Holy Toledo, I Love It Here!

I live in Toledo, Ohio and have only been here for about six months. While the city may be the smallest and most oppressed I’ve ever resided in, I’m actually quite happy to call it home these days. Unfortunately, there are many others I meet here who don’t feel that way about their city. In fact, most usually ask me in negative tone why I’d ever choose to move to a place such as this. I know where they are coming from, as I’ve been there before. But I’ve learned over time it was never the cities I lived in that I didn’t like, it was always myself.

There is that age-old adage that says, “No matter where you go, you bring yourself” and that was once 100% accurate for me. Up until I started working on my recovery and my relationship to my Higher Power, I continued to create a mess of a life all around me. My character defects constantly lost me jobs, friendships, relationships, and many other things in life and when enough of that transpired, I’d begin to resent the actual location I was living in, thinking life would be better lived elsewhere. But it never was and I kept proving that adage to be true.

This pattern started when I lived in Rochester, New York during my college years. There I told everyone how much I hated that city and I moved away from it as soon as I graduated. I then lived in Northern Virginia but after just two years, I was saying the same thing. That led me to move to a small town outside Boston for just seven months, where I came to say how much I despised that area as well. I’d go on to move back to Northern Virginia, then to the Delmarva Peninsula, and finally back to the Boston vicinity, where at each I eventually came up with a million reasons why I hated those areas.

It wasn’t until I began working the 12 Steps in recovery did I realize the thing I hated in each of those cities I had lived in was myself. It was those twelve steps that showed me how much my hatred was never really about any of those cities, jobs, people, or any other aspect there, it was always about myself. I had been so spiritually sick that I looked at the world with a spiritual sickness. My eyes had only been able to see with negativity and thus I saw each city I had lived in look that way. Thankfully, my hard work in recovery helped to change that. So when my partner asked me several years ago to move to Toledo to live with him, I decided to wait a while longer, as I didn’t want to make another geographical cure again. Two years later and much healthier, I moved away from a city for the first time without hating it or myself.

While Toledo may not have been my first choice for somewhere I ever planned on moving to, I came solely because my partner’s home was here. At first, there was definitely a culture shock because I had lived outside a bunch of major cities in my life. But as time has passed, I have grown quite fond of various aspects of both this city and its residents. But ultimately, I think what I’ve grown the most fond of is the love and light that’s increasing within myself.

It seems as if the more that happens, the more my eyes aren’t seeing with that negativity anymore. And the more my eyes aren’t seeing with that negativity anymore, the more I’m noticing the beauty that exists in and around me. And the more I’m noticing the beauty that exists in and around me, the more I’m able to love the city I call home today and that’s Toledo, OH.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Highs And Lows Of Sponsorship

While sponsoring another in recovery can be a truly rewarding experience, it often can be a difficult thing to do as well no matter what the 12 Step program is. Over the years, I’ve sponsored quite a few men in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and have come to accept one thing, that there are both highs and lows in doing it.

While I believe the highs of sponsorship always far outweigh the lows, those lows can still be difficult to deal with. I believe the worst of them is probably when a sponsee overdoses and dies. I experienced this first hand back in June and it definitely was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to face in sponsorship. Almost just as difficult to deal with when sponsoring another is when a sponsee continues to relapse again and again. It breaks my heart each time I watch their disease drive them back out to their poison of choice and I have to continuously remind myself it’s never my fault. Far less painful, but challenging nonetheless, are those lows that can often happen during the daily interaction with a sponsee. Some of them include dealing with when a sponsee is dishonest, steals, is defiant, gives guilt trips, tries to manipulate, or makes excuses to why they haven’t done the homework given to them. Each of these things can be very frustrating when they occur, but even more so when a sponsee gets angry and resentful at their sponsor for showing them when they’re doing any of these behaviors. Sadly, many sponsees don’t like when this happens and will just stop calling and disappear, only to find out later they’re either back active in their disease or dead.

Thankfully, as I said before, the highs in sponsorship really do far outweigh any of these lows. If I were to list the one I believe is the most rewarding, it’s when a sponsee starts finding a connection to their own Higher Power. The whole point of all 12 Step recoveries is to develop this connection. Witnessing it first hand as it slowly starts to happen is actually pretty amazing. But it’s also just as amazing when developing a spiritual bond with a sponsee while doing the steps. I always feel like I make a soul connection to the men I sponsor and to me those bonds are priceless and unbreakable. Some of the other highs that can come from sponsorship include seeing a sponsee get their sobriety chips and medallions as their time in sobriety lengthens, being called upon for help by them in times of need, getting thanked by them during a heartfelt moment, and watching as they find their footing in recovery and start passing it on to others. But ultimately, it really is just a high in itself to be asked to be a sponsor in the first place and then to do all the selfless work that comes next as you guide them through the 12 Steps.

There is one last thing I’d like to mention that I think is very important when it comes to sponsorship. It helps to keep a sponsor clean and sober as much as it does the sponsee. That in itself is a perk of sponsorship, and on some level, I guess you could say it was a high as well. For all the times I’ve become down and out in my own recovery, working with any of my sponsees has always lifted me right back up and kept me focused on staying clean and sober.

That’s why I will continue to put my hand out to sponsor another as the more I’ve continued to do that, the more I find my recovery getting stronger. And the more I find my recovery getting stronger, the more I find myself growing closer to my Higher Power. And in the end, I believe that’s truly all that matters because it’s my Higher Power who really keeps me clean and sober every day. So while sponsorship in 12 Step recovery programs may always have both its highs and lows, I am extremely grateful for whenever I’m given the opportunity to do so…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Another Example Of How God Works In Mysterious Ways

Toledo, Ohio is my home now and I’m grateful to my Higher Power for bringing me here. I must say there still are some moments though where I really do miss living near Boston, Massachusetts and the other night was one of them. But ironically, what transpired that night was probably meant to happen exactly as it did because in the end it showed me another example of how God works in mysterious ways.

It all began with me taking a relative newcomer in sobriety to a recovery meeting last Saturday evening. This wasn’t a normal meeting I was taking him to though. I had decided I wanted to go hear the lead speaker at the Ohio State Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Convention, which was being hosted here in Toledo this past weekend.

Back in Boston, I usually annually attended the Massachusetts version of this conference with many of my recovery friends and I was very interested in seeing how Ohio’s was. Regrettably, given my lack of income in recent years, I’ve only been able to attend the lead speaker meetings during any of these conventions for quite awhile now. In Massachusetts, while it’s hoped that people would pay the registration fee even if they just came for those speaker meetings, there was always an unwritten rule that no one was ever turned away even if they hadn’t paid. I quickly learned on Saturday this wasn’t the case in Ohio though.

As I prepared to walk through the meeting doors with my newly sober friend who had only a few months under his belt, we were promptly told we couldn’t enter because we hadn’t registered. Even after I informed them of my friend being newly sober, I was told that Ohio’s AA convention didn’t have any unwritten rule like Massachusetts did. The bottom line was that if you hadn’t paid, you couldn’t attend anything including the lead speaker meetings. While I’m not sure if Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith would have approved of this policy, especially when a newcomer was involved, I immediately practiced acceptance with it all and apologized to my friend for not knowing. After I got back in my car to take him home though, my evening began to get even more interesting.

I suddenly received an urgent message on my phone from another local friend. He had been in a major accident where his car was completely totaled and towed away. Unfortunately he also had no way of getting home, which was close to twenty-five minutes away. So after I got my newcomer friend back to his home, I immediately went to help this other friend out. The fact is I know I’d want the same for me if I were ever in the same type of situation. Oddly enough, once I had him safely in my car and we were on our way, it started to rain. He then smiled gratefully and told me his Higher Power must have been working for him that day because I had been the only one who had answered and been available to help him out.

So while I may have been initially sad and a little embarrassed that I hadn’t gotten my newly sober friend in to see the lead speaker at that convention on Saturday, it seems as if my Higher Power had other plans for me that night. I guess that ago old saying continues to prove true in my life, as this was yet another example of how God really does work in mysterious ways.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson