All Aren’t Welcomed – Part II

It’s Easter and for many, a time to celebrate with a visit to church. While I may not specifically claim myself as a Christian, I do honor Christ and the meaning of this special day.

A few weeks ago I was asked by two close friends to attend a church service with them on Easter Sunday. It was a church I hadn’t been to before and had little information about. One of these two friends was related to the pastor and early information that I was given indicated the church had many gay and lesbian members and that all were welcomed.

Given my track record of attempts made to join three separate churches recently and the adversity I faced in doing so, I was quite skeptical. After a few text messages were traded back and forth between my friend and her Uncle (the pastor of the church), I was informed by my friend that I would be fully accepted and encouraged to attend. Second hand information also seemed to indicate that there were gay and lesbian members as well at this church.

I was more than excited to find this out given that the church was known to be evangelical based. My desire to join a lively, uplifting, and upbeat church suddenly resurfaced with hope. I then made a decision a few days ago to contact the church and speak with the pastor. A part of me, after receiving so much rejection from my previous three attempts, wanted to hear it first hand that the pastor and his church would fully accept me.

I’m glad I called.

The conversation lasted exactly 28 minutes. What I learned about this pastor and his church’s views during that time was that homosexuality is a sin, that the Bible is clear on the issue, and that I wouldn’t be allowed to join if I was still “practicing being gay” as he so put it. Even worse, when I asked him what gave him the right to judge and not accept me to become a member, his answer was that he was speaking for God through the Bible. Our conversation ended when he told me that although the doors of his church would still be opened for me to attend, he didn’t really understand why I would want to come when they felt the way they did about my sexuality. He also reminded me on his parting words that there were plenty of other churches out there that would accept “my kind.”

It was really hard keeping my cool and not getting angry. But God has taught me great restraint in the past year as I have truly worked to turn my entire will over to the care of Him. I’m now four for four with complete rejection by churches in the Massachusetts area that are evangelical and Christian based. Each of those rejections have been mirrors of this one and every one of them stings even more than the last.

I truly don’t understand how certain passages in the Bible can be overlooked and be considered “out datable” in today’s religious circles and yet the few passages that talk about homosexuality are still used to persecute millions. As long as I or any other gay man or woman is “active” in our sexuality, while the doors may appear to be opened for us to worship God at churches like this, the reality is that they really are padlocked and closed indefinitely to all of us.

There are times I wish that I had a way to organize a sit-in at each of these churches around the world who say they are all welcoming but deep down their truth is that they aren’t. I can imagine hundreds of people going to each of the services wearing t-shirts that say “God loves me just as I am!”. Maybe then our message might start getting heard.

I don’t believe God ever intended for a church to deny anyone membership because of their sexuality or any other reason for that matter. I believe that it’s between each individual and God to work through anything that may separate them from God. I believe God would love for anyone to join a church. What I do know is that being gay has only brought me closer to God. It pains me to know there is still so much hatred, bigotry, and persecution out there like this towards people like me. Sadly, these churches don’t see their rejection of membership as any of that.

While this pastor and his church may have welcomed me to attend their Easter service, to put a few dollars in their donation plate, and to listen to their lively sermon and music, I will not be in attendance. Knowing that I will never be allowed to join as long as I’m still “practicing being gay”, I will instead be waking up on Sunday morning, thanking Christ and God for their love for me, wishing the world a Happy Easter, doing my morning spiritual routine as I always do, and asking God to guide me throughout the day.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“I Can’t Wait Till I’m Older…”

I can’t wait till I’m older and stay up past my bedtime.

I can’t wait till I’m older and have a later curfew.

I can’t wait till I’m older and be able to drive myself places.

I can’t wait till I’m older and be able to see “R” rated movies.

I can’t wait till I’m older and don’t have to go to school anymore.

I can’t wait till I’m older and able to buy cigarettes.

I can’t wait till I’m older and go to college.

I can’t wait till I’m older and be able to drink legally.

I can’t wait till I’m older and graduate from college.

I can’t wait till I’m older and have better experience for my career.

I can’t wait till I’m older and have enough money to go into my own business.

I can’t wait till I’m older and able to retire.

You know….I really wish I were younger.

I found myself lately thinking a lot about this. Through great reflection, I see now that the majority of the 40 years I have lived so far on this Earth were focused on something to come and something I didn’t have. What’s sad about that is the amount of things that I may missed experiencing fully because my eyes were always down the road instead of where my feet were planted below me.

There’s that old saying, “Stop and take the time to smell the roses.” Well it’s true. Unfortunately many don’t take the time to smell the roses or any flower for that matter. I’m using this phrase more metaphorically in this case as for most of my life until recently, I failed to see how many things God had placed so beautifully in my life because of my gaze being somewhere out into the future.

Today I look back and remember wonderful games of kick-the-can, hide-and-go-seek, and kick ball in my neighborhood until the last of the sun light was just about gone. I think about the ice cream truck coming down the street and me racing towards it to get a frozen bomb pop. I remember going to Myrtle Beach every summer and playing mini-golf, building sandcastles, swimming in the ocean, and having huge gooey sundaes. I have fond memories as well during college of pledging and helping build a chapter for my national fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. There is a vast wealth of treasured thoughts about many parties I dj’d, sports I partook in, and social outings that I had a lot of fun doing during my undergrad years. In my post collegiate years, the same thing holds true with many things I can remember being a part of, doing, or going to, that bring a smile to my face. Unfortunately, I can also remember during all of them, that I was always partially present as I experienced each of them. One part of me was enjoying them and the other was thinking about something down the road that I wanted, didn’t have, or felt like I needed to be happier.

With all the health issues I’ve faced in the past few years and having been slowed down immensely from being able to do what I once could, I have caught myself wishing that I was younger again. I see how much I might have lost by not remaining in the moment and making the best of what I had all those years. Today I’m doing all that I can to be more present where my feet are like on my drive home from the gym today. I noticed how picturesque the clouds and blue sky behind them appeared. I took a deep breath in and thanked God for still having two eyes to see it.

No matter where I am in my life, no matter what state my health is in, and no matter what experiences I am having to go through, there is always something around me in every single moment that is God-given, amazing, and filled with light and love. I just have to remain in the moment and stop wishing for something that the future may or may not bring. If I can do that, I know I’ll never miss again experiencing for ALL its worth, another great moment of my life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

What I Needed As A Kid

There are days I think back to my childhood when I am out and about and see parents with their kids playing at parks, going out to dinner, laughing as they walk into a movie theater, or walking hand in hand while browsing at stores in the mall. While I may have experienced each of those things as a kid here and there, what I remember most is the nightmares of growing up in an alcoholic family.

My father was bi-polar/manic depressive and battled with addictions including alcohol and gambling. My mother too suffered from alcohol addiction and battled her own codependency issues. One of my earliest childhood memories with them involved me answering the front door around eight years old. Seeing two policemen standing there and asking to speak with my mother was scary enough. Being ushered into the basement and told to stay down there with my sister until she said it was ok to come upstairs was even scarier. Come to find out, my father had been found in the apple orchard down the street in a coma-like state after trying to drink himself to death.

Sadly, memories such as this one are common in families that suffer from alcoholism and other addictions. When I speak at recovery meetings, I normally ask those in attendance how many suffered from at least one if not both parents being an alcoholic or a drug addict. Normally at least 80 percent of the people present raise their hands. Many of those people have shared with me privately their own horror stories after hearing mine. For those born into addiction based families, it’s rare to experience what a child truly needs as they are growing up. There is one thing and only one thing that I’ve come to know in my God-centered journey that every kid should have received growing up and that’s unconditional love. In an addiction based home, it’s extremely rare if that ever happens.

My parents weren’t happy with themselves. Most anyone that is suffering from serious addictions never are. My mother and father were constantly caught up in their own disease and misery. Part of them did their best to raise my sister and I as good as they knew. Unfortunately, when alcoholism and mental disease were added to the equation, it seemed as if there were nothing my sister and I could do that could ever make them happy.

I was a swimmer and a dam good one at that from a very young age. A day that I try hard to not reflect on anymore was when I was at a large swim meet and was in the final race of several heats that had taken place earlier in the day. When the race had ended, I saw that I had finished last. Overall, because of the prior heats, I had come in sixth out of close to probably forty people. When I got out of the pool and my mother came over with a towel, what I wanted so desperately to hear was that I did great and that she was proud of me. Inside I was sad because I really had wanted to finish in one of those medal standings. Her first words to me as she wrapped the towel around me were “You didn’t kick hard enough.” For a child to hear those words in their own moments of despair is like being kicked when already down. What I really heard in those words was “You didn’t try hard enough.” And what I took home that day was the feeling inside that I wasn’t good enough.

Unfortunately in a toxic, addiction-based home, loving words, loving praise, and warm and embracing hugs don’t happen often, if at all. From my own experience in my addictions when I was active in any of them, there was nothing and nobody that could make me happy and it was common for me to put down anyone and anything that was doing better than me. I couldn’t stand seeing anyone succeed while I felt such a failure. And for anyone that was already down, I usually made them feel even worse by putting them down even more, because in some sick way, if they felt worse then I, then what I was going through didn’t feel as bad. Knowing this has helped me to understand at least why it was as a child that I was disciplined when I got a B instead of an A. Or when I dusted, I was always told I missed a spot. Or if I vacuumed, why there was always an area I seemed to have overlooked. Or if I cleaned the pool, there was always dirt still in it. And so on and so forth.

Today it’s becoming common in households where addictions are present for kids to suffer from physical and sexual abuse on top of the mental and emotional abuse already present. What’s even worse is when these same kids grow up and become addicted themselves and repeat the same patterns their own parents lived out in their lives. It seems like it could be a never ending cycle.

But it doesn’t have to be.

I’m walking proof that the cycle can end. What I really needed as a kid was to be loved and to grow up knowing I was good enough just as I was. As an adult, through my recovery from the same addictions that my parents suffered and died from, I found God. After finding God through my recovery, I found that God has always loved me just as I am. And after finding that God always loved me just as I am, I learned how to love myself. And after I learned how to love myself, I’ve begun to live daily loving others as best as I can no matter what my ego may say.

My goal today is offer love to everyone no matter what. It’s my way of giving back to as many people as I can that may have been just like me and grew up feeling worthless and unloved. It’s not always easy. Sometimes I find myself having to love people that seem to hate me for no reason. But even in those cases, I remember that at the center of those people is a soul and a piece of God. And I remember how I was once filled with hate because of all the hurt and pain I had been through. Knowing this helps me to spread unconditional love everywhere even in the presence of that hate.

Through my journey of healing, recovery, and finding God, I have learned to forgive my parents for their own addiction based behaviors, and been shown how to not only love myself but everyone else too.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Why Am I Here?

“Why Am I Here?” This thought has crossed my mind so many times in the last year of my life with all the pain and struggles I have had to face every single day. The life I once lived now seems like it was someone else’s or a very distant memory.

Ten years ago I was still employed by the U.S. Government, earning $82,000 per year. I was about to sell my house and make a $200,000 profit which would be invested fully into a new bed and breakfast venture with my then partner of several years. I was soon to be owning a home and a business on a small island off the coast of Virginia. And I felt like I had finally arrived to a life that I was always meant to be living in.

Since then I lost my mother, then that partner, then that business, then all that money, than my health, then most of my friends, and finally my ability to be employed. There are days like today that it takes every ounce of courage and determination to keep moving forward with faith that God will deliver me out of this state which I have referred to lately as Hell. Religion speaks often to a fire and brimstone place that one’s soul goes to when they die a sinner. On days like today when pain wreaks havoc in various areas of my body and when depression fills my vessel, it often feels like I’m in that fiery pit now.

In the Bible, there was the story of Job who was tested for his faith as he endured great losses all around him and within him. For anyone who’s read the story, Job was able to maintain his faith even as he lost more and more. But eventually he would cry out in the end and plea to God to take his life because the pain was so great and because he had no answers as to why he was suffering. God finally did speak to Job after his plea. The chapter in the Bible concludes with God restoring Job on every level with even more than what he originally had lost. Unfortunately, there is no proof that Job’s story is even real. Some biblical scholars say it’s true. Other’s have said it’s a parable to provide hope for those going through great suffering. For me, I have often thought of myself on some level as Job, like on days like today, when I have cried out in my own anguish and wished God would take me from this life.

The memory of me having all that money, all those friends, and all those possessions so many years ago obviously wasn’t supposed to be the journey that I was meant to be on. Where my journey is heading, I don’t know. What I do know is that I have endured great pain and suffering for almost three years now, the last year of which has been more than not, unbearable.

I don’t understand God nor His plan for me. To a few people that I know, comparisons have been made to the life I’m now living as somewhat of a monk. Quite often, it’s extremely difficult for me to be around a lot of people. I spend most of my days and evenings alone now because I find it very hard to explain to everyone what I feel inside when what they see on the outside doesn’t quite line up. To some I’m sure the feeling is that I have some area of unconfessed sin that is driving all of this. Job’s three friends even tried to convince him of this, except Job’s suffering was due to Satan trying to prove that Job would denounce God when all of what he had was taken away. Rest assured, I have confessed everything that I am aware of in my life that wasn’t done in love and light. I’ve made amends wherever possible. I’ve done everything that I know I can do from a health and healing standpoint. I’ve been prayed for, prayed over, and anointed with oil. And I have removed everything from my life that would drive me away from living a completely spiritually God-centered life.

So far I still have no answers. I am told by my spiritual advisor and Shaman, by my closest friends, and by my partner, to remain patient. It’s really hard. And on some days, like how I feel right now, tears come to my eyes, and I silently ask God “Why?” I don’t know why I’m still going through all of this. I don’t know why I’m still even here. It’s even harder when I see people all around me getting away with behaviors that are filled with a lot of darkness and hate while I try to do the best I can to stay spiritually centered with God.

What I do know is that I am going to continue to do the best I can to keep going and trust that God will one day bring light to the darkness that I feel. That He will deliver me out of this pain and suffering I continue to endure. And that He will show me the next step on my path as to why I’m still here and how best I can serve His will.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

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

Cell Phone 12th Step Recovery?

My previous blog entry discussed my evening at a restaurant with friends that spent their time on a cell phone rather than engaging in communication with the others present at the table. It went on to discuss some of the negative things happening in society that I believe are a direct correlation to how communication is changing with all the advances in technology. This entry focuses more specifically on the use of cell phones during recovery meetings as that too has become a larger problem today.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say that every 12th step recovery meeting I’ve attended these days gives a reminder to shut off or place in silent mode any cell phones present before the meeting actually begins. It never fails though, there always seems to be at least one phone, if not more, that goes off in the meeting. But an even more disturbing trend lately is the amount of people that spend their time during meetings texting or surfing the internet.

The first and most important thing I’ve learned today with my own recovery and God centered life is to admit my own guiltiness of this. For many years, I came to recovery meetings for the social aspect. I wasn’t interested in doing the steps. I wasn’t interested is listening to the speakers. And I definitely wasn’t interested in doing God’s will. As the pain got greater in my life, so did my willingness to do what was necessary to focus more on my recovery, on finding God, and on removing my self-centeredness.

For a time there was a great tug-of-war game going on between God and me. I kept trying to do my recovery in my own way. And there were many times that as the cell phones advanced into the smart phone generation, I would spend the meetings surfing the web, texting people, or randomly flipping through my digital photo albums. Meanwhile, in my self-centeredness, I never realized what this might look like or feel like to those who were speaking at the meetings I attended.

Imagine for a moment being at a podium, any podium, in any meeting, recovery related or not. Then imagine speaking in front of a group of people at that podium about something very personal to you. Finally, imagine during those moments of speaking, upon looking out at the audience, that the majority are looking down at their phones busily tapping away on the screens and not listening to you. How does it feel? I can answer it because I’ve been on that side of the coin as well.

It doesn’t feel that great. In fact it feels like what I’m saying doesn’t really matter.

To speak publicly about something so personal to me, such as my journey of recovery and seeking God is hard enough. But to have most people not even pay attention and instead spend the meeting time on their cell phones is even harder. I compare it to the feeling I had as a child when I would bring something important to my parents and they were either too busy watching one of their shows, drinking alcohol, or caught up in one of their own dramas.

Meetings are supposed to be for either speaking about one’s experience, strength, and hope, or listening to someone offer the same. Many years ago, when cell phone technology didn’t exist, people sat through meetings with their cups of coffee and listened much more intently on what was being said. Regardless of whether a speaker is truly charismatic or not, isn’t it important to give them our fullest attention? Wouldn’t each of us want the same if our feet were planted in front of the podium telling our story?

I know the answer for me is yes and I have made the corrections necessary in my life to start showing more respect for all speakers. I think back to the time when Bill and Bob attended meetings and have wondered what they might feel like today if they were to attend a meeting and see the vast majority of people tapping away on cell phones instead of listening to the speaker. The most important thing that has helped me to change my meeting etiquette is to place myself in every speaker’s shoes, to remember my own journey to recovery and salvation, and to know that their testimony is equally important to listen to as to when I’m speaking about mine.

The more that I place God at the center of my life, the more that I find myself steering clear of my self-centered behaviors. The more that I find myself steering clear of my self-centered behaviors, the more I see that using a cell phone during a meeting is self-centered in the first place. The more that I see that using a cell phone during a meeting is self-centered in the first place, the more that I have turned it off or left it in the car before entering any meeting. The more that I have turned my cell phone off or left it in the car before entering meetings, the more that I have gotten out of meetings. The more that I have gotten out of meetings, the more that I have placed God even deeper at the center of my life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Dinner With Cell Phones

A few nights ago I met up with a group of people at a local Bertucci’s to have a good meal as a send-off for a few friends heading on a retreat for the weekend. Being that I normally spend much of my time alone, I looked forward to the interaction with some people I haven’t hung out with in quite awhile. For the hour the meal lasted, instead of catching up with those that I dined with, I got to know better Apple, Samsung, and Nokia. For the majority of the meal, most everyone was either texting, playing Words With Friends, or looking something up on the Internet. When I left, I felt considerably sad that society is beginning to accept these behaviors as a normal way of living. I have begun to wonder how many others are noticing this happening. It seems as if all our technology advances are having a direct correlation to a progression of human interaction going from the very personal to the very impersonal.

In a time period many years before I was ever born, when even the home telephone didn’t exist, people would meet and carry on conversations, build deeper friendships, establish spiritual relationships, and strengthen family bonds. Block parties, family reunions, local festivals, game nights, social clubs and more were all quite prevalent then. But that would soon change. First the home telephone would become commonplace and then eventually, during my generation, Generation X as it was nicknamed, the world would give rise to pagers, then cell phones, and eventually the internet. Although each of these have been great hi-tech developments, they appear to be leading humanity to enjoy spending more time texting, instant messaging, and being on the internet then in developing interpersonal skills. In the last few years, I have intently observed this deterioration of human communication and noticed some disturbing trends.

There are those that continue to try to have romantic relationships using only the Internet and cell phones, many of which profess their undying love before even their first meet and greet. Sending instant messages to each other and trading pics are all great ways to begin a relationship with someone. But what about the things you generally won’t learn about using those modes? There are many online who are not who they say they are. From bad habits, to age inconsistencies, to likes and dislikes, to looks and appearances, it’s sad to say that all too often the whole truth is not revealed. Some even fail to mention they are already married, dating someone else, are former criminals, or suffering from serious health conditions. There are even those too that lie about their gender.

Then there’s text messaging. Is anyone noticing how this seems to be rapidly becoming the preferred method of interaction between people. Some teenagers I know text close to several thousand messages to each other monthly. Don’t get me wrong; typing a sentence on a phone to let someone else know a very quick thing, such as the time and location to meet, can be handy. But on the other hand, it can appear rather unfriendly and rude when one calls another to say hello and carry on a conversation and the response comes back in the form of text or a quick e-mail.

Also unsettling is the effect that both online instant messaging and cell phone text messaging are having on the English language. The use of abbreviations are becoming quite commonplace now because of these modes of exchange. “NYOB, TTYL, LOL, H2CUS, IDK, etc.” are just a few examples of the hundreds that now exist. Sadly, these are now finding their way into school papers, letters, and e-mails and many people like myself don’t even know what most of them stand for.

At first glance, these points might not seem to be that big of a deal. That viewpoint might change though when one considers the subsequent questions that I believe are directly related to this path our communications are heading on.

Why are the number of cases of depression increasing each year? Why is the rate of suicide on the rise every year? Why is it that someone is going on a killing spree and massacring dozens in just a matter of moments weekly these days? Why are anonymous sex and promiscuity increasing at alarming rates? What explains the reason why alcohol and drug abuse are becoming so widespread? Can anyone really explain why the rate of divorce has become so staggering? These are just some of the questions I continue to ask myself and all of them are leading to a domino effect on life, as we know it. All of the following are reportedly now also on the rise too: child neglect and abuse, mass hysteria and fear, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, crimes and violence, gangs, etc. Can anything really be done to stop this downward spiral? What I’m really posing here is the question of whether it’s really possible that all of these trends are directly related on some level to texting, instant messaging, and the internet?

There are so many people feeling neglected and unloved these days. In the many years that I felt that way, I sought out alcohol, drugs, gambling, sex, and local gangs to deal with the emptiness. I had many online romances that never materialized. I entered and left many intimate relationships. I even attempted suicide. The more I stared at pixels on a computer screen or at words on a phone during all those years, the less I was able to experience that which drew me closer to others and the less that God was able to create the love that bonded me to any of God’s children. In the past few years, I’ve removed the texting plan from my phone, pulled myself off of internet chat sites, and made it a point to leave the phone in my pocket when I’m out being social with others. The result has been that I’m a lot less depressed. I feel more connected to who and what God wants me to connect to. And I’m not living with toxic addictions or friendships anymore.

All of us face loneliness on some level, but maybe some of it can be prevented? While each of these technological advances in computers, the Internet, cell phones, and more are useful in their own ways, they were never meant to replace direct human interaction and communication like they seem to be doing. So the next time someone calls on the phone, answer it and say hello instead of texting in response. The next time there’s a social engagement with others, keep the cell phone silent and put away. Make it a point to spend quality time in person with those that texting has been the only means of communication.

Maybe then when enough are making these changes, it might just begin to reverse some of the problems that seem to be increasing everywhere in society today.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

It’s Disabling To Prove Disability!

Just over four years ago, I really believed I was flying high on life. My health was top notch. I was active in many different things including bowling leagues, golf and tennis outings, and game nights with a lot of people I knew in AA. I was living comfortably in the Boston area back then and my only debt was the bed and breakfast that I owned which I was a silent partner in. It was on the market to be sold and my hopes were that my $500K to $600K investment was going to be returned with a large profit.

Sadly, that never happened.

In January of 2010, my bed and breakfast had to be sold as a short sale. The housing market had dried up and people weren’t buying businesses. I lost every dollar that I had placed into the B&B venture and I walked away with just the shirt on my back. Suddenly, that feeling of flying became one of me crashing to the ground.

I think the word ‘shock’ best describes what I was feeling when the paperwork was signed and I truly realized I had lost everything. Unfortunately, the saying that ‘when it rains, it pours’ is true at times for some people. At the time when I lost my B&B, I was actively engaging in an extremely toxic but intimate relationship with a married man and it was destroying my soul. When I lost my bed and breakfast and all that money, I didn’t grieve, talk about it, or work through anything. I just submerged myself deeper into that toxic relationship. I distanced myself from everyone healthy, from AA, and even from myself. My depression began to grow deeper and my anxiety attacks began to get more frequent.

A few months passed with me in limbo where the only progress I had made in life was in teaching meditation. It was my goal to start my own business with teaching meditation at the center of it. By the time the calendar day became April 27th, 2010, I had turned into an extremely unstable individual and was suffering from regular bouts of anxiety and depression. That night I had been hired at a Yoga studio to lead about 30 students in a guided meditation. During it, pain was shooting down my leg and my low back was hurting quite severely. I got through the instruction and went home to bed earlier than I normally would hoping to awake in the morning free of pain. Instead, the opposite happened. I awoke to even more pain. As each day passed after April 27th, the pain grew more and more severe, until seven days later, a good portion of my left leg and left foot went numb. Over the course of the next few months, my Fibromyalgia returned, I developed Prostatitis, and my depression and anxiety became life disabling.

From the year 2000 until 2010, I had gone on a quest to remain free from doctors, medications, and medical testing. Prior to that, I had become hyper sensitive and was having severe side effects to many prescriptions that I had taken. I had also become addicted to seeing doctors because of my hypochondria and found myself going to their offices sometimes five days a week just to get reassurance in my life that I was going to be ok. So when all of this began after April 27th, 2010, I vowed I would heal from it naturally and not complicate it as I had done so many times before in my life. I spent the rest of 2010 isolating and tried on most days to just conjure up enough energy to make it through each day. I was barely functioning half the time and was grateful that I didn’t have a job as I knew there was no way I was going to be able to work given my state of mind and body. Thankfully I had a sister who was helping me financially get by and I had given myself a year to work through what I was going through without medical help. Unfortunately, it didn’t get better and instead grew worse.

2010 became 2011 and I spent the next year in and out of doctor’s offices, in and out of medical treatments, in and out of physical therapies, and in and out of having suicidal ideations. I finally broke down and decided that I needed to apply for Social Security Disability with my onset date of April 27, 2010. It didn’t appear that I’d be able to go back to work anytime soon and I knew my sister couldn’t keep going on and supporting me indefinitely. It took a lot for me to apply for disability as I have been told many times in my life that there’s always someone much worse than me. But I didn’t feel like I could get much worse as by the end of 2011, I had attempted suicide.

When I had received my first disapproval from Social Security around that time, I was given reassurance that most people get turned down from their first attempt. It wasn’t very reassuring though. The letter I received from them indicated that I didn’t have enough proof that I was disabled on or before December 31st, 2010. I appealed, but this time, I attached letters from my therapist and several practitioners indicating how severe my state of mind and body was and that I was incapable of working while I was trying to focus on my healing. A few months passed, and towards the end of winter 2012, I received my second letter from Social Security and had been turned down once again. I sought legal advice from a lawyer and was told that my best bet was to appeal again but this time I would be going to court. That was over a year ago.

I just received my court date a week ago in the mail. My hearing is going to be on May 7th, 2013. Currently, my lawyer is working pro bono and will only get paid if I win. I’m told that my case is weak because I don’t have enough evidence that I was disabled in 2010. In a nutshell, my decision to try to heal for the first year holistically and not see any MD has proven to be a major snafu in this whole process. What I never knew before was that Social Security is like having any type of insurance. When one pays into some type of insurance, there is a window of time that is covered. The last time I paid into my Social Security was December of 2004 when I was still employed in the corporate world. It’s window of coverage was until December 31st, 2010. Thus, I have to show proof of being disabled on or before that date. All of the doctors, hospital visits, medical testings, and rehabilitations I have gone to beginning in 2011 don’t seem to matter when it comes to this process of trying to show proof I’m disabled.

So I’m doing the best I can to bring as much evidence to the trial of my history of chronic pain, anxiety and depression. I’ve had to go back and contact therapists and psychologists from over a decade ago to ask for letters showing my mental health history. It’s possible my sister may even have to testify as she is one of the few people who really saw how disabled I was during 2010. I never thought that all that money I paid into Social Security for so many years would be so hard to get back when I really need it. Ironically, the path I’ve been on these past few years to get disability has been quite disabling. At times the stress has really overwhelmed me and caused my symptoms to get worse.

I’ve had to place this whole process into God’s hands. I continue to pray about it and turn it over to Him, sometimes even more than once a day. On days when my pain is so great like I wrote about yesterday, and even like I feel right now, I question if all of this work to get disability is in vain. Whatever the decision though, I’ll take it as God’s will and trust that I’ll be ok either way as I know I’m in His healing hands.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Clearing The Way…

There are days it’s really hard to keep going. Sometimes that pain I deal with in my body is unbearable, like today. On days like these, doubts cloud my judgment, reason is overrun by irrationality, and worries plague my every thoughts. Undertaking the process of clearing my system has been truly the most difficult thing I’ve ever attempted to do in this life. Sometimes I’m not even sure I understand what’s happening within me.

This story began about three years ago when I asked God in prayer to have me go through whatever I needed to go through to remove all the poison, blockages and resistances within me. At the time I was so deeply engaged in toxic living that I couldn’t stop my unhealthy behaviors. My life was a endless stream of highs and lows and a lot of drama. All I wanted was to reach a higher plane of spiritual existence and so I prayed for it. Never did I think that the prayer I made would have brought about what I’ve painfully endured these past three years.

I’ve come to understand that what may have felt great in my life when I was actively addicted in things such as getting drunk, gambling, hooking up, or getting high, what was being stored inside of my body, mind, and soul while I was engaging in them was not so glamorous. It’s like having a crystal glass of pure water and then dropping a grain of dirt in it for each act of seeking a quick high. Eventually after enough grains of dirt are placed in that crystal glass, the water dries up and only hardened mud remains. If that crystal glass is to ever hold pure water again, it must be fully emptied. Except it has to be removed the same way it went in, grain by grain. If too much of that hardened mud is pulled out all at once, it could shatter the crystal glass, rendering it useless.

This is what the clearing process is like. I am that crystal glass that was once filled with pure water. For each time I was active in my addictions, I added particles of dirt to my pure water within. Eventually, it all caught up with me and I became a mental and emotional mess. I believe that my prayer to God began that process of removing each grain of dirt out of me. Unfortunately, when each one leaves me, it isn’t quite so pleasant as it was when it was entering me. The range of symptoms I’ve dealt with during this clearing process has been mind boggling. I could write pages after pages of some of the things I’ve had to deal with, some of which have been seriously painful. I’m not exactly sure why it has to hurt so much as it leaves me. Maybe it’s to help me learn a lesson and prevent it from ever happening again? I can’t say for sure. What I do know though, is that for three years I’ve been going through this and some days, like today, my brain tries to tell me to quit, to give up, and to throw in the towel. Why I don’t is because of things like what happened eight months into this clearing process. I had gone to a holiday gathering where I partook in a Secret Santa gift exchange. Ironically, the gift I ended up with was a plaque that said this:

DON’T QUIT

When things go wrong as they sometimes will,

when the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

when you’re feeling low and the stress is high,

and you want to smile but you have to sigh,

when worries are getting you down a bit….

by all means pray – and don’t you quit.

Success is failure turned inside out,

God’s hidden gift in the clouds of doubt.

You never can tell how close you are – 

it may be near when it seems so far.

So trust in the Lord when you’re hardest hit…

It’s when things go wrong that you must not quit!

This plaque continues to inspire me and be a source of strength. On days like today, I read it again and again. I remind myself that it took a very long time for me to get as unhealthy as I did. I pray to God and just give thanks for the abundance of what I still have in my life. And I thank Him for all the healing He is sending me as I go through this process. Sometimes in these dark moments all I have to rely upon is blind faith the size of a mustard seed. It’s then that I try to draw closer to God trusting that He will deliver me from this and eventually fill me up once again with pure water. Because of this I vow to keep going and I won’t quit.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Darn That Weather!

I woke up yesterday morning to find another large amount of snow had dropped in the New England area. It’s been such an interesting winter. With very little precipitation having fallen between the beginning of November and the end of January, the Boston area has since been hammered with storm after storm.

If I’m not mistaken, this morning’s snow is the fifth storm in a row for my area. It began five weeks ago with a storm that dropped 28 inches. A week later, another four to six inches dropped. A week after that, another eight inches. And just over a week ago, a storm that was expected to drop no more than another eight inches, left almost two feet behind. Yesterday morning, a combination of somewhere between five and seven inches of snow and sleet were on the ground.

It’s hard for me in the cold, snowy weather here. I deal a lot with physical pain issues and for those that know the concept, heat expands and cold contracts. This applies to my muscles and joints unfortunately. So when I awoke yesterday morning and looked at my window, I could feel it everywhere within me and my first thought was a very sarcastic “great, more cold, clouds and snow”. After doing my morning meditations though, I began to have different thoughts on it.

All this snow is going to help with removing any possibility of a drought based spring and summer in this area. The water tables should have plenty of higher levels this year. For those that have crops in the area, or amazing gardens, all this snow should help produce rich soil when the spring finally arrives. How about all of the people in many areas of this world who would love to see snow and probably never will? Even more importantly, there are many people who are dying of thirst and dehydration every day in drought based areas of the world which all this snow could help alleviate. I think sometimes our egos don’t see just how good we have it even with such an elongated winter, cold weather, and crazy storms.

While it may be annoying to have to shovel another bunch of inches of the wet and white fluffy stuff and travel slowed down roads because of it, I think it’s important to just be grateful that I still have two eyes to see the beauty in it all.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

If I Was Given One Superpower, What Would It Be?

On my recent travels, much of my time was spent in Puerto Rico where the predominant language spoken was Spanish. Unfortunately, I did the bare minimum requirement in language building early on in life with a few years of French classes. I know many other countries have their children becoming fluent in several languages just to move beyond the primary school years.

One of the things that I see most often with many Americans is a self-centered perspective when traveling outside the continental United States. The idea that someone doesn’t speak English seems so foreign to many of these travelers. I’m sure many are guilty of doing the routine of adding letters such as “e” or “o” or “y” at the end of English words while they are speaking to any foreigner with the hopes that the other person might understand. I’m sure what it sounds like to them is probably more like gobbledygook and gibberish.

Between the silence that was present during all of my local cab rides or when I attempted to communicate with the resort room cleaning staff to no avail, I felt a sense of sadness. I was sad that I had never taken the time to learn any other language fluently. I was sad that I couldn’t do anything but just say hello. I was sad that I too had been a self-centered tourist for most of my life expecting everyone to understand my language. Some statistics I’ve read lately have said that Spanish is going to become the main language spoken in the United States in the not too distant future. According to other research I did on the internet, the most spoken languages for people in the world are first, Mandarin Chinese, then second, Spanish, and third, English. Unfortunately, even if one knew all three of those languages, it would only cover 25 percent of the world’s population. This brings me to the point of this blog entry.

I’m a big superhero fan. I watch anything that deals with people with special powers. I loved the show Heroes when it was on, and am currently engaged in Arrow on the CW. I always ask people when I get to know them what superpower they would have if they were granted one. So many always choose Superman’s powers. Some resort to saying they would just want the skills that Batman has. Women migrate over to Wonder-woman quite a bit. Lately with the Avengers movie having taken the world by storm, characters such as Iron Man, Thor, Captain American, and the Hulk have gained a lot more notoriety. But after watching the TV show Heroes several years ago, I learned that superpowers could be just about anything.

After taking my trip to Puerto Rico and traveling from there to several Caribbean islands where I didn’t understand any dialects being spoken, I decided my superpower, if granted one, would be uniquely different from what the comic books, TV shows, and movies portray. I would want to be fluent both verbally and on paper with every language of the world. I don’t hold the attitude that everyone should speak English. To me that is self-centered. I like to communicate to people and I would love to be able to do that in the native dialect of wherever I am visiting. I hope to someday be able to speak globally about my spiritual journey of healing with God at the center of my life. Being fluent in all the languages of the world would help me to bring that message on a more direct level to people from every corner of the planet.

While I know it’s only a dream that I could have that type of a superpower, I promised myself after this past trip that in the near future, I am going to start taking Spanish classes to at least be a step closer in making that dream come true.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Be Yourself!

When I was a young kid I just wanted to fit in. Unfortunately, by other people’s standards, I was never deemed cool. My mother dressed me in Sears best back then with Toughskins jeans, multi-colored plaid shirts, and Kangaroo sneakers. I didn’t have a cool backpack to carry my books either. The front seat of the school bus was my safe haven. And I really didn’t have a single close friend who wanted to sit with me in the cafeteria during lunch. My best friends were the books I immersed myself into or the laps I swam on the swim team day after day.

By the age of 16, I was tired of being me because I had been bullied so often and was relatively friendless. Spit balls hitting me were the norm. My books landing on the floor from a passing hand were common. Being called a nerd, a dork, a geek, or worse was an everyday occurrence. Most people didn’t even know my name. In my senior year, someone dared me to spike my ‘normally-parted-on-the-side’ hair for Halloween and go into school that way. I didn’t feel like I had anything to lose so I bought some Dippity-Do Gel and took a large gob of it, ran it through my hair and became an instant porcupine. That day changed my life. When I went into school that day, there was a lot more people noticing me and some even saying “Is that Andy, Andy Dawson?” To hear my name was like hearing the angels sing. Normally, what I heard most often was something more like “Get out of my way dork!” When I went home that day I wondered just how much more I could change about me to be recognized more often.

Over the course of the next few months, I used my job at the mall working at a place called Chess King to buy a new wardrobe. Toughskins and plaid shirts became italian rayon pants and shirts or trendy jeans and t-shirts. Kangaroo sneakers became Nike hot tops with big fat shoelaces or flashy shoes that you had to squint when you looked at them. My hair became permanently spiked. I quit the swim team which at the time was considered as uncool as the Chess Club. And suddenly I had a mass of people wanting to befriend me and be around me.

By the end of my senior year of high school, there was hardly any room in my yearbook for signatures as compared to the few pity ones I had in previous years. I was regularly making fun of the people that I once was associated with and could have then been deemed a bully. And I had picked up drinking, getting drunk, and passing out as my new pastime.

For the next two decades, I utilized what I refer to now today as the Chameleon Effect. I essentially became what I thought people around me wanted. From friends to partners, I lost sight of who I once was. In my active alcohol and drug addiction years, I dealt drugs, hung out in a small gang, got in trouble with the law, almost got kicked out of college, dropped my real name and went by “A.D.”, and shaped my image to one that eventually got me compared to Vanilla Ice. When I finally dropped the alcohol and drugs and went into the twelve years of white knuckling it, I allowed myself to become a battering ram in relationship after relationship. “I’m sorry” became my favorite words to use even though things generally weren’t my fault. Sex and money became a tool I used to keep friends or partners from leaving me. My career path was forged initially trying to impress my parents and then later a boyfriend when I sold everything to buy him a business that I never wanted to be a part of. Whatever someone said was cool I tried it, bought it, tasted it, sampled it, pursued it, and more. And then one day about two years ago, I woke up and couldn’t figure out who I was anymore. I had changed myself so much for so many different people that I didn’t even know how to live my life on my own, what I liked, or where I was heading. I had become so depressed and anxiety ridden that I landed myself in the mental hospital for five days where I was drugged up and shuffled around from staring at one wall or another.

Over the past two years since then, I have done everything I can to crawl out of those pits of despair. I have shed all those skins that I placed upon me for over twenty years just to be liked. I have dropped all those images that I thought I needed to be cool. I let go of all those friends that I had in my life who liked me solely for the sex I offered them, the money I gave them or the ones I acted just like so that they would accept me. Now I am in the process of healing and rediscovering me.

I take myself out on dates regularly. Sometimes I check out new restaurants. Sometimes I go to the movies. Sometimes I take a walk at the beach. Sometimes I just go to Starbucks and people watch while I sip a decaf coffee. What’s ironic is the realization that I’m becoming the person I ran away from all those years ago when I was that bullied kid. I’m back to reading books regularly. I like to lap swim in the local Y or when it gets warm, in the ocean. And I buy my clothes when I need them usually from online at a discount store and in no specific fashion trend.

I beat to my own drum today. Because of that, I like me a lot more now. I have learned to enjoy spending time alone more than anything. I especially like who I see in the mirror now. What’s funny is that who I see in the mirror today is the person I left behind at 16 years old except I’m now the age of 40 with a lot less pimples.

My license plate on my car says “BURSLF”. Be Yourself. I’m doing that today. I don’t want to change my colors anymore like a chameleon does just to fit in. Not too long ago, one could find me in a group of people considered “cool” by society’s standards and yet if they could have probed my brain, they would have seen I was still that same scared little boy just wanting to be accepted. Today my acceptance comes from God which in turn has led me to being able to accept me just as I am.

I wish everyone would just be themselves. Maybe then this world might be a little brighter than it currently is.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Gay Marriage Crisis

It seems just about every day now there is something in the news about the division of people in the United States over gay marriage. Several months ago there was the big Chick-Fil-A issue where the owner expressed his conservative Christian feelings about marriage being between a man and a woman. Then there was the sit-ins and picketing outside many of their establishments. A family values day came soon after with discounted chicken sandwiches for all those that supported marriage between a man and a woman. Soon after that, Starbucks got involved as they have been advocates of gay marriage for some time and offered a coffee special on a certain day. I read not to long after that same sex kiss-ins were occurring at Chick-Fil-A restaurants with couples showing their affection openly in the dining rooms of these establishments. Since then I have seen different businesses in the news taking sides on this issue as well. Most recently there was a wedding cake proprietor that rejected two lesbians request for their commitment ceremony because of the owner’s Christian beliefs. The biggest news of all arrived just a few days ago with Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio announcing he has a gay son and that he now supports him and gay marriage.

I grew up a Methodist Christian, studied the Bible extensively, have been a Deacon, served Communion, prayed over others, been baptized several times, and I’m gay. Most of my life I have faced opposition from both within my family and outside of it. I had a best friend once who told me I was going to hell when he found out I was attracted to men. I had a mother who cried profusely when I told her I was gay. I’ve been rejected by several churches and told I couldn’t join because of my sexuality. But all along, I have felt that God created me this way and loves me just as I am.

I truly believe it’s impossible for the many conservative Christians, right wing Republicans, and any other person that opposes gay people and gay marriage to understand anything related to being gay until they have to deal with the issue close to home. Senator Portman is one of those who has had to face this head on. A man who voted in favor of the Defense Of Marriage Act at one point many years ago, Portman went through a trial of several years before coming to loving acceptance of his son. My father went through the same journey with me and eventually went to PFLAG meetings (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) in support of my sexuality. Sadly, my mother passed away never having fully accepted it.

The Bible has been used again and again lately as a weapon for standing against gays and lesbians and gay marriage. A few passages in the Bible speak to the subject. A couple in the old testament and a couple in the new testament. Interestingly enough, Jesus never spoke of the subject.

More and more people everyday are coming into this world and growing up self declaring themselves as gay or lesbian. It used to be a 1 in 10 percentage for how many people were attracted to the same sex. Lately it seems like that number is no longer true and that it’s much higher. I once thought myself to be living in sin because of what other people told me, and because of what the Bible said in those couple of passages. Through my own journey of self-sacrifice, pain, and prayer, I learned God felt differently.

I hold the firm truth today that the Bible was written by man. While its writings may have been inspired by God, it is not perfect and it was also put together by man with man’s agenda. I choose to live my life by God speaking directly to me and within me. I take the Bible as an acronym now, Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. To me it is a wonderful book with great messages. But I live according to God who speaks directly to me. To say that God doesn’t change or that the Bible is perfect seems outrageous to me. The Bible talks about it being ok to have multiple wives, to not eating certain foods ever, to not wearing leather, amongst other things. Christian scholars and men of cloth will find all the reasons why those aren’t true in today’s day and age and that they were all written as a sign of the times. Why hasn’t that been just as true with homosexuality? I have found that those most outspoken on this issue don’t have a gay son or daughter, have never had any gay friends, and even in some cases, are fighting their own same sex attractions within themselves.

What I know is this. I didn’t make a choice to be this way. If I had a choice, I would not choose to be gay in a time and age where people are so divided on this issue. I would not choose to be gay when I am not given the same rights as someone who is heterosexual. I would not choose to be gay when I can’t express my feelings about someone I love safely in public without the fear of being beaten or chastised.

Right now with gay marriage, unless one is lucky enough to live in a state where it’s protected, if one partner was to die, it’s not a guarantee that any will for the other partner to receive the deceased’s estate would be upheld. One of my friends went through this many years back. His partner died and his partner’s will left him everything. The deceased partner’s family came in, used the Bible, their Christian beliefs, and the courts and nullified the will leaving my friend with nothing. Is that fair? Truthfully, is that being Christian?

Senator Portman is truly an honorable man. Being in the public eye, he took a stance that is now forcing other political people in office to face this issue. Why shouldn’t two men or two women be able to marry each other and have the same rights? The only argument today is that the Bible says so. What happened to the separation of church and state? Do you really believe that if Jesus appeared today in our society that he would sit there and say, “No, I’m sorry, even though John and Jeremy truly love each other they can’t marry each other and don’t deserve to have the same rights as Joan and Jeremy.” Personally, I believe God, Jesus, and all the angels and spiritual beings are shaking their heads and wishing we would all just express love and equality to each other.

That’s what Jesus was about. Expressing love. Unconditional love. Is it being unconditionally loving to deny two people who love each other the right to marry and the same protections that marriage brings?

Maybe several million more people need to come to this Earth and be born gay or lesbian to bring the message across a little clearer from God and His Kingdom.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

 

The Downside Of The Web

I love the internet for many reasons. I remember a time when the internet didn’t exist and I was using a dial up modem to log onto someone’s private computer. In fact I remember a place I dialed into eons ago named Pirate’s Palace where one could get video games for free. I can still hear the noise of the model as it dialed this baud location and got a connection.

Today with just a few keystrokes, a person can find just about anything and everything on the web. From game playing to doing research, from looking for a person to connecting to someone, the list today of what the internet can do seems infinite. Unfortunately, as much as I love the web, there are also many things happening to society as the internet grows that I don’t love at all.

There is a much easier access now to engage in addictions such as gambling or porn. Information about a person that once was deemed private now seems to float around readily on the web. In-person communication once existed as the only way to connect is now slowly drifting away as more and more opt for living in a cyber world versus the real world. And something I noticed recently that I’ve been trying to tune out is the vast numbers of opinions that are being placed on the web about anything. There are opinions on places to go eat, on places to go on vacation, on all types of businesses, on different types of medical, holistic healing, and nutritional paths, on movies, and on people directly as well.

Recently with my vacation, I went to a place that had gotten some seriously terrible reviews on the web from other people that had travelled to the resort I was going to. So many different aspects of the resort had been trashed in online postings. I had decided to go against what they were saying and had booked anyway. Ironically in the end, I loved the property, the hotel on the property, and all the things the resort had to offer. For me it was a five star experience. The same thing has happened for me as well with restaurants that have gotten awful reviews online. I’ve gone and experienced them for myself and felt completely opposite having had amazing meals. With movies, so often lately they seem to be getting more and more bad reviews through places that pool them together such as rottentomatoes.com. I’ve gone to many of those poorly reviewed movies and in the end loved them completely and bought them later on DVD. In the medical and holistic realms, there are many different ways of approaching the journey of healing. Much of the healing techniques that I have tried and gotten success from have been denounced somewhere on the web if a search was done on them.

I’ve come to the conclusion with the internet that while it may be good for doing research on finding someone or something, learning the history of anything, or locating phone numbers and addresses for various things, it’s become a dumping ground for people to express their opinions on just about everything. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that I don’t want to live my life based upon the opinions of what someone else is saying about anything. My journey in life to be more God centered has led me to a place of trusting my own inner soul’s guidance. Many of the things that I’ve visited, dined out at, watched in a theater, or gotten healing benefit from can be found on the web with scathing reviews and warnings to not go pursue. What I’ve learned in all this is that sometimes it’s better to not do any research in the cyber world, and instead to go experience it for myself. This way I don’t become biased by someone else’s thoughts or feelings, and my experience becomes just that, my experience.

I’d rather not spend my life avoiding things that people have bad opinions about, especially those I don’t even know other than through their keystrokes left behind on the internet. Some of the best things that have happened to me in my life come from doing exactly the opposite of the mass opinions that now exist on the web. My only advice to anyone when it comes to the internet is this. Just because someone has posted one of their bad experiences on anything online, doesn’t mean your experience with that same thing is going to be the same. You never know, it may end up being one of the best things you ever pursued in your life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

All You Can Drink

March 17th is coming up this weekend. It’s been a long time that I celebrated any type of St. Patty’s Day celebration. I’m not Irish nor do I drink alcohol, but it’s a holiday for many of us in the AA realm, that’s deadly. I was at a meeting last night that many people spoke of the horrors of that holiday and how much green beer they drank. They spoke of how they don’t remember the parades or even of the bars they visited on that day. The last St. Patty’s Day that I celebrated would have been in March of 1995 and I only would have celebrated it just to say I had some green beer and got drunk. This Sunday, when the day actually is St. Patty’s Day, I’ll probably wear green just to stay in the fun spirit of it all, and that will be the extent of it. I don’t miss drinking at all nor my actions that I had on holidays such as this one. And just recently when I was on my cruise, I remembered why I don’t miss all those years that I spent getting drunk.

In the last year or so, cruise ships have added packages that a person can purchase for their voyage. There are the all you can drink soda packages and there are the all you can drink alcohol packages. On this past cruise, I had the premium soda package which allowed me unlimited Perrier, San Pellegrino, decaf lattes, and smoothies. Because I’m a curious person, even though I haven’t had a drink in over 17 years, I inquired on how much the alcohol package was. For $400, one could drink all the beer, wine, and mixed drinks they wanted for the cruise. I figured it out in my head with the prices they charged on the ship for a drink, that a person would need to consume at least 6 alcoholic beverages a day just to break even. What was even crazier was how many people had done that on the ship during my cruise.

I’m grateful I never did a cruise nor had a package like that back when I was drinking. I would have spent my money on it, probably had no more than 4 drinks each day because of being a lightweight, and I would have missed my whole vacation being passed out and blacked out. On one of the nights of my cruise, one of those people that I could safely assume had that alcohol package, got on the elevator around 10pm just after I finished dinner. He stumbled over himself and slurred his words asking where the party was on the ship as the elevator ascended upward. I felt sad for him. The truth is that he was me many years ago. I saw that same guy on the ship every day for the rest of the cruise and not once did I see him sober. Not once. That would have been me.

I loved the all you can drink specials at bars all those years ago. It justified my alcoholism and gave me a reason to celebrate holidays like St. Patty’s Day even though I wasn’t Irish. I’m grateful that I have a God centered life today and a strong recovery program because I know that I most likely would have been drunk on that all you can drink alcohol package on my cruise and would probably be stumbling out of a bar in Boston this Sunday and into the middle of the big parade on St. Patty’s Day.

I’m so grateful to be sober today.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Meeting Before The Meeting

One of the things I like best about my home group in AA is that when I show up early, I get to set up the meeting which I enjoy doing. But there is another reason why I show up earlier that is much more important. There always seems to be at least one person who shows up just as early as me that is relatively brand new to the program who I get to say hello to.

I imagine sometimes the founders of AA, Bill and Bob, walking into a meeting in the early stages of the program, and going up to everyone present and introducing themselves and establishing a connection, especially to the newcomers. Sadly today, I have found that at many AA meetings, people show up that have been around for awhile and just socialize with those that they know and ignore those they don’t. While being social with other fellow alcoholics is important, I try to believe that Bill and Bob’s original intention was to help out every newcomer by initially making them feel welcome.

Walking into an AA meeting for the very first time or maybe even for the first few times is overwhelming. Those that have been around for awhile always seem so happy, smiling, and socializing, while the newcomer generally sits alone and is scared, angry, afraid, or one of any other number of emotions that can overwhelm their psyche. My first reaction in my early experiences with AA was to run out the back door. Having had someone come up to me and shake my hand and then tell me that they were glad I was there was key to keeping me from doing just that.

At this week’s home group, after I had set up the room, I saw a person sitting there by himself looking down at the ground. I’m not sure if it was the lost look he was portraying or if it was just the fact that I had never seen him before, but nonetheless I felt compelled to go up and say hello. After introducing myself, I asked if he was new and he replied it was his second day of sobriety and his second meeting. I gave him a friendly welcome and spoke about home groups in AA and told him if he had any questions at all about anything to just ask. I hope I see him next week but either way, I believe that I did what Bill and Bob probably would have all those years ago when AA first began. I made a newcomer feel welcomed and outstretched a friendly hand letting that person know they were not alone.

All of us in AA were at one point a newcomer and I know in my case, because of someone who welcomed me there, I stayed and I’m glad I did. AA has saved my life, brought me closer to God, and shown me how to help someone just like me who is trying to recover as well.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Sneaking Into A Movie

I love the movies. Tuesdays seem to be a great day for me to go because many theaters now are offering Discount Tuesdays where the cost is almost half of the normal price no matter what time the movie starts. Yesterday I went to the movies at a local theater where the cost for the movie ticket was $7.50 which was about $6 less than it’s normal price. Because I had the time available, I paid for two movies (Snitch and Jack and the Beanstalk in 3D) that I could go from one to the other without missing any of either. A long time ago, when I was a misguided young adult, I thought it was cool to go from one movie to the next on a crowded Saturday at the theater. The difference then was that I wasn’t paying for each ticket, I was only paying for the first.

Lately, this seems to becoming an epidemic as the costs of anything seem to be rising, especially movie tickets. I’m not sure if more and more people are sneaking into movies after seeing another but I have definitely have observed it happening lately. Take for example yesterday, I had just finished seeing Snitch and had gotten a refill on my popcorn. Across the hallway from the entrance to the Jack and the Beanstalk showing that I was going to, was Die Hard 5. Two men emerged from that theater having just seen it and cautiously looked over their shoulders a few times and then headed into the theater I was going into. I watched them pull out an older pair of 3D glasses that was in their pockets and wipe them off and proceed to stay for the whole movie.

Movie ticket prices today are a reflection of not just a factor of inflation, they are also a factor of many other things as well such as the actors and actresses asking for more money, the cost to producing a film rising, people not going to the movies as much anymore, and then there are those like these two people who were sneaking in and seeing a movie for free.

I’m guilty of having once done this. I did this a long time ago when I wasn’t trying to be in integrity in my life, be God-centered, and honest with all that I do. There was a part of me back then that said it wasn’t fair how expensive ticket prices were and I justified that I didn’t have the money to pay for multiple movies. The truth is that I did have the money. I just wanted to get away with getting something for nothing. I told myself that no one was being harmed in me doing that. Today I realized that I was part of the reason why movie ticket prices continue to soar. I also realize that sneaking in is essentially stealing. It’s no different then going into a store and taking anything off of a shelf, putting it in one’s pocket, not paying for it, and leaving.

I have a friend in New York who is a lawyer and earning more than six figures every year. He has a nice home and a family, and on just about every weekend, he goes to at least three movies and pays for only the first one he sees. Can he afford the other movie tickets? Of course and he would openly admit it that he could. So why does he do it? Why does anyone steal anything if they do steal? When I did it, there was a thrill or a rush of getting away with something. In other words, I got a “high” in doing it. The funny thing is that the money that I “saved” was only spent on something else that I couldn’t get away with stealing. A thought to ponder is what if all of the world’s goods were done on the honor system? What if the price was posted everywhere for each good but it was on the honor system to pay? Would anyone pay? Or would everyone just take and take and take? Today I can honestly say I would pay the price that was being asked. I wonder how everyone else would handle an honor system based society?

While people may not look at sneaking into a movie as stealing, it is. I know that to live a spiritually centered life, I can’t do things like that which I once did. I don’t want to live that way and I am glad I’m not. Today I refer to this as my God consciousness. What people don’t realize when they sneak into a movie or steal anything for that matter, is that they are hurting everyone else with the rising prices, and even worse, they are hurting themselves by corrupting their souls.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Being An Instrument

I’ve come to understand that when I live selflessly, seeking to have God run the show in my life, that I can be used as an instrument of love and light anywhere and anytime. One of those times came on my recent travels.

On my week long cruise, the ship I was on stopped at an island named St. Kitts. I had scheduled for that day an excursion over to its sister island, Nevis, for a tour and beach getaway. While I had been to St. Kitts before on a previous cruise, never had I been over to Nevis which was only accessible by boat. Upon arriving at Nevis, all of us on the tour were ushered into an open air bus that took us on a ride around the island.

I really love the island life, especially in the tropics, and could see myself living on one some day. Between the amazing weather, tropical flora, unique animals, and good natured people, I continue to be drawn to going to the Caribbean islands year after year. As I admired all of God’s beauty around me, the tour headed up the mountain side with the guide proceeding to provide a wealth of information about everything Nevis related. His energy was very bright and upbeat, and I found myself asking several questions related to things I was listening to or seeing on the tour.

Our first official stop was at a resort in the mountains that was quite exclusive. There were photo ops and time set aside to walk the grounds or purchase a drink. For some reason I was drawn to talk more to this tour guide instead. I asked him if this was his primary job and he said he was also an inspirational speaker. While he talked more on this, for some reason I felt compelled to tell him that I also speak inspirationally back at home about my recovery from alcohol and drugs. Upon mentioning that, he immediately pulled me aside quietly and whispered to me that he too suffered from addiction issues and while he had heard of AA, he had never been to a meeting and wasn’t aware of any on the island. In between tour stops and breaks, I spoke to this man about my own experience, strength, and hope, only to provide him a light to know there is recovery from all addictions.

When the day ended, and the tour was over, he said just a few words to me as we hugged. He told me that I was a blessing to him that day and that he believed God had used me as an instrument to show him the way back to the light. I gave him my contact information including my e-mail address, told him I’d be praying for him, and as the boat pulled away from the dock, I told him to never give up hope and that everything will be ok if placed in God’s hands. Sadly, I didn’t get his contact information and haven’t heard from him since but I continue to pray that God guides him into recovery. As the old saying goes, God brings people into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. If this tour guide was for the sole purpose to spread hope about a life free of addiction, I’m grateful to God for being used in that way.

God can use any one of us anytime, anywhere, and in any place. The more that I head forward in my journey to a completely God-centered life, the more that I know I will be a healthy enough vessel to have things like this happen each and every day of my life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Price Of Money

On my recent travels, I was grateful to have visited a handful of islands in the Caribbean. My trip began in Puerto Rico and continued onward from there to St. Croix, St. Kitts and Nevis Island, Dominica, Grenada, St. Thomas, and finally back to Puerto Rico. Each of those islands had its own unique differences but there was one thing I noticed they all had in common. Poverty. And a lot of it.

Growing up in a middle to upper class family, I never saw a lack of the basic necessities in life of food, water, or shelter. I never experienced not having a television, a radio, nice clothing, a phone or a car. And I spent all of my time around people like me who had a lot and didn’t know what it was like to have very little.

I found it interesting that on each of those islands, there were so many people begging for money or selling hand made items at very cheap costs. What I found even more interesting and sad too is how tourists treated those island natives. The homeless were vastly ignored as their hands were outstretched. And for those selling the trinkets, they were bargained down over and over again to amounts for their products that thinned out any ability to make any profit.

To even get on the cruise I was on, a person would have needed to spend at least $1000 or more. And for those that might have travelled directly to those islands, even more would have to be spent. During any vacation, people buy drinks that aren’t cheap from bottled waters to juices to alcohol. They might even go to the casinos and drop several hundred dollars a day. They will go to restaurants and spend over $100 on a meal. Yet, these same people see a product on a table of one of these poverty stricken people who are asking for a few dollars and they refuse to pay what is being asked, instead bargaining it downward to a much lower number. With change and single dollar bills rolling around in their pockets, these same people will walk by the islanders in tattered clothing asking for help and judge them.

Many if not most of these island people live in shacks and don’t have the abundance of what any of us will ever experience in our lifetimes. On this trip, I did something completely different. I gave more than what was being asked for in the few things that I did buy. I generally only buy necklaces made of shells, beads, or crystals when I travel. I have many from around the world and enjoy wearing them. On this trip, when just a few dollars was being asked, I gave a few dollars more. What I always found interesting, was the total look of surprise on these people and a smile of gratitude when I did that. A dollar goes much farther in these places then what it may go for in the continental United States. As for those that were begging, when I walked by, I gave a dollar or two and did not judge them on what it might be used for.

For most of my life, money in my pocket was spent as I wished. I ignored those with less, and did what I could to get more. I judged those who had less and said it was their fault and never reached out to help any of them. Seeing all of those people with next to nothing on these Caribbean islands brought out a level of compassion within me. If I can buy a bottle of water for $3 to $4, why can’t I spend an extra dollar on a trinket? If I can go on a lavish vacation and spend a considerable amount of money, why can’t I give an extra dollar to a homeless person?

I truly believe that the world’s poverty issues could be solved if everyone pooled their abundances together to help those less fortunate. Sadly, most don’t and most won’t. I know that my desire today is to serve God faithfully and do my part. I attempted to do just that on this vacation, and will continue to do what I can both when I’m on a vacation and when I’m not. What I have today in my life would be considered luxurious to so many. Poverty is everywhere, even close to home where I live. I want to do my part in sharing any abundance I have and it’s my hope that more and more people might do the same.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Life of Gratitude

It’s quite easy to be negative. Sometimes it seems that more and more people are becoming that way all around me. I feel it’s like a virus that slowly creeps upon me, ready to invade all the parts of me trying to stay as positive as I can with what I go through pain-wise everyday.

For most of my life I was a negative person. I saw the sky as always full of clouds regardless if it was a sunny day or not. The slightest thing would turn a great day into a horrible one. And I criticized just about everything in my daily conversations with anyone.

I’ve really worked hard on this, and I do my best today to keep my distance from those who are like I once was. I’ve learned that the more I spend time around those that are highly negative, the more I start to become like them as well. On my recent vacation, I was on a cruise where it was apparent to my partner and I that the ship had an abundance of negativity present. During a massage that I splurged for, the masseuse commented similarly saying that the rest of the spa practictioners were noticing it as well.

It’s hard for me to fathom why there was so much negativity present in the first place. Just being on a ship in the carribean with sunny 80 degree days, having meals served to me in several courses daily, and having a room steward to clean up after me is more than most people will ever experience in their lifetime. My cruise stopped at five different islands in the carribean. At each island, I spent time on some exotic beach while the rest of the people I knew back home were dealing with another 24 inches of snow dropping and freezing cold weather while they went to work.

With the transition I’m going through to become a more God-centered individual, I have tried on every level to remain grateful for what I have in my life. For most of my life prior to the past few years, I was probably like the vast majority of the complainers on the ship I just sailed on. Spending a lot of money on a vacation in the past would raise the bar level for me on what I felt like I deserved. My expectations became higher and at the same time so did my dissastisfactions. It made me wonder if that was what was happening on my cruise. During it,  I noticed that when I spent time talking to people around the ship that were criticizing it or anything else for that matter, that I slipped into my old behaviors and became just as critical.

I’ve had more in my life than what 90 percent of the world’s population may ever see. I’ve been to places most never will be able to afford to go to. I’ve dined out at many four and five star restaurants when so many are starving to death somewhere in the world.  I’ve lived in homes that many homeless people would dream of living in. I’ve owned possessions such as cars or other gadgets that are considered luxuries and unobtainable to most families. And up until a few years ago, I was completely and utterly ungrateful for what I had and what I was still able to do. Over the past year, I’ve prayed to God to become more grateful on every level and in every area of my life. I write every night in a journal at least nine things that I’m grateful for in the day that has just passed. And I thank God verbally each and every moment when I’m experiencing something that I know most people might never be able to see or do or buy or own, in their entire lifetime.

Being on a cruise and having gourmet meals, visiting beautiful islands, and even just being able to take a vacation like that is something I’m extremely grateful to God for today. While the ship may have been full of negative people, there was one who was doing his best to focus on what was good and wonderful, than what was lacking and frustrating. I had my downfalls at moments during my vacation, but all in all, I was more positive than negative than any other time I’ve travelled in the past. I only have God to thank for that. I know the more I strive to be a God-centered individual, the more I will remain grateful in my life for all of what I have and all of what I experience.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Kings Cream

I decided I wanted to write about a really wonderful place I found in my recent stay in Ponce, PR. Whenever I travel somewhere lately, I generally like to try something of local flair. With a few days to spend on my own, I decided that I would do some venturing out during that time. In a recent posting, I talked about how there are things that sometimes are right in front of us when we are looking for them. The subject of that posting was this specific night that I went into downtown Ponce. That evening I had planned to dine at a local Spanish restaurant, see a few sites within walking distance, and then have ice cream at a very well known place in all of Puerto Rico named Kings Cream. Thankfully I was able to find all three, especially Kings Cream, after spending time being lost.

In most cases, Kings Cream is a place that if one was driving down the street and saw the sign, they probably wouldn’t stop. Appearing essentially as a hole in the wall in a slightly run down section of the city, I parked and walked in to look at the flavors. Everything was in Spanish which I kicked myself for not knowing. I found the place on Trip Advisor, which I use often when I travel. It was rated by quite a number of people with close to five stars. What Kings Cream is known for is having unique flavors of ice cream that one probably wouldn’t find anywhere else. I recognized one word, “Coco” and ordered a medium cup of coconut ice cream. And it was amazing.

What’s funny is that the old me would never have ventured out alone to a place in an old city that primarily speaks a language I didn’t know. What’s even funnier is that I went back again another night and got a tropical fruit flavor named guanabana which was even better than the coconut. While I was there, I found out they even had passion fruit, corn, and pineapple as flavors. I had a sample of the corn ice cream which was definitely unique. Regardless, for a place that only charged a couple of bucks for a very large portion of their delectable ice cream, I was glad that I made the trip and am even more glad that I’m much open in my life to trusting in God to try new experiences.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

What Is God’s Will?

For years, I went about looking for God’s will in the way that was presented to me from when I was a young child. I would go to church each week, volunteer, pray, and wait for an answer but many times no answers came for what I was seeking. As I grew older, I found that I was too busy in my life, especially in my head, each and every day to even hear what God’s will may be for something I was praying on. I’ve come to learn in my life that while prayer is the active form of communicating with God. Meditation is the active form of listening and waiting for those answers. One of those things that I prayed upon for years and years was about God’s will with my sexuality. This entry is about my journey in receiving that answer from God.

As a child I stayed in the closet. I dated women. I played it “straight”. I was too afraid. So many people still say today that gay people choose their lifestyle and of course, much of those same people also say it’s a sin and against God’s will. I grew up Methodist and while I don’t remember people like that or sermons based around homosexuality, I do remember friends making fun of those that appeared gay. Sadly, I was one of them. I was so deeply afraid of my attractions to a guy that I ridiculed those that were a mirror for what I felt inside. My life became a fantasy world where I lived in my head about what I wanted. On the outside, I appeared “normal” to everyone else. Yet inside, I was completely miserable. I couldn’t understand how God would create me this way and have attractions and feelings towards the same sex if it was a sin.

I drank and took drugs for many years to hide this part of me and kept it suppressed. I found that when I was drunk or high I could fake being heterosexual and be with a woman. Usually, I was thinking about a man during those times anyway. Never did I feel a strong current or attraction towards any of the women I dated. It was all a front. A good one at that. After years of therapy trying to figure out me, I came to the conclusion that I really was gay but it still didn’t answer what God’s will was for me on that issue.

There are many who say that being gay is a choice. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t choose to be gay in a world where there is so much prejudice and hate towards it. But I don’t have a choice. It’s who I am. And when I began to realize that, I tried praying to God to take “my gayness” away. When that didn’t work, I came to the acceptance that it was the way I was meant to be from the day I was born. It brought up a lot of fear because of my religious upbringing and what I knew the Bible said. Questions began to come up every day around it.

Did God want me to be celibate the rest of my life and never find love with anyone?

Did God want me to find a woman and just force myself to be with her and trust that the parts might somehow work as time went on?

Would God be ok with me being with a man?

Was the Bible really stating God’s will?

They all led up to one big question. “God, what is your will for me with my sexuality?”

I prayed about it.

I wrote about it.

I prayed some more about it.

I cried and felt like I was being punished.

I even tried to “ex-communicate” myself from being gay.

After many therapy visits, reading spiritual books on the matter, talking about it to pastors and friends, I was no closer to knowing what God’s will was. The more that I took action to figure it out, the more I was overwhelmed with data on how it was right or wrong depending on the source.

Finally I took the one action I didn’t want to take, because it was too fearful for me. It’s an action that many people don’t even realize is one. I became still. I stopped taking physical actions and sat down, and started meditating. Initially for short periods of time, and then eventually for hours on end, I was silent. One night I was so fed up with my life and feeling confused about this issue and so many more that I said I wasn’t going to stop meditating until I got some answers, or any answer for that matter. I started meditating that night, sitting on the floor with my back to the couch and a candle lit in front of me. My breathing was in and out in a regular repeated pattern. Thirty minutes became an hour. An hour went into two hours. Two hours turned into four hours and at some point something happened that never had happened before. A beautiful vibration swept through my whole body and I suddenly felt lighter than I ever had felt before. All the fears, worries, and concerns of my day to day life seemed to disappear immediately. The place I arrived in that moment was more peaceful than anything I had ever experienced before in my life. And that’s when I heard the answer to the prayer I had so often sought after from God.

As clear as day, I heard a voice that said to me that as long as I love one person, whether it’s a man or a woman, that I was to love them with all my heart, mind, and soul. There were other prayers that were answered at that moment too but for this entry’s purposes, I’ll stay on topic. I realized in that moment, that fantasizing about someone else while I was in a relationship wasn’t in God’s will. I realized that looking at porn while I was in a relationship with someone wasn’t in God’s will. I realized that God was trying to tell me that if I am with a man, to just love them with all of me. Tears of joy flooded my eyes and face and I knew in that moment, that I was hearing God’s will and not some Darkness or Satan as some have said.

Many years have passed since then. I fell off the path many times and didn’t stick to God’s will. I became toxic and hurt myself and many others. A year ago, I pledged 100 percent of my life to God. For the first time in my life, I can say that I am loving the man I am with now with all my heart, mind, and soul. It is the best relationship I’ve ever had. It’s God centered. And I’m becoming brighter and lighter in the process.

If anyone out there is struggling with their sexuality, please, don’t listen to anyone else tell you what God’s will is. Don’t let a single person tell you that it’s against the Bible, or God, or any other religion. All of those are coming from human beings who have or had opinions and are potentially flawed. God WILL give you the answer you are seeking. Sometimes what it takes is to just be quiet and listen. Wait patiently and meditate on it. It took me many, many years, to get my answer. But no matter how long it may take to get His answer, it will come. When He feels the time is right. It did for me and I know it will for you.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

All Aren’t Welcomed – Part I

As much as times have changed and people have become more accepting of gays and lesbians in society, there are still so many close minded individuals and institutions that claim it’s against God’s will. While this entry isn’t about my “coming out”, and the processes I went through to have acceptance of that part of me, it is a story about the rejection I continue to face in mainstream society due to my sexuality.

I’ve always been somewhere in between a religious and spiritual person. Having grown up Methodist and having studied other denominations over the years as well, I’ve come to have an appreciation for all walks of faith. What I have found most difficult though is the wall I continue to face with churches that show rejection and exclusion.

Many years ago when I lived in Northern Virginia, just after graduating from college, I was coming to terms of my sober life as well as my gay one, except I wasn’t ready to announce to the world the latter. My therapist recommended it might help provide me some direction if I find a place of worship to reconnect with God. Initially she suggested a church that was one established for gay people. After one service, I was too overwhelmed as my mind wasn’t open enough yet to embracing my sexuality. So I looked for something else and found a new church that had formed and was currently meeting in a high school auditorium. It was hip and trendy, had live music, used clips from movies for parts of the service, and the songs were toe tapping, hand clapping, and upbeat. I loved it enough and eventually I became a full time member and was re-baptized there. At some point I had come to accept my sexuality completely through my therapy and had started my first monogamous gay relationship. Because of that, I decided it was time to be truthful to the church I called my spiritual home. At a weekly men’s bible study I finally opened up and spoke the truth about my lifestyle. I assumed they all would embrace me as I had made many close friends in the church and was quite active with them. Sadly, the opposite happened and my moment of truthfulness became the end of my attendance with them. I was pulled aside by the pastor and assistant pastor and told how it was clearly a sin in the bible how I was living my life and that I should pray and repent. Ironically, this church was the first of many to say they were all-welcoming but weren’t.

Thankfully, in that critical time of my life I went back to the gay and lesbian based church I had once attended except I was in a much more open place in my life to accept my sexuality. They helped me to believe that God loved each and every one of us no matter what walk of life we were from. When I moved out of that area and could no longer attend that church, I was unable to find any place of worship that would embrace my sexuality or my relationship to the man I was partnered to at the time. I lived in a remote area where there were at least six churches to attend, but each of them were the same in that they said they were all-welcoming but could not accept gay people.

Eventually, I moved from that area to Massachusetts to be closer to my sister and within a few years, I found myself wanting to find a church again to call home. I had taken quite a number of years off from having a regular place of worship because of all the rejection I had experienced. My life had changed immensely having removed all the resentment I held to those places of worship. I also had become more opened to other religions and embraced a lot more things in my life that I once never understood.  I checked out various churches but most of them were very formal Christian based services with slow hymns and standard sermons that I felt I had heard before, so I began to give up hope of finding one I might like. A very close gay friend of mine encouraged me to come check out his church and told me that it was extremely uplifting. I decided to make a visit.

After many weeks of attending it, I became excited again about going to church. This church was very similar to the style of the one that had rejected me so long before that so I was slightly wary. I assumed though that because my friend was gay that it must be different. Week in and week out I heard the pastor say the church welcomed everyone and that they encouraged people to join. I decided to do just that and scheduled an appointment with the pastor. When the day of that meeting came, I sat across from him and told him of my excitement about his church and that I was giving him my intention to join. I also made sure this time to say up front that I was a gay male. Instead of the next hour being spent on giving me directions on the next step to becoming a member, I was once again lectured about how I was living in sin and that his church wouldn’t allow me to join if I was gay. Passages were cited out in the bible throughout the rest of the meeting and were used as ammunition towards how I was living my life.

When did the Bible become a way to segregate people? When did the Bible become a weapon? Why does religion seem to be continuing to push people away rather than draw them in?

These questions are the main reason why I wrote this entry. It was to show that there is one main flaw in religion today. It’s that the phrase “all-welcoming” doesn’t mean just that. I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. I had a spiritual experience with God earlier in my life that was so direct on that issue that I can’t refute it. While some have tried to tell me it was Satan telling me this, I know in my heart that it was God. The message I was told was to love unconditionally with all my heart, mind, and soul whoever it was that I went into a relationship with, whether a man or a woman.

I don’t know why the bible has a handful of passages that say being gay is a sin. What I do know is that Jesus never spoke of it, God never directly said anything to it, and for the handful of accounts where it is mentioned, it comes from a man writing his thoughts. I’ve learned that just because I’m reading something in any type of book, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the exact truth. There’s a little bit of truth in everything and a lot of mistruths in everything as well. Whether I’m practicing Christianity, Buddhism, or any other religion, I’ve come to embrace everyone equally with light and love.

Isn’t that how it should be? Shouldn’t we all just accept each other no matter what walk of life we are and let God decide the rest? Why are people being turned away from churches where they may receive the answers from God? Since that sit down meeting, I communicated to several other churches that had elements I was looking for and faced the same rejection in each of them. Sadly, I don’t have a desire to go to any church anymore because of this. Personally, I don’t think God or Jesus or any other master teacher that people follow in any religion would approve today of how segregated churches have become. Day to day, I try to preach love, equality, and acceptance of everyone, while many people and many churches still seem to be preaching fear and hate, continuing to show rejection, and ultimately are keeping their doors only open for some even while they say they are an all-welcoming church.

All-welcoming should mean just that. All our welcomed no matter who you are from whatever walk of life you come from. God is love and nothing else. If any church says otherwise including telling someone they aren’t welcomed for any reason, it’s not a place I want to be at, because it’s not love and it’s not God.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Cycle of Cravings and Aversions

A number of years ago I went on a Buddhist meditation retreat for ten days of complete silence where the only thing I was to face throughout it were my own thoughts. For ten days, one is not allowed to write, read, connect to the outside, use any technology, see any news, or talk. It’s interesting to see what happens to the mind when it’s shut off from its normal operations and functioning for a long period of time. I’m not sure if most people realize how much of their lives is in a perpetual pattern of craving things and then trying to avoid them when they become a source of pain. It was something I learned on this retreat about my own life.

On the first full day of the retreat, I told myself that not having any of my creature comforts wasn’t so bad. A little bit of silence. A little bit of meditation. A little bit of food that I probably wouldn’t eat outside of the compound (it was a Vegan retreat). I can do this, I told myself. As I sat there and meditated. The seconds became minutes. The minutes became hours. And as the hours turned into a day, my brain began to squirm. By the end of second full day of silence it began to shout. And by the conclusion of the third complete day of silence, it was screaming at me.

WHERE IS MY TELEVISION?!

WHERE ARE MY SNACKS?!

WHERE ARE MY SWEETS?!

CAN’T YOU JUST TALK TO SOMEONE?!

I WONDER WHAT “SO n SO” IS DOING?!

THIS IS STUPID, YOU’RE NOT GOING TO LAST TILL THE END!

I MISS MY OWN BED.

WHY DID YOU GO ON THIS RETREAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?!

And so on…

I couldn’t seem to shut off my brain’s desire to do something that was anything but sit with my owns wandering thoughts and continue to meditate. And by the end of the fourth day, it was as if my brain gave up the fight and accepted that I was in for the long haul to complete the retreat. And that’s when it hit me about my life.

Life really is a big stream of craving things. Initially we find something that we love. Maybe it’s watching television. Maybe it’s eating chocolate. Maybe it’s buying a new car. Maybe it’s beginning a new relationship. Maybe it’s buying a new article of clothing. Or maybe it’s something else. But in any of those cases, there’s something every single human being finds that they love immensely. And that thing is something that is initially always enjoyable. Take chocolate for example. The first piece of chocolate is great and one receives a good feeling inside. Then a second piece and the enjoyment seems a little less. Then a third, and a fourth, and at some point, the stomach begins to hurt from eating too much of it. Now, it’s no longer feeling so good to be eating any chocolate so the human desire is then to avoid it. And as some point, when all that pain in the stomach is gone and some time has passed from the bad experience, the craving to eat it comes back again. This same principle applies to all the other things I listed. How about starting a new relationship? First it’s great. There’s lots of fun and newly interesting things to learn about the other person. Then there’s the intimacy if it’s a romantic relationship. And of course there is a lot of excitement each time the two get together because of the newness of it. At some point though, conflict arises, and the two don’t see eye to eye, arguing ensues, and they start to avoid each other. Usually after some amount of time passes, the two will forgive each other and then start desiring each other’s company again. How about the buying of anything such as a car or a new gadget. At first it’s great and exciting and it’s shown off to everyone. Each time it’s used brings about a good feeling. But at some point that car or gadget starts to break down and begins to have issues. It becomes a source of anger and frustration and then the person starts avoiding using it and looking to replace it. I could go on with any number of things that human beings crave.

On my silent retreat I learned that many of us are on a constant cycle of craving things over and over and over again and then at the same time, avoiding them when they no longer are providing the same satisfaction they once did when they begin to provide a source of pain or frustration.

By day five of my silent retreat, I saw all of this clearly happening everywhere in my life. I was able to see myself comparable to that of a dog. A dog sees a treat in front of them and begins to salivate. It eats one treat after another and another and then after having too many of them, is throwing up and not wanting to see any of them any time soon. Since then, I’ve used many meditation techniques to move out of this tedious cycle of living. I don’t find myself craving things as much anymore. I’m still wearing old clothes that have holes in them. I still am using a version of the Iphone from 3 years ago. I am driving a 6 year old car. I don’t actually eat milk or dark chocolate anymore to avoid the stimulant properties within it. And I am in a long term relationship that I am very happy in, even when there are things that arise that challenge my ego.

I don’t want to be in a constant circular motion in my life of craving something, then averting it, then craving it again, and then averting it once more. Having God at the center of my life and using meditation and prayer has helped me to look at my entire life in a much slower pace. When the mind is slowed down, that’s when it becomes the easiest to make changes to the human tendency of having a hurried lifestyle. And that’s when one can truly begin to step off the cravings and aversions cycle for good.

Peace, love, light, and joy

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Looking For Something That’s Right In Front Of You

On my recent travels, I was in Puerto Rico and was attempting to navigate my way around one of the cities using an app on my Iphone. The destination on this certain evening was a restaurant that for some reason was not coming up when I did a search for it in this GPS tool. I spent 30 minutes attempting and re-attempting to find the destination in the app several different ways and eventually marked a point on the map that I hoped would be closest to where I needed to go.

After clicking “Navigate”, I soon was off on a 4 mile drive being guided by my digitally based English speaking friend. About 10 minutes later the cheerful voice said I had arrived at my destination. Puerto Rico is interesting in that the streets, in the downtown cities, are a lot of one-ways. On top of that, everything is in Spanish which I don’t speak or read making it that much more difficult for me. And even worse, street signs aren’t on every corner. As the navigation ended, I noticed I had just passed an ice cream shop that I had seen online and wanted to check out. I made a mental note and took a left at the next street to look for a place to park and see if I could find any more information out on my phone’s internet. My pulse quickened slightly and I began to get frustrated. I told myself I should have just stayed at the hotel and had something to eat there. After about 10 minutes of causing myself anxiety and not finding any further help on the internet, I took a deep breath, told myself that God would help me find it and then looked straight ahead to figure out where to go next. There on the next corner was the sign for the entrance to the restaurant I was looking for. Even funnier, across the street was a church that I had also seen online and wanted to get a picture of while I had ventured out. I chuckled realizing that all three places I had planned on going to were within a block of where I was parked. I then thought how this has happened a lot in my life.

Have you ever been searching for anything so intently like a restaurant, some other destination, or maybe something that you lost in your house such as your keys and no matter how hard you try, it seems to evade you?

I realized the other day that sometimes by just slowing down or in my case pulling to the side of the road and pausing for a moment, that what I’m looking for is right in front of me. An even better realization is that for years I searched for happiness again and again through many different things around me and never did find it. When I stopped searching, started meditating and praying, and seeking to live a life that God would want me to be living, I began feeling the happiness within.

It’s so easy to get caught up in distress when looking for something so diligently in life. I have found that what we are looking for is usually right in front of us or within us. Sometimes all it takes to find it, is some slowing down and asking God for help.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“I Wish I Could Stay Here Forever!!!”

Have you ever been on a vacation having an amazing time and caught yourself saying something along the lines of “I wish I could stay here forever!”?

The first time I mouthed those words was as a child when my family took an annual vacation for two weeks in Myrtle Beach, SC. We left the Saturday after the school year ended and were always there to the Saturday after the fourth of July. I have fond memories of being immensely excited for those vacations when they got closer. My sister does as well. In a family where being dysfunctional was the norm and verbal shouting matches with anger and control were an everyday commonplace, the vacation in Myrtle Beach seemed like a reprieve from it all. For whatever reason, my parents became happier during it. The fighting was minimal, if present at all. My sister and I received a lot more praise. And our parents spent time doing things with us that were fun and made us feel like we were one happy family. I lived for those two weeks. I can still remember building sandcastles with my Mom and Dad. I remember having ice cream sundaes at an all you can eat toppings location after a long walk to find it. I even remember eating too much hush puppies at our favorite restaurant that we always went to on our first night out. And that’s just a couple of things that I remember fondly as there are hundreds more.

So why did my parents act differently during these annual vacations?

The best answer that I’ve been able to come up with is really based upon one of my own life’s travel experiences.

I’ve been to quite a different number of places in the world for a vacation but I have to say that I’m partial to going to beach destinations. It’s ironic because I currently live about 10 minutes from the beach and yet when I travel I like to go to places where they are present. What can I say? I love the ocean, it’s vastness, and it’s tranquility. Maybe that’s because of those beach trips I did year after year as a kid. Either way, many years ago, I took my first trip to the Caribbean. I was on a cruise that left out of Florida and was at that time in a different relationship. One that was rapidly falling apart. I really loved this man who I was trying to spend my life with, but unfortunately, he had fallen out of love with me and fallen more in love with the bed and breakfast that we were trying to own and run. What’s fascinating is that I remember how my relationship had so much drama and fighting, and arguing and yelling, even right up until the day that vacation began. But when we arrived at our warm and tropical destination, my partner started to treat me so much better. He showed me affection again. He offered me the warmth our relationship had once shared. He paid me compliments and gave me the attention that had long since disappeared. And that’s when I caught myself saying those words again, “I wish I could stay here forever!” And that’s when it finally began to dawn on me why my family was so happy on each of our annual vacations and why it seemed to be happening again in totally different circumstances.

Life is distracting. Our self-will takes us down paths that change our focus from the things that truly mean something, to things that we think are supposed to mean something. We place all our attention on making money, building businesses, acquiring “things”, and being busy for long hours of the day, all the while losing interest and focus on one the most important things in this world. Love. Love for ourselves and love for another. The partner I had on that vacation back then had been with me at that point for about five years. In the first few years, he could have been the poster child for what unconditional love is. Then came the day that he began to pursue his dream to run a bed and breakfast. Over time, the burdens of achieving that dream shifted his interests and his love on every level from me to it. The same held true for my family. My father relentlessly pursued his IBM career with long work hours. My mother in turn gave up her dream of being a French Interpreter that she had originally gone to college for, and instead became a housewife. Neither seemed very happy with themselves or their day to day lives but being on vacation changed everything. There were no worries or concerns for either of them other than where to go for dinner or what putt-putt course to play that evening. I saw my mother and father hold hands, laugh, and be happy with each other. As soon as we would arrive back at our home upon completion of the vacation, it was as if all of what we had just experienced in the past two weeks had been an illusion. The fighting resumed. My sister and I got yelled at again for no reason. And we were left with another 50 weeks to look forward to our next reprieve.

Vacations are just that, a reprieve from life. They can be awesome and rekindle some elements that may have dwindled in connections between friends or partners. Unfortunately, the longer the vacation, the more apt the everyday aspects of life will return. I’ve experienced it having thought I could make the loving times last longer by extending more weeks onto the end of once shorter trips. In each and every case, those worries and concerns, and those things that shifted the focus away from the love in the first place, began to creep back in, along with the fights and the arguments.

Today I’m in a much healthier relationship where I’ve noticed something pretty special. We express love to each other all the time even with each of our own concerns of every day life. When we take one of these reprieves and go on vacation, it only gets better. I believe that’s the way it probably should have been in all of my dysfunctional relationships prior to this including even my family. I don’t wish anymore that I could stay forever at where I’m traveling to. I believe that’s because I’ve placed God today at the center of my life and in doing that, it seems that whether I’m sipping fruity drinks under the tropical sun or whether I’m home watching snow accumulate in feet, that I happy either way.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Traveling Experience

I recently went on air travel that brought out some thoughts on why it is that I both love to fly and loathe it at times as well.

Heading out to the airport is exciting isn’t? Unless one has a fear of flying, I’m guessing it’s an enjoyable feeling inside as the arrival at the airport happens. Unfortunately, there is so much that has changed at the airport these days because of security that has caused some of that enjoyment to be curbed for many.

First there are the lines that one must endure to wait to check a bag, change a seat, or speak to an agent for any other reason. Sometimes those lines are short and the the wait to see the agent is quick. But in other cases, waiting an hour or more could happen. For someone like me who has trouble standing for long periods because of my current ailments, I generally try to arrive at off times to avoid that, even if it means waiting several hours or more for a flight.

The next hurdle is the baggage weigh in. Please stay under 50 pounds. Please!!! That is what my thoughts generally are saying when I place my heavy suitcase on the scale. If one is lucky enough to fly JetBlue or a few other airlines that allow for the first bag free, staying under 50 pounds will not incur any extra costs. The downfall is when the suitcase is 51 or 52 pounds and the agent asks if you can remove something within it to bring it down to the maximum limit. If I’m lucky enough to have a carry on bag, sometimes that’s possible. Most of the time it’s not and a cost of $20 to $40 happens. Add in the cost for the “non free bag” airlines, and suddenly, one might pay $50 to $60 before they even leave on their trip.

The biggest hurdle for many is going through security. With heightened measures today, it just seems that every one is looked at like they are a potential terrorist and often I feel that those same measures have become invasive. I understand they are for our own security reasons but sometimes I see that it can go overboard and cause more fear. When I was a kid, I remember thinking it was exciting to go through the security. That was before one had to take off their shoes, their belts, their sweatshirts, everything in their pockets, be x-rayed, wanded, and scrutinized by several agents. In my last security screening, I was scanned twice because of my belt which then held up a vast number of people patiently waiting to go through the same process.

The last hurdle is the boarding process. Some airlines have people hoarded in like cattle and it’s a first come first serve basis to get a seat. And in the boarding process for most airlines there is a priority of who gets to get on the plane first. Some are even charging extra if one wants to board early. It seems like unless one is disabled, the more money one has to spend, the more they will get the privileges that used to come for everyone many years ago in the flying experience. What’s even more difficult, is that by the time some board, there is no storage left in the over head compartment because people bring as much as they can on the plane to avoid paying the fees for the baggage at the gate. Lately with the disabilities that I am going through with my sciatica and numbness, I pre board because I am unable to stand for long period of time.

And finally there’s takeoff, after everyone is boarded and seated, after watching the airline attendants show the safety procedures, and after any potential delays on the runaway. In worst case scenarios, there is also the potential of delays in the air to land, delays to get to the gate upon landing, and delays to pick up any checked bags at the carousel. Then, and only then, one can take a breath of fresh air and relax that they are at their destination (that is unless they are waiting for in a cab line, or have to get a car rental, or a friend is running late to pick them up, or they have to shuttle out to find their car in a sea of other cars parked in long term parking.)

In my new place in life, I try to look at the positive experiences with everything and focus on them instead. Upon arrival at the gate, I generally like to talk to the agent and smile and make them feel like they are important. Because they are as they do a lot of hard work and have to deal with unruly people quite often I’m sure. At the security, I usually get to talk to someone interesting while I’m waiting to go through the screening. This past trip I met a young woman on holiday travel from a journalism study program at her university in Vienna, Austria. Once the screening is done, I enjoy the wait for my flight because I get to watch people and see how their lives are playing out. I look forward to eating something and just relaxing while I watch the planes arrive and take off outside. And on the plane, I almost always get to know who is sitting next to me and in some cases, I’ve even make a long term connection and exchange contact information like I did a few trips ago with a former pastor and his wife who have been praying for me and my healing ever since.

I believe everything in life can be viewed from positive or negative perspectives. As much I can list out what I struggle with on the flying experience, I have to say that the good outweighs the bad, and I’m grateful to God that I’m even able to go on a trip and fly in the first place.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“I Know They’ll Leave Their Marriage For Me!!!”

I’ve been wanting to write about a certain subject for awhile but I was unwilling to do so until enough time had passed.

Several years ago, I met someone in AA during a very sick period of my life. On an early morning 7am meeting, I saw a man who I guessed was in his late 40’s walk into the meeting I was at. I could tell he was troubled and withdrawn and I also could tell I was attracted to him. At that time in my life, I wasn’t self aware enough to have known about any of my other addiction issues outside of alcohol and drugs. During the time of open discussion in that AA meeting, this man raised his hand and shared about his constant relapse issues. When the meeting ended, normally, back then, I would have just left. Rarely, if ever, did I go up and introduce myself to a newcomer because of how self-centered I was. On that day I did, and for one reason only. Because of my attraction. Unfortunately, my others addictions had me in their grip then and it was as if I was on auto-pilot.

I said hello to this man, who I’ll call Richard for anonymity purposes, and gave him my card. Much to my addiction’s eager surprise, I received a phone call the next day from him and was told he wanted to sit down with me and share his story. We set up a time and when that arrived, I remember clear as I ever will, him looking at me and saying that he had struggled with his sexuality since he was a young boy. He went further and said that he was married and has had “experiences” on the side. I told him I could help him with AA and I started working with him. I realized that after a week or two, I wasn’t going to be able to continue doing that because of my attraction, and so I told him about it. He thanked me for being honest and said that he’d still like me to help him with some of the AA work anyway. I should have run fast, far away right then, but I didn’t. I told him I would do what I could and the next day he had off from work he came over to my house. Richard sat down next to me on my couch and started to read with me AA literature. As I was reading, I noticed he placed his now bare foot on top of mine and before I knew it, he began to make sexual advances on me of which I didn’t refuse. I’m not sure if I ever intended to refuse them.

Our “relationship” went on for two years. To everyone else, we were the best of friends. We did sports together, took trips together, had many meals together, spent holidays together, and even had “sleepovers”. I became a regular at his house and even got a key to let myself come and go as I pleased. Hidden from everyone else was the sexual relationship that existed, the adultery, and the lies. To make matters worse, he had relapsed again and again during our time together and I got to watch what it felt like to be on the receiving end once again in my life of the emotional abuse of an active alcoholic. But there was some part of me, I say today a sick part of me, that liked the toxic relationship. I liked the major highs of getting away with what we were doing. And I continued to believe that he was going to leave his wife as time passed. Why? Because he told me. Again and again.

Looking back at the relationship, I realize today just how mentally unstable we both were and how sick our connection was. He and his wife had been married for a very long time and she was completely oblivious to his “extra curricular” activities as we often referred to our intimacy. I noticed that when he had more to drink alcoholically, he made more false promises. Most alcoholics do, for that matter. But when the heart is involved, even if it’s a toxic love, people do things they probably would never do otherwise. Unfortunately, with the major highs I experienced in that relationship, so came with it the awful lows. I remember all the times where I was told I wasn’t welcomed and days went by where he avoided all contact with me to “punish me” for things I had no idea what they were really about. I remember where I was blamed for his sexual advances and told I had some power over him. I remember where I was called homophobic slurs just after being sexually intimate. And I remember the long hours of listening to him talk about how his marriage was awful and how he really just wanted to be with me and that he didn’t know how to do that.

Why I am writing this is because it’s something that I want to have as a visual reminder in my life of how far I’ve come from those dark times and how much I never want to go back to that way of living. Through my AA work and fully having God now at the center of my life, I’ve examined where all that craziness began. It started with me. It started with my lust and my giving him my number. There were so many times along the way that I wanted to stop what I was doing because I knew what I was doing was wrong on so many levels. But I couldn’t and I didn’t.

I’ve met a lot of people in my life who have lived in these kind of relationships themselves. Each of them including myself lie to ourselves and say it’s ok because the other person’s not happy and they are making the advances too. In other words, it’s ok because it’s two consenting adults. But I have taken my life to a higher power today and want to live at a higher spiritual plane where God calls the shots in my life. There’s no way to put it other than I was as guilty of adultery as much as he was even though I wasn’t married or with anyone else.

Richard never had any intention of leaving his wife. He had the best of both worlds as he used to tell me. He had his “boy toy” on the side to get his “fix” and he had the comfort of his loving wife who would have done anything for him and had been there for him since high school. The biggest illusion that I faced and that anyone in one of these situations faces is that just because two people are engaging in sexual activity and feeling something in their heart, doesn’t mean that it’s going to equate to “happily ever after.” And in most cases, the outsider is generally the one who is heartbroken time and time again. When push came to shove, Richard would always choose his wife.

I’m not sure why anyone ever falls into a relationship like this. Maybe it really is an addiction that brings out incredible highs especially when it surrounds an adulterous connection. Thankfully, Richard is no longer a part of my life and hasn’t been for several years. Our relationship began to come to a close when I had stopped the sexual contact between us and said we should just be friends. I had already started living with so much guilt it was making me sick on every level. The friendship didn’t last long because of the constant temptations he kept placing out there for me, taunting me to come back to that behavior and when I didn’t, he eventually moved onto another willing guy participant and I said goodbye. It was then that I realized I never was anything more to him than just satisfying an urge or a demon he had inside.

It took another two years after that for me to find freedom from that addiction or those type of relationships. The biggest lesson I learned in all of this is very simple. If you meet someone who is still married and shows any romantic or sexual interest in you…

RUN. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. RUN AWAY AND DON’T LOOK BACK. If they are going to cheat on their partner, then they’ll cheat on you. If they are still married, then a part of them is still with their spouse. It sounds pretty simple, but when caught up in a big adulterous mess like I was, it’s hard to see anything. Thankfully, I’m no longer blind.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

One Year Ago Today…

In a therapist’s visit the other day, I was feeling a little down and questioning whether I’ve grown at all in the past year. I love my therapist because she doesn’t tell me what I want to hear, she asks me instead to look within and answer those questions myself. So instead of her saying, that I’ve grown so much and giving me a pat on the back, she posed a question instead.

“Where were you about a year ago and what was going on in your life then?”

What a fascinating question to ponder! I’ve tried to move away from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future on most days lately, because then I’m not remaining in today. I know that sounds like a cheesy slogan on a Hallmark card except there’s so much truth to it. But for the purposes of therapy, I delved into her question to see what answers I could give her.

A year ago here is what I remember. I was completely and underly obsessed with a guy who was an active drug addict that loved his Harley motorcycle more than any other thing in this world. I spent many a days and nights trying to be like him, make my friendship with him closer, and trying to convince myself that he, a married guy, might possibly also be gay. I hung out at the gym that we were both members of, hoping he might show up and work out with me sometimes staying there for pointless hours. I waited by my phone on many nights hoping to hang out and the phone never rang. I paid for all the things we did together thinking it was my duty. And I was turning away on some level a guy who did want to get to know the real me and seemed to like me just as I was. I was also on medication to handle depression and anxiety and my body was riddled with pain that drove me to thoughts of wanting to use alcohol or drugs again to numb it. Self-pity was my best friend.

And today?

That guy hasn’t been in my life for almost a year now. Two more months and that will be a true statement. There is not a single person in my life that I’m codependent with, obsessed with, chasing after, lusting after, or being toxic with. I am no longer on day to day medications to suppress depression and anxiety. My physical pain levels seem to be reducing more and more every day. And God has brought fully into my life that guy who I kept putting at bay, and we are soon to be celebrating together one year as a monogamous couple.

It’s easy to think that we aren’t growing or going anywhere when we are deep into our own thoughts each and every day. Sometimes it takes a comparison to a time frame in the past such as a year ago to see the growth we may have made. I’m grateful for my therapist having posed that question because it made me realize that even on my worst of days, I would never, ever, want to go back to the life I was living a year ago.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson