was the 6th time I broke up with him and I knew I couldn’t trust him, and worse, I couldn’t trust myself around him.
Over the period of three weeks and lots of slip ups, I managed to block him on everything… but still stalked him on Facebook via a fake profile to see what he was up to. He had already started dating a blonde haired Australian guy, seven years younger than me to the day… yes, his new boyfriend had the same birthday as me too!!!
By this point, Asif could no longer hide the disdain he had for the way I had been behaving. He didn’t respect it. I understood. I didn’t respect my behaviour either, I didn’t respect myself and felt hugely ashamed. My integrity and self-dignity was shattered. And I was alone again.
“Adeel, why don’t you try ‘The Quest’ course?” Asif suggested. Now, I’m not one of those people who is averse to workshops but I really really really was not in the mood. Still, my trusted friend persisted and explained he’d got a lot out of it earlier in the year when he’d attended the 3 day course especially formulated for Gay Men. In fact the one he was recommending was for an even smaller niche: BAME gay men. Although, I was quite satisfied in my brokenness, I felt like I owed it to my amazing friend who had supported me in my grief to give it a go and so I agreed.
What is The Quest Course?
Based on the work of Alan Downs’ book ‘The Velvet Rage’ the Quest Course digs deep into the core of the gay man’s journey in a straight man’s world and highlights the various defence mechanisms Gay Men develop in order to survive in what is a very threatening existence.
Some people become people pleasers, others become viciously bitchy, some become OCD perfectionists while others rebel and engage in self-destructive, often addictive behaviours such as abusing drugs, alcohol and even sex. These behaviours are like plasters attempting to heal a wound but they do not work. These wounds are open ones and they require some serious soul searching to get to the cause and only then can any healing can take place.
The Quest Course supports gay men to undertake that soul searching in a confidential, non-judgmental group environment and challenges them to apply solutions that may seem difficult but may offer the authentic life they are truly seeking.
I thought I was there to deal with the fact I had spent the last 10 months with a narcissistic rent boy but this turned out to be secondary. The main issues that confronted me were my family relationships, the impact my father beating me and running away with all our money had, the fact my mother made me her shield in life and why my siblings treated me like Cinderella. It turns out that three out of the four people in my family also engaged in behaviours that suggested that they too may be narcissists. I was the battery empath providing them with the life force they needed to survive.
When I realised that, it made sense that I kept attracting narcissist boyfriends. I was the insecure empath jigsaw piece that was perfectly shaped to fit a callous narcissist. I realised that I needed to change the jigsaw piece that I was in order to attract something different.
Awareness is the first stage. Once we realise what our issues are, then we can develop a strategy to deal with them. If we have been hiding our gayness from our family our whole lives, maybe it’s time to reveal our true selves. The Quest offers strategies and support resources to help you to this.
If you are struggling with addiction and are ready to leave it behind, the Quest can offer pathways to further support such as subsidised counselling or specialised services.
Did The Quest Course Fix Me?
I thought it had but healing from lifelong pains takes a lot longer than three days. I challenged myself to allow myself to be more feminine if it was authentic, I even did a dance in drag at Kali to Ajaa Nachle. The other guys from my Quest Course came to see it and support me which meant so much.
Eventually, I met someone new, someone even prettier than the last one. To begin with everything seemed great… but then the tell tales started that I once again conveniently ignored.
I was paying for all the dinners. He said he would meet me a certain time and would arrive hours late, guys would talk to him in code as if they had some sort of secret… I asked him about these things and he assured me I was crazy. Clearly I was. His biblical proverbs and deference to God made me see him as a trustworthy Christian guy. And I trusted him. I wanted to trust him. So I gave him my trust way before he deserved it.
One night he wanted to try unprotected anal sex “for the first time.”
Having never done that, I was reluctant. But I also wanted to keep him happy & not upset him. To me he was a beautiful, precious being that deserved every joy available.
“I trust you. Don’t you trust me?”
I wanted to say I did, but I didn’t know him well enough. So I didn’t say anything. ‘Silence is acquiescence’ as they say and it was in this case. A month later I got sick. Headaches, diarrhoea, weakness in my bones. My back hurt so much I could stand for no longer than a few minutes at a time and then I needed to lie down.
I was no fun bedridden and sick so my “beautiful, precious being” moved on pretty quickly.
When I had the strength, I dragged myself to the GP who tested me for everything under the sun to make sure that they were not being hasty before I finally got my diagnosis.
At that point, if anyone mentioned “The Quest” to me, I was ready to shove their head up their very own chocolate starfish! What the hell did I learn from the Quest that I actually applied in my life? Not much it seemed. But I was wrong.
What I got from The Quest
I returned to one of the Quest socials and saw some of the people I did the course with. A big beautiful teddy bear of a black guy who was as gentle as he was kind. In the Quest course, he had shared his story about how he contracted HIV and we’d met up a few times to chat. He was one of the first people outside of my close knit group of friends who I told – I couldn’t even tell him, I just showed him blood test photo the doctors had done knowing he’d understand. He gave me a big hug and sat with me and let me talk it out. Finally, I was speaking with someone who had been there, who knew how I felt, someone who I didn’t see as disgusting or dirty or unclean… all the things I was feeling about myself. That helped immensely. And I would not have got that had I not attended The Quest previously.
One of the group leaders of The Quest, Darren, was also HIV+ and my friend suggested that, when I was ready, I should speak to him about what had happened. Eventually, I did. He referred me to Living Well where I was able to access counselling or coaching if I preferred, that would normally cost around £60 per session, but because Living Well subsidised it, I paid only £10 per session.
These sessions were challenging and they continued on from The Quest. Challenging my perspectives of myself, of others and of the general world I inhabited, I kept stepping outside of my comfort zone, opening myself bit by bit. I cried a lot in those sessions and crying isn’t something I let myself do often. At this time, Darren encouraged me to attend a variety of other courses relevant to me that he was aware of. I attended the Rising Strong Workshop based on the book by Brene Brown and I also attended a tri-Sunday workshop on Matthew Todd’s book, Straight Jacket. I highly recommend both of these books in conjunction with Alan Downs’ book, ‘The Velvet Rage.’ Somewhere amongst these sessions, I realised that I hadn’t allowed myself to fully grieve the loss of my old life, my old perspectives and what I felt to be, my innocence. I needed to grieve. On one of those courses, I opened the floodgates and cried like a baby. I knew there was no going back. A new life had opened up to me whether I wanted it or not. I allowed myself to cry and be held in the space by the group.
Isn’t it interesting that grace is found in the most trying of circumstances? I realised that my ability to be compassionate had expanded exponentially, for myself and for others. I was forever saying to my friends, “I’m nobody to judge anybody else.” I was more open and understanding and vulnerable and beautiful because of it. And that couldn’t have happened without my being HIV+. I couldn’t have realised it without having attended this course. But the biggest gift was yet to come.
It wasn’t four weeks after I had started my coaching that I met Paul. Pretty enough to turn any head, hilariously funny and super-intelligent. But he was negative! And I was terrified of telling him. Darren said, “Just be honest, he deserves to know who he is dating.”
“I don’t know how!” I exclaimed. Darren worked with me to undertake a role play through which I was able to act the whole situation out. He explained that if I was feeling vulnerable and scared, admit to it straight up. There is nothing more attractive than someone authentically baring their soul. So I practised this with him a few times with some variations until I felt like I knew that I could handle this.
As luck would have it, the topic came up the very next I saw Paul. He mentioned that one of his friends was HIV+. If this wasn’t the heavens egging me on, I don’t know what was. I stopped him outside Kings Cross Station and looked at him quivering. I took a deep breath and then I started…
“I’m really scared right now. It’s not easy for me to say because I don’t know how you’ll feel about me after this, but I want to be honest with you from the start.”
“What is it?” Paul asked earnestly.
Holding back my tears, I managed to say, “In February this year I was diagnosed with HIV.” I waited barely able to look at him. I didn’t do what I’d practised, I was speaking way too fast and still found shame hiding in many corners of the house that would need dusting out later. Paul looked at me gently and said, “That doesn’t make any difference to me. I would be proud to be with you.”
Proud to be with ME! I grabbed him, squeezed him so tightly and kissed him right there as hundreds of people passed us by.
Do I attribute all of this to The Quest?
No, I put in a lot of work myself and read many books. I was and am committed to my growth and that is why I have made strides in my development. That is why I am now the jigsaw piece that attracts someone like Paul. However, the Quest is an amazing resource to support that growth, without which, I don’t think I would have met this amazing man, nor would my social life have expanded in the way that it has. For the first time in my life, I have a group of guys, mostly of south Asian ethnicity, gay, in their 30s and 40s striving for authenticity as best they can, just like me, and I get to hang out with these amazing people! It has enriched my life in ways that I cannot explain and I am so grateful for them.
This was not easy for me to write and it is the first time that I’m putting this personal information out there in a public forum in written form. But my intention is that my story helps other gay people who are struggling to live authentically as the people they are. I want you to know that you are not alone and you do not have to struggle alone. There are resources out there for you and friends you haven’t met yet. Let me be the friend that Asif was to me and recommend The Quest Course to you.
The BAME Quest Course – 21st – 23rd July 2017
The next Quest program for Black, Asian & Minority Ethnic Gay Men takes place on 21st July-23rd July 2017 and Kali has procured a subsidy for you if you cannot afford the full rate for the workshop. Please provide the code: KALIQ to obtain the £50 charge.
Please note, the deadline for applications is on 14th July 2017, so please get your application in quickly. After this date, get in touch with The Quest directly. Click the link for more information and to apply for the course.
There is also a free Quest social event from 7.00pm to 9.00pm every 1st Tuesday of the month held at:
Konditor & Cook, The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe , London, London EC3A 8BF.