Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a time to be reflective on a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for the weekly prison commitment I’m now doing for my recovery program from alcohol and drugs.

Not too long ago, when a friend mentioned that the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) prison committee in the area needed support, I felt a push from my Spirit that it was time to take on a new responsibility in my life. The AA prison committee is such that it has people who volunteer weekly in bringing recovery meetings to where people are incarcerated. Up to that point, I had only ever helped to coordinate two or three prison meetings many, many years ago, as I had typically felt too uncomfortable doing them. Yet, something gently nudged me to reconsider this as a new part of my 12th step work in helping others and just over four weeks ago that officially became a reality when I, and one of my sponsees, brought a meeting into the downtown Toledo jail on a Monday night. Ever since, we’ve been doing the same at the beginning of every week and I have found an incredible amount of gratitude in continuing to do so.

Probably the biggest reason for feeling grateful in this new part of my recovery is the simple fact that it seems to be helping others. So far, there have been a considerable number of inmates who have been really moved by what my sponsee and I have shared. Somehow, our simple sharing of our experience, strength, and hope has helped to provide them a spark on their road to recovery from their own addictions. Quite a few have even gone so far as to specifically tell us how much we’ve been inspiring them and that is motivation enough to keep going back week after week.

Another important reason for feeling grateful is that I was able to walk through my fears of being in a locked jail amongst inmates. I think it’s pretty amazing anytime I face a fear in my recovery and to choose to walk through it instead of avoiding it. So, to enter this jail every Monday night, to lock my belongings up, and to pass through not one, not two, not three, but four locked wards to get to where we take the meeting, took a huge amount of courage to overcome all my fear surrounding jails and prisons. God definitely provided me that and now after having been there for a number of weeks in a row, I find myself actually looking forward to it, rather than fearing it.

Lastly, one more reason for feeling grateful with this new prison commitment is for the sheer fact that I’ve never been incarcerated myself. Honestly, with the number of things I’ve done in my life, I should have been. During my active alcohol and drug addiction days, I most certainly did behaviors that were illegal and I’m not proud of that. Vandalism being one of the biggest and becoming a kleptomaniac being the other. Thankfully, both ended when I became sober, but sitting in this jail for an hour or so every week reminds me of how many haven’t escaped their addiction, where the result has been stints of incarceration. I’m so very thankful I’ve never had to spend any time behind bars and on some level, taking this meeting into a jail every week provides a great reminder of just how bad my alcohol and drug addiction could get if I should ever think about returning to it.

Nevertheless, in just a few short weeks, I’ve found that bringing a weekly AA prison meeting to men who are hungry for a better way of life to be extremely rewarding, mind, body, and soul, and I pray for continued guidance from my Higher Power to keep bringing a positive spiritual message to all of those there who I know most certainly are in the desperate need of it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, where each week begins with gratitude from my life, which for today is for my friend Debbie from Massachusetts, someone who’s remained an active part of my life for over two decades.

I think it’s important to say right off the bat, that there’s only a handful of people who have stuck around the life of Andrew Arthur Dawson for 20+ years and Debbie is one of them, something I’m extremely grateful for given how volatile my existence was over the years.

I first met Debbie in October of 1997 when I was hired into Arbella Mutual Insurance in Quincy, Massachusetts to do Y2K conversion programming on a COBOL mainframe system. At the time, I actually resided in Virginia, just outside Washington, DC, and was looking to do a geographical cure, as my life there was totally out of control. I honestly thought back then that moving to another state would solve all my problems. Spoiler Alert. It didn’t. But that’s a story for another time.

Nonetheless, the team I was hired into at Arbella was led by Debbie and she became my day to day supervisor. From the onset, I really connected with her and truly enjoyed working on her team. She always had a good sense of humor and regularly took the time to connect with me, especially whenever she noticed I was feeling down. How Debbie and I went from being co-workers to friends though is another big reason why I’m grateful for her, and it’s actually quite a comical story.

One day, I came to work after having a huge verbal fight with my then partner and was beginning to realize that relationship wasn’t working anymore. Debbie saw how distressed I was and asked if I needed someone to talk to. I decided to take her up on the offer and we went into a nearby conference room. I wasn’t fully out of the closet back then, yet I finally worked up the courage to tell her the truth because I was convinced she was a lesbian and would understand my issues. As I sat down and began to out myself, telling her everything that was going on in my unstable relationship with my partner, I told her I felt comfortable saying all this because she was a lesbian. When I was done, she smiled and gently responded by saying she wasn’t gay, but thought I was attractive. I probably turned the darkest shade of red that day, yet she totally took it in stride and it became the very thing that would bond us for decades to come.

Towards the tail end of my brief time working with her at Arbella, we took a business trip together to Des Moines, Iowa, where I would experience a complete nervous breakdown on our flight back, as I had decided it was finally time to end my relationship with my partner. When she heard me crying profusely several rows ahead, she ended up moving her seat next to me and spent the entire flight offering plenty of comfort and reassurance. Shortly after that trip, I’d quit Arbella and do another geographical cure by moving back to Virginia, to the same vicinity I had just left about 10 months prior.

I’d remain in Virginia for the next 10 years, but Debbie and I never lost touch during all those years, even when I lived through one addictive mess after another. Always praying for me, always doing her best to lift me up, and always offering me many reassurances upon reassurances that God and she loved me unconditionally. Most people over those years gave up on me, but Debbie never did and anytime I’d take a trip back to Massachusetts to visit my sister, I’d spend a little time with her, reconnecting and feeling very grateful that she was still a part of my life.

In 2007, when I lost the bed and breakfast I owned, faced financial ruin, saw the end of an almost seven-year relationship, and had nothing left really to offer anyone, I moved again back to Massachusetts where I’d finally begin my path to recovery from a life of addiction. Debbie became a regular part of my life again after that.

Over the next seven years I remained in Massachusetts, Debbie opened up her home in Braintree to me, as well as her second home on Cape Cod, a place I found great respite in on many a weekend. I loved visiting her there, as there we’d go to the beach together, chat late into the night about so many spiritual topics, enjoy coffees and desserts at an awesome place called Hot Chocolate Sparrow, play some games, watch movies, dine out, and simply appreciate each other’s company. It was during this time that Debbie became family to me, something I don’t take lightly given how little family I’ve had in this life.

It’s been over five years now that I left Massachusetts, and I’ve only seen Debbie twice since then. Once, because she drove through Toledo and stayed with my partner and I, and once because I returned there last summer where I got to spend an afternoon and evening with her doing a whale watch and having dinner, both of which provided me lasting memories. Yet, even with the long gaps of time in between seeing each other, I remain close to Debbie, as she has offered me a number of consoling conversations over the phone on high physical pain-filled days.

In the end, as I reflect upon a woman I certainly have much to be grateful for, the thing about Debbie to be the most grateful for is simply this. She is one of those people who tend to see the best in someone, even when they’re at their worst and someone who never gives up on you, even when you may have already given up on yourself. I love Debbie for this and felt it was time to express some much-needed and long-overdue appreciation for a woman I hope and pray will remain my friend for the rest of this life…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, a time to reflect on something I have much gratitude for in my life, which for today is for a guy named Kyle, someone who’s truly a humble soul that definitely deserves some praise.

How I met Kyle began five years ago, when I moved my life to Toledo to live with my partner. It was then I immediately became active in my recovery from addiction because I know how important it is in my quest to remain clean and sober for the rest of this life. Back then I was doing a lot of speaking engagements at various meetings and my name was often passed along to others in the area, usually unbeknownst to me. One such person was Kyle, who was interested in something he heard through the grapevine that I had expertise in, that being with meditation. By way of a mutual friend, I eventually made his acquaintance at the sober living home where he resided at the time. It was there he asked me to help him in a guided meditation and soon afterwards, to take him through the twelve steps.

At the time Kyle asked me to sponsor him, I had never successfully taken anyone through the 12 Step program. I had sponsored many, but never made it past the fourth step with any of them. From the onset though, I had a good feeling that Kyle would make it through, as I could see he was a go-getter. He often went the extra mile to understand the things I asked of him to work on and constantly seemed to thirst for a better life.

Always open to suggestions and trying anything that might improve his spiritual life as well, Kyle took some early advice and ventured off to a men’s spiritual retreat for an organization (The ManKind Project) I had joined long ago, one that truly helped me on my own spiritual journey. His openness didn’t stop there though after that retreat, as he joined the men’s group I was already a part of, that was an offshoot of that organization. It was there he began to take a hard look within on what he ultimately wanted for his life. Shortly thereafter, Kyle completed the 12 Step process with me, which was such an incredible gift and something to be very grateful for, given my previous track record with sponsorship. But really, it is the transformation that Kyle would undergo after that, that has brought me so much gratitude.

You see, after his step work ended with me, Kyle soon began ridding his life of things that were unhealthy for his spiritual journey, including cigarettes and energy drinks, two things that many in recovery tend to turn to for comfort, especially early on. Then he began to get in physical shape, by eating healthier and working out regularly, dropping a great number of pounds in the process. A huge leap in his life happened next with him going back to school to get his masters in counseling at one of the local universities. When he eventually graduated, I got to see him take on his first major job in sobriety at the Salvation Army, where he began to counsel those in addiction crisis on a regular basis. As part of this amazing success story, Kyle’s journey to recovery even got published in a book series called “The Awakened Man”. Around the same time, Kyle also picked up guitar lessons and swiftly overcame his public fears by beginning to do open mic sessions at various coffee houses and restaurants, where he’d sing and jam to his favorite artist’s songs, that being Jim Croce. And presently, Kyle is pursuing yet another dream, which is to become a yoga master, as he has a strong desire to help teach others this spiritual practice, something that has helped his own life improve on many levels. There is no doubt in my mind that Kyle will complete this training and go on to help many others learn it as well, given how much he’s already accomplished for himself in such a short period of time.

The fact is, in just five years, Kyle has accomplished more than many people might ever achieve in a lifetime. He radiates a level of peace and contentment now that I continue to strive for myself. It’s such a beautiful blessing to know this journey he embarked upon began with God using me to teach him some meditation and the twelve steps. Never did I imagine though in my wildest dreams how far Kyle would be on his spiritual journey a mere five years later.

I am so proud of this man and can’t wait to see where his life takes him next. Gratitude most definitely fills my heart any time I think of Kyle now, as I’ve had the privilege to watch him begin his spiritual journey in a very tightly wrapped cocoon, one that he fought quite hard to make his way out of. Today, Kyle blesses the world as a very vibrant butterfly whose wings regularly flap through his recovery, through his music, through his counseling, through his yoga, and through so much more, and each time they do, countless blessings radiate outward to countless individuals, individuals just like me…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson