Hello world, my name is ABE. I am a 24 year old gay Afro-Carribean man in Massachusetts. As I sit here at my desk on a humid Wednesday afternoon, I’m hesitant to delve so deeply into my story like this – but there’s a constant voice that sits in my head forever reminding me that if I don’t stand up and be brave and try to inspire other people that I’ll never be the person that I want to become.
I was born here in Worcester and moved almost immediately to the Dominican Republic when I was a few weeks old, where I lived up until I was about 5 . I still have vivid memories of my time on the island too. I’ll never forget the lizards that would stick to the windows at night when it rained, or what it would feel like to ride on my dad’s lap as we rode around town in his car: the wind coming in through the windows and the sound of classic rock pumping through the speakers. With that came a couple awful times too of course… There was one time that a door fell right off the hinges and right onto my head, giving me a lump so big I’ll never possibly be able to forget it. And then on my fourth birthday… my grandma made a fish stew and it gave me one of the worst allergic reactions of my life – my entire face swollen and I couldn’t see a single thing. It was a good life though. My mom was a teacher, my dad the editor of a newspaper who’s family worked in government. Then things started happening and people started moving away. My sister went to live with my grandma and uncle here in America and I was left with my mom and my dad back at home. Then me and my mom came to America and my dad was left behind.
At first things were okay, spending more time with my sister and being able to play with her toys was always fun (we all undressed a Ken doll or two in our childhoods – right boys?) and it gave me the early opportunity to cultivate my inner femininity, something I’ve come to really appreciate about myself now that I’ve had the chance to grow up and get to know myself better. But then my dad came and things started to spiral quickly. With him came an urgency to make sure that I grew up as masculine as possible. He would make sure that I wasn’t playing with my sister’s toys, or watching things that he didn’t think were acceptable for a boy to be watching. He would take me to get fast food everyday (on the weekends multiple times) and as a young boy trying to acclimate to a new country and a new language, not being able to connect with other kids as easily as I could have hoped I quickly began to rely on food as a way to treat my loneliness, getting addicted to the grease and the salt and the fats that no human should be eating on that consistent of a basis by any means.
By the time I was 11, I weighed 165 pounds. By the time I was 14, 310. Here is a collection of photos when I was morbidly obese.
It made me feel awful as I was growing up. Kids could be so mean. They’d make fun of me for my weight relentlessly. They’d make fun of me for my mannerisms and the way I walked. They’d tell me I smell.
But I continued going to school, and I never backed down when I thought anyone was being an asshole just because they wanted to be. As I got older I realized that I’d have to work harder because of the situation that I thought I had been cast in. Work hard to stay healthy, work hard to stay happy. I had always had a passion for music – played violin in 3rd grade, clarinet throughout middle school, taking the piano lessons my school gave us as part of our curriculum. And I did theater too. The Lion in The Wiz sophomore year, Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors the year after. When I was 15 I also began my weight loss journey, walking throughout my city during the summer, and starting a regimen with a personal trainer in the winter to work on the strength and endurance you need to go about losing weight naturally without any kind of surgical means. I managed to get down to 230 that year by the time that my senior year rolled around. I stayed there for a while, quitting my training program because I couldn’t afford it anymore, and then eventually going to college and starting a years’ long battle with alcohol and drug addiction – something that helped me get to my at-the-time weight low of 180 pounds in the most unhealthy and disgusting way possible.
(If there is any takeaway from this: don’t do drugs for weight loss – it works but it looks awful and its incredibly unhealthy and damaging for your body)
After some run-ins with law enforcement and more than a few horrible nights with other substance abusers I finally hit the lowest of my lows when it came to my mental health. I felt like I was going insane and like everything that going on in my life was meant to completely destroy me. I drank myself to sleep every night. I lived off of cocaine and cheap vodka. I lost my job. I lost my car insurance and couldn’t afford to reinstate it because of all of the speeding tickets and traffic violations that I had occurred during my days of “being wild and free”. In short – life was awful. But I kept fighting. And I quit cocaine. And I kept trying to dig myself out of the hole that I had dug myself into.
And I dug.
And eventually I dug myself to a restaurant. A well known chain restaurant. They’d run with 15 servers and we would all get 3 table sections and make absolutely no money. The customers were awful and the management at the top didn’t care about anything except for volume and sales for the day. But I worked. For almost nothing.
Now – just for a little more backstory – when I was 20 I bought myself a little $99 portable keyboard because I had started getting serious about my music and myself the year prior (and I am a strong proponent of constant practicing to hone any skills or talents you have in your arsenal.) I started writing piano arrangements to the little choruses and melodies I had come up with during my walks around the city and I kept on practicing them, sitting in my car coked out of my mind in a garage during a snow storm at 2 in the morning playing the same song over and over again till I could play and sing it at the same time.
The summer that I lost my car insurance I worked hard on my craft, learning more songs and expanding my knowledge of chord structure and progression in order to effectively write and craft the songs that I wanted to. It was a low time but I took it and I used it to cultivate my passion, something that’s always been a theme in my life. But with all of the drinking and smoking that I had been doing (and the fact that I had quit cocaine right before things hit the fan) I got myself back up to 220 pounds. And I know that that’s not a high weight at all, but when I thought about where I had just been, no matter how unhealthy it truly was, it was devastating and made me feel like I was just inching back to the 300 pounds I had been in my youth. I now know that that was just fear, and that my anxiety about my body is more rooted in childhood traumas and the ideals of perfection that society forces on everyone (especially back when I was younger, before the body acceptance that has been fighting to be more of a prevalent message was as strong as it is now). After eventually saving up the money to reinsure myself and get back on the road, I did what I told everyone at the chain restaurant I was going to do – I left and I went somewhere better. It was only because of my determination and my will to want to do better than I was that I was able to. And here was where my life changed forever.
I met the most beautiful people and experienced real love and camaraderie for the first time in my life. I felt like I was at home in a little restaurant in Framingham, working hard on growing as a human being to the fullest potential that I could, and learning to the live with the emotional highs and lows that came with being a functioning adult and functioning being. It was here that I stopped drinking, and that I committed to living a healthy life style. I had a coworker with aspirations to be a personal trainer who helped me find the motivation in myself to work on my body and my physical health in ways that have since helped me to discipline myself more effectively and actually make changes to my body that feel permanent: I’m down to a very healthy 160 pounds as I write this article (but I plan on bulking now that I’m lean). And several of my coworkers also shared my passion for creating music across different styles and mediums, allowing us all to feed off each other and learn more about the way that we each do things.
It was here that I wrote the best music of my life.
It was here that I learned to play the guitar.
It was here that I learned to produce my own music.
It was here that I found out how to take my passions and my fight for life and use it in a way to help myself and hopefully inspire other people to do the same thing.
We love hearing from our readers and sharing their words. Our regular contributing writers are just like all of you out there. We do not assign them what to write, they write what resonates with them. So when we received the above from ABE, we knew it would resonate with others. In talking with ABE this AM, he mentioned that, “It was a little nerve wracking to write out his story like that and with so much detail. It felt cathartic to let my thoughts pour out like that. I’ve never had words flow so strongly before.”
That’s when you know it’s real, it’s healthy, and it will help others for we are not alone in this world. We are individuals, but many of us follow the same path, have similar experiences, and we can learn from and be raised up by each other. Thanks again ABE.
For more on ABE, head over to his Instagram @abrahammm_