To Tell or Not To Tell the Truth, That Is The Question

I have watched lately with great sadness about the demise of Lance Armstrong. Lance finally came clean with the world through his interview with Oprah Winfrey about his drug use and cover-up of it.

For years the public has watched the media report on the accusations of Lance’s drug use. Teammates, commissions, panels, doctors, and more continued to state Lance Armstrong was using drugs and earned all his wins because of it. And the world waited with bated breath each time there was an accusation only to find out each time that there was no proof. Lawsuits, counter-lawsuits, denials, and more denials. 

Ironically, I never was into cycling until I saw Lance win his first Tour De France. It was such a big thing because Americans never seemed to win the Tour De France with the exception of Greg Le Mond. But then there was Lance who won once, then twice, and then again, and again and again until he had garnered seven titles.

To watch bicyclists on television race in a foreign country seemed rather boring to me for most of my life prior to Lance Armstrong. But he became an inspiration to me with having battled cancer and then winning year after year at a race that Americans rarely won or even placed in the top three.

The news continues to report on how Lance Armstrong let the world down and how people are very angry and hurt because of his lies. I don’t feel that way.

Lance is still an inspiration to me. Why? Because he finally told the truth.

Until the last few years of my life, where I have made a stand to be honest, open-minded, and in integrity with all my thoughts, words, and actions, there were many times I lied. It was just several years ago that lies were commonplace for me. A lie is such that if one gets away with it, it becomes easier to lie again and more difficult to be honest about the truth. And when one lies enough, it’s easy to begin to even believe one’s own lies. That was me. And for the really big lies, that affected many people, the last thing that I ever wanted was to be exposed as a fraud.

I’m not sure when Lance first lied about his drug use. But I’m positive that after his fame started spreading, that when his dream to spread hope to other cancer patients and survivors expanded, and where children everywhere had begun cycling to aspire to become him, that it became next to impossible to tell the truth.

Lies are like poison within our bodies, minds, and souls. They eat away within us and tear away at the very fragment of our existence. I give Lance a lot of credit for going as long as he did with the lying. I’m sure that everyday the news reported on someone publicly announcing that Lance was using drugs, it gnawed at his soul.

What would you do if you were famous and the whole world had changed on some level to now loving a sport that once wasn’t so popular, to how cancer patients now had more hope, to how people in general began having the “little engine that could” syndrome? The argument is that he never should have lied from the beginning. In fact most would say he never should have done any drugs in the first place as well.

Hindsight is 20/20 or so the saying goes. The point is that he lied and he got away with it, for a very long time and the world changed for the better with his lies. And now the world seems to be hurting with the truth.

This brings me back to my point of why Lance is still an inspiration to me. He told the truth and placed his whole life on the line. He brought to the surface all the cover-ups and admitted his drug use.

Lance has been stripped of everything because of telling the truth. He’s lost his titles, he’s lost his golden boy status of fame, and he probably will lose a lot of money before all this is said and done between the sponsors dropping him and lawsuits. But he told the truth knowing this was all going to happen.

That takes a lot of strength to do. Lance can now heal. Truly heal. Spiritually. The poison can leave him now. And he can move on in his life and be an inspiration to others on a different level. What is that inspiration? Well the main one would be telling the truth and being honest. Another would be not taking drugs to excel in a sport. But more importantly, Lance doesn’t have cancer and millions of people still do. He can still provide hope to others through honesty about where his demons took him and how he rose above that and healed not only physically from the cancer but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Lance if somehow you should ever read this. I’m proud of you. It takes a tremendous amount of spiritual strength to do what you did. While the news may report on how so many look disapprovingly on you, know that one still finds you to be an inspiration.

Peace, Love, Light, and Joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Intimacy? (In-To-Me-See?)

This has been the topic as of late for me. I saw this word once in an AA conference broken down like this and it got me to thinking about my life. Intimacy is a funny thing in that many people, including myself for a very long time, when hearing the word, think sex.

Ironically what I have learned over time is that intimacy is something altogether different and is present in not only romantic relationships, but also friendships too. And something that has surfaced recently with me is the fear and trust issues that arise when someone is “in to me see”.

From the time that I was very young and dealt with my alcoholic and mentally ill parents, there wasn’t intimacy between us. The intimacy I envision might be present in a healthy family with parents and their children is sitting down with them and showing them interest in their homework, their personal lives, loving them even when they fail, and lifting them up when they are down, and most importantly, just letting them know in general that they are proud of them just as they are.

That doesn’t happen in an alcoholic family. Sadly the children of alcoholics often are abused and made to feel they aren’t worthy of love and that they aren’t good enough. My sister and I experienced just that.

So I never experienced intimacy with my Mom or Dad and had to find someone else to have that connection with.

Who I found was the diving coach on my swim team. He liked me a lot. He showed me a lot of interest. He praised me. He told me lots of nice things……and…..he molested me after all that. That was at 12 years old, with a 40’s something year old man.

In the first 17 years of my life that’s all I was to experience was not feeling good enough in my own family, and being sexually molested by someone I thought was a friend. And because I did not get therapy and counseling around any of this, I went into my adulthood finding friends and partners who repeated this cycle.

I didn’t know what intimacy was. I didn’t know I deserved love for who I was not for what I could offer or do. With my parents I had conditional based love. I had to do many things to even get them to praise me and even then, it never felt satisfactory to them. And with that diving coach who I thought was my friend, I gave up a part of my physical self.

Until just last year, I lived year after year with friendships and romantic relationships with people that used me, abused me, took advantage of me, dominated me sexually, and commented on how many things I still had to change to be “normal”.

Rarely if ever did I hear the words that I was good enough for any of them. Rarely did I ever hear that someone liked me just because I seemed like I had a good heart. And when I did hear those words from someone, guess what I did? I ran the other way. Why? Because I spent more than 20 years of my life not believing that I was worth anything to anyone unless I gave a part of myself away. When someone truly liked me for me and wanted to be with me just because of my heart and soul, I didn’t trust it genuinely. I was so used to being used and taken advantage of that I thought there had to be angle. There had to be something that someone wanted from me.

John (from The Mirror In My Face posting) was a perfect example of that. He told me he just liked me for me, that he loved me for me. And I’d try to work through those old tapes and those old fears, and walk through that uncomfortability and open a part of me up that I hadn’t and what I got was guilt trips, and sexual advances, and how he wanted this or that with me on a romantic level. All I was wanting was a friend to like me for me and not want a single thing more from me. He was just one of so many that I allowed to continue to come into my life and reaffirm what I had gone through as a child.

In the past 9 months I have removed all of those people that bring me back to my childhood. I have removed all of those toxic, unloving, self-seeking, conditional based love people. I don’t need them. I never did. God has blessed my life with a wonderful partner today who loves me for me. I use the saying “warts and all” even though at the present moment of me writing this, I don’t have any warts. I’m not sexual right now in my life and my partner doesn’t mind. He loves my heart and my soul. He loves our friendship. And he’s ok with what I offer. I also have a true friend that has been in my life for over 15 years. Over the years he has truly shown his unconditional love for me as a friend. I’m grateful for that.

As I continue to walk through the fear and let people get closer to me today, I have more of a sixth sense now to those that have a hidden agenda. I have more of a knowing of those who aren’t healthy for me. Being around my partner or my best friend and a few others in my life who have God at the center of their lives and are not living for what they can get from others has helped me go down a better path.

It’s definitely scary for me today being close to my partner or my best friend. They are “in to me see”?! And they aren’t into me for my body, for money, for possessions, or for a relationship that they think they deserve or have to have. They are in my life because they genuinely love my soul and can be near me without needing anything more. They appreciate the time I spend with them even if its just for a few moments here and there. And they love me even when I let them down or do something that may not be in the best that I could be.

Intimacy is so much more than sex. Intimacy is so much more than what happens in a bedroom. Intimacy is loving someone without conditions. Intimacy is accepting someone just as they are. Intimacy is appreciating someone just because they exist.

It has always been foreign to me to be close to anyone. With no knowledge of someone liking me just because and with having always had people telling me I wasn’t good enough or self-seeking something off of me, intimacy and intimate based connections scared me.

The more that I walk through that fear, the more I stay away from those people that reaffirmed the old tapes, and the more that I spend time with those that love me just as I am, I find that I can be intimate and receive intimacy. I’m happy to say that God truly has helped me in developing this belief.

Peace, Love, Light, and Joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Progression of Addictions

I was listening last night to a speaker at my AA home group and heard him mention something that I’ve heard many times before. He made mention to how there is “us”, meaning alcoholics and addicts, and “them”, meaning all others.

My experience is drastically different from that viewpoint. For most of my life I have been more of an extrovert and have chosen to not be so “anonymous” about my addictions. In the midst of being so vocal about them, I have talked to many people who weren’t addicted to alcohol or drugs, but the majority of them were battling with some other dependency. I found too that most people didn’t like to label themselves as addicted to anything.

In my spiritual journey to get closer to God, I have come to realize that anything I found solace in and built a dependency around was simply because I was covering up an emptiness inside. In AA meetings this is often referred to as the “hole in the soul”. People share quite often about how alcohol or drugs filled that hole and numbed that emptiness. I can attest.

My emptiness began a young kid. I lived with an alcoholic mother and father who chose to point out flaws and imperfections instead of loving unconditionally. Pointing the finger was commonplace. And more than often, the blame for my parents problems was placed on either myself or my sister. When my mother died in 2005, I had to clean out my childhood home with my sister and we found many letters that we had written as young kids to our parents. Each of these said in some way that we were sorry for being bad kids, for their fighting, and for any pain we caused them. Yet my sister and I were not bad kids. We tried out best to show them how good we were. We both excelled in school, sports, after school activities, and even in the thoroughness of the chores that we were assigned to do.

In the eyes of an alcoholic or an addict, it’s never good enough. Something is always wrong. And I grew up with a very strong message that I wasn’t good enough.

To make matters worse, in trying to excel in my sport of choice, swimming, I ended up being molested by the diving coach. I was 12, he was in his 40’s. I had known from a very young age that I was attracted to men, prior to being molested. The molestation was my first sexual experience in my life sadly. I was never given a birds and the bees talk prior to that or after. Left to my own thinking, I found fantasy and self-gratification through which I relived being molested again and again. I thought it was normal what I had experienced and it had for a moment, made me feel good on some level as compared to the hole I normally felt inside.

Until the age of 17, I lived in my fantasy world alone. If I felt down I would go back to the fantasy world. If I felt up, I would go back to the fantasy world to try to feel even better. And then I discovered alcohol.

I had never had a drink before because I didn’t want to be like my parents. After a pivotal junior year in high school where I went from being an outcast and a loaner, to merging into the “in crowd”, I was invited to a party. After lying to my mother to get to that party, I was handed my first cup of beer. When I finished the first cup, the effect was amazing, even more so than the fantasy world I lived in on most days. So I had a second cup and then I blacked out and passed out and began a five year long run of alcohol and drug exploration.

Combine that deadly combination with picking up cigarettes during those years and I found myself smoking a pack of Newports while I drank or took some type of drug every day.

For awhile, it did was it was meant to do. It numbed me. It hid down all those years of loneliness. It hid down that “hole in the soul”. It quieted down the demons from being molested, abused, and picked on for most of my life. It covered up the fact that I was attracted more to men versus women. And it made me feel like I just didn’t care about anything that I would classify as painful. With any addiction or dependency though, eventually consumption grows more and more to get the same effect. Those terrible voices from deep down inside me were getting louder and louder no matter how much I was consuming of any of them. And one day I found myself not being able to quiet them down anymore and my life started to spiral out of control.

I hit my first major bottom on June 10th, 1995, the day before my 23rd birthday. I was sitting with my closest friend from college, Rob, at my apartment in Fairfax, VA watching TV. I had developed feelings for him and was using all those substances to cover that up. I had acted only a few times during my college years on my attraction to men, each of which was when I was in a complete state of inebriation of which I passed it off onto as the cause.

On this moment in my apartment, I was attempting to get closer to Rob while he attempted to move farther away. It spurred on an argument which led to me feeling that I was going to throw up. I went into the bathroom and got down on my knees and instead of hurling, I prayed. I had never really prayed before selflessly. God was always a genie type of God to me. God, I wish for this please. God, I wish for that please. In this moment, it was different.

“God, I can’t handle my life like this. I can’t handle all these feelings. I don’t want to be addicted to any of these things anymore. Please help me. Help me get beyond this. Help me become a better person.”

That was as close to the prayer as I remember. And God answered. I can only describe it as a spiritual awakening, but instantaneously, the desire to drink, do any type of drug, or smoke cigarettes went away. My sobriety date for all three is June 11th, 1995, my first full day without any of them.

I wish I could say this was the end of my life as an addict. I titled this blog entry as “The Progression of Addictions” because that is what happened to me after this day. The alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, were not my problem. My problem was all that pain inside. My childhood was filled with a ton of it and on top of that, I was not sure if I was bi-sexual or gay. Without those things to “calm me down” and “cope with my life”, I had two choices. I could bring it all to the surface and seek help through counseling and recovery support through 12 step meetings, or I could keep numbing myself through other dependencies. I chose the path that was easier for me back then. I found other dependencies. I wasn’t ready to face all that pain.

Over the next 16 years, while I never did pick up a drink or a drug again. And while I never went back to smoking a cigarette. I found that there were many other things I could do that would make me feel good for a moment and I chased them.

I got addicted to sex instantly and joined groups that made that seem acceptable.

I jumped into long term relationships to hide from the random sex and became codependent on each one of them until they no longer made me feel good and I would move on to the next.

I got addicted to seeking better jobs that might “fix me” and “make me happier” so I quit job after job citing something was wrong with each of them, and got subsequently re-hired at a higher paying one each time.

I found that caffeine gave me a buzz when I drank it and also enhanced my euphoria that went hand in hand with my sexual prowess. My consumption of high caffeinated coffees and sodas became astronomical.

As the money I earned increased with the higher paying jobs, so did my purchases. I bought every techno gadget that came out. I had to be the first to have it. I bought multiple cars, houses, designer clothes, shoes, and so much more.

I found gambling and grew dependent on buying lotto tickets, scratch tickets, and playing slot machines.

The internet rolled around, and I discovered free porn and online chatting. I would spend hours and hours until dawn rolled around engaging in it.

I made tons of friends and then tons of enemies and got addicted to geographical cures. I moved from place to place thinking I could hide from the past and just recreated the past wherever I went.

I travelled outside the country when the money came in greater to afford that and went from country to country, cruise to cruise, destination to destination, seeing some of the greatest things this world has to offer and yet I was miserable.

I bought a business, investing money in someone else’s dreams, and lost that business.

I chased after heterosexual men who were active in their own addictions and tried to fix them while I grew addicted to being around them.

I overate filling myself with so much food (especially desserts) and then went and worked out for hours on end to burn it off.

And eventually the spiritual pain I originally started with as a young child became mental pain as I chased addiction after addiction,which then became emotional pain as the abuse to myself from all the addictions and obsessions I had got worse, and one day as I mentioned in my last blog, it all cumulated into massive physical pain.

That is the progression of addictions. There was nothing that I could consume or do without becoming addicted to it. Each of those things I mentioned was a numbing agent to me. Something to cover up that emptiness within. Something that would hide the fact that I had done nothing important in my life. Something that would shadow over the truth that I was so selfish and self-centered and rarely helped another with any type of unconditional love.

I had no God at the center of my life. I was the center of my own life. And I acted accordingly as I saw fit and was destroying my life and this vessel my soul lives within as such. It was the physical pain that manifested that made me hit the worst bottom that I’ve ever hit in my life. And it made me slow down and look at what I did to myself. And that’s when I took action. When the pain was great enough to face all those demons that were there prior to me ever doing any type of dependency on anything in this life.

Over the past 9 months, by placing God first in my life, I have successfully stayed away from caffeine and any other stimulants, gambling, all toxic friendships that were surrounding my sex/love addictions and codependency, started eating much healthier and in much healthier portions, focused on healing as the only job to pursue, and learned how to like being with me alone.

My conclusion in all this is that with me being at the center of my own world, trying to find my own happiness, I found nothing but consumption of things that there never was enough of. Placing God first in my life on everything has led me down a path where I don’t want to be quickly stimulated by anything or anyone. For as high of highs that I’ve experienced in this life with so many different things, I too have experienced the worst low of lows. The rollercoaster hills were great in my life without God at the center. Today, it’s more like I’m on a kiddie coaster as my life smooths itself out and I continue to heal from all those wounds I endured since a child.

If you find yourself needing anything to “quiet the nerves” or “enhance your mood” on any given day whether it’s a drink, drug, sex, gambling, caffeine, chocolate, food in general, material good, trip away, or whatever it may be that you find a drive towards, you may want to look within and ask what you are covering up. I covered up my wounds for way too long and at 40 years old, I’m finally facing all of it and having God direct me from here on out.

Peace, Love, Light, and Joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson