Beck Cerón, on self-taught survival, addiction, sobriety and identity.
(Publication Date: 10.18.22)
Overview: In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, host Adam Williams talks with Beck Cerón.
There has been an intensity to Beck’s life. Adam and Beck talk about survival and the self-taught, self-reliant, hands-on kind of energy that his life has demanded from him. They talk about a sliding-doors moment in Beck’s youth and about addiction. They also touch on his sobriety, which has come during a nearly 10-year career as a distiller of whiskey, gin and so on.
Beck and Adam also got into another incredibly important and huge topic of identity. And in Beck’s case, the likely correlation of his identity and his addictions, and ultimately his getting clean and sober and loving who he is.
SHOW NOTES, LINKS, CREDITS & TRANSCRIPT
The We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing, and is supported by the Colorado Public Health & Environment: Office of Health Disparities.
Along with being distributed on popular podcast listening platforms (e.g. Spotify, Apple), Looking Upstream is broadcast weekly at 1 p.m. on Tuesdays, on KHEN 106.9 community radio in Salida, Colo., and can be listened to on-demand via khen.org.
Connect with Beck Cerón
Instagram for Beck’s mocktail bartending business, A.F. N.A. Drinks by Rock Bottom: @sober.salida.bar
We Are Chaffee
Looking Upstream Host & Photographer: Adam Williams
Looking Upstream Engineer & Producer: Jon Pray
Producer & We Are Chaffee Community Advocacy Coordinator: Lisa Martin
We Are Chaffee Graphic and Web Design: Heather Gorby
Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment: Andrea Carlstrom
Director of Chaffee Housing Authority: Becky Gray
Note: Transcripts are produced using a transcription service.
Although it is largely accurate, minor errors inevitably exist.
[Intro music, guitar instrumental]
Adam Williams (00:08): Welcome to We Are Chaffee, Looking Upstream, a human forward conversational podcast based in Chaffee County in Colorado. I'm your host, Adam Williams.
Today, I'm talking with Beck Cerón. Beck has a layered story, one with a lot of angles and curves. He's one of those people that you could easily dig into a conversation with for well more than the 50 something minutes that we do here. I'm betting that in the pieces of his story that we do get into, you'll find something to laugh along with, think about, and connect with. Connection is the key here.
That's what we're aiming for with this Looking Upstream podcast. We're connecting to personal stories and perspectives to engage with our community on a more intimate and vulnerable, and sometimes even raw level. The idea is that the more that we see each other as real and thinking and feeling people as fellow humans, the more and better we can build our community up and bring it together. Underlying these stories are what are called upstream health factors. Hence, the name of the podcast looking upstream.
(01:06): These are things related to housing and living conditions, social imbalances and barriers, and many related policies and systems that keep things out of balance. It's about how those upstream factors lead to downstream consequences on social behaviors and health, and ultimately, the connectedness and wellbeing, or not, of all of us together as a community. Again, today's guest is Beck Cerón. There has been an intensity to Beck's life, and we talked about the sliding doors moment in Beck's life that keeps replaying in my mind.
(01:36): If you're unfamiliar with the term, sliding doors are those pivotal moments when a seemingly inconsequential event alters the course of one's future. In this case, it ends up being critical to Beck's wellbeing, and quite seriously, even his existence. Beck and I talked about survival and the self-taught, self reliant, hands on energy that his life has demanded of him. We also talk about addiction, and we touch on his sobriety, which has come during a nearly 10 year career as a distiller of whiskey, gin, and so on. As time slipped away in our conversation, we got into another incredibly important and huge topic of identity.
(02:14): In Beck's case, it's likely the correlation of his identity and his addictions, and ultimately, his getting clean and sober and loving who he is. That's all deserving of another hour, I think. Honestly, I'll tell you right now that I do hope to have a second conversation on this podcast with Beck so that we can make space for that conversation, but that's getting ahead of myself right now. Today's conversation with Beck is the place to start, and so here we are. Here we go. My conversation with Beck Cerón. Beck, welcome to Looking Upstream. Thanks for being here.
Beck Cerón (02:53): Thank you.
Adam Williams (02:55): I'm really interested in the shaping factors, environments, the life things, because we all have that, and I think that starts back at childhood. Where did you grow up? Who was around you? What was setting that scene and vibe in the way that you were perceiving the world?
Beck Cerón (03:14): Well, my family and I, we were really close. I was born in Northern California and then despite that I was mostly raised in Southern California. A couple hours or three hours from LA, a little town called Tehachapi, California. A lot of people know it to be the land of the big wind mills in Cali, wind farm town. But growing up, I would just go to school and come home and hang out with my siblings, really. I've been fairly introverted my whole life, I guess. I'm very extroverted now. But yeah, so I'm a twin also.
(03:53): I have an older brother and a little sister. We're about three years apart except for my twin and I, of course. She's 12 minutes smarter than I am, but yeah, so I just hung out with them and we always had a smaller house. Having six people in one home is a pretty busy home. But yeah, I don't know. That's just where it all began. I had my cousins nearby. I would hang out with them quite a bit. But yeah, it was definitely mostly family oriented.
Adam Williams (04:32): I was always jealous of the kids in school who had cousins nearby. I have two older brothers, but they're several years older. I had that thing where I have siblings, but I also, by the time I was 12, was the only one at home. I'm a little bit of an only child, no cousins to almost be a brother or sister or something. You had told me before we were recording that you had grown up where you say in SoCal, that was in the Mojave Desert.
Beck Cerón (05:01): Yeah, it was close by. Like, Mojave Desert, and then you're over a hill, you're headed towards Bakersfield, so it's northeast of the Mohave Mojave Desert. There's just a hill separating our small town from the desert portion, I guess. Because of that, they used to call it the land of the four seasons because at night it would get really cold in the desert. Then, you have the hills where the upward wind would go over the hills and then it would create a dense fog in the mornings. Then, of course, by the afternoon, like say in the winter time, it would even snow sometimes in the morning.
(05:39): Then, come noon it would be super hot and then it would be just ... It was always windy too. It was a nice little town. It's still a nice little town, I take it. I think they have a Walmart by now. I'm not sure. My grandmother stays there still. But yeah, no, it's cool. I played outside a lot. I ran track and yeah, it's cool. Honestly, having my siblings near me all the time was really nice. They're like my best friends. Having my twin, she lives here in Salida. We've always just stayed close. She's definitely really close to me in my heart, and same with my other siblings. Don't get jealous if you're hearing this.
Adam Williams (06:28): When I think about environment, like I said, how environment shapes. Well, if you live in the mountains, it's one thing. If you're living near a desert, that's another. If you're in the urban environment. I don't know what it is, there's something that really intrigues me about how these things come to shape how we see the world and how we live. Because maybe you got a city kid now, you got a farm kid, whatever it is, right? I'm thinking desert, that's maybe an exceptional area. I'm wondering if that had any particular influence other than what sounds like the really cool weather changes of the day you just described.
Beck Cerón (07:07): I am outdoorsy. I've always enjoyed that part of it. But honestly, so when it comes to the people, growing up in Tehachapi, we were pretty close to Lancaster, Bakersfield, you're not too far away from Palmdale, and then eventually LA.
Adam Williams (07:25): You got Vegas in the other direction, right?
Beck Cerón (07:28): Yeah, a couple hours just that way. Yeah, we're in the middle of all these big places. It's also home to a really intense state prison in Kern County, where a lot of the kids' parents would either work at or even if ... There's even situations where there was kids' parents even in as an inmate in there. I think despite it being a smaller town, there was a lot of urban vibes, people of all wakes in life, just everyone was there. I don't recall it being forward in any direction specifically, whether it be a country folk or et cetera. The minorities were definitely there. I think we might have been a part of that minority.
(08:16): My father had a pretty good job, of course, but we were Latino-American. Four kids in a house, it's hard to keep up with that, regardless, I think. I'd say my upbringing was a little tough, but we were there for each other. We loved each other. Me and my siblings always had each other's backs and we kept each other fed and all that stuff. Yeah, so, I like to think my past definitely has shape shifted me into being a malleable presence in any kind of situation. Whether that be in a city environment or a country environment. Being able to speak with anyone and connect with them. I'm able to do that, I like to think.
Adam Williams (09:06): When you say tough, what do you mean? When there was tough during your childhood, are we talking about having to scrap with kids at school? Are we saying, "Oh, it was hard to make a living." What do you mean by tough?
Beck Cerón (09:17): Well, I'd say there was enough food on the table for us, for sure. There might not have been a hundred percent of a, what's it called? Let's see. A positive family dynamic of ... My parents would argue and stuff. They had their issues and there was quite a bit of tension, and that happens. I've come a long way since then. Us kids have come a long way. My parents have come a long way. But yeah, raising a family in that kind of situation where you're struggling with your spouse or with the pressures of having multiple kids. I'm not quite sure what the source may be, but it was definitely intense and there's really no denying that.
(10:18): I could try and sugarcoat it as best as I can, but it really wasn't the sweetest deal in some situations. But when I look back at the good times, I really focus in on those good times. Yeah, I have really good fond memories of certain things that my parents did with me or with us, or if they took us to Disneyland, or did all these things. It's really nice. Or, even the most random memories, my mom cooking a certain meal and I just have it embedded in my memory core and I can make it, I could replicate it or whatever.
(10:54): But yeah, there's also plenty situations without ... There's no denying that there's plenty of situations that I had been through or have seen my siblings gone through, whereas I know not to do that with my kids raising them. It's intense.
Adam Williams (11:13): You ended up leaving home at a fairly young age, didn't you?
Beck Cerón (11:17): Well, yeah, I went from one parent to the next. I don't know.
Adam Williams (11:22): They had split up at that point? Because what you had told me before was that, essentially ran away from home, but really what it meant was leaving the home where you were and heading out to a new state.
Beck Cerón (11:37): Yes.
Adam Williams (11:38): Tell me what was going on then. What led to that? Did that mean leaving your siblings who you were close with, leaving them behind?
Beck Cerón (11:44): Yeah, that's something I went through for sure. I can elaborate on that a little bit. My mother had found her way to Colorado a couple years before I left California to Colorado. In that timeframe, we weren't really connected. I had zero connection with her, actually. I'm not sure if that was my choice or not, but there was this weird incident and I think I can elaborate a little bit on it. But my little sister had actually broken her clavicle and my father was in Bakersfield at the time. I was staying with my aunt, we were all hanging out.
(12:28): We had to take her to the hospital. I'm not sure if this is all a hundred percent or if this is something my aunt had planned out or what, but I'll just tell you what I know. We take her to the hospital and I can't get ahold of my dad with our cell phones back in the day. The doctor comes up to me and says, "Well, I need full consent from one of your parents." He hands me a phone and my aunt must have had my mother's number or something. My mother's on the phone and I hadn't talked to her in years, so I'm already panicking.
(13:06): I'm like, "Yup, they need consent from you to work on my little sister and then all that." They're like, "Okay." I'm like, "Can I actually keep talking to her on the phone?" They're like, "Yeah, here you go." I go out into the parking lot and within a five minute period her partner at the time was booking me a flight to come out to Colorado that next morning. I was freaking out because I had just turned 13 years old and I think I was 13 at the time, 12 or 13. The particular situation that I was in, I definitely could not tell my siblings, mostly of being in fear of not being able to go.
(13:53): Because that's definitely what would've happened. Just because I was in that situation, that's how I determined that choice. It was a really hard one to make because I wanted to bring everyone with me, or at least tell someone, but I could not afford to not go. My wellbeing on this, being here physically on this planet, could not afford to not go. If that tells you anything. It's intense, I know it's super intense, but that's what happened. The next morning I got my favorite CD in my pocket and I had my hoodie and I went to school. I even said bye to my sister.
(14:34): I just said I loved her and she knew, she looked at me, she knew something was up. That's my twin sister. She knows everything. Then, my aunt picked me up and drove me to Anaheim. Yeah, so I got on a plane to Anaheim because I had parental consent from one side in Colorado. My aunt was able to drop me off and I rode first class there and got dropped off. That's when I called my dad and told him I took off to Colorado.
Adam Williams (15:04): Was he mad?
Beck Cerón (15:05): Oh, yeah. I would be, if I were him. I would be, if my kid left like that. I'd be like, "What the hell? He was definitely livid."
Adam Williams (15:15): Your sister gets hurt, that ends up precipitating this moment where you talk to your mom and you haven't for years and then the next morning, the next morning you're just out?
Beck Cerón (15:27): I'm with her. I'm with her, yeah.
Adam Williams (15:28): I'm trying to process this and think through. Well, had she not had this broken clavicle, had there not been this moment, where might things have gone then? Because you're clearly saying something intense was happening in your life where you felt like your wellbeing was ... you just weren't feeling well about it.
Beck Cerón (15:43): No, and it was a situation. Now, it's been so long since then and it's a trip to even, first off, even talk about it publicly like this. I've shared it with a few close people. But yeah, it's a story that I forget that is intense, and I just don't see it like that I guess. I've come a long way. Yeah, I don't know. Now, I'm really close with all of my family members, parents included. I think it goes without saying that we know what was happening and what happened. Of course, we always wish things were different, but now we're all really close friends.
(16:23): I call my dad every night, I bug him all the time. He always answers. That's why I call him. I text everyone and all that. I try to call everybody. I don't know if that's because I'm sober and bored, but I like to talk. I'm definitely more introverted or extroverted now than I was as a kid. But yeah, just growing up in Cali, sure there was a lot of diversity. But I think it goes without saying that my upbringing also might have been an additional factor as to why I'm super malleable with speaking with all people and building a connection with random people off the street right off the bat type of thing.
Adam Williams (17:12): When you went to Colorado and you're with your mom, how long did you stay with her? Did you end up going back to California?
Beck Cerón (17:12): No.
Adam Williams (17:17): How did that play out going forward?
Beck Cerón (17:20): I stayed in Colorado. I was still a kid, so I went into school right away. You're going from one situation to a next depending on the style of parenting and livelihood, et cetera. She had her things going on too and it was a separate situation. I still, in a sense, became very independent growing up and she's very independent herself, we all are, because of our upbringing. I think that's just our style, I guess. But yeah, there was a time when I got myself into alternative high school or just trying to figure out what I was going to do in certain situations to go to bed.
Adam Williams (18:13): How did school go? I assume because the school year is the majority of the calendar year, I'm guessing that this, odds are, this happened during the school year. You're suddenly in another state with a parent you haven't talked with. Now, you're suddenly in a new school. You're talking about wellbeing, but wow, that's got to be stressful.
Beck Cerón (18:31): It was, and this also goes without saying, I don't know how to sugarcoat this, but there was a lot of times where I could not go to school every day and I should have been in school every day. There was a lot of surviving to be had and that's just something I can't deny, but I had a lot of good times. My mother is the most loving, wonderful human being, best chef, love her. I think about her all the time. Yeah, I wouldn't have it in any other way, of course, now. But it was a tough upbringing and it's not her fault.
(19:11): She had her own stuff happening to her that was unfortunate. She could easily be here expressing to you what happened to her that made parenting maybe more difficult at times. But regardless, she was always able to get some food on the table for us no matter what, give us really good life advice. School, as it should be, wasn't the priority and it didn't affect me in a bad way like it could have for other kids I guess. I wasn't in school every day, if you can't tell based on my grammar skills. I'm just kidding. But I don't know, it was just a life of building. I was self taught.
(19:57): I self taught myself a lot of things, and just life skills, street smarts, more of that stuff. I think it's become very useful in my life as an adult. But yeah, algebra and I don't get along. That's just the downside of not being able to go to school every day, I guess. I grew up fast, for sure, but would I want that for my kid? No, I want her to stay in school. I want her to have that experience with kids her age.
Adam Williams (20:32): Were you getting into trouble?
Beck Cerón (20:34): No. You know what? I actually was a really good kid, but I was smoking pot and I had been my whole life. It's like when you hear of a kid smoking weed, you think, "Oh, degenerate or lazy or whatever." All this stuff. I wasn't any of that. I kept it to myself, really. If I had weed I probably was trying to keep it, and so I had it. But I really wanted to excel. I really wanted to be liked, I wanted to be smart. Yeah, I had my outlets, I would smoke. I didn't really drink that much. I didn't care about drinking until recently, later in my adult life.
Adam Williams (21:19): I think you've talked before about getting into even harder drugs though than weed, right?
Beck Cerón (21:24): Oh, yeah.
Adam Williams (21:25): There's a path there with some things. This is part of what I guess I also, if you're open to sharing, I know that part of your story is addiction, and so why don't we go ahead and take the step in that direction?
Beck Cerón (21:39): Let's do it. Yeah.
Adam Williams (21:40): At what age did some of these things start? It sounds like you were a teenager starting with smoking weed. When did other things come into the picture? How did that develop?
Beck Cerón (21:46): Well, me trying to figure out which friend I could stay the night at, which house. Basically, I really liked going to my friend's houses because they were really cool. If any of my friends are listening to this, I really liked hanging out with you. I also really liked the food you had. Other kids' parents were super nice and welcoming and having me over. Like a teacher's pet, I was a parent's pet. They always really liked me and I couldn't believe some of my friends when they would yell at their parents too, I'd be like, "Oh, shit."
(22:17): But anyway, so yeah, they had good food and stuff. In this interim of staying the night at friend's houses and whatnot, my mother was going through a really hard time, maybe a bad breakup or something. I think I hurt my leg or I was having some leg pain and stuff. My mother has a really terrible back, she's got the worst back problems on the planet, and I feel bad for her because it's really shape shifted her life. She was very sports oriented when she was younger. Anyways, long story short, she had pain pills in the house and I found them and I got access to them and I would steal them.
(23:02): I started taking them because my leg was hurting and immediately I was hooked. I took it once and I was like, "This is the best feeling ever." It's terrible. For the next six months I could say this next six months was history, but it was really intense. I did not intend for those six months to happen, but I really blamed the pills because I became someone I am not or wasn't then even either. As soon as I got off of them I was back to being me, like how I was expressing to you earlier how I am, but I became someone else. I started taking all these pills.
(23:41): I started selling some of the pills so I can get some more food in the house, et cetera. I did terrible things, things I don't know if I'll mention a hundred percent, but stealing from parties. We would go to this rich area, like this part of town, and I would just go up into the bathroom and steal pills from the bathroom. Any way I could get more pills, I was in it. I do that. I've learned now why I'm a hundred percent sober because I have no off button. I learned that at a young age. I was 15 years old when this happened. I made friends with people I don't even know anymore because I just knew them in the drug sense, et cetera.
(24:30): Then, one day I just stopped. I've been known to just stop cold Turkey by myself. I don't know. I have that built in me and I'm lucky for that. But one day I was just like, "Okay, I got to stop." I just went home and even my mom knew, my siblings knew. They were like, "Oh, Beck's here for more than three days. Something's up." Yeah, I went home and I just laid in bed for two weeks. I got sick with everything, strep throat, a cold. I was going through major relapse, not relapse but withdrawal. Yeah, it was a blur for the first week, but it took me about two weeks and eventually it was just out of my system and I was done and I was free from that.
(25:12): I was like, "Well, shit, I'm never going to be addicted to anything else ever again." I was like, "That was messed up." I still kept smoking pot. I needed that. This was when I thought I could never be addicted to pot. I didn't realize I was actually addicted to pot my whole life. I just didn't realize that. But it was better than taking pills every day.
Adam Williams (25:31): When did you start with weed?
Beck Cerón (25:34): Oh, probably 12 years old.
Adam Williams (25:38): One thing I'm curious about with that, I've met say in my early 20s or something, people who would tell me, "Oh, yeah, in high school I was using coke and stuff." Maybe a thing I think besides the fact that's pretty hard at that age especially, is how do you get the money for that? If what we're talking about is a frequent use of marijuana and then you're talking about selling pills to put food on the table, how do you balance that? Because I must not have been crafty enough as a kid because I wasn't connecting those dots.
Beck Cerón (26:11): It's just that I had access to it. I can't deny that.
Adam Williams (26:17): You mean just with your mom or whoever in the house?
Beck Cerón (26:20): Whoever in the house mostly. My mother did have pain pills that I would steal from her. Sorry about that. But yeah, I would do that. My father had pot and I would steal that from him. But I didn't really start heavy smoking until I came to Colorado, I started hanging out with my friends. I would go downtown and I would get five bucks, 10 bucks here and I just go downtown and buy a 10 sack from some guy playing drums at a park. I know this sounds terrible, but yeah, that was the mission.
(26:54): Me and my homies, we would just go downtown and find weed for the day and smoke it and/or go to a party. You can find it. You have access to it if you want it. In Colorado Springs, definitely that's super easy. Whereas maybe, I don't know, if I grew up here, maybe not. I don't know. I bet I could though.
Adam Williams (27:12): Are we talking about before it was legalized? I don't remember how many years ago that was, but it wasn't that long.
Beck Cerón (27:17): Yeah, I'm 31 now and yeah, I was like 12 or 13. Yeah, it was definitely before it became, I think, even medicinally legal. I think it wasn't until 2009 or something where you had to have a red card or all that stuff. I have a lot of knowledge surrounding pot.
Adam Williams (27:36): Okay. Well, so not to hang out there too long, that was part of that story. Then, what I recall from listening to a podcast interview that you had done last year sometime, is that at some point you made your way, I think it sounded like on your own and still as a teenager up to Fort Collins.
Beck Cerón (28:06): Oh, yeah.
Adam Williams (28:07): You were working your butt off.
Beck Cerón (28:08): I was.
Adam Williams (28:09): That's a university town, but that wasn't what you were there for. You were working hard. Because of what I kind of, on the bullet points of your life story already, am aware of just by being in the community around where you are. Did that set the tone for you working hard to make your life happen?
Beck Cerón (28:30): Yeah. Oh, yeah. I call it being in constant survival mode. Yeah, I got myself into alternative high school. We ended up moving to this really crappy town called Fountain, Colorado. No offense to anyone that lives there, you probably know it's crappy anyways. I'm just kidding. But yeah, so we moved there and I found out there was an alternative high school just a few blocks away, and because I hadn't been going into school or anything, I couldn't even tell you where my transcripts were, where I was at grade wise. I had done online schooling prior to that, where you go at your own pace and I was doing really good.
(29:14): But then something happened with that, I lost the computer. Long story short, I got into alternative high school and I basically was told that by the time I could get enough credits to graduate, I would be 21. I was like, I think, 17 at the time when they told me this. I was like, "Damn." At that point, you can't graduate, you would have to get your GED doing EMS course, and I wanted to do the EMS course, so I signed up for that. That was actually right after my stepmother had passed away in our living room, and it was intense.
(29:56): But that gave me the sense that I could handle a really intense situation versus my social anxiety in public, weird little situations where I panic. For some reason when it comes to first response when someone's lying on the ground, I can focus a hundred percent. I joined that and that really helped make my resume look good. That really helped. Then, I was also part-time aiding and helping little kids work out at the YMCA. It was a big building, it all connected. It's a great place to have in a bad community, so I was a part of that. Then, shortly after that, after I became a first responder, I got my certification for a couple of years.
(30:45): I immediately went to Fort Collins. I met a girl and she had a place for me to stay. I needed a place to stay. I'm bouncing around. There was a lot that happened in between all of these things. But I went to Fort Collins and I immediately, I started working for Subway. I worked for three different Subways at the same time, and one of them being a drive-
Adam Williams (31:08): Talking about the sandwich shop?
Beck Cerón: Talking about the sandwich shop.
Adam Williams: Like the chain?
Beck Cerón: Yeah, it's a chain.
Adam Williams: Did they know that you were working at each of them at two other locations?
Beck Cerón (31:17): I think so. Yeah, I'm pretty sure they did it. One was being ran by one owner and then the one downtown was a separate owner. Because there's Loveland, Colorado and then there's Fort Collins and Fort Collins, they're so close to each other. You just drive up a road and then turns into Fort Collins. One of them being, I was not HR, I was the GM for a drive through high volume Subway. It's the busiest store in Northern Colorado. I know it's just Subway, but it was something I thought I could probably even get into professionally, like work for HR or something.
(31:55): Because it was high volume, really intense, and it was a good job. It was really nice, actually. For that kind of area, it was really fun. I don't know if I'd want to work for Subway in a small town per se, but in a big city it can be pretty fun. It's not all that bad. Then, the other store was, I worked at four in the morning because it was a, what is it called? A gas station combo. It was in Windsor, Colorado, this freeway right next to Fort Collins. There was a lot of communicating with all sorts of people right off the freeway there.
(32:37): Then, there was a downtown location, which was low key, I just did that part time. But yeah, it was intense. I just always knew in my heart to work hard and work a lot to survive and always try and get that money basically. I always felt like I had a decent amount of time to play. Yeah, I just always felt like as long as I kept working, then I was good. I learned a lot of communication skills. Again, I thought I'd become HR for Subway or something at one point. I was reading a lot of managerial books and I was doing hiring and firing and training and stuff at some of those locations.
(33:19): I learned a lot, I feel like, just with people in general. I don't think the food industry gets enough credit for that kind of thing, but people in the food industry do have to deal with people all the time, every day. Hungry people at that. I'm just kidding. But, so yeah, I don't know.
Adam Williams (33:42): Let me back this up a second. What happened to EMS? We're talking about emergency medical services, right? You would've been a paramedic?
Beck Cerón (33:49): Yeah, the dream would've been to be a paramedic and then take that and then fall into becoming an RN as I got older or something. But honestly, I had to take the bus to go and get my GED. I had to pay 20 bucks to take the test. I wasn't very good at math. I was actually surprisingly pretty good at it. There was one question I kept missing. They wouldn't tell me which one, so I could study, and they're like, "We can't tell you." I'm like, ."Damn." I took it four times. I finally passed, but that stripped a lot of my time and my money and I was couch surfing at the time.
(34:28): I didn't have a place to stay. At this point I was 17, even my little sister, my brother, me, I think my brother had already went back to California. We were on our own right away. My little sister finished high school. She had some kids, she was living with her partner at the time's parents with her kids. My sister was living with her partner and their kids at the time. We were all on our own doing our own thing. I was couch surfing. Trying to go to college and work around a system that you're not being guided through basically is just, it wasn't easy.
(35:09): I had to go wherever I could sleep. When I met this girl from Fort Collins, she had a place for me to stay and I was like, "I'm going to build my life far away from this town. I'm going to go there and hopefully succeed there." But yeah, it was difficult to keep on that track. How would I have enough money for rent? Being a college kid already costs a lot of money, even though Pikes Peak Community College is great with that kind of stuff. At the time I didn't even know how to do that kind of stuff. I'm still learning as an adult how to read formal paperwork stuff and I'm getting better at it, of course, now.
(35:48): But I took me a while to gain the confidence and just being to the social security office and be like, "Hey, I don't know what this means. Can you help me?" Even today I do that. I'm like, "What is this? Walk me through this." And you get by, people like to help.
Adam Williams (36:06): Some of those things, there are plenty of people who take for granted. This system exists and then it's almost just put on all of us to know how to use it and that isn't always the case. We don't always know where do you go to get an answer to this question? Where do I go to file this paperwork for? I would dare say that the vast majority of us don't know how to actually use the system that's just there. We circle back here to the impression I have, is that what you then put in was a lot of, I don't necessarily want to use the word hustle, but hard work.
(36:44): You put out a lot of energy to that survival into that path. When you're talking about doing the things, even managerial things with Subway, yeah, there's a lot of education, there's a lot of skills. But this also sounds like you maybe started being able to take care of yourself financially in a way that you had never maybe had before.
Beck Cerón (37:03): No, yeah, for sure. It helped. I definitely was on my own finally understanding how to apply for rental places. I had my own apartment by the end of it, so it helped, it all helped. I learned a lot. It's been never ending since. Me and my siblings have always, I guess, hustled or have been survivors, have always figured out a way on what to do. I'd say we're pretty smart with that and we're lucky for that. Again, we don't want the same exact path for our kids. We want them to be humble and smart and street smart, but we want them to be educated and just be able to go to ... I want to be able to teach them about college.
(37:50): Show them the way and be open about how I did it, but not the, "Oh, I had to climb up a mountain to get to school with bare feet." I'm never going to do that. You know what I mean?
Adam Williams (38:02): Both ways.
Beck Cerón (38:03): But more so be like, "Oh, I look forward to you doing this. I remember this is how I did it." Just be totally nice about it and stuff like that.
Adam Williams (38:16): You've taken though this hands on approach and this, I've got to survive, I've got to learn the work I've got to do. Maybe that's hands on. Maybe it's learning on the job, to what you do now, which I'm pretty interested in. It's as a distiller.
Beck Cerón (38:28): Yeah.
Adam Williams (38:30): I look at that. I have not drank for a few years.
Beck Cerón (38:35): Same.
Adam Williams (38:37): Yeah, and you hadn't either. You have mentioned you're sober, that's something else I want to talk about because to describe yourself as sober means, what we're really referring to or implying is that there was a time we weren't.
Beck Cerón (38:47): Yes.
Adam Williams (38:48): I think we both have that in our story, but what I want to talk about too is the fact that as a distiller there is, my impression, is a lot of science to it, a lot of craft. There's a lot of learning skill, patience. I can tell you that my preferred drink definitely was in the whiskey family and I loved that. But I never knew what you know, so tell me, how did you get into this work and craft of distilling?
Beck Cerón (39:20): When I was actually working at Subway, I lived in Fort Collins. The libation society there is pretty prominent, and I turned 21 there. They have places where if you have anything that's silver, nickel, quarter dime, it gets you either a pitcher of a beer or a cocktail.
Adam Williams (39:43): Again, college town.
Beck Cerón (39:45): Yes. I became pretty fluent in alcohol I'd say around that time, and I never was prior. 21 was definitely the time when I started drinking.
Adam Williams (39:57): Hold on a second. I want to ask though, considering that you had access and used, and all this stuff for so many years at such a young age, and even when it was illegal. For me it was growing up having access, especially to alcohol as a teenager, as a young kid. I'm curious, how did you end up being all the way to 21 and in a college town when you had been living there since you were 17 and had money for the first time?
Beck Cerón (40:24): Yeah, I did have alcohol prior to that, but it wasn't my drug of choice.
Adam Williams (40:32): Got you.
Beck Cerón (40:33): I didn't like it so much. Despite I was taking pills or even smoking, I was doing ecstasy. I'd say that was my most favorite at times. I've done everything, but I definitely got addicted to pills for six months and it's a short amount of time, but it was intense. Of course, I smoked weed my whole life, but I was in the closet about that. If I had to quit for a certain amount of weeks or something, I would, which I don't partake anymore. But yet, so alcohol wasn't my favorite.
(41:08): I just always thought it made kids and people dumb even though I was doing dumb things myself, other things, like taking way too many mushrooms and stuff. I don't know. Yeah, I guess that's just when I got into it, I guess. I don't know.
Adam Williams (41:24): Okay, so 21. You did the what, responsible thing and waited until you were legal at 21? You started drinking in this college town where it's so readily available for cheap.
Beck Cerón (41:36): Accessible, you name it.
Adam Williams (41:38): Yeah, there's of course a culture, at least within a certain aspect of the community who, college kids that's-
Beck Cerón (41:43): There was a lot. Oh, yeah.
Adam Williams (41:45): Which is also funny, you lived in the Springs and that's obviously known as a large military army, especially, location. I was in the Army. To me, having gone through college and then there's partying, well, in the Army it was multiples, that was college partying on steroids.
Beck Cerón (42:00): Well, the Army had access to pills. They got all of the ... and I don't mean to cut you off by any means.
Adam Williams (42:00): No, no. Go ahead.
Beck Cerón (42:09): It just totally reminded me, the fact that a lot of my homies that were in the Army got pills, medicine for anything. Sometimes they never even would even take it. I knew some of these houses that we would go to, and I fear of saying this, but it would be on base. I would go to parties on base and I would steal from those houses. Yeah, it was intense. I ran from the MPs. No, I'm just kidding.
Adam Williams (42:36): I don't think you are. I wish I knew that story.
Beck Cerón (42:40): No, I could tell you that story. I don't know how much time we have, but it's funny. I tripped acid for the first time on base in Fort Carson. They had this liquor store where they had an outdoor area that was fenced in with ripped up labels, messed up bottles that they weren't going to sell or something. I don't know where I thought this was a good idea. I was on pills, so it wasn't a good idea. I wasn't me at this time. I decided to, right before I started even peeking, I decided I would just lift up the fence and steal a six pack of wine coolers.
(43:17): I don't even know if they tasted good, I could care less. Again, it's booze, not my favorite, but I wanted to bring it to a house party and just show off, I guess. I lifted up, I grabbed it, and then I looked over a block down over past this park. I see an MP looking at me and he starts his car and starts coming at me and I book it into these bushes. I'm tripping so hard that I'm jumping over cracks in the sidewalk thinking that they're these things in my way and I'm just in Cartoonville, but it's just insane and they never caught me, I guess.
(43:58): I didn't see them, and so I just walked casually to the house that I was supposed to be hanging out at and it was all good, and then that was it. But that could have been a really bad situation.
Adam Williams (44:08): It could have been.
Beck Cerón (44:10): I think I lucked out a lot in my life. That's not something I would've ever done if I weren't taking pills. I would've never done that ever, ever. Or, even probably hung out with anybody that I was hanging out with on base. I didn't like any of those people.
Adam Williams (44:30): I have these conversations occasionally with people who have either a history with addiction too. Whether that's drugs, like what we're talking about, with narcotics or marijuana, but also with alcohol. Typically, after we are both looking in the rear view mirror, and so we're laughing at some of the story. At the same time, obviously, we both recognize the seriousness of such a thing. That's also why, thankfully, in this case, you and I have both moved past those things and now we have this clarity in hindsight. We veered off and that's okay.
(45:05): We veered off some from the distilling part, but you are a sober distiller. We're talking about you being clean now. We're talking about you being sober. However you want to unfold that story and the fact that you are also a distiller, so you are in contact with some of this substance, we're talking about whiskey, vodka, gin, whatever, while also having come to terms with the fact that that's not something you need to be having in your life.
Beck Cerón (45:33): I want to jump to the fact that I am sober and I am a distiller. I started distilling, shoot, I was like 22, 23. I ended up in Cedaredge, Colorado. Long story short, my stepfather's brother-in-law passed away and he had property that we had to go and take care of. There was a lot of building roads and mitigating ponds and tree branches, and et cetera. It was a lot of work. But I wouldn't say I was getting paid necessarily except for housing on an 80-acre lot, which was awesome. It was really desolate and I was one with nature, et cetera.
(46:17): It's really pretty out there. If you've ever been out to Cedaredge, it's really nice. Basically, I wanted a real job with my own cash because I was going to get a ... start renting my own house. I ended up walking up a dirt road where I was even applying at restaurants and stuff. There was a dirt road headed up towards this corn whiskey distillery called the Colorado Gold Distillery and they made bourbon there. I was just like, "You know what? I'm just going to go in because I'm bored and I'm going to say hi and see what it's like." It was awesome the first time I stepped into a distillery, really.
(46:55): It smelled really strong. If you've ever been to a bourbon distillery, there's no other smell. It sticks to you. It's a really intense smell, kind of like, I guess cow vomit. But anyways, it makes really good bourbon. No, I'm just kidding. Yeah, that sounds really nice. Anyways, so I lucked out. There was some people who were exiting as employees or employers and I lucked out by getting the job. He needed me, so I just told him that I could build fences and stuff. I had a little bit of boiler knowledge and he was just like, "Okay, well then you're hired."
(47:29): I really lucked out and I was like, it was the first time I had ever seen a distillery up close, but I fell in love with it right away. Because to me, it was all relative with patterns and puzzles, and that's what I like. But because it was just me and him and he really needed my help, I immediately took on a swing shift. I was alone a lot. Therefore, within a month I learned the mechanics behind distillation, fermentation, barreling, bottling, distribution. It was mostly just that. I may not have known why I was distilling at certain temps or proofs or what at the time, but that came later.
(48:14): I understood the mechanics right away. I kept notes every day for the next seven years after that. I Googled, I YouTubed, I've just been a part of that uptick in Colorado distillation since. I started young, and because of that and also because at the time I identified as female, I felt like I had to really hone in my skills and really show the guys I was working with that I am worthy of their time when really I've always just been in there by myself anyways. But yeah, so after less than a year of that, I really wanted to make something crafty. I realized there are different methods in making alcohol and I wanted to practice that.
(49:04): Honestly, I typed in awesome organic whiskey in Colorado or something like that. Something random in my Google search at three in the morning while tending to a still. I think it was really mostly just location based, but Woods popped up, and ironically the-
Adam Williams (49:04): Woods Distillery in Salida?
Beck Cerón (49:25): Yeah, Woods Distillery in Salida and the Boathouse, which was weird because that's not I think a thing. I'm not sure about that. But anyway, so I called my boss, my current boss, and I just said, "Hey, I can do these things." He was like, "Yeah, well, let's just take a tour and we'll talk about it after that."
I took that as the okay to put in my last month's rent and I went over Monarch Mountain and went. We had lunch the same day. I didn't know where I was at and I got the job right away. Then, he was just like, "Come in whenever." So I went in and he was just like ... I just started doing things.
Adam Williams (49:59): You just show up the next day, 8:00 AM or something to say, "I'm here, you hired me."
Beck Cerón (50:02): Ready to go. I think it was a few days after. But yeah, it was pretty much like that.
Adam Williams (50:08): That's putting some faith into that move.
Beck Cerón (50:09): It is, yeah, and I'm lucky for that. I think that's where I have a lot of respect for him. He had faith in me and trusted me to do it. If you're going to do a good job, you're going to do a good job. That's what I did, I think. I'd like to think so. Again, as I was identifying as female, that never seemed to have an effect with him. He was always really laid back with a lot of that kind of stuff. I felt comfortable to express myself so much that ... as well as being in a really open and nice town. Salida is definitely more of a metropolis of small towns compared to Cedaredge, Colorado.
(50:57): How do I make this super short and sweet? I eventually sobered up because I had to. I spent years of drinking too much, it got to a breaking point where I realized I had to be sober. I'd say that was about three years ago when I realized that. I've been a distiller for nine or 10 years in total. About 3.4 years ago I sobered up and I'd say a year and a half ago I decided to start putting testosterone in my body to really help alleviate some of the bodily dysphoria I was having because I internally identified as male, but I didn't on the exterior, and I did not quite know how to do that or come out.
(51:47): It's been a journey since then. Now, I'm totally open and know exactly what I'm about and I love it and it's been really nice since then. But yeah, I think maybe some of my addiction might have been because of that. It could have been a combination of childhood trauma, surviving, who knows? Relationships, and I think really honestly, mostly, because I was born with a body that I didn't want to be born with in a sense. But now, I'm in the body that I want to be in.
Adam Williams (52:16): I was going to ask, I'm not sure if it's a strange question, but if there is maybe a connection between sobriety and the transformation. Because I don't want to put a line of thought out there if that's not your wording or your thinking, so please, please correct me if needed. But I'm just wondering if when we get clear of mind, and I guess you could say clear of heart, then you're able to then move forward and be open all the way around. You are a distiller who is having to then go to the boss and everybody and say, "You know what? I'm no longer going to partake in drinking the product that I am in charge of making." But then also, this transformation in how you-
Beck Cerón (53:04): Yeah. It's a lot.
Adam Williams (53:05): Yeah.
Beck Cerón (53:06): They do tie together because if I were drinking because of maybe some internal trauma from the past or because of some self-image problems, any of that kind of stuff, it is relative because I was drinking because of that. When I sobered up, I was able to think clearly. Yeah, I was able to trust my mindset a little bit more. I knew the choices that I was making after I sobered up were not the worst choices. I used to really have low confidence in my decision making skills, even though that's all I've been doing my whole life. But anyways, I got here, right? It's pretty good.
(53:49): Yeah, so when I sobered up, it was definitely ... yeah, I was more able to make that jump and it's a scary jump, but it was so natural. It felt so good that I just couldn't believe I didn't do it sooner. Like with sobriety, I can't believe I didn't do that sooner, but that's just how it is.
Adam Williams (54:08): Obviously, you are publicly open about being transgender-
Beck Cerón (54:08): Everything.
Adam Williams (54:12): ... and in everything, and I appreciate that you shared that with me when we talked beforehand too. You're like, "Hey, I'll tell my story."
Let's wrap up with this. I'm curious though, while we're talking about how great you feel in having gone through this process as a human. What's important to you about the story of who you are as a transgender man in the world? I want to go back real quick to help set this up. You had an Instagram post several months ago in which you expressed how great it feels, how freeing it feels to live as your true self.
Beck Cerón (54:50): Yeah.
Adam Williams (54:50): I love that because it's a universal theme that really all of us, regardless of anything about our identities, it's so crucial and we all struggle with it.
Beck Cerón (54:59): Right, to live in a body that you identify with or to be able to express how you identify and just be you allows you to look forward and focus on other things. I was so in-depth with my body dysphoria or hatred on myself. I was drinking too much or I couldn't focus on things just like normal things.
Me being at that freeing moment in my life, I can focus on being able to communicate with others and I have this newfound confidence that is just ... I'm just letting it flow. I'm not holding back, which could be a good or bad thing, but there's an egoic, I got that term from my therapist.
(55:44): But anyways, there's an egoic form about me that I'm trying to really take pride in because I've lacked it my whole life. I've suppressed myself so much in so many ways that now I know that what I have to offer to other people or my working environment is a positive and I'm so excited for that. Whether that be if I'm working around my coworkers and being myself with them and helping them, but really I think helping others is going to be the new path for me. Whether that be part-time here and there, working as a distiller slash maybe working in the addiction center here that just popped up, which I hope I can do. I want to have enough time and space for a lot of things because of that newfound energy and freedom.
Adam Williams (56:38): Appreciate that. I appreciate your coming in here and sharing on this. In a way, I feel like we've really just started peeling back some pretty important layers that I wish we could talk for another hour and maybe we're going to need to do that one of these days.
Beck Cerón (56:50): That would be cool. Yeah.
Adam Williams (56:52): Thanks again for coming in back and sharing what you did.
Beck Cerón (56:55): Yeah, yeah. Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity. I hope everyone has a wonderful day. But please, I love to chat. Don't hesitate.
Adam Williams (57:12): All right. That was my conversation with Beck Cerón. If what Beck shared here today resonated with you, you can email comments to Lisa Martin, one of our producers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee Looking Upstream podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify in whatever platform you use with that functionality. We also welcome you spreading the word on your social media pages and even the old fashioned way, telling your family, friends, and coworkers by word of mouth.
Once again, I'm your host, Adam Williams. John Pray is engineer and producer.
(57:39): Thank you to KHEN Radio where we recorded today's conversation in Salida, Colorado. Heather Gorby for graphic and web design. Lisa Martin, producer and community advocacy coordinator for the We Are Chaffee Initiative. Andrea Carlstrom, Director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and Becky Gray, Director of the Chaffee Housing Authority.
The We Are Chaffee Looking Upstream podcast is a collaboration with the Chaffee County Departments of Public Health and Housing and is supported by the Colorado Public Health and Environment Office of Health Disparities.
(58:04): You can learn more about the Looking Upstream podcast and related storytelling initiatives wearechaffee.org, and on Instagram and Facebook at We Are Chaffee.
Lastly, thank you for listening and until next time, as we say it, we are Chaffee. Be human, share stories.