Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the sole focus in my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for having the gifts of public speaking and writing, two things that really seem to come naturally to me now, but didn’t always.
There once was a time in my life where I truly despised doing any type of public speaking, mostly because I was so afraid to get up in front of others who were going to be staring at me so intently. The first time I ever had to do so was in an elementary school play where I had only one line I was meant to say. What I was supposed to say was, “I’ll save you Pocahontas!” But, what I said instead was, “I’ll save you Princess Leia!” Why I said that, I have no idea. All I can remember after saying it though was the hundreds of parents and kids there roaring in laughter at my mistake and me running off the stage in shame. It wasn’t until college did I finally opt to take an elective course in public speaking to overcome the fear I had of ever making such a mistake again in front of others. That public speaking class saved my life. The curriculum started off slow with very minor speaking activities at a podium in front of the class. But, the final “paper” in that class was to speak for an hour on a topic of our choosing! The topic I chose was about my father and his alcoholism. Little did I know then that this would help me many years later to share my own story of alcoholism in front of others and once I did, it became easier for each subsequent outing. It really is true that the more one does something, the easier it becomes, because the more I’ve spoken in the rooms of recovery from addiction, the more I’ve been able to cultivate the craft and the less those sweaty palms, a racing heart, and anxiety were present. Now I speak confidently in front of others and have received plenty of positive feedback after each time over the years. Whether it’s been with nursing students, inmates, fraternity or sorority members, detoxing individuals, people at 12 Step meetings, and more, I always look forward to all my speaking engagements now. Gone are those days where I had to picture everyone in attendance in clown costumes or naked to overcome my fears of public speaking, of which I’m so grateful for. As for writing, well that craft took much longer to develop and come to love.
Growing up and well into my adulthood, I only ever wrote anything if it was required, which was either in an educational class, with a therapist, in a Bible study, or on a retreat. Honestly, I hated writing, especially if it was by hand, as my handwriting has always been pretty atrocious! In 2005 though, when I went away on a silent retreat for 10 days in the mountains of West Virginia, I was really inspired to write about the whole experience once it was over. It was a very cathartic exercise and one I thoroughly enjoyed doing. Not too long after, a friend was very much interested in hearing about the retreat so I told him I’d be honored if he read the essay I wrote about it. He loved it so much, he asked if I’d be interested in condensing it into an article for the local newspaper in the town where I was living at the time, of which he was already a writer for. I obliged and not too long after, I too would become a regular writer for this paper under the tagline “Words To Live By” where I’d share motivational stories from my life in about 700 words or less. It was such a success that readers began to reach out to me personally, further motivating me to continue the practice. Where my writing really started to become a true craft for me wasn’t until a spiritual teacher suggested I start a blog. That came after a number of years I took off from writing and she merely wanted me to get back into it, suggesting it would be useful for my healing and my future. This is how this blog, “TheTwelfthStep”, got started and has become an incredible outlet of expression for both the positive and negative aspects of my spiritual journey in life. Over the years I’ve maintained this blog, I’ve found a number of new and unique ways to express myself and the better my words have been able to connect with others in the world, which has brought me great pleasure and immense gratitude.
So, I guess you can say that on some level, the two things I once hated the most in my younger years, public speaking and writing, have now become the two things I enjoy doing the most and perform the best with in life. And for that, I’m truly grateful on this Grateful Heart Monday!
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson