It's really happening this time, isn't it?

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My friend and I, two childless gay guys, packed into a huge meeting room at a Methodist church in Ypsilanti, Michigan, along with nearly two hundred others — mostly women, and presumably, mostly moms — for our first Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America meeting. I’d been looking forward to this meeting for two weeks, after searching for local Mom’s Demand chapters in the hours after hearing about the Parkland, Florida shooting. I needed to get off the sidelines. Tweeting my sadness and outrage no longer sufficed.

To be clear, I’m no fan of guns. My parents were shot to death when I was fourteen years old, and though it seems likely my aversion to firearms might have kicked in then, I think I was actually born with it. I don’t remember ever playing with toy guns or pretending to shoot people when I was a kid. I’ve never liked gunfights in movies, shoot-em-up video games, or had even the slightest interest in hunting. My good friend took me to a shooting range in my twenties to try his handgun, and I hated everything about the experience. Where he felt a sense of power and release in shooting his gun, I just felt confused and uncomfortable. So, yes, I come into the gun debate with bias, but with openness, too. I certainly don’t want to take everyone’s guns away.

I’ve been following Moms Demand Action—in an uncommitted sort of wayfor more than a year now on social media, sometimes liking and retweeting the messages of its founder, Shannon Watts. In the five years since its creation, the grass roots organization has made huge strides in its mission to end the epidemic of gun violence. I believe in the work they’re doing, and I’m grateful for the unrelenting passion and persistence with which they do it.

I’d been seeing, via Twitter posts and pictures, how much larger the meetings have gotten since Parkland. All across the country, monthly gatherings that typically attracted 20–30 members had grown into 200–300 person affairs. Our gathering was no different, and the excitement of the meeting’s leaders to see such a massive turnout kept me entertained and hopeful throughout the night. It feels like, at last, we have reached a tipping point around common sense gun legislation in this country. At last, thousands upon thousands of people, like me, have had it with their positions on the sidelines and are joining Moms Demand and other gun sense organizations to get to work creating change.

What struck me most about the meeting, however, wasn’t the energy for change, or the palpable “enough is enough” vibe in the room. I’d planned on that. It was the tone, from each of the leaders and speakers, that surprised me most. I expected fiery, anti-gun rhetoric, and instead listened to educated and respectful voices outline a “Be Smart” campaign that focused on responsible gun storage, suicide warning signs for teens, and talking to your children about guns, among other subjects. One of the meeting’s leaders took time to make the clear and important distinction between NRA members—the great majority of whom are responsible, law-abiding folks who also support common sense gun laws—and the NRA leadership, whose extremist policies have often contributed to, rather than deterred, more gun violence.

One of the speakers, a tactical expert, had been a proud member of the NRA for almost thirty years before discontinuing his membership after his close friend killed herself with a firearm. That marked the turning point for him to put his energies toward curbing gun violence rather than defending the gun lobby. He implored the crowd not to be judgmental and condescending when speaking with legislators and gun owners. “Share what’s in your heart,” he repeated a few times. And there was a lot of heart in that room—in the words and energy of each of the speakers, in the nervous excitement of all the first-timers, and in the several local politicians who showed up to make clear their support for common sense gun laws and to energize the crowd to stay active and make their voices heard.

This organization has been making itself heard for years now and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Indeed, things seem to be ramping up. With the mid-term elections coming, and with the Parkland students energizing the youth (and the country) to make noise for gun sense legislation, Moms Demand has instituted #ThrowThemOut, “an action plan to kick out lawmakers beholden to the gun lobby.” At last. I can’t tell if the tide has turned, but it’s most definitely turning, and I’m excited to be swimming in this sea of new possibility around firearm legislation.

On the Moms Demand website, the group states that it “supports the 2nd Amendment, but we believe common-sense solutions can help decrease the escalating epidemic of gun violence that kills too many of our children and loved ones every day. Whether the gun violence happens in urban Chicago, suburban Virginia, or rural Texas, we must act now on new and stronger gun laws and policies to protect our children.” I believe that’s an incredibly reasonable position to take.

Every single day, 96 Americans are shot and killed by guns. Ninety-six human beings. Every day. What a tragic and overwhelming and unnecessary reality. I’m hopeful, though, because every day, thousands of energized gun sense voters are joining the ranks of Moms Demand to ensure the number of gun deaths continues to decrease. It’s taken too long, for sure, and we’re still nowhere near where we need to be, but through the hard work of Moms Demand Action, I can foresee the end of the gun violence epidemic. At last. And I know I’m not alone.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by and powerless in the face of all the gun violence in our country, Text ACT to 64433 to join Moms Demand. Power lives in action.

And if you’re looking for some hope, give this short video a watch.

Addiction, recovery, forgiveness & love.

Friends,
I was interviewed for a wonderful podcast called HOME, which looks at the big questions in life through the lens of addiction recovery. My interview is up today.

I didn't realize it when we were recording the other night that today also happens to be the birthday of my brother Ricky, who died 21 years ago from a heroin overdose. He viewed his entire adult life through the lens of addiction, without much recovery.

It's easy to view alcohol and drug addicts, especially, as dirty or less than or somehow flawed. I used to feel that way about my brother. Now I'm clearer than ever there's no difference between any of us. Ricky was never less than me or anyone else. No one is less than or greater than anyone else. Our essence runs much deeper than our habits.

My brother succumbed to his addiction. It killed him before he could figure out a way to stay sober. To everyone out there in recovery, I applaud you. I applaud the brave choice you make, over and over each day, to live in your sobriety. You are all messengers of courage, of resilience, and of hope.

To everyone out there living in their addiction and considering recovery, I'd like to remind you that you have what it takes to become, and stay, sober. You are no less strong, no less courageous, no less anything than anyone else. You are a choice away from your sobriety. That choice is there for you right now. It is always there for you.

We're all working hard to make sense of this challenging task of being human. And we're all numbing and escaping our realities in different ways all the time. With drugs and alcohol, with TV and food, with social media and shopping. Everyone is addicted to something.

Let's continue to work hard at self-love and love of others. At compassion and kindness. At truth and forgiveness. Let's keep making choices that reflect our commitment to our happiness and well-being. Let's stay committed to creating for ourselves the kind of lives we won't feel the need to escape from. The kind of lives that have us naturally making healthier choices for ourselves and the world.

And through it all, let's stay connected to each other and remember that we are brothers and sisters. We are family.

I hope you'll give my interview a listen: http://bit.ly/1VDTvQV

Happy Birthday, Ricky, and BIG LOVE to you all.

A hole called the past.

Yesterday I fell into a hole called the past. It was dark and deep and filled with unchangeable realities. Some of which I knew well and hurt to remember. Some of which I didn't and will never know, their secret truths lost forever to the years. And that hurts too, the not knowing. I let the past swallow me yesterday. Through anxiety and tears and disbelief, I fought against what was, against what is. As we know, that fight never ends in victory.

Today I woke up in the hole again, but it's not the tarry quicksand it was a day ago. This hole has a solid base, with steps that lead out, to the present. These steps are built with acceptance. Ya see, there's no peace in fighting unchangeable things, and the past is as unchangeable as things come.

So I decided this morning to close my eyes and breathe deeply, so deeply, into the acceptance of my past for what it is, as it is. Without judgment, without the need to know all the specifics, without shame, without control. With each breath of acceptance, I climbed another step out of the hole. With each breath, I became lighter and less committed to my anger and confusion over events that will never change.

I fell into the warmth of acceptance, total acceptance. And the hole began to close up beneath me, lifting me as it did so, to solid ground. To quiet. To the present moment.

We can choose to fight against our past, and we'll always lose the fight. We can choose to ignore our past, but it will eventually make itself known. We can choose to live in our past, though we'll deny ourselves the many gifts of the present.

Or we can choose to accept our past, so completely, that no matter what happened to us in our lives, we are able to breathe into those realities with a newfound sense of peace, and with a deep understanding that it is a part of us without becoming us, and that every single thing we've experienced contributes to the great light we have to share with our world. Now.