Navigating A World Filled With Alcohol And Drugs…Sober

I would never tell someone relatively new to sobriety from alcohol and drugs to hang out at places were either were abundantly present. But that’s not true for those who have worked solid 12 Step programs, as one of the goals of recovery is to learn how to be around those things again without feeling the desire doing either.

The first few years of my own recovery were spent avoiding bars and parties where any type of alcohol or drugs were present. About the only place I ever was around either was at a bowling alley where I was in a league. I just didn’t feel strong enough yet to resist the temptation of being around all that energy of people who were still enjoying them.

Thankfully, that’s no longer true for me. I have no problem going to a bar or a party where people are doing things like drinking or smoking weed. In fact, I was at a gathering recently where both took place and I still had an immensely good time. But, I also set boundaries for myself, which is an important tool in recovery from an addiction. What that means is to know one’s limits and respect them. In my case, that meant leaving the party after spending four or so hours there, notably right around the time I started feeling myself become a little tempted to engage in some old behaviors.

Nevertheless, the point I’m making is that while it may be a healthy thing to initially avoid being around all the people and places that trigger a person into their alcohol or drug addiction, eventually everyone can find freedom through the 12 Step work to be around them again, except this time having healthy boundaries in place.

Healthy boundaries can include setting time limits of how long to remain in various places or be around certain people that may be triggering. It can also mean going with someone who is sober or even calling a sponsor before arriving and after leaving. And it can mean leaving a situation if certain conditions arise like when hard-core drugs show up.

However one chooses to set healthy boundaries for themselves, one should never spend frequent time around bars or people where alcohol and drugs are regularly present, no matter how short or long their time in sobriety is. Because that old saying still continues to prove its validity in that the longer one hangs around a barbershop, the more they are assured of getting a haircut.

Overall, the point I’m trying to make is that 12 Step recovery can and will help a person coexist in a world that will always be filled with alcohol and drugs. Today, I can coexist successfully amongst neighbors who occasionally drink and smoke pot. I can coexist successfully at parties and other social functions where both are present as well. And I can even coexist amongst friends and loved ones who like to have an alcoholic beverage here and there, such as when we’re out to dinner.

In the end, it all comes down to me being ok with it, because I’m ok with my recovery. I have the strength and foundation of a program under my belt and a Higher Power guiding it, whom I choose to call God, that constantly supports me and navigates me through life where alcohol and drugs will always be present. And that alone is one of the main reasons why I continue to stay active in my recovery, one day at a time, for over 22 years now…

Peace, love, light and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Limiting Charity For Safety’s Sake…

I heard some disappointing news recently about a guy who was just trying to do the right thing in life by continuing to reach out and help others solely because he cared, only to see it backfire on him.

This person was a volunteer at a local soup kitchen who by all means had a completely tarnish-free life. He simply was a beautiful soul who was regularly moved by God to help others and had been for some time. During the course of his volunteer work, he befriended an impoverished individual and got to know them pretty well over many months of seeing them at the soup kitchen. On one particular day, that individual asked him if they and one of their friends could get a ride to the store. He of course immediately said yes, given his good nature. Yet, during that very ride, he was pulled over by the police because his new acquaintance’s friend was actually a well-known criminal with a drug history. And unfortunately, for the man who was humbly providing the two of them a ride because of his big heart, drugs were discovered stashed in his car that were definitely not his. Now, this very same giving gentleman has been put on suspension from his job, has a misdemeanor looming over his head, and is having to spend time in court fighting all this. The result? He says that when this is all over, he will never provide charitable rides for anyone again. The sad thing about this is that I definitely can relate to his decision and I’m sure many others can as well.

With the drug craze and people either on them or dealing them, reaching epic proportions in recent years, this isn’t the first occasion of me hearing about something like this happening. And the more I do, the more I too find myself withdrawing from doing charitable acts I once might have done without blinking an eye.

The truth is, I personally don’t offer rides anymore to people I don’t know nor do I allow any strangers into my home. I have seen far too many examples lately of police arresting and even shooting people that were innocent just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The downside of all this, of me making decisions that are not as charitable and open-hearted like this wrongly-arrested man has now made with himself, is of course limiting the ability of God to work through me. It’s depressing really and something I struggle with every day, as I truly do want to be nothing more in this world then an extension of God’s love. But, given the suffering I’m already going through in life with my health, I honestly can’t take any more and can only imagine how much worse it’d be having to face criminal charges for something I didn’t do.

So, I currently am choosing to keep my volunteer work to speaking at various detox centers, being a sponsor to others in the 12 Steps, and occasionally donating money to those in need. Beyond that, like offering strangers rides or providing shelter for them in my home is something I’m choosing to not do at this time. I only pray that God understands and forgives me for this self-imposed limitation and does as well with others who impose them on themselves like this charitable individual now has.

Hopefully one day, I won’t feel the need to limit my charity for safety’s sake anymore. I know it comes down to fear and worry, which I’m sure I can and will overcome the more I allow God to transform my life. And the more I do, the more I will most likely find all of those self-imposed charitable limitations removed from my life, because it’s then I will be nothing more than that extension of God’s love where fear and worry don’t exist, no matter what happens to me…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

The 3rd Step And Playing Tug-Of-War With God

Being a person of faith, I often still find myself playing a game of tug-of-war with God, which in a life of recovery, directly impacts the 3rd step that says “Made a decision to turn our will and lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

With that being said, most who’ve known me for quite some time would say that I’ve always been a strong-willed person and while that has worked at times in some areas of my life, there are many others like in my recovery realm that it hasn’t worked well one bit. After all, it was my will that kept me active in plenty of addictions for far too long. And it’s my will that constantly puts me directly into one of those games of tug-of-war with God.

Anytime I find myself playing this game, it usually has to do with something that my ego doesn’t want to give up. Case in point, I’ve brought numerous people into my life over the years who weren’t exactly healthy (heavy into addictions, volatile anger, etc.) for me to be around, yet I firmly held onto them, even when God kept showing me over and over again that I needed to let them go. The same has been true of various jobs I’ve worked at, social groups I’ve been a part of, recovery meetings I’ve attended, etc. My ego also has the tendency to beat a dead horse way too much, sometimes until I think I can get it to come back to life, and that’s precisely the very type of thing that gets me into that tug-of-war game with God.

This is why I truly believe the 3rd step is the cornerstone of the entire 12 Step recovery program and specifically why I feel the greater I let go of my will, the more successful and healthy my recovery and life will become. But, the more I take back my will and hold onto things that really aren’t healthy for my spiritual journey, the more I tend to find myself in that eternal battle of tug-of-war with God. And frankly, I must admit, I’ve never won a single one of those types of games anytime I played it with God, as the more I’ve pulled on that rope of self-will, the more my life has fallen apart. Thankfully, I’ve also seen that the more I’ve let go of it, the more my life has come back together.

So, the next time you find yourself holding onto something that often causes you anger, stress, negativity, and the like, maybe you’re actually in the middle of playing a game of tug-of-war with your Higher Power, who simply just wishes that you’d let go of that rope. I’m sure if you do, that eventually you’ll find it creates a lot more peace and joy in your life than if you don’t…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson