What Happens When You Compare Your Current Relationship To One From The Past?

New relationships can be quite troubling especially when one or both of the people in it keep comparing each other to past flames. Recently I had to have a discussion with my partner about this very issue as he was doing just that by comparing me to a person he had dated just before meeting me.

I’ve had three long term relationships in my life that have lasted at least two years or more and quite a few others of shorter durations. Each of them had their positive qualities throughout but all of them also had many negative ones as well. Unfortunately, until I figured out that I was carrying the downside of those relationships into the ones that were following it, they all continued to crumble around me, one after another.

It’s really not fair for either person in a couple to bring past relationship baggage onto their current one. It undermines any growth that can happen as they try to become closer to each other. It creates anger and resentments between them. And it fuels arguments that destroy the foundation their relationship was built upon in the first place.

I’m guilty of this and have been doing a massive amount of work in my current relationship to prevent this from happening again. I’ve had a lot of tumultuous relationships in my past. I’ve dated active alcoholics and drug addicts, mentally and emotionally abusive people, and many who had serious issues with spending money wastefully. What I never realized were how much of each of those people were only mirrors for myself to the negative behaviors I still held within. Instead of working on my own issues, I cited them out in the people I dated manifesting arguments in the process and comparing them to the past people I dated who had the same traits. Eventually because of this, my own behaviors sabotaged yet another relationship leaving me single all over again.

Now when I see a behavior that really bothers me in my partner, I look at myself and into my past and see if there is something I am hiding from, holding onto, or not wiling or wanting to let go of. In every case, there always is.

Just because a past partner had no money management abilities doesn’t mean that if my current partner overdrafts his bank account once or twice that it’s going to be that same type of relationship. Just because a past partner was angry all the time and abusive doesn’t mean that if my current partner comes home from work one day and lashes out that it’s going to be just like before. And so on and so forth. In any of these cases when trouble arises now, I look at myself and ask where my part was in all of it. I ask questions such as whether I pushed my partner to spend money they didn’t have or whether I did any behaviors that were selfish and self-centered that provoked the anger? What I learned in doing this was gaining the knowledge that the demise of all of my former relationships were as much my own fault as it was with the people I had dated. I had contributed to the negativity in every case with my own behaviors. The biggest realization though that has come to me in the past year of my life on why I had been in so many previous relationships is that God had been left out of them.

I do not believe any relationship can survive without having God at the center of it. After the initial happy romance phase is over and the real work begins to keep it going, trying to hold it together with control and self-will always failed for me. Personalities took over. The inevitable would then happen with me comparing each of them to someone in the past I dated that I felt they were now becoming. What was really happening was the real me was emerging in the relationship. The one that was broken before I got into the relationship that had never healed. The one that still had past demons within me being carried forward over and over and over again. The one that jumped from person to person experiencing only the short periods of time where the oogly-googly occurred and then leaving when that period was over.

The moral of all of this is that my success in any new relationship needed me to face myself and cut all the cords of attachment I still held onto from my negative past. My success with a partner was also dependent on me remembering the positive things I gained and learned in all of those past relationships. I had to forgive each of them and myself for all of the negative things that had happened throughout it. And most importantly, my success with any partner needed me to ask God each and every day to remain at the center of it, guiding it away from control and self-will, and into only where God sees it heading.

I now have over a year with my current partner. So far it’s the best one I’ve ever had. I thank God for that and I’m glad to realize now how much I can’t hold onto or compare any of my past relationships to my current one if I want it to last. I also realize now that anytime I find myself getting angry over anything with him and find myself comparing him in my head to someone from my past, that its probably an area of my life that still needs healing and I go to God in prayer to resolve it. It always comes back to something within me that was still broken and thankfully, through my prayer, God always leads me to healing it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Spiritual Experiences Are All Around Us

In 12 Step Recovery the words “spiritual experience” come up often. Over time since the origins of any of the recovery programs, it was found that to be removed from the throngs of any addiction that one would have to have a transformative spiritual experience to relieve a person of their obsession.

It sounds quite lofty doesn’t it?

It’s really not.

Spiritual experiences are quite simple actually. For some reason though, most people assume when they hear those words that an example of them is something of biblical proportions. Having a spiritual experience doesn’t necessarily mean the seas are going to part or the angels are going to sing for an individual. In my case, the first spiritual experience I can remember in my life was on June 10th, 1995 when I had finally grown tired of running from my own sexuality identity and immersing myself in alcohol and drugs. On that day, I cried out in a very simple prayer in my bathroom no less, and said, “God, Please help me”. And God did. In those moments after that prayer, the desire to drink, drug, and even smoke cigarettes left me for good. The only feelings I can remember all these years later from that moment were ones of being calm and peaceful after I had said the prayer. It’s been almost 18 years since that day and with all that time passing, my perception of what a spiritual experience is, has changed dramatically.

Do I have some great definition now for what one is? Not really. But I hopefully can tell in a better way through many examples of ones I’ve had so far in this life since that first one. Here are just some of them in no particular order of importance.

1. Seeing a double rainbow as a storm passes and the sun re-emerges.

2. Watching the sun rise or set over the ocean.

3. Having someone tell me that the words I spoke changed their life for the better forever.

4. Holding someone’s hand or placing an arm around them in support as they cry tears of sorrow.

5. Seeing a newborn baby’s first smile.

6. Hearing someone say they love me.

7. Getting a strong hug from someone I really care about.

8. Having my hand shaken at a recovery meeting and told warmly that they’re glad I’m there.

9. Making an honest and humble amends to someone and being fully forgiven by them.

10. Holding hands with my partner during an intimate moment.

11. Seeing any baby animal being nuzzled by its’ mother.

12. Swimming in the Caribbean and being surrounded by a coral reef and brightly colored tropical fish.

13. Crying during my prayers to God.

14. Being alone on top of a mountain peak with miles and miles of visibility.

15. Warming my hands over a crackling fire under the stars.

16. Receiving a card from anyone that writes a personal message of warmth and kindness.

17. Seeing flowers and trees beginning to bloom after a long, harsh, winter.

18. Having a total random stranger do something nice for me and vice versa.

19. Drinking an ice cold glass of water on a sizzling hot day.

20. Taking a hot bubble bath on a frigid cold day.

21. Going to the drive-in on a warm summer night and watching a movie on a big screen outside with my partner.

22. Hearing a song on the radio that moves me to tears.

23. Seeing any movie that opens me up to cry.

24. Being with my sister and her kids after long periods of absence.

25. Asking God to guide me completely for the day no matter where it may take me.

Spiritual experiences are happening all the time. They are happening right now as you are reading this. They are happening with each breath you’re taking. They are happening in every given moment, of every single day for all of us.

For me, the simplest way I can put it is that when my heart moves with any feeling of love and warmth, I know now I’m having a spiritual experience. Along the way, God has helped me to see something really important about all of this too.

When enough of these spiritual experiences have happened in my life, I have received a spiritual awakening. And when enough of these spiritual awakenings have happened in my life, I have become more aware that every moment can be a spiritual experience and every day can be a spiritual awakening.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

What Is The Difference Between Religion And Spirituality?

With a lot of what is going on in my life lately, anyone spending time around me would probably hear me mention the word God at least several times during any of my conversations. I know at least more than once, I’ve had people tell me in those conversations that they are not religious. What’s funny is that neither am I.

For some reason, the first thought is of religion when one might hear the utterance of the word God. For the longest time, I probably felt the same way. I grew up in a family that attended a United Methodist church on just about every Sunday. My father was a layman there and my mother a bell choir ringer. My parents donated faithfully to the church every Sunday. They volunteered for many of its events. They even did religious weekend retreats and weekly Bible studies. On the outside to everyone else, we seemed like the perfect family. We weren’t though. In fact, we were far from it. Like many might today, my parents often used the Bible as a weapon for their arguments. “That’s not very Christian like” might have been a phrase used during one of them. The way they acted at home was so very different from the way they presented themselves at church and in the public. While we might have been deemed a good Christian family to others that we knew back then, I had secretly vowed to part ways from it all when I left home. Being religious brought up a lot of negative connotations within me because of what I endured growing up. On top of the paradox that my parents lived behind closed doors versus how they lived in public, I also remember many sermons at church that were about how all human beings are sinners and that we are guilty more than not. I remember that to keep a good religious label meant donating more time and money to building a better church. And that’s just with what I remember as a child on what being religious meant. Today, the Bible is being used as a dagger in so many different ways, one of which is affecting me directly. Homosexuality is still deemed one of the ultimate sins by most major religions and I have been rejected from ever being a part of at least five different churches now in my life because of it.

Through my work in the rooms of 12 Step recovery, I have learned that spirituality is quite different from religion. I once heard of a very simple way to understand the difference. Religion was defined as the study of all its laws and principles that came within its own practice. Spirituality was defined as simply applying them in one’s life. My 12 Step work has led me to expand this definition more by realizing that I don’t need to go to church to hear God’s higher calling for me. And I don’t need to attend a weekly service to learn what is in my greatest highest good.

Being spiritual for me instead means serving God in whatever capacity I can every single day. It means starting my day by asking God to guide me in all my thoughts, words, and actions. It means asking God to keep me free from all addictions and obsessions throughout that day. It means keeping myself open to giving and receiving by praying and meditating daily. And it means giving thanks and gratefulness to God when each of my days come to an end. While I do own a Bible, several of them for that matter, I also own many other religious books and texts and none of them are the basis for living my life today. While each of them may lay forth good principles to living a healthier life, being spiritual in my life has led me to taking my instructions on daily living directly from God.

So am I religious because I use the word God often in my life? Absolutely not. I am spiritual because I live by my spirit within and I do my best every day to listen to what my Higher Guidance may be asking me to do. For me, it doesn’t come from a building that has a cross in it. It doesn’t come from a structure with an alter at the front of it’s hall. It doesn’t come from studying books that were written a very long time ago. It doesn’t come from a constant reminder that I was born a sinner and need to repent often. It doesn’t come from learning laws and principles that someone else is preaching to me. Where it does come from though is from my own daily practices which include praying, meditating, and communing with God alone. In those times, I ask how it is that I can live a more peace-filled and loving life here on Earth and then I wait for the answers to come. They always do. And when they do, I apply them to my daily living and in doing so, I continue to maintain a life of living spiritually.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Getting To Know Myself

For the longest time I did my best to avoid spending time with the one person I had to be with every day. Seeing myself in the mirror when I started each day often brought on feelings that seemed as far away from love, happiness, peace, and joy as one could be. In all reality, I hated myself. I hated who I had become. And I had lost most of any of my own self identity. My life had become a hodge-podge of other people’s personalities, and their likes and dislikes. I made a decision a year ago, that it was time to go back to my childhood, to the last time that I could remember when I was getting to know the real me, the one that had been born into this world unique and special.

I look at my childhood today with a very different set of eyes than what I had when I started this a year ago. There were so many painful memories I was holding onto from my dysfunctional family that I actively lived with self-pity because of them all. It’s easy in this world to numb myself from those type of memories. For awhile I used drinking and drugs to forget them and me. Later I would find other things such as gambling, sex, love, high doses of caffeine, geographical cures, and mega shopping to hide from all of those dark corners in my life. Eventually, none of it worked anymore. I fully believe that one can hide from all painful experiences for a period of time, but eventually, they find a way to rear their ugly head. In my case, in came through severe levels of physical pain.

I’m more grateful today for the physical pains I still continue to face because they have led me to doing the one thing I didn’t want to ever do. They have forced me to be still and be with that person I’ve been trying to avoid since around the age of 12. They have made me be with me, without any distractions, and without any interruptions. Much of my time is spent alone today praying, meditating, taking light walks as best as I’m able to, writing, and reading. Through all of it, I am beginning to learn what my own likes and dislikes are. I am beginning to learn what I really love in this world. Best of all, I’m beginning to let go of all those things that I took on in my life that came from other people’s lives and not my own.

The more I continue to spend time alone, the more I see how much of me was really about everyone else I kept myself occupied with for most of my life. As a child, I did the sports my mother wanted me to do. I enrolled in classes and majored in an area that my parents felt I would be best at. I tried many drugs in college just to be accepted by others. I shoplifted during that time of my life to be considered cool by a few people I was hanging around. I joined a fraternity as well because all of the people in my family were members of a Greek organization. I jumped job after job after graduating because I thought the financial success of being in better paying corporate jobs would make others appreciate me more. I sold almost everything I had at one point and bought a bed and breakfast to make an ex-partner’s dream come true so that he could happy. I later temporarily enrolled in a Master’s program in college because others told me I’d be good at it. I tried fishing and golf for a period of time because it was the pastimes of someone I was obsessed with. I even got into motorcycles and Harley-Davidsons because of another person I was chasing after. The list is infiniteness in all honesty. Ironically, at the current time, I’m not into or part of any of the things I just mentioned.

I lost sight a long time ago on what made me happy because I grew up in a family where I tried to make them happy by doing what they wanted me to do. From that point forward, I spent my life following that pattern with person after person, friend after friend, and relationship after relationship. That was until a year ago when it all changed and the physical pain became too great for me to keep living that way. Since then, I promised myself to follow a new path, one that was forged with God at the center of it. And one that has allowed me to discover the real me.

Thankfully, I realized it was never too late to begin again in my life. I may be 40 years old but there are days when I feel like a kid again as I learn all over what I really like in life. While I may have been doing some of them during all those co-dependent years, now I am exploring each of them and more because of my own inner desires. In just over a year, I have learned that I like a lot of science-fiction/supernatural related things, vanilla ice cream in a bowl and not in a cone with peanut butter topping versus hot fudge, being on sandy beaches staring out at the ocean or snorkeling within them, watching movies by myself at home or at the theater, playing a card game named Euchre on my phone, talking about God’s presence in my life anytime and anywhere, being active in my AA recovery, spending hours on putting together a 500-1000 piece puzzle, sitting under the moon and stars next to a campfire in my backyard toasting a marshmallow, eating spicy Sushi rolls and very burnt pepperoni and green olive based pizzas, and occasionally getting a big, juicy, double bacon cheeseburger with a regular cajun fry from Five Guys.

I know that the list of these things is only going to grow and change over time, but at least today, there’s no one else telling me what I should like or dislike, believe or not believe, and follow or not follow. Well, I take that back, there is one. And that’s God. But I’m ok with that, because I know under God’s helm, I’ll get to know myself better than I ever did in most of my life………until now.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

You Are Already A Superhero!

Many years ago, I wrote a column for a local newspaper down in Virginia. The following entry was one of those articles I once submitted for publishing. With some minor updates, I have re-printed it here as I feel it’s message of positivity is relevant given the state of our world right now.

——————————————————————————————————————

X-Men: First Class, The Amazing Spider-Man, Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, The Wolverine, The Avengers…These are just a few of the many superhero movies that are hitting the theaters in recent years. And that list is only continuing to grow. Each of them have been huge box office successes and generated an enormous amount of revenue from both ticket and DVD sales. So why are superheroes so popular lately? Well I have a theory, one that centers on the child in all of us.

Everyone has their own journey of what it was like to grow up. Throughout my life, I have met many who have endured as difficult of childhoods as I have, if not worse. From being physically beaten, to having suffered from family incest, to receiving mental and emotional abuse by their parents or other family members, to moms and dads that were never around, to never even having a mom or dad to start with and being forced to grow up in foster homes, the list is painfully endless for the stories I’ve heard. The one consistency I have found between all of these people who dealt with harsh childhoods including my own, is that each of us learned to create very early on in life, our own world of fantasies. It was our way of tuning out what our eyes were seeing and what our bodies were experiencing. It was our safe harbor, our escape.

As a child, I secretly fantasized about being a superhero. I wanted to have super strength to defend myself from the bullies who picked on me incessantly. I wanted to have super speed or the ability to fly so that I could get away as quick as possible when my parents were fighting. I even wanted to have the ability to read people’s minds so that I could anticipate what family members were thinking so that I didn’t end up saying something that might set someone off and end in a form of punishment. As I grew older and stronger, in both a physical sense as well as an emotional and mental one, I gained my own independence and found less of a need to continue creating this fantasy world. But the lure of having superpowers has never fully faded.

In recent years, when I find myself fantasizing about having them, sometimes I put a lot of thought together as to why I still think about them so much. While I may not be in a broken home anymore that led me to create these fantasy worlds, I realize I have a greater family, one that consists of billions of brothers and sisters. And one that is just as aching and hurt as my own family was so many years ago. Just look at the state of the world today! It doesn’t take much to realize it is in dire straits. Poverty continues to increase. Sickness continues to spread. There are wars about to break out or already raging in multiple countries. Alcohol and drug addictions continue to increase and are leading to more violence as well as the spread of disease. More and more children are growing up in broken homes. Gangs continue to thrive as disillusioned kids look for social acceptance. Rape. Murder. Terrorism. Anyone can see this horror by simply just glancing at the front page of a paper or tuning into a morning or evening news program. I know there are others out there like me who would just like this madness to go away. We attempt to ignore and tune it all out, but unfortunately we can’t because it’s everywhere. So we continue to hope that the world will produce heroes who will provide a reprieve from the misery that seems to be surrounding every corner of the globe. Unfortunately, the heroes from our childhood fantasies don’t exist yet, at least not in the form that most comic books have portrayed.

So in droves, I, and many others, look for a reprieve from the growing terror and head to the local multiplex to watch the latest superhero flick where a hero risks their life to protect the world from a villain who is causing destruction to people, cities, countries, or even the whole planet. And while we watch these films, we find we are able to suppress for several hours any fears within us over the state of the planet. And when the hero in the movie ends up saving the day, we often leave the theater feeling a little more happy and safe inside. But sadly that bubble usually bursts not too long after when we see the latest news report covering another tragedy. There is hope in all of this though. There is a good side of the coin to look at.

While none of us may be a hero with powers like Superman, all of us do have our own gifts that we were born with and each of these in their own way can be used to create love and peace in this world. Whether you are a writer, a musician, an actor, an artist, a chef, a teacher, a gardener, a seamster, a pottery maker, or whatever your creative outlet is, just place all the love and passion into it you can and know that someone, somewhere, is going to have a positive life changing experience because of it. Think about how the following creative works have spread love to so many people: Harry Potter and Twilight, “Don’t Worry Be Happy” and “We Are The World”, the Mona Lisa and Starry Night. No one truly knows what positive impact their gifts will have at their time of creation.

So I encourage each of you to take a moment today, breathe, and set some time aside to engage in that creative side of yours. Place your heart and soul in your work and trust and believe it will make a difference in someone’s life for the better. While you may not have super abilities like the Avengers, your creative talents are already making you into a superhero. Whatever your gifts are, God has blessed you with them. All you need to know is that they can and will help this world become a happier, more peaceful, and definitely more loving place.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder And Isn’t Just Skin Deep

It’s easy to become vain in today’s world. Advertising everywhere plasters scantily clad models. The males all have six-pack abs and muscles everywhere. The females are usually quite skinny with large breasts. The stars of most TV shows and movies follow similar patterns. It’s rare to see the lead actors in a show or even those models on commercials be overweight or have average builds. So many people seem to be getting face lifts and Botox injections now to keep themselves looking youthful. But is this really what beauty is about? Mainstream society would probably say yes, my answer is quite the opposite.

Some people say I’m too honest in my speaking and writing about my personal life. I’m at a place in my life now where I’m really beginning to not care what other people think about me living in absolute truthfulness. And one of those absolute truths is that I have always been physically attracted to larger, heavier-set people. Before I really understood that I was a gay male, I dated many women, each of which could be labeled full-figured. While I choose to use that term which is more politically correct, many would say early on that I was a chubby chaser. Some even used choice words that don’t need to be written and should never have been said in the first place.

By the age of 23, I had come to terms with my sexuality and had begun to date men, who in the gay culture are labeled as “bears”. For the longest time, whether I had been dating a heavyset female or male, I saw just how vain people were in society. It’s amazing the looks that I got when I was out on a date with whoever I was with. Some were even as bold to say openly they couldn’t believe that someone like me would be with someone like them, as they pointed rudely at the person I was with. For them it was sacrilegious to see a 6’5″, 175 pound swimmer’s build guy to be with a larger person. Sadly, my mother even felt that way when she was alive. She always felt I could have been with anyone I wanted and didn’t understand why I chose the men or women I did. What’s sad is that most people place what someone looks like physically as the most important thing. I was like that for a very long time. But today, I see things quite differently.

While my attraction on the physical level is towards a heavier-set type of person, I’ve realize now as my relationship has grown deeper with God that the most important thing is not what I see on the outside, it’s what I feel with them on the inside. The world is filled with billions of souls. Some of them live in the light. Others, in the dark. Some live to serve a higher purpose. Others, serve only their own needs. My life began in the light. Over the years I went completely into the dark while I fed my addictions and obsessions. Through my recovery from those, I gradually have moved back into the light again and have seen my own beauty emerge from within.

To be considered one of the most handsome or beautiful people in the world by something like People magazine means nothing to me today like it once might have. Especially when I see the actions of these people or anyone for that matter being consistently self-centered, living in life’s indulgences and trying to do nothing but keep their good looks and worry about advancing their careers. In general, I admire those instead that take time away from their jobs to help others, that give of themselves unconditionally, that don’t care to be in the spotlight and would rather be behind the scenes making the world a more loving and peace filled place. I see people all the time when I make it to the gym who are staring at themselves in the mirror and flexing their muscles and obsessing about their flat stomachs. I know this pattern because I have lived it when my only concern was to keep looking a certain way. But as I’ve grow older and the sculpted curves have become more rounded flab, and as I continue to show greater signs every day of my own body’s wear and tear, my focus has shifted away from my looks and onto instead how I live my life and how bright my soul can become.

I don’t know how long I have to live in this life. I’m grateful though that I’ve lived this long to see the illusions I once lived in beginning to break apart. I’m even more grateful that God has given me the attraction to full-figured people in this lifetime. Through it, I’ve learned being handsome or beautiful is so much deeper than what the media and society portrays. But even more importantly, I’ve learned that real beauty was never about what I saw on the outside, it’s what is felt on the inside.

Peace, love, light and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Getting What I Need, Not What I Want

I’m going through a storm right now and have been for some time. I long for the sun to part through the clouds I see on most days. Some days are better than others. At the moment, this seems to be one of them as I have a little more clarity on my perspective with God on what I am going through.

For the past year, I have been enduring chronic pain physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually. I haven’t taken any medications because of my sensitivity and side-effect prone nature to each one I’ve ever tried. Instead, I’ve used holistic healing, prayer, meditation, mantras, and writing to keep me going, especially on those days when the pain seems too great to go on. While many might disagree with this approach, I believe what I am going through is a cleansing of all the toxic stuff I did to myself for over 20 years, if not longer.

Looking back just a few years ago when all of this began at the end of April of 2010, I have realized there was no way I would be handling the level of pain I do now and still be functioning day to day. Back then when it started, I resorted to a 911 call to God asking for all of it to go away immediately. There wasn’t a day or even a moment where I wasn’t begging God for this in the first year. God didn’t answer those 911 prayers in the way that I wanted, but I believe God answered them in the way that I needed. Since then, I have ceased living in all of the unhealthy behaviors I was engaging in regularly. I have removed all the unhealthy attachments I had to people who I allowed to keep me in the dark. I have learned how to enjoy being by myself. I have gone back to the joy of reading again and expanding my awareness because of it. I have found new friends and re-established old ones who are seeking the same things I am without any hidden agendas. I have a partner now who loves me unconditionally. I have found holistic practitioners that take extra time with me and have been successful in helping me remove a lot of junk from deep within my whole being. I have become more active in my 12 Step Recovery, speaking regularly about my own experience, strength, and hope to others still suffering from their addictions. And I have been developing an ability to write with inspiration about all of this.

The interesting thing about all of this pain that I have been going through these past few years is how my perspective of it is changing as time moves forward. If God had answered my prayers back then as I had intended them, I believe I would still be having a relationship with a married person. I believe I would still be looking at porn on most days. I believe I would still be angry and negative about pretty much everything in my life. I believe I would still have a significant number of people in my life that were using and abusing me. I believe I would still hate being by myself doing anything alone. And I believe I would still be trying to run the show in every facet of my life and that God would still be in the passenger seat waiting for me to crash my car again.

As my perspective of what I’m going through has changed so has my prayers to God. Now I just seek to do God’s will and ask for strength to make it through all of what I am going through. I ask God to be open to all of the love being sent to me. I ask to be open to any signs of reassurance that God may send me on any given day. And most importantly, I ask God to simply just help me endure all of what it is I am going through until God is ready for it to end. For I know that if all those good things have happened to me in having to go through this pain for the past three years, I can only imagine how great the finish line may look once all this toxicity is out of me.

I know today that God was at the starting line giving me support when I began this journey to clear my life of all the things that have prevented me from serving God in every way I can. I know that God has been there providing me life sustaining water to keep me from giving up or going back to the starting line. And I know that God will be there at the end waiting to give me a warm embrace and congratulations on keeping my faith and hope alive all this time.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still plenty of days that I find myself wishing I could be at that finish line already from this clearing process. I groan quite often when one of my spiritual teachers tells me that Rome wasn’t built in a day and to keep on, keeping on. But from all the positive changes that have happened to me so far in these past three years, I know she’s probably right. So I continue to trust in God as best as I can, and maintain an inner belief that I am receiving what I need, and not what I want, and that it’s most likely for my greatest highest good.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Coming Out” Of Fear

This June 11 will be both my 41st birthday and my 18th year of sobriety from alcohol and drugs. For many years the latter didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t working any type of recovery program. That all changed a year ago since investing myself deeply into working on that part of me and on developing a closer relationship with God. In doing so, I am noticing something changing in me a lot lately. I’m facing fear in the deepest of respects and walking through it, sometimes even in areas that I’ve kept under lock and key for the longest of times. One of those areas is something I have struggled most often to speak about publicly in my life…my sexuality, especially in the rooms of recovery.

Many will say that everyone is equal in any room of recovery for those seeking help from addictions. While I try to practice this principle in my life daily, I have found it to not hold as much truth with many others. As much as the world is changing with its acceptance of homosexuality, there still is quite a bit of resistance to accepting it both inside and outside the rooms of 12 Step programs. Because of this, a large part of my journey in recovery has been hidden often when I share in any meeting. The other morning, I decided it was time to step out of this fear and trust in God that it’s time to permanently start “coming out” in every area of my life.

On that morning, I attended a 7am AA meeting which is close by to where my partner lives. It’s one I generally show up for when I am visiting him. The meeting is filled with an interesting bunch of men and women that come from many different backgrounds, each of which seem to have a strong desire to remain sober and work on their recovery. This is the main reason why I have enjoyed going to it. The difficulty though is that there is one thing in common with 98% of them…their heterosexuality. Many of them discuss during their sharing about how their disease has affected their wives or their husbands. For someone who is gay such as myself, it’s not often one will hear someone share about their lover or partner or boyfriend unless the meeting being attended is primarily gay-based. In this case, it’s not, and my mouth is generally tight-lipped and closed about my sexuality, out of fear of rejection. When I arrived the other morning, we were told to open the 4th Edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous book sitting in front of each of us to page 359. The story was titled “TIGHTROPE”. A person volunteered to start reading and he began with the one line italicized summary for the story.

Trying to navigate separate worlds was a lonely charade that ended when this gay alcoholic finally landed in A.A.”

At the utterance of the word “gay”, I paused and wondered if it was just that old time reference people used way back when for someone who was being jolly or happy. As this alcoholic’s journey to find recovery continued to be read, I realized it wasn’t that type of reference at all. I was hearing someone’s story who had struggled with their sexuality, who had used alcohol addictively to deal with it, and who had a strong inability to truly turn over their entire will to God because of it. What I was hearing was my story.

Growing up in a Christian home and in a Christian world, and learning that the Bible had several passages which said a man shouldn’t ever lie with another man as a man lies with a woman led me to try to be anything different from how I was born, which was homosexual. For years I dated women and felt nothing. When I found alcohol and drugs, they seemed to solve all my problems for as long as I was drunk or high, I felt asexual. During those times, I didn’t care about dating, sex, or my attractions. I just cared about getting drunk, high, and passing out. But God had different plans for me. In my junior year of college, in the midst of a whirlwind of booze and illegal substances, I met a guy who had been rejected by my fraternity’s pledging process. It had been my job to go tell all of those, including him, that they didn’t receive a successful bid to pledge and to try again next semester. I didn’t expect any of them to cry, but he did, and I felt a level of compassion because of it.  This was surprising to me because of my normal attitude of self-centeredness. Instead of me going and partying with the rest of my fraternity brothers and the new pledges that night, I chose to stay and comfort this man in the only way I knew how to. I bought a case of beer and hung out with just him and me. Over the next year and a half, I forged a best friendship with him that grew closer and closer until one day I looked over at him and realized I didn’t want to look away. I had fallen in love for the first time in my life and it was with a man. From that day on, my stomach churned more than not over this situation and the only solution was to consume more alcohol or drugs. Eventually they began to work less and less and I felt I was soon to meet my demise. I graduated from college and got hired at a computer based job several hundred miles away from it and the object of my affection. The next six months of my life were nothing but evening after evening of passing out and blacking out from all the things I was trying to consume to numb the pain I felt inside. When the weekend of my 23rd birthday arrived, this best friend of mine came to visit me. I attempted to get closer to him through a consumption of many cans of beer to no avail. This led to an argument and the feeling within me that I was going to throw up. As I proceeded to kneel on the floor in the bathroom alone, that feeling passed and instead I did something I never did. I prayed to a God that I thought didn’t love me because of my sexuality. I asked God to help me heal from my addictions and to help me with my feelings towards men. It was on that day, and in that moment, I had my first spiritual awakening as the desire to drink, do drugs, and even smoke cigarettes all left me. The next day, June 11th, 1995, I began my path towards freedom from addiction and on acceptance to my being a homosexual.

While my story with that best friend ended tragically with him rejecting me and using the Bible as a weapon six months later, I have come to be grateful to God for this former friend’s presence in my life back then. Because of him, not only did I begin to face my alcoholism, drug, and cigarette addictions head-on, I also had begun to face the realization that I was gay. And almost eighteen years later, I found myself sitting in that 7am AA meeting with mostly a bunch of strangers listening to someone else’s story that was so close to my own. When the final minutes of the meeting came down to a close, I walked through all that fear I still hold sometimes around my sexuality, and raised my hand to share about it’s impact on my recovery. Five minutes later and a lot lighter, I realized just how far I’ve come in my recovery. But even more importantly, I realized just how far I’ve come through a deeper relationship with God.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

A “Drive-In” To Good Memories

Spring is in the air and summer will be here shortly. With both comes the return of activities that the warmer weather can only bring. And one of those I was able to enjoy just the other night…the Drive-In.

There aren’t many of these left in existence today. Most will say it’s because of the rise of the multiplexes and their huge screens, digital surround sound systems, stadium seatings and plush recliner seats. While I love the movie theater experience, no matter how amazing it seems to get each and every year, I continue to be drawn to finding drive-in theaters and reliving one of the good moments I had in my childhood.

It’s true as they say, the older one gets, the more nostalgic one becomes with things of the past. While my childhood was filled with many unsettling moments, there are some that I am beginning to remember when I felt happy, the more that I heal. Going to the drive-in was one of them.

In my hometown, Poughkeepsie, NY, there were at least four drive-in’s in local proximity that my family would go to quite often throughout the summer. My family liked following the same habits a lot so that when we would attend the drive-in on a summer night, it would always be the same pattern. Dinner would be McDonalds take out where I usually had two cheeseburgers, an order of fries, and a diet soda. We would eat it after finding the spot to park the family station wagon which was faced backwards towards the movie screen. I can still remember sitting on the tailgate, eating that meal back then which I always found to be delicious. Today I’m not so sure but that’s because I’m a more health conscious person and McDonalds isn’t the first place I think of when it comes to eating healthy. Anyway, I usually devoured that meal so that I had a good half hour to hour on the playground that was situated right below the large movie screen. I spent most of my time riding on this contraption that doesn’t really exist anymore because of the danger it brought over the years. I can only describe it as a circle of interconnected benches that sat on top of a spindle, that someone would grab onto and run as fast as they could until at the last second, they would hop on it and enjoy a dizzying spin. Between that and the swings which I usually loved jumping off of once I got really high, I was always quite excited by the time the first movie was about to begin. My parents were pretty strict about the movie ratings with my sister and I. So for most of those drive-in experiences, I could only watch the first movie and not the second as it was beyond my age range they would tell me. With it, I was supposed to fall asleep but never really did. I remember one time I peaked over the seat without getting caught and watched a bit of Animal House that was “R” rated. I know today that wouldn’t be that big of a deal to many children who’s parents allow them to see just about anything at the movies but for me it was exhilarating.

Thankfully, there are others like me around today who are nostalgic and still enjoy going to a drive-in during the warm summer months. Poughkeepsie still has two in operation but I live no where close to there now. Unfortunately in the area of Massachusetts where I still live, there aren’t any close by. Where my partner lives though, there’s one still left behind in operation and that’s where I found myself with him this past Saturday night. There are some differences today from back then that I notice have evolved over time. Gone are the playgrounds where I once would have played. Gone are the bright colored poles with the small radios that would have gone on a car window to listen to the movie. And gone are the reel to reel devices the movies were brought in on, having been replaced by digital versions. Regardless of those changes, I still enjoyed my time there watching Oblivion and Identity Thief. Although I must say, what’s funny is that I really liked the first movie which my parents would have allowed me to see as a kid. The second movie, the “R” rated one, I didn’t like at all.

Thinking back to just a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed going to any drive-inn because everything that I thought of with my family brought back the bad memories and not the good ones. As I have worked hard this past year in turning my entire will over to God, I have found more healing from all those not so happy childhood memories and begun to remember all the good ones. Going to the drive-in was just one of them and now today because of all that work I am doing on myself, I can enjoy this experience and think back to a time in my life where I knew my parents loved me and that being a kid was pretty cool.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Fixing Me, Not You

It’s so easy to point the finger at the ills of society we see everyday. It really is. I did it for most of my life before I became aware of one simple fact, that I was the one that needed to have the finger pointing back at myself. I was the one that needing fixing, not everyone else.

I once thought this to be a trait that alcoholics and addicts only shared. As I’ve delved deeper into my relationship with God, I’ve begun to see that it’s a trait shared amongst much of the world’s population. So why is that? Why is it that people are prone to cite out something negative around them that someone else is doing? The answer is simple. It shifts the focus away from themselves. It prevents people from seeing who they really are. And for most of my adult life, I’ve been this way.

For the longest time, I mostly hung around with people who were living blatantly immoral. I always had at least one active addict friend in my life that I was close to who was regularly lying, cheating, stealing, scamming, or more in their lives. I would tell myself that I wasn’t anything like these people and I’d continue hanging around them because it made me feel more superior. My ego would congratulate itself on a daily basis as it felt I wasn’t doing anything remotely as negative as the people I was spending time with. So when the drama would happen in my life, I would usually transfer the blame and shift the focus onto those people around me that my ego felt superior towards. But what’s ironic in all of that behavior was that while I told myself that my crap didn’t stink, it really did. I just made sure to constantly shift everyone’s including myself’s focus onto those people living so outright lopsided.

Sadly, my life was filled with a lot of its own darkness that was just as immoral as those people I was trying to point my fingers at and fix. I was harboring sex and love addiction issues secretly in my life. I slept with married people. I skipped out on a lot of plans and promises so that I could live in these addictions more. I spent hours on the web at night perusing porn and communicating with people sexually that I never had any intention on being with. And I lied often to cover all of this up. I backstabbed people often by character assassinating them. Gossip was a regular part of my life and so was greed.

For a long time, I didn’t want to take a real long, hard look in the mirror at myself both literally, and figuratively. It was too painful. I didn’t love myself and I knew I was broken. I stayed away from me by trying to point out and fix other people’s toxic lives. I rarely focused on myself and the healing that needed to take place for me to spiritually grow. Instead, I kept these toxic connections to others alive so that I could feel better about my own craziness and have some project outside of myself that I could place my energy in fixing.

Over time I began to notice that no one ever got better. Not the people I pointed the fingers at and tried to fix, and not me. If anything, both grew worse. I became a very negative person. I began looking at all the bad things happening in the world around me and constantly commented on them aloud to anyone that would listen. I yelled at reckless drivers. I talked bad about those in the news who were doing shady behaviors such as politicians, actors and actresses, policemen and policewomen, coaches, teachers, etc. Through all of that negativity, my immorality increased until I was doing just as much of that type of behavior as those I had been pointing the fingers at.

Thankfully, a year ago when the pain in my life was becoming too great to handle, I decided it was time to turn over my entire will to something I knew could show me how to live a much better life than the one I had created. That’s when I turned all of the reigns over to God. It was the best decision I ever made as I realized soon thereafter, that I was the one broken and needed fixing and not everything I had been pointing out.

This makes me think back to a specific moment in my life when I had been trying to live as I am now. I was being interviewed by the local news and asked to comment on whether I thought President Bush was doing a good job or not and if certain problems our society was facing today were worse because of his holding office. I think my answer shocked them. I said that the President was just a figurehead and that the problems could all be fixed when each of us begin to realize the real work is done by healing ourselves first. This is one of the greatest illusions in the world today. Every single problem that all of us see happening now can be changed by changing ourselves, by fixing ourselves, and by taking that finger we point so quickly and turning it back on ourselves.

This is what I am doing today. I am working on fixing me. Little by little, I am repairing more and more of the damage I caused myself throughout the years. As I continue to work on fixing all those parts of me that were broken, I am seeing less of what’s wrong in the world today and more on how I can help God to heal it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

An Eye For An Eye Won’t Bring Peace

This past week, Boston became the latest casualty of another death filled tragedy. As the Boston Marathon came to a close near the end of the day at its finish line, several homemade pressure cooker type bombs went off injuring hundreds and, as of the time of my writing this, killing three people.

It was supposed to be a normal day of running, cheering, and spectatorship for everyone as Boston was celebrating another annual marathon and Patriot’s Day. The state government and many local businesses were closed to honor the day. The sun was out and spring was in the air, yet someone decided to turn the day red with blood for whatever dark agenda they had within.

Lately it seems as if a week doesn’t go by anymore without one of these deadly sprees occurring. With a quick glance at any of the major newspaper’s websites on any given day, some husband or wife has shot each other, their children, and then themselves. Some disgruntled worker has gone and killed their boss and co-workers. Some young adult found a gun and opened up fire in some public venue. Public mournings and vigils are held because of these senseless tragedies. But it seems as if something else is being creating from all of this bloodshed. Revenge.

I was standing in line this past Tuesday morning waiting for one of the local state offices to open as I had some paperwork that I had to take care of. In front of me in line was a woman who was being anything but silent about the bombings. She told anyone who might have been in earshot that they need to find who did this and cut off each and every finger of that person one by one making them suffer too. I could see the anger and rage in her eyes. I’m sure for some of those who were directly affected by the bombing, or even by the Newtown or Aurora massacres, they felt similar.

Revenge isn’t the answer is though. That old saying, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth doesn’t bring resolution or peace to anyone. Sometimes I think that people don’t realize going after someone to kill or torture them won’t bring that closure they’re seeking within. Even worse, it creates a domino or ripple effect outward. Let me explain what I mean.

Person A goes and murders Person B. Person B had Persons C and D in their life who adored and loved them. Person C and D are now angry and full of rage and decide to take justice into their own hands and seek out Person A for revenge. Person A is then murdered. Unbeknownst to Persons C and D, Person A had two close people to them in their life as well, Persons E and F. Persons E and F decide to continue the revenge based spree and seek out the families of Persons C and D and kill all of them. I could go on and on with this. What people don’t realize is that this is how wars start. Look at what’s happening with North Korea lately.

The country is escalating their threats of nuclear terror daily. The country reminds me of the Napoleon complex in that they are so small yet they want to create a name for themselves. If North Korea was to fire upon anyone, especially South Korea, a full fledged war would begin imminently with South Korea firing back and then the U.S. and other allies getting involved and also doing the firing. The death toll that would result from those actions would be staggering. Who wins in all of that? Does any of that really bring peace and resolution?

Guns, fighting, wars, and battles…none of them will create peace. All of them will foster more anger. All of them move in the exact opposite direction that the world needs to go towards which is love. I was asked at one point in my life if one of my family members was murdered wouldn’t I want to exact revenge and have that person either killed or put on death row if they were caught. My answer, albeit painful, was a resounding “No!”. More death won’t ever bring back my family member and it won’t offer me any closure in my heart. I also believe in forgiveness because of God being at the center of my life. I believe that the person who does something such as murder should be given the chance to see the err in their ways even if its in a jail cell for the rest of their lives.

The only way these senseless tragedies and massacres can end in this world is if we all work on loving each other a little bit more and hating each other a lot less. The only way that I see newspaper’s websites reporting on anything else but these awful events is if all of us realize that we are all connected through a greater Source which for me I label as God. By one of us dying tragically, some part of all of us is affected. The answer isn’t to seek revenge. It’s to ask for forgiveness and healing not only for ourselves and all those who were affected, but, hard enough as it may seem, those that created the tragedy in the first place.

One day people will realize that all this bloodshed is doing nothing but creating more of it. When that day comes, everyone will begin to see the only way to a world filled with peace is to love, even in the face of hate.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 12 – 12 Step Recovery

“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs…”

Sometimes I think people take this step too lightly. Maybe the reality is that for a long time I was the one taking it too lightly. There’s a joke in some of the recovery rooms that I’ve heard some people make when speaking at the podium. “Don’t you graduate once you reach the 12th Step?”, they say. For any addiction, recovery is a way of life and not a fad. It’s not something that once this step is reached that a person just moves on to the next thing in their lives. This step speaks directly to that issue.

By the time a person reaches Step 12 in their recovery work, it’s assumed that some level of spiritual awakening has occurred. In my case, that was true but not on the level it could have been. As I have mentioned in several other of my blog entries, I didn’t fully invest into Step 3 in the first several years of my recovery. I didn’t turn my entire will over to God. And I didn’t get the full spiritual benefit the steps are meant to bring because of it. This created a cascade effect in my life. Any message that I tried to carry to other addicts still had quite a bit of my own toxins and poisons involved in any help I offered. Much of the work I did with the still suffering addicts was tainted with my own selfishness and self-centeredness. As a result, I didn’t have much experience, strength, and hope to pass on to those that needed it. Even worse, what I was practicing in the rest of my life, even after doing the steps the first few times, was character defected driven and addicted related. This was all because I was unwilling to fully let go of my self will and trust in God’s will completely. That can’t be said though in the work I’ve done in my life these past 365 days.

A year ago on April 17th of 2012, I made the decision to turn my entire will and life over to the care of God as Step 3 stated. I decided it was time to try that path as the pain had become too great to handle in my life. I removed all the toxic people around me that didn’t desire a spiritual based life. I separated myself from those who were still living in addictions. I began a spiritual routine every day that involved more prayer and meditation. And I sought out greater help from a therapist and some holistic healers that got me on the track I could have been when I first got sober so long ago.

Something good happened because of that decision and those actions.

The spiritual awakening that so many had often eluded to in many meetings that I attended, started happening to me. I became less self-piteous and more positive in every area of my life. A large chunk of the selfish and self-centered ways I had been living in, slowly began disappearing. And my desire to help others started increasing on its own.

I employ this step today more naturally because of the way I’m now living with God at the center of my life. I go to detoxes, prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, and other venues to speak about my experience, strength, and hope in my recovery. I raise my hand every time I’m at a meeting when the secretary asks if anyone is willing to help sponsor someone. I make phone calls to the new people in my group to reach out and make them feel more welcomed. And I show up early and often leave last at my home group because I have found I enjoy setting up and cleaning up. There is one part of this step though that is important to highlight beyond the help I offer to other addicts today.

The 12th Step speaks of practicing these principles in all of our affairs. An easier way of understanding this is what do I do when no one else is paying attention to me? How do I carry myself in my personal life when I’m away from the recovery rooms? In the past, when I wasn’t turning my entire will over to God and not practicing the steps fully, I would gossip and backstab others because of it. I would drive recklessly and impatiently on the road all the time. I used people for what they had to offer me and rarely offered them anything in return. I hoarded greedily any money I had for my own desires. And I engaged in other addictions that weren’t alcohol or drug related but just as deadly to my mind, body, and soul. All that has changed today and then some. Who I am in the recovery circles has become the same as who I am outside of them. I realized that if I was to continue to have spiritual awakenings in my life and if I truly wanted to find inner peace, my life had to be fully vested into applying the recovery work both inside and outside the rooms.

My life is changed so dramatically now from where I was a year ago when the 12th Step didn’t mean that much to me. With God at the helm of my whole existence today, it’s become natural for me to carry this message to as many addicts as possible because I want to. It’s become natural for me to live spiritually all the time because I desire to. Because of this, it’s become natural for me to practice all of what I’ve learned in the 12 Steps, anytime, anywhere, and in any moment where God has me.

The 12 Steps of Recovery helped me to find God. They helped me to find myself. They helped me to heal. And they changed my life forever for the better. They can do all the same for you too.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 11 – 12 Step Recovery

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out…”

Step 11 is the longest in wording of all the steps, yet I find it’s message short and sweet. I’ll sum it up in three simple phrases…

“Spend time with God. Learn God’s will. Then ask for strength to follow it.”

It has been quite difficult in my life since getting sober to spend much time by myself with God. For a long time, I thought watching TV or going to a movie alone qualified, except in both of those cases, it didn’t. My focus and interest during those things was not on being with God so much as it was on experiencing something visually stimulating. Frankly, I hated the idea of being alone as most of my childhood life was that way. The bottom line was that I was afraid to face that part of me again. Ironically following the 12 steps slowly led me back there to facing that fear and it’s the 11th Step, that has become the strongest catalyst to helping me overcome it.

Step Eleven deals with two different elements, prayer and meditation.

Prayer is simply the act of talking with God. So often I’ve made prayer a complicated action. I thought it had to be big words and filled with eloquence. I believed there was a special format on how to communicate with God. For the longest time, my image of God was one of a figure sitting on a throne where I had to bow before it and speak with Shakespearean prose just to be heard. Following these steps in all of the recovery programs led me to the same conclusions. God is not way up there. God is not way out there. God is not beyond my reach. God is right here in front of me and all around me, all the time and I can carry on a conversation with God in any given moment like I was talking to a best friend. Because truthfully, God is my closest friend. The simplest prayer I have ever said to God is just three words.

“Please help me.”

That prayer has come in handy lately when my pain is at its greatest or when I’m feeling tempted to go back to old toxic behaviors. On the other side of the coin, I have said prayers that are much longer and more complex such as the following.

“God, I want nothing more in my life than to find your will for me and follow it. Please take from me all of my self-will and guide me away from all the addictions and obsessions that have kept me apart from you. Steer me instead towards all the things that are filled with Your love and light.”

The reality is that any time I want to talk with God, I simply start by saying “God…” and start talking. In doing so, I’m praying. Many in the recovery rooms say that prayer has to be on the knees with heads bowed. While that is one way of praying, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, and in so many more ways. It can be done when walking, when running, when singing, when dancing, or even when sitting. There is no right way or wrong way to pray. Anyone who says so is continuing to manifest that illusion. But as important as it is to talk to God, it’s just as important to listen to God and that is done through meditation.

Meditation is simply the act of listening to God. Most of the people I have met in the recovery rooms struggle with this because it can involve being still and in silence. For anyone recovering from any addiction, being still and in silence can seem next to impossible. I attribute this to how the brain of an addiction prone person is like an untamed puppy. This puppy wanders from one thing to the next, sniffing this, and sniffing that, barking here, and barking there. The brain is no different, especially for someone just coming into recovery from their addictions. Practicing meditation can help with that, but it takes time and effort, and most importantly, patience.

For a recovering addict of anything, patience can be hard to come by. When active in any addiction, there is never any patience. The only goal is to get high off of something as quick as possible. The opposite holds true in recovery. The goal is to distance oneself from seeking those highs and to become more balanced in life with its natural ebbs and flows. Meditating helps with this as well.

For some odd reason though, when people are told to try meditation, they picture Buddhist monks sitting for hours on end in silence or they tell themselves there is no way they can sit still for any length of time. But yet, most never try. Meditation can be as simple as sitting still on the side of a bed for 5 minutes and just focusing on breathing. And if that’s too difficult, one doesn’t even have to be completely still. Meditation can be as straightforward as taking a walk along the ocean and becoming aware of everything being experienced from the sound of the surf or the feel of the sand below the feet. The key is to be silent in whatever form attempted.

I started with just five minutes of sitting in silence when I began practicing meditation. During those first attempts, I wanted to give up before I started. I didn’t want to sit with myself in silence nor try to hear any inner guidance from God that may arise. My mind had a fit and gave me all the reasons of why it was stupid. Thankfully I never gave up with it. Over the years, I have done everything from being on silent meditation retreats to teaching it to others. In every case, like I do everyday now for 35 minutes, I sit in silence, initially focus on my breathing, and wait for God to speak to me. I have come to believe that God is always speaking to each and every one of us all the time in a way that we can all understand individually. The problem is that we’re often too busy in our brains or in our actions in life to hear what’s being said. While prayer helps all of us convey what’s on our minds and hearts to God, practicing meditation is like putting on a hearing aid to listen to God’s responses to those prayers.

The 11th Step takes both meditation and prayer to help to develop that closer relationship with God. It is essential to a person’s recovery from any addiction but it takes time. It takes practice. And it most definitely takes patience. Talk to God anytime and anywhere and you’re praying. Go find some silence and listen to God and you’re meditating. It’s that simple.

Pray for God’s will and meditate to learn what it is. When it comes, pray for God to gain strength to follow that path and meditate to receive it. By doing this everyday, eventually you’ll see you’re receiving it and you’ll forget you’re even doing the eleventh step as it becomes your way of life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 10 – 12 Step Recovery

“Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it…”

Reaching the 10th Step is a big milestone in a person’s step work. This is mainly due to the amount of work it takes to get to this point in the recovery process.

By the time I reached my 10th Step the first time, I had a notebook filled with over 100 pages of resentments, turnarounds, sex inventory, and amends. At least a half a dozen of those amends had been completed. I was more determined then ever to stay sober and follow some path of 12 step recovery. Yet my self will was still at war with God’s will. I just couldn’t seem to let go of some of my old ways of living. I was having a hard time stopping some of my old toxic behaviors. I was struggling to fully let go of several unhealthy friendships. And I was fighting myself on trying to break old bad habits that led me to addictions in the first place. This is why the 10th Step was and still is a great tool for people like me.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith never intended when they wrote the steps for anyone to be perfect in their lives after making it through the first nine of them. Their hope was that a person would be feeling much lighter and more determined to stay clean from whatever their addictions were by that point in the steps. They realized, like so many of us do at this juncture, that there were still character defects within them. They also realized, like so many of us do by the time we reach this step, that there still were components of self will being acted upon and creating problems in their lives. Hence the purpose of the 10th Step came to fruition. This step brings about the ability to inventory those problems that still happen for the recovering person and provide a healing path for each of them.

Some take their own personal inventory every night before going to bed. Some may take it at the end of the week. Some may do it at the end of the month. Some have even learned how to take their own inventory in the moment. There is no wrong way to do this step. The work in it is simply to look at any resentments that may creep up and do a 4th Step turnaround on them to see where their part was in creating the resentment. The other part of the work on this step is to identify after doing the turnaround, whether they created any more harm or pain for others and if they did, they know an amends is in order.

This may sound a lot more complex then it really has to be. A good example of its simplicity could be something similar to the following. Sometimes when I am speaking and get heated in the moment, I may make a hurtful comment towards someone else. The first part of a 10th Step would be to look at why I got heated in the first place. In other words, why did I get resentful and lash out?  By writing it down just like I would have in a typical 4th Step,  I can identify my part in the resentment by turning it around on me. After making that realization, I would make my amends to that person by telling them exactly where I was selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, or afraid and end it with a sincere apology.

In the past year I have made great strides in my life to get closer to God. In doing so, I have had to take a lot less inventory on myself day to day. I find that I am making a lot less problems for myself or for others in my life anymore. The best part about this step for me today though is that when a character defect within me arises and I cop a resentment towards someone and possibly hurt them in the process, I’m able to do an inventory in my heart pretty quickly seeing where I was in the wrong, and find myself promptly making an amends.

Resentments are spiritual poison. They prevent me from getting closer to God. Any time I harm anyone also sits within me terribly today and keeps me separate from that I most desire, which is a closer relationship to my Higher Power. The 10th Step is the vaccine to that poison and one that is readily available for me to take everyday so that I can keep my relationship growing closer to God each and every day.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 9 – 12 Step Recovery

“Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others…”

There’s a line in all 12 step recovery programs which I often hear and believe applies to this step. “Are you willing to go to any lengths to maintain your recovery?” Making amends isn’t an easy task. On the whole list of the 12 steps, the 9th Step might just be considered the hardest to undertake. It directly relates to just how willing someone is to maintain their recovery as the work in this step will have them facing their past and all the pain, harm, and damage they’ve caused others.

By the time a person in recovery makes it to this step, they should have already begun to see the damage they caused others through their own selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, and fear based behaviors. They should have already begun to be aware of the havoc their actions created from their addiction based world. There should be no doubt in their minds how much their addictions had control of them and how great the consequences came from living in each of them.

When I arrived at the 9th Step for the first time, I was more than aware of how much the chaos in my world came from my own doing. I was even more aware of how much living in my addictions created an endless stream of people I owed amends to. But I was most aware of how fearful I was to go back to all of those people or institutions and make restitution for what I had done because of living in the disease of all my addictions.

There were friends that I had used for my own sexual advantage, places I had stolen products from, gossip I had spread which hurt certain others, lies that I had told which damaged loved ones, relationships I had come in between and broken apart, promises that I had made and never kept, and so on and so forth. A list of names and places sat in front of me from my 8th Step showing me this. I knew that I owed each of them an amends that wasn’t going to be as easy as offering only an apology. I also knew that if I skipped over this crucial step, I most likely would slowly unravel at the seams and eventually go back to living in my addictions creating only a longer amends list to one day tackle.

Making an amends means a lot more than just showing up to where I caused harm and telling someone I was a sick person in an addiction and saying I’m sorry. It means being honest from a truly humble place and telling someone how I had been selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, and afraid. It means describing in detail each of those elements to where I had caused them harm or damage. It means allowing for that person to tell me how much pain I caused them, giving them the opportunity to let it out with me just listening. And the most important part comes at the end of each amends where I ask for their forgiveness and what they need to move beyond the damage I caused them. This is why I had so much fear and why so many others have the same when tackling a 9th Step.

Every one of those amends brought out fear for me before attempting to tackle them. Unfortunately, the path of every amends is different. In some cases, I made the amends and all was forgiven with a big hug. In other cases, I was told all was forgiven long before and that I hadn’t even needed to make an amends. There were cases where I was told before I even started that they didn’t want to hear the amends and to leave them alone. In those cases, I had to accept that they weren’t ready to forgive me and all I could do was give myself credit that I had been willing to try. There were even cases where I couldn’t make the amends because I had no idea where the people were and all I could do was put it in God’s hands to hopefully one day be placed in their path. I know of other cases where people have faced being screamed and yelled at. I know of even other cases where people are told they will never be forgiven for what they’ve done. Thankfully I did not have to deal with either of those situations nor did I have to deal with any outstanding warrants, or police matters. I know of people who have run from the law that turned themselves in when getting honest on their 9th Step. There have been people who have even gone back to places or people they stole great sums of money from during this step’s work. Thankfully I didn’t have to do that either. What I did have to face though was many people who had seen me tear apart their lives and cause great emotional and mental suffering. I watched many cry and sob because of my amends. I realized I had broken many hearts and torn apart many lives.

As this step says, there are times though that we can’t make amends because it might injure them or others more. In my case, there were people I had been sexual with outside of their marriages or partners, of which their other halves weren’t aware of. To make an amends to them or their family would have caused greater harm and instead I had to practice a living amends which meant never again doing those behaviors.

This step really does take a lot of willingness to complete it. It involves facing all those dark corners that have been avoided for years. It involves seeing and listening to other’s anger and rage without saying anything back. It involves being humble to those once thought were never to be faced again. But most importantly for me, it involves praying diligently to God before each of them asking for strength to complete it. And it involves praying just as diligently afterward, thanking God for having given me the strength to walk through all that fear. After all, it is because of my closer relationship to God that has made me become willing to go to any lengths to maintain my recovery and do any of these amends in the first place. Because of it, I am finding much more inner peace today.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 8 – 12 Step Recovery

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all…”

Recovery is a funny thing. The more I’ve recovered from my addictions, the more I’ve seen how many people and institutions I harmed when I wasn’t recovering from those addictions and the more its gotten clearer just how sick and toxic I was.

When I first sat down to work on this step, I came up with thirty names of people and institutions who I knew I had harmed and owed amends to. Over the years since then, the list has grown directly proportional to the growth that I’ve made in my relationship with God.

Quite often, our egos get in the way of seeing a situation more clearly where we may have caused harm. They may get bruised or they may feel twinges of fear in facing an amends that could bring about that much needed healing and growth that recovery is meant to bring. So instead, those amends may never make it on the 8th Step list and the release from that guilt and shame never comes.

Very similar to the 4th Step Turnarounds, a thorough 8th Step includes writing down where one was selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, and afraid for each of the people or institutions listed. Something that I noticed when I finished writing this step was how all of those entries showed me that I’ve been an insecure person for most of my life and through that insecurity, I acted out in addictions and caused great harm to others. In every single case, my insecurity drove me to selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, and fear based behaviors, each of which harmed someone or something.

As my self-will has decreased over the years in my recovery, I have become more willing to see where my addictions took me and the great harm that I caused to so many because of them. The more I’ve become willing to see where my addictions took me and the great harm I’ve caused to so many, the more I have become willing to write down the names of all those people and institutions I’ve harmed where I once thought they were at fault. The more I have become willing to write down all the names of all those people and institutions I’ve harmed where I once thought they were at fault, the more I have been able to recover from my addictions. The more that I’ve been able to recover from my addictions, the more I’ve been able to grow closer to God. The more I’ve been able to grow closer to God, the less I’m harming anyone or anything anymore. And the less I’m harming anyone or anything anymore, the more I realize there’s a good chance I won’t have to write a big amends list ever again.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 7 – 12 Step Recovery

“Humbly asked God to remove our shortcomings…”

For a long time I ignored this step completely. In fact I mentioned this is my previous posting, as I skipped over doing much, if any work on both Step 6 and 7 the first time I went through the steps. Today, I’m looking at this step with a very different set of eyes, and definitely a very different heart.

Next to the word God, the most important word in this step for me is “Humbly”. I looked up the definition of humble and found this one to really speak to me.

Humble – “To show a modest or low estimate of one’s own importance.”

Essentially how this step was written speaks to placing ourselves second to God and in doing so, a desire comes forward within each of us to be free of all of our shortcomings. So we then ask God because of this to remove those character defects and shortcomings. How well one does with this step, really depends on how much of one’s ego has lessened in the step work up to this point.

The first time I did Step 7, my ego was still primarily in charge of my life. The most I did for this step was to quickly bow my head and say, “Please God remove my shortcomings…” and then move on to beginning Step 8. I think it’s important to highlight at this point the same thing I did in yesterday’s entry. I realize today that if I choose to live in any part of my own self-will, that it’s impossible for me to have God remove ALL of my shortcomings. Hypothetically, let’s say that I choose to operate out of 10 percent of my own self-will giving God the other 90 percent. What that essentially is saying is “that I’m ok to handle 10 percent of my life on my own God”. So what happens then with all those things that go awry in that 10 percent of the time for me? I end up trying to still run the show, arranging it as I think it’s supposed to go, and getting more than not, disastrous results. The ego is a funny thing. My ego early on in recovery didn’t want to give up control in every area of my life to something unseen and unknown. It felt it could still operate on some level running the show, maybe for a few matinees here and there. And every time I tried to run one of those shows, my character defects came glaring out and went no where except creating more chaos around me. Thus I wasn’t able to get much benefit out of this step because I still was living in my own ego-centric world, one where my self-will was greater than God’s will and one where I wasn’t humble hardly at all.

This is why I continue to highlight how important the 3rd Step is to turning over one’s ENTIRE will to God. I know the 3rd Step doesn’t have that word in it. And maybe the steps were written the way they were for each individual to figure this out with their journey in finding God. All of I know is that by turning my entire will over to God each day I wake up, I am desiring to have God remove all of my character defects and I’m able to ask God to do just that without any reservation during my prayers.

I know all of us have free will, and free will essentially becomes self will run riot over time. I never had much success with free will and almost every show I tried to run got bad reviews. I don’t want to operate today in control of my own destiny and life. I know my happiness will only come from God being fully in charge. With that being said, when God is in charge, I see all of my shortcomings pretty clearly which brings quite a bit of humbleness out within me. And because of that, I absolutely, without a doubt, find myself asking God to humbly remove ALL of those shortcomings that may still exist within me.

Peace, love, light and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 6 – 12 Step Recovery

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character…”

When I first came to this step with my sponsor in AA, I had just completed the second of the two days of reading my 5th Step. She told me that my next task was to go take an hour of time and reflect upon the words of Step 6. In all honesty, I’m not sure if I did. In fact, I’m pretty sure I didn’t. I don’t remember spending an hour in complete silence meditating on it. I don’t remember reflecting on this step’s words or its description in the recovery books. Truthfully, I don’t remember doing much of anything with this step. The fact of the matter is that I wasn’t ready to have God remove all of my defects of character at that point in time. I was determined to stay sober and learn more about what true recovery was, but I still wanted to maintain part of my own self will which kept me back at some resistance with Step 3.

I went through the 12 steps for the very first time between October of 2007 and January of 2009. During my step work throughout that time, I continued to maintain unhealthy friendships, unhealthy behaviors, and engaged in other addictions that weren’t alcohol or drug related. I mentioned this back on my entry for Step 3 in that unless one turns over their entire will to God, the rest of the steps will only bring some benefit to a person going through them.

That’s what happened to me.

So the reality was that I wasn’t ready for God to remove all of my defects of character the first time I went through this step. I wanted to keep some of my free will and still get highs off of toxic behaviors that I was doing. Unfortunately, this tainted my work on this step as well as all the rest of the work I did with the other steps the first time I did them. I have since gone through the 12 steps a second time and have found much greater benefit from them. I believe that was due to my turning over my entire will to God on my 2nd attempt. This is why I place such importance on the 3rd Step in my recovery.

It’s as simple as saying this…

If I did not wish to turn over my entire will to God, then how could I have been ready to remove all of my defects of character when I was still living in them and creating more.

I am grateful today to know that I turn over my entire will over to the care of God each and every day and for this, I am also constantly remaining open to God to remove all of the character defects that may still exist within me. I’ve found that when God is placed at the center of my day now as I start it, that I’m able to see situations before they happen where I might have once instead been falling down a character defected path.

To do the 6th Step today, I believe it’s critical to spend an hour meditating on all of the work that is done in the steps up to that point. I believe it’s even more critical to be entirely sure that one is doing everything they can to place God in the driver’s seat. And I believe it’s most critical to know that one will never find full recovery in their life from any of their addictions nor be rid of their character defects, if they’re not entirely willing to let go of their old selves.

I close with this thought to ponder…

Once I decided to have God drive my bus of a life completely, it was natural for me to want God remove all of my defects of character and unnatural for me to want to still hold onto and live in any of them.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 5 – 12 Step Recovery

“Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being, the exact nature of our wrongs…”

Step 5 can be a huge relief for many people who have carried burdens on their hearts and souls their entire life. This step allows a person in safety to release all of that poison that came up on their 4th Step.

Thankfully I had a sponsor in AA who practiced old school recovery. I say this because my 5th Step was done in her living room with me reading each and every line that I wrote in my 4th Step notebook. Prior to beginning that reading, I prayed with her, admitting to God I was flawed and asked for God’s guidance as I read my 4th Step aloud. What this did was bring God into her living room so that as I read my step work, I was not only admitting the exact nature of my wrongs to myself, but also to my sponsor sitting across from me, and God who had been invited in by that prayer.

It took me two separate six hour sessions to read my first 4th Step to her. Most of the time during it, she just listened. At times though she would stop me, and ask questions for further clarification, sometimes for herself and sometimes even for me. When it was done, I can’t say that I was lofted off the ground and singing with the angels, but I can say that I continued to feel ever lighter and more determined in my recovery then how I felt after completing the 4th Step.

I’ve been more of an honest and open book type of person my whole life compared to most people I know. I’ve never really held any deep dark secretes and I’ve tried not to hide any parts of me away for I know that it will only create more pain down the road for me. Because of this, it was pretty easy and straight-forward to do and complete my 5th Step. For others, it might not be so. Many people that come into recovery have locked away deep within themselves resentments and things that have happened that they feel no one should ever know. The point of the 4th Step is to bring that poison up to the surface by writing about it. The objective of the 5th Step is to begin to release that poison by sharing it with not only themselves, but also with God and another human being.

I’m not sure if there is a better way of doing a 5th Step than the way I did mine. I know of one sponsor who doesn’t want to hear everything written in their sponsee’s 4th Step. I know of other sponsors who send a sponsee to a pastor or priest to listen to a 4th Step instead of them. What I do know is that the action of praying to God before I did my 5th Step and then reading every bit of my 4th Step work to my sponsor helped me grow in my recovery. I would do the same for any sponsee I have.

It was truly humbling to admit to God, to myself, and to my sponsor, that I was flawed, that I had many character defects, and that I lived most of my life as a resentful person. It was even more humbling to admit to all three how selfish and self-centered I lived throughout my life. But it was most humbling to realize at the end of my 5th Step that while I thought I was a really bad guy for a long time, I was just sick, lost, and God-less. The 5th Step truly did help me move beyond those thoughts and that place in my life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 4 – 12 Step Recovery

“Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves…”

Over the years that I’ve been active in recovery programs, I’ve come to see that the 4th Step seems to drive a lot of people back out into their addictions due to fear of facing themselves. The 4th Step may sound simple in its language but upon further inspection, it really does involve a lot of work.

My first sponsor in recovery was through AA. Having worked her program in AA and remained sober for close to 25 years, she was as well versed in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous as a Catholic priest would be with the Bible. When I began the work and made it to this step, I was told to get a notebook and informed that I’d be doing a lot of writing. There are many ways that people might approach doing the steps but she being an old timer said I would be doing it The Big Book Step Study Method. I had no idea what that meant but I followed her advice and bought myself a nice 3-ring spiral binder and about a 100 pages of loose-leaf paper. About three months later, I finished my first 4th Step.

I believe the main reason why many people relapse with this step is due to something I call the mirror effect. When I was active in my alcoholism or any of my addictions, there were so many glaring defects of my character that I didn’t see. I was numb most of the time and while many often pointed my defects out, I wouldn’t listen, see, or pay attention to any of it. Mainly because I didn’t want to. This step exposes all of those character defects. It’s like looking in the mirror and seeing ourselves for the first time. When in addiction mode, most, including myself, don’t want to look in the mirror and point the finger at ourselves.

In the first part of doing this step, my sponsor had me writing down everything I ever felt resentful towards in my entire life up to that point. That list proved to be quite long and was the easiest part of the step for me. I wrote down the names of the people that had picked on me when I was growing up. I wrote down the names of my alcoholics parents. I wrote down the name of the man that molested me at the age of 12. I wrote down jobs I worked at that had fired me, bosses I once had that all too often yelled at me, and friends and partners that had walked out of my life abruptly. I even wrote down myself and God as I felt both had let me down over the years. By the time the list was done it was over 100 entries.

The second part of this step was a little harder in that it entailed writing down next to those entries, a description of what it was that I was resentful at with each of them. Writing the name of a person, place, or institution that basically ticked me off at some point in my life was easy for me. Putting down on paper the exact words of why I was ticked off was much harder. It meant that I had to remember and recollect a lot of pain that I went through. It brought a lot of junk up to the surface that I thought had been long gone. As I wrote, I realized none of it had ever left me. It had all been suppressed way down within me because of all the addictions I kept myself numb with. Because of this, throwing my notebook across the room became a common occurrence. I felt angry all over again at things that had happened so long ago.

When I finally moved out of the phase of recollection, I started the third part of this step which was to write down next to each of those entries whether they affected my self-esteem, security, ambition, or personal relationships. What I found is that pretty much in every case, all of them were affected. Ironically, I had to add my sponsor’s name to my resentment list at this point because she made me write over and over again each of those words next to every single entry even though I saw the pattern early on in my writing. I was grateful when I finally finished this part of the step and found myself breathing a sigh of relief. I told my sponsor I was ready to begin my 5th Step and she laughed and said I still had plenty more to do with my 4th.

And boy, she wasn’t kidding.

The fourth part of the 4th Step proved to be the most difficult for me. I have wondered often if this is the part of the step that drives people to pick their addictions back up. It’s nicknamed The Turnarounds. During it, each of the previous resentments that were written are taken into further introspection and analyzed with four words. Selfish. Self-Seeking. Dishonest. Afraid. My sponsor said it was time for me to look at each of my resentments and see where I might have been selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, or afraid in all of them. In other words, the resentment was to be turned around along with my finger pointing at all those things I resented, and I was to ask myself honestly and fearlessly, how I might have created this own resentment. It took me a very long time to make it through this part of the step. I know a big chunk of the three months it took me to do this step was in part because of this phase of of the 4th Step. I realized by the end of this part of the work this step entails, that I in fact did bring all of these resentments upon me through my own selfish, self-seeking, dishonest, and fear based behaviors in life. Something good began to happen though after completing this phase of the 4th Step writing.

I had begun to feel lighter and had more determination to keep going forward in my recovery.

The final part of the 4th Step was the sex inventory. It’s where my sponsor had me look at all the people in my life that I used or affected on some level with sex. She told me it didn’t necessarily mean I had to have been with each of those people sexually and that it could have been behaviors that were just leading towards it. I had to get really honest with myself here and it was probably a good thing that I had done such thorough turnarounds in the previous part of this step. After coming up with about 23 names, I was to answer with each of them the following questions: Where have I been selfish? Where have I been dishonest? Where I have been inconsiderate? Whom had I hurt? Did I unjustifiably arouse jealousy, suspicion, or bitterness? Where was I at fault? And finally, What should I have done instead? Thankfully, I didn’t find this part of the 4th Step taking too long. I think it really was in part due to the fact that I just wanted to be done with the step at that point after doing those excruciating turnarounds.

When all was said and done, and I said “That’s a wrap!” on my first 4th Step, I had filled almost every one of those 100 loose-leaf pages that I had purchased and about 90 days of my life had passed by. There are definitely benefits that I noticed came with doing such a thorough searching and fearless moral inventory of my life with this step. First, I realized how much I created my own drama throughout most of my life. Second, I saw how much of the craziness in my life could be prevented in the future. Third, I felt a thousand times lighter and didn’t feel as resentful towards all of those people, places, and things that I had written about. And most importantly, fourth, I truly began to feel closer to the God of my understanding and I knew that AA and 12 step recovery were going to be a part of my life until the day I die.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 3 – 12 Step Recovery

“Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God.”

If I was to pick one step out of all 12 step recovery programs that I feel is the most important, it is this one, the 3rd Step. After coming to the acceptance that there is a Power that can restore all of us to sanity, this step emerges. I call it a pivot step because the rest of the 12 Steps effectiveness is dependent upon how fully one practices this one.

Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith discovered the key to recovery was in turning over one’s entire life to a Higher Power. Through much trial and error, in other words, living in some part of self will, they found nothing else worked. When left to one’s own devices and self will, time and time again, an alcoholic or addict would relapse back into their addictions. Even though I knew what the Third Step meant and understood what history said based upon the AA founder’s experiences, I still tried to find my own version that would work for me.

It didn’t work.

Self will is also known as free will and it’s a funny thing, especially in the minds of alcoholics and addicts. Most of my life I had heard through my religious upbringing that God gave us free will to do with our lives as we wished. I also remember words from that upbringing that said while each of us had free will, that true happiness would only come through obeying God’s will. I think to some level that is part of why my addiction based mind had me trying to trail blaze my own recovery. I always thought of God as some old man sitting above me on a throne, pointing his finger and making bad things happen so that I could learn lessons the hard way. Many addiction based people today talk about the “punishing God” syndrome which I suffered from as well. Sadly, churches have really done a number over the centuries to give the belief that God is a vengeful and wrathful God. Because I held that belief for a long time, the idea of turning my will over to God and fully practicing this Third Step was out of the question. The result was disastrous in my life. While I lived in fear of God and his supposed punishing ways, I punished myself instead and lived in a world of toxicity and darkness. I did that for 17 years sober and while I wasn’t drinking or drugging during that time, my addictive ways grew worse and I more sick.

There are two keys to this step that are important to understand. The first is turning our will over to God. I never got beyond that part of the step because of my fear of God and the thoughts of what I would have to go through if I turned my entire will over to God. Because God and the word punishing were synonymous in my brain, I misinterpreted the second part of this step. “…as we understood God.” The way I understood God was warped from my own upbringing. I never thought about creating a new image of God that was all loving, caring, and kind and not punishing, wrathful, and vengeful.

As all those long self will based years dragged on doing my own version of this step and recovery, there were percentages of how much of my life I’d give God on any given day. Sometimes it was less than 5%. Sometimes it was as high as 95%. On most days it was somewhere in the middle. The key is that I never gave God 100% because I couldn’t seem to get over my fears of God in the first place.

When enough brokenness happened in my life and when enough pain was rampant within and around me, I gave up and decided it was time to believe in something different. That’s when I decided God knew what was best for me and that God always did. And that’s when I decided to turn my entire will and life over to a God that always loved me just as I was and had a path for me to follow that would bring me ultimate happiness.

Today I start every single day off with turning my entire will and life over to the God I understand. While I once despised and loathed God for what I thought God was, today, I see things so differently. I love God. I don’t want my own free will anymore. I don’t want my own self will anymore. Living in either of those destroyed my life and never brought me peace, happiness, or joy. It only brought me more pain, more addictions, and more destructive paths. Living today in a life where I turn my full will over to God as I understand God has finally brought me that peace, happiness, and joy that eluded me all of my life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 2 – 12 Step Recovery

“Came to believe a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity…”

I was brought up in a family that exposed me to church and religion from the day I was born. We were active members of the Community United Methodist Church in Poughkeepsie, NY where my mother was an ardent participant of the bell choir and my father was one of the layman. Going to church every Sunday morning for the 11am service meant putting on my most uncomfortable clothes, sitting in a very hard wooden pew, being ushered to the alter steps to hear the Pastor’s kids talk that never made much sense to me, spending at least 30 to 45 minutes after that listening to a lecture in a hot Sunday School classroom, and finally having to spend at least 10 to 15 minutes shaking all these strangers hands in Fellowship Hall while they ate donuts and drank coffee. The best part of my Sundays were when we drove out of the church parking lot and headed to brunch.

While I may have been exposed to God during all those Sundays in the first 18 years of my life, I didn’t absorb much of it. I thought God was a person that the pastor only communicated with and that I would one day be able to if I gave enough money to his church. I also thought God was the one that allowed all those bad things to happen to me in my life like being molested, having alcoholic parents, watching them die at their own hands, or seeing one of my best friends pass away from a terrible illness. Even worse, I had done many bad things when I had been active in my addictions and I was deathly afraid of what God thought of me. So when I finally decided to enter recovery for my alcoholism and drug addiction, I hesitated at Step 2. How was I going to believe that a Power greater than myself could restore me to sanity when the idea of God brought out so many feelings of anger and fear? My first sponsor in AA helped me to get beyond this dilemma. She said something so profound and yet so simple that I became able to move beyond any hesitation with this step.

“Believe that I believe that a Power greater than myself will restore you to sanity…”

All she was asking for me to do was believe that she believed. For a God that seemed so distant all my life and one that I felt caused me great pain, believing that she believed differently, was much easier to grasp. So I did that. I believed that she believed in a Power that would restore me to sanity and I believed that it was a different Power than the one I had been exposed to my whole life.

There are tons of reasons why Step 2 can be challenging for people to grasp and get beyond. Some people may be atheists or agnostic and find it hard to do this step because of that. Some people may be lesbian or gay and find it hard to believe in a Power when they’ve been told so often that their lives are a sin and that this Power says so. Some people may have done so many terrible things in this world that their shame and fear of what that Power thinks of them prevents it from happening. And others may have been so overexposed to religion as children that they’ve gone in the complete opposite direction from ever seeking out that Power.

The 12 Steps, and Step 2 specifically, is not religious based. It’s not based upon any sect or denomination or specific walk of faith. It’s not based upon any type of church or cult. It’s simply just a belief that a Higher Power is there and can restore everyone to sanity.

If you are finding it still hard to believe that any Power exists higher than you to restore you to sanity, believe that I believe there is. I was once you, and today I believe.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 1 – 12 Step Recovery

“We admitted we were powerless over our addiction and that our lives had become unmanageable.”

Facing the first step in any recovery program can be a daunting task. Many people who find their way into recovery rooms for whatever addiction they face usually arrive because of great losses that have already happened. Most have found there was no where else to turn. And almost everyone in the beginning of any recovery program feels downtrodden, depressed, and hopeless. This can be a good thing though for someone beginning their journey of recovery.

During the good times of any of the addictions I have battled in this life, I generally felt upbeat and on top of the world. In the beginnings of each of them, the low times were greatly outweighed by the highs. There were moments in the low times when I was approached by those who had found recovery and I was extremely close-minded to listening to what they had to say.

Take my alcoholism for example. In my senior year of college, things got out of hand twice with my drinking. During both of those times, I blacked out and created some problems for myself and for others. For the first incident, I was only given a warning and simply laughed it off. For the second, I was put on a level of academic probation where I had to speak to a person from AA once a week for three sessions. I still remember sitting in my apartment on the couch half listening to a guy tell me about how I might have a problem with drinking and that maybe I should go to a meeting with him. I wasn’t open to hearing what he had to say because I wasn’t broken yet from my addiction. I wasn’t regularly feeling depressed. I hadn’t landed in jail. My grades were excellent and I was quite the overachiever in my fraternity. There had not been enough consequences yet in my life to see that alcohol was making my life unmanageable. That period actually came much later.

When I finally went to my first twelve step recovery meeting with an open mind and open heart, it was in September of 2007. By then, I really was broken and had hit rock bottom. I had quit drinking and drugs twelve years before but had decided back then I could recover on my own. After twelve long years of believing that and getting addicted to many other things, I had lost pretty much everything and my life felt completely out of control. Suddenly the first step in AA made sense to me and I was ready to listen to what that man had once said to me all those years back in my college apartment. I finally knew at that point I was powerless over my alcoholism and my addictive personality. As for my life being unmanageable, at that point, my business was in financial failure, my health was deteriorating rapidly, my seven year relationship was over, and I was forced to live in my sister’s guest room as I had no where else to go. So was my life truly unmanageable? Absolutely.

I don’t believe that there is any way the first step can be understood unless one is truly in a place of brokenness. Throughout the five years of active drinking and drugging that I did and the twelve years that followed after that where I found other substitute addictions, I never quite got to that place of feeling shattered on every level. Thank God that it came before I actually relapsed or before something even worse then that happened.

Step 1 could be compared to climbing Mount Everest. For a mountain that has the highest peak in the world, many try to tackle it, but few ever reach its top. Through my journey of finding a deeper connection to God and seeing how much destruction all of my addictions did to my life, I have been able to ascend that mountain that Step 1 was for me. While Mount Everest’s pinnacle has only been reached by a small number throughout history, there are many in the rooms of recovery who have been able to reach the summit of Step 1 and are now able to look back at how far God has taken them in the healing from their addictions.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Spiritually Growing Through Reciting And Repetition

Some time ago I wrote about part of my morning spiritual routine which includes reciting mantras. At first when I started this almost a year ago, my list of mantras was quite small. I kind of felt silly doing them too. My brain continuously told me, “Is this really doing anything?” But ironically it was.

Fighting against my brain’s natural recourse for wanting a quick fix with everything, I spend around 35 minutes every morning with my list of mantras these days. They have evolved over the past year since I started them. I originally started with approximately twelve or so and since then the list has grown to almost thirty now.

It has amazed me that many of the original mantras I started with have been rewritten several times. When I first began this, most of the mantras I recited came from a place of wanting things to release or change in my life. Today, all of them come from a place of believing I already have received them. I have found this to be more successful and more powerful in my using them.

I don’t believe that mantras are something I could have recited just once or twice and received benefit. The mind and body is like a computer which has a hard drive. Much of the programming has been in place on that hard drive for many years. I have come to accept that it takes time to rewire and reprogram all of those old tapes, messages, and programs that have kept me in much of my unhealthiness over the years.

Below is a list of just some of the mantras that I recite every day at least ten times. This list has been tooled by many of my holistic practitioners who know my history. I know that over time, it will continue to change and grow as I do with God.

 I am handsome and I am beautiful on every level and in every way.

  I am not a burden on any level and in any way to myself or anyone else.

I forgive myself on every level and in every way for all things I’ve done not of love and light.

I am free of all pain, negativity, toxicity, and self-pity in every area of my life.

 I am free of all addictions and obsessions in every area of my life.

 I am free all jealousy, judgments, envy, and lust in every area of my life.

 I am free of all greed, gluttony, false pride, and laziness in every area of my life.

I am free of all anger and resentments in every area of my life.

 I am free of all shame, guilt, doubt, worry, and fear in every area of my life.

I am free of all trapped emotions in every area of my life.

 I am free of all burdens from my past.

I love my mind, body, and soul unconditionally and trust all of their wisdom.

I walk forward in faith and trust, and have acceptance that all is in my greatest highest good.

I move into my greater good, which is everywhere. I am safe and secure in this greater good.

I love, embrace, and rejoice in all of my sexuality unconditionally.

I love and accept myself unconditionally. I deserve love and respect and accept nothing less.

In every single area of my life, I am serving my greatest highest good, which is God.

I feel fantastic right now in every area of my life.

I am healthy and well in every area of my life. I am fully healed.

I am filled with an abundance of God’s health, healing, and well being in every area of my life.

I am filled with an abundance of God’s peace, love, happiness, and joy in every area of my life.

 God, I am open to receiving all of Your love that You have for me.

God, I have complete faith, trust, and acceptance of You working within me in every area of my life. 

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Finding Faith Through Hope…

There are days that I really have to try hard to maintain hope through what I go through mentally, emotionally, and especially physically. I continue to hold the belief that the majority of the pain I feel on any level is coming from a toxic clearing process from the life that I once lived as well as an ascension process to become a higher and more enlightened spiritual being.

It isn’t easy.

After spending much of the better part of a year or more trying to find medical answers and relief and getting none, I came to the acceptance that the only thing that would get me through all of this is to maintain hope in God that what I have been feeling is just temporary. I also find that I have to remind myself quite often that for two decades or so, I lived toxically and only began healing from all of it about a year ago. I have to admit though, it’s tough not being on medications and drugs to numb much of what I feel every day. Many people who experience pain will do whatever they can to band-aid it until it goes away. Unfortunately, that path doesn’t work for me as I seem to be detrimentally sensitive and side effect prone to just about every prescription I’ve ever been on.

My path to healing has felt long and arduous because of this. The only thing that has kept me going is clinging to hope. Hope for me doesn’t come from taking a drug or a pill. It doesn’t come from drinking alcohol. It doesn’t come from smoking a cigarette. It doesn’t come from gambling. It doesn’t come from overeating. It doesn’t come from a sexual act. It doesn’t come from buying something.

So where does hope come from for me then?

It comes from an inner belief and from things truly unseen and unknown.

My hope comes from a belief that an unconditionally loving God exists. It comes from a belief that God sees how hard I am trying to cleanse and purify my life from the darkness that I once lived regularly in. It comes from a belief that God is already healing me and that the pain is the result of the removal of all the blockages and junk I put into myself for all those years. And it comes from a belief that God has a calling and a plan for me beyond this clearing phase of my life.

I know that many people might be more of a realist on healing then I. My roommate is one of them. He relies upon science and medicine and believes most often that all pain can be fixed through some avenue of it. While I respect how he feels, I haven’t experienced much hope on that path if any at all. Instead I have experienced more setbacks, greater pain, and a lot of false promises.

Through daily prayer, meditation, mantras, writing, speaking at recovery meetings, eating healthier, and light exercising, I continue to create a foundation for God to work within me. By creating a foundation for God to work within me, I believe I am going to heal holistically and be cleansed by God from all of the impurities I placed within me. By believing I am going to heal holistically and be cleansed by God from all the impurities I placed within me, I am living with hope in my Higher Power. By living with hope in my Higher Power, I have developed a level of faith in God that everything will work out as it’s meant to. By having developed a level of faith in God that everything will work out as it’s meant to, I have been able to keep going each and every day in all the pain with just my hope.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Saying I’m Sorry – Part II

“I’m sorry!”

My previous entry spoke about my learning to not say those words and not taking ownership of all the bad things that happen around me. Well, there’s another side of this coin too where the phrase was overused in my life. For years I suffered at the hands of several addictions. No matter which one I was at the mercy of, there were many, many incidents where I created mishaps, pain, hardships, and wounds in others and felt the words “I’m sorry!” were enough. Sadly, they didn’t hold much weight when I continued to remain an active addict and live in toxic patterns over and over again.

Being at the mercy of any addiction, a person’s only focus is on getting a fix and staying “high”. All too often though, life comes in between them and their seeking of that fix and that’s when the addict will lash out most and create suffering for others. There were so many times that I had plans that I cancelled because it was more important for me to go get my fix. My only response in each of those times was to say “I’m sorry” to the people I was canceling out on. In my past, I stole, cheated, and lied to get my fix and if I was caught, the only thing I knew how to say was those words. They don’t hold much weight though when they’re said all the time.

If a drug addict steals from a friend or family repeatedly to get their drugs, is saying “I’m sorry” really going to hold any weight?

If an alcoholic has a terrible binge and is verbally or physically abusive to someone close to them one night, is saying “I’m sorry” the next morning when they are a little more sober enough?

If a gambler goes out and spends all their wife’s and his money that was set aside for a mortgage payment, is saying “I’m sorry” going to make her feel any better?

If a sex addict goes out and cheats for one night on their partner, is saying “I’m sorry” going to take the sting away from the infidelity?

All of those answers can be said with a resounding “No!”

Making amends to all the people that an addict has harmed isn’t as easy as saying “I’m sorry” and moving on. It begins first with recovery and becoming clean from the addiction. Then it involves prayer and finding a Higher Power who can help the person become less selfish and more selfless in their life. And finally, it leads that person through their new God centered life to making a true amends to the people they have harmed. To make an amends is not just to go to those that were harmed and say “I’m sorry.” It involves a lot more. It means being honest to those people the addict has harmed telling them where they were selfish, self-centered, dishonest, and afraid. Even more importantly, it involves asking those people that were harmed how they felt and what they need to truly heal from what happened.

I always thought that saying “I’m sorry” for all my bad behaviors would be enough. It wasn’t. Until I began living a life that was centered with God, I didn’t know that. Today I do my best to live my life with a Higher Power guiding it. I don’t just say those words anymore for something where I did cause suffering to someone else. I work on changing the behaviors that caused it in the first place, and I do everything I can to offer restitution to those that I’ve harmed. And even better, I’ve found that the more that I seek out God’s will in my life, the less I even have situations arise anymore where I might have once just said the words “I’m sorry!” to deal with it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Saying I’m Sorry – Part I

“I’m Sorry.” Two words I’ve said many, many times throughout my life.

There are two ways I’ve said I’m sorry in my life that weren’t healthy and meaningful for my spiritual growth. This entry talks about the first of them.

The first time I ever mouthed the words I’m sorry can be traced back to when I was just a child, living in the home of my alcoholic-based family. My parents fought all the time. Yelling and screaming were common. Deafening silence was also just as common. Everyone was always on edge and my sister and I did everything we could to stay out of the way of upsetting our parents anymore then they always seemed to be.

For any person active in any addiction, things that go wrong are never their fault. At least that is what they tell themselves. It’s always everyone else’s fault. The fingers are pointed. The blame is directed outward. With my parents, blame came my sister’s and my way quite a bit. After my mother passed away some years ago, my sister and I found letters in her house that we both wrote as kids saying we were sorry for all the yelling and screaming they did. We wrote many words on many pieces of paper to them apologizing for all the fighting they did.

Sadly, there were many things that happened in my childhood home that were never mine or my sister’s fault yet we took the blame. We said “I’m sorry” almost as if it might make them be happier with each other and with us. Life in an alcoholic household always seemed to be like a ticking time bomb to when the next rage filled discussion was going to happen. I can remember feeling like I was walking on a tightrope with everything I did. Alcoholics aren’t happy when themselves and because of that, they aren’t happy with anything around themselves either. So for my sister and I, anything that we did regardless of how much perfection we tried to place into it, always seemed wrong in my parent’s eyes. Thus there were many days that those words “I’m sorry” came out of our mouths.

Unfortunately, living that way for so many years created a pattern for both my sister and I. Throughout our lives since leaving home, we have found ourselves saying those words in many different situations that weren’t our fault. For me, I continued to take the blame for things happening negatively in my places of employment, with friendships, with relationships, and with anything for that matter even though I knew inside it wasn’t my fault.

I have to work very hard today to realize that when things go wrong around me, they aren’t always my fault. In fact, in most cases today with me living in a God-centered life, rarely are they my fault. My last stint of having to face this issue head on, to conquer it and move on came over a year ago when I was hanging around with an active drug addict who I thought I could help save. His marriage was falling apart. His finances were falling apart. His world was crumbling all around him and he was lashing out at me day after day after day. He blamed me for everything going wrong in his life and I began to realize at some point that I was taking ownership of his crazy life saying “I’m sorry” for things that weren’t my fault. Thankfully, I parted ways with that person after coming to understand this lesson.

One of the main things that I’ve had to do since then to ensure my spiritual growth towards God is to remove all the people in my life who are actively suffering from any addiction. Sadly, for those people that still are, they live in the footsteps of people like my mother who refused to look at themselves and take ownership of the chaos they were creating around them. They will always blame everyone else for their problems until they are ready to look in the mirror and point the finger at no one but themselves.

Living as best as I’m capable today in a God-centered, selfless reality has helped me to see that I’m not responsible for all the bad things that might happen around me even when people say it’s my fault. Through my spiritual growth and a deeper connection with God, I am able to see clearly now when someone is projecting their stuff on me as well as when it really is something I need to take ownership of.

Thank God today I don’t find myself saying “I’m sorry” for everything bad that happens. I feel a lot lighter because of it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Man’s Best Friend

History says that dogs are man’s best friend. They are loyal, affectionate, caring, kind, loving, devoted, playful, and more. Many people have them for pets for those reasons. While I’ve never owned one, I definitely have had my share of being close to some through my sister’s family, through friends, or through roommates. But as much as dogs are willing to offer so many wonderful traits, they have feelings too just like people.

Over the past few years I’ve had a few people close to me that have mistreated their dogs. The worst was with a guy I knew that was an active drug addict and every time he was on the downside of his addiction, he would kick his dog when it was just trying to get attention and affection. Most dogs won’t defend themselves, especially to their masters. Ironically, the way this man treated his dog was the same way he treated everyone else in his life.

On a more subtle level, any house-bound dog is dependent on their owner to be taken care of. Unless there is an exit-way to the yard from inside the house, a dog is unable to go to the bathroom. As for feeding themselves, I don’t know of any dog that is able to do that. Dogs really can’t show themselves affection with the exception of grooming themselves. While they may chase their tails or run around the house at times on their own, most are dependent on their masters to play with them as well.

My reason for writing this entry is due to observations of people I continue to see that are mistreating their pets. There is one person I know that is completely unaware his animal is being mistreated by him. Neglected is probably a better word to describe it. Sometimes, this person works upwards of twelve hour shifts leaving his dog at home for the duration. They have maintained that their dog is able to go for those periods of time holding their bladder and waiting to eat again. While this may be true, is it really fair? I know I couldn’t go 12 hours without urinating. And unless I’m fasting, I’m usually pretty starving after twelve hours of not eating anything. At least with human beings, most are able to go out, socialize, take care of themselves, and be independent. Dogs can’t do that. And this person’s dog will sit and wait all day doing nothing at the house just waiting for their master to come home. What’s even harder on this dog is that this person doesn’t always walk them when they first come home after all those long hours or even after their master first wakes up in the morning. Just recently, this dog had an accident all over the floors and carpets in that person’s house because of that reason. It was blamed on some medication the dog currently was taking. While that may have been the cause, is it really fair to make a dog wait for their master’s own needs?

I compare all of this to someone who is in hospice care or dependent upon a day nurse. People under care such as this rely solely upon this help to go to the bathroom, shower, eat, socialize, and receive attention. Without it would be disastrous. Should it be any different with a dog who is house bound?

Currently I’m not able to have a dog as a pet because I’m renting. I look forward to the day though that I’m able to. With all the work I’ve been doing on my life to become more selfless and God-centered, I know that any dog I owned would be well taken care of before even my own needs. I really can’t imagine spending 12 hours in a house alone staring at the walls every day, holding my bladder, and waiting to eat again. Most dogs offer so much unconditional love. Don’t they deserve the same treatment that their master might offer their own self? If a dog is truly man’s best friend, then why should any dog be neglected or abused?

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Change Is Good

Just a few days ago I was shivering wearing a winter coat and watching reports that the area might be getting a few more inches of snow. Winters really can be tough in the Northeast, especially like this year when in just over a month, more than 60 inches of snow dropped and the temperatures remained frigid for weeks on end. I can’t say for sure if the groundhog correctly predicted things this year. What I do know is that winter seemed like it was never going to cease and then suddenly it did when I awoke yesterday with the sun shining and a temperature close to 60 degrees.

While I really don’t enjoy winter at all, I have come to co-exist with it knowing that its days are always numbered. But more importantly, I’ve come to appreciate winters knowing I wouldn’t if it was warm all the time. Southern Florida and Southern California always seem inviting to me because of their year round balmy temperatures. I’ve hesitated though in relocating there because many people that migrate there from the north, end up leaving and coming back. Most say it’s because they miss the change in seasons.

I believe that if I did move to a year-round warmer climate I would probably take vacations up north just to occasionally see the sun twinkle on the snow a day after a storm. I love to see a wet snow come in and coat all the trees and then for the sun to emerge with a blue sky around it. It really does create a breathtaking masterpiece in nature.

Life is really like this isn’t it?

Would summer vacation have been as great when I was a kid if I never had gone to school?

Would taking a week or two of vacation in the winter have been as exciting if I was able to go on vacation all year?

Would dining out at a restaurant be as alluring if I could eat out at one every night of the week?

There was a time in my life when I could answer questions like this. It was a time when I had plenty of money to go do what I wanted. I did take vacations week in and week out. I went out to many different restaurants daily. And I grew bored. I no longer was excited about anything because nothing ever changed. Today I can’t afford to live a life like that and I’m grateful to God for that. I enjoy when I’m able to dine out a restaurant now. I am excited to take my once a year vacation. My appreciating these things comes from not having them all the time just like the seasons.

As much as I may not like the cold of the winters, and as much as I like the hot and steamy summers, I truly love to see the seasons change between them.

Seeing flowers pop out of the moist ground.

Hearing that first thunderstorm pierce the sky.

Watching the grass become greener and greener.

Smelling the first lawn being cut.

Spring then turns into Summer.

Jumping into a bluish cold pool on a hot and steamy day.

Eating that icy popsicle while melting all over the hands.

Playing a game of mini-golf getting a hole in one.

Sitting on a sandy beach while hearing the lull of the ocean.

Summer then becomes Fall.

Listening to the leaves rustle as a breeze whisks on through.

Staring at their dazzling colors as they drop one by one.

Blowing cold rings of air when the temperature begins to dip.

Eating a bowl of oatmeal trying to soothe the cold away.

Fall then turns into Winter.

Catching a flake of snow on the tongue as gravity brings them down.

Making snowballs when enough has fallen to throw at a friend.

Building that first snowman to proudly put it on display.

Drinking a cut of hot chocolate in front of that crackling fire.

Winter then becomes Spring again.

Remembering why I love the change in everything.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Living In Integrity – Part II

Back in the late 1990’s I attended a men’s retreat entitled The New Warrior Training Adventure which was part of an organization named The ManKind Project. My life had been in severe turmoil at that time and was riddled with depression because of my father’s sudden death from his suicide. After speaking with a few people and told that I could get benefit on the weekend to heal from that tragedy, I made the decision to go. While the main outcome from attending that retreat was healing from my father’s death, there was a word I learned a lot more about from my experiences there that I had never previously understood.

What is integrity? A quick dictionary reference would state the following. “Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” Was I a man of integrity in my life back then based upon that definition? Definitely not. It took me another twelve years to truly become that.

The first part of that definition for integrity is about being honest. Over time I came to understand that honesty is not just about how I am when people are watching or listening to me. It’s also about how I am when people aren’t watching or listening to me. Here are some examples from my past where I wasn’t practicing the honesty part of integrity.

1. Sneaking into a movie without paying after emerging from the one that was paid for

2. Taking a candy bar, a pack of gum, or any item off of a store shelf and pocketing it without paying

3. Speaking about an event observed but exaggerating it for greater effect

4. Making things up at an AA podium to give off a look of higher importance

5. Taking food from roommates without asking and then trying to hide the action

6. Telling an intimate partner that they were the only one for me and then having several other people “waiting in the wing” if it didn’t work out

7. Painting a picture on the internet to people that wasn’t true

8. Getting a cup for water at a restaurant with soda dispensers and then drinking the soda free from them

9. Going into a buffet and having one person pay and then eating off of their plate

10. Buying an item at a store brand new for something I already had at home that was old and damaged and then returning the damaged one to get my money back

Before becoming more God-centerded in my life, examples such as these were commonplace for me. The harsh truth too is that I didn’t feel any of them were wrong at the time I was doing them. Normally, I would just rationalize why it was ok to do any of them when I was. The other part of the definition of “integrity” is a little more complex than this.

“Having strong moral principles.” It took a long time for me to really understand what that meant. Instead of trying to come up with a short and sweet definition to explain it’s meaning, I decided it was best to write another list of examples of when I wasn’t having strong moral principles.

1. Carrying on an intimate relationship with a married, partnered, or already dating individual regardless of their situation

2. Promising someone attendance at some event and canceling for a better offer

3. Telling someone they’re a close friend but never or rarely making time to spend with them

4. Going out with a friend and having them pay more than not

5. Talking about someone in a negative light when they aren’t present

6. Spreading rumors about someone that may or may not be true

7. Receiving a phone call from someone who is asking to call them back and never doing so

8. Giving someone a promise to perform a task and then passing it off to someone else or choosing to not do it at all

9. Keeping a person around only because of what they have to offer

10. Borrowing money from someone and not making any attempts to pay it back

These are just some of the many things that I’ve done in this lifetime that would be considered when I did NOT have strong moral principles.

Because of my initial exposure to integrity on the Warrior weekend, as time went on, I could no longer hide from any of the things I was doing that would be deemed out of integrity. Unfortunately, it still didn’t stop me from doing any of them even though I had the awareness. As with anything, the more my life got out of control and filled up with pain, the more I turned over the pieces of me that were still living in self-will to God. The biggest change for me with integrity came a year ago when the pain was so great everywhere in my life that I decided to turn my entire will and life over to God.

Since then, I wake up every day and ask God to be fully in charge of my life. That includes every facet of it. I find it next to impossible now to live a life without integrity. I’m not perfect and there are still moments I may find something I’m doing that could be labeled as out of integrity. In each of those cases, there’s a feeling inside me where something isn’t lining up in a positive fashion. Through prayer and making amends as necessary, I find that I don’t stay out of integrity long.

While the key to learning about integrity was given to me long ago on that New Warrior Training Adventure weekend, living a life full of it only came through giving up all of my self-will and choosing a higher path with God at the center of it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson