After Addiction Ends His Political Career, Gay Man Bounces Back And Finds A New Purpose In Life.

After Addiction Ends His Political Career, Gay Man Bounces Back And Finds A New Purpose In Life.


My name is Aaron Lawlor and I’m from Vernon
Hills, Illinois. At the age of 21, I was appointed to my local
library board. By 23, I was elected president of that board. My career continued and grew and at 27, I
was appointed to a vacancy on my local county board and I was subsequently reelected in
2010 and 2012. And at that point, I was elected the chairman
of the County Board and I was the youngest county board chairman in Lake County’s history. I threw myself into my work and I loved what
I did. It was a lot of pressure but for awhile, I
responded really, really positively to that pressure. But the pressure started to really, really
catch up and I needed an escape. I had been acting out sexually for a long
time in a really unhealthy and destructive way. It was always in excess and it was always
less safe. And I mean that like in the manner I was having
sex and also in the settings and places I was seeking it out. My sex life and my professional life had been
on this kind of collision course that they’d been running down. You know, an incredibly ambitious professional
life and a very active and frankly destructive sex life that ended up with me being diagnosed
HIV+ in my mid-twenties. But my career continued to grow and flourish. You know, I was out to close friends and family
and colleagues on kind of an evolving basis but I had never as an elected official done,
like, the big press release. I was a single HIV+ gay guy living in a town
house In Vernon Hills Illinois, in the suburbs outside of Chicago. What I wanted was this connection. I wanted partnership. I wanted gay friends. A sense of loneliness really kind of came
over my life and my casual drug use became more regular drug use. It was kind of fun for awhile until, you know,
it really wasn’t. And it was when, like, those two courses of
my life started to intersect and my drug use was becoming more apparent or people thought
something was terribly amiss. It was the winter of 2015. And I was in a committee meeting and I’d walked
out because I had to go to another event. And a colleague of mine followed me out and
said, “I want you to know this. I don’t have anything to do with it but….” Some of my political opponents at the time
had hired a private investigator to follow me with the idea that they were going to out
me to voters in my district, and that that was going to be disadvantageous for me from
an election standpoint. I did not process it well. My drug use increased and my self-esteem and
sense of self-worth went down the toilet. And that just perpetuated everything in devolving. So I was coming off a three-day bender. It was July of 2018. Some random people had just left my house
and my best friend called and said he wanted to come up and see me and we were going to
talk about my reelection campaign because I was on the ballot that fall. And he came over and it was a sunny July day. We sat on my back patio. And it quickly became clear to me that I couldn’t
find a coherent sentence with two hands and a flashlight, let alone plan a reelection
campaign. And he said, “I’m not gonna sit here and
watch you do this anymore. You need to get help or I’m not gonna be in
your life.” I just needed an out. Somebody to kind of show me the way out. And so I said, “Yes. What do you want me to do?” And then we kinda figured it out, that I was
gonna call Hazelden Betty Ford and, you know, see what they told me. You know, what they wanted me to do. So I did that and enrolled in their intensive
outpatient program and moved into sober living and completely upended my life. Sold my house, pulled my name off the ballot
for reelection, ended my political career, and was unemployed for a year while I figured
things out and I just focused on staying sober. What I found was this just incredible connection
that I was looking for, kind of all along in my life, was just meaningful connection
with other LGBTQ people, in this case in recovery from addiction for the most part. But found that connection and then also just
found a way where I could live where there was no daylight between my personal life of
being – and my personal identity and my professional life. And started working for a health care nonprofit
in Chicago that focuses on LGBTQ health. And I didn’t escape anymore because I was
living a life that one didn’t come with just the very toxic pressure of politics and also
was just 100 percent authentic, open about my identity, my HIV diagnosis, my being a
recovering drug addict. And it’s just lifted a lot of shame out of
my life and it’s really made all the difference. When I was a young gay guy in Vernon Hill,
Illinois, and especially when I became HIV+, I thought i was the only one on earth going
through the exact same thing. And what I found in recovery and in working
where I work now is that, we feel that way but we are not unique. We all have value, we’re all important,
but there are other people that are facing the same stories.

18 comments

  1. Fortunately, you had a good friend when you hit rock bottom to let you know that you needed help, Now, you're paying it forward.

  2. VERY PROUD OF YOU!
    YOU FELL DOWN, BUT YOU GOT BACK UP.
    AND THAT'S A GREAT THING! HAVE MY PRAYER"S SUPPORT & LOVE. MUCH LOVE*

  3. I don’t understand as a gay man myself, the self destructive forces which drive so many other gay men, but this man, is not only handsome but highly intelligent and articulate! It was a real pleasure listening to his story. Should he choose, he will one day be a steadfast partner to some lucky man, but also perhaps a father. Every happiness to him.

  4. You are amazing. So much of your reasons why mirror what were mine. The rooms of recovery gave back what I gave away to addiction. Loved seeing this!

  5. Aaron, fantastic, thanks for your courage in telling your story so openly and sincerely. What I learned in counseling is that the more secrets we have, the sicker we are. We all need to be open, especially with ourselves. Thanks, man……….Ray

  6. Every gay man seems to be destructive to their own self being….getting barebacked and getting HIV..and on drugs….why is this so common? Cause his story is not unique. You can find this same guy on every corner in every big or little city. It's quite sad and an epidemic

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