Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, the day I write about one piece of gratitude from my life to start my week off with, which for today is for a beautiful spiritual teacher who I know likes to remain anonymous, so I will refer to her as “M”.

Well over a decade ago now, I was initially brought into the life of “M”, a gifted Native American Shaman, when I became aware that I had some dark energy attached to me that I couldn’t seem to shake on my own. “M” helped to fully remove that energy from me and also provided some great spiritual guidance to assist me in moving forward on my spiritual journey. Unfortunately, I wasn’t totally ready for her help and instead, I chose to move backwards and descended deeper into low vibrational behaviors, i.e. addictions.

Over the next seven years that were to follow, “M” never gave up on me and told me she was always just a phone call away if I was to ever need any help. And she was, as anytime I was in what I like to call a crisis mode, I’d contact her for some sort of support. And anytime we connected, I received just that. On some level, she became the mother I never had, an incredible nurturer who knew exactly what to say to help me out of my doldrums.

Thankfully, in the spring of 2012, I finally became 100% willing to move out of all the low vibrational energies and addictions I had been keeping myself imprisoned in for so long and asked her if she’d be open to becoming my full-time spiritual teacher. I was more than grateful when she said she would and it was from that point forward that the biggest spiritual shift in my life would begin. From then on, “M” never charged me a single dime for any of her help, EVER! And the gratitude I have for the many ways she provided all that free help is countless.

Here are just some of those ways that I have a deep level of gratitude every time I think of “M”:

  1. During the first two years, “M” made herself available three times a week for check-in phone calls that lasted anywhere from 1 to 2 hours of time. And during the second two years, as I spiritually grew, we still spoke at least two times a week for similar lengths.
  2. “M” did routine energy work on me to help clear the many energy imbalances I had within during our time together.
  3. “M” sent me a number of holistic remedies to provide healing for various ailments that arose during our time together.
  4. On one occasion, “M” travelled several hundred miles just to see me and spend an evening where we had dinner and where she did some hands-on healing work to clear some of the blockages I had at the time.
  5. During another trip where her only purpose was to help an ailing member of her family, “M” still took time out of her busy schedule to meet with me and do some hands-on healing work.
  6. Whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on and was facing any of my terrible days of pain and anguish, “M” was always there to provide me reassurance and comfort.
  7. “M” taught me to see the good in me when I couldn’t see it for myself and also helped me to learn how to nurture myself.
  8. “M” always seemed to know just where I needed to place the bulk of my spiritual work in and had the insight to guide me in the right direction time and time again.
  9. “M” even provided help to my sister and my partner when they were in need of some specific guidance.
  10. And most importantly, “M” never gave up on me, even when so many others did and even when I wanted to as well.

These are just some of the many reasons why I have to be grateful for “M”. Two years ago, though, my work with “M” moved in a new direction and was one that my ego wasn’t ready to face. She asked me to become my own spiritual teacher and to learn how to balance my own medicine wheel. In other words, it was time for mother bird to push her fledging out of the nest. And while initially, I begged and pleaded with her to reconsider this change, I realized as the months would pass without our direct contact, that it was exactly what was needed because I had become codependent on her to heal me.

Two years later, I am presently standing on my two feet now, being supported as best as can be with the guidance of my Higher Power. It’s difficult, believe me, more than I would like to admit on far too many of days. There are plenty of moments where I truly miss “M” and her friendship, her guidance, her love, her comfort, and her reassurance. But, I know that I must finish this on my own, with the aid of my Higher Guidance and my Inner Guidance and when this chapter is complete, I’m confident the Universe will bring us back together in some way.

For now, though, I am more than grateful, exceptionally grateful at that, for all the lessons, unconditional love, and acts of kindness that “M” brought into my life, as each have helped me to become who I am rapidly becoming, more and more with each passing day. I know the Universe brought “M” into my life for four solid years to be an exceptional spiritual teacher and guide, solely to propel me to become one day the teacher I believe I’m meant to become.

So, thank you “M” for all that you’ve done and for all that you continue to do, I’m truly grateful.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Thank you for choosing to read today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, which is a relatively new series where I begin my week writing about an important piece of gratitude from my life, as I feel it truly helps to start it off on a positive note. And after considerable thought, I decided that what I’m most grateful for this week is each the sponsees I work with in the 12 Step recovery world from addiction.

Sponsorship has blessed my life incredibly for plenty of reasons. The biggest being that having sponsees has helped me to remain clean and sober from all of my past addictions. Whenever I find myself tempted or triggered to return to any of the former addictions that once robbed my life, I think about each of those I regularly work with in the Steps who are desperately doing everything they can to remain clean and sober themselves. Sponsees look to their sponsor as the first line of defense from their own disease of addiction, especially early on in sobriety. Thus, that’s something I constantly am reminded of anytime I think about picking one of my former addictions back up. In other words, a sponsee helps to keep me in check too.

A second reason to be thankful for all of the sponsees I’ve worked with is the joy I receive in watching them spiritually grow in their recovery. I have several sponsees who went for a number of decades living deeply in their addictions and couldn’t ever seem to make any bit of sober time last. But through the work that God has guided me in helping them, I’ve seen them gain multiple years of clean and sober time, I’ve seen their families come back together, I’ve seen their jobs become more stable for them, and I’ve seen all of their relationships deepen, which are definitely all things to be joyful for.

A third reason to be grateful for all of the sponsees I’ve worked with is seeing them move on to sponsor others just like I once sponsored them. I always find it to be an honor when I see a former sponsee using the tools I taught with another suffering soul, which is truly what the 12thStep says is meant to happen by the time a person reaches that stage in their recovery work.

A fourth and final reason to be grateful for all of the sponsees I’ve worked with is the friendships and unconditional love that tend to develop through the 12 Step process of recovery. There is a bond that usually forms during the bulk of that work and a level of spiritual connection that’s hard to break, especially with having two people spend a year or two of their lives together going through all of the 12 Step work.

So, yes, I’m absolutely, positively, 100% grateful for all of the sponsees I’ve ever worked with in the 12 Step world of recovery from addiction, as each have blessed my life beyond measure. In all honesty, words really can’t even describe how much my life has benefitted from sponsoring others and thus, I thank each of you who’ve ever chosen me to guide you through the 12 Steps, as it’s been an honor and a privilege in doing so…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I begin each week writing about a slice of gratitude in my life, which for today I’m dedicating to my sister Laura, who for all purposes has been an incredible gift to this world, and especially to my life.

By all means, my sister should have totally disowned me long ago due to all the addictions I threw upon her life day in and day out, from the age of 17 to the age of 39. Yet, she never did. Even through all my guilt trips, failed promises, backstabbing, lying, and self-centered ways, she always remained there for me, just like she did for my mother and father as well, right up until their untimely deaths.

My sister, on some level, at least in my book, is a superhero of sorts, because she thus far has dedicated the majority of her life for everyone else more so than herself. She’s probably the most selfless person I’ve ever met in my life, willing to give the very shirt off her back to help another suffering soul.

When my father became severely mentally imbalanced and was weeks away from his suicide, my sister did everything she could to show him how much she loved him, while I remained focused solely on my own selfish desires and disappeared from his life. The same was true during the last few months of my mother’s life before her tragic drunken fall down the stairs, where my sister did her best to offer unconditional love to an extremely depressed woman while I mostly just avoided communicating to my mother at all.

When I lost my seven-year relationship to a partner I thought I’d spend my life with and a business I thought I’d retire into, my sister took me in to her home when I had nowhere else to go.

When her best friend struggled to come up with money to pay for medical expenses from a disease she contracted, my sister not only contributed a significant amount of her own already stretched income, but also helped to support a fundraising effort to bring in further aid.

When those she cares about have birthdays coming up, my sister doesn’t just do a thoughtless Hallmark greeting and enclose a gift card. Instead, she takes the time to look for something truly special and unique that she hopes will somehow brighten up the recipient’s life a little.

When there is a stray animal that somehow makes its way into my sister’s life, she never abandons it and instead will consistently find a way to nurture it until it finds a home or is healthy enough to make it on its own.

When someone is struggling with their health, like I have been as of late more than not, she’ll send holistic healing products on her own dime, just to try, hoping they may help ease some of the pain.

When her children are struggling with anything in their own lives, she does her best to constantly offer unconditional love and acceptance, making sure to praise more than criticize and uplift more than discourage, which honestly, are things she nor I ever got much of in our own upbringing.

And if you’re ever able to spend even a moment of any given day in her life, I can promise you that you’ll be greeted with a smile and a hug, no matter who you are, because my sister is one of those who knows how to make everyone feel welcomed and like family, just like I believe Christ would.

You see, my sister is a great person, and worthy of today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry, for all these reasons and so much more. She has blessed this world time and time again with the gifts God bestowed her with, from cooking and baking, to doing spiritual readings and offering prayers, from gardening at schools and churches, to creating pressed glass and jewelry, and well, I could probably go on for countless pages writing about the many things my sister has selflessly done for this world, especially me.

So, I hope you have a sister, or a brother for that matter, that you can be as grateful for today, as I am for my sister, because Laura is someone who’s definitely worth being grateful for. I’m not sure if I’d still be alive today given all the pain and hardship I’ve had to endure, if it wasn’t for her ongoing acts of unconditional love, kindness, and generosity, three things of which I know God is definitely grateful for with my sister too…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I write about one piece of gratitude to start my week off on the right foot, which for today is for my Higher Power, whom I refer to as God.

I was actually surprised when I realized I hadn’t written a piece of gratitude yet for all the help I believe God’s given me throughout my life since starting this Grateful Heart Monday series. With this entry marking my 14th week of doing this, I wanted to make sure I didn’t continue this definite oversight any further. With that being said, I’ve been through an incredible amount of suffering in this life that by all means, I should be dead or at the very minimum, heavily medicated just to function. But thank God I’m not either and am able to honor God today through this very writing.

You see, it’s God who helped me survive a very rough and dysfunctional childhood that included mental and emotional abuse, bullying, and molestation, as I know without God I would have taken my life way back then.

You see, it’s God who removed all the compulsions to engage in a number of addictions from alcohol and drugs to sex and love that my self-will was never able to overcome and that would most certainly have driven me to death if I had kept engaging with any of them.

You see, it’s God who helped me to persevere after the tragic deaths of my father’s suicide and my mother’s drunken fall down the stairs, when my ego told me time and time again to give up and that life wasn’t worth living anymore.

You see, it’s God who helped me overcome the loss of my business and the majority of my financial stability, by guiding me to the Boston area when all that began happening, as there I’d lay the foundation to my 12 Step recovery life that would provide me an incredible support network to get through it all.

And you see, it’s God who’s helped me for the past six years to keep going, even in the midst of all this chronic pain and health issues, as I’ve never have to do any of it alone because of the many good teachers and friends God placed in my life along the way to keep lifting me up when I couldn’t do it for myself.

So, yes, I’m extremely grateful to God today for helping me to keep on, keeping on, one day at a time, year after year, in a life that has been more difficult than not to simply exist.

I know some may say that God gave me a crappy life to live with all that I’ve had to endure, and probably scratch their heads as to why I still feel so grateful to God. But I choose to look at it differently, as I’m a survivor and someone who sees all my trials and tribulations in life as things I can now help God help others with and to me that’s something to be 100% grateful for on this Grateful Heart Monday.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another Grateful Heart Monday, the day I dedicate each week in my blog to one specific piece of gratitude, which for today is for the character named Bonnie in the television comedy series “Mom”, who’s played by actress Allison Janey.

Why I feel grateful for a fictional character on a TV show is simply for what Bonnie reminds me of every time I watch her in an episode. Bonnie is a recovering alcoholic who is more of a dry drunk than not. While she remains clean and sober several years in from an addiction that once controlled her life, she still continues to demonstrate many selfish and self-centered behaviors that were quite commonplace when she was active in her addiction.

Week in and week out, I watch as Bonnie searches for the angle in everything, always on the lookout for herself and how she can get something for nothing. I don’t think there’s a single episode where I’ve seen her do anything otherwise. And boy do I remember those days when I too lived as a dry drunk year after year after year. While I remained clean and sober, I only half-assed did the recovery work, causing my life to suffer, as well as those around me too.

Just like Bonnie, I used to think that the only thing I needed to do in recovery was stay away from alcohol and drugs. But I never got much healthier in my mind and body for as long as I kept that attitude. Instead, I remained selfish, self-centered, self-seeking, and self-absorbed, simply because I wasn’t doing any of the work needed to rid myself of these type of character defects that underlie all addictions. Bonnie truly demonstrates this to a tee in “Mom” and is such an incredible mirror for the person I used to be so oblivious to being.

While I initially found a lot of humor in watching Bonnie act this way in earlier seasons, I now find myself not laughing at her antics anymore because it ultimately is quite sad to see any person live like this as their sober years grow. In my case, after repeated years of living as a dry drunk no different than Bonnie, friends began dropping out of my life and avoiding me. This hasn’t happened yet to Bonnie in the show, but I remember it happening to me oh so well. It took a lot of loneliness and hard-earned lessons to realize this and how recovery from any addiction is so much more than just remaining clean and sober. It’s about doing the necessary work to purge oneself of all unhealthy behaviors and becoming more of a selfless being than a selfish one. And while I know this show is purely meant to be a comedy and constantly pigeonholes Bonnie into a set of self-centered behaviors simply meant to evoke laughter, I only find sadness for her character and anyone who still acts like this in real life.

Yet, in light of me saying that, I’ve found such a tremendous amount of gratitude continuing to watch Bonnie remain this way, because I can clearly see who I once was but am no longer. Today I strive very hard to place everyone else’s needs, wants, and desires ahead of my own more than not. That’s probably why I find more of a connection in “Mom” to Bonnie’s sponsor Marjorie, who follows the 12 Step recovery program more to a tee, striving to be more selfless than selfish and giving more than taking.

So, while Bonnie’s character may no longer evoke laughter from me when she does all her self-centered behaviors week after week, I’m reminded quite vividly of how she’s merely a mirror into my own past dry drunkenness and because of that I’ve found an immense wealth of gratitude to God for how far I’ve come in my own life of recovery from addiction…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Good day everyone and welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, a day where I begin my week’s writing with one piece of gratitude I have in my life, which for today is for a company named MoviePass and for all the movies it helps me to see in theaters as well.

While I know this might sound like a strange thing to be grateful for, it’s really not if you knew how important going to the movies is to me. I probably head to the theater on average about twice a week and usually alone at that, but more on that in a minute, as I want to highlight where this hobby actually began.

Going to the movies started playing an important part in my life ever since I was a little kid. I can actually remember seeing films as far back as 5 years old when my family began driving us all in our station wagon to one of the local drive-ins (my hometown had five of them) on a Friday or Saturday night. We used to bring McDonald’s in with us and play at the playground there until the first feature began. When I became more able to sit still in a crowded theater, we started going to the many other theaters in the area as well and making family outings of it, especially when those James Bond movies hit the theaters. By the time I was 17, people started regularly seeking me out to ask what movies I recommended because I was seeing so many by that point. Up until my mid 20’s, I tended to favor watching straight up action, comedy, and horror movies more than not, but that all changed when I hit my 30’s and began to gravitate more towards dramas, romantic comedies, and much artsier fair. These days though, I’ve become rather open to seeing just about anything in a theater, so long as it’s not a film that over glorifies gun violence, bloodshed, nudity, or racism.

Nevertheless, in light of that, obviously you can see now why I’m grateful for my theater-going experience, but why MoviePass you may wonder? That’s simply because its program has helped me to save me an incredible amount of money in this weekly hobby. If you’ve never heard of MoviePass, it’s really no different than Netflix, other than it deals with watching films at a theater versus at home. All in all, it’s essentially a movie club that you pay either a monthly fee or a yearly one, which in doing so gives you the ability to see a movie per day in almost any theater for free (other than that monthly or yearly fee that is).

I was skeptical at first when a friend of mine signed up for this company because I thought it must be a scam. But when I discovered the owner was one of the co-founders of Netflix, which we all know how successful that’s become these days, I decided to sign up by paying a one-time $90 promotion that was running at the time. That was just around Thanksgiving last year and since then, I’ve seen more than 27 movies as of this writing and probably by years end, will have seen close to 100.

If I was to add up how much money I might normally spend out of pocket for the number of movies I see every year in theaters, it would be close to $1000 or more actually. With MoviePass though, I only had to spend that $90 up front and haven’t had to shell out anything else for a film since then. So many people have asked me how MoviePass makes money and ultimately it comes down to advertising opportunities and the company also tracking our statistics of the films we see, which for me I honestly don’t have any problem with either.

Regardless, while this may seem like such an odd thing to be grateful for, especially because I try to frame this blog as spiritual in nature, I do consider my movie going experience spiritual in nature as well. There have been so many movies over the years that moved my heart and soul so much so, that I actually cried and prayed to God under my breath while the movie was still running. Thus, I am incredibly grateful for my movie-going experiences because anything that helps to draw me closer to God is extremely important to me, especially in light of how challenging I have found it to be these days connecting with God due to my ongoing battles with chronic pain.

Hence, for a guy like me who isn’t able to work right now and not bringing in any type of weekly income, the emergence of something like MoviePass has been a God-send in my book. I don’t feel guilty anymore going to the theater as much as I once did, because I’m not spending dollar after dollar like I used to, to support this weekly habit.

So yes, I’m very much grateful for all the movies I’ve seen and continue to see in theaters and for the company MoviePass as well, as each has played a valuable part in helping me draw much closer to God on plenty of occasions, and that is truly something to have gratitude for if you ask me…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Thank you for joining me in another Grateful Heart Monday where I begin each week by writing about one piece of gratitude I have, which for today is for the change in seasons and weather.

In this area, it’s actually relatively easy to find oneself complaining about the weather at various times of the year. During late October to early April, it’s often due to the cold, cloudy, and rain or snow-filled days, and during late April to early October, it’s often due to the emergence of allergies or hazy, hot, and humidity-filled days. The complaints especially seem to pile up about the weather when having to repeatedly do chores such as shovel snow, rake leaves, clean the gutters, or cut the grass. And of course, they tend to emerge as well during those sweltering summer nights or freezing-cold winter evenings in one’s own home when the air-conditioning or heat needs to be turned way up. But even more challenging here is how the weather gets so affected by Lake Erie. Because of the lake-effect, our forecasts from the local weather service become frequently erroneous and seem to be the exact opposite of what was originally predicted. Yet, in light of saying all that, I have an immense amount of gratitude for the weather here anyway. Why? Because if the weather was between 65 and 75 degrees every day with low humidity and perfectly clear, sunny skies, I believe it would become easy to complain about that too.

Nevertheless, I find it’s those long harsh winters that make me truly grateful for when those first stems of bulbs start to pop up out of the ground in the spring. It’s those heavy winter snowfalls that make me truly grateful for when those rainy spring downpours start to arrive. And It’s those endless sights of bare trees for months on end that make me truly grateful when those first warm and sunny days begin to bring forth an immersion in color of blooms all around me.

Of course, the reverse is true as well, as I find it’s those deeply sweltering and dry summer days that help me to find gratitude when those cool fall breezes finally arrive. It’s those constant sights of solid green trees during the summer abruptly giving way to reds, oranges, purples and more, usually right around the time when I start seeing my breath in the air, that help me to find gratitude too. And it’s when I see those first white flakes begin to drop out of the sky after long periods of rain and thunderstorms that help me to find some gratitude as well.

But, believe me when I say that I’ve been one of the guilty ones who’s complained at times about the weather over the years, especially due to all that unpredictability that comes with it here. Yet, the more I’ve thought about this, the more I’ve realized my gratitude actually comes from all that unpredictability. You see, it’s because of all our weather’s unpredictability that I’ve been able to see far more rainbows here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived. It’s because of all our weather’s unpredictability I’ve been able to experience more spectacular thunderstorms and blizzards than anywhere else too. And it’s because of all our weather’s unpredictability I’ve been able to feel such an immense amount of peace and joy when one of those pleasantly warm and perfectly sunny-blue-sky days finally appear.

So, yes, I’m extremely grateful for our change in seasons and weather here and as I start this week off with this piece of gratitude, I find myself looking forward to those upcoming warm spring rains that I know are going to nourish the earth and begin to bring forth that explosion in color that our long winter has definitely kept subdued….

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday where I start the week off in my writing with one piece of gratitude, which for today is for all the pets that each of us own or have owned in this world from time to time.

Currently, my partner and I own a cat named Smokey, who was abandoned by his mother near a dumpster in Franklin, Tennessee back in July of 2015. Thankfully, my sister rescued and nursed him back to health during his first year and a half before eventually bringing him to our home here in Toledo, Ohio. Ever since, I’ve been blessed by Smokey’s company and have found a tremendous amount of gratitude for him for three main reasons that I feel probably qualify for many other pet owners as well.

The first piece of gratitude is because Smokey offers me a ton of unconditional love. When I’m depressed, he always seems to know and tends to nudge me with his nose until I start petting him and when I do, he responds with very loud purrs that somehow are able to take away some of my sadness.

The second piece of gratitude is because Smokey is extremely playful. He really enjoys this game where I throw a small furry ball high up above his elevated perch, to which he then races up to grab it in mid-air, confidently putting it in his mouth after he does, then returns to wherever I am and drops it at my feet, waiting for the next go around. Why I treasure this and the rest of his playfulness is because it often helps to shift my attention away from the negative zone and onto a positive one.

Lastly, and most importantly, what I’m definitely the most grateful for overall with Smokey is his loyal companionship. In a world that often tends to feel so lonely to me sometimes, there are plenty of moments where having him follow me around from room to room, constantly meowing to get my attention to pick him up, that make me feel far less alone because of it.

I should also mention that prior to owning Smokey, my partner and I owned a cat named Driggs who was actually the pet that initially taught me how to unconditionally love. This cat was such an angry cat all the time at first with me. No matter how hard I tried to get her to love me, she always kept her distance. That was until I finally let go one day and stopped trying, because I was just in too much pain to care, when suddenly she jumped on top of me while I was lying on the couch, then kneaded a bed for herself on my stomach, and fell asleep purring. From that point forward, she always knew when I was having one of those high pain days, because she would meow until I’d lie down and make myself available for her to fall asleep on me. On some level, that action was always far better medicine than any pain-relieving pill could ever bring me.

Nevertheless, pets can be wonderful companions if we treat them well and show them the same type of love that I feel God brought them here to offer each of us. I have a ton of gratitude these days because of the two pets I’ve owned, who each found a way into my heart and soul in their own unique ways, which I’m sure can be said for countless others in this world when it comes to their own pets…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

I was so inspired by the movie “Love, Simon” that I decided to follow up last week’s review of that film with some gratitude for this week’s Grateful Heart Monday entry and it deals with the subject of that movie, that being of coming out of the closet.

Back in the spring of 1995, I was a scared young adult that was morbidly afraid to face any part of his true sexuality. I had been living like a chameleon so much so and keeping up the image of being something I wasn’t, that deep down inside, I was slowly dying a spiritual death, all because I was choosing to not be true to myself.

If it wasn’t for all of those who had come before me and braved taking their own steps out of the closet, I probably wouldn’t have ever come out of the closet. The combination of famous gay rights pioneers, as well as those who were everyday people, who openly declared they were gay and took the risk of emerging from their own closet, helped to pave the way for individuals just like me to do the same. I have much gratitude for each of them, especially those who worked on the LGBT front lines such as Harvey Milk, Harry Hay, John Fryer, Martina Navratilova, Troy Perry, and Richard Isay, to name a few.

But for as much as I appreciate those front-line people who made such a big impact in the gay rights movement to help people feel safer to come out of the closet, it really was all those I met early on who were openly gay in the bowling leagues I joined or the MCC churches I went to or the social clubs I became a part of that made the biggest impact on my life to be true to myself and my sexuality.

Over the years ever since, I’ve found a lot of gratitude for the multitude of folks who continue to take the same step as I did and come out of the closet themselves. Each has made it a far less fear-inducing process for others to follow.

I think it’s just as important to give due credit to all those famous singers, actors and actresses, athletes, political activists, writers, and more who have even put their careers on the line over the years to not only be true to themselves, but also help others who are still closeted out of fear. Ellen Degeneres, Anderson Cooper, Zachary Quinto, Ellen Page, Laverne Cox, Frank Ocean, Neil Patrick Harris, Jodie Foster, Lance Bass, George Takei, Wentworth Miller, and Lee Daniels are just some of those who come to mind.

Lastly, I want to offer one last piece of gratitude with this subject for all those who have braved the leaving of the closeted world behind even further by showing public affection to those they are dating or spending their lives with. My partner and I aren’t totally there yet, especially not in the area where we live, where there are far too many conservative and right-winged people who make it extremely difficult to feel safe enough to do things like this yet. But hopefully one day, we will.

And hopefully one day, we all will live in a world where it won’t matter anymore what one’s sexuality is and that the process of coming out of the closet is nothing more than declaring I’m gay” and having no fear about it. Until then, it comes down to each of us taking those fearful steps forward of becoming fully true to ourselves, as it’s each of us who must pave the wave for others to feel safe enough to come out of the closet.

That’s why I am overly grateful for each and every individual in this world who has already braved this journey and found not only freedom for their own soul by coming out of the closet, but also creating a pathway for others to find that freedom too…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Happy Grateful Heart Monday everyone! What I find myself most grateful for as we begin yet another week is a spiritually-centered organization I became a part of back in December of 1999 named The ManKind Project (MKP).

Back in 1999, I was truly broken inside over my father’s suicide that had occurred three years earlier. His sudden death had left me extremely angry and lost in life. Therapy, church, sports, work, medications, you name it, I had tried so many things, hoping each would help me let my father go, but none were able to. I had become so depressed and anxious that I was on the verge of taking my own life.

That’s when a co-worker at a company I was employed at suggested I join him on an upcoming retreat, as he could see how mentally and emotionally sick I had become. When I asked him what this retreat was about, he said it was called the New Warrior Training of The Mankind Project and pointed me to another fellow employee who had already been a part of this organization for some time. When I eventually spoke with this other person, I was told that I could find the healing I was desperately seeking if I went on this retreat. I was skeptical at first because of my total lack of success anywhere else, but when I casually mentioned this retreat to one of my closest friends at the time, I ironically discovered that he too was a part of MKP and how it had changed his life for the better as well. That’s when I made the decision to sign up, because I don’t believe in coincidences. A few weeks later I entered the two-day New Warrior Training retreat with my co-worker fully enveloped in a tremendous amount of fear and doubt. 48 hours later though, I was completely free of all that fear and doubt and had found forgiveness with my father that’s still 100% present with me today. While I won’t spoil the processes I went through to get there, I can say that it was the first retreat I ever was on that didn’t force me to believe anything or do anything I didn’t want to. Instead, it allowed me to establish my own safety and boundaries to work through something I never thought I would or could.

Being a part of MKP didn’t end for me once that initial retreat ended either. Shortly thereafter, I joined what was called an IGroup, which is simply a group of men who too went on the New Warrior Training and chose to continue working on themselves after it by utilizing the processes they learned during it. Since December of 1999, I’ve been a part of a number of them in various cities and continued to use that venue to break through many other blockages that kept me a prisoner just like my Dad’s suicide once did. Blockages like the pain I had from being molested when I was a young kid or the abrupt loss of my mother due to her alcoholism.

In fact, MKP has helped me work through so many blockages that my gratitude runs quite deep for those who created this nonprofit organization. Currently, MKP’s presence can be found in 22 countries, with other 900 IGroup’s, and 60,000-plus training graduates. Recently, I helped to expand that number of IGroup’s by adding one more here in Toledo with six other men. We meet every other week and do deep spiritual work on our lives using processes that 12 Step recovery and therapy and other self-help types of guidance aren’t able to provide.

Nevertheless, while I once judged MKP (like I did with AA at one point as well) to be a cult before I ever really knew anything about it, I’ve discovered how far that was from the truth and have gone on to sponsor many other people over the years to take part in the New Warrior Training and Igroup’s too. Seeing these men spiritually heal and grow from that has brought me an immense amount of gratitude and led me to be extremely grateful for an organization whose only mission is to see broken men find healing and begin to lead lives of integrity, authenticity, and service to others.

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

(NOTE: You can find information about The ManKind Project at http://www.mkp.org and if you are a woman seeking a similar type of organization, please check out The Woman Within at http://www.womanwithin.org)

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday everyone, where I look for one new thing each Monday to write about that I’m truly grateful for, and for today it’s for all those who work in any customer service-based position.

So, for all those who are waiters and waitresses, flight attendants, help desk support engineers, baristas, retail associates, cashiers, concierges, maids, food service specialists, receptionists, home technicians, customer care operators, dispatchers, front desk agents, bank tellers, and all others who are working in customer service, I’m truly grateful for each and every one of you, as I know the amount of energy it takes just to remain in this branch of employment.

Having formerly been a help desk support engineer myself for several different companies, as well as owning my own bed and breakfast for many years, I came to understand just how difficult it can be on more days than not, in serving the public. For every customer who shows some level of appreciation for you, there are always ten others who seem to constantly take out their frustration on you, especially when you don’t get every single thing perfect for them.

A great example of this was when I used to do help desk support for a check-cashing software company. More than once I had stores call me up and say their computers weren’t working. I always began my support by asking them if their computers were turned on, which tended to consistently get my head bit off and me asked if I thought they were stupid. Yet, do you know how many times that was actually the reason why things weren’t working for them? 95%. But, being on the receiving side of people whose ego and anger has all figured out in their head before they even call is never easy to deal with. Yet, in this type of position, things are generally the employee’s fault no matter what and never the customers, even when many-a-times it should have been the other way around.

Another good example of this was when I ran my bed and breakfast. There I had to smile all the time, under every circumstance, like even after my mother had died tragically. Because everything had to be perfect all the time for my guests, as when their brain told them it wasn’t, they would let me know by usually telling me something needed to be better for them or they would refute the credit card charges. Yet, none ever really took the time to see the amount of work I put to make their stay a great one, nor knew that my work day began at 6am and ended at 10pm, or ever considered the possibility that I had a personal life as well.

But, as much as my bed and breakfast and help desk work experiences were as challenging as they were, it’s because of those positions that I’m truly grateful now for anyone still in this sector of the work force. I have a lot of respect these days for those who serve the public because I know what it takes to be in their shoes. I know they get blamed for far too many things that tend to never be their fault. I know they get their butts handed to them on far-too-many days too. But I also know they have hearts and souls no different than I, with their own trials and tribulations going on in life as well, all the while performing their jobs to serve people just like me.

Customer-service oriented jobs aren’t easy to do, on any level, which is the very reason why I’ve dedicated today’s Grateful Heart Monday to all those who currently still are employed in one of these types of positions. It’s much because of all of you that this world keeps on functioning and I thank you for that and for all the servitude you offer to each of us, day in and day out, sometimes even in the worst of circumstances. For that I’m truly grateful!

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday! So, what are YOU the most grateful for today? As for me, my gratitude is for all those therapists, social workers, psychologists, and life coaches out there who do their best every single day to help people around the world through all their pain and suffering.

Did you know that it really wasn’t until the 1950’s and later that seeing a professional for mental and emotional help even started to become an accepted thing in society? Honestly, I can’t imagine what it must have been like before then when someone was going through something really rough and needed someone to talk to about it. Treatments back then for this area of clinical care were far too aggressive, dangerous, and tended to end with people far worse, sometimes even in mental hospitals and padded rooms, which is probably why most kept their issues to themselves.

Thankfully, things are very different in the psychotherapy world today and people aren’t considered crazy or insane simply because they decide to go get some professional care for their angsts in life. Personally, I have utilized counseling in its many forms ever since I came out of the closet and became clean and sober from alcohol and drugs in June of 1995. It’s hard to believe that twenty-three years have passed since then and how many psychotherapists I have gone to during that time period. I’m quite glad I did though because each have helped me in their own way, to grow tremendously on my spiritual journey in life.

From my father’s suicide to my mother’s tragic passing, to the loss of a partner I thought I’d spend my life with and the business we owned together, to financial failure and health decline, and so much more, counselors have consistently helped me find plenty of solace in their guidance and direction, which is why I have an incredibly grateful heart for all those who have made this career their life practice.

So, to Linda, Katie, Martha, and the many others I’ve seen throughout my life thus far, and to all those other therapists, social workers, psychologists, and life coaches out there still alive, and even those who have passed on as well, I offer my thanks and gratitude to God for each of you on this Grateful Heart Monday. I thank all of you for taking the time, day in and day out, to listen to the many stresses, agonies, griefs, sorrows, despairs and the like so many of us have had to endure throughout our lives. It’s truly because of each of you that people just like me have been able to keep on going, one day at a time, no matter what the trials and tribulations have been. I am very grateful for each of you and I love you all…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday! While I do my best to live a life of gratitude, I also choose to start each of my week’s now in this blog by focusing on one thing I’m truly grateful for, which for today, is going to be my 12 Step recovery work from a life of addiction.

I used to think that the only thing that was important when it came to addiction was to remain clean and sober from the substance of the addiction itself and if I did, everything else would work itself out in my life. So, I spent a very long time doing just that, except I did nothing about all those unsettled insides of me. Eventually, I became so broken because of it and turned into nothing more than a dry addict. I remained just as sick as when I had engaged in each of the addictions themselves and that’s because I didn’t realize that the disease of addiction wasn’t so much about the substance of the addiction itself, as it was about healing what was going on underneath it all within me. Thank God I finally learned that when I accepted I couldn’t do this on my own anymore and opted to fully enter a life of 12 Step recovery.

Ever since, I have found so much more stability in life, as it’s the steps that led me to turn my will and my life over to the care of God. And through the process of turning my will and life over to the care of God, I was able to get honest with myself and start to find forgiveness in my heart for all the resentments I had carried for years. And through the process of finding forgiveness in my heart for all those resentments I had carried for years, I began to see vast numbers of character defects that had hurt both myself and plenty of others along the way. And through the process of beginning to see all those character defects that hurt both myself and plenty of others along the way, I found a desire to make amends and restitution. And through the process of making each of those amends and restitution, I started to develop a life of humility. And through the process of developing a life of humility, I learned that prayer and meditation and a number of other spiritual practices were going to be necessary to remain this way. And through the process of doing daily prayer and meditation and a number of other spiritual practices, I found a desire living within me to help others. And finally, through the process of helping others, I began to practice the 12 Steps of recovery in every facet of my life, which helped me to wake up one day and realized just how much more stable my life had become than before I ever began my 12 Step recovery work.

This is why I’m truly grateful for my 12 Step recovery work, because if it wasn’t for it, I’d still be a complete toxic mess, causing more chaos and disruption in this world, than doing my best as I do now, to create a little peace and joy in life for both myself and all others. But even more importantly, it’s because of my 12 Step recovery work that I not only have a much more unconditionally loving and forgiving heart today, but also a grateful one as well, one that is the very reason why I started Grateful Heart Monday’s in the first place! 🙂

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

Grateful Heart Monday

I’m not sure if this would be in anyone else’s top ten list of what to be grateful for, but having a roof over my head and a place to call home is definitely in mine and the very thing I chose to write about in today’s Grateful Heart Monday entry.

Just as an FYI, the last time a global survey was done to see how many people were homeless in the world, it was found to be over 100 million people back in 2005. I’m sure that number would today would be far larger. But, as recently as 2015, a separate study was conducted where it was estimated that at least 1.6 billion people lacked adequate housing on our planet. While I’m truly sad to learn these statistics, I do thank God I’ve never been able to count myself as one of them.

Not once in this lifetime have I ever found myself truly homeless, and in a city like Toledo, where I reside now and where the temperatures often fall into the negative digits during the winter like this one, I find myself being even more grateful to God. People die every day because of homelessness. Many of them tend to freeze to death in harsh climates like this. Others also die from poor health or from violent crimes they either resort to or are a victim of. So, when the wind chill has led to -10 degrees and more than once in recent weeks and where the snow and ice have piled up outside my front door just recently, I have really been thanking my Higher Power for providing me a place to keep me warm from all those frigid elements.

In turn, I have found great compassion for the many homeless people I come in contact with now, including at the place I volunteer every Wednesday for my 12th Step recovery work. There, the stories I regularly hear are heart-wrenching like people resorting to living in abandoned buildings with broken windows or on roach infested couches in drug homes or having to hop from one shelter to the next where sometimes they are even turned away.

I used to find it so easy to pass by those people on the streets holding those signs that say they’re homeless. How often I discounted them and simply assumed they were alcohol and drug users and needed to go get a job. I can’t do that anymore and instead am finding a lot more compassion for anyone who may be in a homeless situation because after all, I honestly can’t imagine myself standing on a corner in subzero temperatures trying to collect a few dollars to survive, especially in the state of health I’m currently in.

Nevertheless, God has always kept me warm with a roof over my head for the past 45 years of my life and for that, I’m truly thankful on this Grateful Heart Monday. Yet, at the same time, I find myself praying for everyone who can’t say the same, especially those who currently are dealing with homelessness themselves.

So, I pray that each of us who aren’t dealing with homelessness may find it within our hearts and souls to help anyone who is dealing with it in any way we can, even if it means simply offering a dollar to someone we might find ourselves passing by one day, standing on a corner, holding up a sign, during one of those harsh winter days…

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude becomes the front and center priority and purpose for my blog. Having a heart of gratitude is so critical to living a life free of negativity. That being said, what I’m most grateful for today is my partner Chris.

Chris has continued to stand by my side through thick and thin, supporting me in ways that I never thought anyone would or could. Up until I met him, I was 100% self-supportive, so it never mattered to me much when people came and went out of my life. But shortly after meeting Chris, my health began to decline and I started having to ask for help in my life on a regular basis, which was quite humbling and still is. And, from day one, Chris has done just that and been an incredible help to me on so many-a-day, especially on those where I’ve just wanted to give up and check out. He has always unconditionally accepted me, even with my diminished health and keeps on doing so day in and day for six years now. In my book, that’s definitely something to take note of and to be grateful for, because I have dated plenty of others who probably would have walked away long ago out of sheer frustration and exhaustion over my ongoing struggles.

Beyond this personal support, I’d also like to mention how grateful I am to have witnessed Chris’s spiritual growth ever since initially meeting him. He has not only found a renewed connection to his Higher Power, but also taken many steps forward to becoming a leader. Recently, he’s stepped up in that department to run point on an upcoming retreat for a spiritual men’s organization we are both part of. During this four-day weekend, he’ll be the head kitchen coordinator who will guide a team that will prepare three meals a day for over sixty men.

Lastly, I think it’s important to mention as well how extremely proud and grateful I am for my partner in his quest to becoming healthier on the physical level. Chris has utilized the 12 Steps of recovery over the past few years to help him lose close to 100 pounds, which is such a huge achievement for him, given his family’s struggles with obesity. Because of his hard work, I’ve seen him become far more physically active in his life. And in a world where obesity is becoming more and more prevalent and causing many health issues, I’m very thankful my partner has slowly been overcoming it one day at a time.

So, thank You God for my partner Chris, for his love and support of me, for his renewed leadership in life, and for his dedication to becoming healthier mind, body, and soul.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

I’m so glad that I added this new category last week, because as I’m typing this, I haven’t been feeling much gratitude today and that is exactly when I know how important it becomes to find something to be grateful for.

That being said, what I’m most grateful for today is that I still have my eyesight and hearing. Knowing there are over 285 million people in this world who have disabling visual impairments and over 360 million people who have disabling hearing loss is something I’ve thought about quite a bit lately. Sadly, I think far too many people usually take things like their sight and hearing for granted until something happens that negatively affects one or the other with significant loss. I honestly can’t imagine a life where I wasn’t able to see God’s beautiful canvas anymore that’s around us all the time, like the flowing rivers here that soothe my soul every time I’m by one and find myself staring out into their churning waters. It’s also difficult to imagine a life where I wasn’t able to see the faces of those I love anymore like my partner, my sister and her family, or my dearest friends. Similarly, it’s just as hard to fathom a life where I couldn’t hear those sounds of nature anymore, like the roars of the ocean or the chatter from all the living creatures. And frankly, I definitely have a really hard time fathoming a life where I couldn’t hear the voices of those I love anymore, which also includes the purring and tiny meows I regularly adore from my cat. These are all things I once took for granted and never gave much thought to. But through all the suffering I’ve been through in recent years, I’ve discovered a pretty serious amount of gratitude for things like my eyesight and hearing, which I’m sure those 645 million people on this planet who are disabled with one or the other would gladly have restored. So, thank you God for my eyesight and hearing and for having a much greater appreciation for two things that I never used to.

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

Grateful Heart Monday

Recently, I felt a push from my Higher Power to begin something new in my blog that I’m starting today and will be called “Grateful Heart Monday”. With Monday often proving to be a difficult day for so many to find any bit of gratitude, I’ll be using this day of the week from now on to write about one specific thing I’m personally grateful for and why. And it’s my hope that those who read this each week will then in turn come up with at least one thing that they too are grateful for on every Monday and will share what that is back with me.

Thus, moving forward, my gratitude for my first of many “Grateful Heart Monday” entries to come is this. I’m grateful to God that I’m still maintaining this blog, because as of January 14th, 2018, I hit a major milestone. It was on that day I achieved something I never thought I’d be able to, which was to write for five consecutive years. And with this specific entry, I’ve now published 1,844 days in a row, never once giving up on my writing, even when my ego has attempted to convince me at times it would be better to, like on those days when I’ve been in terrible health, or on those days when my articles have mostly gone unread, or even on those days when I’ve received negative comments about something I passionately wrote about. That’s a pretty large accomplishment for a former addict like me who used to rarely follow through on anything while in the deep throngs of plenty of addictions. But I must never take credit for that, for the only reason why I’ve been able to achieve five consecutive years of writing is due to the passion God has continuously given me for this. So, thank You God for helping me to keep writing, to never give up on myself with a talent I know you gave me, and to continue believing right on through my very first “Grateful Heart Monday” that I’m doing Your will and serving a Greater purpose with this very blog for as long as I have…

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