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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the only expression in my writing for the day, which for today is for one of my friends, Tony Mattoni, and the good he does for so many.

The first time I really began to appreciate Tony was when I was at a Christmas gathering a few years ago. After the dinner ended, I really wanted one of my favorite holiday treats, a Peppermint Mocha Latte from Starbucks. He offered to drive me there and subsequently treated me to it. It was a nice gesture that I’d come to know over time in getting to know him that it’s just what he does for everyone.

If there ever was a person who’s willing to literally give the shirt off their back to help another, it’s Tony. While I’ve only been a part of his life for a short time, I’ve been around him long enough to see he truly does exude this trait. In fact, one day he was wearing a really cool pair of socks that had my favorite cartoon character on them, Marvin the Martian. I complimented him for them, telling him of my love for the Warner Brothers figure. He actually asked me if I wanted them and was willing to take them off, wash them, and give them to me! I didn’t take them of course, but it most assuredly was a beautiful trait about him that he’s simply just a giving type of guy.

In general, there are givers in this world and there are takers, but Tony is most definitely the former. Being a recovering addict, I’ve had to work hard to move from being a taker to a giver, as there were countless years of my life where I took more than I gave. That’s one thing I can say I’ve never seen when it comes to Tony, as he seems to be a care giver at heart and I think he would have made an incredible nurse in another life!

Nevertheless, Tony is also the type of guy who fronts the bill at every meal dined out, just because he likes doing so. He very much enjoys treating those eating with him and seeing their happiness because of it. I’ve tried several times to pay for some of the meals we’ve had together, which rarely goes over well because it’s honestly just something he likes to do and says he was raised to do so. I believe that, yet I do my best to still get him special coffees at Starbucks from time to time, because I personally struggle when anyone pays for me constantly. I don’t ever want someone to think I’m using them because I did do that far too much in my old active addict days.

Regardless, one of the most endearing traits of Tony is that his home is always opened to stop by and there’s typically a homemade dessert sitting on his counter for his guests to enjoy, as well as plenty of beverages to go around too. Every time I walk into Tony’s home, I feel extremely welcomed and I’ve seen others in his home feel that same way as well. He makes his home such the inviting place!

Beyond that, Tony is a great listener, an affectionate person with loving and caring touch, and even goes out of his way to feed stray cats off his back porch, which really makes me smile given I’m a cat person. I’m grateful Tony has become a part of my life and appreciate him for all that he does for me and so many others, which is why I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday to my dear friend Tony Mattoni.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always marks the occasion, which for today is for having a trait in my life now that I never used to have, one where I appreciate and hold onto things until they finally break, rather than always looking to acquire those “shiny new things” in life.

In all honesty, I’m actually amazed I’ve become this way in life. I truly do hold onto things now for as long as they will keep on working for me. My cell phone, computer, headphones, tv, necklaces, clothing, my car, you name it, each are considered so old by now that no one would question a decision to upgrade any of them.

My iPhone is from late 2015. My laptop is from early 2014 and my desktop is from 2016. My headphones are a 2017 pair from Bose. My television is a 55” Sony from 2014.  Most of my clothes and jewelry are many years old by now as well. And my vehicle is a 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid.

People who’ve known me for many years can’t believe how long I hold onto things now. Because the person they remember is the one who was always getting the latest technological advancements on a constant basis. I once was that guy who would stand in line for hours for the latest iPhone. I was also that guy who sported a new wardrobe all the time. I was even that guy who kept trading out one car after another, always finding a reason to justify why I needed a new vehicle.

Believe me when I say the ego will always find a way to justify getting those shiny new things in life, even when the things they’re replacing are still working well enough. My present iPhone is the greatest example of that. My cell phone is almost considered obsolete by now, at least according to Apple standards. They plan on supporting it for one final year beginning with this month. Yet, it still works just fine for me. It makes calls. It sends and receives text messages. And it surfs the web perfectly fine. Sure, there are many cell phones that are blazingly faster these days with plenty of new features that often beckon my ego. I have friends who seem to fall for that sort of thing almost every year or every other year, constantly sporting the latest in mobile advancements. But I’m ok having my bulky and ancient cell phone from 2015 because it represents the new me, as the old me is someone I didn’t much like at all. The old me had to constantly have those new things all the time, because it was a status symbol, an ego booster, and a way to make myself feel better. But when you go down that path of consistently getting those new things, it becomes a never-ending cycle that leaves you always wanting more and never fully fulfills you from within.

There’s something to be said to hold onto older things that are still working but may just be a little slower and less technologically advanced. And there’s something to be said to even be wearing clothing that isn’t the latest fashion trend either. What is it? It’s that I know what is on the outside of me isn’t what matters. What does matter is the heart within me, the one that cares about people, and not things. The one that wants to be generous and kind, rather than selfish and always consumed with having those shiny new things.

My motto today is to keep holding onto things until they break, and if they can’t be fixed for an affordable amount, then it’s finally time to upgrade. When I recently thought it might finally be time to do that very thing with my iPhone 6s Plus because the charging port wasn’t working right anymore, I opted to take it to a shop called “UBREAKIFIX” in Perrysburg just to see what the problem was. Come to find out a piece of mulch from my gardens had lodged its way into the port itself, preventing it from charging correctly. Go figure. $30 later, my phone was back to working just fine, at least according to an ego-less standard.

So, I’m grateful to not be consumed anymore with having those shiny new things. And I’m grateful to not be coveting physical things like I once did. When I see my friends or anyone doing just that nowadays, I’m reminded they are simply a mirror of the person I once was, which always causes me to reflect on being grateful for being more concerned today for what’s on the inside of me, rather than what’s on the outside…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Since it’s Monday, that means it’s time for another entry of gratitude in my blog, which for today is for all the baristas at the Starbucks locations I regularly go to in the Toledo vicinity, who have often made me feel not so invisible in this world.

While I know it’s part of the normal training of employees at Starbucks to greet customers when they walk in, I’ve been extremely thankful for the baristas who have gone beyond that by taking the time to learn my name, ask me about my life, and even remember some of the drinks I frequently order.

Why does any of that matter to me? Honestly, it’s because I often really do feel invisible in this world and have struggled feeling like I don’t matter. Having the long-standing health issues I do, my thinking hasn’t always been the most positive, especially as of late, so it’s most definitely been a blessing when I’ve walked into a Starbucks location on one of my down days when suddenly a barista greets me by my name with a huge smile, asks me how I’m doing, and whether I’m going to have one of my usual beverages or even food items.

I often say it’s the little things in life that make the most difference and sometimes it’s little things like this that do. Things like people remembering my name and my high maintenance coffee drinks, that truly end up touching my heart, usually when I most need it.

Here in the Toledo area, I’ve frequented the Starbucks Westgate location the most, especially during this pandemic. I’ve lost count of the number of days where I’ve felt more down than up through it all and actually looked forward to my daily visit to this location because typically there at least one barista has made it a point to help me feel more than welcomed. Most recently, I’ve been going quite a bit to the newest Starbucks location in my area which is out in Perrysburg at the intersection of Route 25 and Eckel Junction Road. There too I can absolutely attest to always feeling better as soon as I walk in their doors.

I know it may seem silly to some, for being grateful for Starbucks employees, when there is probably plenty of other things in this world to offer gratitude for at this time, but, to me it absolutely has made a difference in my life, especially over the past two years or so.

So, to all the baristas I’ve met at the Westgate and Eckel Junction locations, and the others I’ve met in a number of the other Starbucks stores as well, I just want to say thank you, as you really have made a difference in my life on so many-a-days, just to keep going, to keep believing that I do matter in this world, that I’m not invisible, and that the world isn’t always such a lonely place.

Thank you Alex, Audrey, Selena, Joe, Casey, Lizzy, Liz, Alyssa, Mickey, Katherine, Adrienne, Jake, Angie, Staci, Corey, Ciera, Jazz, Will, Haley, Laura, Molly, and all the others whose names are failing me at this moment, who have taken the time to get to know me, when you didn’t have to, you truly have been shining stars in a world that often feels far too dim to me on most days. I’m grateful to each of you and dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday to all of you.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to today’s Grateful Heart Monday, which for today I wanted to share my gratitude for the Mankind Project (MKP) men’s group I remain a part of here in Toledo, The Brothers Of The Black Swamp, a group that continues to both bring positive challenges and great blessings upon my spiritual journey in life.

When I joined MKP well over 20 years ago now after going through the New Warrior Training weekend, I delved into the group work that came afterwards, where a man had the option to continue going deeper into their life’s work by becoming involved in something called an I-Group. Ever since, I’ve had the pleasure of sitting amongst men in a number of these groups in each of the areas I’ve lived in, developing closer bonds to men, breaking through blockages within me, and rising to higher levels of strength, leadership, and loving connection in my life.

Presently, I am an active member of The Brothers Of The Black Swamp I-Group, which presently consists of eight individuals. We began this group almost four years ago now in Toledo because there weren’t any active I-Groups in this area for MKP brothers to be a part of. Our group has evolved quite a bit ever since, having several original members leave and some new ones arrive, having gone on two bonding retreats together, and having spent every other Tuesday utilizing the tools MKP taught us to better ourselves in life.

What I truly treasure the most about my present I-Group is the willingness of each man there to continue showing up, no matter what struggles they are facing within themselves and their lives. Far too often in life, I’ve seen people often make excuses to not show up for the I-groups they were a part of, which only ended up hurting both themselves, for the potential work they could have done on themselves, and the group itself, for any benefit they may have brought the group. While our group may be small compared to some others I’ve been a part of, we sure do have a big strength, like I witnessed in a recent Saturday occurrence of our meeting.

While tensions flared at times during that meeting, all of us worked together on some difficult issues we were facing, including cancelling what would have been our third annual retreat and re-declaring our commitment to the group itself. I’m so grateful to say that by the time the meeting ended, I felt nothing but love for each of the men there, something I haven’t always felt in many of the I-groups I’ve been a part of since I began my journey with MKP.

Indeed, each of the men in The Brothers Of The Black Swamp are uniquely different from each other, with varying belief systems, ideals, and the like. Yet the one thing I am thankful to say we all have in common, that I’ve witnessed time and time again, is our desire to deeper our brotherhood with each other, to work through our differences, and grow in connection as a result.

The fact is, every I-Group I’ve ever been a part of has become a blessings upon my life on some level, usually after working through a number of challenges to my ego in many of those meetings. The Brothers Of The Black Swamp continues to prove that to be true as well and is the very reason why I not only remain a part of this amazing group of men, but also with MKP in general.

Thank you, The Brothers Of The Black Swamp for continuing to work on not only your own journeys of spiritual growth, but help me with mine as well. I love you all for that and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to our amazing group of men! Aho!

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday! My gratitude for today is for Peter Ramey, Steve McKee, Sterling Washington, Louie Ratchford, and Lee Lampos, each being old friends who reconnected with me on a recent trip to Northern Virginia, a place I used to live for well over a decade.

Just over a week ago now, I finally got the chance to visit one of my former areas of living, that being Northern Virginia, a place I called home until mid-2007. The last time I had a visit there and reconnected with old friends was in 2010. Considering all the loneliness the pandemic brought on, I decided it was time to take a trip back to a place that holds plenty of fond memories to this day. Sadly, I soon learned that not everyone I once spent time regularly with in Northern Virginia wanted to reconnect, mostly due to ongoing fears surrounding COVID. It was heartbreaking, especially with one individual from my former 12 Step life there, but, I’ve chosen to focus on those who I did see and all the time I got to spend with them.

First was Peter who made this all possible by allowing me to stay in his home in Front Royal. Peter is the kindest of individuals, who would gladly give the shirt off his back to help another. We truly had some wonderful conversations throughout my stay, and I always felt welcomed in his home. Not only did he accommodate me graciously there, but also, he drove us everywhere throughout my stay. We really covered some serious miles given Front Royal is about an hour’s distance from Washington, D.C. where I met several of my old friends. From meals he took me out to, to being a great listener, and having a contagious laugh, Peter is a genuine friend and a keeper.

On my first full day with him, after a tour of Front Royal and a leisurely drive along part of Skyline Drive, a national park in the mountain range nearby, I had the pleasure of seeing my old neighbor and friend Steve, someone who used to live directly across the street from my home many years ago, who now lives in Front Royal himself. I very much enjoyed my coffee with him reminiscing about the 30th Hawaiian birthday party that he and his partner threw for me almost two decades ago, the Sunday evenings we spent watching a series called “Queer As Folk” on Showtime, and the bowling we did weekly on a team together. Later that night Peter treated me to pizza from a local joint called Melting Pot that was awesome while we watched a movie.

The next day, I got to see Sterling, who was so thoughtful because he got up early in the morning and acquired two tickets for Peter and I for the National Museum of African American History, a museum I have wanted to go to since it opened in 2016. After enjoying several hours there and also a drive afterwards around D.C., we met up with Sterling for a wonderful Ethiopian meal at Tsehay. Sterling was the first to turn me onto this amazing cuisine eons ago and it was awesome to try a new Ethiopian restaurant with him. It was just mind boggling that Sterling and I met and began our friendship in a gay men’s support group at a former therapy office back in the late 90’s! Our evening ended with Sterling taking us to a placed called “A Baked Joint”, which had some scrumptious desserts and iced cold brew.

The next morning, my friend Louie came out to Front Royal and treated us to breakfast at “The Apple House”, where we reminisced on our old card nights, jokes we used to tell each other regularly, and plenty of warm times spent together. As I finished my homemade apple donut from that meal, I reflected on how Louie is one of the funniest guys I’ve ever known and always seems to find a way to make me laugh, even when I’m down and is also an incredible master gardener who I learn something new from each time we talk. After he departed, we headed to Falls Church where we drove around my old neighborhood. I talked to the new owner of my former home, which had changed so dramatically! The entire backyard was now a massive vegetable and herb garden for the owner’s Vietnamese restaurant! On a sad note, I grieved the loss of two trees I had once planted there that they had removed, one being a Japanese maple and the other a Crape Myrtle. I was grateful though for all the years they blossomed there. Nevertheless, Peter and I met up with Lee afterwards for a coffee in a completely new plaza in Dunn Loring that didn’t exist when I lived there, after which we had dinner in one of my favorite diners, The Silver Diner, a chain that opened in the DC area when I first moved there. The evening ended with Peter and I playing a fun game of miniature golf at The Magic Putting Place.

On my last full day, Peter took me to Winchester, VA where we walked the downtown Old Winchester mall, checked out some local shops, had a wonderful meal outside at the Water Street Kitchen, and drove around the town seeing things that were well over 200 years old! Later that evening, I had the pleasure of finally meeting in person his best friend Sammy Campbell, a delightful man who made me burst out laughing quite a few times over dinner at the 50/50 Taphouse and coffee afterwards.

On a final note, I wanted to also express my gratitude for seeing my favorite barista from Toledo, Mickey, during this trip, who I learned had just changed their name to Astral. They moved recently and now work at the Starbucks in Clifton, VA and it was such a delight to have some time catching up at their new place of employment.

For as much as my pain levels and health issues plagued me greatly during this trip, I’ve found that expressing gratitude like this is crucial to looking at it all in a positive light. So, thank you Peter, Steve, Sterling, Louie, Lee, and Astral, for reconnecting with me on my trip. You all mean the world to me and I’m very much grateful for each of you.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, which for today is for two people who’ve offered me kind words in my neighborhood for the ongoing efforts I’ve made to keep the streets and a number of yards clean, especially in light of some harsh criticism I received recently from another neighbor who took her own life’s anger out on me one morning.

As I’ve written about this a few times in my blog prior, I focus much of my angst in life over all my health issues and pains by maintaining a clean and manicured yard that includes both of my neighbors on either side of me. This summer, with nature having been quite strange where it’s been like fall throughout much of it, with many leaves dropping daily, leaving our street littered with debris on most days, I’ve included maintaining much of that as well. It’s become a ritual now of sots with me waking up each morning and going outside to clean it all up, going as far as 200 feet in either direction of my driveway, which is the length of the two electrical cords I use when connected together. I always feel better after completing this task and enjoy the look of a nicely swept street afterwards.

Recently, when a neighbor yelled at me over a pile of debris I had created across the street from her, most of which had emanated from trees around her property and curb, I really got upset, especially because I have kept her curb cleaned the entire summer. At that very moment, my ego almost got the best of me. I was about to give my daily task up over her negativity, but instead, chose to focus on the kindness of two neighborhood gentlemen who approached me separately recently, thanking me for my outdoor work.

The first came one day when I was deep in my work sweeping up a section of the street with a push broom about four houses away from my own. A car pulled up and inside was Scott who told me he really wished he could take some of the taxpayer’s money and send it to me for the great job I do for the city every day on our street. It meant the world to me to hear this at that moment and I felt totally energized afterwards, knowing that someone appreciated my work.

The second came as I was vacuuming up the leaves from a neighbor’s driveway one afternoon. David, the cousin of my neighbor across the street, walked over, put his hand out and shook my own, saying he wished he had a neighbor like me. He said my work never goes unnoticed by him and how much it’s a pleasure to come down our street and see how clean it is, as well as the yards around my home.

What Scott and David didn’t know was how much their words not only helped me to keep doing this task, but also to keep going in life, because lately it seems like there has been a vast shortage of kindness in this world, especially in my own life. I’ve seen so much negativity and criticism over the slightest of things, almost as if people are walking around like ticking time bombs, waiting for someone to lash out at.

That’s why I believe kind words go a long way, and Scott and David’s definitely did that for me. So, thank you Scott and David, for making my day on two separate occasions, for helping to temporarily overcome my own angst in life, especially when an angry neighbor yells at me for no reason. It’s because of both of your kindness, that I have found the energy to keep going for yet another day…

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 at the start of each week, which for today is for the life and career of Aretha Franklin, someone I really gained much appreciation for after watching the movie “Respect”, which stars Jennifer Hudson as her.

Prior to watching the film “Respect”, I never knew much about Aretha Franklin’s life other than a few of her songs I often heard on the radio growing up and in movies I saw over the years. “Respect” was definitely one of them. “Chain of Fools”, “I Say a Little Prayer”, “Freeway of Love”, “You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman”, and “Think” were the others. What I learned about her life beyond the songs I knew truly showed me how groundbreaking of an artist she was and how much she changed not only the face of the music industry, but also our culture itself.

Probably the most impressive element of Franklin’s life for me was how active she was in the civil rights movement. Having minored in Minority Relations in my undergraduate studies, I had studied the lives of many civil rights activists. What I didn’t know was that Franklin was most assuredly one of them. I also had no idea she had a personal friendship with Martin Luther King, Jr., who is absolutely one of my heroes in life and someone I have always aspired to be more like. Nevertheless, Aretha fought for not only civil rights, but women’s rights too, several other prominent causes, and was never afraid to speak her truth.

I think the thing that moved my heart the most though in her life was seeing her devotion and faith in God. She grew up singing in her father’s church in Detroit and always carried a passion for it through her entire life, even returning to make an entire gospel album after feeling distant from God for some time. Ironically, that album became her number one selling album of all time! I’d go so far as to say that her success most assuredly came from her devotion to God and helped her deal with many of her inner demons from her past.

One of those inner demons is something I most definitely have in common with Franklin and that was her struggles with alcoholism and being raised in an abusive home where alcoholism was present. The movie alluded to how this often drove her to drink, especially due to the abuse from her father and having had two children by the age of 14. Drinking was her way of coping with it all on many occasions. Honestly, it’s mind boggling to me how she was able to have such an incredible career with the battles she had with alcoholism and abuse. Personally, I know I would never have amounted to much of anything if I had kept on drinking in my earlier years.

Regardless, after 18 Grammys, 112 singles on the Billboard charts, over 75 million records sold worldwide, the first female performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the most charted female artist in history, a Hollywood Walk of Fame star recipient, a voice that was declared a “natural resource” for Michigan, a Grammy lifetime achievement award recipient, a Kennedy Center honoree, a recipient of the National Medal of Arts, a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Pulitzer Prize Special Citation given to her posthumously, Franklin stands in a league of her own. Over the course of five decades, Aretha inspired countless singers and people too, and will probably be forever remembered as the “Queen of Soul”.

I’m truly grateful for the life of Aretha Franklin, for how much she moved the hearts and souls of so many in this country, and the world, including mine.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the only focus of my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for my next-door neighbor Veronica and the small tokens of thanks she’s given me for the work I continue to do in her yard.

It’s been well established that I’m quite anal retentive when it comes to my own yard and gardens. For the most part, I really do enjoy the hard work I put into making it look as inviting as it seems to be for others. Most people probably don’t know though that I also maintain the front yards on either side of my home as well. On my left, I began doing that when the health of its owner went downhill a few years ago. On my right, I started doing it just a few months back after learning the tenant, that being Veronica, was working double shifts, going through a difficult break-up, and struggling with depression through it all. Because I have a lot of free time, I decided to help her out like I have been with my other neighbor. My only hope was that her seeing a tidy and well-manicured yard after the long days she puts in would brighten her spirit. As I’ve continued to maintain it, along with my other neighbor, as well as my own, I’ve been grateful just for the feeling it’s given me doing something selfless for others.

Sometimes, my selflessness has brought me small tokens of thanks from others. Last fall for example, when cleaning up a good majority of our entire street from all the leaves and debris before a huge storm came in, a neighbor gave me a little money, while another gave me a huge box of high-quality garbage bags after I had used all my own for the job. Honestly, I never expect anything from any of the work I do like this. After all, it’s something I’m doing just to help make life easier for others. Twice now though, that help has come back in small tokens of thanks from Veronica who gave me $40 on one occasion and a $50 gift card to Starbucks on another. And I was extremely grateful for it.

Ultimately, I’ve learned in life how important it is to do selfless work through my 12 Step recovery program. Giving away part of myself for the benefit of others, asking nothing in return, has been an incredible joy in my life and a stronghold for keeping sober. In my recovery world, that’s translated to me sponsoring others, running meetings, volunteering at local addiction recovery centers, and providing alcohol and drug education to both nursing and Greek students from the University of Toledo. Outside of that realm, it’s also translated to me helping out both of my neighbors by doing my best to make their front yards look very welcoming.

While I have never expected any gift or anything really from any of the selfless work I’ve done, it’s always a true blessing and joy to receive one when I do. So, thank you Veronica for saying thanks in a special way. It brightened my day, as much as my work in your front yard has seemed to brighten yours. I’m grateful to You today for thinking of me and I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, which for today’s piece of gratitude, I just wanted to offer many blessings and thanks to God for orchestrating a wonderful visit from my sister Laura and my youngest nephew Luke last weekend.

I truly must give the credit to God for bringing this together, because frankly, not more than a month or so ago, she and I weren’t even on speaking terms, mostly because I was being bull-headed about several things, none of which need to be gone into anymore. Regardless, it wasn’t my self-will that eventually overcame this stubbornness because it was much of my self-will that had prevented us from reconnecting. Rather, after praying over this repeatedly, somehow, I had a change of heart, and ultimately, so did my sister. Honestly, if you had asked me a few months if I thought I might actually see my sister this year, I would have said probably not, which is why this trip was such a miracle. Nevertheless, over the course of three solid days, we all did some rather neat things together.

On day one we went to a science museum in downtown Toledo called Imagination Station. It was my first visit there ever and I was so glad to have shared it with them. I was quite thankful that all their hands-on exhibits were able to be touched again, as COVID had prevented that up until just recently. One of the many highlights there included Laura and Luke getting a great laugh as I tried to do this pulley-thing that’s supposed to bring a person up into the air, but laughably, I kept falling to the ground. A few other notables included sitting in a flight simulator where Luke had us driving all over the runway and even flying upside down at one point, experiencing Level 1 hurricane winds in this huge tube where we both screamed over the noise of it all, riding a thrilling motion ride that we all felt dizzy after, and watching my nephew build circuits in a science workshop. After we left there, we had a cookout on our driveway where we scarfed down some tasty burgers, corn, potatoes, and slaw. At the end of the night, I took a swim in the hotel pool they were staying at where I felt some much-needed joy as Luke laughed uncontrollably at times while horsing around.  The evening ended after playing a few games of Harry Potter Uno. All in all it was an amazing start to their trip here.

On the middle day of their trip, I drove us to Sandusky, Ohio, where we had lunch at one of my favorite diners in this area, Berardi’s Family Kitchen. Everyone enjoyed their meal a lot, especially the Boardwalk fries they are famously known for there. After there, we went to Goofy Golf, which is one of the best miniature golf courses in the area. Before we started playing it though, Luke won a ton of tickets in the arcade and found a few prizes he liked, which made me happy. When we finally started playing some putt-putt, I think I had more fun watching everyone giggle as they hit their balls repeatedly on some of the holes, then me playing the game itself! We were all pretty hot after finishing, so we went to an incredible homemade ice cream joint in the area, Tofts Dairy Ice Cream Parlor, where the portions are always HUGE! After Tofts, I drove us to Marblehead Lighthouse, which is such a beautiful place to see Lake Erie and Cedar Point off in the distance. I love to take guests there and am so grateful that Laura and Luke loved it like I do. By the time we arrived back at my home, we were all starving again so we went and got a pizza at Mama Mary’s, which is the closest to New York style pizza here to what I grew up with in New York itself. The evening ended with another great swim and more laughter to brighten the spirit.

On Laura and Luke’s final day here, we visited The Toledo Zoo, as Chris and I are members there. We tend to take most of our guests there the first time they come for a visit. While my sister has been there a few times already, Luke hadn’t, which made for a new experience and appreciation, especially when he told us he liked the giraffes the best, which we all got a pretty good look at on the train ride we took. Unfortunately, the crowds were immense, so we didn’t stay as long as we usually would. Once home, Luke helped me pick up some leaves without me even asking and that truly moved my heart, specifically when he said that he knew I was going to have to pick them up later, so he wanted to help! What a great kid! That night we all went to Rosie’s Italian Grille, which has never disappointed me with anything I’ve ever eaten there. We got to sit on the patio near the ponds and appreciated listening to the soothing waterfall sounds along with seeing the playful coy fish and turtles in the pond itself. Our evening ended with multiple games of Harry Potter Uno again, where one game just went on and on and left us all in stitches!

Parting the next morning from them at the airport was truly difficult. After enjoying a breakfast at a local IHOP and dropping them off at Detroit airport, I sobbed uncontrollably in my car as I drove home. They were tears of sadness for them leaving and joy for such a wonderful visit. Overall, this trip was truly a blessing and a gift from God, and something I will forever remember and be grateful for.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is always at the core, which for today is for getting a very old Gary Fischer bike up and running again after it had been sitting in a storage unit or a garage for over 14 years!

Many moons ago, when my mother was still alive, one of the gifts she gave me and my partner at the time, Jerry, were two really nice brand new Gary Fisher mountain bikes in early 2004. They were meant for recreational use on the island I was living on at the time, that being Chincoteague, Virginia, where the bed and breakfast I once owned was situated. While Jerry didn’t use his bike that much, I was on mine on just about every day and truly loved it. At my peak, I’d spend several hours covering usually 27 miles on it or more, which I found to be such a healthy escape, one that cultivated inner peace each time I did. Sadly, when I left my relationship and my life at that Bed and Breakfast in May of 2007, my bike went into storage and remained there gathering dust ever since, floating from one storage unit to another, until eventually it made its way into my garage here in Toledo a number of years ago, where many times I’d sit on its seat, hoping to one day ride it again.

Up until my early June trip to Saugatuck, Michigan, I hadn’t ridden on a bike since 2010, when all my health issues began. My mind and body had never really felt up to it. But, after doing a few miles on a bike from the resort Chris and I were staying at during that trip, and then doing another 14 more on a rental during my visit to see Cedric in Massachusetts in late June, I thought it might be finally time to try returning to an activity I really missed, even if it was on a limited basis based upon my health. Looking at the state of my old bike in my garage was a sad sight though. The chain was a mess, the wheels weren’t spinning anymore, the brakes weren’t working, and the tubes in the tires were shot. The frame on the other hand still looked to be in good shape, so I had a little faith. Enough so, that I loaded it into my partner’s vehicle and headed to CycleWerks Bicycle and Fitness in Whitehouse, Ohio, as they had been recommended.

The first question I asked as soon as Luke, one of the repair technicians there, approached me was whether it was financially feasible to repair my bike or should I scrap it. Truthfully, I think if he had said it was beyond repair, I probably would have just left it with him to scrap and left all desire to bike again on the back burner. Thankfully, he didn’t say that though and instead said he could get it back up and running for less than $200! I was ecstatic to hear this news, mostly because the bike also represented a loving memory of my mother.

A week later, I was back at the shop to pick my bike up, where sitting on it once again and taking it for a quick test ride on a trail nearby felt totally exhilarating. When I got it up to almost 20mph, I smiled, feeling grateful to have it fully functional again. But, truly the most grateful moment in this experience has come right now with a thought.

Maybe just like this bike being able to get fully restored when I thought it was truly down and out for the count, that my health can be too. All it took was holding on to a little faith when I brought my old Gary Fisher bike to a shop simply because its frame still looked ok. So, maybe I just need to keep a little faith in the Master Technician as well, leaving my frame in His hands, continuing to believe that He too can and will still fully restore me as well…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Thanks for joining with one more Grateful Heart Monday, where expression of gratitude remains my ongoing sole focus of my writing, which for today is somewhat of a follow-up to a prior article a number of months back, one where I truly thought a friendship with a couple I care about was over, and can say now that thankfully it isn’t.

I think all relationships go through a number of ebbs and flows, but to see them successfully navigate through them all , it means all parties involved must be willing to work on themselves. I’ve had many friendships that have failed because either myself or the other person, became caught up in ego and self-pride, holding onto righteous beliefs and feelings of “I don’t have to change” or “It’s all their fault and not mine.”

I don’t care whether a person is 11, 31, 51, or 91, all people are capable of change no matter what their age, me included, and as soon as I close my mind to that, and hold on to what I think is the only right answer to things, it puts me at odds with those who care about me, which is precisely what happened with my friends Bill and Tom when we all came down with Covid back in January.

The finite details of what happened back then don’t matter now, because it was those finite details that led to all of our ego’s going into opposite corners, rather than coming together with forgiveness, love, and the like. Regardless, for the past six months, I really missed the dinners and game nights we used to have regularly with them, so I finally broke the silence by reaching out to Bill to make my amends for my part in what happened, who in turn did the same with me. I took a second step in sitting down with Tom and listening to where my actions had negatively affected him, and I owned them, even learning in the process how I could be a better friend to him. It’s something I am truly grateful for about my personality, that I’m always willing to spiritually grow, where change is something I accept with grace, rather than fight it with ego.

Thankfully, my actions led to a huge blessing, with Bill and Tom becoming open to breaking bread with my partner Chris and I again, which we finally did just over a week ago now. After an evening of dinner at Carraba’s and coffee at Starbucks, I can thankfully say we all found the desire to move on from our ego’s and frustrations, to forgive, and move forward with connection again.

I am so very grateful that God pushed me forward to own my part in all this, to move beyond my ego and any selfish viewpoint I had on the whole matter, as it ultimately helped to begin the process of reconnection with two friends I do love dearly.

And as I end today’s Grateful Heart Monday, I am thankful for all the friends who remain a part of my life today, because the addict I once was had no friends whatsoever, except my sister Laura and my friend Cedric who never gave up on me. Both believed in me and showed me how to become humble, humble enough to ask God for help, humble enough to say I’m sorry, and humble enough to forgive. It’s those traits that truly keep my friendships going, with loving people who care about me, people just like Bill and Tom.

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 being able to have a friendship today with someone that is mostly the opposite of me.

I used to think that having a good friendship meant the person had to be just like me or quite similar to me. But honestly, I’ve learned that can be quite boring at times when that is true. Contrary to that, one of the biggest rewards I’ve found when it comes to friendships is when I challenge myself to look beyond my ego and what it thinks it needs when it comes to a friend, which is very true when it comes to a friend of mine named Rob.

While he and I do share a common interest with superhero-type stuff, chiefly Marvel, and a few of the same type of foods, much of the similarities stop there. Beyond a glaring fact that he is heterosexual, which I of course am not, he’s mostly atheist to agnostic, while I’m more of a man of faith, is relatively political, whereas I detest politics, believes and swears in the power of science and medicine, something of which I tend to avoid these days, and well you get the point.

At first glance, to an ego like the one I continue to try to smash within me, it might seem like he and I wouldn’t stand a chance to have any type of healthy, let alone fun friendship, but ironically, we do. We tend to laugh a lot when we hang out and click far better than what my ego initially judged. The level of Rob’s compassion is second to none, as is his tendency to listen with the hopes of understanding, rather than judging. I’ve come to learn quite a bit in spending time with Rob and lately, on most of our hangouts, I’m even watching a show now that I originally didn’t want to give a chance, that being Star Trek Discovery on Paramount Plus. It actually is really good and I am enjoying watching it with him immensely, especially in all the little jokes we make during each episode.

Because of my growing friendship with Rob, I’ve thought quite a bit lately about how many potential friendships I’ve never even given a chance throughout my life with people who didn’t act, or look, or like what I thought I’d need to have a good connection. Sadly, I was very superficial in much of my younger years, hanging only with people who shared my views or likes or were my physical type, thinking that’s what was important. It wasn’t, as some of the best moments in my life have come by going against the grain of that and with Rob, I’m glad I did.

While he continues to challenge me at times, like I do with him, there has been incredible spiritual growth on both of our parts in spending time with each other cultivating our connection. I tend to think that’s precisely what God would want for us in this world, to make friends not only with those who are similar to us, but also, and especially with those who seem exactly the opposite of us. Because in the end, I believe we become far more well-rounded individuals when we do, learning to love and accept much that is outside our norm and different than us.

I’m truly grateful for giving Rob a chance and am so thankful to God for bringing him into my life to teach me not just a few lessons, but many.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude continues to be the sole focus in my writing for the day, which for today is for getting to play the oldest miniature golf in continuous operation in the United States, one that’s been around since 1924 and one that actually resides in the state I live in of all places!

It’s no secret that I love playing mini-golf. I’ve written about my love for this silly sport a few times already in my blog and in recent years have played upwards of more than 100 courses around the country!  Sometimes I even search them out solely for day trip possibilities and have been known to drive up to 3 hours in a single day just to say I was able to check out another course! So, when I learned that the oldest miniature golf course in continuous play wasn’t actually the one Google initially listed in upstate New York that began in 1930, and was rather in a small little lakeside town called Geneva-On-The-Lake that dates back to 1924, I was ecstatic. Why? Because I also learned it was only a few hours from where I lived! It’s called Allison’s Mini Golf and reviews on the web for it were quite favorable when I first checked it out online. Why it took me over 7 years of residence here in Ohio to finally drive there to play an actual 18-hole round on it is beyond me?! But, on a rather sunny and perfect weather day of 75 degrees over July 4th weekend, my partner Chris and I finally headed east on Route 90, taking the 2.5-hour trek there, for the main purpose of playing the historic course and boy, was it worth it!

I’ve played quite a number of amazing miniature golf courses around the world, but knowing one was still around from its inception in the mid 1920’s and seeing how great of shape it was in was pretty incredible! While the course itself wasn’t specifically overly or underlie challenging, it was the nostalgia itself of playing the oldest course in the country that really brought me joy. How many people must have played this course over almost a century in operation is countless I’m sure. The grounds there were still immaculately kept and although the two quaint fountains in the middle weren’t necessarily working as best as they could, it honestly didn’t matter because I felt like a kid again as I played each of those holes. One such hole had some bowling pins moving up and down that I had to avoid as I hit my ball through them and another had me narrowly avoiding a metal bridge filled with brightly-colored stationary golf balls on tees! Overall, I truly enjoyed my 18-hole play and actually ended making par there as well!

Nevertheless, I’m not sure if my fascination for mini-golf is simply because it’s one of the rare childhood memories I have where my family never fought or if it ultimately just helps me revert back to being a kid again so easily every time I try to knock a ball around some weird angle, or through some moving contraption, or to avoid some obstacle. Regardless, I love mini golf a lot and I really loved this quaint little course in a town I’ve never been to on the eastern shores of Lake Erie. I sincerely felt like I stepped back in time both on the streets of Geneva-On-The-Lake and at Allison’s Mini Golf as well. I’m so thankful I can now say I’ve played the oldest course in this country and got to do it with my partner Chris on a day where the weather truly was perfect for it!

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the only focus of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for solo summer 2021 trip I am just completing now as I write this.

Parting truly is such sweet sorrow as they say, as my heart is feeling very sad right now sitting here in the airport waiting to return home. Yet, I am still filled with immense gratitude for this past week that I got to spend with my dearest and closest friend Cedric here in Massachusetts.

Any visit to Massachusetts tends to bring up plenty of memories, both positive and negative, given the seven-plus years I spent here both in addiction and recovery. But, if there is one thing that I felt very blessed by on my return trip here after 7 years of not living here is knowing this is where the true foundation of my work in the 12 Steps began. It’s precisely why I made sure to get at least one volunteer commitment in at a sober house (The Gilly House in Wrentham) and attend at least one AA meeting (Annisquam Sunday Night 7pm Library Meeting in Gloucester). Both quickly rejuvenated my love for recovery work and my still being clean and sober from alcohol and drugs for over 26 years now.

Beyond my dedication to my recovery from addiction that travels with me even on vacations, there are a number of highlights from this trip away that I am truly blessed by. I already mentioned two of them in my article from a few days ago where I was able to complete a 14-mile bike ride and a 4.5-mile walk during my vacation getaway. There was also a trip to Block Island with my dear friend Sean Slater that included a beautiful hour-long ferry ride, a several-hour moped ride around the island to see the two amazing lighthouses there, a dinner at The Harbor Grill & Orchid Lounge, and some homemade ice cream (Aldo’s Bakery) before we departed. Add in a dinner at the Cheesecake Factory in Braintree with my dear friend Debbie Coon, several walks on various beaches, quick dips in the chilly, yet exceptionally clear New England ocean waters, seeing The Fast and the Furious (Part 9!) in Imax in Danvers, a very lavish Greek wedding between two friends of Cedric and I (Megan and Tim) that began at an extremely beautiful church (Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Ipswich and ended at an extremely lively reception (The Mansion at the Hellenic Center in Ipswich), evenings spent on our motel balcony (Atlantis Oceanfront Inn in Gloucester), great meals (Not Your Average Joe’s in Peabody, and Two Sisters Café, Sebastian’s Pizza, and The Causeway, all in Gloucester), homemade almond joy ice cream (White Farms Ice Cream on the Causeway), plenty of cold brew from Starbucks (LOL!), making a rock totem on the ocean cliffside, visiting several lighthouses in Gloucester, and countless moments of uncontrollable laughter that always seems to happen whenever Cedric and I get together including crashing my bike into his and looking like a turtle trying to get up off the ground after, him spilling coffee all over himself and smelling his hands constantly afterwards, and constantly playing our Mr. Forgetful game (you have to ask)).

While the trip had many moments of frustration due to increased health issues for me, I’m choosing to far more grateful for all these positive things that happened, especially the amazing weather that God blessed us with the entire trip away. I can’t believe the vacation is over, as seven days away really flew by, but I look forward to the next one that will come in October when I get to see Cedric again.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is the sole focus in my writing at the start of each week, which for today is for having the gifts of public speaking and writing, two things that really seem to come naturally to me now, but didn’t always.

There once was a time in my life where I truly despised doing any type of public speaking, mostly because I was so afraid to get up in front of others who were going to be staring at me so intently. The first time I ever had to do so was in an elementary school play where I had only one line I was meant to say. What I was supposed to say was, “I’ll save you Pocahontas!” But, what I said instead was, “I’ll save you Princess Leia!” Why I said that, I have no idea. All I can remember after saying it though was the hundreds of parents and kids there roaring in laughter at my mistake and me running off the stage in shame. It wasn’t until college did I finally opt to take an elective course in public speaking to overcome the fear I had of ever making such a mistake again in front of others. That public speaking class saved my life. The curriculum started off slow with very minor speaking activities at a podium in front of the class. But, the final “paper” in that class was to speak for an hour on a topic of our choosing! The topic I chose was about my father and his alcoholism. Little did I know then that this would help me many years later to share my own story of alcoholism in front of others and once I did, it became easier for each subsequent outing. It really is true that the more one does something, the easier it becomes, because the more I’ve spoken in the rooms of recovery from addiction, the more I’ve been able to cultivate the craft and the less those sweaty palms, a racing heart, and anxiety were present. Now I speak confidently in front of others and have received plenty of positive feedback after each time over the years. Whether it’s been with nursing students, inmates, fraternity or sorority members, detoxing individuals, people at 12 Step meetings, and more, I always look forward to all my speaking engagements now. Gone are those days where I had to picture everyone in attendance in clown costumes or naked to overcome my fears of public speaking, of which I’m so grateful for. As for writing, well that craft took much longer to develop and come to love.

Growing up and well into my adulthood, I only ever wrote anything if it was required, which was either in an educational class, with a therapist, in a Bible study, or on a retreat. Honestly, I hated writing, especially if it was by hand, as my handwriting has always been pretty atrocious! In 2005 though, when I went away on a silent retreat for 10 days in the mountains of West Virginia, I was really inspired to write about the whole experience once it was over. It was a very cathartic exercise and one I thoroughly enjoyed doing. Not too long after, a friend was very much interested in hearing about the retreat so I told him I’d be honored if he read the essay I wrote about it. He loved it so much, he asked if I’d be interested in condensing it into an article for the local newspaper in the town where I was living at the time, of which he was already a writer for. I obliged and not too long after, I too would become a regular writer for this paper under the tagline “Words To Live By” where I’d share motivational stories from my life in about 700 words or less. It was such a success that readers began to reach out to me personally, further motivating me to continue the practice. Where my writing really started to become a true craft for me wasn’t until a spiritual teacher suggested I start a blog. That came after a number of years I took off from writing and she merely wanted me to get back into it, suggesting it would be useful for my healing and my future. This is how this blog, “TheTwelfthStep”, got started and has become an incredible outlet of expression for both the positive and negative aspects of my spiritual journey in life. Over the years I’ve maintained this blog, I’ve found a number of new and unique ways to express myself and the better my words have been able to connect with others in the world, which has brought me great pleasure and immense gratitude.

So, I guess you can say that on some level, the two things I once hated the most in my younger years, public speaking and writing, have now become the two things I enjoy doing the most and perform the best with in life. 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 entry, where gratitude remains my only focus at the start of each week’s writing, which for today is for my recent trip to Saugatuck, Michigan for four nights and three days, where I actually experienced a few things I haven’t in a very long time.

First off, I want to say I’m grateful for even taking a small vacation, given I haven’t had one in almost a year due to the pandemic, which had made travel very undesirable. But, beyond that, Saugatuck, which is often said to be the Provincetown of the Midwest, was a place I had on my Midwest bucket list of places to see since moving to this part of the country, so I was grateful to finally get to visit it. Nestled midway up the shores of Lake Michigan, Saugatuck is an artsy-type of community where many LGBTQ come for beach getaways. My partner Chris and I were really wanting one of those, hence the desire why we chose this small town to visit during our birthday week in June.

The first thing I was truly grateful for during this trip was the weather. It is true what they say around here in this Great Lakes region that the weather changes every five minutes. Prior to leaving for our trip, the weather forecast for Saugatuck went from sunny and mid low to mid 70’s, to cloudy and mid to high 80’s, to muggy rain-soaked thunderstorm-filled days. Ironically, it was all far better than what was predicted, as the weather ending up being sunnier than not, raining for only brief periods, and where I got to experience an occasional dense misty fog rolling off the sea, which I found very serene, especially when the sea always looked so calm afterwards.

Beyond the weather, one thing I also had immense gratitude for from this trip was how many lighthouses I got to see. I really have an affinity towards them ever since my last relationship and try to see them anytime I’m passing through any coastal area where one is there. On the way to Saugatuck, we started with Michigan City light and worked our way up the coastline seeing five different ones till we got to Saugatuck. The second day there, we headed north up to Mears, Michigan to Little Sable Light and worked our way down the coastline doing the same till we got back to Saugatuck, catching another five. I’m not exactly sure why I appreciate these structures as much as I do, but maybe it’s because they’ve withstood the test of time, enduring so many major storms, the seas constantly bashing against them, something I often feel is quite representative of my life. I felt that the most at Grand Haven Light, as rain pelted the long cement pier Chris and I walked out on to see the duel lights. But, maybe the one I appreciated the most was Holland Light, as just when I got there, an afternoon of rain finally parted, a fog was drifting away, and the sun was setting. It was incredibly beautiful and peaceful, something I felt quite a bit with Lake Michigan during this trip, especially when I tackled an athletic activity I hadn’t in well over a decade due to my health issues.

I used to do quite a bit of athletic activities prior to 2010, one of which was kayaking. When I saw the resort offered free use of them on Lake Michigan, I debated whether I could do it. Always one to rise to the challenge of battling my ego, I hopped in a kayak early one afternoon and pushed myself offshore, heading south along the coastline alone. I was so thankful I did because the perspective of Lake Michigan when out on its waters is far different than gazing out upon it. I was amazed at how much mother nature had eroded away the cliffside and destroyed its natural beaches. How many man-made stairways I saw that were swinging in the wind, having been destroyed in the past year were countless. As I paddled for a good mile or so, I really did experience a serenity I hadn’t in a long while, so much so, that I went back out the next day and traversed up the coastline instead. All in all, while I did have some soreness from the task after two days and several miles of doing it, I was extremely grateful I had pushed through my ego, as I enjoyed it immensely.

Something else I also pushed through on this trip that I hadn’t done since 2010 was ride a bike again. The resort also offered use of a number of three-speed bikes. Chris and I opted to bike one afternoon together for about an hour, going through the local neighborhood and seeing some pretty fantastic-looking beach houses and yards adorning the cliffside. At one point, when Chris decided to take a break, I pedaled on for a few more miles on my own, which for someone that has been more inactive physically over the past decade was a pretty significant achievement.

Lastly, I want to thank the resort itself where we stayed, as it really has just about every amenity one would want on a vacation getaway. The Lakeshore Resort, built originally in 1952 and been family-owned ever since, has been totally transformed over the years to an exceptional level. Besides the kayaks and bikes offered there, they have a gorgeous in-ground pool, multiple Adirondack-chair seating areas around the property, walking trails in the woods they own behind them, two firepits, seating on multiple levels on the cliffside, one of which is directly at the lake’s edge, free yoga instruction, and plenty of gardens and grounds that were perfectly manicured and well-maintained. Everyone on the property has a great view of the lake and the sunsets I got to see every day there were stunning. Oh, and for the coffee snob in me, they also use a local place called Uncommon Coffee Roasters that was pretty dam good! When I can spend two entire days doing nothing but lounging around the resort I’m staying at it’s definitely a place I’m enjoying staying at.

Nevertheless, I’m really grateful for all these many positive memories Chris and I created on this trip, including also the cards we played together poolside and at sunset, the places we dined at downtown and up in Holland, and last but not least, the mother deer and her just-born fawn we saw nursing underneath her on our last day there. So much gratitude from our short getaway and one I’ll most certainly never forget.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s another Grateful Heart Monday, which means another day to practice expressing gratitude from my life, something I believe is key to living a spiritual life, which for today is for making 26 years of sobriety from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes on June 11.

I know each year I’ve written a gratitude article surrounding this when I’ve reached this date again clean from these former addictions, but in light of how much this pandemic affected me, as well as the long suffering I’ve gone through with chronic pain and health issues, the fact that I’ve remained clean and sober from these three things still is absolutely, 100% something I want to express gratitude for.

Ironically, while I have felt many urges over the past year since my last sober date to splurge on other various worldly things, I haven’t felt any compulsion or obsession to pick up alcohol, to take any drugs, or puff any cigarette. Honestly, I tend to believe that’s a miracle given some of the days where my mindset has been over the past year of craziness.

I heard a statistic not too long ago that 40 percent of people who were clean and sober from some former addiction before entering the pandemic, relapsed during it. I personally can attest to knowing several, some with long-standing sobriety, who went back out and re-delved into their former addictions. I’m thankful I can say I’m not one of them in regards to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, three things that I continue to repeat year after year in this blog that they almost once destroyed my life on far too many levels.

So, yes, I’m absolutely grateful to have another year of sobriety under my belt from the terrible three that once controlled every part of me and I give all that gratitude to my Higher Power, to God, who has helped me one day at a time to keep going, even when my mind hasn’t wanted to, on countless days. For this, I’m truly blessed and so very thankful!

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a day for gratitude, which for today is for the Monday night SLAA meeting that one of my sponsees and I started four years ago now and continues to be strongly supported and for my ongoing recovery in this 12 Step program.

SLAA is a 12 Step program for sex and love addiction for those who are unaware of what the acronym stands for. It’s a program that originated back in 1976 in Boston, Massachusetts. The founder of SLAA was a guy by the name of Rich, who was a recovering alcoholic that struggled with infidelity issues and romantic obsessions. My story is somewhat similar to his in that I had many years of sobriety with alcohol and drugs and a good place in recovery with it all but continued to deal with issues surrounding love addictions with unhealthy individuals, mostly married or unavailable. I also regularly used the Internet for sexual arousal, mostly to cope with all the loneliness I always felt late at night. When I discovered SLAA in 2011, I really connected with the program and began my first true year of sobriety on April 23rd, 2012. Unfortunately, when I moved to Toledo in 2014, there weren’t any SLAA meetings within an hour drive, so I went to an SAA (Sex Addicts Anonymous) meeting here in the area instead. While it helped, it didn’t feel quite right given the main part of my addiction was always romantic obsession. Thankfully, when one of my SAA sponsees asked me if I’d like to start an SLAA meeting in the area with her instead of attending SAA, I was ecstatic and said absolutely! We officially began SLAA Toledo in April of 2017 and have been going strong with it ever since. We regularly meet now on Monday nights from 7pm to 8pm here in Toledo and are presently doing a hybrid meeting where some of the attendee’s video in, while the rest are in a conference room with them on a screen overhead.

It’s truly been a blessing having an SLAA meeting here in Toledo all these years. Not only has it led to me sponsoring a number of individuals through the SLAA program, it’s also become a safe home for others who too once felt just like me, that all the other 12 Step recovery meetings just didn’t fit for them for what they were dealing with in the addiction realm.

My SLAA home group always uplifts me each week. Plenty of times there I’ve witnessed a number of attendees truly opening up and shedding tears, which I really believe says something about how healthy our meeting is. I think when people truly feel safe in a 12 Step meeting, it’s natural for people to open up and sharing from the heart where tears get shed.

Nevertheless, I’m thankful to have recently celebrated nine years of sobriety from my old sex and love addiction behaviors. I’ve been monogamous with my partner these past nine years, have steered clear of all unhealthy old sexual behaviors on the Internet, and haven’t found myself getting entangled into any romantic obsessions either. Much of this is owed to my SLAA home group, where I continue to find a safe haven to open up about a part of my addiction life that once almost destroyed me.

I’m thankful for SLAA, for my SLAA home group, and for my nine years of recovery. I’m a better person today because of it all. Thank You God.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a dedicated time set aside for gratitude from my life each week, which for today is for something I normally wouldn’t be grateful for whatsoever and am usually quite annoyed with instead. But, I’m choosing to look at it differently, with a grateful set of eyes, and that’s for all those whirly-birds and leaves that fall into my yard every spring and fall.

For most who know me, I tend to treat my yard with a little too much OCD, liking it to always look extremely neat and orderly. But during two times of the year that last about 2 to 3 weeks each, it becomes very hard to maintain, when all those maple trees around my house shed thousands of whirly-birds and leaves.

There have been countless times that I’ve cursed those trees, shouting with my “Shop Vac” wand pointing at the skies at how annoying they are. But, today, when I cleaned up the first big round of those whirly-birds, I actually approached it differently. I approached it with gratitude, and was thankful for the opportunity to be more mindful in my life, to learn greater patience, and ultimately, to keep my mind occupied on something other than my ongoing frustrations with my health, as well as anything else I’ve been worrying about lately.

Given I don’t have any job in my life to take up a lot of my time, nor any heavy volunteer work due to the pandemic having cleared away much of that, I’ve had an incredible amount of free time, which for the addict like me isn’t always the best thing, and is precisely what I was thinking about today as I began to clear away the first big round of spring clean-up. At least my focus in my downtime was on a healthy action.

If there’s one that isn’t healthy for an addict like me, is to just sit in the house for endless hours, surfing the internet and watching tv, because it generally leads to nothing good in the long run, and even greater depression at times. Thus, having this task is a blessing rather than a curse.

So, I’ve decided this spring, and coming up this fall, to be grateful instead for all the time I’m outside taking care of those whirly-birds and leaves. I’m going to remain thankful for having something to occupy my life in a healthy way, for continuing to beautify my yard and be out in nature, and having the chance to learn how to be more mindful in my life, present in my actions, and at peace through it all.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the main focus of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for two people, Chuck and Lynn Sords, who were really there for me just after my father took his life and remained a loving part of my life ever since.

It’s hard to believe that it has been over two and half decades since my father took his life. As tragic as his passing was all those years ago, there indeed was a very strong blessing that came just after it and that was the entrance into my life of a couple who attended the church I was attending at the time, who surrounded me with love when I felt it wasn’t worth being loved or loving anyone anymore.

Those initial weeks after my father’s passing were a total blur, even to this day, but if there is one thing I remember quite vividly during that period of time, it was Chuck and Lynn approaching me on one of the Sunday’s I attended service after my Dad’s death at the Metropolitan Community Church of Washington D.C. There, in their hands, was a small teddy bear that on its shirt said, “Prayer Bear”. They told me that the bear would comfort me through that difficult time and that the love of them both was in that bear. I most assuredly felt that when I took the bear into my hands. That day the service was taken from the book of “Philip” and I subsequently named the bear that solely for that reason. Philip has remained a close part of my life and either slept in my bed or nearby my bed ever since, always reminding me that there is someone in this world who truly loves me, even when I sometimes don’t feel worthy of being loved or loving at all.

I truly have been grateful for Philip, but I’m more grateful for Chuck and Lynn remaining a part of my life ever since that day I received the teddy bear. Chuck and Lynn became surrogate parents of sorts after that, given all the turmoil I went through. They truly surrounded me with unconditional love, opening up their home countless times to me, for meals, game nights, conversation, and connection, something I never really had much of in my own biological family.

While over the years the proximity to where Chuck and Lynn live to where I live has grown quite distant, all it takes to see how close I still am to either is to pick up the phone and call them, or to suddenly receive a call from either, like I did recently from Chuck. I tend to generally feel much better after talking to them and often wish I did live much closer to them.

How many times Chuck and Lynn have consoled me when I needed it, embraced with me warmth, and surrounded me with love over the years is countless by this point in time, and although I have not seen either in person in well over a decade by now, I still continue to feel their presence in my heart and soul and probably always will.

Philip will forever be a wonderful reminder of their love, but Chuck and Lynn’s love for me and vice versa most definitely transcends far beyond the physical construct of the teddy bear. I know God put Chuck and Lynn in my life exactly when I needed it, by moving their hearts to connect with mine through the gift of Philip, and I will eternally be thankful for that and for them continuing to remain a part of my life ever since that day.

That’s why today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to two individuals in this world who have consistently shared their hearts and love openly with me, embracing me with something I never had much of growing up. Thank you, Chuck and Lynn Sords for all you’ve done for me, you both mean the world to me and always will…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude becomes my only focus in my writing, which for today is for a privilege I’ve often taken for granted, and that’s my ability to drive and having a valid driver’s license.

How many of you who have a valid driver’s license and regularly drive yourself to all the places you do have ever expressed gratitude for it? Up until today’s posting, I’m not sure if I ever have myself. The fact is, I drive a lot. In fact, the Toyota Camry I drive that has been mine since I bought it off a lot in late 2006 has almost 280,000 miles on it if that gives you any idea of how much I tend to be behind the wheel. Of course, to be able to drive that much, I have to have a valid driver’s license, something I got way back in 1989 in New York and have never been without since. How many places I’ve personally driven myself to since then is countless at this point in my life. Jobs, interviews, 12 Step meetings, day trips, vacations, romantic dates, friend outings, game nights, movie ventures, coffee get togethers, speaking engagements, volunteer gigs, and so much more, each having been so much easier getting to because I’ve had a valid driver’s license and ability to drive myself wherever I needed to.

After going to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) here in Toledo recently and sitting amongst many trying to get back on the road or possibly for the first time, I came to really appreciate a luxury many don’t have in this world, many of whom I’ve personally met through the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous who lost their licenses long ago and don’t have the ability to drive anymore due to driving under the influence. It’s something I think about regularly each time I attend a meeting and hear about someone who got a DUI. Truthfully, I drank and drove illegally many times over back in the day during my active addict years and should have lost my license each time I did. Thank God I never hurt anyone back then, including myself, and thank God I never lost my license either. That’s why I was so grateful at the BMV, as renewing my license was a rather painless process. I showed up, filled out some paperwork, answered some questions, retook an eye test, and a short while later, was walking out with documents showing my approval for the new federal driver’s license.

Many of us who have this privilege to drive never realize how difficult it is for others who don’t have this privilege, who have to rely on public transportation to carry on their lives. I’ve met some who have to get up an extra hour and a half early just to get to their jobs on time using public transportation. And what about those who don’t have licenses who have to do grocery shopping? I simply go to the store and load all those bags into my car and then unload them right at my front door. Others who don’t have the ability to drive have to carry all of theirs onto buses and walk blocks and blocks just to get them home. If I had to rely upon public transportation to do any of this, there is a single bus that leaves a few streets over from my home only twice a day and doesn’t really go to any of the places I regularly go to. In fact, many of the places I drive to in this area don’t even have public transportation going there.

It’s for these reasons and many more, that I most assuredly am thankful for still having my ability to drive. Having my ability to drive and having this license in my wallet after all these years since I first got it, is absolutely something I want to celebrate for today’s Grateful Heart Monday and something I don’t ever want to take for granted again.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another round of gratitude for this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is for Chadwick Boseman, an actor who I came to admire his talent and perseverance no matter what circumstances he faced in life.

As most know by now, Chadwick Boseman passed away in 2020 due to a very painful 4-year-long battle with colon cancer. But, throughout his painful circumstances, most would have never known the struggles he was facing, as he continued to act and star in a number of impressive films including Marshall, Avengers Infinity War and Endgame, 21 Bridges, Da 5 Bloods, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. What I came to appreciate the most about Boseman in watching all those movies was that he never gave up, or in, to his illness and throughout it all, he showed the world how incredible an actor he was.

While Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom was not necessarily my cup of tea for the type of movie I like to watch, his performance within it was electrifying and incredibly believable, so much so, that it earned him many acting awards for the role. I was so excited that one of them was an Academy Award nomination for playing the character Levee in the movie and had really hoped he’d take home the trophy on Oscar night posthumously. Sadly, he didn’t, but he most assuredly left his impressive mark upon Hollywood in his too-young-to-die 43-year-old life.

The first time I saw how dynamic of an actor Boseman was came in the film “42” where he played the role of baseball legend Jackie Robinson. It was such a memorable one for me that I, even 8 years later, remember vividly the story of Robinson and even bought the film for home viewing because of how well Boseman played him.

I always tell people the mark of a great actor or actress is when you no longer see the person playing the role they are playing and instead you feel like you are actually watching the person they are embodying in the film. Said in another way, it’s when a gifted actor or actress is able to lose themselves completely in the role they are playing. There are a number of great actors and actresses throughout movie history that come to mind who have done this quite well and have often been nominated for many acting awards because of it. Two modern day individuals who come to mind the quickest for me are Meryl Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis. Both built their resume up from one film to the next, getting better and better with each performance and I believe that Boseman would have eventually joined their ranks and been amongst the greats in acting history if he had remained alive.

That’s why I’m so sad that Boseman passed away tragically from a disease he wrestled with painfully for far too long. I am grateful though that even through it all he showed the world and especially me, just how amazing he was, both as an actor and as a human being with an incredible ability to persevere no matter what his circumstances were in life. You will be missed Chadwick and I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to your life and how much it touched mine.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series, a series which continues to focus on only one thing, that being an important piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for no longer being afraid to cry in front of others.

A long time ago, I was taught that if you were going to be a “real man” in this world, you should never cry in front of others. That grown men should not openly display this type of emotion in the world. My mother was the first to tell me this and she often did her best to help me grow into those big boy pants, to make me tough, and never show any vulnerability like that. I did pretty well with it for many years, even taking Tae Kwon Do and becoming a brown belt to be strong. Later, I learned that alcohol and drugs were also great ways to keep those vulnerable emotions suppressed. On the really heaving drinking and drugging days though, when I went too far with the substances I was consuming, my emotions got the best of me and I’d often end up in a torrent of tears about all the insecurities of my life. I’d always blame the alcohol and drugs of course the next day and toughen right back up, vowing to not allow myself to ever do that again. I did of course time and time again, but only when I was under the influence.

When I finally got sober from alcohol and drugs, and had nothing to suppress those emotions anymore, I went to the next best thing, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, mostly because I started crying all the time and didn’t want anyone to see that. I honestly believed from what I was taught that it made me weak and I wanted to remain strong, So, I tried my best even sober, to never openly shed my tears.

I took that to the extreme, like I have most things in my life, and rarely did I show my tears, even when my father took his life or when my mother took her tragic drunken fall down the stairs. I began to use other addictions to numb myself from those deep emotions and pain and paid the price for that, as I eventually learned that putting a stopper in those feelings and holding all those painful emotions down, only led to me becoming an angry and rage-filled individual, someone who walked around in the world with a major chip on his shoulder.

The only individuals I ever really let see the real side of me for much of my life were those I fell in love with and a few therapists I saw. To the rest of the world though, I hid my true self, someone who deep down was a hurt little boy who always felt sad and alone. When I finally came to terms with that and realized how much damage it was causing my mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical health, I began working on opening those flood gates. To do so meant walking away from a number of other addictions that only suppressed those emotions.

The past eight years or so, I’ve done pretty well with this and have really worked hard to show my vulnerability. I still have my good days with it and some bad days. On the good days, like just tonight for example, when I was hanging out with a good friend of mine, I let the tears fall from my face and it was rather healing and connecting with my friend. On those bad days, when I don’t want to take that wall down around my heart, I tend to yell and cause arguments, trying to create separation with those I love, all because of the fear of getting hurt, something I know all too well throughout much of my life with abandonment and loneliness.

But, the reality is I know it’s ok to cry now and how healthy it is as well, not just alone on my knees on the side of my bed, but everywhere. While I do cry more than not these days about the state of my life with my health, especially in the morning when I awake and am alone with all my pain and all that angst it causes me, I am thankful I can express it more openly now too. I do so with plenty of others in my life, to the groups I speak to, to my close friends and even those who aren’t friends at all. I am authentic now in my life in my emotions more than not, and for that I am so very grateful. Because at the core, showing my tears, allowing my tears, for the world to see, while my mother long ago would have said grown men don’t do that type of thing and that it makes one weak, I see otherwise. Showing my tears actually make me strong, strong in myself for being true to me, and strong in showing to other men that there really is a strength that comes from expressing feelings like that with another.

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