A second chance on life

Greg DiStefano spent a decade bumping up against the famous and the infamous in the glamorous New York gay nightclub and drug scenes. Then all that came crashing down around him. In his memoir, “Breakdown: Diamonds, Death, and Second Chances” (iUniverse, 2005; breakdownbook.com), Greg tells his story of death and resurrection.

Q: Congratulations on writing and publishing your first book. I’ve read it and thought it was wonderful. The book covers some dark territory that was sometimes painful and intimate. Why did you write this book?
A:
I wrote this book because I felt I had a message to share and wanted to find an entertaining way to teach people what I was so fortunate to learn. My journey has moved from a place of cynicism, hedonism and emptiness to one of faith, hope and spiritual fulfillment – and I thought my personal transformation might inspire others. Having spent my early career promoting luxury goods and valueless material things, “Breakdown” is my attempt to create some value in the world.

Q: There are some incredible experiences of synchronicity, or meaningful coincidences, that have happened to you. How did they shape your view of what life is all about?
A:
While the events described in the book were happening, I wasn’t sure what to think. I was in a constant battle between doubt and belief. In the end I decided that I’d be undermining and invalidating myself by not accepting what was happening.

Today I’m comfortable in my belief that these incidents of synchronicity were, on some level, manifested by me. I drew these people and events to me for the purpose of learning – to fulfill the goals I had for finding a new life and a new worldview.

Q: Do you believe in God? What’s your concept of a higher power?
A:
Yes, I believe in God, but not in the way that God has been traditionally conceived in Western religions – as some judging Being that sits in the sky. My concept of a higher power was first influenced by the discoveries of modern physics, and later reinforced by the Eastern mystic traditions, when I realized that there were parallel concepts between the two.
As a result, I conceive of God as an omnipresent energy or consciousness that resides in each and every cell throughout the universe, including our own bodies – and that this energy is on an evolutionary course seeking ever-greater degrees of integration and freedom. And I believe that we can tune in to this energy and use it for our own evolution or self-destruction.


Q: Many gay people have a hard time accepting themselves as gay. There seem to be both superficial and deeper levels of acceptance, from just stepping out of the closet to being fully at peace in their own skin. How have you grown in self-acceptance?
A: That’s a great question, because I wasn’t even aware of my depth of self-loathing and internalized homophobia until I broke down completely because of it. I assumed that when I moved to New York City, started living an “out” lifestyle and got involved with fashion and luxury PR as a profession – where it was advantageous to be gay – that I was self-accepting. However, at the time I couldn’t see that my acting out with sex, alcohol, drugs and even workaholism were symptoms of internalized homophobia. I was using these vices and addictions to run from myself and to avoid intimacy.

The issue came to a head when a crippling addiction to cocaine forced me to leave New York for recovery. It was only there when the magnitude of the problem became clear. In that situation, I was stripped of any past crutches that I used to define my identity – a job with a grandiose title, access to celebrity events, a large income, a great apartment. Suddenly, I was alone, naked, and vulnerable, and forced to confront myself.
Fortunately, I had a stroke of inspiration that significantly freed me from my homophobia. I knew that philosophy and even some of the Eastern mystic traditions spoke of integration or balance as a vehicle toward enlightenment – whether it was integrating Eastern and Western thought, or mind with heart, or yin and yang energies.

It was at that moment when I realized that as a gay man, I had an in-built advantage to integrate the masculine and feminine energies within me – and that all it took was accepting my feminine side instead of rejecting it as weakness and sin. With that revelation, a surge of self-acceptance and pride rushed through me. The sensation was so strong that it felt like all the cells of my body regenerated or somehow healed themselves.


Q: Have you worked the 12 steps? If so, which of them meant the most to you?
A: Yes, I have worked the 12 steps, and the results were profound. In fact, I believe that all humans, whether they’re addicted or not, could benefit from practice of these principles, for the power of self-introspection and spirituality they offer.

For me, the third step was definitely the most powerful. It calls for the surrender of one’s will and life to a God (or “higher power”) of one’s own, personal understanding. When I finally gleaned what this step entailed, it was both an exhilarating and terrifying moment.
I understood that this act meant surrendering the identity of the Greg that I had always known, as well as devoting my life to God and living by spiritual principles. In the end, I realized that since my own self-will had driven me to ruin, I had nothing to lose and that life could only get better.
“Soulfully Gay” is a bi-weekly column that explores spirituality and culture from a gay man’s perspective. Joe Perez has studied comparative religion and philosophy at Harvard University. Send feedback to joe@writingwolf.com or visit Joe’s Web site at joe-perez.com.

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