Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, a day where I reflect on a piece of gratitude that I’m truly thankful for, which for today is for finding Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center here in Toledo, Ohio.

How I came to find Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center began with my therapist some time ago. After observing my long struggle here in Toledo in finding and connecting with those who actually have a desire to talk about God, Christ, spirituality, and everything in between, and who also DON’T use the Bible as an absolute, she suggested I don’t give up my search.

My problem was that I’ve faced so much opposition in my life with too many places of worship where my sexuality was negatively viewed as a sin. Add in the fact that my partner has felt for some time that all religion was poison and there wasn’t much of a push by either of us to find any type of spiritual home any time soon. In other words, I didn’t quite feel motivated to take any new action. Yet, thanks to the easy access of the internet on my mobile phone and the ease of Google, I decided one evening out of boredom to search one last time for a spiritual place of worship here in Toledo.

For the life of me, I can’t remember the exact combination of words I searched for in that moment, but the first result that appeared is one I had never come across before, that being Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center. I’ve done many searches in the past here in Toledo, and never once did this place ever come back in any of them. Why it appeared this time around, I don’t know. Maybe I was never ready for it to become a part of my life or maybe my life wasn’t ready to become a part of them any time I had searched prior.

Nevertheless, what convinced me to check them out was what appeared in their mission statement on their website. It read as follows: Angel’s Landing is an independent Spiritual Center. Our journey together is based on the teachings of the “Master Teacher,” Jesus the Christ. We focus on lessons from Scripture as well as the wisdom of many other enlightened teachers who have graced us with their expressions of this Divine Love. There are no “religious” limitations of our exploration, discoveries or enlightened choices. We come together drawn by the Power of God expressing through, and as, each of us. That is why our community is called, “Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center!” For some reason, those words really connected with my Soul and I felt this push from within to stop in one Sunday. So, when I finally decided to go, thankfully, my partner opted to attend as well, a decision I didn’t take lightly.

We really didn’t know what to expect when we first walked through the door at the end of this business plaza on an exceptionally warm and sunny February Sunday morning. I was pleasantly surprised when we were cheerfully greeted as soon as we entered, by a woman with extremely bright and cheerful energy, someone who also told us how accepted and loved our relationship was by her, and someone who made sure to help us feel right at home. It didn’t take long for a number of others in attendance to demonstrate the same warm welcome as well.

I never once felt out of place during the hour-long service, which was definitely one I enjoyed immensely, mainly because it didn’t follow the usual Sunday morning worship format I had come to loathe over the years. You see, I’m not a fan of that all rise, all sit, read this, read that, sing this, sing that, listen to this, listen to that, and well you get my point. Thankfully this service felt very much different. And by the end of it, when all of us drew together in a circle of friendship and sang “Let There Be Peace On Earth” hand in hand, I felt something I haven’t felt in a long, long time, that being a spiritual family. Even better, we got to break bread with them afterward, as they always do a potluck each week once the service is over.

But, the biggest piece of gratitude I have for Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center actually deals with my partner. I have felt quite spiritually disconnected from him in the past year or two and often considered the part that was missing in our relationship was worshipping God together. When he opted to attend the service with me, I honestly figured he’d go and say afterward it wasn’t for him, yet the exact opposite happened. During it, he reached for my hand a number of times, something he’s normally not comfortable with and something I’ve been praying for a long time now. And when the service ended, it was he who said he definitely wanted to come back before I even had a chance to say the same.

So, I have a lot to be grateful for when it comes to Angel’s Landing Spiritual Center in Toledo, Ohio. After being unconditionally loved and embraced there, moved enough to start regularly attending, and feeling a long-standing prayer had finally been answered with my partner and I, I’m very thankful for finding this beautiful place to worship, as it’s now become a wonderful part of both my spiritual journey, as well as my partner’s.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, a day where I reflect on a special piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is with how money doesn’t control me like it once did, something I saw quite clearly on a trip to a local casino recently.

My family wasn’t poor or rich by any means growing up. We were very comfortable though and never went without. I got to go on some pretty cool vacations and was flying on planes for them from a very early age. I got to dine out at some seriously classy restaurants before I could even appreciate them. And I often received presents that kids could only dream about. Basically, I grew up with a family that had enough money to afford some nicer things in life.

When I ventured out on my own after college though and landed my first job at $34,000 a year back in 1995, I quickly realized through all my bills and responsibilities that the life I grew up with wasn’t the one I was going to be living out on my own. That changed though over the next decade after losing both my father and mother and receiving inheritance money. From the moment I did, I was off and running and that money buzz was on.

I couldn’t get enough of it and was constantly looking for ways to get more. My father was a gambler and often gambled much of his money in stocks and other fast money-making ventures, of which many never panned out. He liked to go to casinos too, where his drive there was definitely addictive in nature. While gambling in casinos was never one of my main addictions, more of a side one I occasionally did from time to time, spending money loosely on the dumbest of things most definitely was. The biggest one being the bed and breakfast I bought for my last partner, of which I completely lost a number of years afterward.

Nevertheless, after losing the bed and breakfast, I started to see how much money I had thrown away over the years. It was then I’d enter for the first time in life a time period where I wasn’t able to generate income, where I wasn’t able to live lavishly anymore, or buy whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, that is unless I wanted to put myself in debt.

At first, I was angry and resentful about this, especially because it coincided with the onset of all the health issues I still continue to face. Yet, as time went on, my view of money completely changed. I realized how much it had ruled my life. I realized how much it had controlled me. And I realized it had never brought me any true happiness, only temporary, like so many other of my addictions.

In light of that, I haven’t seriously gambled on anything really since I experienced the major financial loss from that bed and breakfast. I have occasionally stopped in a casino once or twice a year though, each of which always being precipitated by the desire to hit the buffet for a meal. This is of course, the reason why I found myself with my partner at the Motor City Casino in Detroit just over a week ago now.

We love the buffet there and it’s probably the best one I’ve personally eaten at on this side of the country. At least twice a year we’ll make the one hour drive there mostly to have a bountiful meal, and from time to time, to also spend an hour on some slot machines with a few dollars in hand. For the serious gambler, especially the addict kind, there’s no amount of controlling the time and money spent once on a casino floor, that is until they have no more money left to gamble. While I’ve never succumbed to that level of gambling, I’m still extremely cautious and never go to a casino alone for this very reason. Some would say I shouldn’t even play a few dollars on slots ever, yet in all honesty, I still once in a blue moon do, only to provide a healthy reminder why I don’t like to gamble in the first place.

Regardless, during those brief moments of watching some bars go round and round, hearing those bells, whistles and other loud noises, my old self did wish I’d win big. Yet, ironically the part that won, was me actually losing that little bit of money I brought with me, if that even makes sense. Because ultimately, winning big would have probably only driven my ego back into a thirst for having more money, something that was most definitely a dead-end. I know my old self after losing would have gone to an ATM and gotten more money to gamble, all in the hopes of trying to win big or at least get my money back. I’m thankful I didn’t do that and instead, appreciated the fun I had for the moments I pulled the levers alongside my partner.

So, as I dined at the buffet afterward, I felt a lot of gratitude that my life wasn’t being driven anymore by gambling or any other quick money-making scheme. And as we drove home from the casino, I was grateful as well with the realization that money doesn’t rule my life now. Instead, what does is my quest to find true happiness and joy from within, to like and love myself unconditionally, and to draw as close to God as I can…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s Grateful Heart Monday, where I begin my week writing about an important piece of gratitude in my life to start things off on a positive note, which for today is for how I recently handled something that could have triggered me straight back into the worst addiction I ever succumbed to.

Everyone knows how easy it is to come across explicit images on the Internet these days. It doesn’t take much to mistype the URL of a website you might normally go, one that’s definitely far from anything X-rated, when suddenly pornographic images start popping up all over your screen. To make matters worse, places like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and even Reddit seem to be allowing content these days that is NC-17 or worse. For a guy like me, someone who’s recovering from a sex and love addiction for a number of years now, it’s almost as if I have to navigate a mine field on a daily basis just to do any research on the web for my writing. Thankfully, I’ve been able to steer pretty clear from it all, because I’m no longer out there specifically looking for it and any time those images happen to pop up on my screen accidentally due to a mistype, I’m strong enough now to quickly close the window.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other temptations that come my way, as one actually did a few weeks back that I never saw coming. I was having a discussion through Facebook Messenger with a friend who’s partnered that I thought was in a monogamous relationship. Quite abruptly, in the midst of a very healthy conversation, I received a picture of him with his pants down far enough to see very noticeable and rather excited genitalia showing. I was appalled and shocked to say the least, chiefly because the person is someone I was just getting to know and also someone that although I found attractive, I had been keeping very healthy recovery boundaries in place. Nevertheless, I quickly deleted the picture and was about to respond irately, when I received an apology and was told the picture had been meant for someone else he was talking to. Regrettably, the trigger was still out there and gnawing at me to engage, where my old self would have asked to see more and probably ended up in a cyber sexual conversation. But, the strength of my program and connection to my Higher Power was strong enough to accept his apology and end the conversation shortly thereafter. Later, I’d make a few phone calls to friends in recovery from this addiction to help remove any lingering unhealthy thoughts surrounding this. Ironically, a number of those I called wondered if maybe that X-rated picture wasn’t an accident and was more of a come-on.

Regardless, things like this can happen in recovery for any addiction and may set a person down a very dark road all over again if they don’t have a strong spiritual program in place. I’m grateful that I did and my sobriety and recovery is still intact. I truly feel God helped me through an incident I’m not sure I would have been able to remain sober earlier on in my sobriety from this addiction. This is why my recovery from sex and love addiction is so extremely important to me, given how much it used to control my very existence. In the end, I have much gratitude to God and all the 12 Step programs for this addiction that have helped me to build my recovery up as much as they have for me to continue remaining clean and sober, even when such a triggering event came my way.

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