Everyone should be Addicted to the inspiration of Mark Munroe

I’ve known Mark Munroe for almost seven years. He was among my first interviews back in  2012 and has truly become a good friend to me over the years. It’s funny that in all this time, we had our first face-to-face meeting this past January. It may sound cliche but there really was no awkward moment. The second I was in his presence, it was like we were experiencing one visit in a series of adventures. It seems insufficient to say that Mark has been inspirational to me personally and also without knowing it, he has been a source of support as well as grounding as I navigate my own journey.
One funny story he also doesn’t know is that when we met this year, it was actually my very first time drinking scotch. I think I held my own pretty well and I didn’t want to seem rude since it was a national Canadian holiday and he was so gracious to extend an invitation to me while I was visiting Toronto. Surprisingly, I actually liked it! I guess that’s why they call him The Male Addict…. he really does know what’s good! It was also a true honor to work alongside him for the premiere of the CTV television show Cardinal. I feel like the whole thing just solidified everything, for me at least and I absolutely cannot wait to hang out with him even more! I think I may be addicted to The Male Addict…
When I first met Mark, he was a singer-songwriter and I knew he had a very bright future from the online interactions we shared and from the interview we did. Since that time, Mark has shifted his focus to his role as The Male Addict and his magazine, Addicted. He is an expert on highlighting what’s hot, what’s up and coming, and what we should be addicted to. He has flattered me by referring to us as kindred spirits but I do actually feel like we are on similar paths with very similar thought processes on the industry we love, our roles in it, and the things we should avoid at all costs.
On an even larger scale, Mark Munroe is an extraordinary example of someone who has overcome so much and not only survived, but thrived. He has been very open about his struggles with body issues, addiction, and how he has dealt with it all. His thought process on following our dreams, no matter what they are is something I am behind 100%. I believe if we follow his example, we can attain all we aspire to and more!
I am beyond proud to share this follow-up interview that has been a long time coming and beyond excited about what may come next:
Q: The last time I interviewed you it was for your music but, my, how things have changed since 2012! Tell me a bit about The Male Addict and WeRAddicted.com. How did that all come about?
Mark Munroe: Well as you know, I worked in entertainment (recording artist, model, actor) for years with moderate success, but like many my life had been destroyed by drugs, depression and body issues. I decided to take some time away and get myself sorted. During that phase I started a journal of all the things that made me happy. From a sunset to a great meal, I focused on what I loved. That journal turned into a blog out of convenience and then my best friend and writer Nadia came to me and asked if I wanted to turn it into a magazine, I said yes. Now 5 years later Addicted is an international lifestyle outlet, and my social brand @TheMaleAddict was born from that and have both helped to change and really shape my new reality.
Q: Do you miss music? Think you’ll ever head back into the studio?
MM: I do, a lot to be honest, but, I have actually already been in the studio since my last release “Drive” in 2013, gawd I didn’t think it had been almost 4 years. I have actually written another record and some of the music is done as well, but, now is not the time for music, but, I will come back to it at some point publicly, until then I’ll do my thing behind the scenes.
Q: Being an influencer can be tricky. Without giving away your secrets, how do you do it in such an authentic and genuine way?
MM: Here is my rule: Only endorse what you really love. I have learned over the years that people see through the “BS” and really, you have to be true to yourself, so much so in this industry as people will try and pull you in every direction.
Q: I know you come across all of the best products out there so what are some of your favorites right now in these categories:
Wine?
MM: my go-to right now is Carnivor, it’s bold and strong, which I love.
Men’s fragrance?
MM: I’ve been wearing Armani Code, but I jump around on the fragrances, I also love the Sexual Collection for Michel Germain, check it out!

Men’s skincare?
MM: My steady over the years has been Triumph and Disaster, but I am loving Alumier MD right now

Men’s fashion including shoes?
MM: My fav suit maker is actually a fellow Canadian, Christopher Bates, love his work, when it comes to shoes, oh lord where to I begin. I have several pairs of Noble Soles, Sully Wong’s, (also Canadian, are you seeing a trend? lol) and I have a love affair with new balance.

Men’s underwear?
MM: Bjorn Borg, they make the most insane undies, I love them.

Men’s athletic wear including shoes for running and the gym?
MM: My collection is split, clothing, New Balance and Columbia, shoes, new balance, again lol

With summer coming up, men’s swimwear?
MM: haha I just bought a Charlie bathing suit, it leaves nothing to the imagination, so we’ll see if I wear it out in public!

Any other categories you care to speak on?
MM: My magazine is called Addicted for a reason, there are just so many things I love!
Q: You’ve always been very open about your own struggles and addictions. Why is it so important to you that you stay part of the conversation?
MM: In the past few years that I have talked very publicly about it. I guess my hope is, that by sharing my story, I can maybe help someone along the way, to remind them that it is never too late to start over. I was an addict, I was depressed, bankrupt, the works, and now, I am healthy, happy, and doing what I love. I want to share to help others see that anything is possible.
Q: What advice can you offer to people stuggling with their mental state and/or with addiction?
MM: Find a happy place, happy moments. What brought me back to life wasn’t changing everything in a day, that is way too much pressure. I learned to change, that I had to be in it for the long game. That change would take time. Start small, and build from there.
Q: What advice would you offer to loved ones of individuals who are struggling?
MM: You can’t help, you can’t save them. The addict has to want to help themselves. As someone who was the addict, I always want to apologize to anyone that has to go through that with someone they love. I know I put my mother through hell, and even though she forgave me, that was almost the hardest part of it all, forgiving myself for what I put her through.
Q: What is one thing you absolutely cannot live without and one thing you wish we could all live without?
MM: I couldn’t live without the love of the people around me, I couldn’t imagine my life without that. I wish everyone would live without Snapchat, I just, I can’t, maybe I’m just too old school.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? From whom?
MM: My dad: You decide to be a good man, you decide to be successful, you decide to be happy. What choice will you make Mark? (he asked me that after I started my life back again after time off while dealing with my addiction.)
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve every given? Are you good at following your own?
MM: Follow your heart, and yes, I have spent my whole life following my heart, and I don’t mean in love, I mean following your dreams, setting crazy goals that seem so out of reach.
I was a Canadian boy born in a small town with a minister father. I dreamed of modeling and did it, I dreamed of being a recording artist, of owning an international magazine, if I pass on anything to the world, I hope it’s that: always follow your heart and don’t let anyone tell you-you can’t.
Q: What’s up next for Mark Munroe?
MM: There is so much I still want to do. Right now in life my focus has shifted, I am focusing on using the platforms (Addicted and @TheMaleAddict) we have created for a movement of change. I have been blessed in my life, and I want to share that in any way I can to assist others, tell their story, and help their journey if I can.
Q: You and I met via social media when it was fairly new. Do you still think it is a good place to make real connections?
MM: To be honest, real connections are hard now a days, and while yes I do think real connections can be made, I do think social also has the ability to make people less social, if that makes any sense.
Q: If you were to head back into the studio to record an album about your life, what title would you give it?
MM: The album that I mentioned earlier was called “The Awakening” cause that’s what happened to me and changed my life. I’d call it Addicted, but I’ve used that a few times now!
Q: Can you tell us about some of the things you have cooking up at WeRAddicted.com?
MM: We are really excited to be working with some amazing brands this year, but not only that, we have so many fun peope we are working with as well, not to mention travel, and as I write this, our team is heading to SXSW. We are working to keep entertaining, informing and as always finding people that inspire.

and I have to admit, I’m more excited than I have ever been in my life!
I hope you are all inspired to find out more about Mark by following him everywhere and keeping up with him via his magazine. I want to thank him for taking time to do the interview with me!

Let Peter Monn take you to The Before Now and After Then

I have known Peter Monn for a few years now but unfortunately, we have yet to meet in person but I do consider him a friend. This is the case with so many due to the gift of Social Media. I have followed him and his husband Alex on Twitter and been friends with both on Facebook. I love seeing all they are up to, accomplishing, and having fun with. When Alex told me that Peter had a new book out, I knew I had to get an interview with him right away. The couple have a website, raannt.com where they do all sorts of interesting stuff as well as celebrity interviews. You may see me show up there sometime (one can dream).
Peter’s new book is called ‘The Before Now and After Then’ and is about coming to terms with who you really are in this insane world we live in. It addresses the issues of bullying and coming out, among other important topics. I thoroughly enjoyed coming up with questions for this interview and so eager to hear the answers. I am thrilled to bring it to you here:
Q: First of all, I have to ask, how did you come up with the title ‘Before Now and After Then’?
Peter Monn: It’s actually kind of an interesting story.  The idea for the book actually came from a blog post I wrote on my personal blog, petermonn.com, titled The Gay Boy Diaries.  It was an article about my struggles growing up in the late 80’s/90’s as an outed gay teenager.  A friend recommended that I should write it as a book, but modernize it as if it were happening today and that is essentially what gave me the idea for the book, although it became so much more than just that original idea.  The working title was The Gay Boy Diaries, but my publisher and I felt it wasn’t all inclusive for all readers so I had to come up with a new title. “After Then” was actually the title on a B side of a mixed tape I had from high school, so I used that and included that story in the book. The real title comes from a deeper meaning in the story.
 
Q: What made you decide to write the book?
PM: I’ve wanted to be a published author for as long as I can remember.  When I was a little kid my mom would take me to the library and let me check out all of these books even though she knew I wouldn’t read them all.  I remember telling her I was going to be a writer someday and my parents always encouraged that passion.  I never thought it was a real possibility until I was approached by my publisher.  I honestly just thought it was a pipe dream that would never happen.  Just as I’m sure you can understand from your celebrity interactions and interviews, even when you’re standing there with them it feels surreal.  It feels the same to me to actually hold one of my published books.  It feels weird like it shouldn’t be real, but it is.  It’s rather humbling.
Q: Do you think the “spotlight” of celebrity or notoriety is sometimes just too much for certain people to handle?
PM: I’m assuming you’re asking me this in reference to the website I run with my husband, raannt.com and our celebrity interviews.  Yes, definitely.  In all honesty, if you had asked me when I was in high school if I would love to be famous I would have said absolutely, but I’m not so sure today.  I think there are certain kinds of fame where you can still hide and no one really knows who you are, like writers and some DJ’s, etc.  But for the super-famous, like Lindsay Lohan or the Kardashians, I don’t think they ever get a break from the spotlight.  I honestly can’t imagine what that’s like.  I think most people sit back and think they’re super lucky but I have to believe it’s a trade-off.  A lot of people would like to have a closet full of Birkins but probably not at the expense of having absolutely no anonymity.  In a way, I think they subconsciously sabotage their celebrity because it’s too much for them.  I do think though that as the times change and celebrities are more approachable, we’re allowing them to be just normal people, which they are anyway.  
Q: Can you tell us a little about your personal background? With all the talk of addiction and depression in recent news, you must be reliving so much. What advice can you offer those who are suffering from addiction, depression, even bullying?
PM: Oh wow, I don’t even know where to start.  Let’s see, how about the fun stuff first.  I’m a Cancer born under a full moon during the Watergate hearings.  I love electronic dance music and old school country equally.  My friends would probably tell you I’m very funny but I cry a lot, mostly out of joy. I’m obsessed with carnival lights, driving late at night, Diet Dr. Pepper and strong coffee.  I’ve also been clean and sober for 19 and a half years and that’s fundamentally the foundation for everything I have in my life.  I worked as an adolescent counselor for drug addicted teenagers for 15 years and have worked in the field of addiction almost all of my life.  On the side, my husband and I run an entertainment website called raannt.com where we interview celebrities and post music and style posts.  I was bullied from a really young age for being gay and it was a constant through all of my school years.  I don’t ever remember suicide being an option or thinking about giving up, I just learned to deal with the bullying, but I was also surrounded by family and friends who supported me even if they weren’t necessarily aware of the bullying.  I don’t talk about the bullying or the addiction because I feel bad about them or because I feel like they signify anything deeper in my life, I talk about them because they are part of my life.  They don’t define me, but they are a part of my story.  I included bullying in my book for the same reason, although I know not every gay guys story includes bullying.  
Depression?  On the heels of Robin William’s death, I hope it’s a wake-up call that depression is a very serious illness in our country.  I had a friend once tell me that he believed very creative people suffer from extreme highs and extreme lows.  I have to believe that is true with the Robin Williams and Whitney Houston’s of our world.  It breaks my heart because I have found so much joy in life in my sobriety.  
My advice to someone with depression would be to find a professional immediately.  My advice to someone with addiction issues or to their family would be to find a professional or a 12-step program immediately.  Do not wait.  My advice to someone being bullied would be to beat their ass! No, I’m joking, but I do believe that we have to teach kids how to make their lives get better and to stand up for themselves instead of taking the abuse.  For me, not doing something was worse than the bullying because I stopped believing in myself.  If all else fails, email me.  I’m always around to help someone.
Q: Will there be more books from you in our future?
PM: Are you kidding me? You can’t stop me now! I have so many ideas I’m struggling finding the order for them to be released.  Actually, I was working on a book called Suicide Birds, but my publisher and I decided to back burner it.  My next book, Surrender to Technicolor, will be released in the Spring of 2015.  It is a project I’ve worked on for over ten years.  It’s about three teenagers who escape from a drug treatment center and go on a wild road trip, trying to find themselves, all told to the backdrop of The Wizard of Oz.
Q: Any plans to try and get a movie out of the book?
 
PM: I would love to have my book made into a movie! I can’t imagine a greater honor, but alas no prospects yet.  If you know of anyone who might be interested have them contact my publisher or me.  
Q: You are openly gay and married to your partner Alex Paredes. How long has it been now? Have you found people are becoming more accepting? Do you think we will ever see a day where it isn’t such a big deal to marry the person you love or profess your love for each other as a same-sex couple?
PM: We will have been married three years August 25th.  So here’s the thing.  I’m no kitchen secret.  I’m not the most flamboyant guy in the world but I’m definitely not super masculine.  It has always taken people about 30 seconds to figure out I’m gay.  The people who aren’t accepting of my being gay are the same ones who aren’t accepting of my marriage and quite frankly I don’t look for validation from them anyway.  Most of our friends are straight couples and they don’t seem to have any problem with our marriage and are the first to acknowledge our marriage being no different than theirs.  Part of the reason I wrote this book was that it was important for me to write a love story that just happened to be between two teenage boys.  It could have been two girls or a boy and a girl.  Love is the common denominator.  And yes, I believe in my heart we will have a day where same-sex marriage isn’t such a big deal.  I still remember the day Ellen Degeneres came out on national television and people went crazy and look at her now! By the way, do you think you could get me on her show! Huge fan! She’s a true pioneer.
Q: Where can we find you and ‘The Before Now and After Then’ online?
PM: Thanks for asking because I am, after all, trying to sell some books. Haha. You can find it on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes and Noble and anywhere eBooks are sold. Print can be ordered on Amazon and hopefully it will be in book stores before the end of the year.
Q: What’s up next for Peter Monn?
PM: Well the Indiana State Fair ends this weekend and I’d kind of like to get corn dog and an elephant ear and maybe see the baby pigs before summer is over.  Other than that, finishing Surrender to Technicolor, reading on my front porch and going out to dinner with my husband.

Amy Winehouse exhibition shows girl behind the star

Amy Winehouse exhibition shows girl behind the star (via AFP)

It is Amy Winehouse, but not as we know her. The mass of dark hair, steady gaze and full lips are instantly recognisable, but there is no hint of the scrawny, tattooed addict she would later become. Intimate family photographs, displayed for the first…


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Teeco71′s Musings: You Have to Know Your Own Strength

Recent events have sparked many conversations and have me thinking about so many things we could change.   Whitney Houston lived a complicated, contradicting life.  On one hand, she had success, a good family, a firm foundation, and lots of love.  On the other, she had self-doubt, addiction, bad decisions, horrible influences, and struggles.  Debates are ongoing as to whether or not we should feel sorry for her.  Did she bring it on herself? Was she too weak to fight temptation and outside influences?  Can you blame others for your own falls?

I feel sorry for her because she obviously had a tough time dealing with something(s) in her life.  Was fame her demon? Was it shame? Did she allow her relationships to get the best of her?  Possibly, but yes, I do believe she shared the blame and that doesn’t mean I blame her completely.  We all tend to rely on crutches of some form or another in our lives. Some lean on people a little too hard, some hit the bottle, some choose drugs, while others choose food.  Anything can become an addiction given the right circumstances.  Even something as natural and beautiful as sex can become horrible if you are seeking something you are missing from these “connections.”

I have struggled with my weight through my life. Right now I am winning big time and very proud to say I have taken so much control.  At the same time, I know others who are not as in control of their vices.  I hear all the excuses, “Its okay, I only do it once in a while.”  ”I’m not as bad as so-and-so.”  ”I do it because I enjoy it.”  I call BULL.  If anything (drugs, alcohol, etc) cause you to change your personality so drastically that you do things out of character or they bring out the worst in you, you have a pretty big problem.  If you can’t put them down and stay away from them, you have a problem.  If you need them to enjoy life… bingo… you have a problem.

That being said, if I look deep enough at the people in question, I do see demons.  Self doubt, even self hatred.  None of those things will be alleviated by the numbing effects of addiction.  The only way to solve our problems would be to face them.  If you can’t face them alone, seek out friends, family, anyone who cares about you. They are there, even if they are angry at you for your actions, they will come around when you show you are ready to try to get help.

Our entire society has become so convoluted.  We accept alcoholism, drug use (especially prescription drugs) and we make it okay.  I wonder why more doctors don’t question patients that are abusing their prescriptions? Is it money? Do our consciences have a price? I remember when I was younger, my Grandfather was diagnosed with diabetes.  At first, the doctors gave him a diet to follow.  They wanted to see if his sugar levels would come down with proper eating habits.  When that didn’t work, although I suspect he really wasn’t following his diet, they prescribed meds.

Today, I see doctors so willing to prescribe drugs without first attempting a more natural remedy.  Have we become so desensitized to drug use? When did we stop questioning things? When did we relinquish control of our own bodies? When did we give up trying?

Is your life or the life of another worth fighting for? I think it is.  As long as the other person is willing to get help and realizes that they cannot be permitted to bring you down in the process, they deserve a chance.  If you are the one who is fighting demons, YOU have to be honest with yourself.  Identify the problem and then seek help from whomever you can.  Your life is something to be experienced fully, to feel every emotion, enjoy every triumph, and yes, even endure the pain.

In her song, ‘I Didn’t Know My Own Strength,’ Whitney sang about losing touch with her soul, losing sight of her dream, and forgetting how strong she was.  At that time, she seemed to be coming around but unfortunately she didn’t fully hear the affirmations in her own music.  I leave you with the lyrics to the song that has been playing in my head for weeks now and the task of examining the people around you or yourself to see who and where you can help or need help.

Was fame the beginning of Whitney’s end? Perhaps and I suspect that her family would have preferred her to be just a normal girl and live well past the age of 48 rather than share her talent with the world as they did.  Maybe some people were just not meant to be famous or ultra successful because they just can’t handle it?

No more excuses, no more allowances.  Take responsibility, make them take responsibility.  Fight like your life, or theirs, depends on it….. because it does.  And for God’s sake, realize your own strength!!!!!

I Didn’t Know My Own Strength 

Warren, Diane

Lost touch with my soul
I had nowhere to turn, I had nowhere to go
Lost sight of my dream
Thought it would be the end of me

I, I thought I’d never make it through
I had no hope to hold on to
I, I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down and I tumbled, but I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength

Survived my darkest hour, my faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up, hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

Found hope in my heart
I found the light to life my way out of the dark
Found all that I need here inside of me

Oh, I thought I’d never find my way
I thought I’d never lift that weight
I thought I would break

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down and I tumbled, but I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
I didn’t know my own strength

Survived my darkest hour, my faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up, hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

There were so many times
I wondered how I’d get through the night
I thought I took all that I could take

I didn’t know my own strength
And I crashed down and I tumbled, but I did not crumble
I got through all the pain
Oh, I didn’t know my own strength

My faith kept me alive
I picked myself back up, I hold my head up high
I was not built to break
I didn’t know my own strength

I was not built to break, no, no
I got to know my own strength

Aiden Howarth: Poet, Dedicated Father, and Game Changer

I had the pleasure of interviewing poet Aiden Howarth for Technorati.com recently and I hope you will head over and read that article.  I can honestly tell you that since I got his book of poetry, ‘Without You,’ it has been next to my bed and I read it often before I go to sleep.  The poems are rich, a bit dark, and yet uplifting at the same time.  Its as if, because they make you feel so much, you know it will all be okay. Aiden is a great example of this sentiment.  He is very honest about his battles with alcohol, drugs, and his recovery.

My idea was to pick a few of his poems and ask him what he was thinking, find out what he was feeling, and what reaction he was hoping for. I chose four of his poems,  ’A New Page of Old Emptiness,’ ’The Fairytale You Had Wished For,’ ’Be Still My Heart,’ and ’A Life, When All Life Has Gone.’

A New Page Of Old Emptiness.
Oh how we never realise the pain until it hurts
We’re all part of this lost and found
of how your heart converts
Although we gain forgiveness in
the thoughts of those we shun
How memories now seem nothing,
from the love you have become
Hopeless, never after, finally I hear you speak
Instinctively so familiar, within your soul I stay weak
A new page of old emptiness
that may have read of whom we were
Back to front I read from you to take back all I’ve learnt
All this talk of universe has made this place so small
What was once just gazed upon is now not far at all
Beautiful you have changed me, in ways you’ll never see
You touch within the loneliest parts of all you gave to me

The Fairytale That You Had Wished For.
The key to staying open lies behind the doors we’ve closed
The things we took for granted
are the things we have no more
Lord you will replace us into lives you do create
The soul that you have given me
will for her, always await
Take from me emotion but please leave with me this will
Confusion has now overturned this hope you kept so still
You touched my hand and fallen,
were the walls we built so high
Without even spoken word it’s like we never said goodbye
Trust how you enslave me with a heart so full of pain
Trust how you have broken from this hope I did regain
Songs that place me with you have now fallen on deaf ears
If life be all but music why were we silent all these years?
Why do we class ‘too late’ as moments been and gone?
Retract, you take your hand
I feel that your heart has withdrawn
This story could have endings far too numerous to read
Yet fate does seem to narrate us in ones we don’t succeed

Taken by the hand and misled into the arms of hurt.

The fairytale that you had wished for?

Be Still My Heart.
Placed upon the edge of forever
Looking though forever still yet to go
Placed upon the edge of all reason,
Looking forever above and below

I wish I could give you this feeling
There is only so much fate can now do
Absorbed into this eternal want
Of losing myself into you

Found within the vastness of never,
Do I just prey this ache furthermore?
A universe to gaze upon,
Within your heart, I explore

Soul gone laid with forgiveness
May I lay by her side for all time?
With hope that one day she feels me,
When her heart I feel beat with mine

Now, sleep you may take me,
If she would follow me to into these dreams
There could I only give to her
The soul that she made for me

Please, be still my heart.

A Life, When All Life Has Gone.
Hurting like nothing else could hurt
This life submerged for too long
Finally,
A life left to be,
A life, when all life has gone

Burning up and unopened, one mind
Taken away from a heart
Heaven,
Please do not look inside
Fore it did tear this young life apart

Lying face down and lifeless
Where inside, the torment went on
Peaceful now?
So hard to tell,
Fore he tortured himself for so long

Heaven would you hold us closely
If for you, our souls were instead?
Solace,
Could you take these fears
As you take away our breath?

A world surrounded by stars now drifting
Further and further away
We close our eyes for the final time
As We finally let go of this pain

Hurting like nothing else could hurt
This life submerged for too long
Finally,
A life left to be,
A life, when all life has gone.

To experience more of Aiden’s poetry for yourself, you can go to http://aidenhowarth.com and you can purchase ‘Without You’ in paperback or digital copy here.   You can also follow Aiden and his daily antics on Twitter at @Aiden_Howarth.

I thank Aiden for his time and especially his honesty.  I am looking forward to his next project and hopefully another chance to chat with him.