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Simon Los Angelessimon

I never took pictures of myself before, because I didn't like who I was. I didn't want to look at myself. But this is who I am.

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I was born in Azmara, Eritrea, and raised in Sudan. Because of a civil war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, my first couple of years of life were spent in a refugee camp in Sudan. My first language was Arabic. I moved to the United States when I was young, but I went back to Eritrea when I was 21. I got married there. First girlfriend, first wife. But I wasn’t ready for a real relationship; I hadn’t even developed one with myself yet. So it didn’t work out.

I was diagnosed HIV-positive on December 31st, 2008, when I was 29. I stayed sober 14 months after that, but I was in denial, so eventually I went back to using. I became homeless for six months.

I got tired of using, and I knew that if I were to attempt to be sober again, the first thing I would have to acknowledge is my HIV status. So coming into recovery this time, that’s the first thing I did. I’m in positive support groups, I see therapists, I go to positive Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. It’s still hard. But I can’t do it on my own; I know that.

I don’t know how I pulled myself out. They say it’s a power greater than me, and I believe that. I want to try to find what God is for me, to have this power I could talk to. If God is talking to me, he does it through film. I just watch a lot of movies and think about God. That’s it. And smoke cigarettes! It’s coffee, cigarettes, movies, God.

Even if I never did drugs, I had issues with self-sabotage and self-esteem. When I was on the streets, I was having sex without protection, not caring about myself, just being generally unaware of what was going on around me. Recovery for me is about me regaining myself and my will to live.

How am I dealing with my past? Just one day at a time. Whatever comes up, I deal with it as it comes. I refuse to dwell on negative things that have happened to me, or feel guilty about the things that I’ve done to people. If I do that I’ll end up right back where I started. Whenever my head goes out of whack and guilt starts coming on, I try to help other people, and when I do that I feel better. And another day passes.

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