Past – My drinking career began in Junior High but if I go even deeper in my subconscious, it really started when I was a child. I can remember my dad coming home from a long day at work, and like a routine, he would shower, pour a four-beer-serving into his giant frosty mug, sit in his chair and watch TV. The smell of homemade food would fill the house as my mom was in the kitchen working up her magic. My dad, like a king on his thrown, kicked up his feet as he sipped his suds. Naturally, I, the little prince of the manor, would be positioned right beside him. He would put his arm around me and make me feel safe and loved and then quietly whisper, ”Mijo, wanna sip?”. Dad was my hero so of course my easily influenced child-brain wanted to partake in this passage of manhood. As he shifted the mug in my direction and tilted it to my tiny lips, he smiled and told me to hurry so mom doesn’t see. I can still feel the giant cold mug pressed against my face as the taste of freezer-burned glass and bitter barley traveled through my mouth and into my belly. My little underdeveloped frame instantly postured itself as a maverick would in the wilderness. Inflated by machismo and the acknowledgment of my father, I sat there thinking – this must be what love tastes like. These were the types of moments with my dad when my innocent imagination was catapulted into projections of alpha-male etiquette. You see, my dad was an alcoholic, my grandfather was an alcoholic and a large portion of my family didn’t know how to celebrate without a cold beverage in their hand. That’s not to say my whole family has a problem with addiction, but I am saying the regularity of bottles being around and the consumption of its contents being so normalized in my childhood experience would inevitably serve as the primer to me being susceptible to a battle that I didn’t even know I was signing up for.
From my early teens up until early adulthood, I never thought I had a problem. To be completely honest, I never even liked the taste of booze – but sure did love how it made me feel. It was exciting and fun. I liked being silly with my friends and if alcohol was around, that meant girls weren’t too far away. As a teenager who grew-up as the fat kid in school, drinking gave me a confidence and a veil of self-esteem that I could never acquire on my own. It was the mask that replaced the reflection in the mirror, the me that I was embarrassed of. It was the key that unlocked the hidden chamber within that allowed me to freely express my humor. It was my Kevlar vest that didn’t allow rejection to wound me. At that stage in my life, I didn’t just like drinking, I loved it. It was innocent and honest and wasn’t yet causing any negative impacts in my experiences.
Then somewhere things got squiggly. Drinking and having fun turned into belligerent blackouts and being obnoxious. Mornings of regret and shame and an uncertainty of who I even was the night prior. In hindsight, this is when my favorite pastime turned into a negative habit. I could no longer control myself once I started drinking. I became a Binge Drinker and never knew where the line of overconsumption was. I would drink fast and continuously until I was no longer consciously steering the ship. I knew things were really shifting and getting out of control for me when the girl I was dating at the time witnessed me in a state she didn’t recognize. We were at a party and I was loud, possessive, controlling and outright disrespectful in public (all antics that would continue to haunt me). She tried to express her worry because she loved me, but I still didn’t fully see that my sense of control was a false one. In my mind, it was absurd to think something so small and harmless such as a drink could be powerful enough to hypnotize me. – I was delusional.
Fast forward a few years and I moved to Hollywood. This is when my drinking got exacerbated by the sheer enabling that Hollywood gives you. It’s the land of the broken toys, the misfits, the lovable rogues that are all seeking validation through existential prizes and people. It’s where the facade outweighs the human behind the mask and where lies are more compelling than the truth – and I felt right at home. In this ten year long segment of my life, I was living like I was somebody. I created this whole new avatar for myself that was wild and had a presence. He was on his way to a level of success that he dreamed of. And because of this golden carrot that he was closely running behind, he felt entitled. Girls should love him for what he has (photography, superficial stuff, charm, charisma and an over-inflated sense of self). People should accept him and never abandon him because he has a valuable skillset and a manipulative way of exploiting their needs (narcissistic tendencies). He positioned himself so people needed him (codependency). – Behind it all, I was just a scared little boy who couldn’t bear being alone and didn’t believe he was worthy of being loved and feared being fully seen. My bed was always full but my heart was always empty and alcohol was no longer an occasional supplement, it was a necessary medication to numb me from the paralysis that I would experience when I was forced to spend time with all of my shame and inadequacies (dancing with my demons).
Looking back, I can see so clearly now that the only thing I ever wanted was to find a pathway to authentic self-love. A true, sincere, unconditional worthiness for myself that I could only find by going inward. It was such a trying time for me and I was on the precipice of life and death, and that is not a euphemism.
Present – I woke up four years ago today and decided I was done. I was tired of trying to be a better me while still having one foot anchored in my past. I no longer wished to be the vessel of chaos that gets uncorked within me once I take the first sip. It was time to make the shift from powerless, to powerful. It was time to recalibrate the measurement in which my character is gauged. It was time to become a new version of self, a self that chooses to be an expression of light and love and trusts that there’s an unseen omnipresent power waiting to help him transcend from victim to hero. – Here’s my journey (so far).
Year One – The first year was the toughest. I physically moved away from Hollywood and purged myself of all the people and possessions that once adorned my world. I had to completely detox my body, mind, heart and spirit of any interfering frequencies that could trigger a relapse – not just in my addiction, but also in my identity. I was so closely intertwined with the label ‘wild party guy’ that it became a part of my fabric. A badge of honor if you will. Not only did I live up to it, on most nights I surpassed it. This was the year of accepting my truth and trying to understand the operating system within in me. I had to get curious about my problem and explore why I am the way I am. I had to dismantle the mechanics and get to the root causes, this was the only way I could get started on formulating a solution. It was a very complex time for me because had to break myself down in order to build myself back up. In this fractured state I had no idea who I was and what I represent in the world. There was nothing and no one to root my identity in. I closed myself off which meant there were no friends or distractions, I was my only source of companionship. The discomfort in this process came from forced confinement with a stranger. It was just ‘me’ with me, yet I didn’t even know who the hell ‘me’ was.
Year Two – This was the year I became hyper inquisitive. I started questioning everything and trying to look past and beyond what was right in front of me. This lead to an opening inside of me that became the introduction to self, the authentic me that’s been dormant his whole life. This was an interesting time because the self-induced isolation started to become my state of solitude. The quiet wasn’t just a need, it was a necessity. I often refer to this as the ‘toddler stage’ of my journey. Everything in the world looked new and like I was seeing it for the first time. This is also when I took my first steps into running. Running was, and still is, one of the most expansive tools that I’ve ever stumbled upon. Learning to shift your physicality, break through invisible barriers and transcend thresholds is a way one can access a God state (runners high). You quickly realize the further you go, the higher your frequency ascends. There’s been runs where I feel directly connected to all – God, spirit and nature all working in unison with me and through me. It’s a remarkable experience and a feeling that I still don’t quite know how to properly articulate in words.
Year Three – This was the year of integrating my truth and authenticity into my identity. The year of congruency where my inside world matched my outside experience. This is where the magic really happened. I felt strong, powerful and acquired a new level of self-esteem that I’ve never experienced before. I become so sure of myself and my ability to make self-honoring decisions, which in turn made me feel fully safe and free to trust that gut feeling that we all have access to. For example, I finally got back out there and started dating and quickly discovered the intricacies in the process. There’s a sense of shame in the beginning when your date asks why you don’t drink (I found this to also bleed into friends and family). The more I trusted myself and leaned into my truth, the more comfortable I was to express and celebrate this new virtue. I felt powerful to be able to say “no” when my date would say “yes”. I no longer worried about being seen as that ‘awkward sober dude’ at the party (this was never even a reality, it was just story I concocted in my imagination). No longer believing that I deserved to be put on the discount rack of life, I fully invested in my decision to become the best version of myself and would not negotiate the price of my new worth. Whenever someone would make fun of me or belittle my choices and beliefs, I simply tallied it up as “they can’t afford me”. – My prayer is that everyone invests in finding this intrinsic commodity inside of themselves because the R.O.I is something that money can’t buy… compounding self-worth and internal freedom.
Year Four – Here we are, the year of alignment. This is the year that I fully turned my deficit into a superpower. My ability to stand firm in my belief and exploit my truth in the service of myself and others. I am proof that change is available and accessible if you’re ready for it. I’m my own Post-It note on the mirror, the reminder that everyday is a new opportunity for growth, and that I am worth it. This thing, this addiction, this proclivity to self-destruction is no longer my identity. I had to shape-shift this hole inside of me and turn it into an access point for love and compassion. A space for grace to carry me when I feel defeated. It took everything that I was to become everything that I am. And although I couldn’t see it at the time, I can see so clearly now that my journey was designed for me because something beyond me knew I was strong enough to make it to the other side.
In conclusion, I would not change any event that put me in the now. This present version of me is the dream version of me that I continue to tirelessly work on, mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. I no longer choose to suppress and numb myself from my internal world of feelings, emotions, traumas, flaws, inadequacies and so on. I decided to channel all of the energy it took for me to hide the internal me and express it in a way that illuminates my heart from the inside out. I had to remap the feeling of lack and turn it into one of abundance. I changed my story from “poor me” to “look how rich I am”, and I’m not taking about money. And to sum it all up, if someone was to ask me what changed when I decided to get sober, the answer is…. EVERYTHING.
Thank you God, thank you Universe and thank you ‘Me’ for loving me unconditionally and believing in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.