Robert Lowther shares a story about a topic rarely mentioned. While I hear many stories about men who suffer from some form of addiction and 12 step programs are common, there is very little conversation about those individuals that are in relationship with an addict or alcoholic. Robert shares two lengthy relationships with men that he "enabled", thinking he was doing everything he could to be supportive. The stark awarenesses that these relationships led Robert to are profound. Addiction or not, if you are in a relationship of any kind, this episode is for you.
Coach Maddox 0:02
Hello, Robert Lowther, and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I am glad to have you here today.
Robert Lowther 0:09
Thanks. Glad to be here.
Coach Maddox 0:11
Yeah, I'm kind of excited about the conversation that you're going to bring to the table today. So to tell the listeners you and I have known each other for we're thinking maybe around five years, we met at a local mixer. And we had lunch and kind of got acquainted. And since then, I've been to pool parties at your house. And I think you've been to some events that I have hosted. And yeah, we've just kind of peripherally been in each other's lives and see each other from time to time socially. Oh, I also want to just let the listeners know that Robert is an entrepreneur that provides services to individual dental providers,
Robert Lowther 0:56
Coach Maddox 0:58
With that, we'll we'll jump in. I guess my my first question is, Robert, how would you define? Or what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?
Robert Lowther 1:12
You know, I'm reminded by some colloquialisms that my mom used to use in and one of those was everybody wants somebody who's honest up until they're honest. And I think that I think that applies to so many aspects of, of my existence, including my relationship with myself, if that makes sense.
Coach Maddox 1:38
Yes, it makes perfect sense. So yeah, that's just in case. unpack that a little bit for the listeners out there. What Tim, tell me a little bit more what you're what you're meaning by that I get what you mean, but
Robert Lowther 1:52
in the content and give me the question again, suddenly,
Coach Maddox 2:00
it's okay, relax, take a deep breath. What does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?
Robert Lowther 2:05
Oh, yes. Um, I think for me, it's seeing past all of the little boxes that we put ourselves in. And understanding that, you know, regardless of where you are in the spectrum of this community, that you you have a right to be here, if that makes sense. For me, I think the the authentic aspect of me is the realization and an adaptation of the fact that I'm no longer obligated or beholden to the cliques of you know, you get, there was a time when my blue jeans would stand in the corner by themselves, because they were so starched, because that's what everybody did. That's how you knew that you belong. I'm an old round up, where that was kind of my thing, right? So your sleeve edges had to cut paper, because they were so tight with starch, and your jeans had to, you know, that little sound your thighs make wooden wool? Yeah, I would have had to do that 24 hours a day. And so I spent a large part of my life coming from, let's call them humble background, trying to keep up with and fit in with the gay community to be accepted. Because I think, ultimately, that's everybody's journey, at some base level is the outward acceptance of others. To be
Coach Maddox 3:42
I agree, it's been expressed a million ways. somebody the other day said, That journey from Head to Heart, there's a gazillion ways to express this. But yes, that, that coming back to ourselves,
Robert Lowther 3:57
well, or even introducing ourselves to ourselves. Yes. I'm 54. And I've only recently included myself as a as a whole human being that I love. You know, who do you love in your life? I was never on that list. Until the last few years. Because yeah, when you come in up in, I came up in the sale. And so if you weren't doing for others, then you were selfish, right? If you weren't taking care of somebody else, then you weren't going to that place. They talked about a lot, what I call it, oh, yeah, heaven, right. So for for me, you know, I had to be a human doing in order to be a value. And I care that all the way through my wife,
Coach Maddox 4:49
can you articulate what it was that enabled you to be able to put your name on that list?
Robert Lowther 4:58
Was my journey through recovery in Al Anon, honestly. And for those that are unaware, Al Anon is the other side of addiction. And by other side, I mean the people who love or care about someone who is struggling with alcoholism or addiction, right. What allanon gave me was the ability to get to know myself in in such a way that I could not only accept who I was, and the mistakes that I've made, but also to understand why I did what I did, and give me new tools to put in my toolbox to deal with what life continues to be in a very different way. Without handing over my sanity, or my serenity, as a control freak, as most of us in Al Anon are, you know, we, we assume it is our responsibility to make sure everybody else does what they're supposed to do. And if they would just do what we say, then everything would be right with the world.
Coach Maddox 6:11
Yeah, I got a little bit of that in May I remember, I'm a control freak in recovery. So I completely well, and this is a perfect segue into my next question, which, which is, you know, what is the biggest challenge that you've been confronted with in this lifetime? Or are continuing to go through and just kind of touched on it perhaps,
Robert Lowther 6:35
I think that the biggest challenge for me was, you have to understand where you don't have, it helps to understand that I've always known that I was different. Ie gay, right? I didn't know that there was a word for it. And I didn't realize at the time that I wasn't alone. Right? I grew up in Lake McWeeny, Texas, most people are going to look that up on a map, assuming
Coach Maddox 6:59
I'm a Texan. I have never heard of that. So it's
Robert Lowther 7:04
very small. I do like the cleaning part of the name though I thought that was somewhat apropos. But no, I knew that I was gay my whole life, I just didn't know what it was or what it meant. It just, I just knew that I wasn't like, my brother, or my parents, or most of my friends. And as I got older, became more apparent that that aspect of who I was was not good. It wasn't acceptable, as it were. And so, you know, like a lot of us, we tried to change that part of ourselves, or ignore it, or suppress it or bury it, unfortunately. Well, I suddenly say, of course, like, fortunately, for me, that was not easy to do. And I'm very grateful for what my experience was, in the sense that I got to acceptance of who I was a lot sooner than a lot of people did in my generation as a Gen Xer, right, most people would suppress it, get married, have children have an entire life. And then when, in the 30s 40s, late 30s 40s, realized that they were in fact gay, and have to start completely over. So I was been I had the benefit of being able to come to that realization and accept it before going through all of that, if that makes sense. So I was a little bit ahead of the curve. I think that for me, what what I've gotten out of my journey over the last seven years is an understanding of what my worth is as a person and that just because I take breath, I have a right to exist, and I didn't always feel that was the case.
Coach Maddox 8:59
You have a right to take up space in the world.
Robert Lowther 9:03
Exactly. And unfortunately, thanks to COVID I'm taking up a little bit more than I'd like to right this minute but I work
Coach Maddox 9:14
think a lot of his experience that during COVID There wasn't anything to do but eat.
Robert Lowther 9:20
I hunger signs in my refrigerator and pantry that said you are not hungry. You are bored. Go sit down. Like seriously, visual cues. I love that. I even bought a belt that stretchy. At one point and I was like this is getting out of hand. I just can't do the
Coach Maddox 9:38
next step was like her pants.
Robert Lowther 9:41
Dad or Spanx for a man you have no idea how delighted I was to learn on my 50th birthday. That was an actual thing. Thanks for men was something you could actually yes it is. Okay, no question. Well,
Coach Maddox 9:59
I You know, I kind of want to circle back and talk about you and started talking at the end of our, what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man, you'd started talking about the, the aspects of Al Anon and that whole different. I mean, we hear so much about addiction, and we hear nothing about the people who are in the lives of the addict,
Robert Lowther 10:24
right? Or the alcoholic. So Alan has another 12 STEP program that was based on the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 STEP program, but tweaked if you will, for those that are in relationships with or have people in their lives that are suffering from that disease. And what Al Anon did for me was, first of all, it gave me permission to take my hands off of trying to control the situation, or the outcome of it.
Coach Maddox 10:58
Let's take a little if you're okay, let's take a little stroll down memory lane. And will you share some stories, little stories, literal stories? Yeah, you know, your, your experience in being in relationship and maybe the first time or the second time with people that were addiction, and addiction and how that was for you and what it generated for you. And
Robert Lowther 11:25
the impact. The first significant relationship that I had that involved addiction was with David. David had just moved from California to Dallas, we met on a phone sex line, I worked at EDS at the time and used to be able to get an hour for free when you signed up from a new phone number. And so at EDS, every phone number, every phone on the floor had its own number. So I would go through on my lunch break and go to an empty queue, give me a free hour and then write down my little code, right. I never paid for $1 service, but I had hundreds of hours, go figure. Anyway, I met David on that line. And we met up and had incredible sex. And then we saw each other a few times after that. And then he got into a car accident, that was pretty bad. And so he kind of lost touch for a couple of months. And when he recovered, he reached out to me and we went to dinner. And he disclosed that he thought he was a goner, and that his last thought was that I would never know what happened to him. And that he was in love with me. And I of course, being desperate for for that to be cared for and loved swooned and off we went. We were together for about 10 years, about seven years in. So the relationship, things started to change. Like a lot at first, it wasn't really noticeable. coming in a little bit later, taking longer to respond to a phone call, disappearing here and there. And that progressively got worse to the point where at one juncture, I had printed off all of our bank statements, because we were joined, everything was different back then all of our phone logs and started tracking. Every time we made a phone call to this one number. There'd be a three second 42nd conversation and then a few minutes later, there'd be an ATM withdrawal. Right? And so I called the number and a woman answered, while I assumed that he was having an affair turned out he was buying cocaine. So when I confronted him you, you know, in retrospect, this is it's kind of funny, but it was when I found out it was cocaine, I was relieved that it wasn't that he was having an affair with a woman, because he's still identified as by me being the insecure homosexual that I was always kind of thought that might be an issue. He swore he'd never do it again. And then he did. Eventually, a friend of mine dragged me to an online meeting. And I really wasn't the problem wasn't with me, obviously the problem was, David, but allanon was supposed to give me the checklist of how to fix David how to make David okay again. And that's not what allanon does. What else?
Coach Maddox 14:30
Yes, what you were expecting.
Robert Lowther 14:32
That was my expectation. I declared that upon my arrival, tell me what to do to fix this. And I was very disappointed when they said that's not what we do here. Well, I'm gonna go over there that you know, but my friend that encouraged me to go had a way of being able to reach me emotionally and mentally in ways that nobody else seemed to at that time and so I kept going back And to speed it up a little bit, I got a sponsor, her name was Bulldog finally got David into his first rehab, that kicked off a cycle of 30 days in 60 days out. When he went into his fourth rehab, and he was getting ready to come out. Nobody would take him in. Like he lost the house, I had moved out, he lost his car, he lost his job, everything was gone, like literally. And he had nowhere to go. So with the help of my sponsor, I came up with what was important to me. Two hours it took to get from David to allow him to stay with me long enough to get on its feet. And even at that point, I was still contributing to his addiction. I bought him a car so that he could get around. I gave him a place to sleep, food, eat, so on and so forth. But what both I helped me figure out was, what a boundary was, and more importantly, how to hold that boundary and a place of love. Right? The boundary was don't lie, and don't steal. If you do either of those two things. You're out. No conversation, no discussion. We're done. And so I came home from work one day, and my receiver was gone at a full length leather custom trench coat that was gone. And so I asked him, David, where's my stuff? And he admitted it was in the pawnshop. So we went got it came home. And I said, well, I need to go make phone call. So I called my sponsor. And she said, Well, he knows what the consequences are for doing that. So now you have to decide if those are actual consequences. Or are you teaching him what he can get away with? Right? She's good. Yeah, she was hated that woman hated her. But she was amazing. And so I told David, you gotta you gotta go. And he said, but I don't have anywhere to go. And I was like, I know that. And I'm sorry, but you still have to go. And so for a little over a week, he sat on my front porch stoop, was there when I left in the morning, he was there when I came back from work, begging me to let him back in. And through the grace of my higher power and my own friends, I was able to hold my position because I, I love to be the hero. I love to be the rescuer. Right, I like to swoop in, fix all the problems, get all the accolades. And then you know, right off into the sunset, and
Coach Maddox 17:49
I have some of those T shirts in my closet.
Robert Lowther 17:52
Well, I've done much better, I still have my tights and Cape stuck in the back of the closet, just in case, but I don't pull them out nearly as often as they used to. So, to this day, the good news is, is that by being able to stop contributing to Will's addiction, he got clean. And he's been clean now for over 20 years. But where I fucked up was, once he got clean, and we went on our separate has, I assumed that I didn't need to go to Al Anon anymore. Right? Because he was the problem clearly. And that was no longer a problem. So now, you know, I don't have to keep going to meetings and, and all of this 12 Step work stuff. I just don't need that anymore. And in retrospect, that was a big mistake on my part.
Coach Maddox 18:49
You were assuming that Al Anon was about him. And it really wasn't, it was about you.
Robert Lowther 18:53
Exactly. I never got that at my at my first run in with allanon. I was I was dedicated. I did everything they said to do. And I saw the differences that it made in my relationship with David, but it never occurred to me that those were my lessons to learn not how to you know, just deal with the with the addict. So, I went about 10 years now, before I move on from that. David will tell you to this day that that is what saved his life. That was his bottom. That was when he realized that he needed to do something different. And he got sober. And he did and he's been sober. And we've reconnected in in that we touch base every few months to see how the other is doing. He recently lost his partner to cancer but so then I was single for like a decade. And then I met Well, do you remember detective Stabler on SVU? No, Chris stuff For Maloney. You can google him later, trust me, you'll understand what I'm about to say. That was well, like, just a dead on doppelganger look just like him. Right? I met him at a bar in Denver called Charlie's. And well, we hit it off, everything was great couple months in, I got an email saying we're not quote unquote compatible and blah, blah, blah. And I was like, Cool, thanks for the heads up, went on about my life, got a couple of more emails from him saying the same thing. And I was like, Dude, I, I understand English, I got you the first time. And then the third email I got was a definitive cry for help. So I dug out my cape and tight. I was officiating a pole bending, contest at horses, running programs for the CG era, and I literally left in the midst of the competition to go in and rescuing wills challenge was alcoholism. And it wasn't until the relationship ended that I went back into Al Anon. And I learned that the three C's that we have, that we start out our program with is didn't cause it. You can't control it, and you can't cure it. But you can contribute to it. Right, through our own behavior. And I think one of the most enlightening things that I've learned about addiction from the side of someone who loves somebody that suffers with that was, How selfish, my motives were. For everything that I did to prevent the consequences of his drinking, from affecting me. Of course, I told myself, at the time that this is what love was, it's what you do for somebody that you love. But in being an allanon, and really taking those hard looks in the mirror, I realized that when I went to body, he needed a car that required one of those little blow things on it so that he could drive. And that was not going to be put into my car that we're not doing that. No, no. So I bought him his own car, a BMW 740. I couldn't just get him a Jetta. No, it had to be a really nice car that he had to give a blowjob to, to get at the start. And that was because I didn't want I didn't want it to affect me, if that makes sense.
Coach Maddox 22:50
Right? Makes perfect sense.
Robert Lowther 22:54
So the thing about Al Anon, and I'm not a religious person, I have very little use for religion as a whole. But I've been able to construct in Al Anon my own Higher Power. That's not. That's not based on our modeled after what we think of when we say the word God or what most people think. And in doing that, I've been able to learn that 99% of what I insert myself into is none of my business. Well,
Coach Maddox 23:31
you know, I can really relate to what you're saying, and I look back on my history as a rescuer, you know, the super superhero savior. And I can clearly now see that that was all about this feeling of gee, if I, if I rescue him, if I save him, if I fix everything, maybe he will love me.
Robert Lowther 23:58
Yep. 100% more likely
Coach Maddox 24:02
realizing. Yeah, yeah, realizing that I didn't, must have not felt like I was lovable just for who I am that I had to do something in order to be lovable. I had to bring something to the table provide something in order to be lovable. And I think that's probably more prominent in our society than most of us realize.
Robert Lowther 24:28
Well, I think I think it's not surprising. I mean, if we look at just what's happening today, after the 2020 elections, over 300 bills were proposed most of which passed that said Don't say gay and bathroom bills and transgender youth care and things of that nature. So you know, the the messages that kids are getting nowadays were and are as destructive as the messages we got When we were young,
Coach Maddox 25:02
you're not okay. We're getting Yes. If you're not okay, messages.
Robert Lowther 25:06
Exactly. You're not You're not normal. You're not? You're not well, right. So that that gave way to conversion therapy and, you know, all of these other horrific experiences that we went through.
Coach Maddox 25:20
Do you think that the youth of today though, those kids that are in their teens, their 20s, that are coming out? Do you think there is likely to buy into that propaganda as we were? Thankfully, no. And I think they're, they're wiser, they're there, they are not sure. Wiser is the right word, but they're not. They don't seem to me to be allowing that to affect them the way my generation and your generation.
Robert Lowther 25:50
Actually, that's not accurate. The CDC released a study in April of 2021 of children up to the age of 18, it was a survey study paper survey study. And what they found was people that identified as LBGT, Q. One in four, one in four had attempted suicide. Right. That's 25%, as the study went on, define, yeah. And these are the subset of the students that are the people under the age of 18. This is the LBGTQ IQ subset, right. It's not the whole of all of the participants. But does that identify? And the study went on to find that 46.7% of that same subset that identified as LGBTQ, had either planned or we're planning to commit suicide. Right. So I think the cut off there is about the age of 21 to 21 year olds, the reason that we're there's so much more visible than they were in our time, I think, is because of the work that Gen X did with act up and all of the movements across the country to push a quality for our community. Right, they started seeing us more visibly, and understanding that we were just as normal as everybody else. But that that one little difference, right. And I think that that's a wonderful thing. But I think what what's happened is, is that, you know, the, there's got to be something wrong and to rail against in order to be in politics. And unfortunately, we were the communities that they chose, after the 2020 election. So I don't think that those that are over the age of 20, are as impacted by it. I don't. But I do know that those that are 18 and younger, are impacted by significantly impacted by it. But they're in a much better place than they would have been. Were 2530 years ago.
Coach Maddox 28:10
Yes, I mean, what comes to my mind is somebody shared an article with me recently, from my hometown, I was grew up in a Temple, Texas, small Central Texas town, not as small as where you lived. But the story was about a transgender student that had been prevented from using the bathroom, their private bathroom of their their choice. And the entire student body was protesting in, in support of the transgender student. And this was a first page article in that the newspaper of that city, that would have never been the case, it was the same high school that I went to, they still only have one high school in that town. That would have never been the case. During my time there. Great. And as I read the article, tears just streamed down my face to think that we've come far enough that it was like 180 degrees?
Robert Lowther 29:14
Well, it has, we have to understand that that is an anecdotal response to a significant or a single situation. That is not the experience of every transgender child, in every school across the nation as it should be. Right. It's wonderful that that was highlighted. Right. But I think we run the risk of assuming that because of that story being highlighted in that small community, that that's the norm. Right, that that's the that's what we can expect for any transgender child that faces that kind of issue. We've got to be vigilant about that. So
Coach Maddox 29:55
you met you make a beautiful point, though. Well, yeah, let's let's circle back, you know, I want to know more about, you've talked a lot about the logistical aspects of the relationships and in and out of allanon Tell me a little bit more about, you know, your personal experience in that evolution and what has come about as a result of that journey.
Robert Lowther 30:26
God, there's been a lot that I've been able to the analogy that I use is that the toolbox that I was using when I came back to Al Anon was for the same tools I used when I was five years old, or 10 years old, or 15 years old. Right, I had never updated them, because we we build these mechanisms as children and adolescents to protect ourselves, right to keep ourselves well, and
Coach Maddox 30:53
often the mechanisms that did actually protect us as children, by the time we reach adulthood, those mechanisms do exactly the opposite, opposite,
Robert Lowther 31:02
but we don't know. Right? We don't know that because it's all we know. And so for me, what the, the analogy that when I'm asked to be a guest speaker, and allanon, that's one of the things that I talk about is I got a new toolbox. And I got new tools to deal with the same thing that I've been dealing with my whole life, but in a much better and healthier way. Right. You know, for me, and, and I, I'm still at the point in in my journey, I Oh, will my my last significant other of men that I haven't been able to affect yet. Because, you know, I knew that well was an alcoholic. When we got back together when I went back to rescue him, right, he had just gotten his second DUI, he had lost his job. He liked to drink. And in retrospect, of, you know, doing my own inventory, and taking accounting of my own behavior, I realized that I knew full well that he was an alcoholic, but needing a project. I took him, I took him on because he professed his love for me. I needed something to keep me busy, so that I didn't have to look at my own shit.
Coach Maddox 32:25
Right, thank you, I was just gonna say, What I learned was, I was so busy taking care of others, so I didn't have to look at my own shit. Good deal, I
Robert Lowther 32:35
already felt I already felt like I was worthless. Right? I already felt less than right and pretty much every measure of of my humanity. And if I'm over here, doing these good works, my perceived good works, which was basically just making things worse than the fact that I was so empty, or so devoid of value would be overlooked. Right? So, for me, you know, what allanon has done? Is it given me dignity, right? I often say when I'm when I'm a guest speaker, my allanon program is not a spiritual program. It's a slogan program, right? My mother used to take me to church revivals in the summers in the tents and dragged me up on the stage when the healing pastor was preaching and telling the pastor that I was possessed by the homosexual demon. I didn't even know what a homosexual was. And it did not go well. You know, that was just one of the things that I experienced. But what allanon did was, it gave me permission to look at my, my own shit, and my own nonsense in an environment without judgment or persecution, right? Because you can't fix a problem if you won't acknowledge the problem, much like alcoholism. And addiction is a self diagnosed disease. And it's the same as if they had cancer, or, you know, any other major health issue. It's hard for people to see it that way. Because for people who don't struggle with those problems, for them, it's just a decision not to do it. Right. For people who suffer from the addiction, they don't have that choice. Right? There's something that they have to deal with, that drives them to do what they do. And I think one of the biggest gifts that allanon gave me was to stop taking on the responsibility for their misery or for their stuff. frame and understand that they too have a higher power, whether it's acknowledged or not in their lives, that has a plan for them. And I am in fact, not that higher power, you have no idea how disappointed I was to learn that, right? I am not in control. I do not have the answers, because I've never been where they are. And,
Coach Maddox 35:22
and but But Robert, at the same time that had to free you in some regard,
Robert Lowther 35:26
it was very humbling. I wouldn't say that it freed me at that point. But it was very humbling to understand that even though I had spent decades, putting on the mantle of martyr for all the things that I did for the alcoholic and the addict that I love so much, I did not realize that what I was doing was simply making it worse. In the introduction to every Al Anon meeting, we read a greeting. And in that greeting, one of the things that it talks about is, we'll be able to get to a point where we can be happy and content, whether the alcoholic is still drinking or not. Right. So allanon isn't about fixing the alcoholic or the addict, Al Anon is about fixing. And the things that drive us to do the things that we do, because once we, here's the thing about about alcoholism and addiction, we don't talk about as the non alcoholic or the non addicted person. It's shame for us, right, we're ashamed of what our significant other or loved one is doing. Right. And that shame drives our isolation. And our isolation, pushes recovery further away. Because we're so embarrassed about our circumstances, not realizing that this is an age old problem, and that people have been dealing with this. For decades, there's over 30,000, I think allanon groups around the world. And now with the advent of zoom, you could pretty much attend 124 hours a day if you wanted to. But I think what Elena did was give us, it gave us permission to set the world down and stand up. You know, when we walk into that room for the first time, it's all on us, we have to keep it all together, we have to do what they're not doing on top of what we're already doing. Right. And so what allanon does is it takes the focus off of the addict or the alcoholic, and it puts it on. And it gives us access to people that are able to call us on our nonsense. And help us see things from a different perspective that we weren't able to see before. Because we were in our insanity, we were continuing to do the same thing over and over. Right? and expecting a different result. But I want on does is it gives you the infrastructure and the support and the courage to make a different choice. And more importantly, to understand that choice is something that you actually have, right? Because I never knew that I had a choice when it came to preventing the consequences of the addict or the alcoholic behavior. I never knew that I had a choice to get him up off the floor and put him in bed or put a blanket over him and go to bed myself. I never knew that that was an option. Right? Yeah.
Coach Maddox 38:40
You know, Robert, I want to take, I just want to take just a second I just bad microphone, I'm sure that made a lovely sound. I just want to take a moment to and I want you to really take this and I want to acknowledge you for the vulnerability that you are demonstrating right now. You know, I'm seeing you own your shit. I'm seeing you. You're talking about, you know, being unlovable, being worthless, and the varying other things that you experienced that was driving all of the savior complex. I'm hearing you own that you were making it worse for the for the addicted person. And I think that, like I said, I think it takes a lot of vulnerability, it's very vulnerable to to own that. And I think that it takes a lot of courage to own on that and I just want to acknowledge you for that.
Robert Lowther 39:44
Thank you. I think the what I've also learned to dovetail into that is that you know, when when we are willing to acknowledge our part If we take away the power that that has in our lives, to allow us to be manipulated, right? If I stand in my own shit, if you will, then you can't use it against me anymore, because I've acknowledged it. And I'm trying to do better, right? Because that's the thing is, addiction is a cycle. It's a continuous cycle that gets worse and worse and worse, until somebody either gives up or bottoms out, right. And so when we, when we stand in the light, and we own our parts, then we no longer have to carry the guilt and the shame that comes with that we can let that go. And that's when you start standing up a little bit straighter, and a little bit taller, and a little bit wider. Right, I think you can do that.
Coach Maddox 40:55
You know, I think one of the smartest things you did was Lee will sit down on that porch for a week.
Robert Lowther 41:00
Well, it was David, and Scott. And it was. So with will we, you know, we built an incredible life we met in Denver, and I immediately went into Hero mode, I took care of everything, paid all the bills, cooked all the meals, wash the clothes, neither one of them had to do much of anything other than show up, right. And I learned, you know, that was part of me, demonstrating my value and worth to them, right because I was wanting to do all those things. And it never occurred to me that I could just be loved because I'm a human being that was never an option.
Coach Maddox 41:45
You know, although our stories are different for different reasons. There's some distinct similarities. And one of the things that I learned about myself and this only came maybe in 2007 teen I'm thinking maybe 2018 When I realized that in every relationship that I had had, I had over functioned. And in that over functioning, I had literally trained the other person to under function.
Robert Lowther 42:20
We treat people we teach people how to treat us.
Coach Maddox 42:24
That's on our website. That is the byline of my coaching practice, we we train people how to treat us.
Robert Lowther 42:32
That's a big thing in Al Anon. Right? I remember Bulldog. When I told her that I didn't understand why he needed to do this. Because I did all these. I even bought his fucking underwear for him, right? And her response to me, and I'll never forget this, her response to me says, Let me see if I understand this correctly. You do everything in the world for that man. So you take away all of the dignity for him to do for himself. And now you're bitching because he limped?
Coach Maddox 43:03
Yes, that's exactly what was happening in my life, I would do it all and then bitch that they never did anything for me. And make them wrong. So So I'm the one that's generating all this by over functioning. And then I'm trying to I did the same with intimacy. I was mortified. I was, I was emotionally unavailable. But I would pick men that were emotionally unavailable, because then I could appear to be emotionally available and make them wrong for being emotionally unavailable, and still keep my safety where I didn't feel like because intimacy scared the shit out of me. Isn't it weird how we will so and completely unaware. And unconsciously, we will do all this crazy stuff to you know, like, avoid the things that we're unwilling to face. And yet, yeah, I'm not doing a very good job of articulating.
Robert Lowther 44:04
I see what you're, if I understand what you're what you're saying, we have as, as people who are seeking that external validation, right? We set these expectations for our significant others and our loved ones, we don't tell them what those expectations are. And then we're resentful when they don't meet them.
Coach Maddox 44:29
And it's more than that, because we don't even create that. That's where it starts. We don't even create a space for them to do their part because we're friggin doing it all. Well, right. Even
Robert Lowther 44:41
if they did, right, I mean, come on. Exactly. Nobody knows how to load his restaurant. It's like I know how to load a dishwasher. Right? So that's a real thing. That is a real thing. And that is also why Al Anon is so amazing, in the sense that it gives you a new perspective on the Same situation that you never had before. Like, really? How important is it that somebody loads the dishwasher the same way that I do, as long as the dishes get clean? Exactly. That last part, as long as they get claimed that it was never part of the equation, it was either right or wrong, it never occurred to me that there are a million ways to get to 10, there was only my way to get to 10. Right. And that was part of the trying to control what I was dealing with internally through manipulating and controlling, and yelling and screaming and stomping my feet at the person who unfortunately was my project at the time.
Coach Maddox 45:44
Well, and for me, it's all that control and wanting it to be a certain way that oil all boiled down to me feeling a sense of, of a lack of safety. Absolutely, yeah, the controlling everything was in a effort to try to not make everything in a way that I was predictable. And that was consistent. So I could feel some sense of safety. And when I got to the point where I realized I could be responsible for my own safety without doing all that it was a game changer.
Robert Lowther 46:19
Well, and here's the thing that the the point that I wanted to make, you know, in all this is when When you love somebody who's an addict or an alcoholic, and they're struggling with their disease, and you find that your focus is really on them, what are they doing? Where are they? What are they up to? Why didn't they call me back, that sort of thing. We are putting our focus on them, we're taking our energy, and we're worrying about them. But when we take that focus off of them, and put it on ourselves, or not put it on ourselves, but stop doing that, right? We give that room that you were talking about for them to start understanding the impacts of their behavior, and their impacts of their addiction and alcoholism, something that wouldn't occur if we didn't get off their back. Right. And so the thing that I've always thought was interesting is, you know, one alcoholic, will have a multitude of family and friends in their lives that want to see them healthy and free of that addiction, right? But you go to an AAA room at lamda. And they are typically always packed. Right? You go to the Al Anon room there's like four or five people. And I think you're one of the reasons that that it occurred to me to reach out to you as this might be a way to put out there for those that are struggling with somebody in the throes of addiction or alcoholism that there is help there for you. If you're willing to reach out for it, I have to tell you just as an aside, I my home group is the Duncanville Al Anon family group, which is not far from where I live. I've worked out of my home so I can do lunch jaunt over there, I can catch the noon meeting. And it's it was just so convenient. I walked in the very first day, room was packed. Every single person was female. Every single person was 65 or older. All southern. I was the only guy I walked in and I thought the fuck it any of these people teach me right now, just to back up a little bit when Will and I split and by split. I mean, he dumped me via phone. The very next day I called my art we had been seeing a therapist and I called my therapist Kandi Markham shout out great therapist. And I told her what had happened to check me that I do it wrong. Am I just being a bitch, right? And her response to me after I explained what had happened was, I am so proud of you. You did exactly what you should have done now get your astronomicon meeting. Right. And that was I think the final boot in the butt to push me to reach out. So I finally got to my first meeting. It's about three months after the divorce. And I walk into this room but my first thought was I don't have anything in common with anybody in this room. And I thought, Well, I'm here now I might as well sit down. And I think the most amazing thing about that moment was that even though I was the only gay white guy in the room that was under 50 At that time, that's long since passed, but I heard my story I heard my madness and my insanity coming out of each and every one of those women in that room. Right. And my point of that is that we all suffer the same effects of alcoholism and addiction, as somebody that loves someone struggling with those problems. What we don't understand is that, and I think this is prevalent in the gay community, because, you know, I was always told, if you can't do it on your own, you shouldn't do it. Right. reaching out for help is counterintuitive to my upbringing, or even acknowledging that I need help is counterintuitive to that. But I think what was most amazing was, you know, these 80, some odd year old southern blue haired cane using Bible thumping, ladies were relating the same story that I had to tell. And for me, that was, I think, one of the biggest aha moments, I was my mind was open enough to listen. And I stopped talking long enough to hear. And I think that was one of the biggest turning points for me. So I kept coming back, as something we say at the end of the meetings just keep coming back, it works if you work it. And over the years, it's gotten to where I can't imagine my life without those people. And these are people I have absolutely nothing in common with, other than the addiction or the alcoholism, that most of them I don't even like if I'm being honest with you. But I love them in a very special way, the same way that they love me. And that's that we we share a common journey. And I I've been very blessed to pick up wisdom in that room that transcended that space that I was able to carry out, put in my toolbox, and take out into the world with me, right? Because none of this does any good. If we don't practice it, right, if we don't put it in our lives, I'm going to show you something real quick. I'm a very visual person. And so when I'm on the phone working, and somebody pisses me off, it's really easy for me to lose my shed. So I have these little collage frames, I don't know if you can see that. They see that one there in the middle, it says think, yes, that's my favorite one. In other words, think about what you're about to say and is it helpful? Right? Because I'm a snarky little bitch, I got sarcasm down to a fine arts, but it does not. I know
Coach Maddox 52:44
you will need to verify that you you do indeed. But some of
Robert Lowther 52:49
the things that says is like, you know, how important is it? Right? How important is it? Nine times out of 10, whatever's got me frustrated, isn't going to matter in 15 minutes, much less five years. These are great, actually. So being able to, to have that visual cue for me, has allowed me to take that beat that pause that breath to say, You know what, we're going to try something different today. Right. And what's been most amazing for me is how much people in my life that have known me for a long time, have acknowledged and even spoken to me about how different I am. And I mean, the people that I work with, they've worked with me for over a decade. So they they knew crazy me. They and they know knew me. I'm not saying I'm not still crazy. We all have our moments, right? It's it's not like any fun if we didn't, right, exactly. And as we say often it's not about perfection. It's about progress, right? So I'm constantly learning every day, and sometimes I slip up. But now I have tools that allow me to make that right without beating myself up about it, or allowing it to become my primary focus. Right. I'm no contact with my mother for a host of reasons. And it took me a while to get to that point. But when I finally did, it wasn't because I don't like my mother. It's because I needed to protect my own sanity. And my own serenity. You put your first Yeah, and I've never done that before. But before I could do that, I had to be willing to acknowledge and accept that this is just who she is that she doesn't know how to be anybody else. And that's okay. I just don't have to expose myself to it. I don't have to participate in it. I can love you from here without having to interact with you. And so, I don't think any of those things would have been as possible for me, were it not for the time that I've spent in Al Anon. And with all those blue haired lady, and the service work, and all of those things, chairing meetings, and being a guest speaker at other meetings and things of that nature, and it's given me you know, especially with the last two years, two and a half years with COVID, and its impact in on the economy in my business. In 2019, we had our very best year in our entire history, and then 2020 happened. And if it wasn't for Al Anon, I don't think that I would be as sane as I am. Right now. Or as calm, right. And that's the great thing about Al Anon, it's not just about the alcoholic, or the addiction and that relationship, it's about how to really think how you live your entire life in every house. And it kind of seeps into my work relationships, my friendships, my, you know, other relationships as well. And it's, it's been, it's, it's been an amazing journey. And then the other thing, too, that has given me the ability to do is to value myself in such a way clearly
Coach Maddox 56:18
see that and in listening to you, and I sense energy, I can clearly see that there has been a shift in the way you value yourself.
Robert Lowther 56:30
I'm still working on it, though. I don't want to I don't want to give anybody the opinion that I'm walking on water. I mean,
Coach Maddox 56:36
well, it's a lifelong process. Right? Well, but in some
Robert Lowther 56:39
ways, I do walk on water, but sometimes my shoes still get wet. Right? Yeah.
Coach Maddox 56:45
Well, Robert, I love the story that you're that you have shared. And I think that this is a very important story, because the story is always about the person that's addicted. And it's rarely ever about the lives of the people that are affected by the person who is in addiction. So from from that place, and you've already shared a lot, but is there any one? Really, I like to call them wisdom bombs, for the for the person out there or persons, the listeners that may have some form of addiction, or alcoholism in their life via another person, whether it be a sibling, or a parent or a child or a partner? What wisdom bombs would you like to leave them with based on all of your journey and your experience?
Robert Lowther 57:43
I am going to preface this with the understanding that what I'm about to say is not at all easy, right? The wisdom bond that I would offer is that it's none of your business. Right. And when somebody who's in a marriage for dealing with a parent, or sibling or a child that's struggling with addiction, understanding that it is none of your business, what or how they are living their lives. Right now, the biggest advice that I could give somebody is take your hands off of them. Let them experience their own journey, because nothing that you say or do is going to get them to stop drinking or using drugs, you don't have that kind of power, you are quite literally powerless. However, if you are willing to put your cape and tights back in the closet, and understand that just like you, they have their own higher power that's looking out for them. Right? And that what they do or do not do is none of your business. You give them the opportunity to find the light of sobriety, much sooner. It is not easy to do that. No, no, that's but that's my wife. That's my child. You don't understand? No, I don't understand. But here's what I do understand. I understand now, in retrospect, that everything I did, I did out of selfishness. Whatever you were doing, to help them prevent the suffering of the consequences of their behavior is coming from the same place.
Coach Maddox 59:42
Pretty, pretty profound. Wisdom, balm and awareness. Very, very profound. Well, that I know that's going to impact those listening because it's certainly impacting me and just hearing it and that's not been something that I particularly, I have not ever been drawn to addicts or I that's not not been part of my experience. But yet, what you've shared has definitely impacted me because it applies to other things.
Robert Lowther 1:00:13
Right? All relationships, it's about the attitude. It's about when we mind our own business, we keep the focus on ourselves. So we're much more aware of our own behavior, our own motives, our own intention, right? And we get other people around us that are struggling, the same opportunity. Not always a pretty sight to be.
Coach Maddox 1:00:39
No, it's not easy. And it's not a pretty sight. And it is a gift that you're giving them truly, again, yourself
Robert Lowther 1:00:44
and yourself. Because allanon is a selfish program. As is a it has to be. Yeah, doesn't work. Otherwise,
Coach Maddox 1:00:54
it doesn't work. That was your right. Good stuff. Well, I think that that wraps that part of the conversation up and that was awesome. Robert, let's, let's slip into our rapid fire questions. If you're, if you're ready to go, shoot. When was the last time you cried in front of another gay man?
Robert Lowther 1:01:27
In front of another gay man. 30 years ago? Wow. Yeah. You have to understand crying as a weakness or was a weakness. Right? If you cry, you lost. You were weak. Right? And so if I ever felt that coming on, I would disengage I would remove myself, from the circumstances, because I'd be damned and go to Hell, if everyone's gonna see me red and puffy. That's just not gonna happen.
Coach Maddox 1:02:05
Yeah, I recall that. I have come to the other side. Now. i The last time I cried in front of a gay man was this morning. Oh, and I hope it was happy to hear it was yeah, it was. And it has, I have definitely discovered that it is indeed not a weakness, it is a strength. In fact, it's a superpower. Absolutely, to be able to demonstrate that vulnerability is a superpower. So next question. What is the one thing that you could make a wish the way what is the one thing that you most wish that you could change about the queer male community? If you could wave a magic
Robert Lowther 1:02:53
wand? Judge meant others. Understand that everybody is dealing with their own shit. And we all put on this armor of everything's fine. And we treat each other like shut. And then we wonder why we're single or miserable,
Coach Maddox 1:03:18
isolated and lonely. Yeah, stop judging other
Robert Lowther 1:03:21
people. And understand that if you approach somebody, first of all, good on you, because it takes a lot of courage to do that. And somebody says, No, I'm not interested. understand that's not about you. That's about them. Rejection is the good Lord protection, you understand? Oh,
Coach Maddox 1:03:38
I always, I always tell people, you have come to believe that when somebody rejects me that is the universe that just I just dodged a bullet.
Robert Lowther 1:03:47
Yeah, absolutely. But I think the other side of that is just because somebody rejects you doesn't mean that there isn't an opportunity for a different type of relationship, whether that be a running buddy or friend, friendship, a theater buddy, or, you know, brunch, buddy, or whatever. I think that, you know, that would be the one thing is just stop judging each other. Stop assuming that you know, who's standing in front of you and take the time to find out.
Coach Maddox 1:04:16
That's beautiful, Robert, I love that very much. Okay, final question. Many years from now, you are a ghost at your own funeral. And all of your gay male peers are there sitting in the front pew. What do you hope that they will say in memory of you about you?
Robert Lowther 1:04:41
You know, I would, I would hope that whatever they say about me would have been something they said while I was there and able to hear it. I think that one of the biggest things that we do is we hesitate often about sharing what we're really feeling Right, are thinking. With that said, I would hope that they would say that I was an advocate for justice. And I always spoke the truth regardless of the consequences. And that, you know, I was willing to stand up for others when I saw wrong being done, and that I was always quick with a witty comeback. That's wonderful. I love that
Coach Maddox 1:05:35
you do have the wedding. You know, I have learned. And this has just been in the last couple of three years, that my circle, not just gay, but straight as well, my circle, my tight circle, the people that I trust to have my back and I have theirs. I, every time I park for them, I tell them that I love them. Yeah,
Robert Lowther 1:06:00
I think we have to, I think part of what we have to do is we have to learn how to have those kinds of relationships. Right? I've noticed as I've gotten older that my circle has gotten much smaller, and much tighter over the years, because I'm not as willing to participate in unhealthy behavior as they used to be. And that's hard. Because I want to be liked by everybody. I want to be loved by everybody. And when somebody's mad at me, that makes that used to make me feel bad about myself. Right? I don't have that issue anymore. You've taken that power away from them. Yeah. And I have to do my own inventory and understand that if I participated in the circumstances, I have to own that side of it. Right. But if somebody as you said earlier, and as I've learned, we teach people how to treat our right. And when they treat us that way, and it hurts us or it angers us, we need to take the responsibility of understanding. We gave them those tools.
Coach Maddox 1:07:16
Yes, we did. Chances are, they are treating us that way just because they have seen us treat ourselves
Robert Lowther 1:07:24
that way. And with Al Anon and this will be a nice little bow for you. In Al Anon when we start changing how we behave and how we react. Those people in our lives are taken aback.
Coach Maddox 1:07:38
Yes. And they naturally fall away oftentimes,
Robert Lowther 1:07:42
exactly when they learn that they can't guilt you or manipulate you or shame you to do what they want. They will fall away. And you just need to know that that's okay.
Coach Maddox 1:07:54
It is absolutely okay. Well, Robert, this conversation has been absolutely fabulous. And I love the uniqueness of it. I don't have another single episode that has covered this particular piece of turf. And I think that's very exciting. But I want to do it. There is one thing that I want to leave you with before we end and that is just to tell you that in my eyes you are indeed an authentic a gay man.
Robert Lowther 1:08:24
Thank you. That's high praise. I appreciate that.
Coach Maddox 1:08:28
It's been awesome. Thank you so much. Thank
Robert Lowther 1:08:30
you have a fantastic day.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
Not sure really where to start. I've known about the gay thing for as long as I have a memory. I didn't know what it was that made me "different" I just knew that I was.
My parents, were very conservative, and very Southern. A gay child just wasn't an acceptable thing in their eyes. They did pretty much whatever they had to just to get me to the point where they could wash their hands of me.
At 15, my step-father went through my room and found "love letters" from my very first boyfriend. Then, he met me at the door when I got home from school that day screaming "Are you a fucking fag?!?!" I responded... "No, I'm a fucking homosexual!". I was "permitted" to leave their home that day. I never looked back.
I worked McDonalds in the morning before school and Taco Bell after school for about a year while paying for my own apt (well, actually it was more a room with a hot plate and a bathroom), then I dropped out of high school because I needed to work more. I ended up in Job Corps where I worked on getting my GED and trained in accounting. It was really rough there, I got my butt kicked a number of times and I finally just gave up and left.
Then my first boyfriend and I reconnected, and I followed him like a little puppy to Dallas! Loved it here, I think I was maybe 17 or so. But his plans and mine diverged and I ended up couch surfing in strangers homes for about 6 months before leaving to go back to the San Antonio area (Universal City).
I stayed with a couple of friends before I got an invitation to sell my only possession, a chevy station wagon, and move to Houston.
I lived in Houston for about a year or so before I met Paul. Paul was visiting from Lawton, OK. He had a home in Houston, but his work had him living full time in Lawton working on a re-roof of the Goodyear Plant located there. We talked/chatted a few times, and I decided to go up to see him for a weekend and never left.
Paul was HIV+. And he confided in a few people he thought he could trust. Turned out he couldn't. He was ostracized by the gay community there and I felt heartbroken. So I decided to stay. We fell in love, and lived in Lawton for about 2.5 years before moving back to Houston in January of '90.
Shortly after the last box had been unloaded, Paul went into the hospital. He passed on April 8, 1990.
After Paul passed I was kind of lost for a few years. Eventually, I left Houston and moved to Dallas after a few weekends of visiting and going dancing at the Round Up! I loved that place. I felt at home there. A dance partner I met at the Round Up let me couch surf until I got a job and found my own place. (I lived on Knight street in Oak Lawn).
I bounced around Dallas for a number of years living with different roommates and solo off an on. Then I met David. David was stunning. Still in the closet for the most part, but had moved from the Bay Area to Dallas to "start over". We actually met on a phone chat line. (long story). We met up a few more times then he "disappeared". Turned out he'd been in a really back car accident with an 18 wheeler.
We went to dinner, he told me he thought he was going to die and that I would never know he'd fallen in love with me. To which I of course swooned!
We had a good life. Unfortunately, I wasn't always as good of a husband as I could have been. But there were other battles, I wasn't aware of that were going on. That battle was David's addictions.
David never told me about his struggles with addiction. He thought he had left all of that behind when he left California. about 6 years into our relationship, I started noticing that he was taking a little longer to get home after work. That he was withdrawing. I chalked it up to just being in a LTR.
Then money started coming up missing. It was completely unnoticeable at first, until he started disappearing for hours. Not answering his phone, not responding to messages. Then hours turned in to days sometimes.
After some sleuthing, I realized that there was a lot of money missing and a lot of phone calls to one number. Then a few minutes later there would be an ATM transaction. To be honest I thought he was cheating. Turns out he had reconnected with someone from back in CA. And before he knew it, he was back on cocaine. That being expensive, he was introduced to crack cocaine. And it was down hill from there.
We clung on for about another year before I finally had to move out. I couldn't take it any longer.
It was during my relationship with David, that I was encouraged to go to an Al-anon meeting. It was in those rooms, I was able to find enough strength to open my eyes and see the reality of our circumstances. Moreover, that I had contributed and enabled his addiction in ways I couldn't even fathom at the time.
When we finally parted ways, fully. I assumed my journey in Al-anon was over. I mean, after all, the addict wasn't in my life any more, why did I need it?
I was single for about ten years. In that time, I moved to South Florida for 3 years, then to Denver for 5. While in Denver, I met my last SO. His name was Will. In retrospect, I knew that Will was an alcoholic, but I hadn't had a project for nearly a decade (i.e., someone to fix).
When we first got together, I was very smitten. I met Will on November 5th of 2009. I had just had to put my beagle down due to his third bout with cancer. I was desperate to just not be alone.
We had some great times over November / December and then he dumped via email. At that point, I still had my dignity, so when I got his email, I chalked it up to experience and didn't respond.
He emailed me two additional times and on the last one I saw red warning lights (RE: his emotional state, as he'd just gotten his 2nd DUI). So, in true enabler fashion, I dropped what I was doing (which happened to be officiating a pole bending race), put on my cap and tights and left to go "rescue" him.
We proceeded to have a very tumultuous relationship. During which we started a company together. We had a good life together, at least I thought we did. What I denied and made easier for him to drink w/o consequences and all while slowly loosing myself in the chaos.
Eventually, Will called me after traveling that day, in the evening, and "dumped" me. We had started seeing a therapist together, me under the declaration by him that he wanted to save our relationship. Turned out that was a tactic to buy himself time to plan his departure. In retrospect, I'm very grateful he did that. It gave me a solid foundation to land on and build from going forward.
We had been in therapy for several months, at the outset, our therapist softly confronted Will about his drinking and he denied it was an issue. Then we set expectations/boundaries for the therapy.
During that phase, I had explained to him that I wasn't able to continue the roller coaster ride with him any longer. That I was all in on finding a way to make it work for us both. But that if he came back to his position of not wanting to be in a relationship, that he should have a plan, as I would not attempt to talk him out of it. He didn't believe me....
The next morning after his phone call, it was March 4th, nearly 6 inches of snow on the ground, I called our therapist and was able to schedule a phone session. I explained everything that had happened and how I had responded to check myself. She told me I had done exactly what I should have (as hard as it was), that I should terminate all communication (block his email and phone) and that I was to "get my ass to an Al-anon" meeting.
Unfortunately, cutting communication at that point wasn't really possible as we were both equity partners in the business.
As I packed his stuff, a lot of things came out in the wash so to speak. As an early to bed and early to rise, I was typically in bed by 9 or so. He was a night owl. As it turned out, he would spend a lot of time on the apps and would sneak out in the middle of the night to "meet up" and then sneak back into the house. He denied it when I asked. But the empty Viagra foil packs, his browser history and "the community", seemed to have a different story. And it wasn't the first time he'd slipped up and got caught on the apps, and he told me he was "just chatting", then he'd promise not to do it again, then he would do it again.
I put it off for a few weeks, after all, I had to pack his stuff (I wouldn't allow him back in the house), and then of course I had to replace the furniture he was taking and retail therapy was also in order.
Eventually, that following June, I went to my first Al-anon meeting in nearly 20 years. It was very awkward to say the least. I was the only male. The only person under 50 (at that time). The only gay guy and the room was FILLED with white haired, Southern women mostly in their 60's - 80's.
I initially thought I should leave, but my inner self said "fuck it, you're already here".... And over the following seven years, I've learned that I needed to unlearn just about everything I've ever done to "survive". That while I can't control it, I can't cure it and I didn't cause, I could and often did, in a very large way, contribute to it. It being the addiction.
Shortly after, with the help of my Al-anon friends and my sponsor I figured out how to buy Will out of the business entirely and ultimately, cut off all contact.
I've continued in Al-anon to this day and credit it with giving me a whole new tool box full of things I can use to have a better existence and to become a better version of myself.