Beyond the 12th Step of Recovery

Lately, with the world not ending on 12-21, but going into a shift for greater awareness and healing, I got to thinking about the 12th step in AA.

“Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

For those who are in any recovery based program, it is this step where one goes out into the real world and begins to try to make it a better place for not only themselves but more importantly for all others.

In the first part of this step, a person emerging from all their hard work within goes out and helps others who are still suffering from the same condition the steps helped them with. Whether it’s alcoholism, drug addiction, gambling addiction, overeating, smoking, sex and love addiction, etc, the first part of the 12th step is for those that have found recovery to go out and share their experience, strength, and hope to others still suffering from the throngs of their addictions.

But, I have found that the second part of this step is one that is often overlooked, “…and to practice these principles in all our affairs.”

What does that exactly mean? I wondered that myself for a long time.

When I finished the steps in AA, I thought the only actions of the 12th step were to reach out to the still suffering and sponsor them, offer them hope, get them to meetings, and go speak at places of recovery about my experience, strength, and hope.

There’s more than just that. Look at these words for a moment. “All our affairs.” Is the still suffering “all our affairs.” Is staying only in the arena of that addiction all that is necessary.

I compartmentalized the 12th step in my life and had my work with recovery and those still suffering and then I had the rest of my life. What I discovered is that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob had a bigger purpose in writing the steps. It was their hope that God or a Higher Power would become the center of a recovered person’s life and that upon their recovery they would emerge a new man or woman and bring more light to this planet in everything they did both inside and outside the halls of their recovery.

Sometimes it’s painful when I see someone speak at the podium or working with another because it’s those same people that I see when not in the recovery mode harboring resentments and being open about them, gossiping, throwing trash out their windows from their car, snapping at those on the highway that aren’t driving the way they think they should be, driving recklessly and endangering others on the road, swearing profusely amongst their friends, diminishing deep intimacy with sexual jokes and perversion and well the list goes on and on.

I only see this because I was guilty of all of those I just listed and more. Each of them was a part of me when I was living partially in self will and partially in God’s will. The point of the 12th step is to be a better God centered individual in everything one does in their life from their words, to their thoughts, and finally to their actions.

It’s my deepest belief that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob established a foundation for all of recovery based programs to have individuals become more spiritually centered in their whole lives once they were brought fully through the steps.

Back in 2008 with over 13 years at that time of continuous sobriety, I was on the one hand helping alcoholics and speaking in meetings about how great my program and life were and on the other hand I was in adulterous based relationships, driving on the highway at super speeds, watching vast amounts of pornographic material on the web at night, swearing at the drop of a dime, character assassinating people behind their back, and tearing apart my life from within without even realizing it.

“All our affairs” means just that. In every affair of my life from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed, I live today with God directing me in everything during those periods. I try to be courteous to others emerging in on roads and let them in ahead of me. I pick up garbage that is in parking lots and bring it to the nearest trash cans. I take shopping carts that are left in the middle of a parking lot to the nearest collector of them. I hold the door open for people behind me when walking into stores. I smile at those who seem to be having bad days. I do extra things around my roommate’s house that he might have on his list of things to do, so as to help him and his burden out. I surprise my partner with doing some of his chores to ease his day. I tell people that I’m proud of them when they achieve something even if its relatively small in their own minds. Sometimes I even buy people in line behind me their coffee’s and donuts. The list goes on.

There is much more that I can do and everyday I ask God to guide me how to serve His needs. Every day is different and every day brings new challenges to me. Sometimes my ego gets in the way. I’m not perfect, but I do try to do those things that even my ego says it doesn’t want to do for someone else.

All in all, I learned that just because one is a good speaker or a good sponsor in recovery, doesn’t mean that they are living the fullest 12th step they could be. Appearances are often deceiving. It’s my hope that I can achieve with every waking breath, a life of servitude to God’s needs and wants, as I know that I’ll be a far happier man in my life then any of the years where I lived in any amount of self-will.

If you have experience in any recovery based program and are out there helping others in your program, please realize that it’s just as important to reach out to the rest of the world in all your thoughts, words, and actions and make it a better place to live.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grudges and Resentments – Poison To the Soul

One of the things in the New England area that AA groups do are commitments. A commitment is when an AA group will go out to either another group or to a place of recovery such as a Detox, a jail or a halfway house. At those places, its members will share their experience, strength, and hope in their AA recovery. It’s part of the 12th step work of reaching out and helping others.

Recently, I had an interesting experience happen one night when my group was on the schedule to speak at a detox in Brockton, MA at a place called High Point. Sometimes groups get double booked, meaning two different groups are scheduled to speak at the same time. The normal process when that happens is for one person to chair the meeting and to call a mixture of speakers from both groups.

I made a phone call to the detox ahead of time to make sure my group had the commitment that night as a few times that’s happened as well with a group showing up that wasn’t on the calendar. To my disappointment, my group indeed that night was not on the calendar for some unknown reason even though we had it on our calendar. What was ironic though was that the group that was scheduled was my former home group of which I still had AA friends in.

One of its members was still a friend of mine, her name is Jen. I called her and asked if she was going to be there. Sadly, she was not, but she encouraged me to still go. Truthfully I had really been looking forward to the commitment that night as I had not been on one for quite awhile.

After some dilemma, I agreed with her and went. When I walked in there were two people I knew and two I did not from my former home group. Up in the front of the room were five chairs and four of them were occupied. A girl I knew out of the people there asked me if I was even part of their group anymore and I made a joke about not being sure where my home was lately. She laughed and then I told her about my group having been on the calendar and then suddenly we weren’t.

This is where the story brings up the title of this posting. Also at this commitment was a guy who I had known for several years. He is most often referred to by a nickname but for purposes of anonymity in this posting, his name is Darren. Having just seen him a few weeks before and sharing a good conversation, I said hello and he ignored me which I found odd. Then he slid his chair towards the wall as far away as he could get from me which I found even more odd. He was chairing the meeting and just before he was to begin I asked him what was up and why he was sitting so far away.

The only response I got was that he was just claiming his space. During the commitment I noticed he wouldn’t look my way at all and when I tried to talk to him silently during it he closed his eyes and ignored me. He proceeded to call the three people to my left that were members of his group first and then with 15 minutes still left in the meeting, he called me.

When the meeting ended the other three members said goodbye and it was nice seeing me and hearing from me and several of the women and men in the detox came up and thanked me for a God centered message. I went to say goodbye to Darren and he was already gone.

I’ve really tried in my life today with recovery to not take ownership of other people’s stuff. I’m far from perfect in this and can say there are still areas of unsettledness within me and insecurity when I know someone has an issue with me.

Two nights later, I showed up at this former home group for a beginner’s meeting. Darren was in the front of the room helping to set up. I went to talk with him and ask him what was up from the other night and he walked away. When I proceed to follow him into the kitchen in the church basement and ask him for a few minutes as I had a question for him, he said he had nothing to say to me. I could feel the anger seething from him towards me and yet I had no idea what it was about.

Then the topic that night was presented at the beginner’s meeting by the speaker. It was about letting go of anger and resentments. How ironic! I listened to each person that raised their hand and was called up. One of which was Darren. I found it interesting when he shared because he talked about how he was free of anger and resentments and how his program was working so well that he didn’t walk with the anger anymore in his life that he once had.

It reminded me of much of my own journey where I went into meetings and wanted to speak just to feel important. I would tell everyone when I shared how great things were in my life, how I was free from this or that, and yet deep down I was still that same angry and resentful person. In hearing Darren’s message I saw the mirror for myself on something that I did quite often in my life until I truly decided to turn over my will completely as the 3rd step says to the care of God.

It’s been about two weeks now since that night and I have come across his path a few more times. Each time he has completely ignored me. Last night was the most difficult as I was talking to two AA friends of mine and Darren was also talking to them and when he left he said goodbye to the both of them directly with their names and said nothing to me.

I really don’t know what Darren’s anger and resentment towards me is about. I’m not really sure why he’s ignoring me. I wish I did. The human side of me has thought a lot about every possible thing it might be and I finally just prayed and I’ve been praying. A pacifist by nature, I like everyone to be happy and joyful with each other and I don’t like feeling anger or resentments. They are poison within. They eat away at the soul. If I was to walk in a room of 10 people and 9 of them shake my hand and say they are happy to see me and one ignores me, guess what, I want to know why and the self-centered side of me wants to fix that person and make them talk to me or like me again.

I’ve been praying daily for Darren to be free from whatever anger or resentment he holds towards me. I send him peace, love, and light and hope that whatever it is will come to the surface and that he will share it with me. My recovery today has taken me to a place where I will own anything that I may have done to bring harm to anyone else on any level. And what I’ve learned as well in my recovery is that I can make the attempt to find out what it is by speaking with the person if I don’t know what it is. If that attempt is met with a conversation, then I listen with an open heart. If that attempt is met with avoidance as such with Darren, I’ve learned there is nothing I can do.

It’s frustrating on some level now for me because it’s like the “elephant in the room” when I see him. I go to say hello and then I realize he doesn’t want to talk to me for whatever resentment he’s harboring. I don’t want to hold anger, resentments, grudges or anything negative towards anyone today including him. My own will leads me to being angry back at him. God’s will helps me to let it go and pray for peace, love and light for him.

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be spiritually centered and God driven when I hold anything negative towards anyone. Where Darren is at is where I lived for most of my life. I am not better than him. I spent many years harboring negative thoughts and feelings towards people that I didn’t like for whatever my mind told me. Today, it’s not a way that I want to live and I’ve made a choice to live differently. I practice daily praying for those that I might feel anger or resentment towards. I also have a list of mantras that work around that same area and I do them each morning. It’s my goal each day to serve God faithfully and love all the people here on this planet, even those that I may not like how they are treating me.

I will continue to pray that Darren will find peace within himself towards whatever it is that has cause him to now ignore me. As much as it’s difficult for my wanting the whole world to get along and for everyone to like each other, the sad reality is that people aren’t there yet and that people carry those grudges.

To be filled with God’s pure light and be a beacon of hope and joy for everyone, all darkness, negativity, and toxicity must to be removed. I pray that one day Darren may approach me and talk about whatever he has been carrying negatively towards me, until then I turn it over to God and will pray for Darren’s happiness.

Peace, love, light and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

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