My New Outlook on Life

I was born in Laredo, Texas on July 15, 1978. Coming from a border town, it wasn’t out of the ordinary to begin drinking at a very young age and have my parents sign off on it. By my senior year in high school, however, I was a full-fledged cocaine addict and alcoholic. I survived a cocaine overdose while at my 18th birthday party. My first attempt at sobriety came shortly after a brutal sexual assault in Mexico. I moved to San Antonio in an attempt to leave my past behind me but didn’t realize I was still in the picture. Within weeks of being in San Antonio I was back to drinking and doing cocaine. While spending 8 years in SA, my drug use spiraled out of control. I was diagnosed with HIV on April, 19 2001 as a result of my drug fueled promiscuity. I was sexually assaulted again while in search of cocaine. I was devastated. And while trying to pacify the fear and the pain of having been diagnosed and my life becoming completely unmanageable, I shot cocaine intravenously for the first time. Shortly after, I tried crystal meth since the cocaine and the K and the X and the heroin and the pills and the opium and the pot weren’t enough. Crystal finally disconnected me entirely from my feelings. To me it was a solution; unfortunately it consumed me. I continued using through 2005. I had a career in the medical field by now and was dispensing medication to long term care patients. Any opportunity I had I was stealing narcotics from patients that had “expired” or were too sedated to notice. I had hit a new low. I had no real friends and my dignity and moral compass were paralyzed. After a 5 day bender around the holidays, I finally contacted a treatment facility in Fredericksburg, Texas and was placed on their waiting list. After barely surviving the new year, I contacted them again desperately pleading for them to expedite my admission and on January 6, 2006 I was admitted to the detox portion of treatment at Serenity House in Abilene, Texas. After 5 excruciatingly sobering days, I was transferred to the inpatient program in Fredericksburg. There I jumped right into the program. It was easy as I had been completely defeated by this disease. I was discharged on February 9 and went home to Laredo. I quickly realized that staying sober there was going to prove challenging as it was my one of my old stomping grounds. My best friend who I had shared a colorful past with in San Antonio had reached out to me post treatment and was raving about the sober community in Austin. Without much thought I packed my bags and moved. I quickly embraced 4 Points as my home group. I was diligent and desperate to get my life back on track but life on life’s terms was preparing to execute an emotional curveball. In the spring of 2009 after accruing 3 years of continuous sobriety, three very dear friends of mine all of whom I’d used with, committed suicide within a month and a half time frame. By the fall I had thoroughly convinced myself that I couldn’t possibly be an addict or an alcoholic since I hadn’t ended up like them. By August I had made a conscious decision to relinquish my sobriety. After 5 months and two failed suicide attempts I crawled back into the rooms of recovery on January 8, 2010. I haven’t had a drink or a drug since. In recovery I have regained relationships with my family, I have made lifelong friends and even changed my career. I have been given an opportunity to give back to the community that so selflessly saved my life through many facets of service work, from sponsorship to chairing meetings to be able to travel the country and attending conferences and expanding my sober network. I am currently the chair of the Austin Roundup, the only LGBT recovery conference in Austin. I am an active member of CMA turning point as well as Lambda South but I’m grateful that ANY recovery group is home. I’ve been able to lend my talents as a 22 year drag performer to numerous sober functions as I feel it’s important to prove that sobriety can be fun. I have four sponsees and I try to say yes to as many service commitments as my newfound life can accommodate. I’ve found the courage to change my life for the better. Self-seeking has slipped away. My whole attitude and outlook on life has changed. My feelings of uselessness and self-pity have disappeared. I’m familiar with a new freedom and a new happiness. I see clearly now how my experience can benefit others. I do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it. I’ve come to realize that my higher power is doing for me what I could not do for myself. I wake up every day with an immense amount of gratitude and because of that, I keep coming back.

The Sky is the Limit

Before I share a little bit about my story I want to say how grateful I am for all the life experiences, good and bad, that I’ve lived through because it’s made me who I am and brought me to where I am today and thanks to a program of recovery, I can see that it’s been a part of God’s plan all along. I was born in Fairfax, Virginia 25 years ago, and I am the middle child of 3. I quickly was moved to Syracuse, New York with my older brother to stay with my grandparents. My younger sister stayed with my parents because my dad was addicted to crack and my mom was struggling to make ends meet financially for us 3. It was the best option at the time. I lived in a middle-class neighborhood in a suburb of Syracuse, and our home on the outside looked to be doing okay. I didn’t go without food or clothing for the majority of my childhood and was able to do the things that made me happy, but from the start I had always felt like an outcast; different from the rest of the kids growing up. I came out of the closet as a gay man at age 13 but my grandparents, I think, had always had an idea. I was physically and mentally abused by my grandpa for about 13 years of my life because that household was a very bigoted environment. He was very against my dad being with a woman of color and me being gay. Child protective services made frequent visits to our home. My dad would get clean for a little while, him and my mom would come together to try and get custody back, but he could never stay clean long enough to get us out of the house. And as I tell you this, I don’t want anyone to think that this is the reason I’m an alcoholic or a drug addict. I’m simply an alcoholic/drug addict because the minute drugs and alcohol touched my lips I fell in love with the affect produced and quickly made them my solution for my feeling of not belonging and not being able to cope with life. Seeing my dad addicted to drug, I swore to myself I would never be him and from a young age, I threw myself into performing arts. I grew up in theatre and started taking dance classes at the age of 10. Singing and dancing brought me so much joy and was my escape from the hurt of my parents not being in my life and the abuse going on in my home. Around age 13 or 14 I started going to parties and shortly after started experimenting with weed and alcohol and quickly fell in love. By age 16, I was selling drugs and prostituting myself when I needed the money, but things then came to a screeching halt, and at age 17 went to treatment for the first time. I was in treatment for 4 months and within 2 weeks of me getting out, I was getting drunk and high, this time much harder than ever before. This went on for 7 more years. After being raped twice while prostituting and burning everything to the ground with my friends, my family, and financially, I reached out for help. When I tell you God had shown up for me in more ways than I can imagine, it is no exaggeration. My friend’s parents then set me up to come to Austin and go through a 3 month program. It was there that I found myself. I worked through all the pain and misery and I stirred up over the years. Took a hard look at myself and searched for spirituality. My life today is bigger than I ever could’ve imagined. I have friends and family that I would do anything for. I have a life now that I’m proud of and my spirit is light. A job that I love and a home to go back to which is more than I ever asked for. God has truly done for me what I was incapable of doing myself. When I got on that plane to Austin I just didn’t want to hurt anymore and with some willingness and action it was all possible. Any one is capable of this life. I’m someone who never wanted or thought being sober was in the cards for me but with an open mind and some hope the sky has been the limit.

I am Beautiful

Growing up, I lived on a beautiful Caribbean island and I didn’t have a care in the world. My house was on the beach, my family was wealthy and life was simple and easy at that point. That all changed when I was 11 years old, when my grandparents took full responsibility of me and we moved to Italy. My mom was in and out of my life, and my dad wasn’t around. Growing up, I was always very much into sports- tennis, swimming, dance. When I was 14 years old, my mother really wanted me to be a model. We didn’t have much of a relationship, and my mom was very abusive to me. When she was in my life, it was impossible for me to gain her approval. As a young teenager, I tried to do anything I could to be viewed in a positive light to her. As an athlete, I always put muscle on very fast. She would tell me that I was ‘fat’, when in reality I was just a healthy athlete. To please my mom, I entered beauty pageants, and modeled. Of course, as an impressionable teen, I was extremely affected by my mom telling me I was fat. I eventually developed an eating disorder and starved myself. I started playing volleyball when I was 15, and got professionally signed when I was 17. Throughout this time, my eating disorder and bulimia was still severe until I was 24. When I was 23 I met my now husband, and was able to talk about my issues. I began to slowly get better, and really looked at the consequences if I continued. At the end of the day, it was a personal decision to stop. For 12 years I struggled with my eating disorder and I was done. I have had one slip since, but it has been over 2 years since I have had any episodes. I have found more comfort in my body, and I feel I have reached a state of self-love, I have never had before. I’ve finally realized that I am beautiful, even if my mom didn’t think so. Today, I have the support of my husband and my friends. I use my experience to help girls who are struggling with the same things I did. I believe my struggles have shaped me into the relentlessly driven and confident woman I am today.