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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.


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


Connect with Beck Cerón

Instagram for Beck’s mocktail bartending business, A.F. N.A. Drinks by Rock Bottom:


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


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, 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.


Overview: In this episode of the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast, host Adam Williams talks again with Beck Cerón, picking up where they left off in their previous conversation.


Adam and Beck go deeper into Beck’s story as a transgender man and the freedom he feels in his queer identity. Beck shares about his experience with gender dysphoria, as male in a female body. He talks about how that experience of himself tied to his use and abuse of drugs and alcohol, and ultimately how he would get clean and sober, and transition into the full confident humanness of himself as a man.


Adam and Beck also talk about allyship through the public use of pronouns (they/them, she/her, he/him). And Beck tells what it feels like to him to finally be able to look in a mirror, and love and trust who he sees there.

Beck Cerón (Pt. 2), on loving his transgender & sober self, the freedom of “queer,” and allyship in pronouns

(Publication Date: 11.29.22)



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


Connect with Beck Cerón

Instagram for Beck’s mocktail bartending business, A.F. N.A. Drinks by Rock Bottom:


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 (00:05): Welcome to We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream, a human-forward conversational podcast based in Chaffee County, Colorado. I'm your host, Adam Williams.


Today's guest is Beck Cerón, back for part two in our conversation. I can't say enough about how deep and powerful and important I think this conversation is, and I can't say enough for how vulnerable and real Beck is in sharing his story. Of all the meaningful topics we talk about on this podcast, I don't know if there are any more fundamentally human than what Beck brings to the microphone today and of course to his life and to our community every day.


We talk about his identifying as transgender and queer. We talk about his experience with dysphoria as male in a female body and how that experience of himself tied to his use and abuse of drugs and alcohol and ultimately then how he would get clean and sober and come to express himself as male and transition into the full confident humanness of himself.


(01:04): He shares about what it feels like to finally be able to look in a mirror and love and trust who he sees there. And we talk about allyship through the public use of our pronouns, they, them, she, her, he, him.


This podcast, Looking Upstream, overall, it's built on a foundation that relates to social determinants of health. Those are all the factors that influence our wellbeing, like our senses of stability and safety and just good health in daily life.


Sometimes that's done overtly like when we talk about housing affordability and health resources in our community. Oftentimes it's done more indirectly through the sharing of very human and personal stories like Beck's. I hope you will take the time to listen to this whole conversation with Beck.


Maybe you'll even feel compelled to share it with someone or a bunch of someones, but at the least, I hope you'll feel a bit closer to your own humanity, a bit more confident and self-loving, feeling more connected to yourself and to others.


Here it is, part two of my conversation with Beck Cerón.


[Intro music, guitar instrumental]


Adam Williams: All right. So Beck, we are back again. I appreciate you coming back in for part two of this conversation on Looking Upstream. Thank you.


Beck Cerón (02:24): Thank you. I'm glad to be back.


Adam Williams (02:27): We've had a chance to talk in the meantime and I'm pretty excited about what we have to get into today. And the reason that we wanted to have a part two is because, I’ll remind listeners that on part one, we were really starting to peel back layers of the onion, we were really getting into, I think, a meaningful, even powerful subject matter and then we ran out of time.


So again, thanks for making the effort and coming back in. I will remind you back where it was we left off so we can just pick right up and go from there.


(03:02): We left off with you talking about it was related to identity and you were saying that you had a newfound confidence and energy and I think even a sense of freedom in who you are now and you can take pride in yourself in a way that you feel like you had lacked, I think, for your whole life, maybe, leading up to what the last couple of years or so. So if we pick it up from there, just what has made the difference for you to feel that freedom and sense of confidence?


Beck Cerón (03:33): I mean, yeah, I recently got sober April 20th or so, it's kind of ironic, will be my fourth year of being sober. And so, I think with that, I was able to find a sense of clarity in my own mind and trust my own thoughts. And that led me to find the confidence to go forth and actually start doing things to help me with my identity like going through hormone replacement therapy.


And I think after that, on top of sobriety, that added an additional confidence boost because now, again, I get to live in the body that I want to be in. And now you don't have to take hormones to do that, but for me in my path, that's what was required, and so I'm stoked for that and that definitely has helped me.


Adam Williams (04:41): So we're talking about transgender identity, that's where we had left off in that conversation. And I want us to allow, if you don't mind, for some of the basic knowledge sharing here for any listeners who might not be accustomed with what some of these things are about, so there's something to keep in mind as we go forward.


So what would that hormone therapy, what did that do for you? Why was that a choice or a need for you and your body?


Beck Cerón (05:13): Again, this is my own path, so at first, I mean, I definitely was leaning towards being more androgynous and I was slowly coming out and having people refer to me as they then with non-binary pronouns, if you will. And somewhere deep in my soul, I really just wanted to come out as male. And again, I'm a people pleaser and in the past I felt like I had to conform myself to what others probably felt more comfortable with.


But this urge to come out and be my full self really was starting to get to me. I mean, taking the hormones really helped because within every step that the hormones had to offer, even with my voice, I like to say going to what it's supposed to be. So for me, a deep voice, obtaining more facial hair and everything like that, it has to offer, those were all super affirming things that it had to offer.


(06:29): So I think it's really important for me. I mean, just knowing I had it in my hands prior to even giving it to myself for the first time, I felt free, like even then, I was really excited about it.


Adam Williams (06:44): What was the burden prior to that? What was it that felt not free?


Beck Cerón (06:51): Someone would argue this, otherwise, but I felt like it was unnatural, like I felt unnatural in my body for years. I don't know if I mentioned this in the previous podcast, but if it were up to me, when I realized I was in the wrong body, I was five years old. I remember this moment and I recall where I was even standing and I just remember asking my mother being like, "Why don't I have male parts? Or why don't I look like that?" And my mother was really nice and she was just like, "You just don't."


And I remember being distraught, just completely upset, and then it's kind of blank after that. So that was the first memory that I have of realizing that I was in this body, but I had to make peace with that because I didn't know there were options. I mean, I was a kid, I didn't know anything about a lot of things. So I carried on with my life. And even later on as a teenager, I just assumed this was it and I was just more tomboy or this or that.


Adam Williams (08:08): That's a term that gets applied a lot in that case, isn't it?


Beck Cerón (08:12): Yeah. Oh, yeah. If you're a female and maybe you're trying to identify with more masculine type things or clothing and stuff like that. Now I'm at a point where, especially with my kid, I try not to put a gender on clothing or colors or anything like that ever, but in the past, that's what I was raised to believe.


And so, I would hang out with my brother all the time instead of my sister and my little sister while they would play because he had video games and he had all the cool toys I always thought, and I just felt really comfortable hanging out with him in his room all the time. I don't know. Again, that's like a societal thing that we put on our kids and everyone around us that masculine toys or trucks and NASCAR, little race cars and stuff like that. Those are boy toys, but they're not, they're for everyone.


Adam Williams (09:16): There's a lot around that color situation too, because I have a particular memory with my older son at a playground, but the toy he had was largely white, but there was a little bit of pink on it. And a dad who was there with another toddler referred to my daughter, I'm like, "Well, he's my son." "Well, I saw the pink." “It's just a color, man.”


(09:39): But we have that socialization for sure. And I think I have had these conversations before and what I think is probably actually a jaw dropper for many people who maybe have not had these conversations is that you are five and just I think back to my childhood and I think most of us, all of us, we go through childhood taking what is put on us, that's by family, by society.


We accept the things we're told because we trust that those are the answers, but you already felt something inherently within you even at that early age that, "Okay, this is what my mom is telling me." Of course, I mean, no fault there, but I wonder then how you took those feelings, that distraught feeling how did that conversation over time continue with her.


I assume she just thought that was an innocent, "Oh my little girl is asking this question," and then she just forgot about and went on. When did it really evolve to maybe coming out more with these thoughts and feelings of who you are with even just your family?


Beck Cerón (10:53): Yeah. I've put a lot of thought to that. I mean, if my little girl came up to me and said, "I wish I had a boy body," I'm trying to think of childlike terms, I would explain. But back in '95, '96, there wasn't a lot of terminology to implement towards your kids and saying like, "Well, you're stuck with what you have."


Because my mother would always let me wear her button ups, I'd wear my brother's clothes, if anything, they were always super supportive of my style, I didn't know identity then. And so, I'm grateful for that. My parents have always been pretty supportive of that.


But I guess when I realized that it was a physical thing, that I just realized that it came back probably during puberty. I just forgot about it, I just took it as it is. So puberty is when I realized that dysphoria of realizing that I was uncomfortable with my body started to come in.


Adam Williams (12:12): I had wanted to ask you about this for you. If you're able to describe what that experience was for you. Obviously that is not necessarily what applies to everybody. What is your experience as you remember that feeling, if you can help us understand that?


Beck Cerón (12:30): Yeah. I mean, I can try and elaborate the best that I can. It's debilitating in all the ways and it can create a lot of problematic issues within relationships, friendships, even how you view other people. And when you're not comfortable in your own body, you start to lash out and subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways.


At first, I didn't realize it, and so you know you should never do this, but I remember taping my chest to see how flat my chest could get. I mean, for me, I was lucky that I didn't have a larger chest or anything like that, but I would just look at other men and just be like, damn, I would look up to them and then sometimes I would resent them. And so it would cause some frustration.


 So all the things that I just felt like I shouldn't have had happened to me and my body are happening without my control, and it's really unfortunate. It's a touchy subject too, for a trans man to talk about because it can bring back some of those memories, but it was my experience.


(13:53): And so I had to force myself to take pride in my womanhood in my woman body. And I hate saying that. And not to say that I don't take pride anymore, I still do. I don't know. Yeah, it's the experience.


Adam Williams (14:13): Well, thanks for sharing that and for letting me know that that's also maybe a question that I push a line there, is that something that we shouldn't go farther with.


Beck Cerón (14:23): Oh, not at all. No, I appreciate the questions. Honestly, if I can, I'll tell you anything. I like to overshare. I like to talk a lot. It's funny because I definitely take pride in trying to share my experience and to say that the nerves aren't there would be a lie, but that's a part of the experience that I want to share with people.


It is an uncomfortable topic sometimes and it's okay to get nervous around these subjects, but it goes to show you're not alone. If you are listening to this and you feel that and you feel like you have to repress from that because of those feelings that you're having, then it's okay.


Adam Williams (15:12): Sometimes I ask guests why they share their story, why come sit here with me, why are we talking about these important big vulnerable, scary, sensitive, whatever it is you feel about the topic. So I'll just ask you that now. Why is it that it is important to you that we have this conversation and that we share it beyond this room, beyond just the two of us?


Beck Cerón (15:36): I believe it is becoming a thing where you're hearing more people come out and express the differences between the binaries or the differences between self-expression and I think it is becoming more of a thing. And maybe there was a little bit of that where I was noticing it and I felt confident to come out as well in so many different ways like with my identity and my sexuality and everything.


So everything's always changing and I feel like I'm constantly coming out, if you will. But it's important because you do feel alone even though you feel like you might know there's a lot of people out there like you, the feeling of being alone is so strong still and you don't know why and it's just because you just don't have that person to come out and see that or reach out to. It's interesting.


Adam Williams (16:44): I want to ask about when did you really recognize and come out, because there's the story you just shared a little bit ago about when you were five and that you have that clear memory of first thoughts. But when was it, what's that evolution to a place where you feel at least confident enough in yourself to say, "You know what, world, this is who I am and you need to accept that"?


Beck Cerón (17:13): It's odd because I feel like I've had a little bit of that growing up, those moments here and there, I guess. But I feel like right now, because I'm living in the now, I feel that now more so than any other time in my life, I guess. And I don't know, maybe it comes with maturity, but I've been able to, again, sober up so I had that clarity to come out as trans and become who I am.


And I feel like with that, on top of all the things I've ever been through and came out as and experimented and experienced and all that stuff, I think right now I feel the most free because I am at this place now where I can express everything and not feel judged or told how to do it.


(18:07): There are certain things that kept me from being at my freest moments, for instance, when I came out as a queer when I was a kid, I didn't know the term queer and I wanted to come out easy. And so I said I was bisexual and of course my mother is awesome. She was like, "I have a feeling you're gay." At the time I was like, "No, I'm not." And I was in denial and she was so right. So even with that, I didn't feel comfortable calling myself a lesbian or even gay because again, I was stuck in a woman's body, I didn't really identify with being a lesbian.


(18:52): And so, I felt like I had to be a certain amount of queer or straight or into women a certain way. And I just felt like there was still something missing, I guess. And so I think up until now, now that I'm comfortable in the body that I am today, I identify as queer, and for me, that's everything, that's the full spectrum in my world. I feel like that term is the most freeing, not to say being lesbian or gay or bisexual or any other.


Adam Williams (19:28): Sure. We're only focusing on your stories individually today.


Beck Cerón (19:32): So for me personally, that's the most freeing as something else would be for someone else. And so now because I have that confidence, I'm able to express myself, and in the way that I even act, I felt like I had to act a certain way around certain genders or at certain people.


And now I'm really comfortable with being who I am and I like to be outgoing, whereas I used to worry about oversharing or being over complimenting people too much or any of those odd things. Now I just let it rip and if you don't sit with someone else, hopefully they'll have the nerve to express that to me or set up a boundary. But normally, I just like to be super outgoing and I feel like now I can do that because I'm happy with where I'm at.


Adam Williams (20:33): Something about the word queer, I think by definition actually about a generation older than you. I'm 46. I think you had said in the previous conversation you're 31.


Beck Cerón (20:46): Yeah.


Adam Williams (20:48): And when I was growing up very young in the late '70s, so primarily the '80s and then a teenager in the '90s, and the use of the word queer was derogatory. But what I've noticed over time and I really appreciate is that it's been taken back, I think. It's been reclaimed and given this sort of power.


And you describe it as a sense of freedom, and I think what I'm hearing you say is that that freedom comes through being more of an all-encompassing word to use that allows you to be all the many things that really any of us are in whatever ways in life. But when we put these labels that are too strict and restricting on us, so I think you're ready to say something there.


I want to hear just about that word. And I don't know how familiar you are personally with experience with the evolution of that word, but I love that you take that and say, "This is the one that feels best to me."


Beck Cerón (21:52): Yeah. I've definitely been there for when queer was derogatory, used as a negative term. And honestly I have been yelled at from cars driving by saying things that I won't mention and I'm just like, "Yeah, that's what I am." Cool and it's wild. I'd say middle school was the worst. Those kids can get pretty creative with their beat downs. I dig that because I feel sad, it's bringing me to another thought actually. The fact that I'm queer now and able to express myself and I feel this sense of freedom, I just feel like anyone should be able to do that, whether they're queer or not, or if they identify as straight or gay or anything.


(22:47): So I mean, I won't list them all off of course, but there are pressures for all sorts of people to feel and act a certain way, either their parents taught them to act that way or their peers teach them to act like that, act a certain way. And I just feel like people should be able to express themselves with vulnerability and kindness and honesty without being obviously pressured into a certain way to act or even dress or anything like that.


Adam Williams (23:22): I realize that no one's asking me to define myself. We're sitting here having this conversation, I'm aware of this. But this is with purpose, I hope people hear with compassion and love and all the things. And I think though the world is asking you to explain and define yourself, well, what's this label, but nobody has ever asked me that.


And I'm a cisgender, heterosexual male who never had to think about it. Because again, growing up, especially in the time period I did in small town, rural Midwest America, I'm surrounded by conservative, I'm surrounded by there's only one way to be, “We identify you as a boy.”


So I never had a chance to even think in those terms. Not that we do then, we're really young anyway, but what I learned was who not to be because of all the pressures, the jokes, the religion, the TV show jokes, the politics and what it means to be "normal" or whatever word to be used there.


(24:29): So I remember actually thinking as a young child things like, "I hope I'm not that thing. I hope I'm not gay because wow, the way everybody acts around that, that sure seems like I wouldn't be accepted, I wouldn't be loved."


(24:45): And nobody still, again, 46, never in my life has anybody asked me to define who I am, they're already putting a whole story on me, especially if I'm not walking down the street alone, I'm with my wife, I'm with my sons. Well, they know my whole story or they think they do. And as a male growing up in this society, I think there's not a lot of room to express that vulnerability, you're saying to just be that gentle, soft person who maybe is more than that narrow lane.


Beck Cerón (25:17): I agree. Yeah. I believe everybody can have the ability to be vulnerable and have a sense of unique style and to able to express how you want to treat others without being judged or even being called gay if you're too nice to anyone. I don't know. I think it's unfortunate.


When I first started my hormone therapy, yes, I felt really confident, I felt really free, but I think because of that, I was catching myself a lot like I was being too comfortable and outgoing with, say, another male or a masculine identifying person, and I thought, "Oh, maybe they think I'm coming onto them too strong. Or am I being too expressive because I just had this newfound energy?"


So I had this sense of I wanted to keep talking to everybody, I wanted to be super outgoing with everyone. And I remember talking to my therapist about it and just expressing how I... I think everyone should have a therapist by the way. Anyways.


Adam Williams (26:32): I had a therapy session earlier this morning.


Beck Cerón (26:34): There you go. I just want to throw that.


Adam Williams (26:35): I actually realized that was a bad idea before we come in here and get into a deep conversation together because I wanted my energy for you, but go ahead.


Beck Cerón (26:42): No. No. I always felt really invigorated after a therapy session. And I think even if you think you have nothing going on in your life and you feel like everything's smooth, seeing therapist's just great. So I even expressed my therapist about I just felt like maybe my energy was too strong and I was starting to become self-conscious again, and I was just like, I'm worried about all these things.


And she held me down from that and gave me the confidence because it's really just knowing that other people have boundaries as well as you do, mostly, of course. But knowing that other people have boundaries and if you are too much for someone, then hopefully they'll have the nerve again to express that and calm you down or tell you that. So for me, that was freeing.


(27:32): Again, I went back to being confident and again, just being myself and I can hug my friends a little bit longer. I don't feel so weird to hug other people. Because at first, I was nervous like, "Well, shit, now I have facial hair, what if my bros don't want to hug me like they used to?" And then I thought, "Well then, were they ever my bros beforehand?"


Adam Williams (28:03): Did you ever encounter any of those sort of moments where they flinch? Which really has to do with them of course, because that has to do with how we, as men, interact with other men and what the socializing thing has been. Oh wait, you can't get this close because what does that look like? What does that signal? Does that sin? Did you ever encounter one of those moments with male friend?


Beck Cerón (28:26): I think it was all me in my head, honestly. And I'm thinking of some situations where I thought maybe they felt like, "All right. Okay, I'll give you an ass out one arm hug." And then I realized that's just them, that's how they hug people like me. I really hug people and I like when someone gives me a really good hug back.


Some of my other friends give me some pretty good hugs and it's like a competition who could hug the tightest, and I love that. But that's just me, some people don't like that. And again, so at first, maybe I took that as a, "Oh, they think I'm being too gay." And then I thought, "Well, I am queer." No, I'm just kidding. And it's funny though, I even asked my coworker and I was like, "I just feel like my bros, I don't think they feel as comfortable around me now that I'm identifying super masculine." And he was like, "Well, then were they ever your friends?" And I was just like, "Oh shit, yeah."


(29:41): He might have been right about that, but in the end it was all in my head, I think, and I was just super hyper aware of offending someone or making them uncomfortable. And then I realized, "Oh shoot, I'm like entrapping myself." And so I had to get rid of that because it was something that was on my mind. I mean, obviously I talked to my therapist about it and I was tired of it. Now I'm free of that and I get to express myself anyway that I want.


(30:13): I'm just kind of rambling, but I have some friends in Denver who are also fellow trans men, one of them being pretty close to me, he's like a brother to me, he's great, he'll wear high heels and a dress to an event with his beard and he looks super good and it's super expressive in all the ways.


And when I first met him, I thought he was very masculine and he gave me that newfound confidence to express myself however which way that I want. I mean, my style in general is very bro-like, I guess, if that's a style, but like what's femininity and masculinity, what's confident and not confident, I guess. To express yourself fully, to me, that's super confident.


Adam Williams (31:08): It is. And to love yourself in all the forms, which can include the masculinity and wearing a dress and high heel if that's how you feel. But if we go way back early in the conversation, we're talking about pink and blue and dresses mean girl and blue jeans with dirt on a mean boy playing.


And these sorts of boxes that we've created societally that are very longstanding haven't been questioned by the masses anyway. And so, it's all really, I think, very easy shorthand. But how many people truly feel like, "Well, I'm not getting to express myself." I mean, we do have plenty of ego issues and issues with security, insecurity not being who we fully are.


I think when people get to where they're uncomfortable, like you're saying if you give a friend a hug and they're uncomfortable, it's like, well, that's because they have things going on with them. We're like, 'Well, these are the rules we've learned."


(32:05): I'm not sure what to do at this moment to be who you fully are or ought to be the goal for every one of us. And most of us, almost all of us, I think are so scared to go out with, I have a nice big beard. I don't know. Am I willing to go out and address in high heels and not feel like I'm going to be attacked in some form or other? That takes a lot of courage and confidence and self-love, I think.


Beck Cerón (32:30): Yeah, it's gotten to the point where I'm in that train of thought so well that I forget that there is that societal idea that we have to act a certain way. Let's say if I experience hate speech or if I see even a fellow, someone that you would never see saying these things being transphobic or maybe they don't even realize they're being transphobic or if I witness anything of that nature out and about, I'm almost taken back. I'm like, "Oh, right." There are people that think like that still.


So I'm usually taken back if I hear of maybe some of the teachers not seeing eye-to-eye with some of the trans kids in the school system or they don't approve of calling them by their name because they feel like it's not up to them, it wasn't their choice, I'm taken back and I'm really upset about that.



But that's unfortunate. For me as a parent now, I feel like somewhere in their experience they were taught that that was normal, to live by the binary, to know that certain things were meant for certain genders, and it's unfortunate. And so to them, it's normal.


Adam Williams (34:03): Those rules are unbendable to most of society. This is the way it is. This is what "normal" is. These are the rules. What else could there be? I think they struggle with abstract thought or thought that goes outside of what they've previously been taught. And then to realize, well, wait, what we were taught was created by humans, but largely men throughout history.


And wait a second, I also am a human and I'm in this time, in this, now, can I rethink this? Can I find a different sense of that truth? I think most people seem not to be built to critically think through those moments and say, "You know what? Yeah, this is the way we've always done it, that doesn't mean it's the way we always have to do it."


Beck Cerón (34:47): Right. I agree. Again, I'm always taken back when I experience that where they're just so stuck in their ways in that thought process. And I think it's hateful. But I'm excited though because, again, I'm taken back because I'm now in this world where even from cis, hetero identifying people, they're open minded as well and they totally are okay with befriending and seeing their friend who's either queer or trans, maybe just someone a little different than them and treating them as an equal and being totally cool with it.


And it's so refreshing. So I mean, I live in a nice town where I see a lot of that, and again, that's why I feel like I'm taken back when I experience the opposite and I'm like, "Oh, right. Dang, that still exists." And here I am just wanting to exist and move on with my day or my life, as well as anyone else, they just want to live and do things like go to the post office without being at risk of getting stabbed or yelled at from a truck or something driving by.


Adam Williams (36:07): You mentioned before pronouns and that you use he, they, how about we talk about pronouns? Because you and I have had this conversation before off the microphone a little bit, and I think it sounds like that's an important subject, your thoughts there.


Beck Cerón (36:28): Yeah.


Adam Williams (36:29): What is the significance of being vocal about that? I use he/him, what's the importance of me as an ally being vocal about that?


Beck Cerón (36:42): Yeah. I mean, stemming off from what we were just talking about with being able to exist freely and just be ourselves on a normal day-to-day life thing. So to normalize it is the ultimate goal. And to do that is to not over strain it, but definitely make use of putting your pronouns next to your name in an email or on your cards, your business cards, or even asking someone what their pronouns are and even doing it in front of other people, which I love to do personally. I don't know.


Adam Williams (37:22): You can do it on social media accounts now too, which is the one place actually that I have applied it, I think, is on my Instagram account. But to be honest, I have had a little concern that, well, is that received well? Is that received as allyship, or is that seen as me being performative trying to show something else that might be read as hollow or false? Is it truly something that is of use?


Beck Cerón (37:51): It is and it is of allyship. When I see that, I get excited. I'm excited to know that that person is able to express that without feeling they shouldn't have to. And for me, it's so normalized in my world that if it's not there, I wonder. Even though, let's say this person has all of these feminine qualities, I guess, maybe let's say long hair, and I even hate to say it like this, but with long hair, dress and all that stuff, I still wonder.


And so for me, it's comforting seeing that because I don't know, I won't know and I won't assume because it's just not in my nature anymore to assume that, I wouldn't want them to do that for me. So it's cool because, like I said, I personally doing it in public, but there's been a few occasions where I feel like maybe even someone came out to me because I asked them that, I gave them the opportunity in public to express how they wanted to be identified as.


Adam Williams (39:11): It made them feel safe then, you immediately then make it known, I'm paying attention to this, I care, you can share with me. But I'm sure it sounds like you're not even realizing that that's a sort of coming out moment for them.


Beck Cerón (39:27): Yeah.


Adam Williams (39:29): That impact. Sorry. That's blowing my mind right now. The impact that you have in an instant by simply showing you care enough to ask that question to someone who hasn't possibly never been asked and they're saying in a way, you might be the only person that ever hears that.


Beck Cerón (39:44): Yeah. One person, I have their name saved as Cincinnati person from the bar because I don't recall their name, if you're hearing this reach out. I used to work at Woods. This person was sitting there with a friend and again, I can't assume I wanted to proceed talking with them, and I'm not going to assume she/her or he/him, or they/them with them so I just wanted to know and I just asked and they were mind blown.


And they were maybe a little bit older than I am, and they were just mind blown. They were like, "I never been asked that. No one's ever asked me that before." And they were like, "I really think they/them is pretty cool. I think I like that a lot." And I'd say, this person, their style was super androgynous and regardless, I just felt the urge to ask.


(40:46): And so, I asked their partner and their partner was she/her. And it was great because I really like to ask just because, again, I can't assume and I don't know. And then I guess you're right, I don't realize I'm doing that and they're having this whole moment. I made it a point to ask another person in front of my coworkers because I just had the sense I should ask and I wanted to ask specifically in front of everyone else, and they said they/them.


And because I just had a feeling maybe the people around them wouldn't have asked and would just assume, and so I just felt like, at that moment, it was my duty to do so instead of just doing it like I normally do. I made it a point. It's funny, I don't know how much I can elaborate on this, but I recently just applied for a passport and I felt the need to put M, so now you can put an X, which is great. It's this huge thing, we've come so far.


(42:00): And so now we have X as an option on our passports, which is wild. I get it with the stated of Colorado, which mine is X on there as well. But when I applied for my passport, I definitely stuck with M. And not only because I definitely identify more with M, but somewhere deep within, I had this sense of I wanted to be safe, wherever I go, I don't know what countries are going to be totally cool with it.


So I felt conformed to putting M on there, but whereas there's going to be someone who is truly just not identifying with F or M and need to put that X, and I'm glad they can do that, but it's sad that I even worry about it.


Adam Williams (42:54): It is. It's sad that there is any component related to safety simply for being who you are, who any of us are. But then you walk around here on a regular basis around your daily life because I really am happy for you for this that you said, "Oh yeah, I just got reminded that there are some people who don't see the world in this all inclusive way."


And I'm glad that you're able to do that so much of the time. And at the same time, obviously you're aware, like you just demonstrated, "Oh well, there are people in the world who simply because I'm me."


(43:32): Well, I don't know what it is. Maybe you have thoughts on this. Not only related to identity, we've already touched on some of this. All the ways that we feel confident in ourselves doesn't matter who we are, it doesn't matter what we're talking about in the world, if you are confident, happy walking down the street without looking, like prey to someone else's anger and issues, why is it that people attack confidence? Why is it that we attack people who feel good being who they are? Do you have any thoughts on that?


Beck Cerón (44:04): I just get sad. I mean, I just become really sad when that happens. I feel like, I don't know 100% why they do it, but I really feel like it was a taught thing. Maybe it's just where they're from. Maybe it's politics. Maybe it's what they were taught, what was right and what was wrong. Maybe they even had these feelings of wanting to express themselves a little differently but got repressed for it immediately or maybe they were bullied.


There's so many different things. I've, in my head in the past, wondered it would just be so easy to just not be queer or trans. I'm at risk of probably getting stabbed, wouldn't that be enough to make someone be like, "Oh nevermind, I don't want to do that." This is how it's not a choice. And so I kind of went off, that took me off on this whole thing, but I couldn't tell you. I couldn't tell you. There's just so many different things that could cause someone to be like that.


Adam Williams (45:09): I think it's all the factors that you mentioned there and probably a ton more, right?


Beck Cerón (45:14): Probably. Yeah.


Adam Williams (45:15): I think what it comes down to though is that it has far less to do with the person being attacked than the one who is trying to enforce or reinforce their concepts of what the rules are or maybe the rules as they were applied to them. And like you said, they might have felt repressed in being who they are.


And so if they can't be confident in who they are, again, regardless of what that is, that might just mean wearing the clothes you want to wear or liking the music you want to without feeling judged by whatever your coworkers or your family, whatever.


Beck Cerón (45:48): Anything.


Adam Williams (45:50): We all need therapy. You mentioned therapy, we all need it. And that would help I think nationwide, if we're going to invest some federal funds on something of use, maybe therapy needs to be somewhere up the list at this point.


Beck Cerón (46:04): Yeah, that's been proven, for sure. Finding where the funds are more useful.


Adam Williams (46:11): Okay. You talked about when we started this conversation because it was tying to the part one of our conversation that you got sober, you had had experience with addiction as well in your life. So we're saying sober, clean, and there's correlation with identity because we had touched on that again at the end of that last conversation.


So I'd for us to segue through that in whatever you'd like to share there. What was that connection do you think of using and abusing alcohol and drugs? To what extent do you feel like that was connected to identity and how you were feeling about yourself or how you were accepted or not in the world? And then ultimately being sober, seeing yourself clearly loving yourself, coming out and identifying as queer and trans. And I know that's a whole lot in that question. I hope I didn't lose you.


Beck Cerón (47:10): Not at all. I'm definitely seeing it just in the very end of all of that, now that I get to be sober and express who I am and be who I am, I have this ability to want to help people, whereas I did beforehand, I was always really good at giving advice and being a caretaker and wanting to help others. I just feel like now, I just have a lot of better advice.


But it's helpful to know that whatever advice you're giving others in helping them, you resonate with. Because anyone can just say everything will be okay, but if you're not okay, how can you put off that energy and make that genuine, that advice genuine. And so, I think now I really, really want to help people because where I did have that urge before, I'm now helping myself and obtaining these tools that I feel more confident in helping others with a more genuine attitude, I guess.


(48:24): And I've said this before, like a broken record, but whatever I have to offer someone struggling, I know they can't go backwards from, whether they stay where they're at or they move forward, that's the hope. But I'm pretty confident in that. And I'm trying not to doubt that, where in the past I would doubt that like, am I really helping this person? What if what I say is not good or this and that? There's a lot of what ifs and now it's like I know it's going to be okay and that I'm confident.


Adam Williams (49:03): I think so much comes from the lived experience and when we have spent time reflecting on that, digging into it, trying to understand it, find its place in our lives and grow from it, but you have a lot to offer people in that way, more so I think than if it was just a textbook thing, "Well, I've read this book on this once, let me fix you."


Well, that doesn't go as far as, "Okay, I have empathy because I've been there. I know what you're feeling. I get it and I'm going to be a good listener for this. I'm not going to try to give you the answers, I know how to help you walk with what you're experiencing." That's a night and day difference, I think, what you have to offer.


(49:44): And what we are talking about here is that you actually are making a career shift. You had mentioned Woods earlier, you were a distiller for around a 10 year career as a distiller of whiskey and gin and so on. And you now are transitioning in a career change to helping people professionally who are recovering from addiction to drugs, alcohol and whatnot. Do you want to maybe elaborate on some of that?


Beck Cerón (50:09): It's ironic, I guess someone would say. I always thought it was funny before I realized that I could make helping people like a career. I just did so, of course, as a friend, as a person, but I was still distilling at the time and people would be like, "Well, that's odd that you're a sober distiller." And so that kind of became a popular thing in my world, the sober distiller and people found it ironic and it was funny.


Adam Williams (50:43): Well, and you had a mocktail bartending business too, we should mention.


Beck Cerón (50:46): Yes.


Adam Williams (50:48): Include that in there, because what I learned recently from you is that these things are very connected, that you would give out your phone number on the back of those business cards for your mocktail bartending business so that people, even total strangers, could reach out to you when they had questions around recovery or whatever they needed to reach out and have that connection with you for.


Beck Cerón (51:11): Yeah. For me, when I put my phone number on that card, it wasn't to get more events, because my time even was kind of constricted, it was all depending, it was more so people could call me and I would just say, "Reach out to that number, even if you just want to chat for five minutes."


And that's like my thing that I say at my popup events. And sure enough, multiple people have called me, a few people and of course I won't mention names or anything, but say they were having a moment and they just needed five minutes.


I can remember one person, I just went for a walk around the park and I just spoke to him about maybe not picking up that whiskey bottle and hopefully not going in too deep or even just talking to somebody that might have been already using and just needed someone to talk to.


(52:02): And I've been there, I've been in that position and all I can say is, "Hey, just from a non-professional standpoint, I totally understand where you're coming from. This is what I did." And/or sometimes they'll just talk to me and they'll talk about random things and it's just nice knowing that I did that for them.


And at first, I was a little nervous, but then I realize I'm just talking to someone as if when I needed someone to talk to, that's all I ever needed as well, just someone to answer and just be willing to just listen. That goes a long way.


(52:41): Initially, before starting the mocktail popup bar, I'm in recovery and I'm utilizing tools to help me stay sober and clearheaded. And I feel like at the time I needed something to hold me accountable, and not only did I feel like Salida lacked the term sober in general besides AA or NA, and this could have been in my own perception as a distiller and working downtown for so many years, I just felt like Salida was highly libated in the alcohol scene.


(53:20): And so I felt like, "Well, shit, if anyone's going to start a non-alcoholic thing, then I guess I'll have to be the one to do it." So I did it not thinking not much would come from it, but even just having the term sober bar out there, people reached out. They were grateful for it.


And so, it's starting to gain some momentum, which I'm grateful for. Even just sharing syrup with some of the coffee shops so they can make their drinks and just to promote it like, "You can get this sober syrup here at this location." It just gives people a sense of community like they're not alone.


And it is something we're seeing coming up, the sober scene is coming out and all that. No, it's really nice because I'm using it as a tool for my sobriety. So me helping others is like helping me.


Adam Williams (54:22): I look at the podcast we're doing here, this Looking Upstream as a similar tool for me as a way to connect with people, as a way to practice. It's sort of an aspirational thing for me to act in ways that are the compassionate listener that I want to be, the one who engages with humanity in the way that I want it to be, because I don't walk around every day feeling that way about everything I see and hear. So I think it's a very positive step and a practice really in life, a life practice that you're taking these steps in your own recovery and to help others doing that.


(55:01): I want to wrap up with this question. I hope it's not too big of a question because, of course, again, we could just keep talking here, but I wonder who you see in the mirror now, so far, going through all these steps and this evolution of who you are and coming to this place that is sober and where you love yourself, and you mentioned being more clear minded. Who do you see when you look in the mirror? What do you feel?


Beck Cerón (55:25): We all have imperfections, of course. We're just these malleable little humans that are speckles of dust in our galaxy. I mean, I've come a long way as a person myself, and I don't know what tomorrow holds, I don't know where I'll be in my journey, who will be around me.


When I look in the mirror, I just know I trust the person that's in front of me now, because in the past I didn't, and I don't know why, but I just didn't. And now I do. And so, where I would get really anxious of the future and the possibilities of all these things, maybe even being dissatisfied with how I looked, I don't feel that anymore. I mean, I don't know.


I can actually goof off and say that I look pretty good some days and that's all that matters, there's no certain way to look it. I really think confidence is what makes you look good. I don't know. It's hard to explain.


Adam Williams (56:41): We all need that.


Beck Cerón (56:41): Yeah.


Adam Williams (56:43): No, I think that's fantastic, and to look in the mirror, man, I love how you put that, to trust that person and where you're going with whatever's ahead.


Beck, I really love that we got a chance to sit down for a second conversation. Thank you for sharing about all of this. I mean, you're a tremendous person. I'm so glad to do this.


Beck Cerón (57:03): Oh, well, right back at you. I can't think of anybody else that could hold a podcast like this other than you. So yeah, you're inspirational, for sure.


Adam Williams (57:14): Thank you.


[Transition music, guitar and horns]


Adam Williams (57:21): All right. That was my second of two conversations with Beck Cerón. If what they shared here today resonated with you, you can email comments to Lisa Martin, one of our producers at


We invite you to rate and review the We Are Chaffee: Looking Upstream podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or whatever platform you use with that functionality. We also invite you to share the Looking Upstream podcast with others on your social media pages and by word of mouth. Help us to grow the good, be part of the light the world needs. Once again, I'm your host, Adam Williams. Jon Pray is engineer and producer.


(57:49): 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 Storytelling Initiative. Andrea Carlstrom, director of Chaffee County Public Health and Environment, and Becky Gray, director of the Chaffee Housing Authority.


(58:05): 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. You can learn more about the Looking Upstream podcast and related storytelling initiatives at and on Instagram and Facebook @WeAreChaffee.


Lastly, thank you for listening and until next time, as we say it, we are Chaffee. Be human, share stories.

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