how do you beat alcoholism

This isn’t a flattering story to share; it’s actually quite embarrassing, but here it goes.

Until the middle of last week, I always thought that I drank a lot in college. My sophomore year I lived in an apartment that threw two parties every weekend, for example. The place got destroyed. Even then, I never had to question, how do you beat alcoholism?

Drinking in College

We (by we I mean a particular friend of mine) kicked the thermostat off the wall twice (you know who you are!). We broke a few doors, blasted 20-odd holes in the wall, snapped the hinges on the fridge, changed the color of the carpet from soy-latte brown to black-coffee black, used one closet to hide the empty beer cans which eventually became a breeding ground for tiny flying somethings, and on Homecoming morning a kegs-and-eggs pre-game party became an excuse to have an egg fight. The yellow stains never left the wall.

Did I mention the place got destroyed?

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Our apartment at the end of my sophomore year. JK, but seriously probably close to this.

Our end of the year bill was just shy of $1,200 for repairs. Yikes. We were drunkards.

Or so I thought.

Getting smashed a few times a week in college isn’t uncommon. Not throwing any shade on anyone who does that, because I did that. That’s not alcoholism, even though we should take the concept of binge drinking very seriously and it’s not something to joke with.

That being said, I thought I was an alcoholic in college.

But, I was wrong.

I wasn’t depending on alcohol daily, I wasn’t using it to battle my stress. I was using it to not be such an awkward dork in a group of outgoing cool kids. Oh, well.

Drinking for Stress Relief

Last week, however, I realized that I had crossed over a line, and I Googled a question: how do you beat alcoholism?

I’ve been living in Hong Kong since September, and I could have told you before I moved here that living in Hong Kong is stressful for me (I’ve lived here before). But I’m not living here for me, I’m living here for my daughter. For those of who aren’t aware, she’s half-Chinese, and her Chinese family is from Hong Kong. So, she’s here to learn their language and get to know her loving Chinese family.

Unfortunately for me, that means I’m also living in an environment that stresses me out every day. Don’t get me wrong, Hong Kong isn’t necessarily an awful city to live in, it’s because I spent my entire life living in the woods. I grew up surrounded by trees, fresh air, and falling asleep to the sound of crickets and frogs outside my window, then waking up to deer or turkeys waddling through my backyard. When you drive down the road where I grew up, you generally wave at everyone you pass by.

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Auburn enjoying where I grew up: my mom’s property in Michigan.

Hong Kong is nothing like that, it’s a big city with a big city environment. There are tall buildings, cars and buses honking, people shoving past each other on the street and throwing their litter on the ground, sirens blaring, helicopters chopping the air, rats dashing between alleyways, upside-down cockroaches on the sidewalks, and shops and people making a general nuisance for a mind like mine that developed on the sound of leaves in the wind.

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Hong Kong, in a beautiful nutshell

Even now, as I write this post, someone is hammering away in a nearby room in my apartment building, and I want nothing more than to beat them to death with that hammer.

But I’m not a murderer. I’m stressed out.

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How I handled stress in Hong Kong

How Alcoholism Begins

How have I been handling my stress the past two months? With alcohol.

It started off with a beer at lunch to get me through the day, maybe another beer with dinner to help me relax before I put my daughter to sleep.

Then it became a beer with lunch, one with dinner, and another afterward to put my mind at ease from the city life.

Then, slowly, it built up.

On Thursday last week, I drank 2.5 liters of 5.0% ABV beer over the course of the day. Not partying, not enjoying it with anyone. Just doing my writing at home, drinking, all day.

I woke up on Friday and asked myself, why the fuck am I drinking so much? But, I knew the answer, it’s the stress of the city. However, it’s no excuse. So I decided I needed to quit drinking. I needed to ask another question, how do you beat alcoholism?

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How we should all regulate our stress. Namaste, motherfucker.

Why? I know the long-term effects that alcohol can have on your brain and body. I could tell I put on some weight over the past two months. And I just don’t want to drink that much. I knew I was using it as a crutch, and I don’t even like drinking that much anymore, so I was just generally grossed out with myself.

How do You Beat Alcoholism?

Firstly, you Google it and find a method that works for you Continue reading “The Drunken Dad: How I Beat Alocholism in 3 Shitty Days”

How Traveling as a Single Parent Kills Your Children

I felt it coming, but I didn’t know what it was. My stomach was cramping, my head was spinning, I could feel my blood pressure dropping, and my only thoughts were of my sleeping 3-year-old and how she would wake up to her daddy dead on the floor then she would die a week later of starvation.

Thankfully, I did not die. Or did I? And I’m writing this from the grave, you decide.

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Me, happy to not die

Questioning the Idea of Single Parent Travel

Bad dad jokes aside, food poisoning is no laughing matter. In fact, it made me seriously reconsider my efforts in single parent travel. Why? Well, what if I did die? What would happen to my daughter? What would her memory and experience be? When you think you’re dying from food poisoning, these thoughts burst into your head and rip apart your moral foundation, convince you that you are a fool, and shred your sense of self-worth.



For me, the poisoning came full-force as I stumbled into the bathroom of our bungalow. Cautioning my readers here: it’s about to get graphic. Without aim, purpose, or an ability to control any bodily function, I painted the wall, floor, and wash bucket with vomit. I literally had no idea my body could hold that much inside of it. At this point, I was sure I was dying, and it happened, again and again, throughout the night. Seriously, how does my stomach hold that much fluid in it? I’m not sure, it was nasty you guys, for real.

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The bungalow I nearly died in

Before this, I’d had food poisoning before, twice, in fact. But this was serious. What had it been? Auburn and I had eaten the same food, but she didn’t get sick thankfully. There’s only one food it could have been: street food in Thailand, specifically, grilled chicken and pork. I can’t remember who ate what, exactly, but Auburn and I definitely ate together and shared our food. Thankfully, I ate the bad part and suffered the consequences. She slept through the night.

Every time my body convulsed and ejected another round of fluids, I can remember thinking, ‘this is how I die, and Auburn will wake up to find her Daddy dead in a pile of his own puke, what a fucking mistake this was.’

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Somebody who loves Thailand: Auburn!

Surviving the Qualms

As with any negative horrible experience, you gotta push through, just like I did. I spent the whole night convulsing, the next day in shambles, and far too much time pondering the mistake I had made moving to Thailand alone with my daughter, but it was all worth it.

Yeah, cliché right? I don’t want to ever catch food poisoning again, but if it means that my daughter will get to see the world and grow up outside of any bubble that society can place her in, then that’s a life lived right and a parenthood I can be proud of.

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A great reason to live in Thailand, the people! They’re super nice. This lady stopped her bike just to smile at Auburn 😀

I would recommend single parent travel, or duo-parent travel for that matter, to anyone who has children. You’re going to suffer along the way, yes, but you’re going to suffer no matter where you are, it’s just a point of choosing your suffering. I choose food poisoning over a 9-5, the loneliness of living outside of the USA over the comforts of it that make me fat and stupid, and I choose for my daughter to see the world over any desire I have to fit in with anyone else.

I have my best friend seeing the world with me, bring on the pain!


Traveling with children makes children as wise as it makes the parents strong; wisen-up the kids, strengthen yourself.

 

Good Parenting and How to Shut Up About It

Everyone who is not a parent assumes that everyone who is a parent sucks at it. Everyone who is a parent doesn’t give a f*ck about what other people think. I’m in the latter group. Other people’s opinions are irrelevant. That is, except for one: my daughter’s.

The most important thing I can distinguish that makes me a good parent? I know how to shut the f*ck up. Blah, blah, blah I hear people say to their kids, including myself. The best thing I’ve learned, however, is how to cease the blah, blah, blahs.

“Don’t do [this or that].” “Be careful.” “Quiet!” I’m not sure how many times I repeated these futile remarks until I realized one day: they are all a waste of time. Now? I don’t want to waste my time, nor pretend like talking a lesson is going to teach my daughter anything.

Certainly, it didn’t stop her from dropping the wooden swing on her own head.

A Story of a Falling Child, Good parenting Idea #1

The other day, after I’ve warned her many times, “be careful,” she was not being careful. Auburn climbed into a circular monkey bar set, selected the highest pole and decided to hang from it. I knew what was coming, her grip would hold for maybe 10 seconds, and she was going to fall. Before I learned to shut the f*ck up, I would’ve rushed to her, possibly scolded her, and warned her again and again as she repeated this dangerous move.

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Let them smash their fingers, they’re tough!

So what’s my key to good parenting in this situation? Now that I’ve adapted my ‘shut up,’ approach. I watched and waited in anticipation as she was about to fall. Her fingers slowly slipped once, then twice, then her grip gave out. Down, down, down she fell. Feet, then butt, then her whole body, kerplunk! She looked up, searching for me, saw me watching and waited for my reaction: a neutral face. She smiled, laughed, and climbed again. “You okay?” I asked. “Yup!” She shouted back.

The moral? What a waste of time warning her (or worrying about her) again would’ve been, you know, ‘good parenting.’ She’s tough, she proves it over and over again, she doesn’t need my warnings, spoken lessons, nor vocalized concerns. If she had broken a bone, scraped up her face, or twisted an ankle, I would’ve immediately taken her to the appropriate facilities, of course. But instead she learned a lesson, “I can fall and get back up.”

A Story of Breaking Bedtime Routines

Another quick example of learning to shut up as a parent: last night before bed. We usually lie down, I’ll read her 3-5 books depending on how tired I am, and she’ll usually be asleep by the time I’m done reading them, or at least close enough to sleep I can give her a goodnight kiss and exit the room quietly.

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Sleeping, with her underwear on her head. Champion.

Last night, however, we were watching a movie during dinner, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and it was almost finished by the time it was bedtime, but not quite. She requested demanded that she be allowed to finish the movie. So, I gave her a choice: watch the movie before bed, or have your bedtime stories read to you. She chose the movie, which meant no stories (Lion Lessons, The Snowy Day, The First Strawberries (Picture Puffins)) from me.

So we watched until it was over, then she wanted to watch the credits and listen to the song, so we did. Then it was bedtime. “Stories?” She asked. “No,” I said, “you chose the movie.” She replied, “I’ll read them to my animals.” I gave her a goodnight kiss and left her room.

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Auburn playing Minecraft before bed, because I don’t always expect her to read books, no, just 95% of the time.

From my room, I could hear her reading repeating the stories I’ve read to her over and over again. Her stumbles, her stutters, her reading one of the Spanish books is especially hilarious because her speaking ability in Spanish is quite poor, it was all very touching and I just laid in bed listening to her from the other room. When she was done, she asked for two more minutes of snuggles, which I allowed, and she slept as well as she’s ever slept. Which, if you’ve been following our story, her sleep schedule has been one of the most difficult parts of my experience.

The moral of this one? Just because it might not be what’s considered ideal, break the conventional wisdom your own rules, shut the f*ck up, and let your child explore themselves and their routines on their own once in a while. You’ll be happier and calmer like I am. And my daughter’s opinion (the only one that matters)?

Well, not to brag, but, she says she wants to marry me one day.

Do you think allowing children to occasionally break their bedtime routine is okay? Let me know in the comments!

I’ve failed repeatedly, disappointed family, pissed off and lost best friends, broken the law, stolen, cheated, lied, and hurt people who didn’t deserve it. I’ve murdered innocent animals, propagated torture, condoned the killing of humans, threatened, punched, cussed at, and made fun of other people. I’m a huge loser and probably always will be, not even seeking forgiveness.

Quit judging fool!

If you’re already looking down on me, you might as well be looking in a mirror. If you haven’t done the awful things I’ve done, or similarly awful things, then you must be Jesus or Mohammed or the Dalai Lama or whatever other person who you think is the holiest of the holy.

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Not a picture of you, so you’re a loser

But you aren’t, so guess what, you’re a loser, too.


At least that’s what society would make us believe, if you aren’t a winner, you’re a loser. I grew up in the golden era of the American feel-goodery machine. “You’re special.” “You can be anything you want to be.” “I’ll love you no matter what.” “Here’s a trophy for showing up.” I literally got a trophy in the 7th grade for being the basketball team’s ‘Assist Leader’ for the season and was super proud of it. Forget the crazy number of turnovers, the low shooting percentage, and average assists per game being less than 3. I deserved a trophy damnit and I got one! And I’m not sharing it!

Trash Trophies and Other Places Self-validation Should Go

Fast forward a pair of decades and that trophy is likely buried underneath a mound of other people’s garbage they didn’t want, or simply no longer needed. Not only was that trophy a waste of physical product, its wastefulness extended to its intrinsic value. Sure, it made me feel good at the time. But it also made me think I was good at basketball. So, a big smack in the face came when the 8th grade team cut me and I had to resort to wrestling for a season, which I would eventually quit because, well, wrestling sucks. And quitting made me feel like a loser, which I was, even before that.

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You’re the best at being the best, what to go, you amazing, best person

Before I was 14, I had already committed at least half of the transgressions I confessed at the beginning of this post. Now that I’m 30, I realize it doesn’t matter. Mostly because we are all losers, but also because we can’t escape being losers. Sure, we can do these things personally that make us more of a loser, but we’re trapped in a system that demands we be losers. You don’t want to condone murder and torture of innocent humans? Too bad, you pay your taxes that are used to bomb civilians. Don’t want to lie, cheat, or steal? Better not become part of any American system of wealth building, because that’s the only way to grow. Your making money always comes at the expense of another, or at the growth of something worse than yourself. Don’t want to be responsible for the extinction of species, or the crushing of humans under unsecure buildings? Better not buy any new clothes, ever. Every major brand in the US employs people to work for a penance with tactics that damage the environment. You’re a loser, maybe you just didn’t know it.

Just Figuring Out You’re a Loser? Erm, this is awkward.

You didn’t know it because the American system constantly tells you to feel good about yourself. “Forget about the mass extinction event we’re undergoing and buy more stuff!” Your monstrous carbon footprint due solely to your lifestyle of using American transportation, eating an American diet, and consuming American media is destroying the world. You can’t avoid it, sorry. You’re a loser, just like me.

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Nope, you’re still a loser.

This is partly why I find it so important to take my daughter traveling around the world, and no, it’s not because it’s inherently healthier for the planet (it’s not, airplane travel is a killer, too). It’s to relatively shield her from the outlandish and image-obsessed culture of the USA, but also to show her that there are different ways to live and that people across the world actually exist, not just Americans and their worldly desires and ignorance of people around the world. So, if you’re one of the Brian Williams types (look how beautiful our bombs are!), remember that bombs killing people is terrorism. You can’t beat terrorists with terrorism. I digress.

We’re all losers, hooray!

Back to it: I’m a loser, you’re a loser, let’s all scream for being losers. But traveling helps. It teaches you to be comfortable with ignorance, impatience, discomfort, and different. It helps you notice that the shoes you wear aren’t nearly as important as the words you say. That the $300 or $3,000 watch on your wrist might tell you the time, but it doesn’t tell you the story of the child who put it together in Bangladesh for mere pennies. Your clothes might accurately represent who you want to be as a person, but they don’t post the number of river habitats that were destroyed making that shirt on the tag. But the dye by-product has to go somewhere, and if it’s a bird’s nesting grounds, or a crocodile’s favorite hunting spot, they’re going to ingest it. So guess what? Your shirt? Makes you a loser. Your watch? Makes you a loser. Your taxes? Makes you a murderer and a torturer. Now you might say, ‘that’s not fair my taxes also go to blablabla…’ That’s true. But if a man had a $1000 and he gave half of it to subsidize the death of a random person, and the other half to save a random person. Is he a good person? Or is he still, like all of us, a loser?

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My daughters playing with some underprivileged children in Ho Tram, Vietnam

Traveling helps me teach my daughter what is important. Our food choices, how we interact with people, the environment and we treat it, these are just some of them. And I don’t have time for that in the States. I’m too busy working 2-3 jobs, spending an hour at least commuting, then buying fast food or eating something upsetting because I don’t have to time to take life seriously. It’s buy, buy, buy, earn, earn, earn, then die, die, die. I don’t mean to make you feel bad for being as much of a loser as me. It actually feels good to know it and let it out. Doing so helps me remember that my choices matter. So join me, fellow losers, travel, see things that change your perspective. It doesn’t matter who you voted for this time around, how much money you make, or how many people you can sleep with because you’re a Tinder master. What matters is what you leave behind.

But can we be winners?

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Oranges are for winners, however. They’re just so juicy and delicious. Sairee Beach, Thailand

What I hope to leave behind is an intelligent daughter who takes time to consider her actions, thinks holistically in her approach, and challenges the status quo. Because the status quo, like me, is a loser.

Two Healing Words

After a day of rain drumming on the bungalow’s tin roof, my 3-year-old would say two words that would help me in forgiving myself. The strength, the clarity, the confidence that she showed me through those two words helped me understand that the strongest amongst us are missing something when we punish ourselves for making mistakes. We focus on the wrong like it’s a stain on our only shirt, thinking everyone will see only that and judge us accordingly. My daughter’s two words help me realize something we all need to understand, ‘it’s okay.’ Failing isn’t nearly as important as what we do after we fail.

*You’ll see some affiliate links here, check out this link for a full-break down of what that means. Hint: my links cost you nothing!

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Auburn doesn’t care if she fails, the first time she did this the seat knocked her forehead

Why Do We hurt?

In today’s social media atmosphere where we are constantly bombarded with images of the exceptional, it’s easy to feel inferior. The companies who advertise on social media know I am a traveling Dad, so the advertisements I see are about top-notch parents who never fail, travelers who make five figures a month working just 2 hours a week, and images of people working on hilltops, swinging in a hammock, or (most unbelievably) working right on the beach! What a bunch of crap.

 

Even if everything I am seeing is real, those images are denoting the .01% of people who are actually involved in any of those activities. Every parent repeatedly fails, travelers travel because it’s cheaper than staying in one place, and digital nomads like myself work at a desk. Can you imagine having your computer out at the beach for 8 hours? If you can, then you should also imagine the next computer you’re going to need because the sand, water, light, and elements are going to destroy your gear.

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This is not a work place, Nang Yuan Island, Thailand

So It’s all BS?

Marketing is all BS. They show the outliers, the freaks-of-nature, the rare runes. When you see these outstanding people every day, all the time, how can you not compare yourself to them? Your average life, your average job, your average face. This isn’t crap you can easily change, so when you can’t be extraordinary, you feel like shit, because you’re just average, and you’re a failure. Mark Manson touches extensively on this in his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck.

Those Two Words

When my daughter stirred that night, at first just uncomfortable because her blanket was off her, I heard her whimper in the darkness. Once, then twice, a soft, third time. ‘What’s wrong honey?’ I asked her. Her little voice sniffled out, ‘I miss Mommy.’ I was instantly back to hating myself again, forgetting how hard I’m trying to love myself. My mind jumps to all my mistakes, what I’ve done to put Auburn in this position, a series of events leading up to her waking up and crying at 11 pm because she doesn’t have a ‘Mom.’

She crawls over to me and falls into my arm, I feel her tears drip onto the inside of my bicep. I squeeze her lightly, ‘I know sweetie, you got your Daddy here.’ A tear of mine drips unnoticed on her hair, ‘You’ve got lots of people who love you, Aubi,’ a few more whimpers from her. Her hand moves up across my neck, she stops crying, smiles, kisses me on the curve between my nose and cheek, ‘I know Daddy, it’s okay.’

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Sometimes she sleep with undies on her head

It’s Okay

You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to be the outlier, the extreme example, the super-parent, the model, or the charming one. Like Mark Manson says in his book, ‘What is objectively true about your situation is not as important as how your come to see the situation.’ I’m an average parent and person, I constantly fail. But my little girl looks at me with the strength of a General, smiles, and says ‘it’s okay.’ It’s okay to be normal, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to occasionally hate yourself for the things you’ve done. Failing, and feeling like a failure are a part of what makes us strong people.

If our minds couldn’t adapt to failure, we wouldn’t have evolved and spread across the world battling Smilodon, direwolves, and eating giant furry elephants. You think our ancestors had an easy time dealing with seeing their children shredded by a 400 pound cat? Or having dental work done with rocks? Or living only to the ripe old age of 36? No, we were all bred to be strong. Our strength runs in our DNA, that is our average. Our average is a lineage of survivors who failed all the time, and succeeded because of it. It’s okay to be average, to fail repeatedly, as long as you learn from it. That’s the best lesson our diseased and ill-fated ancestors can teach us. It’s okay to be human, to fail, and love yourself regardless. Sometimes it just takes a 3-year-old whispering it to you at night to understand that.

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3-year-olds know it will be okay

*You’ll see some affiliate links in here to the books I mention, I only link up to things I find truly valuable to the reader.

Single Dad Nomad

Accepting Responsibility To Set An Example For My Daughter

 

I had to read a few books, talk to several loved ones, and spend a few moments in a restaurant or coffee shop crying as I realized how awful my values were. Midway through a cappuccino, and typing this post, I had to remind myself again that I’m still working to improve  and forgive myself. Mark Manson talks about the layers you have to peel off in order to find your true values. It’s a lot harder than people think, and it’s a bit like picking at scabs. It hurts, you’ll bleed, but the relief of letting that wound breathe is all worth it in the end. Taking responsibility for my mistakes has been critical in getting me to reevaluate who I am as a person and parent.


It’s easy to pretend like we know what our true values are: be a good person, have good relationships, be charitable. But the ambiguity in such vaguely set values is a representation of our lack of true understanding of our value systems. I thought my value was ‘be a good person’, but if that was my true value, I wouldn’t have cheated. Instead, I realize my value was ‘protect your ego.’ What my value should have been was ‘treat people with respect.’

The difference in these values is astronomical. If I wanted to ‘be a good person’, I could have justified cheating because I could say to myself something like this: our relationship wasn’t working, it’s better that I do this now and just end it this way than continue to have all of us be unhappy. With the value system ‘be a good person’, I could’ve easily adjusted my thought process to protect that value and continue being a shitty person whose real value was ‘protect your ego.’
The important thing we can do with our value systems, I believe, is accepting responsibility for them. I could easily continue to delude myself into thinking I’m a good person when I actually possess a horrible set of values. That isn’t hard to do and it’s why so many of us are so good at it and probably don’t even realize it.

Think of it this way, is it easier to continue what you’ve been doing for 30 years, or admit you’ve been a piece of shit for three decades and take responsibility for your actions? Now you don’t have to come out publicly like this and possibly cause more problems for yourself down the road by confessing to any future mate that you previously cheated on your best friend.

But owning up to what I’ve done has helped me better understand who I am, who I want to be. As I walked down the beach yesterday, kicking rocks, and I looked up to see my daughter in front me, kicking shells, I wondered what kind of example I want to set for her.


Us Millennials are frequently described by the media as lazy, whiney, and entitled. I whole-heartedly disagree for a plethora of reasons. The one part I might agree with? We are entitled. But it’s not just Millennials, it’s generation X, Y, Z, the whole alphabet. Americans are entitled. I grew up in an America that encourages you to always be happy, always be outgoing and smiling and clean and friendly and be grateful that you get to grow up in the greatest country in the world!

Besides the annoying, nationalistic propaganda you cannot escape, what a bunch of crap it is to pretend like we should always be happy! If you spend your whole life pretending you’re happy and comparing your happiness to others’ in a consumer society, it becomes exceedingly simple to ignore your value system and rely on those vague, stock-photo values. If you can’t accept that sometimes life sucks, and that sometimes you are wrong because you are convinced you always have to be happy, then what chance do you have of asking yourself serious, introspective questions of what is driving your happiness and character?
We all write our own stories, as the narrator and main character. So, it becomes difficult to truly dissect our story. This is why taking responsibility is so important. I could have brushed off what I did and narrated my story in way that would’ve kept me from admitting I did a crappy thing. Instead, I’ve taken responsibility, and just by doing that I’ve been able to see that I put my ego before compassion and deeply hurt someone who I cared about greatly, something I am terribly ashamed of. But I’ve picked that scab, it’s bled a lot, and now it’s breathing. It’s healing. And if it scabs up again, the scab will be smaller, and easier to pick. I might end up scarring myself, but at the end of my life, I’d rather be covered by 30 deep scars than a 1,000 bleeding scabs.


Auburn is such a good person and little explorer. I’ve thought a lot to myself: how is she going to view me as a person? Would I be proud if she did the same things I’ve done? What will her value system look like due to the impression I leave? And these thoughts have terrified me. Maybe this is why people get more conservative as they grow up because we remember what we were like as kids, how many scabs we opened up, and we want to try to protect the next generation from those mistakes. However, I think this is a mistake in itself.

I find myself wondering, will my daughter be a better person if I act more conservatively and protect her from the liberalism of my upbringing? My answer is no. She will become who she will become, and the best thing I can do is show her how to take responsibility for that person. In this way, I think my scars can teach her more than my scabs. So here I am, picking at them, ripping back the dead flesh of my shitty values. Reading Mark Manson and taking time process myself helped me understand that I was giving too many f*cks about my own ego, and not enough about finding inner happiness through living by better values.
The critical thing here is that my values are going to wear off on my daughter. Not all of them, maybe not even half of them, but if any of them do, I want them to be the ones I respect about myself. So I’m taking responsibility for the awful things I’ve done, accepting that I haven’t always been the good person I lead myself to believe, and working to change that, which isn’t easy. My goal isn’t to have an easy life, or to constantly pretend I’m happy, it’s to set a good example for this laughing face right here, the one that finds happiness in a dead piece of wood.

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Pride, Fear, and Self-Admonishment

Let me be the first to say it: I fucked up. If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t be starting a blog called ‘The Single Dad Nomad’ and I wouldn’t be writing this from inside a ‘bathroom’ that has a toilet I have to manually flush with a bucket.
Living in this bathroom, there’s at least three different ant species: one ubiquitous, larger, black species that’s likely eating my bungalow from the inside-out, a smaller black species that seems to find dirty spots the most attractive, and a red species whose enforcers have an insidious looking set of pincers protruding from their faces. When I turn on the faucet, they burst out of the sink.
I think the geckos eat them, and there’s a lot of geckos in here. The big one is the size of my forearm.
thailand animals
Massive gecko in my bungalow.
The millipedes are longer than my fingers. The mosquitoes can easily fly through the unfettered gaps in the walls. The mirror looks like someone had once or twice set it on fire; I haven’t clearly seen my face in a month. The water never gets hot, the air never gets cold, and a week ago I spent 10 hours painting my bathroom with vomit as I battled a nasty case of Thai-Tummy. My sandals broke the first day I arrived on this island, and I’ve been barefoot now for 5 weeks. So yeah, it sometimes sucks here and the misery can be exhausting, but at least I choose this misery and that makes it a little more bearable. So why am I sitting in the bathroom? Because there’s nowhere more comfortable in this bungalow then on this tile step.

 

After destroying a few relationships in fantastic fashion, I found myself living in limbo, and pain, with no real direction to go in life. My self-entitled attitude had finally come back to bite me in the ass and my righteous sense of victimhood finally made me a victim, which makes me feel shitty about myself even more for thinking I’m again a victim.

This is what having shitty values does to you. You fuck up, then torch yourself for fucking up, then torch yourself for torching yourself, and so on and so on until you implode and decide to book one-way tickets for you and your daughter to the middle of the Gulf of Thailand.

Thus begins The Single Dad Nomad. I packed up a wheeled-backpack I got at Goodwill for $10 and off we strolled to the train station when I realized I forgot my daughter’s stroller. With no opportunity to return to retrieve it, I lugged my wheeled backpack, and a 3-year-old munchkin who thinks it’s funny to pretend burp in my face, through a 5-hour train ride, a 14-hour flight, a 5-hour flight, a 6-hour bus and a 2-hour boat ride. Things aren’t always peaches, but I’m the one who taught her to burp so that one is on me.

My daughter’s name is Auburn and I’ve hurt her in a way that I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to forgive myself, I forced away the woman she called ‘Mom.’ This wasn’t her ‘real’ Mom, but to Auburn, it was her Mom–a sweet girl I have known for over seven years and had previously dated–who came into Auburn’s life not long after I first got custody of her at 18-months-old. This girl eventually took on a massive role in Auburn’s life, and I forced her away last winter.

Auburn’s birth-mom and I separated right before Auburn turned 1, she was a breastfeed baby and stayed with her mom when we separated. I left Hong Kong and went back to the States and didn’t get to see Auburn for 6 months. I cried every day for the first 3. Then a little less thereafter, but I still missed her so much all the time. My body would have a physiological reaction to other kids crying, a boost of adrenaline that would overwhelm me with sadness. You can imagine how elated I was to get custody of her at 18-months! But can you imagine how unhappy Auburn was to be losing her mom and primary source of food?

She wouldn’t eat enough formula, so she couldn’t sleep, and her heavy bond with her birth-Mom at that point was a devastating loss for her emotionally, psychologically, and physically. She could only sleep on my chest, the same way she napped as a baby on the weekends when I didn’t have to work. Every single night she would wake up every hour to remind me how much she was hurting by crying relentlessly and screaming for her Mom in a language I couldn’t understand (hint: her birth-Mom had spoke to her in Cantonese for the last six months).

By the end of the first week, I was a zombie. After 3 months, a ghost. She was sleeping 2-3 hours at a time and crying for an hour or 2 in between at night. After 6 months, Auburn didn’t remember why she was hurting anymore, but she was still waking up crying every few hours, every night. The only thing that helped her sleep again was picking her up, pacing, and singing to her and rubbing her back. She was usually inconsolable for at least an hour, but different methods worked at different times. At first it was having to let her sleep in my chest and stomach. After a few months I could slowly roll her on to the bed, but dare not leave it. A few months later, I could creep out of the bed, but not every time. A few months after that, I could get her to sleep by reading her books and often sneak out of the bed without waking her, but she would eventually always wake up and cry. A few months later I could get her to sleep in her own bed, but she would still wake up 2-5 times a night crying. If you want to time travel, don’t sleep for awhile. Because when you wake up, it’s two years later.

Two years from getting custody and my sleep schedule is not the 9-10 hours I was getting in college, but the 4-10 hours I’m likely to get as a parent. Auburn rarely suffers night terrors which are difficult to deal with. She doesn’t always get to bed when she is supposed to, and she grinds her little teeth which worries me. But sometimes she giggles when she’s dreaming and my eyes get watery and I giggle right along with her.

Two years from getting custody and I’m finally starting a blog, alone in a sheet-metal bathroom, next to a sink that literally just drains right out the wall and into the nearest bush. Why? Partly because a part of me has always wanted to share Auburn’s story but I’ve been too afraid to. But mostly because my values were so trashed that I thought it was a better idea to cheat on my now-ex-girlfriend, rather than talk to her honestly about what was upsetting me. My pride became more important than my sense of dignity. I hurt her greatly, and I left my daughter without the female role-model who had been her Mom for the past year.

Now my daughter cries for her, she tells me how she misses her and talks about things she remembers doing with her. I say the only thing I can, ‘I miss her, too.’ I do my best to remind her it’s okay to miss people and that not every family has a Mommy and Daddy all the time and some have neither and some have two of each and some have probably more than that. It’s a truth about society that helps me keep her from thinking she is a victim. God forbid my trashed values wear off on her this young. So, I’m doing what I can now to reevaluate my values and improve my relationship with my daughter. She’s the most important thing to me and I want to raise her to be a strong and open-minded person.

Occasionally traveling outside of the United States is how I see best fit to do that. I’ve traveled with her before, but never solo. Removing myself from the judgment and social pressures of American values isn’t always easy. It forces me to live in a shitty bungalow, to have to dodge ants when I take a piss, watch where I walk so I don’t cut my bare feet on glass, and occasionally projectile vomit because I eat some rancid meat off some nose-picker’s charred BBQ grill.

It’s worth it because I’m getting more time than ever with my daughter. In just over a month we’ve become closer than ever, she misses her ‘Mommy’ less, and as a massive bonus, she’s been sleeping through the night regularly! Curious about how she does that here? Yes, we live in a shitty bungalow, with one bed, so yes, we co-sleep, and no, I don’t care what your opinion is on the subject, co-sleeping with my toddler is awesome. She’s snuggly and I love her to pieces and if she sleeps well then I’m good. And I know where to draw the line, I don’t let her use me as an all-night footrest, not always.