You Are My Mirror

I’m not a big fan of looking in mirrors.  In fact, I’d rather only have one mirror in the house—one in a room with no lighting.

I don’t see what you see—I see something different.

I see an aging man with a face scared by years of smoking and drinking—grey hairs protruding from my chin, and the sides of my head.  I feel a light sensitivity that induces migraine headaches and disrupts my ability to think clearly, or store memories properly.

I wonder where the last ten years went.  I have a random collection of thoughts, images and emotions stored in my mind—sometimes it’s a struggle to recall a specific time and place.

However, there is an exception.

You.  You are my exception.

Instead of a mirror, I look into your eyes.  When I do so, I truly know that you see the good in me—that me that I can’t see.

You place your little hand on my cheek, and stare at me with those honest eyes—letting me know that I’m worth something.  Even if, at times, I don’t believe in myself—your belief in me keeps things moving forward.

When I look at you, I see me—and if I look long enough, it all becomes clear.  You are me, and I you—and we are in this together.

I’m not going to let you down.

I’m not going to let my insecurities take over.

I’m going to understand that the sad, confusing and hectic moments in life shall pass—and the happy, clear and stable moments shall overcome.  Always.

You, my dear, are my mirror.  For in your eyes I see my reflection—and in your smile I see my worth, my reason.

I love you.  Always and forever, no matter where in the universe I am loving you from.

I’m a Hypochondriac. Plain and Simple.

 

 

I’m a hypochondriac.  Plain and simple.

To me, headaches are actually brain tumors forming and a cyst is some rare form of cancer.  A pain in my calf muscle is a blood clot traveling to my heart—and that sinus pressure is an imminent and fast acting brain aneurysm.

I send my doctor photos and emails every other month convinced I have 3-6 months to live.  He won’t say it, but inside he’s like: “this fucking guy needs to stop Googling shit.”

I’ve taken several measures to ensure that I am living a healthier life-style than say…3 years ago when alcohol was my liquid of choice.  Who needs water, right?

I quit drinking.  I quit smoking.  I lost 25 pounds, and if anything, my resting heart rate and blood pressure are lower than ever.  As I type this, I ask myself: is my blood pressure too low?  If so, can I die from that?  If yes, when do I die?

I wasn’t always like this. No, no, no.

I started thinking of mortality when I found out I was going to be a father.  I remember the first time I got on an airplane after learning Lila was going to be born—I was in constant fear that, before and during the flight, the plane would crash…that I would never have the opportunity to hold my daughter, or be a father.  I don’t fear much in life—but the one thing that scares the shit out of me is that I will somehow die and Lila will grow up without me.  Or, that something will happen to her, and I won’t be able to overcome the pain of losing a child.

I literally had no real purpose in life before Lila.  She is my reason for existing, and without her, there is nothing.  I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s true.

I tell myself that my thought process is irrational.  Even if I do get diagnosed with some terminal illness, I shouldn’t be spending my time worrying—I should live happily and anxiety free.

In the past, I drank my emotions away.  When I felt anxious, I drank—when I felt sad, I drank—when life got overwhelming, I drank.  I drank to feel nothing.

Now, sober, I feel everything—and it can be intense.  I appreciate the intensity in which I feel and process emotions—and I pray for strength to always do what is right for my family.  More than anything, I feel a pure and absolute love for my daughter, Lila—and my one true wish is that she knows how much her daddy loves her.

As we approach Christmas (or whatever Holiday you celebrate), I am one grateful mother fucker.  Lila will turn 8 on Christmas Eve, and Ly and I will celebrate 9 months living together.  Ly has been such a strong, positive influence on Lila and me.  And, she just got a great job at Facebook—we are truly blessed.

I see people drinking and eating to celebrate the holiday—and you better believe I crave beers, shots of whiskey and/or bottles (yes, multiple whole bottles) of wine—but I resist.  I resist because, when sober, I am happier, healthier, wiser and able to hold myself accountable.  If you are putting down the bottle for the first time, just know that you can do it—and if you do it, you will become amazed by your true potential.

In 2017, I want to worry less and focus on living more.

Happy Holidays mother fuckers!

 

Lately, I Reflect

Reflection

I look at my daughter, and the first thought that comes to mind is:

“I’d do anything for my baby.  I’d do anything to protect her and to ensure she succeeds in life.”

I mean, fuck man, she is the reason I love at all.  She is the reason I glanced in the mirror just over 2.5 years ago and decided that it was time to love myself.  When all the cards fell and the dust settled—that kid was standing there, looking at me with those big and beautiful, half Filipino eyes.  Do you know what I saw?

I saw someone who genuinely believes in me.  I saw someone who expected me to know what to do next…who trusted that I knew what to do next.  I felt someone walk over and grip my pointer finger, and say “daddy, can we go outside and play?”

I never felt so damn hard in my life.  It brings a tear to my eye just thinking about how that little girl grasped my finger and somehow injected life into my body and hope into my veins.

“Yeah baby, we can go out and play.”

I went from an alcoholic, drinking 10 beers and a bottle of wine per day, to reading books in Lila’s classroom once a month for the past two years. To becoming an expert at braiding hair and a teacher of many activities like ice-skating, swimming and doing flips on the trampoline.

I always made sure Lila was taken care of and loved, even as an active drunk—but I took that shit to a whole new level mother fucker.

When you spend so much time and so many resources on buying and consuming alcohol—you are literally ridding your body and mind of positive energy.  It takes a little while, but when you stop drinking you start to feel and experience (it really is quite the experience) all of that positive energy rushing back into your mind and body.  It’s hard to describe—but I legitimately have a full agenda created each weekend Lila is over…I mean I jam pack the weekend with activities.  In the past, I just wanted to chill inside, wait until the noon hour—then, crack some beers and do things inside. Maybe take a nap or some shit.  Now, I’m up by 6am cooking Ly and Lila breakfast, bopping around and actually looking forward to experiencing new things.  It’s AMAZING!  I look forward to the future because I have so many new things I want to do, and places I want to go.  I want Lila and Ly there by my side, and that positive energy I mentioned earlier, is coursing through my body right now as I write J

When the booze exits your system, along with all of the poison that came with it—I promise you, it is replaced with positivity, a sense of purpose and responsibility.  It just takes time.

I wake up at 6:00am each day and earlier on the days when I drive Lila to school.  I have an overwhelming sense of purpose and responsibility—I know what I have to do, and know what I can’t do.

No more are the days of sleeping until 9:00am on a workday.  Shit, I can’t believe I did that for so long.

Lately

Lila and I went to a Father/Daughter Dance last weekend.  It was such a fun time.  We danced, I met some dads and Lila got the chance to play with her classmates. Before the dance, I took her shoe shopping.  She picked out a pair of “pretty shoes” and a pair of running shoes.  Honestly, Lila isn’t a girly girl—but she did enjoy trying on the various shoes.

I think it’s important, especially now that I’m in a relationship, for Lila and I to carve out time for just her and me.  It has taken time for Lila to warm-up to Ly—as kids get older, they need more time to feel comfortable around new people.

With that said, I am happy to say that Lila, Ly and I have been doing very well.  Though it has taken some time for Lila to warm up—as a family, we definitely hit some mile-stones this weekend.  Lila is having a great time with Ly—and they are doing things together, as opposed to Lila always wanting me around.  Do I feel like chopped liver?  Sort of—but that’s ok.

It makes me very happy to see those two building on their relationship—and it’s nice to have another woman around the house, because frankly, I just don’t get it sometimes.

I trust Ly as a role model in Lila’s life.  She is a successful, mature and very intelligent woman—all of the things I want Lila to grow up to be.  I tend to expect the unexpected in life—so I’m going to enjoy the moments, and always remain cautiously optimistic about the future.

I am trying my best to be a good partner.  Relationships are hard—and Ly and I have had some honest discussions.   I feel comfortable telling Ly things that I may not have told other partners, due to a fear of being punched in the face or screamed at.  Ly is just always calm, cool and collected…which I really like.

All in All

Life is good.  I mean, there are days where I wonder “why am I sitting at a desk 9 hours a day?”  Then, I look at our car, our apartment, our health insurance cards, all of the fun things we get to do—and it reminds me that I work hard, though sometimes painfully, to ensure that we have all of the things we need in life. I appreciate my job, and the fact that it pays well enough that my daughter and I don’t want for anything.  Well, maybe we want to go on more vacations—but hey, who doesn’t?  You know what I mean.

I suppose it’s about perspective.  Often times’ people complain about things, like work, and neglect to look at the alternative.  Or people aimlessly complain without actively making an attempt to change their situation.  At some point, you become the main source of your agony.  Either you decide to change the aspects of your life that cause so much frustration—or shut up and learn to appreciate what you have.  We are a species that always wants more—but I’m trying to live happily knowing that we have everything we need.  If I constantly want more, then I’ll never truly be happy.

Be well and happy my friends.

Don’t Love Me to Death

I felt the urge to write Katie today.

I took my usual 20 minute mid-morning walk down the Guadalupe trail—squirrels were shooting across the pathway, the sun was shining and the random smell of homeless people pee-pee wafted through the air.

Yesterday was a rough one at work, and some of the emotional remnants lingered within.  I dug my hands deep into my pocket, kept my head down, and wished I could walk home instead of going back to my cubicle.  Thankfully I don’t have to work tomorrow—I wrote this week off on Wednesday afternoon, and decided I won’t be professionally productive again until Monday morning.

As I was on my overly dramatic, “woe is me” walk—I suddenly began to think of Katie.  When I feel down, or negative in anyway, which is infrequent since I stopped drinking, I think of the day Katie walked out on me.  I think of what I looked and felt like—how I acted, and the way I treated her during the last 12 months we lived together.  I think about how sick I made myself, and how that self induced sickness infected Katie too.  I was an emotional parasite.

I think of her face—her trembling upper lip and the way she would pucker-up when she got angry.  I think of her crying.  I think of her giving me every last opportunity to change—and I will never forget the look in her eyes and the sadness in her voice when she finally realized it was over.  When she finally realized that the only way to save me and herself was to leave, and never look back.

She understood that sometimes even a selfless person has to make a decision, that to them, feels selfish.  But it’s not selfish at all—it’s simply the right thing to do.

Would I have changed if she stayed?  Yes—but only temporarily, until I realized I can do whatever I want and my biggest enabler will always stay by my side, until the day I die, or the day she progresses from the brink of insanity to complete madness.

Alcoholics and addicts tend to destroy everything in their path, and consistently remain oblivious to the emotional distress they impose onto others…onto the people they love.  For, the only people who remain by your side during the darkest moments are those who genuinely love you—but even the strongest love has boundaries and breaking points.  I broke everything—and have been trying to pick up the pieces ever since.

I will never feel complete until Katie forgives me—and if I remain incomplete forever, the only person responsible is me.

I used to think about her every minute of every-day.  Then gradually, I thought of her less.  But, never will I forget the person who changed my life forever—even if now I only remember in times of sorrow.

I thought about writing Katie today—but I have to let the urge pass.  I don’t want to remind her of the pain I caused.  She decided not to love me to death, and her strength exposed who I really was.  A selfish, depressed drunk who had every reason to be happy yet focused on everything that made him sad.

I am not that person today—but I was reminded that in order to never become that person again, I can’t ever forget.

Addiction is a Choice, not a Disease

I have struggled with the claim that addiction is a disease.  Those who are diagnosed with non self-induced (i.e. a self induced disease is a smoker getting lung cancer) cancer or Type I Diabetes, to me, greatly differ from those who are sick because of poor decision making.  They had no control over their diagnosis—one day they started feeling ill, went to the doctor, took some tests and eventually received some very bad news.

An alcoholic or addict knows they are destroying their body and mind—but they continue to do so day after day.  They continue to drink or do drugs, often times, after being told death is just around the corner.

“If you don’t stop drinking and/or doing drugs, you will die.”

A simple choice is given:  life or death.

I started drinking because I wanted to.  My drinking progressed because I let it—and eventually I became a full blown alcoholic because I allowed my body and mind to get addicted to a substance.  Don’t mistake a bad habit that spirals out of control for a terminal illness.

Someone fighting breast cancer, or struggling to manage a disease they in no way created within themselves would most likely do anything to be cured.  Often times, cancer is terminal…there is no choice.

An alcoholic or addict simply, yes simply, needs to find the courage and self control to stop using—fight through the first few months of sobriety, and focus on staying clean.

Just like an obese person should diet and exercise–or a smoker should quit…an addict/alcoholic should stop using.

Saying that addiction is a disease gives addicts a scapegoat, and is an insult to their families.

“It’s not my fault, it’s my disease.”

“I shot up, or drank a 1/5th of whiskey because I have a disease.”

No mother-fucker, you did that because you are selfish—and lack self control.  You absolutely know you made the wrong decision—and that decision will hurt you and those you love.

Addiction isn’t a disease, it’s a choice.  If you never chose to become addicted to a substance in the first place—the disease you say you have wouldn’t exist.

I agree that some people are prone to becoming addicts—due to environment or family history, but in no way is alcoholism like non self-induced cancer, or some other terminal illness.

In fact, calling alcoholism or drug addiction a disease is an insult to those who have actual diseases.

I was a raging alcoholic, and on the day I quit drinking, I knew it was on me.  I had to stop thinking of any reason and excuse to drink.

“Shit, I had a bad day.  Beer!”

“Oh, a football game.  Beer!”

“It’s Saturday.  Lets’ drink! A beer!”

I can actually come up with many more reasons to convince myself to have a drink, but I won’t.  Do you know why?

Because through time, effort and the support of friends/family—I realized that I was slowly killing myself.  I decided that I would rather live than die of liver disease—or in a flaming car wreck that may hurt or kill innocent people.

I made the choice to stop choosing to drink alcohol every day.  I made the choice to become a better father, boyfriend, son, brother, etc.  And you know what?  Anyone else suffering from alcohol or addiction can make that choice too.

Do you know who can’t choose to wake up tomorrow and heal themselves:  a child in the cancer ward, a mother fighting breast cancer and the kid who doesn’t produce enough insulin.

I’m not trying to be insensitive—but as an alcoholic who comes from a family of addicts, I feel that I’m more than qualified to say that bad choices and self destruction shouldn’t be mistaken for a disease.  All of us addicts have a choice, each time we drink or use, and we have the ability, if we dig deep, to walk away from the pain.

I’ll drive by the liquor store on the way home today, and if I decide to go by a twelve pack, it’s not a disease controlling me—it’s a conscious decision to make a bad choice.

Take accountability.

http://chronicle.com/article/What-if-Addiction-Is-Not-a/237383

 

Disrupt the Two Party Political System

I don’t enjoy publicly expressing my political viewpoints.  I feel that my political opinions and expression take place on election-day, in the voting booth.  I will participate in political discussions with my close friends, but I’m not the type to bait people into arguments or criticize a stranger for exercising their right to choose who they want to support, and vote for.

I appreciate the fact that my friends and family have diverse political perspectives—I enjoy hearing opposing thoughts/opinions.  I don’t view someone who thinks differently than me as a threat, I view them as someone who can educate me and help me become a well rounded, politically engaged citizen.  At times, a person will say something I completely disagree with, but again, it’s not my place to attempt to calibrate an individual’s moral compass.  In fact, it would be pretentious of me to do so.

I am proud to admit, especially during this Presidential election cycle, that I am an Independent voter.  I am not loyal to any political party—I am loyal to America.  I understand that an effective leader can come from the Democratic, Republican, Green , Libertarian, etc., party.  So why would I become a partisan voter and confine myself to voting for only one party candidate?  To me, that isn’t promoting choice or political freedom.

So, I am going to go against my “no political view-point” rule, and tell you how I think America can become more of a democracy by creating a higher level of competition in the political world.  We need to fight against the two party system that has left us with two bad choices for President of the United States.  Yes, I am talking about Clinton and Trump.  I know that we have a Green Party and Libertarian candidate running for office—but I think Independents, like myself, are looking for the fiscal conservative who is more progressive when it comes to social issues.

If you are fed up with politics as usual, I will tell you how we can disrupt the system.  And, if you aren’t a registered voter, yet complain, you are simply part of the problem.  So listen…

Register as an Independent, non-partisan voter.  If you aren’t registered to vote—register and join me as a non-partisan voter.  If you are a Republican or Democrat disturbed by the current state of politics—change your party affiliation to Independent/non-partisan.  Do you know what will happen if you do so?

The people will have more of a choice—there will more competition in local, state and national elections.  A Democrat or Republican won’t be our only choice—and whoever runs for office knows that they don’t just have to appease their own party to win, they have to think of the millions of Independents who call them out on their, as Joe Biden says, malarkey.

Join us Independent, non-partisan voters—and we will see more Independent candidates who aren’t controlled by the political machine in Washington.  We will see more people like you and I, standing there, making sense to the American people.  Frankly, what Clinton and Trump are doing right now makes no sense to me at all.  Their campaigns make our Democracy a joke!

I firmly believe that if Republicans and Democrats synthesized their view-points on a lot of issues, instead of yelling at each-other, this country would have stronger policies and programs in place.  This country would serve the people, as opposed to serving a one-sided political system.  If we vote Republican, we get a smaller government that restricts the freedoms, and discriminates against some of our fellow Americans.  If we vote Democrat, we get a larger, inefficient government that recklessly spends, but offers all Americans the freedoms and rights they deserve.

Why can’t we have a smaller, more efficient government that serves all people equally, without discrimination?  Women maintain their right to choose, and my gay best friend can marry his boyfriend.  My immigrant friends don’t worry about deportation, but understand that we need stronger immigration policies.  Education should be an equal opportunity for all children, regardless of socioeconomics—but we have to address income inequality, together, to ensure that less Americans are living in poverty—and more Americans have access to quality education.

Independents will create balance by not pledging allegiance to a candidate before they are nominated.  Independents simply pledge allegiance to the American flag, and all of the people that the flag protects.  I am tired of turning on the television, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc., whatever garbage media source that is spewing hate and perpetuating anger, and seeing two people, one of whom will run the country, bicker like high-school brats.

If we create an Independent voter registration movement, we will change the political landscape for the better.  We will create a free market of political candidates that aren’t restricted by the two party system—and more candidates with well rounded perspectives will begin to surface.  I promise this will happen—join me.  I am a fiscally conservative, socially progressive voter who believes in strengthening our immigration and education policies—and I know we can do so working together.

For Yourself

I dropped Lila off at summer camp, 7am, today.  She actually woke up at 5am, and I slept until 6am.  She loves playing “classic games” on my Chromebook—it is a collection of the games from the Nintendo era (Mario Brothers, Kung Fu, etc).

Lately, I have been up and down emotionally.  I’m not sure what to make of it—but I have been writing in my journal quite a bit, and thinking a lot about the future.

On July 1—Lila, Ly and I went to visit my family in Pennsylvania.  It was a nice trip.  Lila reunited with her cousin, and good buddy, Michael—and she also spent time with her grandma and grandpa.  I was able to reconnect with my parents and sister, and hold my nephews.  Each time I see them, they are a year older—and each time I see them, it reminds me of how fast a year goes by.  It also reminds me of how quickly children grow and learn.

Ly was able to spend time with my family—it was the first time they met.  Of course they loved Ly.  She is a kind, warm hearted and uniquely intelligent person.  I care about her very much, and feel that we have a mature, strong connection.

During our visit, I of course noticed that my Mom promptly cracked a beer at noon, and kept drinking until she went to bed.  It reminded me of when I drank.  An alcoholic will create a time in the day where they feel it is appropriate to start drinking, and as long as you stay within your designated drinking time-frame, then you don’t have a problem.

When I drank—my time-frame was weekdays, anytime after 3pm (I worked a lot from home then) and weekends, anytime after noon—but on football Sunday, I could start at 11am.  I would consistently drink a 12 pack and bottle of wine on Sunday’s, easy—sometimes more.  But hey, I stayed within my drinking time-frame, so that’s ok, right?  Craziness.

Ok, back to my mom.

I knew at some point during the trip home, I would have to address, or mention my concerns about her drinking routine.  She has high blood pressure, borderline high blood sugar and has gained a substantial amount of weight—and she will turn 60 this year, so it’s my responsibility as a son to be honest regarding my concerns.

The day I was leaving, my mom cracked her usual noon beer.  It was just her and I in the room, so I seized the opportunity to bring up my concerns.

“Mom, as your son I feel it’s my responsibility to say what I am going to say right now.  I am saying this because I am concerned about your health, and I want you on this earth for as long as possible.  I noticed that every day you drink a lot of beer, and I am concerned that this could negatively impact your health.  I have been sober for almost 2.5 years now—and the last thing I want to do is pass judgment.  But as your son, I need you to know that for whatever reason you drink, if you learned to deal with that sober, you wouldn’t regret that decision.  A year from now you would be healthier, happier and more energetic.  I love you mom.”

I of course paraphrased, based on my recollection of our discussion.  But my mom didn’t say anything—she just looked at me with tears in her eyes, and said “ok, I know.”

I concluded by letting her know that she is an adult, and I respect anyway that she wants to live her life—and again, I felt it was my responsibility to let it be known how I felt.

I know that my mom drinks to deal with her sadness, specific to my older sister–a bi-polar, heroin-addict  living in total squalor in north Philadelphia.  A week before my family and I returned to Philadelphia, my older sister once again over-dosed and was placed in a treatment facility.  She escaped death one more time, miraculously— only to up and leave the treatment facility to go back to her junkie husband in their dirty hole in the wall in north Philly.

My mom and dad have been clinging onto false hope—thinking my sister will get better.  I keep telling them it’s a lost cause.  Ever since my sister reached the age of 13, she was into drugs and any other destructive activity she could find.

Addiction runs in my family.  That is how we deal with negative feelings and emotions…we suppress them by pouring loads of alcohol on them—and those suppressed feelings continue to be contained, and leak out in the form of anxiety and depression.  Not me, not anymore.  I chose to break that cycle.

If my mom is upset with me for expressing how I feel, I can’t help that.  At 35 years old, I’m not going to sit back and not address the elephant in the room.  I feel good knowing that I left my mother with something to think about.

Either continue drinking and end up with Type II Diabetes in a few years—or stop—and be around longer for everyone that loves you so much.  To do nothing, and enable her like my father does, buying 4 or more 30 packs a week is something I refuse to do.

The trip home, overall, was wonderful.  However, I left feeling a bit helpless.  I can’t fix my sister, I can’t make it all better—I can’t force my mom to recognize she is an alcoholic, and I can’t blame her for my struggle with alcoholism.  I can just love her deeply and hope for the best—pray for her recovery.

I am grateful that 2.5 years ago I decided to remove alcohol from my life—but I realize that it’s going to be a life long journey.  I don’t want another loved one to leave me—or Lila to have the discussion I had with my mom a few weeks ago.

Do it for your kids, do it for your health–and never forget, that to be successful, you have to do it for yourself.