What a year 2020 has been! That’s an expression we’ve all probably heard —and even said— at one time or another during these past ten months; I know I have. This year started out just like any other, with things like setting goals, getting to work on our new year resolutions and of course repeating the good old, “This will be the best year ever!”
I’m sure that if anyone would have told us a year ago that three months into 2020 we would have had a world pandemic that would have affected our work life, home life, social life and our overall mental health, we would have labeled that person as crazy, because there is no way that sort of massive disruption could happen in this day and age. Boy, were we the crazy ones to think that any of that wasn’t possible.
I remember being in New York with my wife on Valentine’s weekend, celebrating and having the time of our lives and, two weeks later, we were living a worldwide pandemic that would change the world.
I’m sure 2020 will go down in history as the year of “fill-in-the-blank,” because there are so many words that you can attach to the end of that sentence that I’ll leave it up to you to pick one that best describes it for you. In all likelihood, many will agree with whatever description you chose to complete that sentence. Some families have been severely affected by hardship this year, and I feel sorry for those who have had COVID or have lost a relative or a friend to this crazy virus. And even though luckily my family and I have been very blessed not to have been directly affected by COVID, something made me stop this year. Well, on second thought, it was actually someone.
That someone is always with me, someone with whom I have a constant connection. And this year, there were two specific instances when that someone spoke to me just like the times my father used to speak to me whenever there was something powerful to discuss. I’m talking about those moments in life that one tends to never forget, moments that each time you think back, your memory makes you say, “Wow, that changed my life!” They are spoken words full of meaning that to this day you still continue to reflect on, and will probably continue to for the rest of your life.
That someone who spoke to me those two times happens to be my best friend, my brother, my father and my confidant. He is the one I go to for everything, in good times and in bad times, in moments of gratitude and in moments of trouble. That Someone is God, my Papa, along with the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Let me give you a window into those two times Papa spoke to me. The first one happened a week before the Super Bowl this past January, the 26th, to be exact. My family and I were getting food ready prior to the start of the game. My wife and our four kids were home and, just like any Sunday, I was in the kitchen cooking and almost done preparing dinner. I took a bite of a piece of bread and suddenly started to cough while trying to swallow it. I remember coughing really hard, and the next thing I remember is getting up from the floor, asking what had happened. I knew that I hadn’t choked because I was coughing the entire time before I collapsed to the floor. I believe that, because I was coughing so hard, I must have cut off the oxygen going to my head and passed out. Although this episode lasted for a few seconds, to my family it must have seemed an eternity. Their call to 911 was cancelled once I was up and said I felt fine, but in the midst of it all, I felt a nudge from a friend, telling me, “hey, man! You’re heading down a bad road! Your family loves you very much and they don’t want to see anything happening to you.” This would be the first of my two core-shaking moments of 2020 and a message from Papa.
The other one was in March, when rumors were swirling about lockdowns and martial law going into effect. Up to this point, I was doing well, as things at home were great, work was fantastic and things were generally moving along. And even though I was still reflecting on that January 26th, those rumors made me go into pure panic mode, not knowing what to do or how I was going to stay calm and present.
So I went to look for my safety blanket, my pacifier and my silo. I went for the bottle. At that point I had abandoned all rationale and found myself in a place where I didn’t need to be.
Yet, here comes Papa, once again, to have a talk with me, to give me a bigger nudge.
You see, when Papa talks to me, I become aware that He is actually talking. He speaks to me in my language. He speaks to me through others, people like my wife, my kids and my community at Hope4Life. If you are waiting for an audible voice from Him directly, well, keep waiting, because you will never hear it. Remember, we can’t see Him, we can’t touch Him, but we can reach out to Him and we can feel Him in our hearts. He talks to me through nature, through an animal, a tree, or through a breeze that rustles its leaves on a calm balmy night, when I ask him to give me a sign that my mom, who just passed away, is with Him and will be okay. You see, Papa wants to have a dialog with me —and you, too— always. We just need to search for him. He’s there, waiting.
Back to March and the craziness that started and propelled us to where we are today. On the first Saturday after the first Zoom class at Hope4Life, Papa started to speak to me through my wife. He then continued to speak through each of my kids, each one coming into my bedroom individually, but all telling me for the first time how they truly felt about my drinking at home. They spoke to me in a way they had never done before. That Saturday, gone was their fear of repercussion from me, their fear of my blow ups and rage episodes I’ve had for so many years. You see, I have no doubt Papa had been preparing me for this day for about three years. He had been softening my heart during this time, so that I could hear His words through those I love the most and who mean the world to me. This was my second meeting with papa and the one that really reached my core and made me take an inventory of my life.
Papa made me take a look at my life from the perspective of what I had done to get me to this point.
More importantly, though, I had to decide where I wanted to go from this moment forward.
This was a pivoting moment in my life. I had worked so hard to build what I had built up to that moment alongside my wife, from our relationship to our family, our home and much more. Was this all there was for me? Was this virus going to take me? Was I going to see mom and dad soon? These were things going through my mind at the time. Was this thing I had been battling going to beat me? At 53, it was time to put out or check out.
Well, as I said earlier, these two moments will be added to the list of ones that will stay with me forever and that I will reflect on for the rest of my life, each time giving me more and more clarity of who I am as a son of Papa, a husband, a father and a man. You see, not only did Papa speak to me through my wife and kids on that day, but His true message came to me in my reflection of that day. It was a message to me and to many other men out there who suffer from the same burden that I carry and have chosen not to deal with because it is too painful and decide instead to bury it deep and reach out to our safety blanket to help us not think. For me, that safety blanket was booze. What is it for you?
Until we give to Him that pain, our deeply rooted shame will beat us down to our core. Papa’s message to me was this:
“Ramiro my son, I LOVE YOU!! You mean everything to me, and I want you to live the life I’ve set out for you to have. You do not yet know the potential that you have. You do not realize how strong of a man you truly are, and I do not mean physically. You are full of passion! You have always fought and will continue to fight for what is right. And I want you to fight for you! I want you to believe in yourself! Right now, I believe in you more than you do, because in your life you have never been given the affirmations needed for you to believe in yourself. You have been a great son to me, as well as to your earthly mother and father. You are a great husband as well as father. You are a great provider to your family. You are a man I am very proud of. It is for this reason I now want you to fight for you. You and you alone are the one that will win this battle, but I will be there with you every step of the way, guiding you and helping you. Remember, I give you free will to do whatever you want to. And I am also there to help you clean things up and make things right when you need me. What do you want to do from here?"
That day in March was that day that set all of this in motion. As I sit here and write these words a few days before closing this chapter of my life I have titled 2020, I can say that this has been a great year for me, a year of change, a year where something, Someone made me Stop. I’m not sure if Papa used COVID as the opportunity to make the positive changes He’s made in my life. Only he knows. What, then, will it take for you to listen to Papa when He speaks to you?