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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where I always write about a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for something that came out of a friend’s pandemic house cleaning.

I’m sure many of us have done various pandemic projects around their home during the last year given how this pandemic has kept us more at home than not. I know that’s the case for me at least and thankfully for a friend of mine as well, who during some of his own clearing out of piles of stuff discovered a slew of gift certificates from Cold Stone Creamery.

I love Cold Stone Creamery and occasionally go there and get a treat for myself, especially after a long day. So, when my friend handed me a stack of paper gift certificates from them, I was ecstatic, until I saw they had expired way back in 2005! But, I said what the heck and went to Cold Stone not too long after receiving them from my friend and tried to use one of the eighteen $5 paper vouchers. It didn’t take long for the manager there to see the expiration was from 16 years ago. She actually laughed that I had tried to use one. I told her it was worth a try and she suggested I contact their corporate if I wanted to pursue it further. Hell, why not I said. So, I did. I contacted their corporate by opening a ticket through their email system and followed that up with a phone call a few days later.

I had zero expectations that my contact to Cold Stone corporate was going to achieve anything and assumed they would probably just tell me the same thing the store manager had, that they were just too old. I was pleasantly surprised though when the same manager who had turned them down the first time contacted me and said her corporate had given approval to honor them. She asked me to come into the store as soon as I could, so I opted to do so the very same day, as I wasn’t convinced it was actually going to happen.

Sure enough, that manger took my certificates and gave me a $90 plastic gift card that had no expiration date and even threw in two free ice creams that day for me and my friend Rob who was with me at the time.

I guess it goes to show that sometimes good things do happen when you least expect it, as I most assuredly didn’t expect gift certificates with expirations dates of over 16 years ago to be honored. I’m grateful I have a personality that pursues silly things like this, even when to most others, they’d probably have been thrown away after the first rejection. And I’m grateful as well that I now have a lot of ice cream treats ahead of me to enjoy this summer for free!!!

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is always the focus of my writing, which for today is for another big milestone I just passed with this blog, TheTwelfthStep.

When I first began this blog, I had only one goal in mind and that was to share an entry every single day within it, as it was initially intended to be an online diary of sorts about my spiritual journey in life. The fact that I started this blog well over 8 years ago now and have continued to keep it going ever since is a feat in itself. But maintaining it with an entry per day has been a significant challenge over the years, especially during the many dark periods I’ve had to face and went through quite painfully. The number of days where the pain was so great, where I just wanted to give up on this blog, or at the very minimum, take a long break from it, have been countless. Yet, God has helped me somehow to keep going with it, one entry at a time. Sometimes, I don’t even know where that energy comes from to keep this going for as long as I have, but wherever it’s come from has helped me to finally achieve consecutive 3000 entries and counting!

3000 consecutive days of logging into this blog and sharing something with the world from my life is absolutely something to be grateful for. Honestly, it’s hard to fathom how I’ve remained dedicated to a task that often isn’t very rewarding, especially when readers at times have criticized what I’ve shared, as each of my shares come from my heart. But I thank God for the readers who have connected to my words and have shared how blessed they were by them, who have continued to follow my daily musings day after day. Because it’s each of you that has helped me to achieve reaching this milestone of 3000 consecutive postings. What’s ironic is that initially I was meant to do this in a “Dear Diary” type of way at home via a journal, as my spiritual teacher once suggested that. Yet, I know I wouldn’t have lasted this long doing this in such a fashion.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of things I’ve tried to keep doing in life but gave up on them not long after I started them. Vows I made to myself, promises I swore I’d keep, and tasks that I really wanted to ensure I’d never give up on, each always thrown to the wayside after varying lengths of time, none even close to this recent milestone. That’s why surpassing 3000+ consecutive entries in this blog is such an incredible feat for myself and most assuredly something to be grateful for.

The fact is, it’s reaching this feat that shows I have an inner strength, a strong fortitude, and a fierce determination of sorts, one that has kept TheTwelfthStep going, one entry at a time, one day at a time. Sharing about my life day after day after day has rarely been easy, but thanks be to God I continue to do it, 3000 consecutive entries and growing, one word at a time, I truly am filled with immense gratitude and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to a feat I never thought I’d achieve.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday chapter from my life. Today’s piece of gratitude is dedicated to the alcohol and drug addiction education speaking opportunities I continue to have with Greek life at the University of Toledo (UT).

People often ask me what I find most rewarding in my recovery from alcohol and drug addiction after almost 26 years of sobriety from both. My answer is always the same. It’s the speaking opportunities I get to share about my journey from addiction to recovery, especially with those who may not have succumbed to the disease yet, like with students from colleges and universities, and more importantly, those that are in Greek organizations there, where alcohol and drugs tend to become quite rampant.

Personally, my alcohol and drug dependency took off during my university days at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), mainly after I joined the Greek life with Phi Kappa Psi where I became surrounded on a regular basis with people partying more than not on any given night. Because of that, one of the things I always wanted to do once I found recovery from alcohol and drugs was to speak about it with those active in fraternities and sororities. It was a hope that maybe I might be able to help prevent some of what I went through by simply sharing a real story of addiction.

Sadly, alcohol and drug education at colleges and universities is often limited to presentations that just share statistics about the disease. Policeman, fireman, and EMT’s are normally the ones who do these types of presentations, but it’s hard for people to really connect to this type of education for alcohol and drug addiction. While Greek life has mandatory presentations like this on many college campuses, it often isn’t enough and more is never done until a problem actually happens, rather than long before.

I spent my entire college life getting drunk and high, never hearing any personal stories of alcohol and drug addiction from anyone, and only ever learning a few simple statistics about the disease through those undergrad years. The fact is, it’s also very easy to hide out in Greek life partying all the time, because there are so many always looking for some type of a release from the stressors and pressures of college life, where alcohol and drug use become the number one sought venue to achieve that. That’s why telling my story to many in the Greek life at UT has been so critical and brought me plenty of gratitude.

What initially began with me speaking to the Kappa Delta sorority when they got in trouble on the UT campus a few years ago for a drinking relating incident, turned into further opportunities for me to work with them and others in Greek life, specifically pledges who often feel pressured to drink and drug solely to impress their brothers and sisters, just like I once did.

Presently, the Phi Kappa Psi chapter at UT is doing it right by having me come in each semester and work with each batch of new pledges before they even become brothers, providing them some much-needed personal education surrounding the horrors of alcohol and drug addiction. I have continued to see the benefits of providing this type of education to them, including seeing several brothers turn away from behaviors that were leaning towards addiction.

In the grand scheme of things, people often don’t seek help for alcohol and drug addiction until long after they have a big problem with either. But maybe many of those problems can be prevented by providing a real-life story of addiction to both before their addiction ever gets a chance to take root? This is why I’m so grateful to my present connection and speaking opportunities I continue to get at UT surrounding my recovery from alcohol and drugs, especially with Greek life there. I look forward to each of these speaking engagements, as they not only help others in the prevention of this deadly disease, they also helps me remain clean and sober from a life I hope to never go back to again.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to a new week and another Grateful Heart Monday in my blog, TheTwelfthStep, where gratitude remains the only focus in this series of my writing, which for today is for the understanding I received, about a disease I never quite understood, through a movie, “The Father”, and its main actor, Anthony Hopkins.

“The Father” revolves around Hopkins playing a man of the same first name as he, who is an 80-year-old facing the onset of dementia in his life. Shown through his perspective, the film takes the viewer down an incredibly bizarre path of presentation that was probably the most incredible portrayal I’ve ever seen of someone suffering from a disease that affects memory loss and identity. Watching parts of Anthony’s life disappear and reappear, seeing him struggle to identify even those closest to him like his daughter Anne (played by Olivia Coleman), clinging to parts of him that may or may not be real, I came to understand a type of disease that affected both my mom’s mother and her as well.

For example, my grandmother used to tell me the same stories over and over again. She’d also think my sister was her daughter at times. She’d forget my mother was divorced and would ask where her husband was. She’d think I was still in high school after I had long been in college. And she’d misplace things with ease until suddenly, in any given moment, she’d jump back into the grandmother I once knew and had grown to love. The one who shot hoops with me and made me laugh with ease, who had such a vibrancy to life. I never quite grasped back then why she couldn’t just snap out of what was happening to her. But, after watching The Father, I really understood far better some of what she was going through.

I saw early signs of this with my mother as well before her tragic passing in life. On some level, I’m actually thankful I never had to experience the pain that children go through with parents who lose their memories, including of them. Honestly, I pray to God I never have to deal with Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s one of the biggest reasons why I don’t drink or drug, because both my mother and grandmother both drank profusely, which I think only aggravated the onset of their memory loss and disease.

Regardless, I have to give it to Anthony Hopkins for helping me understand so much better something I only witnessed a mere fraction of during my earlier years in life. Hopkins is such the dynamic actor that he makes me believe every single character he plays in all his movies, as if it’s really who he is in life. As an aside, I feel the same with every role Meryl Streep plays as well.

Nevertheless, watching Hopkins go through the motions of life as his dementia takes more and more of him away, it was heart-wrenching, but so eye-opening. Struggling to identify what was real and what wasn’t, clinging to facets of himself that he thought was still true, and eventually regressing into the young boy he once was, longing for a mother to take care of him as he wept uncontrollably, I found myself having far greater compassion and understanding of a disease I never did understand.

Truly, my heart, compassion, and understanding goes out to all those who have had to either endure watching a loved one succumb to Alzheimer’s or dementia, and to those who have directly battled and lost their lives to these diseases as well. Today’s Grateful Heart Monday is dedicated to the movie, “The Father” and its main actor, Anthony Hopkins”, who made that change of heart possible within me.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a series in my blog dedicated to finding and focusing on the gratitude in life, which for today is for my partner Chris’s recent successful back surgery and for the one who performed it, Dr. Healey.

About a year ago, Chris began complaining about pain going down both of his legs. I thought it was just sciatica brought on by stress and tension. Over the months that would follow though, his pain grew stronger, causing him to walk with a waddle of sorts. Initially I joked about it, which I regret now, calling him a penguin. Little did I know there was a serious compression growing worse by the day upon a bundle of nerves in his low back. By late summer and well into the fall, his ability to walk any distance became seriously compromised. We often had to stop and sit on benches, which I know so very well from suffering from Fibromyalgia-related complications. When Chris finally caved in and went to see a back specialist, they attempted at first, as they always do, to see if medications might help. They didn’t of course, so they tried the second course of action for back pain, which is cortisone shots directly into the area where the pain was emanating from. Chris did that several times to no avail, which eventually led to back surgery being scheduled. Unfortunately, that surgery was delayed from January into late February due to both of us getting COVID.

When the day of his surgery finally arrived, I was holding onto a lot of irrational fears because my hypochondria often gets the best of me, even when it comes to other’s health, especially those I love deeply. Fears that included me thinking my partner would undergo the knife and never come out of it, that he might get paralyzed, or that there would be no benefit at all and he’d be put on permanently disability. Thankfully, none of those worries came to fruition.

Dr. Healey opened the area in Chris’s back with such precision and smoothed down the bone area that was pressing into his nerves so well, that Chris’s recovery was immediate from the time he opened his eyes after the surgery. The only pain Chris felt post-surgery was in the actual area where the surgery had taken place. But, all that pain that had been plaguing him going down his legs, all that numbness, and inability to walk normally was totally gone!

It’s now been well over a month since his surgery and I have seen such an incredible healing in Chris. The scar on his back is minimal now and the effects of the surgery have been only positive, which I’m so thankful to Dr. Healey and to God of course for helping my partner through something that I know initially caused him some fears as well.

I’ve known of many who’ve had back surgery over the years, and multiple ones at that, some of which regret having them because of now having permanent pain and damage from it. Thankfully, my partner isn’t one of them and is well on the road to living a great sense of normalcy again. I truly am grateful to Dr. Healey for being such an expert surgeon and grateful to God for guiding his hands so successfully and am dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday for them both having ultimately restored my partner’s back to a level he’s now able to function and live his life again.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Thanks for joining in to another entry in my blog series, Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude continues to remain my only focus of my writing. For today, I am dedicating my gratitude to all those I’ve come to know over the years in recovery whose lives were eventually taken away by their addiction, including my friend Anthony A., who just recently passed away due to an accidental overdose.

While I know there are some who probably would be grateful for unhealthy reasons, thinking things like “good riddance”, when an alcoholic or drug addict they once cared about suddenly dies from an overdose, I’m not one of them. That’s because I consider it a great loss each time anyone loses their life to a tumultuous addiction. While it indeed may be heartbreaking for me to see any life lost to an overdose, rather than focus on that tragic loss, I’ve always felt it important to dwell on the positive parts they left behind, as they’re always there.

In Anthony’s case, he was a good father to his daughter Mia, a loving partner to his sweetheart Kara, a funny guy who knew how to make plenty laugh, a caring guy with a caring heart who would help out when needed and called upon, and someone whose smiles and grins could make others follow in suit. Although it’s been well over 7 years since I last saw Anthony in any my 12 Step social circles, I will always remember his good-natured charm each time I saw him when he’d give me a big hug.

Dwelling on any of the negative legacy an addict leaves behind when they suddenly die from their disease though just leaves the door open for unhealthy resentments. That’s why I find it important to shift any negativity onto remembering the good the person did while here, as it helps immensely in the grieving process. What also helps in that is remembering that each was a child of God, worthy and deserving of love, rather than focusing elsewhere, leaving a door open in the process for judgment and hatred to form.

Nevertheless, I have seen lately that addiction and deaths from overdose have been increasing rapidly in these pandemic times, which most likely is due to the very limited in-person 12 Step meetings, infrequent social gatherings, and a serious lack of human interaction and touch, each being things meant to help an individual remain clean and sober. It’s in those three things where I regularly saw the good in Anthony, as well as in a number of others who have since passed on due to overdoses as well.

People like Aaron, Derek, Danny, Charlie, Bobby, Paulie, Beanzy, and countless others who came into my life at various points in my recovery and blessed it far before their addiction took them out of this world and into the next. So often people navigate to anger first when an addict dies from their addiction. I think it’s easier to feel angry than feel the pain of their loss. But as a person grieves, they find that below their wall of anger is a well of sorrow and tears emanating from the love and the good that person once shared with them.

Frankly, it’s never easy when any addict, who was also a loved one, suddenly passes away from their disease, but it’s far easier to deal with their death remembering the positive things they did while here, rather than dwelling on the negative, which is how I’ve learned to be grateful each time another tragedy like this occurs.

So, I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you, Anthony A., and the countless others I once knew in my recovery life who have each at various points touched my heart and helped me to keep going, clean and sober, one day at a time, and for that alone, I’ll be forever grateful.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains my only focus at the start of every week, which for today is for a big repair getting done on my car for free from damage done to it 10 years ago!

My car is old, 14 years old to be precise. It has over 271,000 miles on it and it’s a Camry Hybrid of which I’m the original owner. I’m quite thankful for this car and continue to do what I can to keep it going, given I don’t have a job and regular income to justifiably purchase a new vehicle or even a used one for that matter. Unfortunately, my car has sustained a few accidents over the years that have led to some major repairs. One such repair took place in April of 2011 when someone hit the entire left side of my vehicle. This repair was done at a small body shop in a town named Woonsocket, which is in Rhode Island. About two years after that repair, I moved to Toledo, Ohio and shortly thereafter, while washing and waxing my car one day, I noticed a small pea-sized bubble in one of the areas that had been repaired at that body shop. I had no idea what it was but assumed it was just a minor flaw from that body’s shop’s work and given I was now over 650 miles away, I had no choice but to do my best to ignore it.

As time went on and the years passed, that bubble grew larger and larger, until rust began to show its ugly face there, eventually turning into a much bigger problem. From time to time, I’d get estimates as to how much it would cost to fix the problem. All usually came in around $3000 leaving me with no choice each time but to accept the issue and tell myself it’s just an old car. Unfortunately, that was the only area of rust on my entire vehicle, which irked me at times given I couldn’t afford to take care of it. After going through an incredibly snowy and salt-drenched road winter here, the problem exacerbated all the worse.

One day though, about four weeks ago now, I had a strange thought and wondered if the claims area of my insurance company might be willing to fix the problem since it originally stemmed from a claim. I had nothing to lose so I called them up and quickly received the first piece of gratitude when I discovered the repair would indeed be warrantied if proven to stem from the original job, because it had been done at one of their licensed body shops. The second piece of gratitude came right after that when they told me I wouldn’t have to go back there to get the work done and could take it to one of their local body shops. About a week later, the third piece of gratitude came when the estimator showed me where the original job hadn’t sealed the paint correctly and how that rust bubble began, solidifying that it was a warrantable repair.

So, by the time this article gets published, my car will be in a local body shop getting fully repaired, and for free! After having dealt with this problem for the past decade, it’s a no brainer for me to dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to this good fortune, for something good happening for once in my life, and for a problem that has most definitely frustrated me for far too long, finally getting the much-needed repair that has been long overdue.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter in my series, Grateful Heart Monday, where I write about a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for the mere five seconds I was ahead of being hit by a huge Ford F150 fleeing from policeman who had guns drawn, an incident that ended up totaling several cars directly behind me.

Some say that timing is everything and I often feel that God has a hand in that. I once saw an amazing movie about this with Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, and Anthony Mackie. It was called The Adjustment Bureau and was about angels in human form, invisible to us, who influenced daily things in our lives through even the simplest of actions like spilling a cup of coffee onto a person or abruptly changing a traffic light when a car approaches, where in doing so allowed for something to happen or not to happen. I’ve often wondered if this very thing occurs in real life and I say this in all seriousness, I tend to believe it does.

How many random elements impacted the timing of my drive that day prior to me coming upon this unfolding crime scene I have no idea. Mathematically the number’s probably quite staggering. Forgetting my sunglasses and my bottle of water before I left the house, the home phone ringing (twice in a row in fact!) just as I went back in to get them, all those traffic lights I hit or missed along the way, the many cars, especially a few 18-wheelers that affected my drive on my way that day, there were so many factors that influenced the precise timing of where my vehicle was at any given time on the drive that day to my appointment with my sponsor in 12 Step recovery.

Nevertheless, when I ultimately found myself slowly inching around in the left lane by this large F150 stopped in the right lane on a local road near where I was meeting someone for coffee, an officer had his hand on his holster while he talked to the guy in the passenger seat of the truck. They both were yelling at each other, although I couldn’t hear what was being said because my widows were up. I could still feel all the tension though and was thankful once I got in front of the whole thing. Not five seconds later, I suddenly heard this huge kaboom and looked in my rearview mirror to see the driver of that truck trying to flee the scene and was now in the process of ramming multiple vehicles directly behind me as he tried to get away. Even after he had badly mangled at least three of them, he tried to continue driving his truck, but at that point it had become inoperable. As soon as that became apparent to him, he raced out of his truck that was now smoking and blocking both lanes behind me, all this unfolding only 50 yards or so from where I just was.  The man was tackled in the middle of the street and placed in handcuffs and I continued on to my destination visibly shaken. Five seconds earlier, my car would have been one of those totaled and the fact that it wasn’t, and the fact that I wasn’t involved in any of that crime scene is something I’m extremely grateful for.

I already have enough physical pain in my life to deal with that I can only shudder to imagine how much more I would have had being struck with the force he did to those cars behind me. Beyond potential whiplash, PTSD, head or neck trauma, and of course the notion that I was driving my partner’s still relatively new car that day, I feel like I have a lot to be grateful for here. So, I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday to the 5 seconds of time that meant all the difference. Did God influence those 5 seconds somehow? I choose to believe God did and I’m grateful for those 5 seconds I was ahead of that crime scene unfolding because they meant all the difference with my health, my partner’s car, and my life in general.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where expressing a piece of gratitude remains the only focus in my writing at the beginning of every week, which for today is for something that I took for granted until I lost it, and now have thankfulness for it, as it starts to return, and that is my smell and taste.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever in my entire life expressed any form of gratitude over my senses of smell and taste, but definitely for my sight and hearing though. I just assumed that something like my smell and taste were two things that would always be there. Then I contracted COVID. And well, as most know by now, a great majority of people who come down with COVID also lose some or all of their smell and taste for varying lengths of time. Prior to getting sick with COVID, I had a relatively good sense of smell and taste. Things like hand soaps and shampoos were usually very strong smelling, even when I got a cold. And most foods I consumed I could taste even the slightest of spices and such. But, a day after I came down with COVID, I lost all of my ability to smell anything and the only thing I could taste was either sweetness or saltiness.

It really is true that when you lose something, you really begin to become grateful for what you had before you lost it. Maybe that’s why we all seem to be so unappreciative of those cloudy or rainy or snowy days that go on and on, that is until those crystal clear blue sunny skies return where they then seem all the more amazing. If we didn’t have those long periods of weather we didn’t want, would we ever appreciate the weather we did want? Maybe that’s why we occasionally need to lose things to find more gratitude in our lives. Well I can definitely say that entirely losing my sense of smell and taste brought an incredible amount of appreciation for two things I never have thought about much and just took for granted.

Nevertheless, as my smell and taste has slowly begun to recover, catching occasional whiffs of my orange-vanilla body soap or tasting the sharp tanginess of some cheddar in my salad has been absolutely something to celebrate and be grateful for. As these two senses return and fluctuate in their efficacy, I am doing my best now to express my appreciation to God and offer gratitude for them.

Out of all this, I think the biggest lesson I learned and the most gratitude I have is for the simple fact of how important it is to remain grateful for even the smallest of things we might not ever think about in our lives, including all the parts of our working bodies. So, yes, I’m thankful today and dedicate this Grateful Heart Monday for my fingers and toes being able to still function, for having all my limbs still, for all my organs continuing to work, for bodily waste happening as it’s meant to, for all that my body still does to keep me up and running, which of course includes now two senses, my smell and taste, that are two things that I will never take for granted again.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains the only focus in my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for my dear friend Darrell McCarthy, someone who gave me a second chance after failing to be there for him at a very difficult point in his life.

Over two decades ago, when I used to live in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, I met Darrell and we quickly became friends. We went to church together, took trips together, went out on weekend nights to bars and clubs together, and well frankly, we hung out a lot. He was one of my closest friends for the longest of time. But, when I moved away from the D.C. area, our connection became limited to phone calls and text messages and were more and more infrequent the longer time passed without us seeing each other in person. I never stopped caring about him, as I’m sure the same was true with him, it’s just that with not living in the same vicinity or even within a short driving distance to each other, life moved on for the both of us.

Darrell met someone pretty awesome not too long after I had left the area, a guy named Randy, who eventually became his husband. They would go on to spend many, many years together, until one day when Randy tragically passed away due to some serious health issues. By that point, Darrell and I were probably communicating about once a year over the phone and occasionally via Facebook. Given that I don’t follow anyone on Facebook and have an empty newsfeed, I didn’t even know his partner had died until another friend had let me know. I had every intention to contact Darrell to offer him my condolences when I learned of this, but instead, somehow, I forgot. How I forgot I don’t even know at this point, but zoom forward to more than two years later, when just recently I found myself thinking about Darrell quite a bit, wondering how he was, when I noticed on Facebook we were no longer connected as friends. I reached out and messaged him to ask why and that’s when he reminded me I had completely forgotten to even reach out back when his husband had passed. He was pretty upset, which I totally understood, as I would have felt the same if the role had been reversed. I’m grateful to say though that after talking with him on the phone a few days later, that he accepted my heart-felt apology and amends and still wanted to be my friend. The whole experience was truly a humbling one because I do deeply care about Darrell, especially as he’s someone who was there for me through many of my own tragedies and traumas of life.

So, yes, I’m very much grateful for my friend Darrell for accepting my apology and amends and still wanting to reconnect with me. It says a lot about the type of guy he really is and always has been. Loyal, caring, compassionate, and extremely funny, especially when he talks of his singing idol Mariah Carey or his guilty food pleasure, that being Krispy Kreme donuts, I can’t imagine a life without Darrell being a part of it, even if we are separated by many miles these days. That’s why I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you Darrell, as you have given me much to be grateful for today through your forgiveness of my forgetfulness over a very painful part of your life. Thank you, my dear friend.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to this week’s Grateful Heart Monday, where I just want to offer my piece of gratitude for something that’s simple to write, but wasn’t simple to heal from, and that being for finally feeling just about fully recovered from contracting COVID-19 after so long of dealing with symptoms from it.

COVID-19 is like the engine that could. It just keeps on going and going and going, making the person regularly believe at times it may never go away. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being as severe as one could get with the virus, I made it all the way up to about a 7, coming just short of having those massive breathing issues that many others faced. I am quite thankful that my case of COVID never got that bad and have an incredible amount of compassion now for those who reached an 8, 9, or 10 with it, who landed in a hospital, many of which never even came home having perished from it.

Having been one of the lucky ones who did recover from COVID, I’m absolutely feeling thankful for that and am no longer taking this pandemic lightly like I once did. While I still have some minor smell/taste and dermatological issues that arose out of COVID, I can safely say now that the worst of it is truly over for me at least. There were countless moments though that this virus made me really question whether its symptoms would be permanent, especially when my severe hypochondria got the best of my thinking.

Now that I’m much better, I must say that the worst thing I ever did while suffering from COVID was most definitely read all the stuff about the virus on the web. While it can probably overwhelm anyone given all those worst-case scenarios out there, for someone with severe hypochondria like me, a guy who has spent countless moments obsessing in my brain with incessant worrying around my health, it totally exacerbated all of my COVID symptoms the more I read about it. So, I absolutely am thankful I can report now that I made it through something my brain told me repeatedly I wasn’t going to.

The fact is, getting COVID-19 is no joke. For some, it has lasted for many months, while others, even after nine months or more, are still reporting to have significant lingering effects from it. That’s why I consider myself blessed and grateful that I am feeling much better now, especially because this virus didn’t land me, or my partner who had it as well, in the emergency room, or worse.

So, in the end, I am grateful for all the lessons I learned in humility from contracting this virus given how I had been handling it with kid gloves prior, but I’m filled with even more gratitude for having survived and healed from it now. It’s something I don’t take lightly and most definitely deserving of being the focus of today’s Grateful Heart Monday.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is always the sole subject of my writing, which for today is for remaining clean and sober from all my former addictions through this pandemic thus far and through even contracting a pretty serious case of COVID myself.

Sadly, there have been many who can’t say the same. Countless have relapsed into former addictions throughout this pandemic, including many who had worked so very hard for both their short-term and long-term sobriety. Much of that is due to all the quarantining and staying away from others for almost a year now. Sitting with oneself and remaining idle is difficult for plenty of people in this world, but almost downright impossible for many with an addict brain. It’s why recovering addicts of any kind will congregate on a weekly basis at those 12 Step meetings, even many years down the road in their sobriety, because it absolutely helps with all that “squirrelly-ness” an addict brains often goes through on a constant basis. Unfortunately, there aren’t that many 12 Step meetings going on in person presently due to the pandemic. But thankfully, I have experience calming the “squirrelly-ness” down right here at my home, as I learned how to sit with myself for long periods of time at a 10-day silent retreat long ago, where I sat in silence for hours on end every day. But even with my meditative experience, it’s still been challenging for me to deal with as much isolation as I’ve had, yet I can absolutely say I’ve remained clean and sober through it all because I’ve worked hard to keep doing my daily spiritual routine every, single, day.

Daily praying and meditating, saying affirmations, writing gratitude, maintaining this blog, connecting with other sober individuals over the phone, and occasionally jumping at any chance I’ve gotten to go help another addict of any type, has helped me remain clean and sober, through even the darkest of times, the darkest of which came just recently, when I was struck with COVID myself and had a case of it where I’d put how bad it was at about a 7 out of 10.

During the first two weeks of January, when COVID hit me the worst, when I could barely get out of bed, I really questioned God, my faith, and my entire existence. Having gone through so much pain and suffering already in recent years, it put me over the edge to where I began asking myself why I was even remaining clean and sober anymore. I’m quite sure that’s exactly how others have fallen into relapses during this pandemic. That’s why I’m so grateful that I’ve never broke my habit of praying every morning on my knees because it was during each of those moments where I have shed many tears and shouted in frustration at God, but also asked for the strength to not give up and to continue remaining clean and sober. And so far, I have. Thank God!

I don’t think sobriety is something to ever be taken lightly on any level. It’s not something one should ever say to themselves, “I’ve Got This!” And it most definitely is not something one should ever try to battle alone, which is why going through this pandemic has been so challenging for many of us in recovery from a former addiction, given the longevity thus far of our limited in-person interactions.

So yes, I’m extremely grateful to have remained clean and sober from all my former addictions these past 10 months. I haven’t picked up alcohol, or drugs, or cigarettes, or engaged in any toxic sex and love-based behaviors, or put myself into any type of financial debt, or done anything that put me into a complete downward spiral that all my old addictions once did to me. I’m so thankful to still be sober in this pandemic world we continue to live in, as my sobriety is most definitely something I don’t take for granted and never will.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always begins my week in writing, which for today is for Dennis Lange, a friend who recently passed away due to complications from the COVID-19 virus.

Dennis was someone I never really got to know all that deeply, but someone I always did admire from afar. It was never a secret to Dennis that I found him physically attractive, but what he never knew was how attracted I was to how giving of a person he was.

I first met Dennis many years ago because of an invite my partner Chris and I received to his annual Mardi Gras party held at his house in the Old West End of Toledo every February. Each year Dennis would open up his home to his friends and much of the community he was involved in to celebrate a roaring night of food, drink, costume, happiness, and cheer with each other. I never asked him how much time, energy, and money he put into those parties, but I know it was a lot. And he sure did do his best at every one of them, to let each of his guests know how appreciated they were.

Dennis was also part of a gay men’s social group here in Toledo that my partner and I attended regularly for a while. Dennis periodically hosted a number of the group’s events throughout the year at his home. Each time he did, it was apparent how much he had that soul of giving, as there was always plenty of amazing food and drink to go around, no different than his Mardi Gras parties.

And speaking of food and drink, when Dennis re-opened his restaurant, Pumpernickel’s, near its original location in downtown Toledo, I made sure to dine there a few times. He was always pleasant with there, and made me feel very welcomed. And whether there or at his home, he had this unique way to make me laugh and take life less seriously, especially when I was down.

While Dennis and I were two very different people in much of our belief systems, me more liberal and he more conservative on some issues and the exact opposite on others, he never once made me feel like my stances were wrong and instead consistently accepted them and me unconditionally. I appreciated him for that and for that strong stance he held in all his beliefs, as I found it to be a very attractive quality about himself.

There was a strength about Dennis and a determination in his personality, even when things were difficult in his life, and for someone I knew very little about in the six or so years I knew him, he always seemed like a pretty dynamic individual to me.

Extremely involved in the local community in many ways throughout his life, doing his best to make a difference many-a-times, regularly opening his home to plenty of guests, and even frequently giving to the homeless when they came right up to his own front porch, I am saddened to know this pandemic took yet another beautiful soul of someone greatly loved by me and many others.

While I’m not sure what Dennis’s spiritual beliefs were, as we never talked about them, I hope that he’s in a place now where he’s able to continue entertaining others with his great social skills, his culinary creativity, and his love to just bring people together to create happiness and joy and make others laugh.

Dennis, you will be missed by me and I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to you my friend. I love you.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, which for today is a brief entry of heart-felt gratitude to all who have supported my partner Chris and I during this long battle with COVID-19.

Getting COVID-19 has been tough. Really tough actually. My partner and I truly have gone through a pretty big ordeal of sickness in our house where for a good period of time, neither of us were even able to get out of the separate beds we were sleeping in given how sick we felt.

Unlike any sickness we’ve ever had, there have been many moments where it truly seemed as if this virus was never going to start getting better. But, in the midst of it all, I must say it was knowing how many people cared about us that helped us to keep going and keep fighting thus far.

So, to all the people who responded with loving messages to my initial posting where I let everyone know my partner and I had contracted COVID, Thank You.

To all the people who have called us on the phone to see how we are doing. Thank You.

To all the people who have texted or messaged us on social media to see if we were ok. Thank You.

To all the people who went to the grocery store for us and got us some essentials to keep going. Thank You.

And to all those who have simply prayed and sent positive healing energy to us behind the scenes for our well-being. Thank You.

While there are far too many names to mention individually for today’s Grateful Heart Monday, I promise you that each of your names are upon my partner’s heart and my heart in today’s brief entry of thankfulness, for what you have done to help us navigate through this sickness thus far. It seems as if it has gotten us through the worst of it and that we are finally on the mends. So thank you everyone for all the love and light you’ve given Chris and I to make it to this point and for any more of that you send our way as we continue to heal. We love you!

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Thank you for checking out today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, where gratitude is my only expression in my writing, which for today, albeit a brief one, does not represent any less of how truly grateful I am for those friends and loved ones who remained in my life through my many addiction years and are still there now.

Sadly, a life of addiction took many beautiful people from me who I once loved dearly, all because I became so totally incapacitated from one addiction after another, where each prevented me from showing them how much I truly loved and appreciated them. My addictions to alcohol, drugs, sex, and romantic pursuits over the years consistently led to the loss of one friend after another that once stood loyally by my side with plenty of love and support. Thankfully though, a few did remain, even through all the pain and anguish my addictions caused them.

My sister Laura, my best friend Cedric, my dear friends Dexter, Louie, Marvin, Debbie, Scott, and my recently departed friend Keith are the loyal few who each endured the insanity my addictions brought upon their life and still loved me nonetheless enough to stick around. Sometimes I’m amazed they did, given all the selfishness I once exhibited from my addictions and the incredible pain that caused them.

Addiction truly caused a mass exodus from my life and tends to usually do so to anyone’s life when addiction becomes the center of their existence. And the longer one succumbs to an addiction, the lonelier the addict generally becomes as even the most loyal of friends and loved ones tend to walk away when the pain of sticking around gets great enough.

That’s why I’m so thankful for Laura, Cedric, Dexter, Louie, Marvin, Debbie, Scott, and Keith, as each were there for me time and time and time again over the years, even when I really didn’t deserve it. I’m so thankful they are all still there for me today, including Keith who remained by my side up until the day he died.

I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to fully repay the debt of gratitude I have for each of you for the faith you kept in me even when I didn’t have any of that in myself. I love each of you incredibly for that and dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday for always remaining by my side even when my former life of addictions caused everyone else to leave…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude is always my only focus of my writing, which for today is for something I can’t believe I’m actually going to say, and that’s for having contracted COVID.

As I sit here and write this, it’s the 9th of January, 2021, and I’m now seven days deep into having this virus rampage my entire health system. At first, I was pretty angry with God that I had contracted COVID. Beyond the Fibromyalgia and other physical pain issues I’ve had endure for over ten years now, getting sick hasn’t been a problem for me. In fact, I’ve been physically ill with the flu only twice for two days or so and can’t even remember having caught a cold once. Which is why when COVID came around, I didn’t take it as serious as I truly needed to.

Initially, I wrote blog articles about how I was going to continue on with my life, doing my best to help others, and not worry about this virus or the masks. I was very cocky in my words and should have caught sight of that when I lost a number of friends on Facebook during the spring time frame when I published those articles. I also acted very egoistical about this virus when I expressed disdain over my therapist’s decision to go virtual and then to put a piece of plexiglass between her clients and her when she returned. And to think of the number of conversations I had with her where I expressed more anger for what COVID took away from my life rather than compassion for those who’ve suffered from it, I’m most certainly ashamed. Maybe even more so because I was also one of those who said quite often that COVID is just a bad case of the flu and if I get it, I get it. I’m eating those words now.

Yet I’m grateful I have this virus.

Why?

Because it’s very much humbled me. And I needed to be humbled when it came to this global pandemic. I needed to feel the helplessness and hopelessness that comes during the thick of having this virus. I needed to feel just how much this isn’t a flu at all. It’s something much more, and much worse and nothing I’ve ever experienced before in my entire life when it comes to getting sick.

I have great compassion now for those who’ve suffered from COVID where before I didn’t, understanding now over how serious this virus actually is where before there was only an air of ignorance, and overall an apologetic heart to everyone I discounted in the last ten months during their conversations with me about this illness. I was wrong, way wrong and I dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday for having gotten such a huge ego check and humbling moment in my life, one I’m still going through each day as I continue struggling to breathe, shaking from this never-ending fever, and throbbing from this head pain and pressure that is beyond description.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude continues to be the focus of my writing at the start of every week, which for today is for the friends who helped my partner Chris and I take down all our holiday decorations.

My partner presently has a very sore back. He’s due to undergo the knife in a few weeks to remove some bone spurs that are affecting a bundle of nerves radiating down his legs. He’s struggling to lift anything now, let alone walk for even the shortest of distances. Typically, he and I in past holiday seasons have spent a good day or two taking down all the festive decorations we put up, but given my own health limitations and combining in his own now, for what was already a very arduous process in years past was looming over us as an even greater one.

Thankfully, our friends Denise, Jeremiah, and Kyle lent their hands in the matter and helped Chris and I take down what originally took us close to 40 hours to put up. All in all, the entire clean-up process took the five of us only 6 hours of time, which left me feeling exceptionally grateful, especially because I’ve been feeling so very down and disconnected over the past ten months or so, continuing to believe a lie that no one cares about helping anyone anymore.

And while Chris and I always feel that higher level of energy and excitement that comes from putting all the holiday decorations up as it gets done over the course of several weeks prior to Thanksgiving, we always have this sense of dread looming over us when the end of the festive season nears, as to when we’re going to have to put the time aside to take it all down. In year’s past, sometimes we left the decorations up well into late January because of this.

Last year, we pushed ourselves to get it done on New Year’s Eve and Day and even with the help of one person extra last year, it took every bit of steam out of us. But this year, the process didn’t feel overwhelming at all, as Chris organized everything quite well from the chair he sat in, while Denise, Jeremiah, and Kyle fully supported me in all the physical tasks, especially with much of the heavy grunt work.

So, with much love and gratitude, I’m dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday to our friends Denise, Jeremiah, and Kyle for helping to end our holiday season with a much lighter feeling. I truly feel supported because of this and that alone is most definitely something to have much thankfulness for.

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 only focus of my writing, which for today is for all the 12 Step sponsors out there who freely have given their time to help in another person’s recovery from addiction.

I can’t stress enough how much sponsorship has saved my own life thus far. From my very first sponsor, Lorraine, to my present sponsor, Jackie, and all those in between, I’ve learned so much valuable instruction and priceless life lessons to help me remain clean and sober from a number of addictions.

Having a sponsor is so important to the 12 Step path of recovery from addiction. I went many years without one to realize this, bouncing one idea after another, tons of issues, and all sorts of craziness off of myself, taking advice from my own ego, the results of which were often disastrous.

When Lorraine taught me the steps and guided me through the entire process long ago, there were plenty of times I wanted to give up. But, she was such a great sponsor who always knew the right things to say to help keep me going. She was the loving mother I never had for much of our time together. And with every subsequent sponsor I had after she passed, I gained new insight and precious guidance into my sobriety and my spiritual journey.

Many who have been sober for long periods of time will tell you the great gift that comes with sponsorship of another. For as much as there is often heartache in sponsoring another, there are also countless triumphs and celebrations to be had all while watching the growth of a sponsee. What’s involved in sponsorship is simply having a giving heart and the donating of one’s time all for the sake to help another learn how to remain clean and sober.

Presently, I meet with my current sponsor Jackie once a week for both an hour AA meeting and a lunch afterwards and I truly treasure every one of those moments I have with her. As it’s in those moments where I not only feel the love and fellowship of 12 Step recovery, but also learn a lot more about how to navigate through the murky waters of life as a recovering addict.

As I mentioned, sponsoring others isn’t always easy and I most certainly know of the pain and hardship I’ve caused plenty who’ve sponsored me over the years, just as much as I’ve known of the same that’s happened with individuals who’ve dedicated countless hours of their free time towards being a sponsor to another. It can often be a thankless job, but in the end, I tend to believe that 12 Step recovery continues to grow year after year around the world, solely because of those who continue to put time aside week after week via phone calls, meetings, and more, to be a sponsor to another in recovery from addiction.

That’s why today’s Grateful Heart Monday is solely dedicated to Lorraine, Brian, Karin, Lisa, Lionel, Lou, Carl, Anthony, Fran, Jackie, and everyone else out there in the 12 Step recovery world who have ever taken the invaluable step to sponsoring another soul, as its each of you who have truly made a difference in countless lives, including myself, and continue to do so every single day, one day at a time…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a time I always reflect in writing on a piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for my sister Laura’s recent visit to Toledo to spend a few days with me during the 2020 holiday season.

While it’s not often I get to see my sister, as she lives an exceptionally busy life, any time I do get to spend with her in person is something to be truly grateful in of itself. That being said, the last time I got to see her either on a visit to her in Summerville, SC, or to me here in Toledo, was all the way back in October of 2019 when I took a five-day vacation there. So, it’s been a good bit since we last spent any time together in person and thus made her visit over the December 10-14 weekend all the more special.

It’s probably why when she walked through those security doors in the baggage claim area in Detroit Metropolitan Airport on the night of her arrival, I was so excited that I gave her the biggest hug I could and that alone made me feel so very grateful! Our first night was a quick one though, as the only thing we did was dine on our favorite pizza here in Toledo from a place called Mama Mary’s. They’re the only one who serves pizza just like what we grew up with in New York and boy was it tasty for the both of us. We also enjoyed a piece of chocolate mint pie from Mayberry Diner before calling it a night.

The gratitude for her visit began to grow the next day when the weather remained decent for our afternoon trip to the Toledo Zoo. There we saw a number of the animals we both really like including some giraffes, big cats, and a polar bear. We also liked seeing the zoo’s huge holiday light festival at dusk before we left. Later that evening, my partner Chris made one of my sister and I’s favorite childhood dishes for us, that being a Mexican Tamale casserole, along with some homemade cornbread and fresh green beans. It was most certainly a delectable meal, which my sister appreciated immensely, especially when Chris surprised her with a dessert to end it with from a recipe she had seen on his social media weeks prior, that being these mini peanut butter crème pies. The night ended with all of us streaming an interesting movie on HBO Max titled The Witches.

I think the highlight of my sister’s trip here though came the next day when the two of us went to the Toledo Museum of Art together. It was nice to have those few hours with just her and me there walking around looking at all those amazing works of art and discussing each. The one that took our breath away the most was the thing we did when we first arrived, which was a limited exhibit there for only a few weeks more that was called Fireflies. It blew both of our minds away, as it was a very immersive piece of art that words really can’t describe and just has to be experienced! Later that night after a slight rest, Laura took Chris and I out to dinner to a wonderful gem of a restaurant here called Rosie’s Italian Kitchen. It’s one of my favorites for Italian fare and each of us absolutely loved our meals, our waitress named Janae, and the conversations and laughter we shared while we dined. Our evening continued after that with a drive down to the Milton/Weston vicinity where my friend Kelly and her husband Laron have a very incredible Christmas display that seems to grow bigger every single year. We were all thankful when Kelly and Laron allowed us to sit in their driveway and chat with them while we watched the synchronized show for a good bit of time. Trust me, it’s well worth the drive! When we finally returned home, we finished the evening out streaming another movie on HBO Max titled Downhill that had some pretty funny moments.

On Laura’s final day with me, we took a drive to Westlake, Ohio for a meal at the Cheesecake Factory. It’s one of her favorite restaurants, which unfortunately she doesn’t get to have very often as there isn’t one anywhere near her home. We had such a great meal and I think I was most happy with it because they had her favorite cheesecake available, a limited holiday one, Peppermint Bark! I also enjoyed walking around the shopping center there prior to the meal and after, experiencing some of the Christmas spirit with her, as it’s been many years since we spent any time together during a holiday season. Our night finished out with playing some new games that were pretty darn funny. One was called Exploding Cats and the other, Joking Hazard. I highly recommend either for entertainment purposes!

Parting is sweet sorrow though, as my sister’s trip came to an end the next morning. I was quite sad knowing it will be a good while until I get to see her again. It’s always hard to open my heart as much as I do during these visits with my only remaining family, but of course it’s well worth it, as evident by the many great memories I now have from another wonderful time with my sister Laura who means the world to me, and whom I’m very grateful took time out of her busy life to come see me during this 2020 holiday season.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday entry full of gratitude for someone or something from my life that’s truly touched my heart and soul! For today, it’s for landing another volunteer opportunity in my 12 Step recovery and for the friend in my 12 Step circles who made that happen.

I’ve come to learn over the many years I’ve remained clean and sober from alcohol and drugs and a number of other addictions as well that all the craziness in the outer world around me and all the craziness I feel in my frequently squirrely brain can be easily tamed by helping another. My greatest joy in life today actually and quite possibly the only joy I truly feel I have in life right now is when I’m helping another, which seems to be primarily focused in my 12 Step recovery realms presently.

Since COVID hit, many of those opportunities were severely restricted or eliminated altogether for me, which left me feeling quite despondent and sometimes even purposeless. Beyond my weekly commitment I still have at Rescue Crisis, I had a bunch of other ones that had kept me going, including a weekly one at a local jail, a quarterly one at two Greek organizations at the University of Toledo (UT), and a bi-weekly one for multiple nursing classes also at UT. Unfortunately, COVID greatly affected them, leaving me with far less time engaging in the one thing that has blessed my life more than anything, helping another suffering soul, especially from addiction.

Enter in my friend Jeff A., someone I’ve come to know quite well in my recovery circles here in Toledo over the years and now consider one of my trusted friends. Recently, when he became employed at a placed named Midwest Detox Center, one of the newer locations here in Toledo for addiction help, he asked if I wanted to do a lead for one of his groups one day soon. Of course, knowing how much opportunities like this strongly motivate not only my own recovery, but also my life in general, I said absolutely. That opportunity came to fruition shortly after that, on the last Monday in November.

I spoke in front of approximately 58 clients and several counselors that day, which was very well received with plenty of applause by the end. A number of the clients came up to me afterwards and thanked me profusely for reinvigorating their desire for recovery. Each felt I had connected directly to their heart, which I was quite grateful to hear. But, my biggest piece of gratitude that day actually wasn’t from all those accolades I received, because frankly, I feel God is far worthier and deserving of those than I, since it was He who’s guided me through it all over the years. Rather, the biggest thing I was grateful for was when I was asked if I’d be open to doing a recovery lead on a repeating basis there. I, of course, agreed immediately and settled on monthly rotation, given the rotation of clients there was about the same amount of time.

So, beginning in December, on the last Monday of the month and subsequently on every month moving forward, I will now have a new 12 Step recovery commitment to look forward to doing for an entirely new batch of individuals who might be seeking experience, strength, and hope from another to motivate their own journey to sobriety and recovery. I’m more than grateful to do this and for any time I’m ever able to get recovery commitments like this. It’s something I really do look forward to doing in my life these days, as I clearly remember when I never helped anyone but myself, and suffered immensely because of it.

That’s why I’m incredibly thankful today and dedicating today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry to Jeff A. and the Midwest Detox Center for providing me a new 12 Step recovery commitment in my life that I’m sure will continue to provide me plenty of joy in doing and hopefully help many others in the process on their own journeys to healing from addiction.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series, where gratitude is always the only focus of my writing, which for today is for the meal my partner Chris prepared this year for a few friends and I on Thanksgiving Day and the day trip we took together the next day for my first visit ever to the Columbus Zoo.

While my entry two days ago talked much about the sadness I felt during Thanksgiving weekend, I wanted to shift the focus today onto what gratitude I had during the same holiday weekend. Ironically, Chris and I weren’t even originally meant to be home for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. We had reservations at a bed and breakfast on the coast of Lake Michigan. Unfortunately, COVID thwarted that, which left us home for the holiday. But, instead of choosing to dine out locally as an alternative, we opted to have a hearty Thanksgiving meal in the cozy confines of our home instead.

Chris is a wonderful cook I must say. He truly has the patience and joy for it, while I, on the other hand, most certainly don’t. Which is precisely why I was filled with plenty of gratitude for the bountiful traditional Thanksgiving feast he prepared for the two of us and the two of our friends on Thanksgiving Day. His delicious meal ultimately reminded me of the ones my Grandmother prepared at her home for our family during my childhood. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that the 14lb turkey Chris cooked was perfectly prepared! Add in the homemade mac and cheese and deviled eggs that our friend Manny brought for the feast and the homemade pumpkin pie that our friend Frank brought to finish things off, I couldn’t be more grateful for the abundance of great food that day. And there was even a bonus piece of gratitude with the meal when our friend Denise stopped over later that night and brought us an incredibly tasty chocolate pie to enjoy, along with the pecan pie we had purchased at a local bakery.

As for the day after Thanksgiving, typically I hit a movie or two in the theater, dine out at some restaurant, and maybe even do a little shopping if motivated enough to catch one of those big sales. This year due to COVID, we decided to try something entirely different by taking a road trip from Toledo to the Columbus Zoo. Chris had never been there before, which was surprising to hear given he’s lived in Ohio his entire life. I had never been there either, so it was something new for the both of us. I was most definitely concerned though about both of our health issues, as lately our physical pain levels seem to be matching each other’s. He presently has been dealing with bone spurs in his lower back, which are going to be operated on in January, which is why he decided to get a motorized wheelchair once we arrived at the zoo. I, on the other hand, motivated myself to walk the entire zoo on foot. For as difficult as that was, I was grateful I did it, as it helped to elevate my spirit from what it had been that morning. Truth be told, I had almost let my pain fully govern my actions that morning by not going anywhere. Thus, I’m glad I didn’t listen to it because at the zoo, I saw many things I’d never seen before with the coolest one being a large tiger talking to Chris each time his motorized cart made this high pitch noise as he moved it backward. It was rather comical to witness. The second coolest thing I saw was a parent polar bear and its offspring playing quite roughly together. When the parent stood fully up on its legs, it was an amazing spectacle! And while our visit to the zoo wasn’t specifically to see the animals themselves, I enjoyed all of the species I saw. The true purpose our visit though was more so to see the holiday lights, which didn’t disappoint. Near the center of the zoo, there was a non-stop show of dazzling lights and music held around a large pond. It was probably the best lightshow I’ve ever seen since my days of visiting New York City and catching the lights on the side of Saks 5th Avenue!

So, for as much as I’ve been struggling with sadness during this normally meant to be festive season, there was some gratitude within it as well. I’m truly grateful to my partner for his Thanksgiving meal this year and for our trip to the Columbus Zoo, as both helped to boost my mood, enough so to dedicate today’s Grateful Heart Monday to them both.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a weekly series dedicated to the importance of expressing gratitude in my life, which for today is for finally getting my new website up and running and the person who made it all possible, my dear friend Debbie Coon.

Many of you might not know that I have another website out there besides this one. It’s my personal website, www.andrewarthurdawson.com. I built it originally all the way back in 2012 using a very old tool on my hosting company that became outdated not more than a year after I had completed it. Beginning in late 2013, my hosting company started asking me each time I called technical support for help, whether I wanted to upgrade my personal site to their new tool. I always responded by asking them if the tool I was using was getting discontinued. The answer was consistently no. Years would pass until my site would become so outdated in technology and in appearance that the idea of updating it became one of utter dread. I simply avoided the subject and never dedicated any energy to it. More years would pass until finally this past spring, a tech support person from my hosting told me he was going to give me two free years of their website builder tool to help motivate me into migrating my site off the old tool into the new one. For as much as this became my first moment of gratitude in this process of upgrading my site, the next came when my dear friend Debbie, a genius when it comes to computer programming, offered to build it for me herself. In all honesty, I should have asked Debbie long ago to help me complete this, but my pride and ego of wanting to do it myself always got the best of me more times than I can count, even after my domain stopped getting listed on Google’s search results, all because it had gotten so outdated.

By the time Debbie started working on my new personal website, I wasn’t in any rush to complete the process given how long I had put the task off, as well as how long my hosting company had given me the tool for free. Even so, I gave Debbie some basic specifications and slowly, but surely, it started to come together. Unfortunately, I kept putting the task off of reviewing her work until I received a notice one day a few weeks ago from my hosting company that said my old tool that was still running my personal website was officially being discontinued on December 31st. Suddenly, the timetable to getting this done had to be pushed to the top of my to-do list. After several days of review and making minor changes, Debbie and I were able to finalize my site. After doing so, we then contacted my hosting company, where they did the leg work of taking my old site down and moving the site Debbie had built for me onto the Internet.

While I honestly thought the whole process would have taken a ton of my time, in the end, it was an entirely painless process that actually took very little of my time. I’m so thankful for this and for the fact that the task is no longer looming over my head anymore. But I’m even more thankful and filled with plenty of gratitude today for having a true friend like Debbie who remained so very patient with me all along the way until the process was complete.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another chapter of Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude remains my only focus in my writing, which for today is for, of all things, having OCD!

Having been diagnosed long ago with obsessive-compulsive disorder, there have been many times over the years ever since where I’ve recognized how it plays into my thinking and my life. Sometimes having it is not the greatest of thing, like when I spend far too much time worrying about my health and doing things like staring at blemishes in the mirror repeatedly. But then there are other times when having this condition becomes a blessing solely for the energy it brings me to complete major tasks I undertake.

Getting my over-the-top Christmas decorations done outdoors is a great example of that. Daily maintaining my meticulous garden and yard during the warm seasons is another. But the example I want to delve into a little deeper that brought me immense gratitude began with me hearing a weather forecast and learning that my local area was going to be getting high winds up to 60 mph for most of Sunday just over a week ago now. When winds like that strike for an entire day as the forecast was calling for, I knew there would probably end up being major cleanup from all the debris it left behind in its wake, especially due to the many huge mounds of leaves in the street all around my home, as well as those still strewn across many of my neighbor’s yards. So, in all my OCD glory of thinking, I checked which direction the winds were going to be moving during the incoming storm to identify which piles of leaves and which yards would most likely dump the heaviest debris onto my own property. Once I figured that out, I woke up early the morning before the storm and began bagging up one pile of leaves after another and mowing one yard after another, until I had bagged at least 15 of those mega Hefty-type lawn and leaf bags and mowed five of my neighbor’s front yards.

I know there’s a pretty good chance you might actually be laughing at me right now about this or quite possibly shaking your head in dismay over my decision to embark upon such a task in the first place. But let me tell you, not only did my yard sustain far less debris during said wind storm, but so did a number of my neighbors’ yards as well, the majority of which thanked me for helping them out. One even gave me a big portion of new garbage bags because I had used so many of my own, while another gave me $5 and said thank you for my service. I honestly didn’t expect nor sought either and was very appreciative of it. While the job took just over 8 hours of time, and pushed me to my very breaking point with my health limits, something I normally wouldn’t do to myself, I’m overly thankful with the results of my actions and for my partner for lending me a big helping hand to complete my OCD-based task.

While I can most definitely attest that having OCD can often be a huge hindrance to my life, there are many times as well just like this, where it’s truly helped me to do things I normally would give up on before really even undertaking. So, in the end I’m grateful to OCD having made my life and my neighbors’ life much easier post-storm, which is why I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday to having a condition that I’ve chosen to see isn’t always a burden and instead is sometimes a gift.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude always remains the focus of my writing, which for today is for a beautiful spiritual message my therapist discovered and then shared with me. After reading it a few times, my own Spirit urged me to share it in one of my articles, which I felt best to be one of my weekly gratitude’s. Here is that message in entirety:

Technical Support: Yes, how can I help you?

Customer: Well, after much consideration, I’ve decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?

Tech Support: Yes, I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?

Customer: Well, I’m not very technical, but I think I’m ready. What do I do first?

Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?

Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?

Tech Support: What programs are running?

Customer: Let’s see. I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge, and Resentment running right now.

Tech Support: No problem. Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but will no longer disrupt any other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment to start that module. Those programs also prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those two off now?

Customer: I don’t know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?

Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and select Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.

Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Oops! I have an error message already. It says, “Error – Program cannot run on external components.” What should I do?

Tech Support: Don’t worry. In nontechnical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others. Pull down Self-Acceptance, then click on the following: Forgive Self, Realize Your Worth, and Acknowledge Your Limitations.

Customer: Got it. Hey! My Heart seems to be filling up with new files now! Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over my Heart as we speak.

Tech Support: Well from the sounds of it, you are good to go.

Customer: Yes, thank you and oh, I just want to say that Joy is now running through my Heart as well and everything seems to be running so smoothly!

Tech Support: That’s great to hear. Just remember, if your Heart begins to experience any trouble again, always begin with running Forgiveness ok?

Customer: Sounds great! Thank you and have a great day!

I hope you found connection to this as much as I did. Blessings to you all on this Grateful Heart Monday!

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