Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where I begin each week with a piece of gratitude to start things off on a positive note, which for today is dedicated to a woman named Lorraine who was my first sponsor in the rooms of recovery.
Many years ago, in September of 2007, I walked into my first recovery meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous on a Friday night and was a total nervous wreck. My life at that point was riddled with addictions and had been for years. I was regularly plagued at that time with waves of self-pity, anger, and despair, all because I had never worked on what caused me to be an addict in the first place. At the end of that meeting, a 60-something woman approached me and said she’d be willing to sponsor me through the 12 Steps if I wanted that, but that I must be willing to do the work. She introduced herself as Lorraine and while much shorter than I, she still commanded a very strong presence.
I immediately was drawn to her, mostly because of the energy she carried. Warm and inviting, yet stern and serious when necessary, Lorraine had the energy of an incredible teacher. Over the course of a year and a half that followed from the night she introduced herself to me, I would meet with Lorraine on a weekly basis and was taken through the 12 Steps by her. While it was exhausting and extremely overwhelming at times in the amount of pain I went through in that 12 Step work, Lorraine always seemed to know just what to say to help keep me going and not give up.
On some level, she was the unconditionally loving mother I never had and she taught me the many principles a mother usually teachers their child. I grew to respect Lorraine in plenty of ways and it was because of her that I found a deeper relationship to God. In the beginning of my work with her, I really struggled with God and felt God was angry with me, as much as I was angry with God, all because I had done many terrible things and felt that God was punishing me for it. But Lorraine gently said very early on, “Andrew, can you believe that I believe in an all-loving God who always loved you through everything and forgave you for your selfish actions long ago?” Ironically, I could. It was far easier to do that and believe that she believed, since I couldn’t initially do it for myself. Yet one day eventually, through all that 12 Step work I did with her, I found my own belief in an all-loving God.
Something else Lorraine also taught me was how to take ownership of each of my resentments in life. And she showed me how every one of them was always the result of my own selfishness, self-seeking behaviors, dishonesty, and fear. Learning that profoundly changed my spiritual path and empowered me to see things differently whenever I got irritated at someone else. These days, I immediately look in the mirror at myself whenever I find myself growing resentful and that is solely because of what she first taught me.
Another very important thing that Lorraine taught me was the importance in forgiving others and making amends where I caused harm. You see, I used to hold on to huge grudges towards anyone who ever hurt me and rarely made amends to anyone I harmed either, unless I still wanted something from them. But with Lorraine’s guidance, I saw how spiritually toxic those actions and learned how important forgiveness was no matter how much pain was ever inflicted upon me and learned as well how to make a selfless amends where the only thing I might ever get out of it was the satisfaction of seeing someone else find healing from the damage I once caused them.
The fact is, my entire recovery program today is all because of what Lorraine first taught me and for that I have an immense amount of gratitude. I am so thankful that God brought her into my life back in the fall of 2007, as I’m not sure I’d have the depth of recovery program I have today or even the discipline I have to serving God without her initial help in the rooms of recovery.
Sadly, Lorraine was murdered a few years after I completed my 12 Step work with her in a very tragic event that involved the lover of another one of her sponsee’s. Her death hit me hard and to this day I find myself still missing her incredibly. She was such a beautiful woman with an infectious personality that pretty much always looked for the good in everything and everybody. She saw God in everything and everybody as well and taught me how to do the same.
My spiritual path was forever changed for the better all because of a woman named Lorraine, and for that I’m able to begin this week with another enormous amount of gratitude for a woman who not only changed my life in a very positive way, but also the lives of plenty of others as well…
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson