Finding Inspiration In The Ocean And Maybe A Little Faith Too…

I’ve started and restarted today’s article countless times, writing and erasing, and then writing and erasing some more, trying to find some wisdom to share, or any words really. Unfortunately, I’m coming up drastically short as I sit here on this 3rd floor balcony, gazing upon the ocean, one that sits sprawled out directly in front of me in a 270-degree view late at night in York, Maine.

Usually, being near the ocean inspires me, especially when it’s this late at night. More often than not actually, I tend to find and feel the presence of God in moments like this. But tonight, neither is true and truth be told, I don’t feel God anymore, not for a long while now, and that’s something I don’t know what to do about. While I still believe in a Higher Power, something that my 12 Step recovery requires and something that I can attest is the only thing that’s kept me going forward instead of backwards into a life of addiction, I remain feeling utterly defeated. Defeated from an arduous spiritual journey that feels on most days likes it’s going nowhere except in circles.

What I want the most in life seems to incessantly evade me. Call it God, or call it peace and joy, or call it both, it doesn’t matter. I just want to feel God’s peace and joy within me, regardless of whether my health issues ever go away or don’t. I’ve prayed, meditated, read scripture and other inspirational words, said affirmations, gotten exercise, eaten healthy, practiced gratitude, helped others, and written and spoke about it all on a regular basis, and yet I continue to wake every day, feeling empty, weeping, and full of sorrow. Sorrow over the despair from it all.

I know what it feels like to have the Light of God shining brightly within me, but my light feels pretty dim right now. I fight the physical depression from it all, every, single, day and do pretty well with that. Heck, today alone, I played a marathon of miniature golf with six courses in seven hours, winning every single one of them, yet here I am, still feeling deeply miserable inside. And that’s not because I have some serotine imbalance, or some chemical imbalance, or because I went out and engaged in some addiction, or distanced myself from God somehow, or did anything really to separate myself from the Light of God. But why I continue to feel this way though is beyond explanation and beyond me.

The fact is science and medicine can’t fix this and holistic healing only took me so far. I feel the rest is in God’s hands. Why God has been silent with me I don’t know. Maybe God hasn’t been silent and I’m just speaking a different language? Maybe my level of pain is blocking our communication? Maybe I pissed God off and this is my punishment? Maybe this is penance for the many hedonist ways I’ve lived? Or maybe it has nothing to do with me at all? Regardless, I feel as if I’m sitting in a jail and have been for a long time, one without knowledge of why or even when I’ll be released.

If I could step foot in a courtroom and have God let me know what the charges of my life are that are keeping me in this place, it would be far better than to be left in all this unknowingness, this unease, one that consumes me every day, especially as I witness the joy and peace in others.

God, I believe you are still there. And I’m still here Lord too. Waiting. On You. All that matters in my world anymore is to feel your peace and joy again, two things that continue to elude me, no matter what I seem to do. Without those two things God, I don’t know how to remain here anymore. Yet somehow, I trudge on, limping at best, choosing to believe somehow, in some way, that You are still there, even when I don’t see You or feel You anymore.

So, I guess maybe the ocean did inspire me tonight, Lord and I thank You for at least that, in finding these words, to continue being the transparent Soul You’ve had me become…one that still claims my faith in You, even when I don’t know why I still do…

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

Paul’s “Thorn In His Flesh” Isn’t The Answer For All Of One’s Pain And Suffering…

The story in the Bible about a “thorn” that Apostle Paul had in his flesh, some aspect of his life he was never freed of, that plagued him his entire life, is a story that continues to bother me immensely because of how often it’s used in this world as the answer for all the pain and suffering of another.

While I’m not a Biblical scholar, nor am I a religious person, two things I always feel the need to say whenever I write on subjects like this, solely because of the labels people keep placing on me whenever I talk about God or anything Biblically in my blog, I do have a spiritual view when it comes to Paul, specifically surrounding a “thorn in his flesh”.

For those who may not know what this story is about, it’s said that Paul was plagued throughout his ministry with some condition that’s never revealed precisely what it was, other than it bothered him so deeply he called it “a thorn in his flesh”. Paul prayed to God several times to remove it, but it never was removed, leaving Paul to believe it was a tool to keep him humble. This story has been used throughout millennia ever since to justify much of the pain and suffering countless others have gone through, which frankly, I haven’t found comforting whatsoever for two reasons.

The first deals with the reality that no one knows what Paul’s thorn was. Heck, he could have simply had chronic constipation or diarrhea for that matter, which annoyed the crap out of him (pun intended!). Or maybe Paul’s thorn was a person or group of individuals who followed him around everywhere he spoke and heckled him constantly? Or maybe his thorn dealt with a financial issue, or a skin condition, or a deformity, or loneliness in life, or an irrational fear, or something else altogether. The fact is, no one has ever discovered what Paul’s thorn was, yet it’s been compared to countless illnesses, diseases, and painful situations in one life after another. That has not and never has been comforting to me to think that the many health conditions I continue to face are simply a “thorn in my flesh” meant to keep me humble, when even one of them would do that job in of itself. At this point, I have so many “thorns in my flesh” that not only am I far beyond feeling humble in life, I feel defeated and am struggling to keep going. Even more so, seeing God as a Being that inflicts “thorns in a person’s flesh” to keep them humble only makes it seem that God is nothing more than a disciplining and punishing Being, and not one of unconditional love. Obviously I don’t find that thought comforting either, especially given I grew up with a mother just like that who inflicted many thorns in my side through her words and actions.

The second reason why I haven’t ever found Paul’s “thorn in his flesh” story comforting relates to what Paul was freely given once those “scales dropped from his eyes”, because it was then Paul felt a Presence fall upon him and within him that he clearly described as one of joy, that never left him throughout any of his ministry, which clearly helped him endure whatever that “thorn in his flesh” was, as well as all those beatings, jailing’s, and shipwrecks he endured as well. While I too have felt that Presence before, it’s one I haven’t in years, no matter how hard I’ve tried. The last time I did feel it, it came upon me not of my own doing and lasted for five days, during which it didn’t matter what “thorns” or pains I had going on at the time, because I felt loved and embraced so deeply by Something far greater than I ever will be.

So, while Paul’s story of having some “thorn in his flesh” with a Presence by his side to endure whatever it was, may be an interesting one like many religious stories often are to me, it’s never been a comforting one, especially having lived for a long time with chronic pain and health issues where the Presence of God has felt more absent than not. What has been comforting though through it all is whenever someone listens to my sorrow without judgment, held my hand without fear, or embraced me in their arms without hesitation, because it’s been in each of those moments where I’ve felt that Presence, albeit briefly, yet enough to know that God is still there, something that a story from the Bible, or any religious book, has never done for me, yet any act of unconditional love from another has…and always will…

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

Now That I’m The Big 5-0 Today, I Keep Asking Myself The Same Question…

Yes, I have officially turned the big 5-0 today. It’s hard to believe I’m a half century old now. Where did all those years go? Frankly, the notion that I’ve lived for 600 months, 2608 weeks, 18,262 days, 438,288 hours, 26,297,280 minutes, and 1,577,836,800 seconds is astounding! While I have plenty of mixed feelings surrounding a birthday that was always “way out there” looming in the distance, now that it’s ultimately here, I find myself asking one specific question I never asked myself at any of those prior big milestone birthdays of my younger adulthood. But, before I get into what that question is, I think it’s important to show the mindset I had on several of those previous major birthdays.

When I turned 21, I drank myself into oblivion with far too many tequila shots at a bar named Red Creek that was near my university, Rochester Institute of Technology. I felt then that I had my whole life ahead of me and didn’t care much about anything but pleasing my ego and raising my dopamine levels in any way I could. When I turned 30, I was long sober from alcohol and drugs and had settled into a relationship with someone I thought I was going to be with for the rest of my life. I was earning an amazing salary in a former computer career, and I celebrated it all with a huge Hawaiian-themed party in the backyard of my home just outside Washington, DC. I wasn’t questioning anything then because I thought I had it all figured out. But when 40 hit, I realized I hadn’t really figured out anything in life. It was then I had just begun facing some hardcore recovery work surrounding addictions I had never addressed, was in the beginning stages of the many health issues I continue to face, and had just gone through a tremendous financial loss in the upper six-figure range from my business that went under, so I wasn’t thinking much about anything except how I was going to survive. My celebration on that day was a few recovery friends and a few loved ones having a barbecue for me, one I was more checked out than in. Ten years later, turning 50 today, while I have survived through a whole heck of a lot in life thus far, I keep asking myself the same question…

Why am I here???

Is this a question that comes up frequently when one turns 50? Is it a question often asked specifically around this major birthday milestone?

At 50, being jobless, income-less, health issue-laden, and dependent upon my partner in more ways than I really wish to be, the best answer I have to that question presently is I’m here to tell my addiction and PTSD recovery story, a story that took me from a hardened and broken heart, to a caring and loving one, one that seems to inspire many each time I share it, whether it be via my writing or speaking. But is that the sole reason why I’m still here or does God have some greater plan for me that just hasn’t come to fruition yet?

While I regularly hope that one of God’s plans for me is to physically heal me from this heavy physical pain I’ve carried every day for years now, and another is to become healthy enough to return to the working class to a meaningful and fulfilling paying job, neither will matter if I don’t feel God’s peace and joy again, something I haven’t felt in almost five years, no matter how hard I’ve tried to find it. As I’ve said in many articles’ prior, living with intense chronic pain daily tends to block one from feeling that.

I often wonder if maybe that’s why both my father and mother checked out early in life, with my father making it just past 50 and my mother just past 60. Neither felt God’s peace and joy for years prior to their deaths, both being blocked by mental and emotional health issues. While I have worked through the majority of that, I have been unsuccessful finding any solution to moving beyond the chronic pain I continue to live with, which has left me feeling devoid of God’s peace and joy, more than not.

So, while I don’t want to follow in my parent’s footsteps as I begin this life beyond 50, I also don’t want to keep asking myself the same question of, “Why am I here?” I believe the only solution to move beyond this dilemma is one that requires God’s peace and joy. Because whenever I’ve felt that in life for the brief moments I have, it’s always shown me that I was exactly where I was meant to be, doing exactly what I was meant to be doing, no matter how small or difficult it may have seemed to my ego at the time. To feel that again, for the rest of my life, I don’t believe it would matter whether I was turning 50, 60, 70, or any age for that matter, as feeling God’s peace and joy will always transcend any of the ego’s need to find answers to the questions it asks itself so futilely, questions that include the very one I keep asking myself as I turn the big 5-0 today of, “Why am I here?”

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

I Have A Dream With Phi Kappa Psi…

I have a dream, and I just want to place it out there today via this piece of writing, simply to claim it, knowing that even in this small action, I’m setting a ball in motion in a world where I believe anything can be possible, so long as I leave it in the hands of my Higher Power, whom I choose to refer to as God.

Look, I’ve spent much of my life trying to control my future. I’ve had many dreams and taken so many actions to make them come to fruition, except those that have, were never fulfilling, which is why I’m trying to do something different now by leaving this dream I have right now in life entirely within the control of God.

My dream is to work for the national side of my fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi, with my fraternity’s headquarters in other words, where I would be sent around the country to each of our active chapters, presently there are over 83, to tell my story of addiction to recovery and all the trauma I experienced in between, a story I continue to tell here locally in the Toledo, Ohio area, day in and day out, as a volunteer.

I love what I do as a volunteer. I love helping out at detoxes, halfway houses, sober living situations, with the nursing students at the University of Toledo (UT), with UT’s Phi Kappa Psi chapter, and with those I sponsor in recovery as well, sharing my story of addiction to recovery from the depths of my heart, as it seems to truly be helping others, providing many a healing path from their own traumas of life and one that also leads them away from a life of addiction.

The idea of going from chapter to chapter, meeting with brothers around the country within my very own fraternity, who are just beginning their lives really would be a dream come true for me. My only hope in that job would be that in doing it, I could help many avert going down the long, dark, and circuitous path I went in life that took me nowhere but into the depths of despair and addiction. I honestly believe that doing this work would be invaluable with all that’s going on in our world right now.

The fact is alcohol and drug use are both rapidly on the rise throughout college campuses across the nation. Addiction continues to increase as well amongst the younger generations. Combine that with the hazing that still keeps happening in various social organizations, especially with fraternities and sororities, and terrible tragedies continue to happen. Each year it seems as if another death occurs due to this. A number of my own chapters over the years have lost their affiliations with their respective campuses due to these circumstances.

Most of my descent into addiction began during my collegiate years after I entered Greek life. There, I always felt like I had no one to talk to, no one to relate to, no one to open up to really. If I had just heard a story like mine from a fellow brother, it might have planted a necessary seed that could have sprouted far earlier in my life, preventing a lot of the pain and hardship I placed upon my life by living in so many addictions. This is precisely why I have this dream, because I’ve seen how my story has helped do this very thing within many individuals over the years and I give all that credit to God and not myself.

But a few years ago, I became overzealous and tried to control this dream by sending out 20 personal letters to 20 different Phi Kappa Psi chapters within driving distance of my home in Toledo. I was quite bold in those letters and honestly, I don’t think I was coming from a humble space at all back then. It’s probably why I never heard from a single chapter. Not one. So, I took that as a sign from my Higher Power that maybe it wasn’t the right time, or wasn’t my path, or I just needed to get humbler. Regardless, I backed off, and continued to do my volunteer work ever since, always hoping in the back of my mind, that one day I might work more closely with my fraternity I have come to love far more deeply, especially recently.

Nevertheless, I may not have a specific degree in what I’m doing right now in life by telling my story of addiction to recovery to everyone that I do. And I may not have a certificate that backs any of what I share from the depths of my heart each time either. But, what I do have is a passion and gift to speak, one I feel that comes from my Higher Power, which is why I’m leaving this with God, who knows I’m ready to go wherever and whenever it is I’m meant to go to help others. If that somehow, one day, can be with all my brothers of Phi Kappa Psi around the chapters of our nation, I truly would be finally living out a dream that I know would be 100% fulfilling…

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

How Do You Define Who You Are In This World?

In just over two months, I’ll be 50 years old, and I’ve been struggling a lot with that fact. Because honestly, as I hit that mid-life stride, I’ve really been struggling identifying who I am.

There is one school of thought that says who we are is defined by what we go out there and make happen with our own actions. There’s another school of thought that says who we are is based upon waiting upon God for guidance and direction to know precisely what that is to go do. And there’s yet another school of thought that says the answer lies somewhere between those two. So, in the process of trying to define who we are, many of us choose to base it upon what we do for a living. Others of us base it upon the status we hold in society. Some of us base it upon the titles we hold in the world around us. There are even those of us who base it upon all the awards we garner in life. And in the past decade or so, many of us are basing who we are upon how many followers we have gained on our social media. Honestly, I don’t want my life to be based upon any of these things. I want who I am to be defined by something else, something far deeper.

I guess you would say this is the very reason why I’m in the middle of having somewhat of a mid-life crisis over this. Unfortunately, most of my life I have based who I am on each of those things and more and all of it feels so very superficial. Who I am shouldn’t be based upon what I’ve seen and done, or the jobs I’ve held, or the titles I’ve gained, or the money I’ve had, or all the partners I’ve dated, or the friends I’ve friended, or any popularity I’ve ever come into, or on anything externally whatsoever, as none of that is going to matter when I die.

I realize now that I’ve consistently been basing who I am by the world’s standards all because I got so overlooked so often in my life starting back when I was a young kid. Being ignored more than not by own family and peers throughout my childhood, I eventually turned to drugs and alcohol and many other addictions to numb myself from it all. Soon I forgot about who I was entirely and began basing who I was on those around me and what they thought of me, making me completely miserable in the process. But here I am about to turn 50 in a few months, and I can at least say there is one thing I’ve come to see is necessary to defining who I am and that’s having a relationship with my inner child, something I ignored for most of my life. I nurture my inner child now and do my best every, single, day to listen to what is important to him. And if there is one genuine thing that comes from doing so, it’s deciding who I am from a much deeper perspective than what much of the world uses as a defining perspective of themselves.

At my core, who I am, is just a kid with a big open heart, who truly loves people on a very deep level, who has a great imagination, who is extremely sensitive to others, who believes in the best in everyone regardless of their past or present, and who cares about even the slightest of pain in another when he sees it. That is who I am today and while on the grand scheme of things that won’t make me very memorable on this planet when it’s my time to pass from this plane of existence, I at least feel I’m being authentic now to the real me, the me that I abandoned as a kid because the world told me I needed to be something otherwise to matter.

I matter because I exist. And who I am in existing is a really great kid who’s grown up to see the world with an unconditionally loving heart. In the world’s standards, that may not matter, but in God’s standards, maybe that’s all that matters…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

A Relationship Won’t Take Your Emptiness Away…

As I write this, I’ve mentally and emotionally been trying to prepare myself for my trip home tomorrow after having spent an amazing week with my sister and her family. Contrary to what so many single people often believe, that if they just had a partner, they wouldn’t feel so empty and alone, I still feel that way even though I have a good relationship with someone who does care deeply for me.

Time and time again, many of my single friends over the years have told me that all would be well in their world if they just had a partner to love them. Yet, I’ve had quite a few long-term relationships in my life with individuals who have loved me immensely, but still felt more alone than not during each of them. So, how can that be?

Because I believe that all my aloneness, all my emptiness, and that huge pit of despair I’ve frequently felt within me throughout much of my life, that I’ve consistently sought to fill with addictions, with relationships, and a vast number of other things as well, has nothing to do with anything I don’t have but my own lack of unconditional love for myself.

Lately, my ego has even been trying to convince myself that maybe if I could just get out of Toledo where I reside now, and move back east, that my inner world would somehow right itself. But I know that’s a lie as well that I like to tell myself regularly. Because my emptiness has nothing to do with that either. For as much as I’m not a Midwesterner and do prefer living on the East coast, especially near the ocean, my emptiness won’t change from a geographical move either.

The simple fact is my emptiness is coming from not loving myself enough unconditionally.

While I love the volunteer work I do, my 12 Step recovery and sobriety, and the many ways I try to be a selfless individual nowadays, I really don’t love myself enough unconditionally. In fact, I place far too many conditions on loving myself. I often place many expectations around who I should be, rather than embracing me for who I am right now. I frequently judge myself as well and often become my harshest critic. The reality I see now is that there is no person, place, or thing that can ever be a part of my life that will change my emptiness, even God, if I don’t start doing a much better job loving myself unconditionally.

It is sad to say that I have spent so much of my life looking to fill my inner void with something outside of myself, when I see now that my emptiness will only ever be truly filled by having a lot more love for myself, something that I think God has been trying to show me for a very, very, long time.

Ultimately, I think that God loves each and every one of us unconditionally, but how can we ever feel that if we don’t love ourselves in the very same way. When I fail to love myself unconditionally, the more I beat myself up, the more I judge myself, and the more I place even greater unreasonable expectations and demands upon my life. The longer that goes on, the more I end up living in negativity, trying to fill all that emptiness with people, places, and things, none of which are ever successful filling.

If we can’t offer ourselves the unconditional love we deserve, we really do start becoming our harshest critics in life who are constantly looking outside of ourselves to fix that brokenness within. And there is no one, not one single person on this planet, and not even God, who can change that unless we become willing to offer it to ourselves as well. I know this is a hard task, especially when much of my life has been spent doing everything but, yet it’s something I am working on doing far more now than ever before. And it begins with removing the belief that someone or something out there can change any of my emptiness within.

I pray that I will truly love myself a lot more unconditionally in 2022 than I have in many of my years past, and I pray that in doing so, I will feel enough love within to stop falling into the belief that a relationship, or anything else, can ever fill the void within me…because only loving myself unconditionally, like I know God does, can do that…

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

The Cost Of Not Practicing Forgiveness…

Why do people feel the need to hold onto resentments, anger, and the like? Why is it so hard to forgive? What benefit does it really offer someone holding onto all that negativity towards another? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I can tell you from my perspective, the only benefit it’s ever served me was my mind telling me it was to protect my heart from ever getting hurt again. Yet ironically, harboring all that inner anger and resentment, thinking it was protecting my heart, was only ever hurting me anyway, keeping everyone at bay overall.

Losing so many people throughout my life from family to other loved ones truly left me jaded and feeling broken. For the longest time, I didn’t let anyone in and walked around with an incredible amount of anger and resentment and a wall around my heart. I refused to forgive those who had left my life feeling so broken, which in turn left me a very bitter and very alone individual in life.

Developing close friendships and intimate relationships with others takes having an open heart. It takes being vulnerable. It takes letting go of the past. And it takes forgiving those who we feel broke our hearts. So long as we hold on to the pain of the past, keeping a wall around our hearts, living in resentment and anger, we’ll never let in anyone long enough and deep enough for them to stick around to love us for the rest of our lives.

I’ve worked hard in my life to remain vulnerable, to forgive those who hurt me immensely, to keep my heart open, which in turn has led to experiencing a closeness with friends and loved ones I wasn’t able to prior. People often open up with me now, feeling safe to do so, because I don’t walk around with a sword out and a shield up, like I once did, ready to stab the next person who came along and said or did anything that reminded me of the people I was still harboring anger and resentment towards.

Here’s the simple reality I came to see through it all. If you really want to be free of anger and resentment, if you truly want to experience closeness in your life, and don’t want to feel alone in this world, I’ve learned it means forgiving those that hurt us, I’ve learned it means not comparing others to those who hurt us in the past, and I’ve learned it means always keeping an open heart.

The only person who really ever ends up hurting by harboring anger and resentments towards another, by not forgiving anyone who led us to feel broken, is ourselves. Because in harboring any anger and resentments from the past will only leave us bitter and alone, complaining the world has done us wrong, when really it’s only ourselves that has done us wrong, by not practicing forgiveness and doing what we can to keep our heart open for new love to enter our lives…

Peace, love light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Can Death Be Prevented?

Can death be prevented? This is a discussion that’s come up so very often in life these past two years during this pandemic. For each person on this planet, I’m sure their answer would be different. For me, I’ve felt for a long time now that our deaths in this world are preset, that when it’s our time to go, it’s our time and nothing can prevent that. But just as true, when it isn’t our time to go, something will prevent our deaths from happening. Watching my father’s repeated and unsuccessful attempts at suicide during much of my adolescence was when I first began to feel this way.

His first attempt came when I was 8. He had walked into the local apple orchard that bordered our neighborhood. There he drank a whole bottle of vodka in extremely cold weather, putting himself into a coma. Someone oddly enough found him deep in that orchard that day, getting to him just in time, where the doctors said he should have died from it, but thankfully he didn’t. Years later, he attempted it again when he swam well out into the frigid-cold winter waters of the Long Island Sound late one night, so far out that there was no way he’d make it back in without dying of hypothermia. As he waited for sure death, he said a set of circular lights appeared and surrounded him in the freezing water, where it warmed him up, and pushed him back to shore. When my father finally died during his last suicide attempt many years after that, it was no different from any of his prior attempts. So why were none of the prior attempts successful, when the last one was? I spent years pondering this until I finally accepted that “something” beyond my understanding must be in control when it’s our time to go and not us and I’ve chosen to label that “something” over the years as God. While that didn’t make it any less painful to deal with, it helped immensely in accepting my father’s tragic passing, especially when I saw how many good things never would have happened in my own life if any of those earlier attempts had been successful.

Not too long after his death, I dealt with this again with a friend I’ll refer to as “G”. “G” attempted suicide three times. The first time was after swallowing a whole bottle of pills where 911 got to them just in time. The second was when they tried to asphyxiate himself from carbon monoxide fumes from a tube they connected from their tailpipe into his car window, when an off-duty cop randomly found them there and got to them just in time. And the third, was when they fully loaded a revolver and tried to shoot themselves, where the first pull of the trigger ended up being a blank! I’m thankful to say that today they are alive and well, running a business and far healthier.

While these two stories deal specifically with suicide, there are plenty of others I’ve come to know over the years through my volunteer work where I’ve learned of people who should have died from various things from accidents to diseases to addiction but didn’t and went on to have drastically altered lives because of it, many becoming selfless and humanitarian in the process. I should include my own life here because I’ve skirted death multiple times myself. One instance when I used to deal drugs as a young kid, where the expensive gold jewelry I wore out one night, that I almost didn’t wear out that night but felt compelled to do so, ended up being the very thing that saves me from being murdered by rival drug dealers who used my jewelry as collateral.

All of this has led to me approaching death so very differently these days. While all death is tragic of course and painful to go through no matter what the cause, I accept that when someone dies now, it’s just their time, and couldn’t have been prevented. It’s how I’ve dealt with all the tragedy of COVID-19 thus far. So many have died during this pandemic, especially the non-vaccinated, but what if it was just their time? Maybe they would have died from some other tragedy around the same exact time in their life, even if they had been vaccinated? There was a great non-fiction book I once read that dealt with this concept. It was called “The Afterlife of Billy Fingers” and was originally suggested to me by my dear friend Caryn. It really helped to solidify much of my inner spiritual beliefs surrounding death.

Regardless, at my core spiritual essence now, I accept God is in charge of when it’s my turn to go. If it’s my time and God’s ready for my life-force to leave this plane of existence, I’m convinced it’s going to happen, not a day sooner, and not a day later, and not within my control. On some level, maintaining this belief has really helped me to live far more at peace during this terrible pandemic, rather than living in fear surrounding it, which sadly seems to continue to consume the majority these days…

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

What Are Your Insecurities?

I often feel like far too many people walk around claiming not to be insecure about anything in their lives. I tend to believe the reason for that is it makes them feel weak and vulnerable to the world around them if they openly admitted they had any insecurities. But truly, I think everyone, and yes, I do mean EVERYONE, has some sort of insecurity or insecurities in their lives. While some genuinely might be completely oblivious of them, I find most just do a pretty darn good job covering them up by always pointing out the insecurities in those around them, that they themselves battle within.

There are many insecurities I have seen in plenty of individuals over the years, mostly because I have dealt with the very same insecurities myself. Spending as much time as I have in so many different types of support groups, therapies, retreats, and the like over the years has totally helped me to “truly spot in others what I got”. Some of the top insecurities I’ve witnessed the most in this world deal with one’s appearance, finances, social standing and status in society, relationship status, sexuality, and health.

While most probably rarely consciously choose to ever talk openly about any of their insecurities with the world in general, such as on their social media, I decided to do that very thing today by sharing a list of my insecurities in this blog entry. Because I’m not perfect and I do have my own flaws and shortcomings, just as each of us do. We may do our best to tell the world we don’t have them, but deep down there’s always that part of us that knows otherwise. The more I’ve tried to deny this, the more I find myself living in ego, falling back into some sort of an addiction, and growing farther away from being the unconditionally loving being I want to be in this life.

So, am I doing this exercise for some sort of therapeutic reason? Partially. But ultimately, I’m doing this simply because I want to be more of an honest, vulnerable, and transparent individual in this world that people can relate to, because deep down we really all do have our set of insecurities. We just may not talk about them openly with each other. So here goes. This is the true fully transparent me…

  • I am insecure about my lack of employment and income.
  • I am insecure about my weight and my looks in general.
  • I am insecure about ever saying or doing anything that might offend or hurt another.
  • I am insecure about the many health issues I continue to endure with no end in sight.
  • I am insecure about dying a nobody and being easily forgotten.
  • I am insecure about being alone in this world.
  • I am insecure about what my closest friends, family, and loved ones think about me.
  • I am insecure about whether I’ll ever feel truly happy, joyful, and at peace in this life.
  • I am insecure about ever following in my father’s footsteps who took his own life.
  • I am insecure about ever expressing my sexuality openly.
  • I am insecure about God’s existence and whether I’m even doing God’s will.

And I will end with this. There is one thing I am absolutely secure in and that is I always do my best everyday to be an unconditionally loving, caring, and kind individual, something that only came about by becoming as open and transparent as I’ve become in my life, insecurities and all…

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

How My Pain Has Actually Led To A Good Thing…

Is it easier to be silent then to talk? Better to observe than participate? The longer I live and the longer I continue to remain with the pain I do in this body, waiting with hope and faith of a brighter day felt within, I seem to be going in the exact opposite direction of who I once was, that being a person who always had to be the center of attention. But maybe that’s a good thing, because I see now how it’s helping me to see things I wouldn’t see before, when I was constantly running my mouth.

About a week ago, I was at a friend’s house having fun doing a game night, something in my past I would make sure to be the center of attention during it, for the entire time. Other than guiding everyone in playing the game I brought over (Catch Phrase) though, I listened more than talked and noticed many things I wouldn’t in my past. Sometimes it was the frustration of those losing. Sometimes it was the gloating of those winning. But the one thing I seemed to notice the most was one person there who appeared to get more and more down with each passing game, especially because they were constantly on a losing team.

I would never have noticed something like this before at a party or any sort of get-together, particularly a game night. I tended to be so competitive, especially when playing games like Catch Phrase. So competitive, that I’d gleefully rub in other people’s faces when they weren’t doing well. But sitting in pain more than not, no matter where I am these days, has led me to be more silent and observing like I was that night when I noticed how this one individual was feeling. Their face looked more down than up, more despondent than cheerful and after three entire games of seeing this person’s frustration grow in their losses, I agreed to play one more game, but only if I could this person’s teammate in the game. My goal was to somehow help them cheer up during it.

Before the game started, I went into the bathroom, and asked God to help us win this game, not for me, but for this person, who I felt needed a win, if for any reason, in the hopes it might help them feel slightly better. I’m happy to report that we didn’t just win, we won with conviction, and I got to share a wonderful fist bump and smile from a person I barely know, but someone I feel had their soul connect to mine knowing I understood how they felt.

It’s those moments that I never got to see in my past when I would always try to be the center of attention at events like that. I think those moments have come more and more in my life the more I’ve been slowed down through all this mental and physical pain. Because in my being slowed down, I’ve found I see the world around me with a totally different set of eyes, ones that have more compassion. Ones that have more understanding. And ones that just somehow know when a person might need a helping hand of sorts. I’m thankful for the good my pain has led to on nights like that, when it helped me help another of God’s children, even if it was for a brief moment, a moment that never would have come in my self-absorbed center of attention past…

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

Living At A 4…

I’m a member of a Facebook group that deals with all the health symptoms individuals are going through presently on their spiritual journeys. This group helped a lot to know I’m not alone with the health issues I face daily. Recently, I came across a posting on that group where someone posed the question of what level of health was a person living at presently from a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 was optimal and 1 was extremely poor. Sadly, my answer was that I’m living at a 4 and have been for quite some time.

Living at a 5 using this scale when it comes to one’s health, at least in my book, is living at par, which is something I haven’t felt for a very long time. Rather, I’ve been living at a 4 for probably a solid six years now where on most days I feel more upside down than right side up. Living at a 4 is challenging because it often feels like I’m fighting to just keep my head above water.

Handling day-to-day tasks at this level is challenging. There are many days now where I’m struggling just to stand in the shower to wash myself and where my best friends are actually a heating pad and a hand massager. Most don’t understand what living at a 4 is like when it comes to me because from their perspective, it always looks like I’m at a 9 or 10. That’s only because I tend to do my very best to hide all my health issues seeing that when I don’t, it constantly becomes the topic of conversation where I usually receive more advice than compassion and understanding. Don’t get me wrong though, as I know most mean well.

Regardless, living below par every single day is not by choice and it makes my world feel very gray. It could be the sunniest of day, with the most pristine weather possible, yet the world within me feels cloudy, damp, and rainy. I have done my very best to change, but so far, I’ve remained unsuccessful. Contrary to what many have accused me of, which is thinking I haven’t done enough to change my level, I’ve actually explored medicinal care, natural remedies, healing modalities, diet changes, cleaning house from toxic people, 12 Step recovery work, therapy, prayer, meditation, affirmations, gratitude journals, writing in this blog, and more. But none have ever been successful at raising my level of health, which has led me to believe it’s out of my control.

The only way I ever seem to be able to get people to understand what this is like is asking them if they’ve ever had the flu. Most of course say they have, which at that point, I ask them how life would be for them if they had it every day for years and years and still had to go on with all their daily activities. Most at the point instantly understand, but there’s always those who think they know better than I do with my health and continue to offer one piece of advice after another, which only makes my living at a 4 feel even worse.

As I said before, living at a 4 isn’t by choice, which has led to me working quite a bit on my faith and having to trust blindly in God that one day I’ll be a 5 or higher again. I tend to tell myself that God didn’t bring me down this path this far to leave me like this and that alone helps me to keep functioning at a 4. So, one day at a time, I continue to exist below par, yet I’m still alive and kicking, doing my best to keep the faith that one day I’ll be at par or better…

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

“We Are Closed Today Due To Staffing Shortages…”

How many times I’ve seen those signs on business doors in recent months that say, “We are closed today due to staffing shortages…” is countless by this point. Personally, I’ve noticed it the most with the place I frequent the most in life, that being Starbucks. Many of them have been closed early for the day, been drive-thru only, or didn’t open for the day at all. People seem to be talking a lot about this lately, most of which wonder why these staffing shortages exist in the first place and where all the workers have gone. While I don’t exactly have an answer for that, I can at least speak for myself since I am presently not holding a paying job.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t wish I could be out there holding a paying job. Unfortunately, my health has gotten to the point now where I am struggling just to take care of my own basic needs on many-a-days. When people have seen me outside doing yard work and have questioned why I can’t hold a job, what they don’t see is me curled up after that outdoor work, lying on my bed, massager in hand, heating pad below me, crying in frustration. Sometimes I’m good for an hour or two with what physical labor I do and sometimes I don’t have any energy at all to do any of it. The same goes for any mental labor as well, including even writing for this blog. I’ve frequently tried to push myself beyond my limits, but the rebound effect on my mind and body is one that tends to set me back for many days afterwards, which is why I try to not push myself much anymore.

Many have asked me what I’d like to do if my health wasn’t so delimiting. If my life wasn’t so limited, the answer is simple. I’d like to start out back in the workforce by being a part-time barista at Starbucks. When my health wasn’t so limiting and painful, I was very much the people person. I used to like to talk to strangers a lot. I also liked to interact, smile, and do my part to help anyone who came into my life, if even for just a moment for them to feel better. In regards to working at a Starbucks, that can translate to simply remembering someone’s name and their drink order, as many baristas do with me when I’m at several of the local locations.

Personally, I think I’d make a good barista and even spoke to several managers at a few Starbucks locations, wondering if maybe I could somehow do the job even in my current state of health. But I learned the work their employees do is actually quite taxing at times, some of which would extend far beyond my present limits of what I can handle. Truth be told, I wish I could just get a job there sitting on a stool behind the order register, cheerfully greeting each customer, taking their drink order with a smile. That I know I could do well right now. But standing on my feet for at least four hours at a time is definitely not something I could do presently.

So, I keep praying that God will improve my health enough for me to do a part-time job as a barista one day. Sadly, all those prayers of restoration continue to remain thwarted though. What remains is simply a hope that one day I will return to the workforce, where this time around it will be more about me being there for others, rather than myself, where the pay isn’t what matters, and what does matter is being of service to others, something I thankfully am still doing with my 12 Step recovery work.

Regardless, I’d really like to make all these nationwide staffing shortages be at least one individual less one day soon by hopefully re-emerging into the workforce again. I pray God will strengthen my frail and ailing body enough to do so, but until then, I continue to dream every time I see those signs on all those business doors saying they are closed today due to staffing shortages.

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

Dear Neighbors…

Dear Neighbors,

I know many of you may not understand why I am the way I am. I’m sure many of you at times have probably thought I’m mentally ill because I’m outside all the time picking up debris, keeping my yard, a few others, and the street as well, clean. You may even think how absurd it is when I’m outside at times like 1am, flashlight in hand, picking up leaves. There’s a good chance some of you have even labeled me as OCD and judged I need medication, a job, or both. I’m quite sure some have even found my outdoor habits annoying at times, but can any of you really say you truly know why I am the way I am? This is why I decided to share those reasons with you here today.

My life feels very upside-down these days and has for a good while. It’s been at least four years now since I experienced any real happiness or joy. Living with chronic pain can do that to a human being, especially when you never get a break from it, even more so when no medication or any over-the-counter thing does any good except give plenty of negative side effects. For as much as I’ve wanted to go that natural route by using medical marijuana or some other THC-related coping mechanism, I haven’t because I’m a hard-core addict, who knows himself so well that if it gave me any relief, I’d start consuming as much of it as I could, becoming an active addict all over again. So, I do my best to cope with my painful state, fighting to not follow in my parent’s footsteps who both took their own lives, fighting to not relapse, and fighting to believe that there’s something Greater out there still guiding me through all this darkness.

Every day I fight to live, to overcome a psychiatrist’s warning I received many years ago, who told me I had a 60 percent chance of taking my life due to all the tragedies I’ve been through. What gives me purpose and helps me to keep going are two things, one you regularly see and one you don’t. The one you don’t is the volunteer recovery work I do in the addiction realm, while the one you do is my work outside.

Doing my work outside as obsessively as it seems, does help me to feel better. It truly helps to shift my focus away from my pain and all the things I’ve endured in life. My parent’s tragic and very abrupt deaths are only a scratch on the surface of what I’ve been through. Honestly, I consider myself a walking miracle for still being alive and sober from alcohol and drugs for the 26 years I have. The amount of PTSD I’ve experienced and worked through with things like being chronically bullied, molested, and emotionally and mentally abused more times than I care to remember, I know many in my shoes would probably already be dead or heavily medicated just to cope with it all. But, I’ve learned I have to find positive ways to keep going, and the one you all see the most is me outside, toiling away, on a task that I know is repetitive and I’m sure at times a nuisance.

Nevertheless, maybe the next time you see me outside, doing a task that undoubtedly appears overly obsessive, pointless, and possibly irritating, you’ll understand a little better now that it’s one of the only things I have left that makes me feel slightly better, that helps me to keep going on plenty of days, and gives me some sense of purpose. I pray none of you ever have to walk in the shoes I have thus far in life, because I wouldn’t wish that upon any of you. Regardless, I love you all.

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

Taking This Year Off From Holiday Decorating…

As we enter yet another holiday season of ghosties and ghoulies, turkey feasts with all those fixings, and the birth of Jesus Christ along with Santa’s arrival as well, I made the difficult choice this year to do something I haven’t done in over eight years, and that’s to not decorate at all during any of it.

For those who know me, I tend to go all out during the holidays in the way of decorating. If you were to drive down the street I live on during the month of October in prior years for example, you’d always see my entire front yard lit up with festive Halloween decorations. The same has been true mid-November through the beginning of January with tons of brightly lit Christmas decorations. All in all, between set-up and take down and making sure things stay lit and functional, the time and energy it encompasses has always been a huge undertaking in my life.

This is precisely why I’ve decided to take a break this year. To put it simply, I’m worn out. Between my ongoing health issues, this pandemic, and struggles in my relationship, I decided it was more important to take care of myself this year and reduce my stress level by refraining from holiday decorating. The last few years especially, holiday decorating has brought me an incredible amount of stress. Decorating for Christmas alone for example takes me at least two weeks of time for set-up and an entire day for takedown. There’s also the constant monitoring of it when it’s lit since things always seem to burn out. Sometimes there’s even been vandalism I’ve had to deal with causing me even greater stress.

This isn’t any sort of “Bah Humbug” syndrome, as I do plan on still honoring the holidays in different ways this year as compared to years past. I simply feel it’s important for me to take this year off from doing a task in the hopes it will not only give me a reduction in holiday stress, but also to bring forth a motivation to do it again in the future.

For as much as I do have sadness that all my lights and figurines and cheerful holiday adornments will remain in storage and dark this year, I feel it’s something I need to do to take care of myself, as I truly am struggling in my life right now just to keep going. Holiday decorating isn’t a necessity but taking care of my health is.

While I plan on appreciating other homes this year who do decorate this holiday season, hopefully, taking this year off from doing any of my own decorating will allow for a far more stress-free holiday season than what I’ve experienced in years past and maybe even experiencing a peace I haven’t been able to achieve in holidays past.

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

Probably The Greatest Mystery To Those Who Suffer So Greatly Is…

I have frequently questioned why I’ve had such a volatile life filled with plenty of PTSD-based events. While the drinking and drugging part of it was of my own making, just as much as the toxic addictive relationships I got myself in were as well, most of my life beyond that has been tumultuous at best and out of my control, which has left me wondering more than not, did I choose to live a life like this prior to incarnating, or did I just get dealt an unfortunate hand, or is it because of something else altogether that’s far beyond my comprehension?

Regardless, it is regularly said never to compare oneself and one’s life to another, but on this planet that’s a very challenging thing not to do when struggling with some type of pain for long periods of time. My ego has led me on far too many days to envy those who have had far more stabler lives, who have countless stories of joy to speak of. I honestly wish I had those to share as well.

What I do have to share about and have done my best to work through is parental alcoholism, childhood mental and emotional abuse, constant bullying in grammar school, being molested at 12, experiencing a father’s suicide, watching an addicted mother slowly and angrily wither away until her drunken fall down the stairs, seeing the only business I ever owned completely fail losing everything I had put into it, almost going through bankruptcy, losing much of my health in the process, and having the inability now to work for a living, where I’m more dependent than independent.

Because of living this turbulent life, most of which being truly out of my control, there are times I regularly picture myself in some heavenly-type place, a positive and peace-filled space, sitting with some higher being of light, telling them how I want to go through all these difficult things in the life I’m about to be born into, all so that I can eventually help others once I make it through them myself. Honestly, it’s the only thing that makes any sense as to why I’ve had so many unfortunate things happen to me. Thinking this way does help to bring me comfort, especially on those days when my physical pain becomes so great. But, telling myself anything otherwise, like my life is just a bad hand I got dealt, only ever leaves me feeling depressed and hopeless.

Having lived such an unsettling life, I’ve met many others along the way who’ve experienced similar lives or worse, where their greatest thought has been why some people have to suffer so greatly in this world, while others often seem to not suffer at all or very little. That question is probably the greatest mystery none of us will ever get an answer for in our lives.

Nevertheless, I continue to do my best to trust God, clean house, and help others in life, sharing from my heart with all that I’ve been through. What God’s plan is for me beyond this is truly out of my understanding at this time. I accept that there must be some reason why I’ve endured as much as I have. What that reason or reasons are, I don’t know, which is why I continue to do my best to leave it in God’s hands. It’s how I keep on, keeping on, in a world that often feels lonely and upside-down for me.

I pray every day now for peace and joy to come. Why some of us have to endure far more than others, I may never know. What I do know is that it’s faith and hope that keeps me believing there’s a being of Light who still does care about me and has a reason or reasons for why I’ve had to endure as much as I have. Hopefully, one day I’ll have that answer.

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

Noah’s Ark, A Biblical Story I Struggle To Believe As It’s Written, But Am Still Inspired By Its Message…

There are countless stories in the Bible I struggle to buy into ever really happening, at least in the way their recorded. But what I do know is that there are plenty of positive messages behind each of them that I do buy into, like the message behind the story of Noah’s Ark.

In general, though, sometimes I think many of the stories in the Bible are just ones passed through the generations that were meant to motivate the masses. Maybe there was some truth to them long ago, but over time, it was like the telephone game, where the story got passed along, becoming bigger and bigger, changing, and evolving into something far different than its original events that inspired the story in the first place. One such story is the one of Noah, a guy who was called upon God to build this huge ark, becoming a laughingstock of those around him, even his family in the process. But the message behind this story is what truly inspires me on my current path in life because it’s one of keeping faith in God, even when all rational sense says not to.

Noah couldn’t fathom the purpose of what he was doing for God, yet he did it anyway and eventually he realized why. But trying to put any sort of rationality behind the story itself of Noah’s Ark is terribly challenging for me. I mean how did that ark fit every single species on Earth? And did Noah and his family become the next Adam and Eve of sorts, essentially having to resort to incest to repopulate the planet? It’s questions like these that I just can’t wrap my brain around whatsoever. But what I can wrap my brain around is the amount of faith Noah exhibited in the story, to even create the ark in the first place. It’s much of what I feel when it comes to how I’m handling my ongoing health crisis.

Long ago when I was still physically healthy, yet spiritually sick due to active addiction issues, I begged God one day to change me, to free me of all that kept me separate from God. I essentially wanted to be free of all the addictions and spiritual sickness I had been living in for so long, both in this life, and what I believe to be a number of prior ones as well, if you can believe in that sort of thing.

Seven days after I prayed that prayer is precisely how long it took before all my health issues began. I tried for a few years to fix them through science and medicine, and even through many forms of natural healing, all to no avail. Eventually, I came to accept that healing myself was beyond my control and that what I was going through was the answer to my prayer. That every ailment I faced was my body purging itself of everything that has kept me separate from feeling the peace and joy of God.

For many, this has sounded so inherently crazy. Honestly, there are days I think I’m crazy for continuing to trust in this healing path after so many years feeling so crappy. Yet, even when I seem to be at my darkest moments, there’s some sort of faith that comes from deep within that says to keep trusting in God and what’s happening to me. I think that’s why I really like the story of Noah. Because Noah trusted in God even when all rational sense probably said not to.

Even if the story of Noah’s Ark is bogus and is nothing more than a bedtime story passed along the ages, it still brings motivation to my spirit, to keep trusting in God with faith, to keep believing that I’m not crazy for remaining on this painful healing path, that I am still healing, even for as long as it’s been.

While the Bible and plenty of other religious books may indeed not be perfectly true stories and instead could very well be fabricated well beyond their originate events, I choose to look at the message behind them, like the message of faith in the story of Noah’s ark. A message that inspires me to keep going, to keep building my own ark, as I continue to trust in what I believe to be a healing happening in my mind and body, even when the constant pain makes me want to give up on most days, and even when others think I’m crazy for continuing to trust “some guy in the sky” with my health and the path of my life in general…

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

The Truly Transparent Me…Sharing From The Depths Of My Pain

Most people aren’t fully transparent in this world, usually out of fear of being judged. Today I want to show you what being truly transparent looks like by sharing from the depths of my pain.

Many of you may not know what it’s like to walk around for years on end in severe chronic pain. In fact, you might even go about your ways, oblivious to those around you who may be suffering incredibly all the time like me. And even if you do know of someone’s suffering and try to understand, it’s very hard to, unless you’ve suffered in pain for a long time too. And sadly, when people don’t quite understand, it’s precisely when they begin judging, something I’ve been a recipient quite a bit of in recent years when it comes to my health.

Many have insinuated I relish in self-pity and like living in my pain. I don’t. The truth is that if I could have one wish, one prayer, one hope to come true, it would to be free of this burden once and for all. Regardless, I do my best to put a smile on my face each day, to keep my faith in God, and find some sort of solace in this never-ending sea of frustration over how I feel inside from the very moment I wake up every morning. As when you’re in constant pain like I am, the sky always seems gray and everyone feels like a million miles away. Especially God. I doubt God far too much now. Does that make me agnostic? This pain has really made me question the existence of God.

Have I done something wrong? What more can I do? Is God mad at me? Is God waiting on me to do something? Am I supposed to keep waiting on God? These are all questions I ask myself frequently now and if I hear one more person tell me in response to them that when God feels distant, it’s not God who’s moved, it’s me, I think I’m going to scream!

People have had so many suggestions on how I should be handling what I’m going through and I’ve tried so many of them to no avail, which has led me to accept that removing this is totally out of my control. Yet, my ego still desperately tries to find a solution and so do some of my friends. They google this or that online, hoping to understand and find an answer. I know they mean well, but when you’ve tried so many things with no success over the course of 11 years, you already know google and the world in general isn’t going to have the answer.

All of this has led to me feeling like I’ve been running a never-ending marathon; one in fact I don’t want to run anymore. It’s why painkillers often beckon my ego, painkillers like medical marijuana. For an addict like me, I just can’t go there. Because I know deep down where it’s going to eventually take me, because it’s taken me there before. Because anything I’ve ever taken over the years to numb my pain has never been enough to fully silence it. And each time I’ve gotten any bit of relief from any painkiller I’ve taken, I’ve always only wanted more of it, creating another vicious cycle of addiction.

The path I embarked upon many years ago now was to be free of living my life in this way. It was to stop numbing myself with one thing after another, including drugs, medications, people, and a number of other things as well. That’s why for as bad as this feels inside, I have chosen to not numb it with anything. Why God hasn’t freed me from this after all this time, I don’t know. People suggest that if God hasn’t healed me by now, He probably won’t. Others say it’s dumb to have faith in God instead of medicine. What they don’t understand is that the last time I placed my faith in medicine, I tried to kill myself. Because numbing myself with medicine felt like giving up to me.

I’m quite sure some of you reading this are probably shaking your head right now, thinking you know better than I do. Like I just need some anti-depressant or some other pill, and all will be well. There is no pill that is going to fix this and until you’ve walked a day in my shoes, you’ll never be able to understand that. Nevertheless, my mother once said I hadn’t kicked hard enough in this swim race I had finished last in, at the young age of 12. But you know what? I was kicking hard enough then and I’m still kicking hard enough now by doing my best to keep my faith in God and in this healing path I remain devoted to.

So, this is the real me, the truly transparent me. One that most rarely post about themselves on social media. While my present world doesn’t make sense to me anymore and I often feel invisible because of this sea of chronic pain inside me, I still believe in God and cling to my faith that He has a beautiful plan for me, in this life…even as my pain continues to scream at me, always trying to make me believe otherwise…always trying to make me give up…while I keeping praying that I don’t…

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

“So, Are You Vaccinated Yet?”

On a very hot summer day recently, my partner Chris and I were lazily lounging and enjoying the peace and quiet in the outdoor pool at the YMCA we are a member of when suddenly, a woman approached us in the water and began loudly expressing her extreme displeasure of all unvaccinated people in our country. She had no idea I was unvaccinated nor knew of any of my health issues that have led to why I haven’t gotten one yet. I cringed as she continued to talk at a level where most around the pool could hear. When she said that all unvaccinated people need to be rounded up and sent somewhere outside our country where they can all die, I had enough. I was close to saying something that I knew I’d probably regret, which is why I quickly exited the pool. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s just best to keep my voice silent and pray for the person, because some people are just looking for an argument and there’s nothing that can be said to them where they might find greater understanding, love, and connection, especially when one of the first questions out of their mouth is, “So, are you vaccinated yet?”

The world lately seems to be filled with many people like this. How many times have I overheard people from both sides of this issue expressing their strong opinions for anyone to hear? Too many. Frankly, it’s got me so frustrated, because if I wasn’t going through all the health issues I have been for as long as I have, I’d already have gotten a vaccination, just like I did in my earlier years of life. Regardless, I’m so weary of these vaccination arguments and discussions, with people sending me article after article surrounding the science on this virus, the constant fighting and bickering on this subject, and the near-constant drama of pro-vaxxers versus anti-vaxxers. Last year was all about pro-Biden versus pro-Trump, of which I couldn’t escape no matter where I was. Now it’s all about this virus and I keep on seeing the fallout from it with friends walking away from each other, pointing fingers, and placing the blame on why they think this virus is still around.

I experienced some of this with a dear friend just recently. At the end of this month, I’m heading to the Washington, D.C. area to reconnect with several friends I haven’t seen in over 10 years. When one of them I spoke to over the phone asked me before our call ended, “So, are you vaccinated yet?”, I wanted to lie, but I’m not a liar. Yet, I knew where this was going to go at that point, but I remained honest and said I hadn’t been yet and explained why. It didn’t matter though. Even though I was willing to wear a mask, remain at a healthy distance, and even get a COVID test just to help them feel safe, they didn’t want to see me at all, even after 26 years of being the best of friends and even after not having seen me for well over a decade. I accepted their decision, but it hurt…A LOT.

The rejection from someone who’s been a part of my life for so long, all because of my unvaccinated status, made me wonder if that’s what happened back in the early 80’s with friends when HIV began spreading. Initially, it was called “GRID” or “Gay-Related Immune Deficiency” and anyone who was gay was chastised and blamed for the virus. Gay people became lepers in society, the total shame of the world. The news and the public in general pointed the finger solely at homosexuals and many stayed far away from them because of it, that is until science proved it was a sexually transmitted virus with both homosexuals and heterosexuals. Presently, science and the news continue to report the only reason why COVID is still a problem is due to all the unvaccinated people. Whether that’s 100% true or not doesn’t matter in my book, because like HIV, or when it was first known as GRID, each of those people who were gay were worthy and deserving of love then, just like all unvaccinated people are now.

Nevertheless, I’m afraid now to be in any type of public social setting, because it seems like that question of, “So, are you vaccinated yet?” continues to arise where the feeling I get each time it does is one of total repulsion from others when I answer it truthfully. It often feels like I’m getting the entire blame of the virus at that moment. I can’t imagine Jesus, Buddha, or Mohammad acting this way, given they were each about expressing unconditional love and acceptance of all. That’s why I am trying to emulate those qualities in my life as best as I can, regardless of whether someone has chosen to vaccinate or not, and regardless of any person’s stance on anything in life really, even if it’s something I stand completely differently on.

Ultimately, I just wish I wasn’t caught in the middle of this vaccination issue, but sadly, I am. But maybe that’s a good thing, for if it’s taught me one thing, it’s to love at a much Higher Level, one where it doesn’t matter whether someone has vaccinated or not, where instead what’s more important is loving someone no matter what, even the woman at the YMCA pool who wishes to banish people like me to another country where I can be left to die.

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

Can One Develop True Faith In God By Constantly Asking For Signs Of His Presence?

I know this is a subject I’ve spoken to before, but I think it’s one worth repeating from time to time in my writing, especially as of late where I’ve really found myself questioning if God is even real. The fact is, my health issues and ailments are really getting the best of me lately and when they have, I have found asking God via prayer for proof of His existence, most of which have gone unanswered. You know why I think that is? Because no matter how many proofs we may get, I think we will always keep questioning God’s existence each time the going gets rough, leaving us in a perpetual cycle of weak faith. I had a strong reminder of this recently in fact.

On one specific day when no rain was predicted in the local forecast and skies were clear, I knew I needed to water the yard, I just didn’t feel like doing it because of how crappy I had been feeling. So, I asked God to show He was still there for me by making it rain that night, and just after midnight, it did, for 15 minutes, in a downpour, fully removing my need to water the yard. Yet, it wasn’t long after that, maybe a few days later at best, when my pain got the best of me again. Once again, I found myself questioning whether God was real and asking for another sign to prove He was. This time it dealt with the winds outside. I asked God to calm the winds because they had been driving down droves of leaves into my yard for days like it was fall and I was getting so sick of cleaning them all up. According to all the weather forecasts, they weren’t supposed to calm down for another day, but ironically, they disappeared within 30 minutes after saying that prayer and never returned. You’d think this would increase my faith, but it did the opposite, making me become more dependent, almost like an addiction, on proof of God’s existence, versus just blindly trusting He’s there and still has a beautiful plan for me.

The reality is, I don’t think any number of signs of God’s presence will ever make me fully believe in Him, as my ego always seems to find a reason to prove otherwise. The fact is, God either is or He isn’t and coming to that place where one truly believes He is, will never come from receiving one sign after another of God’s existence, it will come though from having true faith within. Faith that develops from just blindly trusting, even when the mind can’t seem to find a reason too.

There is simply no way I would ever have made it thus far in life if God had answered me every time I asked Him for proof of Him. To stand in this storm I have been with my health, for as many years as I have, to have endured the level of pain I have with no relief in sight, has required incredibly strong faith, one that most assuredly has been tested repeatedly. This faith hasn’t come from signs at all, rather it’s come from walking through a constant darkness, hands outstretched, trusting that God is somewhere in front of me, beckoning me to keep moving forward, all while believing that when I finally make it to the other side of this, that I’ll have a far deeper unshakable faith, one that will need far less signs of His proof and instead whose life itself will become proof of God’s existence.

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

Are You A Fighter?

I haven’t done any type of serious biking or walking for long distances in a very long time, two things I once did regularly. The reason for this simply has been out of fear to making things worse for me with my long-running health issues, specifically with the Fibromyalgia and sciatica I continue to endure. This all changed last week though when I decided I wanted to be a fighter and challenge that part of my ego by asking God for strength to do both when I was with my best friend Cedric on a vacation in Massachusetts.

For years, Cedric has been talking about taking me on this Cape Cod canal bike ride he does frequently during the warmer months. It’s a 14-mile roundtrip venture that heads from Buzzards Bay to Scusset beach and back. Prior to 2010, I could have done that at least twice in one day, as I used to bike more than 27 miles every day as part of a daily exercise routine, specifically when I lived on the island of Chincoteague, Virginia. I’m not sure why I decided to press through my fear of intense exercise on this trip versus any of the others I’ve taken to visit him, but if I was to guess that reason, I think it’s ultimately because I’m tired of waiting for my health to improve before I try something new. Regardless, after picking out a bike to rent on a Thursday early afternoon during my recent visit to him, I hopped on the tiny seat and headed off onto the canal next to his bike on what I would call a picture-perfect summer weather day. While some light winds were against me during our bike ride to the beach, I felt a strong determination to at least make it to the halfway point. I think knowing the bike company said they’d come get me if I couldn’t make it back was reassuring enough to at least strive for that halfway point. Honestly, reaching the beach and conquering that first seven miles felt pretty amazing to say the least. It was as if some part of my ego died that day once I did. Nevertheless, I took a brief rest with Cedric out on a long jetty surrounded by the lull of the ocean waves, after which I felt invigorated enough to attempt the return trip. Truly, at that point, seven miles was the most I had biked in over 13 years, so the adrenaline running through me was quite high and most definitely overshadowing any pain. In the end, I did make it back to the bike shop, completing the entire 14-mile arc! Ironically, just before I pulled into the shop I collided my bike into Cedric’s and fell to the ground, but thankfully I didn’t injure myself more than some minor scrapes. It was pretty laughable actually and a hilarious ending to a major achievement in my life.

As for the walking achievement, well that came a few days later in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We were staying at an oceanfront motel on a cliffside and I suggested one afternoon to go for a walk because it was another spectacular day. I haven’t walked much over a mile or two in a very long time as well, given the same reasons with my health. So, when I set out on the walk, I did my best to pay more attention to the serenity around me with the ocean and all those spectacularly huge homes rather than the pain. About a mile and a half into the walk, I began feeling uncomfortable in my left leg where much of my pain resides. Cedric said we could turn around and my ego definitely wanted to, but my spirit didn’t. In that moment, maybe even determined than the bike ride, I asked God for the strength to press on, as I really wanted to do an entire circular arc I had originally mapped out on my phone, rather than back tracking. While I took a lot more breaks after that, I actually ended up completing that arc, which was approximately 4.5 miles!

Overall, while I did experience the after effects of both intensive exercise-fueled outings on my body, it was well worth it, because it said one thing very clearly to my ego that I’m not giving up on myself! I’m truly a fighter and refuse to give up or give in to this pain, something both my parents did and something I continue to pray to never do.

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

Do You Often Compare Yourself To Others?

On a recent trip away for a few days, I was sitting outside at the gas firepit at the resort I was staying at with other guests on vacation just like myself. It was a nice evening, the sky was clear, the stars were brightly shining, yet I was miserable. Why? Because I kept comparing my life to everyone else’s there.

The one thing I often find myself doing when I talk with others, especially new people that I just met is comparing their life’s achievements to my own, which honestly is probably one of the unhealthiest things a person can do because it either swells one’s ego or deflates it, with major emphasis being placed on the word ego here.

Comparing oneself to anyone is simply an ego-based move. Most who do it generally hope to feel better about themselves when they do it, that somehow maybe they’ve done more, seen more, earned more achievements, accolades, etc., in life. In my case, due to years filled with health problems that drastically have slowed me down, it’s typically been the opposite, where I feel like I’m a nobody after comparing myself to another.

I kind of felt that way after comparing myself with this couple my partner and I met at that resort firepit that night. They had travelled much of the world, lived in some majorly cool areas of the country, worked in a number of amazing jobs that paid very well, been married happily for 21 years with 4 kids who were all successful, and well just seemed like they had lived a pretty darn good life. I think my ego got deflated the most when I learned the woman’s current profession at 46 years old was a professional nanny for a very wealthy family who takes her on trips to places like Hawaii where she gets paid to go on vacation with them and play with the kids in the sand.

Yikes! Just writing about this further deflates my ego even more because on a direct comparison, my ego makes me believe I’m far less relevant or important when I have no real idea of what those people, or anyone really, have gone through, or are going through, that I probably wouldn’t want. It’s a lot like how I feel with Facebook. Most people post happy-go-lucky things on their timelines with smiling faces and cool places, and rarely express their troubles of life. I mean how often do we see people posting that they are in bankruptcy or suffering from addiction or struggling to pay their bills or going through a divorce, etc. The fact is, taken at face value for what one sees or hears with others, especially people they don’t know or just met, it’s a sure deathtrap for the ego comparing oneself to any of them, particularly for someone struggling with a low self-esteem like I have been in recent years.

While I may not have travelled to all corners of the globe, or be in some job presently that is making a serious impact on bettering the planet somehow, or earning a huge paycheck or any paycheck for that matter, or have chiseled muscular features, or have a family, a big home in an exclusive neighborhood, or any number of other ego-coveted things in this life presently, what I do have is a good heart and honest life, filled with a desire to be more selfless than selfish, giving more than taking, accepting more than judging, and kind more than angry. For me, those things are priceless, not just because we live in a world seemingly filled with so much of the opposite these days, but because the former addict in me never had those qualities or even cared about having them.

And ironically, during the majority of my addiction-fueled days, I had the very things my ego often listens for in others at places like resort firepits, but I was never any happier, at peace, or filled with joy when I had them. The more that I remain clean and sober and work on my life in recovery from many former addictions, the more I see how fruitless it is to compare myself to anyone, because I haven’t lived their life, they haven’t lived mine, and honestly, I don’t think God cares. I think what really matters and what God cares about is being there for each other, something I continue to strive for, one day at a time.

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

Praying For Freedom From A Mental Health Disorder Most Don’t Understand…

If there was one thing I could truly change about myself, it would be to be permanently freed of hypochondria, a mental health condition I’ve had for much of my life and probably the single most frustrating part of all my ongoing health issues at this present time, as it may indeed be at the core of them all.

People often think hypochondria is something that should easily be able to be turned off. Honestly, it isn’t, just like it isn’t for someone suffering from depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, or any other mental health condition for that matter. What I find perturbs me the most with this condition from an external perspective is when someone who has never dealt with it thinks they could handle it far better than I do. The reality is someone who’s never dealt with this mental disorder (or any other mental disorder they’ve never had but think they could handle better) has no clue how challenging it can be and how much it wreaks havoc upon living any sort of a stable life.

I know that most think that having hypochondria just means you worry a lot about your health but it’s so much more than that. Take for example a few weeks ago when I was playing a round of mini-golf with my partner. At one point I sat on this wooden crate while waiting for my turn on one of the holes, when suddenly I felt this pain where my butt hit the crate. My mind immediately raced to the worst. Was it a bug bite, a spider bite, a bee sting, did I sit on a rusty nail, is there a sliver in me now, on and on my mind raced, obsessively, to even the most obscure possibilities. For the rest of the day the worry of what it was occupied me, so much so that I kept going into bathrooms and looking at my butt cheek to see if I could identify what happened. It took over 36 hours for my mind to calm down about this, when the small reddish spot finally began to disappear. But for those 36 hours or so, I hardly had any serenity at all, as my mind raced over and over again about something that most likely wouldn’t have bothered the majority of individuals it happened to.

I could share countless stories like this where some “ailment” immediately kicks off a wave of hypochondria, where I end up feeling imbalanced in my mind and body until the “ailment” either completely disappears or doesn’t grow any worse. Frankly, of all the health issues I continue to deal with, this for me is the worst because when it is active, my thinking is the very thing that works against what is reality.

When a pimple is most likely just a pimple, my hypochondriac thinking leads me to believe it’s the start of or part of some terrible skin condition. When an ache in some part of my body occurs, I think it’s cancer. When my hand occasionally shakes while holding something, I think it’s Parkinson’s. I’ve probably had just about every disease on the planet by this point, at least in my mind. The mind obsessions with hypochondria tend to feel so real, real enough that I have often attempted to intervene in the body’s natural healing processes, only to make things far worse. Years ago, I’d run to the doctor repeatedly for this condition, sometimes five days a week to different specialists, asking for one test after another because of the hypochondriac worries convincing me I knew what I had, none of which ever proved to be real.

The harsh reality of how this first began might indeed relate to the unconditional love my mother always gave me each time I was “sick” with some perceived “ailment” as a kid. During those moments of “sickness”, she was so kind to me, giving me treats and attention I usually never got. I don’t remember her ever being drunk or mean to me during those times either. Did my hypochondria totally manifest because of that? I’m not sure, but the solution I used for a long time to deal with my hypochondria was medication, which only made me a zombie more than not in life. Nowadays, I am choosing to walk through each episode of hypochondria free of medications, facing each health-related fear head on, and doing my best to do nothing, except let my body work through it naturally. It is very tough sometimes to do this though, because those fears always feel so extremely real.

Because of how much this negatively affects my day-to-day living, there is one prayer I have with God regularly now and it’s to become permanently free of this mental health condition that most don’t understand. I truly believe that much of the peace and joy lacking in my life comes from having hypochondria and constantly dealing with one health-related crisis in my mind after another.

So please God, if you could answer one prayer for me, I pray you fully take this hypochondria disorder from me for good. You once took another disorder fully from me, that being my addiction to alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, so I know you can take this away too. And I know that when you do, I’ll be able to live a much more stable life, just like I experienced when you completely freed me from each of those former addictions.

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

Is There A Purpose To My Life Anymore? Do I Ultimately Matter?

There are a lot of things I’ve written in this blog since its inception, and I do mean a lot, given I’m well in the 3000+ range of personal testimonies shared from my spiritual journey in life. But, there are many days now where I think about quitting this, especially recently with my website experiencing some major hiccups. I haven’t quit though for one reason only because I find it’s the healthiest way to still express myself, even if I may get redundant at times in my subject material. That being said, whether this is redundant in me saying this or not today, my biggest struggle lately is feeling like there isn’t a purpose to my life anymore and that I don’t ultimately matter in this world.

After 25+ years of being in therapy with many different types of counselors, going through a number of 12 Step programs, being a part of several intensive men’s spiritual groups, going away on dozens of self-empowerment retreats, doing regular meditations, affirmations, and prayers, offering gratitude daily, and doing my best to remain healthy, mind, body, and soul through natural healing and helping others, I still find myself questioning whether any of this has done any bit of good. Why? Because I continue to feel like I have no purpose and that my life doesn’t matter. Even worse, I find myself questioning lately whether God even exists, and if God does, why can’t I feel His presence no matter how hard I try to. And at my deepest level of insecurity, all of this leaves me wondering if I died tomorrow, would anyone really even care in the long run or would I easily be forgotten?

While I’m sure I’ve touched the heart and soul of some at some point or another, I question that now more than not. I know I sure do try to make a difference, but, truth be told, there isn’t a day where I don’t still question this. And although I practice gratitude daily, I wake up on most days feeling unhappy and wishing God would bring me home. Frankly, I’m simply exhausted from trying to find my purpose here and feel like I matter. And believe me I have done A LOT to try to find my purpose or create a purpose.

I honestly don’t know how much the chronic pain I’ve felt for as long as I have makes me think this way. I know prior to developing all this pain, I surely didn’t have this low of self-esteem. So, maybe I’m just blocked from seeing the truth? Maybe my chronic pain creates an illusion that I don’t matter when I truly do and maybe it prevents me from fully seeing the purpose of my continued existence? Maybe it also prevents me from really feeling the presence of God as well? I don’t ultimately know the veracity of any of this, but what I do know is that it really does seem to be out of my control to change any of how I feel, given how hard I’ve tried to over the years.

Nevertheless, while today’s words may indeed sound redundant from past writings, just know I shared them today, not just to be fully transparent to the sheer frustration and hopelessness I feel in my life right now, but also to let all those out there who might be feeling similarly know they aren’t alone. Ultimately, I think everyone matters and we all have a purpose here on Earth, but the hardest part in life is to feel that from within, rather than looking for it outside of ourselves, something my low self-esteem lately has done quite a bit of. Regardless, I pray that all of us feeling this way in this world right now may soon find that sunlight of our souls and shine like we are all truly meant to.

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

Trying To Rectify An Overmedicated Childhood…

I’ve had many discussions with people in recent years who often have thought I should be on some sort of medications to cope with my ongoing mental, emotional, and physical health issues I’ve been dealing with for some time now. There is a main reason why I continue to not pursue the medicinal path and that’s because of all the damage medications did to me as a kid during my formative years.

I was most definitely overmedicated as a kid and much of the reason why I believe my mind and body is the way it is now is because of that. Whether my being overmedicated was due to all the mental health issues my mother had back then or the beginning stages of my own mental health issues, I don’t know. What I do know though is that I’ve done my best to allow my body over the years to correct what was incorrectly done to it for all of my childhood and even young adult years.

How many times my mother sprayed Chloraseptic down the back of my throat for every little tickle or strange sensation there? Too many to count. How many times I was given Sudafed for every single sniffle I got is also countless. Add in the amount of times I took antibiotics, specifically Amoxicillin, each time I developed any bit of a cough or cold is countless as well. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how medicinal treatment was administered to me during my formative years. As a young adult, in my mid 20’s, after leaving home, I continued seeking pills to fix me from one doctor after another, with one perceived pain after another. Heck, one time I even though I had issues with one of my knees and had surgery where they found nothing. The result though of that was my mother coming to stay with me for a good while and pampering me during that period while I took the prescribed drugs to deal with the pain.

The fact is, this pattern began with me growing up believing that for every little issue I had going on with my health, that the only solution was to run to my mother, usually in worry, where she’d comfort me and provide something medicinal for help. I’d then trust it would do its thing, and honestly, it always did, at least from the expected outcome I wanted. I’d get comfort temporarily from an alcoholic mother and I’d feel closer to her because of it. It’s quite possible that the very reason for becoming overmedicated in life was knowing my alcoholic mother stopped being the dysfunctional person she normally was each time I was “sick”. Because when I was “sick”, she consistently played the loving mother I needed. And, it’s also just as possible that my mother needed a “sick” kid to nurse back to health to give her a sense of purpose, or at the very least, a distraction from her mental imbalances and addictions.

I learned recently that there is a medical diagnosis called Munchausen syndrome that may be exactly what I went through as a kid, and that both my mother and I suffered from it. Regardless of whether that’s true or not, I believe all those medicines I took poisoned my body and never gave my body the chance to learn how to function healthily on its own immune system. How much of that really has contributed to all mental, emotional, and physical imbalances today? Maybe a lot.

If there indeed is any truth to this, as this being the main source of all my health issues today, the only solution I’ve seen to rectify this beyond my weekly therapy visits, is to walk through what I’m feeling and let my body do what it needs to do to heal itself. That means not running to a doctor, a pharmacy, a drug store, or even a health food store to find some pill to fix anything that’s making me feel uncomfortable inside. In 2011, I actually stopped this path for an entire year, all because I allowed one of those in my life at the time to convince me that medicine was a better path, rather than continuing to listen to my spirit telling me to remain on the path I was. The result of that was a descent into madness, institutionalization for a few days, and growing far sicker. I returned to this path in mid 2012 and have remained on it ever since.

I know some may think I’m crazy for following this path, but I can tell you that living the life I once did, taking one medicine after another, visiting doctors constantly, seeking some sort of reassurance through it all, never worked. I always felt worse the longer I remained on that path in both mind and body. While the healing path I’ve chosen, one free of medicine, is often quite arduous due to having to sit with so many hypochondria-based fears surrounding my health, I still have my faith in God that I’m on the right path. And I pray that one day my mind and body will be free of all the damage I once did to it through medicinal abuse throughout much of my younger life.

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

Why I Don’t Take Things Like Medical Marijuana, Cymbalta, Or Lyrica For My Pain…

One of the most common things I’m often asked by those who feel sympathy for my long battle with chronic pain is why I don’t take things like medical marijuana, Cymbalta, or Lyrica, each of which are geared to help those living with conditions like mine. There’s a simple answer for that. Things like them tend to numb me from connecting in my heart to the world around me and to my Higher Power as well, ultimately leading me to feeling rather disconnected and inauthentic in life.

While living with high levels of chronic pain on a daily basis does indeed tend to royally suck, if there’s one positive thing I can say that comes from choosing to not take anything to curb it, is that I’m able to legitimately speak about my experiences, strengths, and hopes in life from my heart, something that marijuana and anti-depressants have always prevented me from doing. Please don’t take me wrong though because I would never knock someone else for going down the path of needing those things to cope with their painful conditions in life. And I personally can’t say I’ll never do them again because I don’t know what my future holds. I just know for now, I’m choosing to live with the levels of pain I do because I feel more effective in my ability to live in my heart and to remain open to any communication that comes from Source.

To be rather blunt, the simple reality I’ve faced in life is that drugs and medicines have always left me feeling quite numb to life in general. In fact, my last journey with them came back in 2011 where they left me in a state I really didn’t care about anyone or anything. I honestly developed a “I don’t give a flying f$%#” type of attitude under the influence of them. That being said, I do understand and accept there are very valid reasons for taking things like medical marijuana, Cymbalta, Lyrica, and plenty of other medicines as well that are meant to help pain-filled people cope.

For example, medical marijuana is a great resource for those stricken with disease or illness where one’s appetite is seriously waning. And indeed, when an individual is extremely mentally unstable and unable to function, drugs like Cymbalta and Lyrica can be critical for stabilization. In 2011, when I actually did become mentally unstable, I totally needed an anti-depressant to even face the issues I was going through at the time. It’s what happened after I faced those issues that became the problem. Because the tendency for an addict is to stay on a drug or medicine long after the problems are under control, thus leaving them to rely upon it more than a Higher Power, clinging to it for stability, and becoming dependent all over again on something else, which is the very thing that began to happen to me back then. Ultimately, I became so numb in doing so, that I no longer felt my heart, God, and life in general, which eventually led me to a suicide attempt. It’s precisely what led me to the belief that feeling pain is often a necessity in life on a spiritual journey. Yes, I really indeed said that. Because for all the moments in my life where I numbed myself through addiction, or took things to cope with pain, I found very little purpose and reason to keep going in life and stopped caring about myself and the world around me.

So yes, I’m choosing presently to fully experience the pain I’m going through, which has left me on most days feeling levels of pain that are quite difficult to navigate. But, it’s that pain that drives me to get on my knees and pray every day, sometimes in heavy tears, where I ask God for the strength to keep going, where I think of others and their sufferings and pray for them as well, and where I continue to ask for a release from this burden, things I’ve always stopped doing whenever I’ve numbed myself with any type of drugs or medicine that are meant to curb pain.

The bottom line is that choosing to live in this pain has helped me to really understand others going through their own painful sufferings in life and have compassion for them. Take one of my dear friends for example who suffers from Parkinson’s. My heart feels an incredible amount of compassion for the pain he endures from it. But, I know well enough that if I took medical marijuana or things like Cymbalta or Lyrica to cope with my pain, I wouldn’t care about my friend or his condition, because it simply just leaves me not caring about anything at all other than keeping myself numb from my own pain.

Look, I’m not a martyr and also not saying that my path is one many would probably take. I’m only saying that I know I’ve become a far more caring, compassionate, and loving human being in life by choosing to live through my pain, rather than choosing to numb myself from it.

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

“You Need To…” NO, I DON’T!

“You need to…” Those were the words my partner spoke at the beginning of a sentence a few weeks ago one morning when we were in a heavy discussion about my life in general. Before I knew it, I was in a total tailspin reacting to those words, oblivious to the fact that the anger I was dispelling at that point wasn’t about him at all, even though I was directing it at him. Once I became more level-headed though, I realized the anger was actually with my mother, someone I desperately tried to make happy for as long as she lived, by constantly changing parts of my authentic self, or said in simpler words, trying to people-please her. And people-pleasing would become a toxic pattern that carried on well into my adulthood.

The fact is, I don’t “NEED” to do anything to gain the favor of another. I am me and I am working quite diligently to love my authentic self now. But for many decades I didn’t live in my authentic self. So, when anyone said to me “You need to…” and finished that sentence with something I should change about myself, I’d do it. I’d become a chameleon of sorts, changing my stripes to fit in, all because I was so desperate for the approval of others, all stemming back to where it began, wanting my mother to just love me for me. But, my mother struggled to love me for me because she didn’t love herself. She tried to change that inappropriately by constantly looking outside of herself and using many “You need to’s’” in life with myself and my sister. After a childhood of listening to her countless “You need to’s”, I allowed the pattern to continue into each of my friendships and relationships. I stopped being anything close to authentic because of it. The list became endless on how many things I changed about myself, all stemming from someone saying, “You need to”. Heck, my best friend in my senior year once said to me, “Andy, you need to change your name because Andy doesn’t sound cool” so I changed it to please him, by allowing myself to be called by the name he came up with, that being “A.D.” I became ashamed of my name so much so because of it that I didn’t go by my biological name for over 15 years. Today I go by “Andrew”, because it is a part of my authentic self, something I appreciate now more than I ever used to.

I believe everyone in this world has a truly authentic self, with authentic likes and interests, that make them who they are. Changing any of them because of someone saying “You need to…” is not only people-pleasing, it’s codependent. When my partner spoke those words a few weeks ago, what followed after it was him suggesting that I’d have more friends in life by knowing my audience and not sharing as openly about my life or being as deep as I am with others.

But you know what? That’s me. I’m a deep question kind of guy who loves to share openly about my life. But, I stopped being that in my early childhood because I so desperately wanted the love and approval of my mother that I thought I’d get it by obeying all her “You need to’s.” So, I spent my life trying to be everything I wasn’t and that always seem to come at my own expense, sacrificing my authentic self in the process. And you know what happens when you sacrifice your authentic self in the process? You get depressed, you develop anxiety, and you start living in a codependent relationship where your authentic self isn’t appreciated, where your flaws and shortcomings are pointed out more than the love another has of your authentic self. And unfortunately, one will remain in that type of relationship for as long as they continue listening to those “You need to’s.”

I have very few friends in my life today not by choice, but because I refuse to listen to those “You need to’s” anymore, as I don’t want to compromise my authentic self. Sadly though, it seems that living in my authentic self makes many people I meet uncomfortable. Some say I can be intimidating by how personal I am about my own life and how direct I am with others. Could I be less personal? Could I be less deep? Could I be less of who I am now? Sure, but I don’t want to be “less” anymore, because what I really want to be is “more” of me. The true me. The me that I was as a little boy who just wanted to explore life on his own terms. The authentic me.

Today, I don’t need to be what anyone wants me to be. I choose to be what I want to be and will only give that authority over to my Higher Self, to God, to figure out what that is. I don’t believe a person will ever be truly happy so long as they keep listening and obeying statements from others that start with “You need to…” Because in all reality, the only thing any of us ever need to do is to stop listening to those who think they know better for us what we need to do in life when only God and the Spirit within us ultimately knows what that is…

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

I Truly Love My Sister In Every Way But One, Her Codependency…

My sister doesn’t like me writing about her, but she also doesn’t like talking about the one thing I often need to talk about, something that keeps on affecting my life quite painfully, so I’m choosing to talk about it here today, because I need to, because my heart is hurting a lot and I don’t have a voice for it anywhere else.

I absolutely, 100%, love my sister with all my heart, mind, and soul and I know deep within her the same is true as well. Yet, there is one thing I don’t like about her presently and that is a behavior our mother instilled in us long ago that I have done a lot of work to break free from, but she hasn’t yet and that is codependency.

For a long period of my life, my codependency led me into one unhealthy relationship after another with people I allowed to control my life, frequently at my own expense. How many times I allowed that to negatively affect my relationship with my sister and her family is countless. Thankfully, I finally woke up to this about ten years ago and realized how much I had become just like my mother. I have worked hard though to change this by not allowing anyone in my life anymore who is toxic like my mother, who uses fear and control tactics to make others do what they want, and I do my best now not to be that way with others either. Sadly, my sister still allows my long-deceased mother to control her on a regular basis, especially where I am involved, because of how her husband feels about me.

While I’ve done as much as I can to eradicate my addictive past through amends both written and in action, for whatever his reasons, my sister’s husband has been unable to come to a place of full forgiveness and acceptance of me and made it almost downright impossible for me to have any type of healthy relationship with my sister and her kids. While I don’t expect him to ever have to like me, I do at least know in the evangelical Christian world he lives in that I am worthy and deserving of forgiveness and acceptance, but I have never been given that. How that affects me in my relationship with my sister and her codependency with him is this.

I haven’t been allowed to stay at their home for years and presently am not even allowed to be in their house if her husband is home. My days are limited on how long I can come for a visit, which is never more than once a year, and when I’m there, I’m not even allowed to have time with my youngest nephew alone because of her husband’s irrational fears that all gay people are pedophiles. I often find myself on the defensive there, walking on egg shells, trying to be perfect, and when I make a mistake, any mistake, it’s verbally pointed out a number of times to me. Any promises made surrounding my visits seem to get repeatedly broken or changed when there as well. And even on my sister’s once a year visit alone to me, they’re often compromised too with her limiting her days to see me and her regularly receiving texts and phone calls from her husband that negatively affect what little time I get with her during those trips.

Countless friends, therapists, spiritual teachers, and the like have all asked me over the years why I continue to subject myself to this. The truth? I feel guilty about my own past behaviors of addiction that once affected her family greatly, so I carry this guilt, and in doing so, I’ve realized I’m leaving one bit of codependency still active within me by accepting whatever crumbs I get from them, telling myself I deserve to be treated this way because of how long I treated them in the same way. But continuing to live in this way is causing me too much pain now, especially when I see how many of my friends have some pretty awesome relationships with their siblings, talking to them multiple times a week, some even daily, having visits and vacations several times a year with them where they are welcomed with opened arms and love, where there are no special rules, regulations, or conditions surrounding their time together. So, I have to do the one thing that Al-Anon says to do when someone you love is living in a toxic addiction and affecting you negatively and that’s to detach with love. To do that, I end by declaring the following once and for all:

I am a good brother and a loving brother and a good uncle and a loving uncle who deserves to no longer be held to any of his past iniquities. God has forgiven me for them, now I must fully forgive myself for them as well by detaching with love to someone I love dearly who doesn’t clearly see how their addiction is painfully affecting others, just like I once didn’t. Sometimes it’s painful steps like this that need to happen for an addict of any caliper to finally wake up and see the truth. I pray my sister does one day and ultimately releases my mother and all my mother’s toxic behaviors once and for all. Whether that ever translates into a better relationship with my sister isn’t what matters the most for me, as what matters the most is my sister’s happiness, something that I know will never come to fruition so long as she continues to lead a codependent life.

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

Please, Don’t Place Anger Or Blame Upon Another Over Any Part Of This Pandemic…

Getting sick with COVID is difficult enough to handle, but being a recipient of anger and blame when another comes down with it can be even more difficult to deal with, especially when it comes from close friends.

When I first began feeling sick, I could barely lift my head off my pillow given all the pain in my head, the fever I was carrying, and the slightly impaired breathing I was enduring. While I awaited my COVID test results in bed during the middle of my first week with it, I received a text from a couple that my partner Chris and I normally hung out with on a regular basis. They asked if we were still getting together that upcoming Saturday. The last time we had seen them was New Year’s Eve when both Chris and I were feeling 100% well. While I hadn’t responded to anyone at that point given how sick I felt, I mustered enough energy to call and let them know I was feeling terrible, waiting for my test results, and probably wouldn’t be seeing them any time soon, at least until I felt better. The next day, I’d receive a number of angry text messages from them saying I had acted irresponsibly and should have let them know of my sickness sooner, especially because one of them was now carrying a fever as well.

I was shocked that the focus from good friends was more about placing anger and blame and not about the status of either my or my partner’s health. It didn’t matter what I said at that point when I tried to defend us, as they seemed hell-bent on continuing to point the finger. I’d receive a few more texts from them the next week letting us know they both officially had contracted Covid and were going to inform their county health department when they called that it was our fault. I was stunned that friends we had spent several years getting to know were more focused on placing anger and blame for getting COVID than on any of our well-being, especially when there wasn’t even any definitive proof how any of us got it.

Nevertheless, during all the days I was sick with COVID, I prayed for their and our well-being and forgave them for the anger and blame placed upon us, realizing that COVID has been making people say and do things they normally wouldn’t do. Personally, I lost my cool a number of times with Chris during my worst days with the virus and had to ask for his forgiveness a few times because of it.

Regardless, the hardest part about all this though was that in the end, our friends opted to end our connection for now rather than get together and reconcile, which is what I was hoping for. The present loss of this friendship has made me realize that what should be most important in this world right now is caring about each other’s well being and not placing anger and blame for why this pandemic is still around or why anyone is still getting it. Anger only begets anger and blame only creates more blame. While Chris and I continue to be responsible mask wearers like we were prior to getting COVID, we never cared about how we got it, only that we and anyone else who came down with it got better.

It’s hard to believe a good friendship with a couple I still care deeply about has ended for now. So, if you can take anything away after reading this today, please don’t place anger or blame upon another over any part of this pandemic, even if you or a loved one should happen to come down with it. Placing anger and blame on anyone isn’t going to help a single person get well from COVID, it’s not going to bring anyone back if they died from this tragic virus either, and it most certainly won’t build lasting bridges between you and those you care about and instead will only tear them apart.

Try focusing instead on sending love and healing into this pandemic-stricken world and also forgive those who may not be acting in ways you feel they should be acting when it comes to how they’re handling this virus. And be rest assured in doing so that our planet will have a far greater chance of fully healing from COVID than if we continue to only focus our energy surrounding it on placing anger and blame as to why it’s still around and why people continue to get sick.

Peace, love light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

When I Need An Anti-Depressant And When I Don’t…

Recently, I had a very intense conversation with my Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) sponsor about the use of anti-depressants. It arose because I’ve been feeling very sorrowful in life, notably due to my long bout of chronic pain and how far away God has felt because of that. While she advocated for the use of anti-depressants to deal with this, I felt just the opposite. Let me explain.

I’ve been physically depressed before in my life and have been medicated on anti-depressants three separate times because of it. During those periods, I barely found any energy to get out of bed. All I could see on a daily basis was a black hole all around me. It was as if there was no light at all shining upon me, like I was consumed in darkness with no hope to go on. Each time I got to feeling that way, it was always tied to some trauma or some part of my life that I needed to face but wasn’t. The first was when I became sober from alcohol and drugs and needed to accept the fact that I was gay but constantly ran away from doing so. The second was due to my father’s suicide, something I needed to grieve and come to terms with, but refused to for three years. And the third was after I lost a seven-year relationship, my financial stability, and my health itself, where instead of working through those things, I delved into addictive behaviors to numb myself from feeling any of it. In each of these cases, avoiding what I needed to work on, which was essentially feeling the pain and emotions from the traumas themselves, led me straight into a bout of severe physical depression that required an anti-depressant to stabilize. Once I faced each of them though and came to a healing place with it, I developed enough strength that didn’t require the use of an anti-depressant anymore.

Presently, the sorrow I’m feeling, that I spoke to my AA sponsor about, is not related to something I’m avoiding facing. Ironically, it’s the exact opposite. The path to healing for my present sorrow is one where I absolutely need to sit in my sorrow and feel all of it in its entirety, rather than take something that might prevent myself from achieving that. Taking an anti-depressant would just numb me from getting to the source of what this sorrow is about. Sitting through it though, without getting into addictive behaviors and without taking an anti-depressant, has been extremely challenging, especially due to the addictive brain I have, one that I’ve trained for years to constantly seek highs and avoid lows. Sadly, I spent the better part of the past three years not sitting with this sorrow and instead falling slowly back into old addictive patterns to cope. I think it was only a matter of time before I would have spiraled out of control into another bout of severe physical depression, one that would have required the use of anti-depressants again. Thankfully, I’ve taken immediate steps to prevent that from happening by eliminating the unhealthy behaviors I was doing to numb myself from feeling what I need to feel.

While my sponsor totally advocates the use of anti-depressants for any type of depression a person may be feeling, including the deep sorrow I spoke of to her, I’ve come to accept there is a time and place for the usage of these type of medications, but this not being one of them. I’m not in a place of total darkness where I’m completely shut down and immobile. Rather, I’m in a place of sorrow over the actions I’ve lived. My sorrow is about how much of my life I threw away to things that were never going to fill my soul and it’s about the painful healing my body continues to go through because of those actions. I believe my sorrow will eventually pass though by continuing to sit with it, by facing it head on, and by talking about it, but not by living in addictive behaviors or by taking an anti-depressant, as either will lead me to simply not care about it at all, which is of course is the opposite of what needs to happen.

This path of healing isn’t easy. It means facing oneself in all one’s feelings and sitting uncomfortably in them for however long it takes, something a trained addict brain like mine despises. But as they say in recovery, to heal from anything, one must feel and deal with it first. While indeed anti-depressants may be important to use when going through the healing of deep-seated traumas, especially when one has run from them for a long period of time like I did, facing my present sorrow without them and without any addictive behaviors to cope is precisely what I need to do to heal and draw closer to God.

One of the hardest lessons I’ve come to learn in life is that the very path to feeling closer to God, is not one where I’ve numbed myself from feeling the pain and sorrows of life. Rather, it’s one where I felt them in their entirety and sought God through each of those difficult moments, because in doing so, it’s always eventually led me to the place of healing and peace I sought.

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

(NOTE: This is only my personal experience and opinion on the subject. Please always consult the appropriate professionals before making any decisions surrounding your medication.)

As I Continue To Pray For A Brighter Day To Come…

I just spent the better part of an hour trying to compose a new blog entry that ended up feeling way too morbid and depressing. So, I deleted it, but here’s the extremely brief summation. I’m tired of physically hurting and I’m tired of never feeling peace and joy no matter how hard I try to move beyond this pain.

I honestly wish I found Biblical scripture comforting anymore, but I don’t. There was a time I used to, when I hadn’t suffered for as many years as I have now. Sadly, I no longer find the passages or stories from the Bible comforting anymore, especially after contracting COVID, which seems to have taken every bit of steam I had left in me that had been helping me to keep going.

Am I going through some dark night of the soul? I don’t know. I used to go through moments of this from time to time, but still had plenty of positive and uplifting experiences intermixed throughout. But, now every day feels gray and poses greater and greater challenges to keep going and to keep believing that God is there and still has a better plan for me than this.

I keep on practicing my gratitude and my daily spiritual routines every single day, hoping it’s all helping me somehow still. And I continue to accept my conditions in life as best as I can, putting one foot forward in front of the other each day I continue to remain alive. But, I’m weary. And yet, I still cling to some shard of faith, even when it often feels like there’s no reason to have any of that anymore.

I frequently find myself wondering lately if my evangelical friends would still be praising Christ as they do, if they had suffered for years with no answers like I have. As I’ve said before in some of my previous writings, it’s so easy to have faith in God when you’re still able to function somewhat normally in your body, when your body remains healthy. But when the very vessel you are forced to live in totally feels like it betrays you, and doesn’t respond anymore like it once did, when all efforts to make it better get thwarted, and many years pass by like this, it’s hard to see God through a positive set of eyes, and continue to believe He’s an all-loving, all-caring, type of being.

Yet, I still cling to my cross. Literally. I take it off my wall in my bedroom every morning and hold it often in tears. Begging God for answers, even though none have come thus far surrounding my health. I still love God, even though I question whether God still loves me. I still shout out to God, even though it seems like God remains on total radio silence with me. And I still believe somewhere deep within me that God isn’t going to leave me like this and that I will be restored to a healthier mind and body one day in this life.

I know many have told me that the longevity of my health issues may say otherwise with what God’s plan is for me. Well, I still continue to believe otherwise, even after all this time. It may indeed be that I only have a mustard seed of faith left in that and in God, but somehow, I think it’s this type of faith that God looks for in us. And that alone is enough at least for today for me to keep going, for one more day…as I continue to pray for a brighter day to come…

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

What Does Getting COVID-19 Feel Like? This Is Just My Story And Battle With It…

COVID-19 is like nothing I’ve ever battled before within me. No matter how healthy my normal day-to-day living was prior to getting it, didn’t seem to matter once I got it. While many have contracted COVID-19 by this point, I’m envious of the ones who were lucky enough to be asymptomatic or with minimum symptoms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them, as it was exceptionally hard upon my system. In light of that, I decided I wanted to share my story and battle with COVID-19 with all of you.

Look, I’ve had the flu before, a number of times in my life for that matter, and if there’s one thing I know with the flu that I can do is flush it out of me pretty rapidly. Anytime I’ve gotten the flu I simply drink tons and tons of water and usually within a few days I’m free of it. But, COVID-19 isn’t the flu even though many try to claim it’s just a really bad case of it. In fact, I wouldn’t even put it in the same category as the flu after going through this. Because no matter how much water I consumed, no matter how many healthy foods I ate, no matter how many hours of sleep I got, and no matter how much light household exercise I did, the virus kept its terrible grip upon me day after day after day after day for a long period of time.

My battle with it actually began on January 2nd, 2021 in the late afternoon. For what started out as only some teeth pain, a light headache and a low-grade fever, quickly spiraled out of control into total debilitation of me lying in bed for almost 4 straight days with pounding pain and pressure in my skull, no appetite, non-stop low-grade fevers, coughing with phlegm, aches and soreness around my body, loss of smell and taste, and reduction in my ability to breathe deeply from my lungs.

My first bout of relief with this virus came towards the end of my fourth day of it when my fever broke. Given my knowledge of viruses prior, I assumed things would immediately improve from there on out. But remember, this isn’t a normal virus, it’s not a normal flu, and it’s a pandemic for a reason. Because one main characteristic of this virus is how it keeps coming back again and again and again, each time you think it’s over. I lost track of the number of times my fever broke and then would go right back up again. Beyond the sheer frustration of that, COVID-19 does affect everyone differently in regards to overall symptoms. The following is a detailed list of what I experienced:

  1. My teeth hurt a lot in the first week, like I had braces again.
  2. I developed several sties, especially in my left eye that swelled the entire upper and lower eyelid areas.
  3. Bowel movements were minimal and high yellow in color when they did occur, fluctuating from painful to pass, to diarrhea-based.
  4. While my body was feverish, parts of it like my hands, feet and nose remained ice-cold.
  5. When I wasn’t feverish, I’d still break out in these cold sweats spontaneously.
  6. I had head pain that ranged from what might feel like if you are in caffeine withdrawal, to a stabbing migraine where you can’t even move your head.
  7. I felt tons of pressure in my forehead through it all and had all the symptoms of a head cold.
  8. I had to urinate frequently throughout the day and night, sometimes even when I hadn’t consumed any liquids for a good while.
  9. Even though my taste and smell were severely impaired, I occasionally would still smell something rancid in my nostrils and taste something metallic on my tongue.
  10. Coughing was a huge frustration with massive quantities of phlegm being brought up each time I hacked away, always starting with this tickle in the back of my throat.
  11. I always felt like I was stuffed up, but blowing my nose generally did nothing but bring out some flecks of blood and a little mucus.
  12. I developed a severely itchy and painful fever rash that broke out on my chest and back and looked almost as if I had a case of the chicken pox.
  13. My breathing felt restricted quite a bit, especially when taking deep breath, often causing tingling sensations in my hands and feet as if they weren’t getting enough oxygen to them.
  14. I had no energy and no matter how many hours I slept, I remained feeling that way, leaving me with this hopelessness feeling overall.
  15. I had chills even when I wasn’t feverish and always felt cold overall.

I do want to mention a few generalities I experienced in my battle with COVID as well. Nights were worse than days. All of my fever and symptom spikes came late at night usually. My mood fluctuated rapidly from sedate to angry. I questioned my sanity more than not given how long it lasted. My hypochondria became extreme because of how much it affected me and ultimately, I really longed for my deceased mother to be back alive solely to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok.

In the end, I came to learn the hard way that COVID-19 is not just a bad case of the flu. It’s not something to joke about. And it’s definitely not something to be taken lightly. I was one of those who initially believed life should just go back to normal and to let the virus run its course on our planet. How naïve and ignorant I was. Thankfully, I’m not anymore after experiencing this virus firsthand. I sincerely hope you don’t have to go through what I did to learn this though, especially being that it’s now 17 days into my battle with COVID and I’m still dealing with frustrating symptoms from it.

Nevertheless, if you are someone who has survived this virus after having a difficult case of it, then you probably have the one thing now that I gained from enduring it, and that’s compassion for those still suffering from it. I pray for everyone who’s dealt with COVID or still dealing with it, including the many losses of life it has caused. May God be with us all.

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