A few days after my mom passed, I decided to take a walk at a park in Dallas. It was a brisk, cool day in February, so few (if any) other people were around. I scavenged the winded path through some brush and around some trees then took a moment to breathe and feel the quiet. Although it was beautiful, I was having an “It’s cold as fuck” realization and decided to head back to the car. At that moment, an owl flew to a branch of a tree beside me.
We studied each other for a moment, (maybe five seconds in real time) before I carefully reached into my pocket to pull out my phone and snap a picture. I was able to take a pic before she flew off to her next branch, but the pic was blurred and not recognizable enough to share with a friend or gloat to social media. I decided it was best to capture the moment and simply share its brilliance with myself.
Death of a loved one, especially of the one who nurtured me more than any other, has had a profound affect on almost every step forward (sometimes backwards) since that moment of nothingness.
I no longer have the fear of messing up. And I especially miss that fear when I do something I regret. I have learned to trust in myself to make life-long decisions and have (mostly) benefited from the risk and newborn faith.
I recall mimicking my sister last year (as I often do) by following her lead to purchasing a home. I mocked myself for even looking since I had been so “comfortable” residing in my humble apartment in West Hollywood for 25+ years.
After viewing about 15 homes, I came across one that seemed like it was very comfortable… and it had a pool. I walked towards the pool and there was a stone owl planted right by the pool. And that gave me the motivation to say, “maybe this is the one”. And it was.
The moment the owl came to me while on my hike in Dallas was brief, but I have held onto it with little effort for two years. I have decorated my new home with my mom’s owls (she collected animal figurines of all sorts) and placed them accordingly so I can feel her presence in my days. I find them staring at me when I am frozen in thought or lacking inspiration to choose a simpler path.
Today I feel okay. Maybe a little frozen. There is deep sadness, but I am filled with gratitude for everything my mother and father gifted me before (and after) their departures.
So I fearfully turn to The owl statue outside by my pool and wonder “what’s next”? She replies, “Whatever it is, you’re going to be okay”.
Lucky 13? I have to be honest. The thought of turning thirteen years sober was not pleasant. Apparently, I have some internalized superstition about the number “13” meaning bad luck.
Had you asked me 13 years ago what I would be doing today, it is quite likely that I would have said, “Please God, let me be sober”. I was desperate, exhausted, and willing to finally ask for help. I was pretty much agnostic at that time, but my desire to escape survival mode and start living inspired me to seek a power other than myself.
I remember my last line of crystal meth like it was yesterday. I had been pondering the idea of quitting for a few months and didn’t know till a week before the “finish line” that I was ready to quit. My addiction towards all drugs was a juggling act. I smoked weed and bumped K to relax, sleep, eat, laugh, and escape my chaotic thoughts. I did Special K (Ketamine, not the cereal) to fall into a different universe that would sometimes give me hints to what my life’s potential would be. I remember flying over a concert-filled venue looking down at my fans that were cheering for me. Apparently they saw my potential. I think I was singing to them or maybe taking a break from my DJ set to fly by and give a round of hi-fives to the roaring crowd. Regardless of what my skill actually was, a few bumps of K before lying back on my waterbed was the perfect formula for inviting my fans into my trip (K-Hole).
I want to say that I didn’t drink too much. According to Lacie, the cocktail waitress at the bar where I used to DJ three nights a week, I was consuming quite a bit of alcohol. I remember running into her years after I got sober and made a comment that “alcohol wasn’t really a problem. I told her “I would have a couple Corona and a few shots of Patron – and would always finish my last drink before 11pm so I could responsibly drive home.” She looked stunned at my response and replied, “Those were triple shots of Patron”. Either way, my drinking wasn’t so bad compared to the bar regulars that could easily have had their names engraved next to their barstools. I could really take or leave the booze, weed, K, and other drugs. But Crystal or any other form of speed that would keep me up for days had seduced my inner-consciousness into a co-dependent marriage. Thirteen years ago today, that horrific relationship resolutely ended in divorce.
So what does that all mean today? It means that since Monday, March 28, 2005, I have been lucky enough to begin changing my life. How is thirteen years just the beginning? It’s just a gut. I have a strong feeling that the best is yet to come and I am starting to see my potential naturally.
Something that a lot of people don’t understand about the addict mind (and I will refer to my own rather than speak for a group) is that I am addicted to anything that will temporarily relieve me of my harmful thought process that inevitably wants me dead if it goes untreated.
There is nothing anyone can say or do that will fool my natural, “stinking thinking.” For me, desperation was my best friend. It led my seemingly lifeless, skinny, infected corpse to individuals and groups that had figured out different methods of combating my mental “dis-ease (uneasy).” I prefer that word to disease because it’s easier for me to accept my terminal mental state as an inconvenience, handicap, or nuisance rather than a sickness. From them, I learned that my situation was called alcoholism and the sooner that I surrender to this word (that I hated because alcohol wasn’t “my thing”); the quicker I was going to recover.
Since March 28, 2005, I have slowly learned how to better take care of myself. I have sought help from groups, taken direction from an individual that I call my sponsor, and found a therapist that I can be honest with (imagine that- not lying to a therapist). I have learned that it is absolutely essential for me to incorporate people that I trust in my thought process so I don’t hurt myself or someone else. Isolation is not my friend.
Am I happy? Yes, today in this very moment at 1:30 AM on March 29, 2018 I am completely content. Three days ago, I was engaging in a pretty uncomfortable argument with the guy I have been seeing since July. The silver lining is that I feel we learned something about each other. Rather than angry or sad, I felt compassionate, then loved. He lives in Manhattan, about 3000 miles away. But for some reason, my heart wants me to speak with him at the end of every day. How many couples can honestly say they speak for about thirty minutes a day to each other? How many couples can honestly say that they can’t wait to see each other?
I have learned how to live in gratitude. Living in gratitude does not mean I am always happy. It means that I have the ability to acknowledge each day as a gift. On November 18, 2016, my dad passed away a month after an unsuccessful attempt to remove a tumor from his lung. This was the worst month of my life. I felt emotions that I had only partially imagined. But somehow, I was able to reach into my sobriety toolbox and find a few things to be grateful for. My immediate and extended family and friends came together and took care of me. I felt needed when I was able to return a hug and take care of them. The experience turned me into a crier. I can’t even watch an episode of The Voice without crying. I love that my dad has given me the gift of being emotionally fearless.
Months later, I came down with an infection in my lungs, and found myself in the hospital for eleven days. Each day I was there seemed to get longer and it was difficult to feel gratitude at that time. But in retrospect, I spent few days without a visit from a friend. Some visits were from people who barely knew me. The experience taught me to see each day as a gift and every sick friend as an opportunity.
Clearly, there have been some setbacks the last couple of years. Sobriety has taught me that setbacks are only detrimental if you don’t see them as an opportunity to learn and grow. At my celebratory dinner tonight, my friend Paulo and I were discussing my angst of turning 13. He informed me that the number 13 is a holy number in the Jewish faith and that it is the age when a boy has his Bar Mitzvah. Paulo was surprised when I informed him that I had a Bar Mitzvah. Every once in a while, it takes a friend to help me see the silver lining. A Bar Mitzvah is defined as a “son of responsibility”. I like the sound of that and I’m ready to fly towards my potential.
To really understand the following, please read the link above.
I am grateful for Arianna (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianna_Huffington). It seems like not a day passes that I find something significant in #TheHuffingtonPost. It is pretty much all-real down to the core. The response I received privately and publicly to this post is very soothing. It’s soothing because straights, gays, lesbians, and #Republicans were emotionally affected for at least a moment. We all had similar responses – shock/sadness/empathy/anger. For me, if you haven’t heard me rant, I get quite emotional when I hear of homophobia and don’t sugar-coat my feelings. Let me explain… From my experience… I flat out cheated death. I wanted to die. I hated to live. Every dawn was a nightmare. A little dramatic? Absolutely not- I hated waking up. I hated the walk to the bathroom to piss. I hated looking in the mirror knowing that the guy standing before me was the same guy that was going to be sitting by himself at lunch. I hated picking out my clothes. I hated that I had allergies, asthma and Attention Deficit Disorder creating even more distance between me and normal. I hated that I got pleasure out of seeing people trip and fall (when it wasn’t me which happened quite often because I was a klutz). I hated that I didn’t understand what the teachers were talking about. I hated that I had to pretend to like girls when all I really wanted was their friendship. I hated when the girls I tried to be friends with would call me a fag. I hated when they stopped being friends with me because I smothered them with too much love. I hated carpool. I hated getting home and not having anything good to report to my parents. I hated that I had to close my bedroom door and cry my eyes dry into my pillow. I hated that I had to compose myself before sitting down at the dinner table. I hated pretending like school was fine. I hated feeling like I had to come up with something to say that gave my parents hope. I hated that my sister had friends. I hated that I couldn’t play with them. I wanted the boys that my sister used to mess around with. I hated being graded. I hated that I wasn’t a jock. In a nutshell, It wasn’t easy growing up closeted in a heterosexual only world. When I hear about a mother pushing religion onto her child that had the strength to be honest with her when he was twelve-years-old… I can’t help but think, “you stupid fucking bitch he’s going to kill himself”. And then he does… To me, drug addiction is death row… a delayed suicide. I’m not saying that the kid wouldn’t have found drugs if the mom hadn’t forced her ridiculous old school beliefs on him. But the chances of his survival would have been heightened. I have to give my parents credit… as much as I hated myself, and as much as I knew they would hate my homosexuality- I never doubted that they loved me. So my anger turns to sadness… the mother didn’t have the strength to pry open her eyes and her heart- at least not before the son’s tragic end. I feel intoxicated. Do I hate the mom? Yes- she’s a cunt! Do I love the mom? Yes- she’s a child just like the rest of us. Do I think she has redeemed herself for not giving her son proper nurturing? Yes, she has passed on the message to future dickhead parents to stop being assholes and realize that they should appreciate the child they brought into this beautiful world. If she were to read this… I would thank her for coming forward and sharing her part. As for the son, Ryan… I have a message for you. Ryan, I am so sorry to hear of your passing. You were so brave, braver than myself at such a young age. And you didn’t have the help you needed. I am you and you are me. The difference is … I am still here fighting for the both of us. You took one for the team. It is sad but true. Until we have human equality, there will be many more deaths. Every civil war ends in devastation before there is a “win”. Your mother would still be the beast she was had you not ended your life. Your action, your sacrifice, will save lives. Thank you. I’m not saying thank you for killing yourself… I am saying thank you for opening thousands… maybe millions of eyes. Thank you for your life story that will save others’ lives. Thank you for turning your mom into an activist. Thank you for letting me share.