Through The Eyes of Chad

My journey living with HIV, Addiction, Loss and Hope

2020, Death, COVID, Gratitude, New Beginnings, Friendships

As 2020 comes to an end, and as I wake up today on the 3rd anniversary of my mom’s death, I want to take a moment to reflect on the year.

Each year dealing with my mom’s death changes a bit. I miss her more than ever and there isn’t a day that goes by that I wouldn’t love to pick up the phone and talk with her. Hear her voice, hear her swear words, hear all the things that made her uniquely her. But at last, the physical sounds of her voice are not in the realm of possibility. That doesn’t mean I don’t talk to her. Because I very much do. I don’t know if there is life after death, or even if that matters. What I do know is that my mom lives on inside me. So as I think about today, which the previous two years were inherently sad, today I find solace and peace knowing that I love her, that her memory is me, and that she is with me no matter if its in physical form or not.

There has been so much change, sorrow, pain, loss, and overall despair this year. With a global pandemic engulfing the world, changing the way we live our day to day lives, it could be easy to get lost in the darkness. But with darkness comes opportunities to grow as a person, to see light in people and places we didn’t know existed. Day in and day out I have the opportunity to work with front line health workers, who literally risk their lives. I am humbled to see the adaptability and willingness to change everything they do, to ensure our communities are a bit safer. I myself have been able to work along side some of the most heroic people I have ever encountered. My work has always been a source of growth, learning, and provides me opportunities to become a better human. The immense amount of gratitude I have for those who have helped me to become a better human is without parallel.

Not many know, but 2019 was a very rough year for me. Around this time last year I made a series of bad choices that lead me to a brief return to addiction. I won’t go into details, because honestly they don’t matter, but what I will share is I found myself in the darkness and for an albeit brief moment found myself looking in the mirror at a ghost I had long thought gone. It made me sick! It still makes me sick. I felt immense shame, disgust, sorrow and fear. I am fortunate to have a large proverbial toolbox and knew what to do to lock that door again. I am grateful for those in recovery that helped me through this dark chapter. I didn’t share this with many people because, well I felt shame. Beyond that I don’t need or want people to worry about me. What I tell you today is that I am doing well, I have kept that door closed this year and while, I hear the knocking especially around this time of year, I lock a few more locks each time. I have a choice each day to make a different decision and just for today, I am living in the moment, listening to myself, and doing my best to remain present.

New Beginnings – This year has brought about many things to be grateful for first and foremost Alejandro. The universe brought us together this year, during a time when I had really thought I was going to roll solo. You are one of the kindest, sweetest, loving, and most stubborn people I have ever met. Its been a whirlwind. Thank you for being my penguin. There are some who know this and some who don’t. It’s not personal that I didn’t share it at the time. Alejandro and I made the decision this fall that we were going to dive in head first. With my mom’s birthday approaching, we decided that we were going to get married. We did it on my mom’s birthday this year, It was magical. I know my mom would be happy for me and I am hopeful she was there along side of me. COVID really made it impossible to share this moment with nearly anyone. I am hopeful we will be able to do something with people late in 2021.

This year has been politically polarized. We have seen so much hate. We have also seen a rise up for basic human rights. We have seen unending murder of our trans sisters, especially those who are black and brown. We have seen so much ugliness at a time when love could solve so much. Sometimes love isn’t possible though. Sometimes we have to rise up and fight for what we believe in. I myself as a person born cisgendered male and white can only control what I do, what my narrative is, and how my actions either hold up, elevate or oppress. I choose to elevate. I choose to love. I choose to walk beside my black and brown brothers and sisters, to learn from them, to give them the platform and work along side them. I choose to support all peoples right to religion including my muslim brothers and sisters, I choose to believe that nobody is illegal. I choose to believe that just because someone may not look like me, be my gender, love who I love, that we all should be afforded the same human rights. I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I have made mistakes. For a good part of my life I didn’t even understand how the system has been built to oppress, how my being a part of the system was oppressive. But, once I started to understand, I made the choice to learn, to grow, to take my platform and support others. Life for so many isn’t and hasn’t been easy. I have experienced hate and stigma first hand. But I refuse to be part of the problem.

Logan – I am grateful for you. You are a beautiful soul! You have been there for me during the past few years in a way that nobody has, or could have been. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. You are my cousin, my friend and often times feel like you could have been my son. Yes we have like a few decades between our age and that may seem weird to people. But to me you are my friend. You are my family. I know that this past year has been rough for you. I love how you are channeling that darkness into new beginnings, new projects, new inspirations. You are so talented. I am so excited for your future. Remember I got you, when it feels like its too much, you aren’t in this alone. Thank you for being my friend.

Daniel & Andie

You two are pure light. The beauty of your souls inspire me. You are true friends. This past year I have loved being silly with you, loved camping, loved just generally having you in my life. There are not many people I trust, that I can and want to be vulnerable with you, but you two I can be myself always. Good bad and in between. Thank you!