Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter in gratitude. For this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, I’d like to express my gratefulness for my friendship with a guy named Ronn Musser.

A few weeks ago, when I messaged my friend Ronn, I inquired if he was open to going and seeing this movie I had a desire to go see at the time. His response was one I didn’t expect because it showed nothing but unconditional love for me. He said, “I’d be open to seeing any movie with you.” He further clarified he just wanted to spend time with me and that it didn’t matter what we did.

You see that’s what I’ve come to know about Ronn, he’s that type of guy who isn’t interested in what he can get out of a friendship, he’s more interested in what he can bring to it, including just being present with someone he cares about. Ronn is far more about simply being there with his friends just because, rather than expecting it to meet one of his own interests.

It often seems like that far too many people these days make plans with others only when it’s doing something they want to do, rather than simply because they just want to be with their friend. When my health went downhill years ago, I felt like I became an outcast in this world because many stopped spending time with me anymore mainly because I wasn’t able to do much. My best friend Cedric was the first to show me otherwise. Eventually others came into my life who I could add to that list, which can now include Ronn.

I desire to have people in my life today like Ronn, who want to be around me because they just like being around me. That they love me for me and enjoy my company, not because of what I can offer them or what we are going to be doing together.

That’s why Ronn is such a good friend to those in his life, as he does care about the people he spends time with. He’s also an incredible listener as well and I often feel far better after spending time with him because I feel heard in life. That’s in stark contrast to many I’ve spent time with where I felt more invisible than not, and left feeling more down than up.

So, I’m grateful today for Ronn Musser continuing to remind me there are people out there in this world and in my life who do care more about just spending time with me than meeting one of their own selfish interests. It’s people like Ronn who are priceless in a world where so many pursue friendships out of selfishness rather than selflessness…So, thank you Ronn for being my friend…and thank you for those friends in my life like Ronn who have stuck by my side as well just because they care about me, no matter what.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another chapter in gratitude, which for this Grateful Heart Monday, I wanted to officially express my thankfulness for the ongoing reminders I continue to get from time to time from Source to keep doing what I’m doing in life for work.

I often find myself getting caught up in my head wondering if I’m even doing what I’m meant to be doing in life, mostly because it’s quite far from what I once went to college for and presently it’s only volunteer based. Having gone to a major university to earn a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems and working 10 years in that field, then engaging myself in the bed and breakfast/inn-keeping industry for 7 years beyond that, never truly enjoying either other than the money both brought in, I’ve thankfully chosen to spend the last decade of my life doing something far different.

Over the last ten years, I’ve immersed myself in what I believe to be a third career iteration, one that’s primarily in the addiction recovery realm with me simply donating my time and energy just to help others via my speaking and writing. Doing this specific work has been both exceptionally fulfilling yet totally frustrating at times, only in that I frequently find myself wondering if it’s even making a difference. It’s easy to think that way when I see so many relapses and deaths from addiction with such regularity and when so many of my speaking presentations and articles I write receive little to no feedback. Thus, I’m extremely grateful when I get those occasional reminders from others telling me how much what I do has helped them.

One came recently from a fraternity brother who heard my alcohol and drug story at the chapter house years ago who just never let me know until recently how much it had impacted their life back then. Another came recently as well from a reader of my blog who told me how much my words continue to make an impact upon their life due to my openness and transparency with what I’ve been through. Other reminders have come at times via the addiction centers I volunteer at where me simply telling my story of addiction to recovery has planted seeds I never even knew sprouted until I randomly ran into them long down their road of recovery.

I have really seen the truth that one never really knows the depth of the seeds they plant from their acts of freely giving of themselves in life. Even though my current work path isn’t one that’s income bearing, I continue to remain grateful, especially on this Grateful Heart Monday, to God for the ongoing reminders I receive that the work I’m dong now is important and is what I’m meant to be doing in life presently, as it’s not only clearly helping others, it’s also providing me far more fulfillment, something I can most assuredly say never did happen in either of my prior careers…

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

Expressing My Gratitude For The 30th Alumni Reunion Of NY Theta Phi Kappa Psi…

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the only expression in my writing to start my week off, which for today is for my 30th Alumni Reunion of the New York Theta chapter of Phi Kappa Psi at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT).

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my hope for this reunion as I was holding great fear surrounding my toxic past that affected my relationship with my fraternity for a long time. I’m thankful to report how blessed I felt from this reunion and how connected I felt afterwards, the following is my gratitude to the brothers who made this truly special for me…

To Geoff Taylor, a brother whose heart runs deep, whose love for helping others and being a servant of God was more than prevalent through the entire weekend, and for helping me to see more of the positive side of life, I’m grateful for you.

To Chris Kay, a brother who has never given up on me, who has always believed in me, always supported me, and the only brother who makes me smile for being the only one taller than me!, I’m grateful for you.

To Brian Uhlin, a brother who showed me I’m loved by God even with having the tainted past I do, I’m grateful for you.

To Mike Van Bruinesse, Jay Williams, Eric Harrington, Tom Rehm, Phil Farchione, and Don Derrenbacher, six brothers who gave me amazingly huge hugs when they saw me, who each offered me many words of love, connection, and encouragement, I’m grateful for each of you.

To John Finter, Rob Parada, and Seth Gitner, three brothers who have remained incredibly active in our chapter for all these years, we wouldn’t have the chapter we have today or even have a reunion if it wasn’t for each of you, I’m grateful for each of you.

To John Hamblett, my pledge brother who spent much of the first day with me, treating me to an Indian meal and a Starbucks, reminiscing and laughing about the craziness during our undergraduate years and pledging days (“It’s making me do weird things!!!”), I’m grateful to you.

To Joel Feldman, a brother I have come to know over the years on a much deeper level, sharing a bond I don’t have with most, who spent time with me over coffee and during much of the weekend, reminding me of the good times we had together during our undergraduate days, I’m grateful for you.

To Daniel Sarata, a brother who has most assuredly helped me remain connected to our fraternity just by reading my blog and maintaining contact with me, who took the time at the barbecue to open up to me as he always does, sharing from his heart, and introducing me to his very spiritual and inspirational wife, those tears I shed there with you both were real, I’m grateful for you.

To Matt Christen, a brother who came long after I graduated that I met at the 20th but really came to know at the 30th, who spoke great words of wisdom with me, made me laugh A LOT, who truly has the kindest of heart, (and someone I’m definitely coming to in a zombie apocalypse with all those special set of hunting skills!), I’m grateful for you.

To Justin Steinhard, a brother who reached out to me personally on the phone prior to even coming to the reunion, letting me know I mattered to him, who checked in with me at every single event to make sure I was ok, and who did an incredible amount of work to make the reunion possible this year, I’m grateful for you.

To Craig Pettingill, a brother who took the time to introduce me to all of our family tree at the reunion, for helping to coordinate a huge family photo that I will always cherish, for the number of connecting conversations we had there and since I returned home, I’m grateful for you.

To Andy Molinaro, a brother who’s currently our chaplain, who reminded me so much of Jim Harmon, our chapter’s first chaplain, for playing a game of pool with me at The Landing Strip when I needed a double’s partner, and for spending time getting to know me and sharing about his life as well, I’m grateful for you.

To Bryan Takeuchi, a brother I continue to find great inspiration in, in the energy he carries, in the fatherhood principles he exudes, for continuing to follow the musings of my blog, and for the deep moments of connection I got with him prior to the reunion’s chapter meeting, I’m grateful for you.

To JaJuan Webster, a brother who shared with me a big hug, who helped me feel very much welcomed and embraced at the first event, and for sharing with me deeply on your career aspirations, I’m grateful for you.

To Greg Springer, a brother who has a story as deep as mine, for your open honesty on all the trials and tribulations you’ve faced in life, and for the hard work you’ve put into this weekend and our chapter in general, I’m grateful for you.

To Mark Butts, and all the other brothers who tagged along in my car to events, each of you reminded me why I always loved spending time on the road with my brothers way back when, talking and listening to music, I’m grateful for each of you.

To Trevor McClenon, a brother who although we only shared a quick hello during the weekend, reached out once I was home via messenger, who reminded me that the work I do in my 12 Step recovery often has blessings I may never know of, and has talked to me at length several times already, I’m grateful for you.

To Wade O’Brien and Jack Kalina, two undergraduate brothers who led much of the coordination of this reunion, for their leadership in general, and for the friendliness I had each time I talked to either of you, I’m grateful for both of you.

To Peter Radman, a brother who took the time to open up to me about his upcoming work in Croatia while roasting next to that blazing bonfire, I’m grateful for you.

To Greg Villafane, one of the newest brothers in my family tree, who I believe carries a level of energy that is destined for true leadership and greatness in this world, for learning you come from Glen Cove where my father’s family was from, and for really going out of your way to get to know me in a big way, I’m grateful for you.

And for all the rest of the attendees of this 30th reunion who I hugged, shook hands with, spent time connecting with for the moments we did, no matter how brief, each of you are why I remain a loyal Phi Kappa Psi brother, I’m so grateful for each of you.

Brothers, I love you all and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to the 30th Reunion of the New York Theta Chapter of Phi Kappa Psi, to our fraternity in general, and to each of you…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Because I don’t tune into the news much, sometimes it takes me a good while to hear about newsworthy spiritual content that I’d really enjoy sharing with my readers. Today’s expression of gratitude on this Grateful Heart Monday is one of those that actually occurred a few years ago and deals with Derek Prue, a father from Alberta, Canada, and his then 8-year-old son Derek Jr.

When Prue noticed his son was constantly wearing a shirt whenever they were at the pool and learned it was due to his son’s self-consciousness and embarrassment with the large birthmark on his torso, Prue wanted to make a difference in his son’s life. So, Prue found a tattoo artist who could ink him with a very similar marking to his son’s, which ended up requiring over 30 hours of painful tattooing. While Prue received quite a bit of attention and praise from the news, friends, and social media surrounding what he did, he maintains the only motivation was to show his son how much he loved him unconditionally.

After I read the article about Prue and his son Derek Jr., I was deeply moved. Seeing the picture of Prue standing next to his son with them both proudly displaying their torsos and both grinning ear to ear, I looked for other examples of beautiful parental love actions like this. I was surprised to see a number of other parents did the same with actions that ranged from tattoos of their kid’s surgical scars to shaving their heads. All of this led me to thinking about one specific thing my father did for me before he died.

When I came out to my father in the summer of 1995, a time when sexuality was far more rejected in families than it is today, his response was something I’ll never forget. He told me that I could have said I had HIV and was dying of AIDS and that he would still love me unconditionally. Shortly after that he even joined a PFLAG meeting all to show his loving support of the new journey I had just embarked upon with my sexuality. While it was a rare unconditionally loving memory from my past with parents who were alcoholic and often showed actions saying otherwise, it’s this memory that I hold near and dear. This is precisely why whenever I give my 12 Step recovery presentations now, I ask who the parents are there. When any hands get raised, I make sure to always tell them the most important thing they can ever show their children is how much they are loved unconditionally and how proud they are of them just as they are. I’m thankful for that memory I have with my father, as I’m sure Derek Jr. is now of his father, because it’s that memory that will help a kid get through any moment in life they end up feeling unloved in a world that can often feel unloving.

So, I’m thankful to report on this story of Derek Prue and his son Derek Jr., someone I’m sure will grow up always remembering every time he sees his Dad’s chest now bearing the same birthmark as his own, how much he’s truly loved and embraced unconditionally. I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to all the parents like Prue who have done similar actions in their lives all to show their children they are loved NO MATTER WHAT…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in gratitude on this Grateful Heart Monday! For today, I wish to express my gratefulness for what I’m about to achieve in just a few days, God willing, and that is passing a huge sobriety milestone in my S.L.A.A. program.

For those who aren’t aware of what S.L.A.A. is, it’s Sex and Love Addiction, a 12 Step recovery program that works the same steps as Alcoholics Anonymous. Sex and love addiction is something I battled with quite a bit in my 20’s and 30’s. But thankfully, a few months shy of my 40th birthday, I finally began a true path of sobriety and recovery from an addiction that I felt did far more damage to my life than drinking and drugging ever did to me. And that’s probably only because the drinking and drugging part of my addition life spanned just six years, where I spent the majority of two decades living in toxic sex and love patterns.

Nevertheless, I’m just a few days shy of reaching my 10th milestone where I’ll have been free from an addiction that I know would still be there if it wasn’t for the S.L.A.A. program and God of course. By the grace of both, I’ve been abstinent from pornography, infidelity, romantic obsession and attachment, and promiscuity for a decade and I have immense gratitude for this.

This addiction is insidious and often beckons me back into it, especially when my partner and I have had those moments where we find ourselves on opposite sides of the boxing ring so to speak. It’s time like that or times when my physical and/or emotional pain have gotten the best of me where my ego tries to tell me that some of my behaviors with this addiction weren’t so bad back then and provided me more comfort than pain. If I didn’t have my S.L.A.A. 12 Step meeting on Monday nights, my sponsorship work in that program, a decent list of recovering individuals to connect with from that program, and a strong recovery relationship with my Higher Power, there’s no way I ever would have achieved a decade of sobriety with this addiction.

While I have zero desire to go back to drinking and drugging and haven’t really been tempted to do either in decades, I can’t say the same with my sex and love addiction. I think the truth behind that is that sex and love is inherent to a human being’s nature, especially touch. While a person can live without alcohol and drugs forever with no issues, it’s been proven that human beings require human touch. But that innate craving can become quite warped when that pit within grows deeper. My sex and love addiction began with the simple desire to be touched and loved, something I didn’t get much of at all growing up. The toxic behaviors that came out of my sex and love addiction all stemmed from that feeling. It may not have started out so toxic, but it eventually became that way the more I allowed it to control me. It’s why I remain so devoted to a program that plenty from other 12 Step programs haven’t understood or haven’t wanted to understand because many struggle themselves with these types of behaviors and aren’t ready to face them yet.

Regardless, I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to reaching a major milestone in my 12 Step recovery from sex and love addiction and thank the S.L.A.A. program and God for making that happen. Without both, I’m quite sure this addiction would have been the one to take me out of this world for good…but 10 years later, I can thankfully say I’m still here, doing my recovery, and heading into the next decade of sobriety from it and hopefully many beyond.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus on my writing to start each of my week’s off, which for today is for Sherman Kardatzke, owner of Not Just Rocks Lapidary Supply and sincere hobby enthusiast of precious stones, crystals, and rocks.

For those who see me with regularity, I tend to wear a lot of 18” crystal necklaces of many different varieties. At this point, I probably have at least thirty or more of them and that number only continues to grow with every year. While many may argue that crystals don’t really do anything except look nice, I’ve seen much of my health change incredibly just in wearing one of my necklaces and learned each of them carries specific healing qualities, with my favorite one being howlite, as it’s used to ward off and remove negative energy.

Nevertheless, for my first few years here in Toledo, a sponsee I had in recovery had a wife who repaired my crystal necklaces whenever they broke. She did amazing work, but sadly one day a few years ago she said she wasn’t open to doing that type of work anymore. When she had no suggestions for who could help me in the future with that type of work, I began having a pile of broken crystal necklaces grow, usually due to the cheap strings and/or clasps that were used to originally make them. Thankfully, last year that changed when I met Sherman Kardatzke at the Toledo Gem and Rockhound Club annual show in September.

Every year I tend to go to this show solely looking for new crystal necklaces to wear or precious stones to place around my home or to carry in my pocket. During this past show though, I decided to go with a different purpose, one that mainly looked for a merchant who could repair my growing pile of broken necklaces. Most of the vendors I met there weren’t interested in repairing them though and were only looking to sell what they had. And when a few did offer to repair them, it was for prices far higher than what they were worth. I was about to give up until I came to the last vendor table where I’d meet Sherman.

Outgoing, cheerful, upbeat, energetic, and an all-around nice guy, Sherman answered all my questions and offered to repair my necklaces for an affordable price. He said he’d even make them far stronger at that. I gave him one of my broken necklaces to start and he told me to come back the next day to the show where he’d have it ready. And sure enough, it was!

Ever since then, I’ve been giving him all my necklaces to repair where each have come back with far stronger wire and magnetic clasps. In the process, I’ve built a working friendship with Sherman and become very grateful in getting to know someone who’s vastly knowledgeable in this area of expertise.

Sherman lives in Adrian, Michigan, but comes to Toledo quite often to run the Toledo Gem and Rockhound Clubhouse, which isn’t too far from my home. There, I’ve come to learn a lot about an entire hobby I never knew much about and seen a passion in Sherman that is indeed special. Sherman has now saved a good number of necklaces in my collection and has even added to my collection with the creation of new ones I didn’t have.

So, I’m thankful for my growing connection with Sherman, for his knowledge with crystals, rocks, and precious stones, for his ability to repair necklaces I loved that I thought were broken for good, for creating new necklaces for me from other crystals I never had, and for him just being a good-natured gentleman who was more interested in sharing his gift with me at the start than in making me a sale. For all of this and more, it’s why I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to you Sherman Kardatzke, please keep doing what you do!

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

“Lunana, A Yak in the Classroom”, A Moving Testimony Of A Film About Where True Happiness Comes From…

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I share my weekly writing entry in gratitude. For today, I’d like to express my gratefulness for a 2022 Academy Award nominee in the Best Foreign Picture category titled, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”, a movie that is a moving testimony of where true happiness comes from.

“Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is based upon the true story of a young man named Ugyen (Sherab Dorji) from Bhutan who dreams of moving to Australia to pursue his dream of a singing career. Having completed four of his five mandatory years of training as a teacher for the government, Ugyen is tired of doing that career path and considers quitting, especially after getting his final assignment, which is at the most remote school of his country in the mountain village of Lunana. With a population of only 56 people and an eight-day hike to get there from the closest town, Lunana is the last place Ugyen wants to be at. But, after considerable urging by his grandmother to complete his last teaching assignment, Ugyen sets off on the journey into the mountains with two guides, Michen (Ugyen Norbu Lhendup) and Signye (Tshering Dorji). It’s overly apparent how at peace and grateful Michen and Signye are with what they are given from the land and the people who help them along the way, and how ungrateful and frustrated Ugyen is with his current life’s circumstances. It becomes even more apparent the difference in attitudes upon his arrival in the village where Ugyen is greeted with the warmest showing and unconditional love that should melt anyone’s heart, but all Ugyen can think of is how quickly he can turn around and head back home to the life he thinks he’s meant to be living. That all begins to change though when he meets a very young bright-eyed class captain named Pem Zam (playing herself), who somehow finds a way into Ugyen’s heart. “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” tells the wonderful story of how one young man ends up travelling what some say is the longest distance to travel in our world, that being from living in our minds to one of living in our hearts.

While I wrote the other day of how so many films and television shows these days seem to be becoming so dark and depressing, “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” stands the complete opposite and most definitely moved my soul. Having been filmed on a measly $300,000 budget in the actual remote village of Lunana where nothing but solar power exists and only when the sun is fully out, I was blown away at how real the film still felt. I learned the director wasn’t even able to review his daily footage because of his lack of electrical power. To have a film of this caliber shoot on such limited constraints and move me as much as it did says a lot. In contrast, many of these dark and depressing big studio films these days cost upwards of $50 million to $150 million. Nevertheless, on some level, this film felt so real to me that I actually thought I was watching a documentary about the life of these villagers!

One of the biggest reasons why I was moved so incredibly by “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” is how much I could relate to Ugyen’s spiritual journey to find himself. Having once been a big city kid myself who thought that having more meant a better life, only to discover that having less brought about far greater contentment in life, I saw strong similarities between myself and Ugyen. I also experienced plenty of gratitude for the villagers in this remote location who have learned to appreciate all of God’s beauty in each other and in the land around them.

In our society today, we often overlook the things that are beautiful right around us, like the bald eagle I would have missed seeing years ago, but thankfully saw in a farm field I was driving by the other day, who was just staring at me as I drove by. Instead, we often are constantly immersed in our phones and other technology, missing out on some of the best things to see that don’t cost a thing. Seeing the life of these remote villagers find happiness in just singing, communing, and supporting each other, I ultimately felt a ping in my heart by the end of the film wishing I could go spend a week with them.

I feel so many of us have forgotten in this world how to be thankful for what we have, even on the smallest of level, and “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom” was a great reminder of both that and how far I’ve come from the days where I once thought I knew were happiness came from, only to discover that sometimes happiness comes in just being with another and sharing with them a piece of my heart.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where gratitude remains the sole expression of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for a woman named Taran Chellis New, a real estate agent in the Tampa, Florida area for the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Properties Group, who truly was a diamond in a lot of rough for my partner Chris and I during our short five weeks we attempted to make a move for a potential job offer Chris received that ended up in the end being a bust.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks that came at the onset of Chris fielding this potential job offer was the lack of help we were given in the relocation process. The human resources department of the place Chris was to be working for didn’t offer anything in the way of financial assistance, yet promised they’d help at least provide resources when we came to Tampa for a week trip in place of our cancelled vacation to Cozumel. When we arrived in Tampa though, we attempted to reach out to the HR department to ask where we should begin our search, but we received no contact back. Because of that, I decided to ask our hotel manager, Emilee, for help. I figured she at least would guide us to something to start our search for a future place to live. She immediately got in touch with a friend of hers named Melanie who worked for the Berkshire Hathaway Group as well, who quickly put us in touch with one of their agents, Taran.

During the course of our week in Tampa, Taran made time for Chris and I in her busy schedule, even on such short notice. She took us around on two separate afternoons to see various homes for rent and for sale and even drove us through various towns outside the city to show us all the possibilities. We were provided a wealth of information from her, enough to help us limit our focus to the exact type of home we were looking for and a more precise location of where we wanted to live in the Tampa area. Even better, she got us in contact with a friend of hers, Earl, a mortgage loan broker, who got us pre-approved for a nice amount.

I was amazed at how friendly Taran was throughout it all, even in the level of stress I most certainly carried outwardly, and how she went over and above for two individuals she had never met who had no idea of where to even begin a search that felt mammoth to us. Even when we told her we probably wouldn’t be buying anything in the first three of Chris’s employment and that I’d be remaining back in Toledo during that period of time, she continued to go to bat for us, looking for rental options for Chris, sending us one lead after another.

Chris and I consistently felt welcomed in her presence and enjoyed all the time we had with her in person and over the phone during out week trip to Tampa. Taran was a true joy to be around and provided us everything that Chris’s potential new HR department didn’t. And while the whole prospect of a new life and new job in Tampa eventually fell through for us, Taran remained optimistic and said she looked forward to seeing us again, even letting us know she’d be opened to passing Chris’s resume off to her husband’s company for any potential leads.

In the end, while the move to Tampa and potential new position for Chris was one that didn’t happen, Taran was the bright spot through it all and someone we both promised we’d work with again if God were to guide us back there with another opportunity. So, Taran, thank you so much for shining through all the darkness Chris and I experienced during the five stressful weeks we had in this relocation process. You truly were a beautiful diamond in a lot of rough and while our move didn’t happen, you were the best part about it all and precisely why I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to you.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus on my writing, which for today is for going through all the pains, trials, and tribulations of my life the past ten years medication free.

For those who may not know this, I’m not against medication, I just choose not to use it anymore to cope with the general pains, trials, and tribulations of my life, as in the past, I used medications to cope with life and keep my numb. The result was the shutting down of my heart and generally not caring much about anything.

The last round of medications I was prescribed back in 2011 included Effexor, Ativan, Seroquel, and Gabapentin. All of it eventually led me to attempt suicide because I had become so numb inside to life itself. I vowed to myself in the spring of 2012 to start going through my life medication free unless an emergency occurred. I wanted to experience more of life on life’s terms. It’s been a hard path to undertake, especially on the many extremely pain-riddled days I’ve had and the countless days I’ve felt quite down.

Believe me there are plenty of moments where I think like many probably do, that I just want to take some type of medication to make my pain go away. Given I have an addict personality that doesn’t want to feel pain, it’s even more of a reason why I have chosen for years now not to medicate.

Last year when I had COVID for 24 straight days, I endured the worst of headaches I’ve ever felt in my entire life for about seven straight days, but I didn’t attempt to even take a Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, or anything of the sort. I just sat through it and that wasn’t because I was choosing to be a martyr. I chose that route because I didn’t want to allow my ego to convince me all over again that the only solution in life to cope with pain is through some type of pill.

There once was a time one would find me in one doctor’s office after another, day after day, week after week, month after month, seeking out medications to fix what I felt to be broken within me. My ego had convinced me that the only answer to solve all my suffering was to medicate. Sometimes I even think much of the hypochondria I’ve dealt with is simply my ego just trying to get me to go back to medicating all over again.

Regardless, it’s no small feat that I’ve gone through an incredible amount of stuff over the past decade and haven’t popped a single pill in my mouth, not once. How many days I’ve wanted to do so for quick relief is probably countless. But I know myself better than anyone else does, and the addict in me always wants to go back down that path all over again. The addict in me wants the only solution in life to be a pill to make all my pain go away. Why? Because the addict likes remaining numb to life itself.

I’m continuing to choose day after day to not follow the medication path because I want to remain living in reality, feeling what I need to feel, dealing with what I need to deal with, and healing in God’s time. I’m not saying I’ll never be on medication again and I’m also not saying medication is bad either. What I am saying is that I’m grateful to have gone this long without it when I couldn’t go a day without it just over a decade ago and I give all that credit to to remaining on this path thus far to my faith that God is the one who is guiding me through it all…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude remains the sole focus in my writing for the day, which for today is for my 10-year anniversary I just celebrated with my partner, Chris.

Honestly, it’s somewhat mind-blowing to me that 10 years have gone by since I first met Chris. Just over a decade ago now, we had our first meet and greet on a cruise to the Caribbean, which by the end of, we chose to become a couple. For two years after, we stayed in a long-distance dating pattern with me in Boston and Chris in Toledo, mostly because of me wanting to be sure I wasn’t following in any of my old toxic patterns in the sex and love realm of addiction. Eventually, God led me to move to Toledo to live with Chris and I’ve been there ever since.

For someone like me who played the field far too much throughout my 20’s and 30’s, and constantly struggled to ever settle down with any one person for a while, reaching this decade milestone is a rather amazing feat to me. What’s even more amazing is how my relationship with Chris has grown deeper and deeper the more we’ve remained together. I give that credit to God, my 12 Step recovery in SLAA, and remaining 100% monogamous through it all.

I can’t imagine my life in a relationship with anyone else right now except Chris. Chris has been my rock through many anxiety-riddled times, through plenty of health issues, and through countless moments where my mind got the best of me. I truly am grateful that I have a decade now with Chris and pray we have another decade and more ahead.

So, I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to a person who is such a beautiful soul and someone who has chosen to walk by my side through thick and thin, for 10 years now, even when I’ve often thought I’ve had nothing to offer. Chris, I am grateful you have stuck by my side for the past 10 years…I love you…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for a new show I’m watching, Bel-Air, on Peacock, a reboot of the original Fresh Prince of Bel-Air series, but a far more gritty and edgy version of it.

These days, reboots of old tv shows seem to be becoming more and more common. Shows like Dynasty, MacGyver, Magnum PI, Law & Order, and so many others have returned to varying degrees, some I’d consider decent reboots, while others I quickly lost interest in, remembering the older version as far more superior. Most recently, Peacock has brought back The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air thanks to a YouTube video of one person’s view of what the original show should have been more like. Rather than the show being a comedy like its predecessor, Bel-Air is more of an urban drama and one that really feels more real than the original ever did.

While my partner was a big fan of the original Fresh Prince series, I wasn’t. It was just too goofy and irritated me more than not, especially every time Carlton did that silly dance that became so popular back then. I generally quickly turned the channel every time the original show was on, and continue to do so even in its reruns, because it never felt accurate or real on any level to me.

There was a very brief period of my life where I did live on the inner-city streets of Poughkeepsie, learning much about a culture I didn’t grow up with. The premise of the original Fresh Prince show was about taking Will Smith out of the inner-city streets of Philadelphia when things got out of hand and sending him off to Bel-Air in California to his rich aunt and uncle’s place for safety. For many, that original series was one of the highlights of their upbringing, bringing them some much-needed laughter when it was on. But for me, it brought annoyance each time it was, because it didn’t portray any of what I saw in the friends or life I had during my brief inner-city days.  Honestly, it felt like it did a strong disservice to a culture I came to know.

In the new version of Fresh Prince though, more aptly titled Bel-Air to depict its originality, while the premise retains that initial theme of bringing Will Smith to a place of safety from inner-city trouble, there are subjects that are shown with much greater accuracy that the original never ever showed. Gang warfare, gun violence, drugs in high school, severe bullying, great family strife, and much more, Bel-Air is not a show for the light-hearted and looks nothing like the original, thankfully.

I’ve now watched almost half of the new season of Bel-Air and I find myself being drawn back into the life I once lived for that brief period each time the show is on. The main lead, Jabari Banks, as the young Will Smith is electrifying and very believable, as is Carlton (Olly Sholotan), who thankfully hasn’t done any silly dance in it as of yet.

Why I’m grateful for this show is simply because I feel that Hollywood often misrepresents cultures for the sake of gaining viewership. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air back in the 90’s had lots of viewers because it was goofy fun, but one I never felt connected to. The same can be said of a show like Modern Family that consistently type casted a gay couple as being overly flamboyant, something that annoys me incredibly because not all gay people are flamboyant.

I have grown weary of TV shows and movies that don’t represent what a culture is truly like, which is why I’m thankful on today’s Grateful Heart Monday for Bel-Air emerging this year with a fresh look and premise, one that feels far more real than its predecessor ever did…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series, where gratitude is the only expression of the day, which for today is for something that might sound a little odd, but it’s related to a very recent dental visit I had and a daily habit my mother brought me up with.

As a kid, my mother always made sure I brushed my teeth every single morning upon waking and at night before going to bed. I even had to blow air her way to show her my minty freshness to prove I had done my daily oral hygiene exercise, much to my irritation. In addition, she also often made me swish that original, brown-colored liquid Listerine in my mouth after proving I had brushed my teeth, which tasted oh, so, awful. Honestly, I hated doing both and never quite thought any of it was necessary. But, as an adult, it had become a well-established habit that grew to more of a daily obsession, especially when I started meeting plenty of alcoholics and addicts through my 12 Step recovery who had little to no teeth left and terrible breath. That’s when I truly began to feel appreciation for my mother’s upbringing with this daily habit.

These days, I tend to brush my teeth at least twice, and sometimes three times a day. I floss regularly after meals as well. And at the end of the night, I always use a whitening-based Listerine, which frankly tastes far better than the one I used as a kid! Considering that, I recently had my annual dental visit where they take that entire array of mouth x-rays and do the full cleaning as well. When the dentist came in at the end of my appointment, my heart was racing, as I always tend to worry I’m going to be receiving bad news given I do consume a daily sugary coffee. So yes, that idea of having a mouth full of cavities and possible root canals do occupy my headspace each time I find myself at my dental checkups.

In light of that, I’m grateful to report that the dentist, and even the hygienist, both reported nothing except flying colors for my oral hygiene. Even better was the blood pressure test they administered when my appointment began, as it was perfectly normal, something that frankly surprised me due to some high blood pressure issues I had a few months ago, that I now think was related stress and skipping my daily meditations.

Nevertheless, it always amazes me now when I meet someone who’s an adult that says they don’t brush regularly. That actually happened a few weeks ago when someone told me they brush infrequently and can go many days without doing so. They’ve already lost a number of teeth, which I’d think would motivate them to do the habit more regularly, but regardless, hearing this made me feel extremely grateful to my mother, who even in her alcoholism-based-state taught me some pretty darn good values to help me have a healthy oral hygiene as an adult and a full set of teeth.

Thank you, Mom, for teaching me this good habit as a kid that got engrained in me well before my adulthood. I have a healthy oral hygiene today because of you and I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you for having this good habit now and to my recent dentist visit that I passed with flying colors because of it.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series, where I continue to focus on expressing a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today stems from having lost my voice for a few days recently that made me realize during it just how much I need to be thankful for it.

Just about a week ago now, I was going through some type of chest cold that began with a pretty serious hacking cough when I suddenly started my voice. It frankly hurt to talk and led to several days where I wasn’t able to speak much at all. During those few days where I found myself listening more than speaking, I had a moment of hypochondria-based panic where I imagined a life where my voice was gone for good, which honestly overwhelmed me immensely.

Sure, I know that I could learn sign language to communicate if that were to ever happen, but with most of the world not knowing that language, I know it would seriously limit my ability to connect with many other human beings like I currently do, something I very much enjoy doing in life presently. I am more of a people person than not and truly enjoy human interaction. I have often thought that if I could ever have one superpower, it would be the ability to communicate in every language of this world. So, even the thought of potentially losing my ability to speak brought up fear.

I use my voice regularly in my 12 Step speaking engagements. A week ago, I spoke to almost 30 people at a detox where quite a few approached me afterward telling me how much my story of addiction to recovery moved them and helped them. I was thankful for that and feel God has given me a strong ability to connect with other human beings through my voice, which is why I don’t take my gift of speaking lightly and have often expressed gratitude for even the ability to do public speaking, something far too many struggle with. But to do public speaking, of course that requires having a voice to start with, and that’s something I never really put much thought to until I mostly lost my voice.

I have much compassion these days for people who don’t have a voice, who are deaf or mute, especially more so now experiencing even a few days where I wasn’t able to communicate effectively. My voice is something I’ve come to rely upon a lot in my life and never really put much thought or gratitude for.

So, I am extremely thankful to God today for having a voice and for my loss of it only being temporary, temporary enough that I was able to reflect upon this and realize how grateful I should be for a part of me that is crucial to my 12 Step recovery presently and to the life I’ve been living.

Thank you, God, for my voice. It’s something I never put much thought toward, that is until I struggled to have one for a few days, which is why I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to a part of me that You gave me so gratuitously.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where expressing gratitude kicks off my week in writing, which for today is for all those who have forgiving hearts, who are willing to do that hard work of freeing themselves from grudges and resentments and fully letting them go.

Holding onto resentments is probably one of the most toxic things a person can do on their spiritual journey in life. It benefits no one, especially themselves, something I came to know very well during the 12+ years I remained sober from alcohol and drugs but did little to change myself from the former life I lived of alcohol and drug addiction. During all those years, I harbored one grudge after another, looking at so many people, places, and things with total disdain, suffering immensely in the process. When I finally found the gift of the 12 Step recovery program and really worked it to the best of my ability, I learned how much the amends process that comes out of it is a gift not only for those I made amends with, but for myself as well. Forgiving others has brought out many blessings and healing to my heart and soul. It’s why I’m sad when others struggle to do the same with me, because it’s only making this world a darker place for both them and others.

When I recently made a serious attempt to connect with an individual who blocked me on Facebook many years ago, that had developed a resentment with me that I had no idea what it was ever about, they remained uninterested in working through whatever it was. This left me with that sadness I’m speaking of, because I know the freedom that comes through letting all those grudges and resentments go, no matter how big or small they are. Typically I’ve found that the people who struggle letting any of them go become very angry people in life, walking around in this world with an invisible dagger ready to strike at the slightest thing that doesn’t agree with them.

I truly have found such freedom in my life by not being this way. By learning how to have a forgiving heart and working diligently every single day to remain free of resentment, I have healed much of a heart and soul that felt pretty broken for plenty of years. This is exactly why I’m so thankful when others who’ve copped serious resentments with me have become willing to work through them and move beyond them. I have seen the gift it gives them when they’ve done so. There are several people in my life now who have done that very thing with me, who have moved beyond the anger they one held towards me and gotten to the core of what really matters, and that’s loving unconditionally.

So, I’m grateful today for having a forgiving heart and for all those who have the same as well, who don’t like to harbor grudges and resentments, and do the work regularly within themselves to let any of that go whenever it arises. The process of doing this daily not only frees oneself from living in bondage bound with so much anger, but also frees the world a little more from all the hatred that still consumes itself so greatly…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where gratitude remains the sole focus in my writing, which for today is for the loving connection I have now with my sister Laura and her children and the recent trip I was blessed with to see them where they live in Summerville, South Carolina.

It doesn’t seem that long ago where addiction had totally compromised my life, which included my relationship with my sister and her kids. Truth be told, I wasn’t a good brother to her or a good uncle to her kids when addiction was in full control my life. I made many decisions that put them second when it did, often skipping out on get-togethers and times when she really needed help or my nephews just wanted to spend time with me, and usually was only there when I needed her for something. The fact is, when any addiction is in control of you, even the most loving family and relationships tend to come second to engaging in the substance of the addiction.

It’s been almost 10 years now since any major addiction enveloped me. Now, my twin nephews Noah and Jacob are soon to be 20 years old and their younger brother Luke, 10. The idea of spending an entire week with them and my sister years ago when I was consumed by addiction would have seemed preposterous to my ego. But today, being able to do so, has really become one of the major highlights of my life. And this trip to see them was no exception.

After dining in some pretty wonderful local restaurants (Poogan’s Southern Kitchen, Bad Daddy’s Burger Bar, and Fuji Sushi to name a few), binging an entire new riveting series on Netflix (Archive81), watching a really uplifting movie (Sing 2), playing several fun card and board games (hearts, card dump, spoons, and Space Jam Monopoly), going to the Charleston aquarium, sipping coffee in downtown Charleston on the 2nd floor of an old bank that was converted into a Starbucks, having countless conversations that were both deep and funny, and getting to have some of my own personal time as well in the evening to relax in my Residence Inn suite where I meditated, reflected, worked out, talked to friends, and caught up on my own shows, I was blessed to have had such an amazing trip.

Many whom I’ve worked with in 12 Step recovery often worry they will never get something like this back. They fear it’s lost for good due to the pain their addiction inflicted upon others. I always tell them that the only thing they need to do is work the 12 Steps and find a Higher Power to guide them to becoming a more loving and selfless self. God truly has done that for me in my recovery from addiction and this January 2022 trip to see my sister and her family, where good times were intertwined with a depth of love I never once thought could ever happen again for me with them, proved that.

I am so thankful to God for making this trip possible, for the love Laura, Jacob, Luke, and Noah all have for me today, and another week’s worth of beautiful memories with them. And truly the perfect thing to dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday too…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series of my blog, TheTwelfthStep, where gratitude remains the sole focus on my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for continuing to write at least 10 things I’m grateful for each day in a private gratitude journal for almost 15 years now.

In 2007, when I initially began my path to recovery from addiction by going through the 12 Steps for the first time with a sponsor named Lorraine, I was told how ungrateful I was in my life with all that I had. I couldn’t see it at the time, nor could I fathom just how negative of a person I had become. Her first suggestion to change that was to begin maintaining a private gratitude journal for only my eyes to see that was dedicated to God for what I was grateful for at the end of each day. I began that in late 2007 by coming up with at least 5 things, that soon became 10 things, much of which has also become the inspiration for this Grateful Heart Monday series in my blog in recent years.

It’s easy NOT to have a grateful heart in this world with all the pain and suffering we seem to go through. It’s also easy to focus on all that we DON’T have rather than what we DO. I too fall into that sort of thinking from time to time, but can quickly remedy it at the end of every evening when I sit down and write out my list of 10 things I was grateful to God for that day.

Sometimes I struggle to come up with those things, typically on a day that’s riddled with chronic pain and mental and emotional frustration. But as soon as I quiet my mind and ego even a little, I always do find at least 10 things that I can be grateful for happening to me on any given day. For what initially began as a list of simple things like being grateful for the food, water, and shelter in my life, eventually became a long list of countless positive things that happened to me on each and every day.

Doing this exercise has truly shifted my mind incredibly, especially after writing out a list that’s well over 50,000 things to be grateful for throughout all these years. Because of this, I can easily identify now whenever I am falling back into a day of ungratefulness and know exactly how to start shifting myself away from that sort of thinking.

While this Grateful Heart Monday series is only written and shared with all of you once a week, practicing gratitude in my private journal happens every single day, year after year, and has done something to my heart that no other exercise has ever been successful in for me. I offer a sincere thanks to Lorraine, God rest her soul as she passed away long ago, for being that sponsor who once gave me such a good kick in the butt over my ungrateful heart, that it altered my spiritual path for the better ever since.

If you want to see a life that focuses more on gratitude rather than on all that’s wrong in this world, I encourage you at the end of each day to write out at least 5 good things that happened to you. Even if it starts out with you thanking God for the very breath you took that day, I promise you it will become something that will help you see the world far better than you ever have before, which is the very reason why I’m dedicating this ongoing private exercise for today’s Grateful Heart Monday.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole focus in my writing for the day, which for today is for all the effort my best friend Cedric continues to put into maintaining our long-distance friendship, matching my own efforts, that has kept our connection close for well over 24 years now, and for two others who continue to do similarly, that being my dear friend Dexter, and my sister Laura.

Maintaining long-distance friendships is tough. At least in my case I’ve learned that keeping one in a close fashion takes a lot more than just talking on the phone from time to time. Countless friendships in my life have fallen to the wayside whenever I’ve moved away, usually due to the lack of effort put into keeping them going. Out of sight, out of mind, is often what I think happens in these cases. While a phone call here and there does tend to stir my heart when I talk to a long-distance friend I haven’t seen or spoken to in a good while, it’s never been enough to help keep that bond feeling close like it once was when I lived close by.

Cedric and I have come to understand this over the years. To keep our friendship close, we have regularly scheduled phone calls with each other, usually twice a week, and visits to each other as well, usually twice a year. Ad one thing Cedric and I both do when we aren’t feeling up for a call on one of our regularly scheduled times is we immediately reschedule a make-up time, typically the next day or so. And when it comes to visiting each other, we alternate going to each other’s homes every six months, spending a week each time, as that has always been enough refresh our close bond.

I’ve tried to maintain other long-distance friendships similarly, but except for my dear friend Dexter, and my sister Laura, none have really seemed interested in putting much work into it, which has led to infrequent conversations over the phone and me feeling a growing distance with most of them. The fact that Cedric and I have maintained the closeness we continue to share for as long as we have is simply because we keep putting forth the effort to keep it going.

Close friendships, like any type of relationship, take a lot of work, and ours has definitely required much of that, especially in light of some of the differences in religious beliefs he and I have now. Yet, we continue to love each other dearly, accepting each other unconditionally, knowing the true bond that keeps us going isn’t really in our efforts alone, it’s in our devotion to God. As it’s God who has helped us overcome each of those ego-struggles we’ve had from time to time over the years, pushing us to go deeper within, which in turn has led to far stronger bonds and increased efforts to keep our connection spiritually growing.

One thing I’ve been very grateful about Cedric’s efforts specifically is his willingness to come visit me, even when my pain levels have been severe, when I haven’t wanted to do much of anything. He would tell you that his purpose of coming to see me isn’t for what he’s going to do while on his vacation time, it’s simply to just be with me, even if it’s only to sit around and reconnect. That effort alone is priceless in my spiritual book and something I’m extremely grateful for.

I honestly wish I had other long-distance friendships beyond him, Dexter, and my sister, with others who would like to talk to me weekly and see me each year, but I’m grateful nonetheless for the efforts the three of them continue to do with me, to keep our connection close, especially in recent years, where I’ve very much struggled with my health and feeling alone. Each of gone above and beyond to maintain a close long-distance connection with me, and for that I’m truly grateful on this Grateful Heart Monday.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always gets expressed in my writing, which for today is for reaching another annual milestone of maintaining this blog, a feat that continues to surprise me every year it arrives again, and for all those who continue to read along my spiritual journey in life as well.

I began this blog in the 2nd week of January in 2013 simply as a homework assignment to journal my life, past and present. I think the spiritual teacher who originally suggested I start a blog would be quite proud of me by now as I hit the ninth-year anniversary of keeping TheTwelfthStep going.

While there have been many moments I’ve considered shuttering this site and ending my writing due to having negative thoughts that maybe no one is reading my stuff anymore, I have occasionally received reminders that have helped me immensely to achieve yet another yearly milestone. I had one such reminder from a good friend in the DC area over the holidays who told me via a private message how much I’m doing a good service and how much of a good writer he felt I am. It truly was a blessing.

Ironically, this blog was never intended initially to help others, as it was more to help me get back into the habit of writing, something I had given up long before due to addiction. At first, maintaining this blog was easy, given the depth of material I had to write about from my life. But, over the years, after writing thousands of articles, and sharing countless unique quotes, questions, and even silly jokes, it’s become much harder to do so, as I’ve often felt repetitive. Yet, I’m reminded of something my spiritual teacher once told me after I began her assignment. She said there would always be someone new who would get something out of my writing, even if it was something I previously wrote about.

So, I trudge on, and will soon be approaching 3,300 published entries on this site, which if anything, truly is a major feat and something to be grateful for. Maintaining this blog for nine years shows I’m not a quitter, which is something my now deceased mother in her former state of alcoholism once accused me of from time to time.

While I may not be the most interesting writer in the world, or the least interesting, I have led a very interesting life and continue to do so, enough that I feel warrants me to keep writing and to keep being transparent with the world on TheTwelfthStep.

I’m filled with much gratitude today for sticking to this, for reaching nine years, for God helping me to find new and unique things to write about, and for all those who continue to support my writing by reading along with me, one day at a time. I love you all.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where I always express my gratitude for someone or something that has truly touched my heart and soul, which for today is for all those who brought happiness into my life this holiday season.

For my partner, Chris Falbo, who made plenty of special meals, gave me loving gifts including a new suitcase to replace the one I’ve been using for well over two decades, and who kept a positive attitude through it all even when I wasn’t, I’m grateful.

For my sister, Laura Curry, who always seems to find those unique gifts that simply seem to say, “I love you so much”, including a Marvin the Martian figurine (my favorite cartoon character) and a coffee mug whose picture on it summed up our friendship perfectly, I’m grateful.

For my closest friend in the world, Cedric Saunders, who came to visit me during the holiday season for a week, providing me many fond memories during our visit to Chicago and just sitting around and making each other laugh like we always seem to do together, I’m grateful.

For my dear friend, Dexter, for being there when I really needed some reassuring words, even in the wee hours of the morning, for understanding my pain, and getting me more than most people, and for continuing to refer to me as Boo Boo, while I with him as Yogi, I’m grateful.

For my therapist, Linda Smith, who helped me through all my pain and sorrow felt during this holiday season, always finding ways to lift me up when I’m down, and for being the unconditional loving person she is, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Michael Erskine, who thought of me with a special Carruth pottery gift and who spent much of this holiday season connecting with me in person over meals and movies, on video calls, and in funny texts and messages, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Judy Gordon, who took me to J’Alexanders for a wonderful meal, and continues to share with me on an intimate level I can really relate to, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Jewel Patterson, for spending a wonderful holiday meal at Real Seafood, sharing in laughter with both my partner and best friend, breaking bread, and giving me gift cards to one of my favorite hobbies (going to the movies), I’m grateful!

For my friend, Frank Murd, for sharing several holiday meals with me, including breaking bread on Christmas Day at the Motor City Casino Assembly Line Buffet, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Tom Benner, for being willing to work through a tough piece with me, for showing me the willingness to always keep trying, and for continuing to share your heart with me on a level I know you normally don’t with others, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Allen Collette, for sharing several coffees and meals with me during this holiday season, finding caring words to brighten it a little for me, and for simply being a good friend when I needed one, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Jym Shipman, for watching the Locke and Key series on Netflix at your house, for always making me burst out in laughter over his imitation of this kid on that show, and for his loyal dog, Jeepster, who always me smile over his vigor even during his final days, I’m grateful.

For my friends, Merle Peoples and Manny Portugal, for inviting me to their annual holiday gatherings, reminding me that I am remembered when it comes to that holiday party season, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Mark Heckman, for being his plus one at his dear friend’s wedding that took place during this holiday season, where I danced for the first time in years, something I never thought I’d do again, I’m grateful.

For my friends, Tim Wojtala and Roger Van Dylan, who broke bread with us at The Townhouse Restaurant in Detroit, where we laughed over the freezing wind hitting our table, one that got us a free amazing dessert that we all shared together, and for Euchre we played afterward and all the laughter as well, I’m grateful.

For my friend, Ronn Musser, for checking in on me from time to time, for providing reassuring words when I’ve been down, and the movies and meals we enjoyed together too, I’m grateful.

For my new friend, Mike Palumbo, whom I only recently met at one of those holiday gatherings, for being a very interesting person on many levels, for challenging my thinking and making me laugh at times as well, I’m grateful.

And for everyone else, who called, texted, and left me personal messages on Facebook, wishing me a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday, I’m grateful.

I love you all. Thank you for helping me through the most difficult holiday season I’ve ever had. I’m truly grateful for all of you on this Grateful Heart Monday.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to the last chapter of Grateful Heart Monday for 2021, where gratitude has remained the sole focus on my writing at the start of each week. For my final grateful entry of the year, I decided to express my gratitude for the main lessons I learned in 2021. I honestly believe that life is a constant learning lesson if we choose to see it that way. There are always opportunities for growth, and I most certainly experienced much of that in 2021.

For starters, one of the biggest lessons I learned is how much I’m a different person (and not in a good way) when I’m on high levels of caffeine. While I might find more focus and creativity with my writing after ingesting a good amount of coffee, I also find my moods become erratic, I get short-tempered, and I yell and argue more, especially with my partner. I’ve been staying away from caffeinated beverages for well over a month now, something that’s been extremely challenging, but rewarding at times, because I’ve had far more stability in not only my moods, but in my relationship with my partner as well.

Another lesson I learned in 2021 is that it’s ok to step back from a friendship that isn’t feeding my soul. I’ve gone the extra mile in all my friendships in life, but often have felt in some of them that it wasn’t mutual. I’ve held onto friendships far past their shelf life, often at my own expense, mostly because of childhood angst about always being friendless back then. This year I took a hard look at my life and made difficult decisions to stand up for myself and draw closer to those who made concerted efforts to go the extra mile for me and distance myself for those who weren’t. And I’ve felt very empowered by that.

Another big lesson I learned in 2021 as well is that not everyone’s advice is healthy for me and more often than not, especially surrounding my health, has only led to greater confusion and frustration. I’ve worked far harder this year to stop talking about my health with people I meet, something I used to do regularly, because much of the advice I’ve received has regularly taken me into troubled waters and away from trusting in my Higher Guidance. I’ve come to really see that I need to trust more on my Higher Guidance and Inner Guidance than in the advice I receive from others.

A lesson that continues to repeat throughout my life that manifested again in 2021 was about realizing everyone is on a different spiritual path, at different paces, and that’s ok. I definitely tried to push others this year, especially my partner and a few other dear friends, on their spiritual journeys only to see the horns come out of their heads. A brother of mine in my men’s group always says that I have a deep insight to other’s paths, but that I often present steps on their paths too soon, and with force, which is only ever met with resistance. Thankfully, I did much better this year backing away from this behavior and have had a far better relationship with my partner and a few of my friends because of it.

A final lesson I want to mention that I learned in 2021 deals with addiction overall. Quite a few difficult things presented themselves this year that challenged me so much I thought about acting out in addiction in several ways. In the end, this was something to be thankful for because it reminded me that I am still very much the addict and I never want to let myself believe I could go back to old addictive behaviors without consequences.

Each of these lessons, and a few others I didn’t go into but are just as important, are all certainly things to have gratitude for on this Grateful Heart Monday. I truly learned a lot in 2021 and quite assuredly will have plenty more to learn in 2022 with lessons that may repeat themselves and new ones that may come my way as well. I am grateful for the spiritual growth I’ve made in life thus far and look forward to the growth I make in 2022 as well.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing, which for today is for a recent trip to Chicago with my closest friend Cedric where I achieved over 10,000 steps, three days in a row.

On almost a last-minute whim before Cedric’s annual visit to Toledo, I booked a very affordable short trip for us to visit Chicago via Amtrak. (Airfare and driving were far more expensive overall.) As an aside, Cedric and I used to visit New York City in early December every year just to see the holiday lights and wanted to do something similar this year so we came up with this trip to Chicago.

We stayed at a relatively newer property there (StayPineapple) that was in good proximity to much of the things we had planned to see, which included the Macy’s holiday windows/Walnut Room, Willis Tower, Shake Shak, Millennium Park, Weber’s Grill, Magnificent Mile, ChristkindlMarket, Starbucks Reserve Roastery, Lou Manati’s Pizza, and the Shedd Aquarium.

Back in the day, I would never have thought twice about walking to all of those destinations when visiting a big city for a mini vacation. I used to walk the many streets of New York City in much of my youth and Washington, D.C. in a good majority of my young adulthood. But I am 49 now and laden with many health issues that I am not in control of, where most days feels like they are more in control of me.

Considering that, I am grateful to report that I had enough energy to push myself during this visit to walk to each of those destinations and a few others as well, getting to see much of the city with my feet on the ground rather than in a cab, bus, or subway. I honestly prefer walking in my life because I feel more connected to where I am at, than when on any form of public transportation.

When all was said and done, I was frankly surprised and very thankful for how many steps I had achieved, the hardest of which was on the final day there where we walked to the aquarium, almost 2 miles away. Add in our walk in the aquarium once there, I was quite spent by the end of our afternoon visit. Unfortunately, there was no public transportation in the immediate vicinity, and it was raining as well, so I just accepted the situation in as much pain as I was and walked back extremely slow. I had a good chuckle with God when I finally returned to the hotel that night. I was so thankful to be back only to discover as soon as we were that the hotel elevators had all broken down with no fix in site. Given we were on the 12th floor, I practiced acceptance and got a few last steps in.

Overall, pushing myself as much as I did on this trip to see all the sites on foot, I most assuredly paid the price as my body was very sore afterwards, But ultimately, I was very grateful for how much Cedric and I did enjoy our visit and for how many steps I did take during this trip, something I felt warranted another entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the only focus of my writing for the day, which for today is for the many places I’ve been able to visit on this planet thus far.

While the last few years I’ve struggled to travel due to my health issues, the fact remains that it’s a part of who I am and something I do enjoy immensely on a soul level. There was a time when I was travelling both inside and outside our borders quite frequently. Sadly, I never expressed much gratitude surrounding all those trips I used to take, which is why I felt today it was absolutely necessary to put a place marker on my blog for the thankfulness I have to God for how many places I’ve been able to visit around the world so far in life.

Did you know that statistically speaking, only 6 percent of the world’s population travels internationally and only 2 percent travels domestically within their borders? I was shocked when I learned those statistics after doing a little research, given how much of my life has been spent on travelling from one place to the next. That being said the following is a list of all the places I’ve been to and have immense gratitude for seeing:

United States – New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., Seattle, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Dallas, Austin, Detroit, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus, Nashville, Charlotte, Savannah, Atlanta, Charleston, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Key West, Orlando, Tampa, Las Vegas, and many others.

Canada – Montreal, Toronto, Niagara Falls

England – Leeds, Bath, Dover, Canterbury, Winchester, London, and Manchester

Belgium – Brussels

Holland/Netherlands – Amsterdam, Kinderdijk

France – Paris

Caribbean – St. Thomas, St. Johns, St. Croix, Jamaica, St. Martin, Hispaniola, Grand Cayman, Nevis, St. Kitts, Barbuda, Antigua, St. Vincent, Cozumel, Bahamas, Aruba, St. Lucia, Grenada, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Barbados, Haiti, St. Kitts, Martinique

Mexico – Playa Del Carmen, Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta

Guatemala – Guatemala City

Costa Rica – San Jose

Panama – Panama City, Colon

After recollecting and writing all these places down for today’s article that I’ve visited thus far in life, I realized I truly have a lot to be grateful for given how much I’ve seen and especially given how many I’ve met who’ve never even left the state they were born in. While I know there are plenty who’ve travelled far more than I ever have or will, I’m very thankful to God to have been given the ability to see what I have on this planet.

And, for a final parting thought in today’s Grateful Heart Monday, I hope to one day be able to write about future gratitude for visiting the following places before I die: Hawaii and Anchorage in the United States, Sydney in Australia, Berlin in Germany, Rome, Sicily, Venice and Pisa in Italy, Reykjavik in Iceland, Cape Town in South Africa, Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong in China, Tokyo in Japan, Cairo in Egypt, Agra in India, Seoul in South Korea, Singapore City in Singapore, Bangkok in Thailand, Geneva in Switzerland, Stockholm in Sweden, Oslo in Norway, Dublin in Ireland, Edinburgh in Scotland, Madrid in Spain, Athens in Greece, Lisbon in Portugal, and Bora Bora in the French Polynesia.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole focus of my writing, which for today is for my recent vacation with my partner Chris to Tybee Island and Savannah, Georgia, two places neither of us had visited before in any of our worldly travels.

I’m always amazed at how different and unique every city, town, and well, just about every square inch of this country and world seem to be whenever I visit a new part of it. So, when my dear friend Michael invited Chris and I to attend his late November wedding in the Savannah vicinity well over a year ago, I was ecstatic because both Chris and I had always wanted to visit that part of the country. Because of it, we planned an entire vacation around it, booking a condo on the oceanfront on Tybee Island, which is the coastal area just outside Savannah.

Our drive was split up into two days getting there, given it’s almost a 14-hour drive. When we first arrived in the area, it was dark, but the one thing I noticed as we drove through the city on our way out to the beach was all the Spanish moss hanging down from the trees. I had always seen pictures of it, but truly it was a site to behold, especially because it lives symbiotically with the trees it’s on, never hurting them. The second thing I noticed were all the gas lamps flickering on all the old buildings we drove by. For a minute, it almost felt like I had stepped back in time to the 19th century and earlier. All of which was a stark contrast to when we finally arrived at our modern condo situated directly on the beach’s edge on Tybee Island where the lull of the ocean surf and the healing energy of the saltwater air seemed to invigorate my soul. After an amazing first meal at the Sundae Café on Tybee Island and a good night’s sleep, our vacation truly began with the wedding itself the next day, which was held at The Ford River & Field Club in Richmond Hill, Georgia.

This wedding by far was the most amazing spectacle I’ve ever been to, not only because of its incredible location right on the Ogeechee River and the history of the place itself, but also because of it feeling like I was constantly on the set of some big Hollywood romantic movie. With foods matching much of the local customs and music doing the same from a well-known group called The Fabulous Equinox Orchestra, which reminded me of either Michael Bublé’s or Harry Connick’s bands, I really felt immersed in a new culture I had never experienced before. Most weddings I always seem to leave as soon as dinner is over, but this one I stayed almost till it ended, which says how amazing it was for me. Over the course of the next five days after the wedding, I had much to be grateful for.

On the first day, it was for a visit from my nephews Noah and Jacob who drove down from Charleston, SC to see me, two people I hadn’t seen since well before COVID even began. Together, we all dined at Paula Dean’s Creekhouse, visited the Wormsloe Park where Forest Gump broke out of his leg’s shackles and ran down the mossy tree-lined street, and had ice cream at the world-famous Leopold’s where we waited well over 30 minutes, but was more than worth it.

On the second day, we visited Tybee Light where I climbed its 178 steps to the top and had the most pristine view of the entire island. I’m so thankful I’m not afraid of heights to enjoy moments like that. After the climb, we took a tour around an old fort nearby, then caught a showing of Ghostbusters: Afterlife at an AMC theater in Savannah where we opted for the “Big D” experience, which felt like I was immersed in the film, and finished the day having a great pepperoni, cheddar, sausage, and green olive pie at Lighthouse Pizza on Tybee Island.

On the third day, we took a trolley tour around Savannah, with an extremely funny and boisterous guide who taught us much about the cities history, some that astounded me, and some that saddened me, mostly due to the roots of slavery and racism that once were readily present in the area. Dinner that night was uniquely different from all the prior meals in that we opted for Indian food at the Himalayan Curry Kitchen. I must say it was some of the best I’ve ever had and some of the spiciest as well!

On the fourth day, I took a 2 mile walk on the beach alone, mostly for meditational purposes. While it challenged my health, it was rewarding because it truly helped to ground me and bring me closer to Source with my feet planted firmly in the sand feeling the cold water lap up under them. Later that day, we explored some of the unique shops on the island, including T.S. Chu’s, a place that has been there for more than 84 years! We dined at Spanky’s after that and drove around many of the local streets once we were done eating, just to see what homes looked like in the area.

Our final day was a Thanksgiving meal at Paula Dean’s Lady and Sons Restaurant, which served us so much food, we had to take our dessert back to the condo. To work some of it off, we walked the streets of Savannah for a good while and ended up in Chippewa Park where Forest Gump sat on the bench waiting for the bus.

Truly, overall, my visit to Tybee Island and Savannah, was beautiful and enriching on many levels. I felt more connected to Chris than I have in years and could actually see us living in that area someday. Sitting on the balcony with him listening to the tranquil ocean sounds on our final night there with the bright moon shining over the water was probably the most peaceful I’ve felt with both him and within myself in a long time. Beyond the culture, the foods, and the fact that the people there were very friendly, something I often feel is lacking in the Midwest and even in the Northeast where I’m from, the trip had much to be grateful for, on many levels, ones I will always remember probably for the rest of my life and ones I dedicate to today’s Grateful Heart Monday.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of gratitude for Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for something simple that I am quite proud of doing successfully, which was a slight bit of bathroom plumbing.

But before I talk about that though, let me set the record straight, I am totally not the Bob Villa type on any level. Any home project that needs to be done other than rewiring a stereo system or home computing is generally beyond my expertise. And any type of urgent matter at home such as a plumbing issue, forget about it. My thought is that there’s always someone just a phone call away that can help. Except that wasn’t the case on a Sunday evening during my week of vacation on Tybee Island at the condo I was staying in, when a bathroom sink suddenly got seriously clogged up and nothing was going to be done about it by management until the next day.

For whatever the reason, maybe it was sheer boredom or outright curiosity, why I attempted to fix that sink was beyond me. Regardless, I attempted the obvious first by pouring a lot of hot water down the sink. Of course, that didn’t work. I then went below the sink and undid a clasp that released the drain plug. After pulling it up and out, I found a skinny piece of plastic in the condo that looked like an old blind pulley. I shoved it down the hole and tried to see if there was anything lodged up. I then ran some hot water again but forgot I had left that hole exposed below the sink where that drain plug got screwed in. A rookies mistake I know. I had water everywhere to mark the occasion. After screwing it back in, the sink still wasn’t really draining other than an extremely slow trickle.

Normally at this point, I would have given up and said well, I at least tried. This time I didn’t do that, as I was determined to fix the clog. It’s then I noticed this s-curve pipe below the sink had two “thingies” I could unscrew that would release it. Yes, I did call those plumbing parts “thingies!” LOL! Unfortunately, I forgot to place a bucket below, not knowing water was in that pipe I took off. Ugh, another rookie mistake! Because as I pulled that piece off, a ton of water and stinky water at that, went everywhere, along with clumps of black goop and God knows what else. It had definitely been clogged in at least one spot that’s for sure. Before I did anything else though, I had a big mess to clean up first. After doing so, I found a plastic wastepaper basket in another room and placed it under the drainpipe so I wouldn’t create a third big mess! I then cleaned that piece I took off, reconnected everything I had taken off, and ran the hot water again. Water came out of one of those “thingy” areas. Obviously, I hadn’t screwed it on right. By this point, I think I had dedicated a good hour already trying to fix this bathroom sink. When all was finally reconnected successfully, the sink drained far better, but still wasn’t fully draining the way it should. The final step, when all else fails, USE SOME DRAINO! And wouldn’t you know it, after leaving some of that in there for a good while, running some hot water, and doing it again for a second time, the clog was fully gone, and I had a normally functioning bathroom sink again.

I know this minor repair may sound silly to most. But, for a guy like me who truly struggles with all forms of home improvement, and normally has people do stuff like this for me, this was such a huge achievement for me and something I thought I needed to mark the occasion by sharing my gratitude about it and dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday to me becoming Andy the Plumber for a brief, but successful moment, in my life.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday where gratitude continues to be the focus of my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for something I tend to think many of us in the United States often take for granted, which is having ample access to potable water.

Whenever I’m thirsty, I have countless choices here in my home to quench it, water being the most prevalent. My fridge has a filtered water dispenser, I have multiple sinks in the house where I can get clean city water, I always keep several 12-packs of flavored soda water on hand, and usually a few cases of 2-liter bottles of Smart Water as well. Add in the fact that I also have a nice hot shower to keep myself clean every single day, I generally never think about all those out there around the world who struggle just to get any water at all.

In one of the latest published facts from WHO and UNICEF, it is said that globally more than 785 million people do not have access to at least basic water services and more than 884 million people do not have safe water to drink. This alarming fact came even more to light to me when I was at a Lauren Daigle concert in Toledo a week ago. There, during an intermission, a guy came on stage and talked underprivileged children from Kenya who needed sponsorship. One of the things the speaker mentioned was how these children and their families in Kenya were taking their sweat-soaked shirts and squeezing the water out of them just to get any sort of moisture back into their bodies during some of the drought-stricken times! And some of the local villages have to walk over an hour just to get to the nearest well for drinking water!

After hearing this, I truly felt spoiled and ashamed of how good I have it when it comes to simple things like this. It really made me grateful for something that is so easy to take for granted.

So, on this Grateful Heart Monday, I’m wanting to express my gratitude for having always had access to water my entire life and never going without it on any level, from drinking to cleaning, when so many around the globe struggle to get even a few drops of it on many-a-days…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I continue to start each week off with a slice of gratitude from my life, which for today is for something a close friend of mine said to me recently about a certain trait of mine, one that only developed because of all my 12-step recovery work.

Before I mention what that trait is that my friend said he appreciated so much and touched my heart, leading to this very piece of gratitude, it’s important to note that I once was a very untrustworthy person, who gossiped incredibly, and always got mad when people didn’t open up to me, never once looking in the mirror as to why they weren’t.

Considering that, a few weeks ago as I dropped my friend Lee off at the airport after his visit and had just given him a hug goodbye, he told me that while he wasn’t the type of person to ever really open up to people, he felt safe and comfortable doing so with me and that I was a person he believed he could talk to about anything, which said a lot for a guy like him, who truly is more of a listener in life than a sharer.

When I think back to all my active days of addiction, I never would have heard those words from anyone. Because most people saw how I went from person to person sharing things originally said out of confidence to me. Sometimes those private things made their way back to the person who shared them in confidence with me and even then, I’d make excuses, saying something like “I didn’t know it wasn’t meant be shared” rather than owning my character defect and doing the work to change that toxic part of myself.

If there is one thing that I know about myself today, it’s that I’m not that person anymore. Rather, I am a trustworthy person. I have had many people over the past decade during these hardcore years of recovery work share very deep things with me because they’ve seen my 12-Step dedication to being a spiritually healthier person. I’ve become a repository of sorts now of people telling me one thing after another that they wouldn’t ever tell another living soul. Sometimes it’s hard to hear some of those things, but I give gratitude to God for being a person now that people can come to and open up with about things they probably wouldn’t ever do with any other individual.

So, I’m grateful today on this Grateful Heart Monday, for Lee reminding me of that. I’m thankful to be far more of a trustworthy individual nowadays and that I occasionally have people like Lee who remind me of this, as it truly does show that 12 Step recovery works.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains my sole focus of my writing, which for today is for my friend Lee’s recent visit to see me for a few days over 2021’s Halloween weekend.

My friend Lee and I go way back to the years when I once lived in the Washington, D.C. area. We used to bowl in a league there together and were also part of a very fun board games group that met once a month. Over the past 10 years, I’ve only gotten to see Lee for a friend’s funeral in 2018 and a few hours for dinner and coffee on a recent trip to DC. I truly miss him and my other close friends from the DC area and wish it was easier to see them more regularly. Nevertheless, when Lee said he was open to visiting me here in Toledo, I was ecstatic, not only because I haven’t been able to spend much time with him over the years, but also because most of my long-distance friends aren’t very keen on visiting this area. I often think if I lived in a place like Tampa or some other city with lots to do, that I’d probably have more of my friend’s visit. So, my first piece of gratitude is for Lee’s visit coming to fruition.

The second piece really deals with all the things we experienced together during Lee’s visit that I wanted to recap in today’s Grateful Heart Monday, as this blog is as much of a diary of my life as it is a daily column for the world to read too.

I’m truly thankful for the time Lee and I spent in Detroit’s Greektown with dinner at the Golden Fleece and getting pastries from Astoria Bakery, for the dinner we had at the Public House in Monroe and seeing the new film Last Night In Soho, which was phenomenal, for a day trip we took to Crane Creek State Park and Marblehead Light House, where the waves were close to 10 feet on Lake Erie, for lunch in Marblehead at The Galley, where our waitress there Beth was so kind, even though she had lost her husband a few weeks prior, for the hug she and I shared where I felt God’s presence, for the many coffees we had at a number of Starbucks, for the day trip we took to Frankenmuth, which is an authentic German village where we shopped at Bronner’s (the world’s largest Christmas store), had an early dinner at Zehnder’s, shopped in some local stores including my two favorites (the country store with penny candy and the mammoth cheese shop), for a lunch we had at Tony Packo’s, for Lee getting to meet a few of my friends here including Tony and Jym, for a few good scares we shared on Halloween night watching the new Paranormal Activity movie on Paramount Plus,, and for receiving Lee’s kindness and gentleness through it all, a trait he’s always carried from the very first day I met him.

I’m truly grateful to you Lee, for being my friend for over 20 years now and for coming to visit me here in Toledo over Halloween weekend 2021, which is why I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in gratitude on this Grateful Heart Monday! Today’s piece is dedicated to the wonderful reminders I’ve had over the past year of why I don’t drink or take drugs anymore in life.

Every year when my annual sober milestone date passes by, I write an article in gratitude surrounding the occasion. Yet, after a recent episode where I spent a short period of time with several overly drunk individuals, I really found myself being overly grateful why I continue to remain clean and sober from alcohol and drugs for as long as I have. I decided I was so grateful about it that I wanted to write another piece of gratitude on it.

All of this emanated from stopping by a friend’s house recently who was entertaining a few guests. There I witnessed behaviors I once did myself long ago during my addiction days. One individual at this house approached me and asked me in a drunken stupor if I smoked weed. After that, he walked around the house flirting with everyone and doing his best to be the center of attention. I watched another leave for a bit and go drive under the influence, then return as if there were no concern for doing such a thing. Seeing both of these behaviors brought back into mind another recent episode where I was confronted by a drunk/high individual who was so out of his mind, he threatened to hurt me just for saying hi to him. Not too long before that I was also the recipient of one of those “I love you so much!” drunken statements. And of course, I shouldn’t forget to mention the act of violence I saw from someone under the influence when they threw a candle at another’s vehicle because of how angry they were. But honestly, I can’t judge any of those actions because I once did all of them and worse.

When a newer friend in my life who really doesn’t know my past addiction behaviors repeatedly started offering me alcohol over subsequent visits, I finally got honest on my last visit and laid it out to him as raw as I could. I told him that if I drank again, that the drink he was offering would lead me to cheat on my partner, lose my sobriety, feel shame about it, so much so that I’d probably attempt to take my life, I then asked if that was worth it to him to keep offering me a drink. He finally understood got the point.

The fact is, I don’t ever want to drink any alcohol or consume any drugs in this body again. I’m a sick addict who’s truly in a good recovering place in life these days and I’m extremely grateful for that. I’m even more grateful for these reminders I continue to get in this Toledo neck of the woods that help me quickly flash back to the alcoholic and addict life I once lived.

I don’t miss those days where I consistently walked around in drunken stupors, saying stupid things, acting stupid in general, and always landing myself in some sort of trouble. I’m truly grateful to be free of a disease that I know would have taken my life eventually if I had remained on that path.

So, I’m thankful for all the drunken and high individuals that continue to cross my path, who always remind me each time they do, why I gave the consumption of alcohol and drugs up long ago. I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart for each of them, as they truly do help me remain on my clean and sober path, one I pray to never step off of ever again…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday. It is said having a grateful heart can help shift one’s energy to that of feeling bliss and joy, which is why I continue to practice this daily in my grateful journal, as well as in this blog, by writing weekly about a piece of it from my life. That being said, today’s piece of gratitude is dedicated to a recent visit here in Toledo from my dear friend Dexter, a person I never thought I’d ever see in person again.

To put it bluntly, I once broke Dexter’s heart by leading him on and using him for my own gain. I was spiritually broken and sick at the time and did that to him, as well as many others back then. It wasn’t until I went into a 12 Step recovery program (SLAA) to address this. There I saw how toxic I had become. That was 2011, which was also the last year I saw Dexter.

We had visited the Outer Banks together back then with a few of his close friends. The trip was mostly a disaster all because of how I was acting. I was very deep in a love addiction with a married individual at the time and had no idea just how much I was hurting Dexter in the process. Yet, Dexter being the guy he always has been, loved me anyway, until the pain became too great in his heart because of how I was treating him.

Ten years have gone by ever since then. I’m amazed at how fast time flies sometimes, as it seems like just yesterday that I was at the beach with Dexter in the Outer Banks. Sometimes I wish I could back to then and treat him the way he deserved. Over the past ten years, I’ve worked hard to gain his friendship and his trust back. While he’s forgiven me, he was never willing to come visit, because the pain in his heart remained. I honestly thought I’d never see him again and was always going to be limited to phone and video calls. I was even grateful for those, so when Dexter agreed to come visit me here in Toledo and meet my partner Chris, I was ecstatic. All the way up to the day of Dexter’s flight, I can honestly say I wondered if he was going to follow through with the trip. After all, the pain I caused him was immense and I know how difficult it was going to be for him to see me with Chris given the feelings he once had for me.

I consider myself blessed that Dexter got on his flight that day and followed through on a promise he made to himself to come see me again. Seeing him 10 years later, giving him a hug, and spending quality time here in Toledo reconnecting has been so important to me. I think Dexter and I will always have a heart connection and I pray to never hurt that again in any way, shape, or form. Breaking bread with him here, sharing coffee, laughter, visiting a museum, watching TV shows and movies, and just sharing a few days of his life in person with him was the best gift I could have ever received from a guy who has worn his heart on his sleeve from the day I first met him.

I’m grateful to you Dexter that you took time out of your busy life, braved your heart, and spent time with me again. My gratitude is immense over this, both to you and to God for making this happen. I may never be able to erase the pain I caused you all those years ago, but I can at least say today, you are an amazing man who shines brightly in his own unique way, and I’m blessed to remain a part of that and still walking part of my spiritual journey in life with you, both from afar and in person. Thank you for this trip, Dexter, it meant the world to me.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in gratitude. Today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to finally standing up to a bully, something I was never able to do throughout my childhood and much of my adult life.

Getting bullied was one of the earliest PTSD-based experiences of my life. I first experienced this during my grammar school years where I got picked on regularly all the way up into my senior year. Being pushed down, getting tripped, books knocked out of my hands, ears flicked, spitballs hitting me, hearing daily taunts and the like, my childhood was a constant blur of being bullied. The only reason why it ended in my senior year was because I became a chameleon of sorts by blending in with what everyone else was wearing and doing. Unfortunately, the pattern came back in my adulthood with frequently becoming the butt of other people’s jokes and allowing friends to control me through their anger. Rarely have I stood up to a bully with any sort of force or defiance, that was until just recently when I was doing my routine yardwork outside.

There’s been a lot of yardwork this year due to all the weird weather we’ve had. Diseased leaves have been coming down in droves since late June/early July and a local nursery told me that I needed to get them picked up as soon as possible so as not to allow the transfer of the virus on the leaves to other trees. Because I had the free time, and given it’s been a positive focus to channel all my health frustrations into, I’ve spent many hours outside everyday with either a leaf vacuum, a shop vac, or a leaf blower, making my yard, the two neighbors next to mine, and the street around my home quite immaculate. While most of my neighbors have been appreciative of my OCD work effort, one neighbor hasn’t and recently began yelling at me about the noise I make. Ironically, prior to his very first outburst at me, I’d frequently hear him angrily shouting and being verbally abusive to his wife and kids. I was always grateful to not be the recipient of that. That changed one day when he came storming out and told me he couldn’t hear his tv and enjoy his marijuana. I had erroneously assumed he had been appreciative of my cleaning off his driveway and apologized, telling him I’d no longer step foot on any of his property. But that wasn’t good enough for him, as he told me I had no business cleaning up the street around him either. Why I’ve done that is because all the debris tends to come from his direction and blow into the yards I maintain given how close all the houses are to each other in my neighborhood.

The very next time I cleaned the street up again, I was just about done when I heard over the music in my noise-cancelling headphones and the noise of the equipment I was using at the time, his angry voice shouting in my direction. I did my best to ignore him because honestly, the guys scares me. He carries guns, has been in fights before, lost jobs repeatedly due to his outbursts of anger, and always seems to be yelling at something. I tend to slink away from people like him in life, but this time for whatever the reason, I finally stood my ground. As he approached me and got in my face, I said I had every right to keep the street clean because it was public access, and I wasn’t hurting anyone. I verified that with the local police who informed me I only needed to respect the 9am to 8pm noise ordinance and not step foot on his property, neither of which had happened during this incident. He told me he was going to call the police and tell them I was disturbing the peace and said he was also going to get his hose and spray me and cut my electrical cords to my equipment if I did it again. I told him to do what he had to and that I was going to keep doing what I enjoyed doing. I told him to go pray and close his windows the next time I was outside doing my work, of which he responded angrily that I was a “total piece of sh$$” and walked away.

Deep down, I know this guy’s anger and bullying tactics isn’t really about me at all. Most bullies become that way because they were bullied themselves, usually by a parent growing up. I’m done catering to bullies and living in fear over people like him. I am going to continue doing my work outside, including cleaning up the street, because it’s not harming him or anyone, it’s just making me a magnet for him to project his own misery onto. That’s what bullies do and I’m truly grateful I finally stood up to one in my life and I plan on calling the police if this ever escalates again.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the sole subject of my writing for the day, which for today is for reconciliation and reconnection with two people in my life.

All too often in our world, ego-lines get drawn, grudges are made, and friendships divide because of it. Two of those happened in my life over the past year. One with a friend named Jason and one with a friend named Mike.

While I believe all conflicts that arise in a friendship have two sides, I’ve come to learn that it is my spiritual journey in 12 Step recovery to always own my part and never point the finger or place blame solely upon the other. Unfortunately, addicts, even those in recovery for a long time like me, still have the tendency to do this from time to time, not wanting to own our own part in some conflict.

When Jason and I had a falling out over a year ago, my ego took over, thinking I knew better for Jason, then Jason knew for Jason. I was wrong for that and eventually realized over the year we didn’t speak that I’d been doing that behavior with him long before the dividing event. After repeated attempts to contact Jason once I understood this, I finally showed up at his job with a peace offering, one of his favorite coffee drinks, and a sincere amends for the part I played in our division. I’m grateful to say that Jason and I are now speaking again and mending the path that was broken, one I feel could have been avoided if I had just kept my ego in check.

As for my friend Mike, while we have struggled from time to time in our differing opinions on several subjects ever since I first met him, the one that became the polarizing event between us was the one that dealt with vaccinated versus unvaccinated people. Sides got drawn because of this intense discussion, which led to three months with not a word spoken between us. In my recovery from addiction, I’ve learned it’s best to at least try to find a higher ground and overcome pride and ego. I did that with Mike by messaging him one day and saying I was open to talk and that our friendship still mattered to me. Thankfully, he did call, and we spent an hour getting honest and open with each other, where the result was our friendship getting a chance to move forward again, rather than not at all.

I honestly believe at the root of every conflict amongst loved ones is pride and ego. Sometimes pride and ego can lead to long periods of silence, silence that can last forever if never addressed. It’s why I’m grateful I overcame my own pride and ego to reach out to two people I do care about and love, to begin the process of healing with two friendships that truly do matter to me.

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