Tim Haver survives by the grace of God

click to enlarge Tim Haver survives by the grace of God
(Noelle Haro-Gomez/Contributor)
Tim Haver admits he made bad decisions, but he learned no matter what, God loves everyone. He’s lived a hard life, with hard lessons, but he rose above it, and now, his HIV is undetectable.

Tim Haver is a real-life miracle.

He tells this story, which began one ordinary day, as these things do.

“I had made a birthday dinner for (a boyfriend),” he said. “Well, he never showed up, so I decided I’m going to go to Rocky Point. I got myself all liquored up, bought myself a new Frank Sinatra CD and (pointed) my Lincoln (toward) Rocky Point.”

Something was wrong with the cruise control so he pulled over and started fiddling with it while enjoying the company of a bottle of vodka he tucked under the seat.

He got back on the highway, still fooling with the cruise control, still intoxicated, and sped up to about 70 mph. The front wheel veered off the pavement, Haver overcorrected, and the car rolled three times.

This is just one of a lifetime of life-threatening incidents. By any account, Haver should be dead several times over. He’s survived crashes and other car episodes, meth addiction, alcoholism, hepatitis C and even an HIV-positive diagnosis.

He lost a beloved partner to AIDS-related cancer and following that, found comfort getting high around people he does not name. He’s been a drug dealer and he’s been homeless. Then there’s the stuff he’s ashamed of and won’t talk about, and the unwise, doomed decisions he’s made to earn another man’s love.

“I made some really poor decisions, based on love, or what I thought was love,” Haver said.

Perhaps that past is the reason he will tell you with everything inside of him that there is always hope, that help is out there no matter how difficult the circumstances, that no matter what, God loves you.

It’s been a hard life with some hard lessons, but he keeps going, and going with hope and a certain amount of peace, too. This is a little bit of his story.

A good sign

The 61-year-old Haver was born the week of President John F. Kennedy’s inauguration. “I think that’s a good sign,” he said.

He lives a sober life with Armani, his little dog, and is waiting for a second hip replacement. In fact, it is during one exam for his hip that he saw himself in a new way.

“When they went in to measure me for the new hip, the nurses were in the room; they were talking about me, one to the other,” he said. “One nurse said, ‘He’s young and he’s healthy,’ referring to me, and I said, ‘Will you say that again, except a little bit louder?’ You know, when somebody else says it, it has a different impact. I’m a young man…I just love it.”

It hasn’t always been like this, of course.

Michael Haliziw has stood with Haver during some of his worst times during their decade-long friendship. For that reason, it hasn’t always been an easy friendship, standing on the side, watching Haver’s downward journey.

“It is very painful, especially since Tim is such a good friend,” he said. “You’re losing somebody from your life.”

Even when Haver was deep into addiction, though, Haliziw still saw the good in him.

“Tim wants to do good; his addiction took him off course but even then, he wanted to do good,” Haliziw added.

Haver said his story begins when he tested positive for HIV in 1986. He didn’t see another doctor for 10 years, “because in 1986 everyone was dying anyway. What was the point?” he said. “I was living the high life, had just moved to Denver from Los Angeles. I knew what the story was. I knew what safe sex was, but I was an alcoholic, a functioning alcoholic.”

After the diagnosis?

“For the first year, I stayed drunk,” he said. “Drunk, drunk, drunk.”

But maybe the problems began before the diagnosis. Maybe the alcohol issues began in childhood.

The youngest of five, Haver was raised in Colorado and attended Catholic school, where he was the best and the brightest, through the sixth grade. After that it was off to public junior high. There, a very difficult time awaited him because of his homosexuality.

“That’s when the name calling started,” Haver said. “They spit on me. They threw rocks at me. They chased me home. They beat me up, tossed me into dumpsters for six years, junior high and high school.”

The bullying set him up for a life of alcohol abuse.

“In high school I got a job as a recycling attendant at the Coors distributorship,” Haver said. “I could get beer; I was 16 years old. I became the hit of the party. All of a sudden, Tim was popular, so I equated alcohol with popularity. Alcohol solved all these problems.”

He guesses he would have graduated either valedictorian or salutatorian but as a junior, he started drinking vodka.

Still, he graduated from high school and went to restaurant management school. He began a relatively successful career managing restaurants. Partying after hours is a part of restaurant work, and that includes alcohol and drugs. Haver said of himself that he was a functioning alcoholic even in his twenties.

In 1994, his parents, who by then had moved to Tucson, asked Haver to come and help take care of them. He did, “because they got Vicodin in Tucson, so why not?” he said.

They did not know he was gay nor that he was HIV positive. Still, although he had figured he’d never have another romantic relationship, Haver was not without company.

“By this time, I had taken a hostage of a boyfriend, and moved him in with us,” he said. “I told (my parents), came clean and went to rehab.”

The best part about telling his parents?

“They were so loving and supportive, and these are two people from the south,” Haver said.

Struggle for sobriety

He did not stay sober.

After his dad died and his mother moved into assisted living, Haver continued to work, get in trouble and burn through relationships, making a 60-day stopover in jail for more than a couple of DUIs along the way.

Then one Friday night he was at a bookstore Downtown and met Sotero Gonzalez Cruz.

“Something clicked,” he said.

On Saturday, Cruz was going to the hospital for surgery.

“I went to visit him the next day; I found him at St. Mary’s,” Haver said. It was cancer.

“I’d only known him for a couple of days at that point and he was so distraught,” he said.

When the nurse brought Sotero’s medications, Haver knew they were HIV meds, “and that was another connection we had,” he said.

“That night we cried and held each other well past visiting hours, and he told me something that night I’ll never forget. He said, ‘I don’t have anybody to love me,’ and I said, ‘I’ll love you.’” Haver said with emotion, “and I love him as much right now as I did then.”

They were together from that day on.

“When you find somebody who loves you as much as you love them, oh, my God, there’s nothing else in the world like it,” he said.

They built a house and a life together.

Then Sotero died.

At 10:05 p.m. Friday, May 26, 2006, cancer got the better of him.

Sotero came to this country from Hermosillo. He had an advanced degree in accounting from the University of Sonora but learned English here. At one time he worked as a dishwasher at Caruso’s on Fourth Avenue and then at H&R Block, where he was able to employ his accounting and bilingual skills. Haver said he was one of the smartest people he ever knew.

After Sotero’s death, life moved on, as it does. Haver stopped taking his HIV meds. He had no job and no prospect of a job. He decided he could make ends meet by renting out rooms. It didn’t go well.

“I was introduced to crystal meth, and I’m an alcoholic and I was tootin’ coke every now and again,” he said. “Oh man, the people who I’ve met, the things that I’ve done, I shudder…I still had the house, and I was a friendly, grieving, stupid, dumb idiot. I let people take advantage of me. I could have been in a lot, a lot, a lot of trouble.”

He moved out of the house.

Eighteen months later, addicted, sick and homeless, Haver found help, “again, I say through the grace of God,” Haver said.

Friends stuck with him, and he found Tucson Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network and Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation.

He gave up crystal meth.

Haver will tell you he has had multiple rounds of sobriety and of addiction. He said with conviction it is not how many times you fall.

“It doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, the one number that counts is how many times you get back up,” he said. “And there’s help. There’s help. Whether you call it the universe, the power of the universe or God, something is out there that has made it possible for me to be here this long.”

With the meds available today he has been cured of hepatitis C, which he feels he got when he was homeless and sharing needles. He has also, amazingly, beaten the odds with HIV.

“With the HIV, I’m undetectable, which means that I can’t transmit it through sex,” he said.

Also, he knows how blessed he is to have friends.

“I say, ‘By the grace of God,’ a lot, but it’s friends and the support people who God has put in my life that, really, when I say it’s through no effort of my own, that I’m sitting here today,” Haver said. “I was carried by a lot by people that knew me when things were (bad).”

With help he’s been able to not just survive but to live, too.

“I can’t get a credit card; I can barely get a library card,” he said, “but I don’t worry about my next meal.”

Now that Haver is sober, his friends can see the best in him — and admire him.

“I think (about) how brave he is in facing his demons, and that he took it very seriously becoming sober,” Haliziw said. “He’s someone who will give you the shirt off his back. He sees a homeless person, he worries about him. He’s one of those people who legitimately cares.”

Remember the car rollover?

“The next thing I remember is I’m lying in the dirt away from the car,” he said. “There’s this woman, kind of like an Indian princess dressed in white, standing over me and she said, ‘Help is on the way,’ and she disappeared.”

Haver is convinced his survival is miraculous.

“I saw that car (after the accident),” he said. “All four tires were blown out, the hood was up, the whole compartment was full of dirt. I don’t know how I got out. I escaped with one little scratch on my arm. ‘Help is on the way,’ and it was.”