Played a major role in producing the Book Narcotics Anonymous Basic Text. He died of AIDS in the late 1980’s.
He said I never had in my whole life sense of who I was.
Both Roger and Santos from New York City Narcotics Anonymous Died from AIDS.
All the things that were supposed to make me happy that I chased for years that I got whenever they made me happy just weren’t important any more . I took a cut in salary to work in a treatment program with other addicts and really started to find out that who I was spiritually was much more important than who I am materially.
Both Roger and Santos were founding members of Narcotics Anonymous in New York City.
That’s when I really started to grow, I feel, when I really started to let go of a lot of the fears that kept me from doing what I really wanted to do. It was the beginning of letting go for me, letting go of controlling the need to have guarantees in life, and what I really started to understand that life is what happens to you while you are trying to make other plans.
From the Book Addict Out of the Dark and into the Light copyright Keeley 1987-2007 DOB: 4/14/48; Tacoma, Washington. And that’s when I discovered the wonderful world of drugs. Better living through chemistry. Tune in. Turn on. Drop out, and all that horseshit, that nonsense from the 60’s.
The earliest incident that affected me was being born on the West Coast. I grew up in a family of nine children and all of them were born in the county hospital in Newlandberg County, Kentucky, and I was the sole exception, and my brothers and sisters told me my whole life that I wasn’t really one of them, that I didn’t belong, because I wasn’t born there. I guess I believed it. And I talked to my mother recently and she made the comment that of all my children, you were the most differently termed, meaning that I was the exception of all her children.
But anyway, I grew up in the coalfields of Western Kentucky, in this little town called Central City, and was pretty much an odd character at a very early age. I was a six-year-old little drag queen in this Bible belt community, in the Mid-South, did peculiar things like showing up at the breakfast table at age six shaving my legs, which my family tended to ignore.
For a long time I had suppressed a lot of things in life but I guess that’s true of nearly any addict. It’s only in the last few years that I came to realize that my very first drug was a narcotic called Paregoric, and it was just one of those things that came back in a flash, but I remembered in my family, growing up, if you got sick and complained a lot and a bottle of whatever, my mother would overload you with Paregoric.
And I recalled how often I loved to get sick and crave for Paregoric. So I guess that, was my first high. I don’t know when really I decided that I really didn’t want to be wherever I was, but I know I grew up very much alone and shut down and withdrawn and started black-out drinking by age twelve and was very much a loner.
I spent years fantasizing about when I was big enough to leave town and could get out of the hills of Kentucky and wound up leaving home, moving out of the house at age fifteen, and have been pretty much self-supporting and on my own since age fifteen. I don’t really remember a lot of my high school years. I stayed around Central City until I got a high school diploma, but I don’t remember the four years of high school because much of it I was drunk, or in a blackout, or whatever, and there is just a lot that I don’t remember, certainly don’t recall very fondly.
At eighteen I went to a small private men’s college in Louisville run by Franciscans, a religious school, and did not fit in very well, got in all sorts of complications from the very beginning. It was 1966. I started to grow my hair long and hang out with freaks and hippies and all that. I was reminded recently by one of my relatives I was the first hippie in Western Kentucky in the sixties.
But I wound up dropping out of school and I wound up in New Orleans. There was another young man in school there with a very similar background. He and I wound up dropping out of school at the same time and hitchhiking to New Orleans. We picked New Orleans because the bars were open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and you could drink whiskey at age eighteen. So that’s why we went to New Orleans. And our first night in New Orleans we wound up in a place called the Intellect Bar on Bourbon Street, which was the quote hippie hangout end quote. And that’s when I discovered the wonderful world of drugs. Better living through chemistry. Tune in, turn on, drop out, and all that horseshit, that nonsense from the Sixties.
But we rented a little apartment on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter and invited some of the crowd over from the Intellect and like, you know, all I can remember for the next few months is a drug induced haze and whatever. You know, dropped acid, pierced my ear, and got a peace sign tattooed on my arm, Somewhere along the line, though, it got really bizarre.
I was very quickly the guinea pig in the hippie set that I was running with. Every time somebody found a strange pill in Mother’s medicine cabinet they would bring it to me to try and see if it was safe enough to use, or if it would get you high. And there was a man named Brad from Canada and his girlfriend Penny from Texas, decided to teach me a lesson. They slipped me an overdose of Belladonna one night and thought that would teach me, you know, to be more discriminating.
And it didn’t. I liked it, it was — I loved it, it became my drug of choice for a long time. Red wine and Belladonna. I just really liked being in another reality altogether or whatever.
But somewhere along the line, before my 19th birthday, I was literally a skid row derelict. I wound up living in the streets, and for a long time across from Jackson Square on the levee, by the river in New Orleans. I lived under the azalea bushes, there by the old Jacks Brewery, between the brewery and the Cafe du Monde.
I remember one of the more embarrassing incidents. I was sleeping under the bushes. For weeks I hadn’t bathed or any-thing, in God knows how many days. I was thrown out of this skid row coffee shop once because I was so grungy I was really embarrassing and I did the only thing you could do in a situation like that. I went out and got fucked-up again.
But then a young lady from Mississippi came along and she took a liking to me and took me home and gave me a bath at her place out in the suburbs, seduced me and she got pregnant. I didn’t know you could say no. My draft board was after me and I joined the Navy to stay out of prison. She turned up pregnant and we got married.
Five years later and three babies later we got a divorce to keep from killing each other. And I went on another insane drunken drug binge or whatever and wound up finding another young lady from Mississippi to save me. She got pregnant and we got married again, in that order. We got a divorce eight years later because she couldn’t deal with me bringing my boyfriends home. She got really upset when I took one on vacation with us once: me, him, the wife, two kids, you know.
Probably the most significant thing that’s ever happened to me was finding recovery. What happened was, with a lot of help and some lucky breaks and just being in the right place at the right time. I wound up going to work for a railroad company and working very unusual hours and I wasn’t able to stay high the way I wanted to stay high.
So I was quote sober enough end quote to really do a decent job and impress the right people, and they promoted me and put me into a suit and shipped me to the sales and marketing office in Oklahoma City and I wound up in Oklahoma City in December 1974.
On the surface, externally, things looked pretty good. But internally I was full blown, bat shit crazy, and not fit to be afoot, and just absolutely mad, in the purest sense of the word totally insane. I developed a condition called brain syndrome, which scared me, and I wound up getting a lot of tests done, or whatever. I had a lot of minor physical things, but basically how it turned out was after two months of testing, the doctor told me that I wouldn’t live another year if I continued to use drugs and drink the way I was.
At that time I was twenty-six years old. I weighed something like a hundred and twelve pounds, and slightly jaundiced from alcoholic hepatitis, and all the pills and other drugs, and I had a heart murmur, severe peripheral neuropathy, and a lot of things wrong. What happened was that I had been getting high on a regular basis, almost daily for a number of years, since age twelve.
Anyway, the doctor convinced me that I was killing myself, and I left the doctor’s office and went home, and I quit forever. And all those years before I had never quit before. I had brief periods of abstinence for one reason or another, the longest being about forty days when I was on a Navy ship in the South Pacific, in Vietnam.
And what I discovered when quit was that I was an addict. I never thought of myself as being dependent or addicted. I always thought I had some control in the matter. I really and sincerely intended to quit forever. All that I could do on my own resources and will power alone was thirty-six hour’s, and that was as long as I could make it on my own resources, and things started to get bizarre at home.
I started, I just really went crazy. One night I knocked my wife down the stairs and she told me the next day that she was going back home to Mother in Mississippi if I didn’t do something. And I agreed to see a man who I supposed was a marriage counselor, who turned out to be a substance abuse counselor with the chancery office of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma city, to convince him and my wife that I wasn’t that bad, I agreed to go to a meeting.
That time the only thing going in Oklahoma City was a meeting for recovering alcoholics. I wound up in a meeting in a well-to-do section in Oklahoma City. I really have no idea why I went back to the second meeting other than something intrigued me. Part of it to me was I heard them say, if you want what we have to offer and are willing to make the effort to get it. All I could see was middle American prosperity and wealth and Cadillacs and Lincolns on the driveway and that sort of thing.
But I never thought that drugs were the real problem for me. It was always something else. It was some sort of internal conflict, a lot of it having to do with an ill-disguised secret about, my sexuality and everything. Basically I had started, going to meetings because I thought it was going to make me sexually straight, a Republican, teach me to like golf — that sort of shit. It didn’t work; it didn’t work very well at all.
In fact, it took me a long time to figure out if I wanted to stop being fucked up, I had to stop using drugs. It took me eighteen months to make ninety days clean. Actually, in the beginning, and I’ve always said I’ve stayed clean my first year to get even with all those motherfuckers who told me I wasn’t going to make it anyway.
One of the really fortunate things that happened to me in my recovery is that I picked up so many desires, a new way of life, chips, that I remember the group ran out of desire chips, and asked me to bring some back, but one of the things that happened to me that I am really grateful for, to this day, although I didn’t like it at first, was that I alienated almost everybody in the rooms of recovery, so I ended up with a sponsor by default. By default, meaning he was the only person in the rooms with more than a year clean in Oklahoma City, who would still speak to me. And he became my sponsor.
I am grateful for that today, because he was in many ways a very unique individual. I had my sole introduction to recovery — the first year came from him. For a long time I believe that the way he introduced me to recovery was the way that everybody was introduced to recovery.
It was only later, after he had left Oklahoma and moved to India, that I found out that he was really unique in a lot of respects, but I am grateful for that because he taught me that it was a spiritual program, that it was secondary to meetings and service work and all that. That it’s something internal which is what I really, truly needed.
But despite what I had learned from him, or at least what he taught me, I didn’t learn quite on time. I made a very prominent mistake that a great many people make. It seems to me, me in recovery, that I pursued all the externals my first few years clean.
I busted my ass to participate in the American dream. Somewhere around the third or fourth year clean I started really to achieve the material success, all those things that indicate that you have arrived in this American Disneyland that we call the American dream or whatever. Got the house, the car, the TV, the telephone, the job, the title, business cards, and all that.
About my fourth year in recovery I discovered that I was very unhappy. I was just almost as unhappy as when I had been using drugs and running crazy in the streets all over the country and buying newspapers to find out what town I was in.
I never knew where I was because I had been in a blackout for two days and didn’t know how I got there. What happened was I wound up in the emergency room three times, one weekend with all the symptoms of a heart attack. And what it was anxiety. And I sat down and had a real long hard look at myself and where I was and where I hoped to be and where I was going and my wife had a long talk and basically I gave up the job, moved back into the yards. I gave up the three-piece suit and went back to the yards and we moved to Memphis.
When I got to Memphis I got involved in recovery. I had made a new commitment to be as honest as possible about who I was and how I felt. I really got involved in recovery. I started to allow people to see me for who I really was, and to drop the facade. My wife and I split up. I walked away from a very handsome salary and benefits and all that just left everything.
A year later I wound up on a park bench in Ft. Lauderdale, like a comfortable circle, living in the Streets in New Orleans fifteen years before. But I never felt better because I had something going for me that I never had in my whole life and that was a sense of who I was. All the things that were supposed to make me happy that I chased for years that I got whenever they made me happy just weren’t important any more.
That was the year that I took a thirty two thousand dollar cut in salary to work in a treatment program with other addicts and really started to find out that who I was spiritually was much more important than who I am materially. That’s when I really started to grow, I feel, when I really started to let go of a lot of the fears that kept me from doing what I really wanted to do and started to do what I wanted to do. It was the beginning of letting go for me, letting go of controlling the need to have guarantees in life, and what I really started to understand that life is what happens to you while you are trying to make other plans.
And I lived in Florida for a year. I worked in a program there for several reasons. Just decided I would rather live in New York City and resign my job and bought a one-way plane ticket, cashed my last paycheck, flew to New York and have been in New York City since. That’s seven years now. Went to work in another treatment program. But right after I got to New York I started to get sick and a little over a year ago I finally surrendered and allowed a doctor to run the test and I was diagnosed with AIDS.
And I wasn’t surprised or shocked. But I wound up with pneumonia and was in the hospital, wound up getting disabled, and the interesting thing is there is a brief period of anger and self-pity, and “why me” and what’s really happened for me is that it’s totally been one of the more fortunate things that’s ever happened to me.
It’s my life now. I really do have the time to do what I want to do. Pursue my own interests and I am not physically capable of making a commitment either to a job or service position. That’s removed a lot of pressure from me. I really can pursue the time now of being myself. And I can be selective today of where I choose to be and where I choose to show up. I don’t feel those pressing obligations, or commitments.
One of the things that had a deep, profound effect on me growing up was being told that I wasn’t really part of the family, because I wasn’t born in Kentucky, and I took it to heart and believed that I really was not part of the family. In a lot of ways I am very different from everyone else in the family. I was the only one in the whole family that has ever been to New York. They think I should be committed for even wanting to live there.
But when I really got involved in recovery I substituted that familiar affinity that I never felt from my own family. All those years, in nearly forty years, I kept looking for something, anything, outside myself to validate me as a person. To tell me who I was. I see other people doing it. For me it was, I was totally unaware that I was doing it and since I was in the hospital and just a lot of ways people thought I was dead because I have become so invisible in a year and a half.
What I am trying to say is that I am finding out I have to be my own person and find my own validation and that you certainly can’t get it outside. It doesn’t come from the outside. It comes from inside. One of the people who really impressed me at a very early age was Grandmother, my father’s mother, and she’s the one who brought me the message of recovery when I was fifteen.
She’s the only other person in the family that got into recovery and she had been a skid row alcoholic and living in a cardboard box in an alley in Indiana when she got sober. The one thing that she and I have done differently than any other member of the family is that we left town.
All the rest of them still live in that same old coal town and are still active, all of them, getting worse. She told me about recovery, and one of the things that she taught me by example was about, if you have an opinion then say it, and I remember she was very unpopular in the family, she made everyone uncomfortable because she had the tendency to tell the truth, and I used to imitate her because I liked the reaction that it got. You didn’t pretty things up; you were blunt, forward, and direct.
And even when I was using drugs I had a tendency to be that way. I never knew when to keep my mouth shut. I guess in a lot of ways she was my role model. She was this crusty old broad who had been a Baptist preacher’s only child who grew up to be a hooker and a bootlegger and a junkie — great people, and I loved her. She taught me to be direct, at least by example.
Recovery is a path, a process. It is a process. Everyone has to go through those stages in their own way. Somewhere around my first year clean, that the ultimate recovery experience is waking up and not being sick. Then it was being able to take all your friends out for coffee and picking up the check and leaving too big a tip to impress everybody.
When I wrote my personal inventory, I had been to Leroy’s house and he had thrown me out. He was always throwing me out of his house and hanging up on me and he offered to loan me money once to get high and told me I’d feel better. I went home to write my inventory so I could tell him to shove it up his ass so he would get off my case about my recovery.
I sat down to write my inventory, and my mind was completely blocked and I did what was suggested now, I recall. I enjoyed waking up and not being sick. And I said the first honest prayer that I had said in many years, nothing complicated, simply “God help me.” And what happened for me was for the first time in my whole life I knew that I wasn’t alone.
I picked up the pen and I started to write. The experience was that I was an observer watching someone else write my story on that paper, although I actually held the pen and moved it across the page. It was almost an out-of-body experience and there was a presence there.
It was just impossible to explain that I felt a sense of belonging. I just felt okay, no matter how bad things have been, I have never felt a desire to be separated from that sense of belonging again which for me was a life of going to meetings and being part of a group of people recovering from the disease of addiction.
I have never thought about picking up drugs since then either. Sometimes I joke about it, or see an ad for a drug I never tried, or I read a story on a drug I never tried, or wonder what it would be like. I never really have had a thought since then. I’ve always held on to that feeling I really do belong.
I said I wasn’t that bad one time and somebody who knew me, and he was a real bad ass junkie from West Orange, New Jersey, or something, a real dope fiend, and he laughed and said I don’t know a single junkie in the world that would voluntarily take red wine and Belladonna a second time. I got over that. I don’t know very many faggots that have been married three times and have five children. I ran all over the world.
Roger died from AIDS. Roger was a counselor at Gracie Square Hospital in New York City in 1984 and 1986. He was a great influence on helping addicts to find recovery. Roger had a great sense of humor, and he said a normal person is anyone with one personality or less. When a friend last saw Roger a few days before his death, he was hallucinating, and they visited Paris together in his mind. When that friend was trying to kick dope and Methadone, Roger said, Treating drug addiction with another drug, is like Fighting for Peace, or Fucking for Virginity!
Scott A. writes… I was searching the internet to see if there was anything on my old dead friend, Roger Teague, and I found your site. Roger was my counselor at Gracie Square Hospital in NYC in 1984 and 1986.
He was one of my great influences, and played a large part in getting sober. He also gave me the the best line ever: A normal person is anyone with one personality or less.
When I last saw Roger a few days before his death, he was hallucinating, and we visited Paris together in his mind.
I stayed clean from 1987 to 1997. The past seven years have been interesting, but I’m ready to get sober again. Roger peering at me from your site might have sealed it. Nice site and thanks for keeping Roger’s memory alive. Scott A.
Cambridge, MA .
Gregory B. Writes: It’s funny how life is….Scott mentions being in Gracie Square Hospital in the upper east side of Manhattan in 1986…..et VOILA!…guess where I was in April of the same year! LOL (Roger was my counselor and first sponsor).
I leave you with MY favorite Roger T. quote….when I was trying to kick dope and Methadone…..He said…“Treating drug addiction with another drug is like Fighting for Peace or Fucking for Virginity” !
Antoinette writes: Tue, Jan 12, 2010 at 4:57 PM: I do remember that Santos always used to stand in the back of a meeting and preach like crazy. He would finish his shares (rants, really) by saying “Be nice to the newcomer. He may be your sponsor one day.” At the time,
I didn’t realize how wise that advice was. I’ve seen so many “sponsors” become the new guy over the years. Roger made me feel normal. He admitted to the worst possible behavior when he was using and accepted himself completely once he was clean. That meant a lot to me. He showed me how to be OK with myself.
Sun, March 7, 2010 10:57:15 PM: Bo Writes: I met Roger in special times. He came to our 3rd World Literature Conference thinking it had to do with the Third World. Actually it was the third in a series of seven conferences starting in 1979 and ending in 1982. In a way, I have to say he got drawn in over his head. From what he told me of his life before I met him, he did clerical work in the basement of a building and that was pretty much his life. I know at times he exaggerated things so it may not have been so dismal as he made out.
He lit up like a Christmas Tree with the lit committee. With a typing speed of 200 words a minutes, he was most welcome. He loved the people and the energy. It was probably the highlight of his life, as it was for all of us.
While he did lots of work on the effort for the Basic Text at Memphis, he moved to Marietta and I put him up for a month or so. He had a great mind and helped locate every meeting of Narcotics Anonymous on the planet earth! He would call for information in a city in England, for instance.
And if there was no listing for NA, he would call and speak with local hospitals to find out if there was an NA meeting anywhere nearby. With funds raised from the NA members in North America, we mailed to each of these groups world wide a free Review Form of our Basic Text. A year and a half later, we mailed a copy of the finished work to every group in the world, including many additional meetings. So, your Dad happened to be right smack dab in the middle of the greatest bloodless revolution in recent history!
In Loving Service, Bo S.
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