The Beginning Of My True Recovery From Addictions

It was the beginning of September, 2007. I had just come back from a month long trip in Europe where I was trying to run from myself and all my addiction based behaviors. Ironically the place I spent the most time during this hiatus from my life was Amsterdam, a place where one can find any addiction readily accessible. When I landed at Logan Airport in Boston, MA, I was a mess on every level and knew I needed help. It had been 12 years since my last drink or drug and I felt worse than when I had been active in either of those addictions. The progression of my disease had worsened each year since my sober and clean date of June 11, 1995 because I had gone to substitute addictions that kept me feeling numb. On top of that, my business and finances in Virginia, where I had previously lived, were in shambles and a seven year relationship with someone I thought would last forever was now over. The only person willing to take me in at that point in time was my sister who lived in an outlying suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.

Shortly after landing, my only friend in Massachusetts called me and suggested after hearing my duress, that I come to his home group in AA on that upcoming Friday night. For years, this friend had made the same request when I was in the area visiting. On every one of those prior occasions, my answer was always the same that I had something better to do, or even worse, I would guilt trip him into skipping his weekly home group meeting stating that I was only in town for a short period of time. I never realized how self-centered those actions were or how much AA might have helped me with all the pain I felt inside.

People in recovery have said that when one really hits their bottom, they become willing to do just about anything to find healing. When that phone call arrived at that moment from this friend, I didn’t have any excuses anymore. I didn’t have any other place I could think of that I’d rather be. I knew I needed help and that if I didn’t get help, I was either going to go back out on drinking or drugs or kill myself. So I told my friend that I would be there. When that Friday night arrived, I plugged the directions into my GPS for the church that the meeting was being held at, and an hour later, I arrived. As I walked in the front door of the church, I saw my friend, along with a tremendous amount of other people who were all smiling, laughing, and greeting each other with hugs. I felt completely at odds.

My friend gave me a big hug and said he was glad that I came. I told him that I really needed to speak about what I was going through at that meeting that night. He explained to me that he didn’t think it would be possible because there was an incoming commitment. I had never heard that term before and asked him to explain. He told me that in the New England area, many AA groups go out to other groups, detoxes, hospitals, or prisons, and speak about their experience, strength, and hope in recovery. And that night, he told me, there was a group coming in to do just that. Many old timers would say that at that point, I should have just gone into that meeting, sat down, shut up, and listened to each of the speakers.

I didn’t.

In my ego and self-centered universe, I thought everybody needed to hear what I was going through. So instead of listening to what those old-timers would have told me, I kept badgering my friend and convinced him to talk to the incoming commitment and place me on their list of speakers. He eventually gave in and I was called at the end of the meeting to come up and speak. As I slowly walked up to the podium, I looked out at the 150+ people that were there to get a message of positivity and hope that recovery can bring. Instead what came out was that my name was Andrew, that I was still an alcoholic, that I was 12 years clean and sober and that I was also a complete, horrific mess. The last thing I remember saying that night was that both my parents took their lives from this disease and that I was going to do the same if I didn’t get help. I left that podium after that in a torrent of tears.

God really does work in mysterious ways. While it may have been completely selfish and self-centered with speaking at that AA meeting, it changed the course of my life for the better. I got a sponsor that night. I got a list of phone numbers of people to call. I developed a group of friends that helped me realize there were sober people out there to hang out and have fun with. And over time, through working the steps, I found God all around me and within me. He had always been there, I just had kept running from him from one addiction to another.

Thank God for my friend offering me as he always did to come to that meeting. Thank God for AA and recovery. Thank God that I’m still clean and sober today and now even from all addictions.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Selfish Versus Take Care of Myself

Just over twenty-four hours ago I awoke at 3am with flu-like symptoms. With a fever that spiked somewhere between 101 and 102 degrees and aches and chills everywhere, I was down for the count yesterday. Thankfully today I am back to par and am glad that I spent yesterday doing nothing but laying in bed and taking care of me.

Being a recovering alcoholic and addict, I’ve come to learn there is a difference between being selfish and taking care of myself. I came from a family where there was always an angle for everything. All actions arose out of some end desire for either of my parents. I too became this way as I grew older and immersed myself in addictions. Day in and day out I sought one of my addictions and nothing was going to get in my way of living in them. If I did anything that might have been deemed kind or nice by someone else, I had an angle behind it. Over the past year as I have transcended into a more God-centered life, I have been able to see these patterns and begin to remove them from my life.

Yesterday, as my fever was spiking, I had to make a choice to not attend a commitment I had made to speak with a few others at a detox facility. For someone else that decision may have seemed like a no-brainer. For me, it was a little more complex. Having lived for much of 22 years completely selfish and self-centered, I have spent much of this past year getting out and doing what I can with no motivation other than to help others heal. One of those things is going to speak at various facilities where the still suffering alcoholics and addicts go for treatment.

I asked myself the question multiple times yesterday if it was being selfish if I cancelled on my commitment and stayed home. Part of me continued to say that there were a lot more people worse off than how I was feeling. Thankfully with the aid of my therapist as well as my spiritual advisor and sponsor, I thought things out further on how it would be if I did show up. Would I really have been effective speaking about my experience, strength, and hope in front of a group of people as I shook uncontrollably? Would I have been able to show convincing testimony of the benefits of God and AA while dozing off with the fatigue I was battling. Would I be able to show the happiness and joy that I normally have in living in recovery and serving God? The answers to each of these questions after much thought was “no”. I decided because of that, it wasn’t selfish for me to take care of myself and stay home last night. The action of going could have put others at risk on both a health perspective as well as a recovery one. And just as important, it could have made me even unhealthier.

Living a life for as long as I did selfishly does add some complications to my normal thought processes about things like what happened yesterday. Much of my prior life, when I was active in addictions, was filled with excuses that I was too tired, too depressed, too anxious, or too “anything” to get out of myself and help another. In most of those cases, all of those things that I made excuses for, were brought on by myself and arose out of my addictions in the first place. In contrast, how I felt in the previous 24 hours was out of my control. When I awoke this morning and felt 100 percent better, I realized that my choice to stay home and take care of myself yesterday was the best thing I could have done.

Thankfully, with having a much stronger recovery from my addictions today, I have the support in my life from a few individuals and from God to show me that sometimes just taking care of myself is the best action to follow.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Highs and Lows of Recovery

One of the hardest things in recovery is the realization that there isn’t some magic pill that can be taken to make all the pain go away. Whatever form of 12 step recovery one might pursue, the journey is going to be filled with both highs and lows until God has become the center point of their everyday living

When I first walked into AA in 1995, my attitude was such that I thought I just needed to attend meetings. I saw all the people with smiles on their faces and I heard messages about how great people’s lives were. For some reason, I tuned out the middle parts of the stories that I heard. I didn’t hear about the long, arduous road of clearing the muck out from within. I didn’t hear about the journey of reducing the ego and removing self-centeredness. I didn’t comprehend that I needed to seek God’s will and remove self-will. My feeling was that if I just showed up I was doing enough.

Boy was I wrong.

I didn’t last long in AA. I decided it was too stressful and tried to find an easier, softer way that wasn’t going to be with the twelve step process. So instead of twelve steps, I went twelve years searching for something else. While there are a lot of things out there that can guide one closer to God, like the twelve steps are geared for, each of them takes constant vigilance. I wasn’t willing to do that with any of them. My ego, selfishness, fear and deeply imbedded pain had me running from one thing to the next, getting some benefit here and there but never scratching the surface of what ultimately was going on inside of me and driving me to believe there was some magic pill out there.

In September of 2007, I had gone through enough pain.  I decided to give in and begin my journey in AA with 12 years sober and no real recovery. I started to attend as many meetings as I could weekly. I got a sponsor. And I began to read a 3rd edition Alcoholics Anonymous book that I still had from my very first attempt with AA in 1995. Weekly I met with my sponsor delving through page after page after page in the AA book. The first year of my work in AA was extremely difficult. I’m not sure if it was because my ego continued to fight the process and act out in other addictions or if there was just so much pain I was having to face as I walked through the steps. Either way, what I discovered was that there really are a lot of highs and lows in recovery until God became my focal point with everything in it.

When I’m acting out in any addiction such as alcohol, drugs, gambling or sex, what I’m seeking is to stay in the highs and avoid the lows. The highs can be great but the lows are awful. I lived in a life where I sought out addictions on some level for over 22 years and my brain has tried to continue to convince me that it’s possible to avoid the lows altogether.

News flash. It’s not.

It’s only possible to numb the lows with more addictions.

Entering a twelve step program made me face this reality head on. Over past five years I’ve gained a better understanding that life has it’s ups and downs but they don’t have to be as extreme as they once were when I was an active addict. I’ve learned that true recovery and healing means walking through the pain as bad as it may seem, facing all inner demons, and emerging into the light on the other side. Recovery is not about avoiding or walking around pain.

The more that I have placed God at the center of my life and my recovery, the more that those highs and lows have balanced themselves out. I compare it a lot to a ride on a roller coaster. On most roller coasters, the first part of the ride are huge hills and huge dips but as the end of the ride nears, the hills become smaller and smaller and eventually become level. This is how my recovery seems to becoming today. I don’t find myself getting extremely elated and then crashing shortly thereafter. I don’t find myself seeking out quick fixes to make myself feel better anymore. When pain arises, as it still does, I seek out healthy support in AA, consult with my spiritual advisor/sponsor, and I try my best to go to God in prayer and meditation to get through it.

To walk in a door of a twelve step recovery meeting and hope that everything painful will magically disappear is an illusion. To continue to live in that illusion will lead a person away from an amazing path to a God centered life. To lead a person away from that amazing path to a God centered life will ultimately guide one back to addiction seeking, more highs and lows, and a whole heck of a lot more pain.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson