Listening Is Often The Only Thing Needed To Help A Person Going Through Prolonged Pain And Suffering…

Why is it that when we are going through great pain and suffering and choose to confide that in someone, that they often feel the need to give advice, provide guidance, and offer suggestions, instead of just listening?

Having gone through intense bouts of pain and suffering for years now, I’ve been on the receiving end of countless pieces of unsolicited advice, guidance, and suggestions. Regrettably, up until recently, I did the same with most who confided their trials and tribulations with me, always believing I was doing the right thing, that is until I realized not too long ago, due to how long I’ve personally been in pain and suffering, that people who share their sorrows and burdens in life with another are really only looking for one thing, an ear to listen. Yet, for whatever the reason, many of them tend to do the exact opposite of listening. The following is a top 10 list of the things that I, and plenty of others have experienced when sharing our pain and suffering with another, each of which has often made it worse for us than better…

  1. Telling the sufferer that there are people out there going through greater pain and suffering than we are.
  2. Telling the sufferer that pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional (especially when they aren’t suffering in the same way, not suffering at all at the present time, or never suffered in the way we have).
  3. Telling the sufferer that some doctor, practitioner, healing modality, medicine, guru, guide, healer, class, book, etc. will help (especially when they don’t even know all that we’ve tried already). This often comes via a sentence that starts out with “Have you tried…”
  4. Telling the sufferer that maybe they’ve wronged God somehow and this is some sort of punishment, or that they haven’t done enough spiritual work yet to heal it, or haven’t prayed hard enough, or that their sin is preventing themselves from getting through it, or that their faith/beliefs need to be stronger.
  5. Telling the sufferer that it’s all in their mind and they just need more will power to overcome it.
  6. Telling the sufferer random clichés like “Everything happens for a reason!”, “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end!”, or “Acceptance is the answer to all our problems today…”
  7. Telling the sufferer that things will be much better if they just get out and help another suffering individual (especially when the person may already be doing that or has limitations that prevent them from doing that).
  8. Telling the sufferer that maybe it’s their karma to work out and they just need to see it through.
  9. Telling the sufferer that they just need to not talk about it, get over it, and pretend it’s not there.
  10. Telling the sufferer, “You just have to keep the faith…”, that God has a reason and a plan for our pain and suffering that’s beyond our understanding, and that the other side of this will be better than anything we could ever imagine (especially when not knowing the person’s spiritual background, level of faith, or belief system).

I’m sure there is plenty more I could list here that have been quite challenging for each of us who’ve been on the receiving end of unsolicited advice, guidance, and suggestions after sharing our pain and suffering with another. The fact is, what we truly need the most is just a hand to hold, an ear to listen and a heart to understand us, as healing often begins to happen the moment we feel heard.

So, please remember this the next time someone opens their heart and shares a little of the pain and suffering their going through with you.

JUST LISTEN.

And…if you do anything else, show a token of affection such as a hug, an arm around them, or holding their hand. While this may feel uncomfortable to you, know it’s only your ego that really is feeling that way. Because offering your own guidance, advice, or suggestions to any of what they share with you, especially when unsolicited, is more to feed your own ego than to help ease any of the pain and suffering they are going through…

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

The Difficulty With A COVID-19 Socially Distanced Life…

I never thought 2020 was going to be the year it’s become thus far for all of us. Personally, when I began it, I had high hopes. My health seemed to be finally improving compared to previous years. My overall mood was vastly better on a day to day basis. I felt as if I was on the verge of ultimately achieving that which I set out to do a decade ago, that being to heal from within from a large amount of toxicity and spiritual imbalance. And then came COVID-19 and our socially distanced life.

At first, I maintained an air of positivity surrounding it all. I kept my volunteer work going, doing my best to keep up my part in helping others, even as all the uncertainty grew. But after things began totally shutting down, and the fear rapidly increasing, I started struggling with greater negativity brewing within me, especially after I no longer could attend recovery meetings in person and do my 12 Step volunteer commitments.

Somewhere along the way through all of that, my pain levels then started going up exponentially as well, leaving me in a mental state that I haven’t seen for years. What’s difficult for me now is all the unknowingness surrounding how long this is going to last. How long will we be avoiding being close to each other? How long will people not give hugs to each other? How long will we socially distance ourselves and our lives from each other?

Honestly, it feels as if I’ve spent most of my life being socially distanced from others already. My childhood was filled with vast numbers of people who kept their social distance from me because I wasn’t cool to them. Most of my early adulthood was socially distant from others as well, because I allowed my addictions to push everyone away from getting close to me. But, when I finally found 12 Step recovery, I did a lot of work to erase my socially distant life. I learned how to get out of myself and help others, to connect to other’s hearts, to offer hugs for comfort, and compassion through touch and speech. COVID-19 has changed all that now and left me feeling what I felt for the majority of my life all over again, that being socially distant from the world, something that had mostly gone away since living a very active 12 Step recovery life. That’s why I’m feeling so lost right now and lonely as heck, even with me being in a committed relationship.

The fact is, getting out of myself for the past eight years and helping one suffering human being after another in person has been the best thing that could ever happen to me. Not only did it change my overall perception of the world, it also changed my overall perception of myself, from one of negativity to one of positivity. But now, with the possibility of this virus having long-lasting socially distant ramifications for years to come, it feels as if much of that has reversed itself within me. I regularly wonder now when life will return to the normalcy I built for myself over the past bunch of years in my 12 Step recovery and I question my sanity quite a bit these days, sometimes even sadly wishing I could leave this COVID-19 world behind, than remain a part of it. While chronic physical pain alone has had a way of doing that already to me over the last decade, I’ve fought hard to overcome it by getting out of myself and growing close to others and their hearts in the process.

Although I continue my daily prayers and meditations, and keep up what 12 Step recovery work I can still do, I’m struggling with great difficulty with a COVID-19 socially distanced life and simply wanted to get honest about that with the rest of the world through my writing today.

The bottom line, well, I REALLY just miss being close to others. I REALLY miss being hugged and giving hugs. And I REALLY miss living in the world where I finally learned how to connect with others in a way where I didn’t feel so dam alone like I do so greatly now in this COVID-19 reality…

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

An Existential Crisis Of Faith…

There have been so many times over the last few years where I’ve found myself questioning whether God even exists. With the amount of pain and suffering I’ve had for over ten years now with little to no relief and countless unanswered prayers surrounding it’s plaguing persistence, I’ve been having this existential crisis of faith more than not these days.

While faith has been the very thing that’s kept me going thus far, it’s also led me to having this daily philosophical debate with myself surrounding the existence of God. Chronic pain and suffering of any sort seem to have a way of doing this. And for people of faith, when things aren’t going their way, that often seems to become the case, especially when chronic pain and suffering get involved. Everyone knows how easy it is to follow God and praise God when life is going their way. But when life falls apart, and remains fallen apart for a good chunk of time, it’s becomes just as easy for one to lose their faith and belief in God.

I’m sure many on this planet are currently going through their own crises of faith in light of this ongoing pandemic that has taken so many souls already from this planet. The loss of a loved one, specifically when it’s taken abruptly, truly can make one question whether God exists. I went through that very thing after my father took his life, as well as when my mother had her tragic drunken fall down the stairs. After both of their deaths, I went through a number of years wondering whether God was just something people made up. But, I never fully stopped believing in God, even when I doubted in God greatly back then, and somehow that faith kept me going through it all. Somehow that faith kept me supported through all the pain and suffering I faced surrounding my parent’s deaths. I can absolutely attest that if I hadn’t had my faith during those periods after their deaths, I would have turned to hard core addictions and probably taken my life like they did.

That being said, I’ve kept my faith in God over the past decade, even as so many years passed one by one with such great pain and suffering. But that’s not to say that all this chronic pain and suffering hasn’t corrupted my mind, because it has, especially as this pandemic has left me at home more than not to sit in my pain and suffering, with relatively nothing to keep my brain occupied from it. That’s a really dangerous place for an addict of my nature to be in and I’ve had to fight off many urges of wanting to give into carnal desires to numb myself and some to even take my life.

There have been a number of individuals in recent years who’ve asked me what I’m going to do if this pain and suffering never goes away. I try to not go there in my brain because the only thing that has kept me going after all this time is my faith in God that it IS going to get better one day. But, for the sake of argument, what IF it does never go away and what if I do give up my faith in the process. What’s happens then?

A life of becoming heavily medicated to deal with it all?

A life of negativity and anger that comes from resentment towards my life and God?

A life of turning back to addictions to numb myself and cope?

Or a life not worth living at all just like my mom and dad felt and chose?

I honestly can’t see anything positive coming out of giving up my faith in God because it’s this faith that has provided me the ONE thing that a life without faith can’t provide throughout all this pain and suffering, and that’s HOPE.

Hope in that all my pain and suffering isn’t the end of this life’s story.

Hope in that there’s a greater purpose for all this pain and suffering that’s beyond my understanding.

Hope in that everything does happen for a reason, even if I may never know what those reasons are.

And hope in that a brighter day will come for me.

My father and mother both gave up their faith and lost any hope of living because of it. That’s why I must keep my faith because I don’t want my life to end like either of theirs did.

But, will my faith in God ever lead to anything better than all this pain and suffering I continue to face in my mind and body, I don’t know, yet I choose to keep my faith anyway. Because at its very core, keeping that type of faith is the truest definition of faith itself, one that continues to believe, even when it feels like there’s no real reason to believe anymore…

Peace, love, light, joy,
Andrew Artur Dawson

The Importance Of Hugging…And…Something I Really Miss…

If there’s one thing I feel that’s really missing in life right now because of living through this pandemic, it’s hugging. I am a hugger more than a handshaker and I really miss it. A LOT! It’s my way of expressing my unconditional love for someone and it’s also one huge way I often have felt unconditionally loved by another too.

After doing a little research, I discovered a great list of some main reasons why hugging is so beneficial to a human being:

  1. Hugging can instantly boost oxytocin levels, which heal feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anger.
  2. Hugging for an extended time can lift one’s serotonin levels, elevating mood and creating happiness.
  3. Hugging can actually strengthen the immune system.
  4. Hugging can boost one’s self-esteem.
  5. Hugging can relax the muscles and take away pain, as well as soothing aches by increasing circulation into the soft tissues.
  6. Hugging can balance out the nervous system.
  7. Hugging regularly can also have similar beneficial properties as prayer, meditation, and laughter do.

But here’s the harsh reality. Because of social distancing, most people aren’t giving or receiving hugs right now, which I understand is for good reasons. The hard part though is the lack of human touch through things like hugs is causing me to feel a lot more alone in life, and I can’t imagine I’m alone in feeling that way.

I wrote an article last fall about the importance of human touch, as many scientific studies have been done surrounding the need for this. But, I don’t need studies to tell me what I have already discovered in life long ago and that’s how much human touch, specifically hugging, has helped me, especially during any one of those dark periods I’ve ever had to go through.

The fact is, a hug is such a simple way for me to express something where no words have to be uttered, that just says I care about you and you matter and vice versa whenever I’m receiving one. Unfortunately, I know for now that the best thing many of us will do is verbally say we love someone and that they matter. Thankfully, I have a partner who gives great hugs when I need one and I also have a few friends who continue to offer me them each time we meet up and depart, which mean the world to me. But, sometimes I still need to wrap my arms around myself and give myself a big hug, reminding me that the most important person that needs to love me is me. That’s probably the biggest task I have right now in life, as loneliness and isolation has set in more than not for me during this pandemic.

The fact remains though that regardless of my level of self-love and regardless of this pandemic, hugging is important and maybe even crucial in this world to helping us all know we aren’t alone, as that’s something that’s so easy to feel these days isn’t it? Nevertheless, be thankful for the hugs you still get, as they’re probably helping you more than you really know…

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

We Are All So Much More Than Those Labels The Medical Professionals Have Given Us!

Sometimes it really feels like many of us carry around all those labels our doctors and health professionals tell us we are. It’s almost as if they become what we regularly identify as, and on some level, because of it, they tend to limit us from becoming who we’re truly meant to be.

Why is it that so many often identify themselves as the health conditions doctors have given them? I recently started to observe this in a number of the addiction recovery meetings I attended. This one woman introduced herself and then suddenly went through the gamut of how she had ADD, OCD, PTSD, depression, anxiety, bi-polar, and a few other things as well. After she talked at length about each of those things, she finally began to discuss who she ultimately was beyond all that, which I found far more interesting.

But really, I get it. Doctors place these health diagnoses upon us. They tell us we have some sort of health issue or problem. What happens next is generally our minds forming a belief that we’re now somehow limited. That’s what happened to me when I first got told I had depression and possible bi-polar disorder. When that was later followed by PTSD due to my parents’ deaths and even 9/11, I felt even more limited in life. After being labeled with Fibromyalgia, prostatitis, OCD, body dysmorphic disorder, and a few other conditions, my self-esteem was essentially shot. I found myself talking about all those things to all those I’d meet, instead of all the other things that made me a really interesting guy. It was almost as if I wanted to make sure they’d still like me knowing I had so many medical problems, but all it did though was usually drive everyone away, because they never got to know the real me, the one who has plenty of interesting things to offer another. Rather, they got to know the guy with all the medical baggage, because that’s what all those diagnoses made me believe, that I was a lot of baggage.

The fact is, I’m so much more than all of those labels doctors and medical professionals gave me. That’s why I do my best these days to not discuss those things with my friends or potential friends to be because it’s draining to do so, and does nothing for improving the outlook I have on myself or my life. Behind all my physical, mental, and emotional health complexities, I actually am a pretty damn good writer and a decent public speaker. I’m also funny and witty when I want to be and can make a tense room burst out in laughter at my silly antics. In addition, I’m well-versed with anything related to television and movies, especially superhero, science fiction, and fantasy related. And I can most definitely carry on interesting conversations surrounding meditation, numerology, healing modalities, and other forms of spirituality. But as soon as I start talking about any of my medical labels, all those dynamic parts of me seem to go out the window and limit my capacity to be something a lot more in this lifetime.

What’s interesting though, is the less I’ve spoken about those medical labels, the more they haven’t controlled me and been much of a limiting factor upon my life. Sometimes I really think those diagnoses medical professionals offer end up hurting a person in the long run more than helping, because after all, being told you have a condition that causes limits tends to tell your brain you’ll be limited in life somehow from doing what “normal” people do.

You know what I say? Let go of all your diagnoses. Let go of all those labels doctors have given you over the years. Let go of the limitations those conditions supposedly create. And realize you are so much more than any of those labels put together. Just ask God, as I know He saw it long ago and still does.

All you really need to do is remind yourself that you truly are a lot more than any health acronym or medical diagnosis or mental health label or condition some doctor or professional has given you. Listen to your Spirit and let it guide you beyond the walls and limits that your mind has created from those health things you were branded with. As in doing so, I think you’ll start seeing that you are far more interesting of a person than you may have ever allowed yourself to see or be…

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

When You’re Stripped Away To Nothing But You…

What happens when everything feels stripped away from what you thought you were and you’re left with nothing but yourself in a mostly stay-at-home quarantined state due to a pandemic? In my case, something that’s made me feel exceptionally uncomfortable and extremely depressed.

Prior to the onslaught of the COVID-19 virus, I was doing my best to live out the underlying purpose of the 12th Step. Averaging somewhere between 20 and 30 hours a week in addiction recovery work, I very much enjoyed doing my best to “carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all of our affairs.” But since this pandemic has forced many of us to stay at home more than not, I’ve been averaging at the most a few hours of addiction recovery work in any given week now. While I’ve had regular communications and meetings via digital platforms, it just hasn’t felt the same. This forced isolation has truly left me feeling totally directionless, frustrated, and questioning the point of my very existence. Part of that is because I also haven’t had a paying job in a very long time and any attempt I’ve sought for even part-time employment that I could handle with my health issues hasn’t worked out. But, I chose to accept that this is what my Higher Power wanted, for me to give back for a while, and so I have, which is why I’ve done my best to live and breathe the 12 Steps. Essentially, 12 Step recovery work has become my entire life, my only purpose, and the very reason on most days to keep on going.

As this COVID-19 pandemic grew worse though, my 12 Step work began drying up, leaving me feeling stripped of the only purpose I feel God has given me over the past decade and keeping me mostly at home. And even though I know remaining at home has been helping to keep others healthy and safe, I haven’t been feeling all that healthy and safe. I’ve actually felt tempted to give in to former addictions, chiefly late at night, just to cope, and my mental health feels like it’s beginning to waver now as well. Even the way I’ve been looking at myself seems to be suffering again, as I’ve found myself criticizing the way I look and picking apart every little blemish. All this because I’ve been feeling stripped away to nothing.

The fact is, if I can’t do my normal recovery work right now, what am I supposed to do? I can only clean my house so much and household projects have only gone so far. While I don’t foresee this pandemic lasting indefinitely, it’s really made me wonder, are all these negative feelings I’ve been having about myself been there all the time below the radar so to speak? Is this forced stay-at-home quarantine only revealing what has always been there within me? If that’s the case, I have no idea how to overcome any of these newly surfaced feelings about myself. Basically, I’ve come to realize I don’t have enough self-love for myself. Up until this pandemic, my only solution in creating self-love was in my doing, not in my being.

Thich Nat Hahn once said “We have a tendency to think in terms of doing and not in terms of being. We think that when we are not doing anything, we are wasting our time. But that is not true. Our time is first of all for us to be. To be what? To be alive, to be peaceful, to be joyful, to be loving. And that is what the world needs most.”

So, is it possible to just exist, to just stay home and still be happy and love myself? Yes and I know that being on this hamster wheel of constantly feeling like I have to do something has been getting me nowhere but leaving me feeling angry and empty.

In the end, I want to be ok with this feeling of being stripped away to nothing, which means learning how to love myself a lot more and learning how to love myself as God loves me, as I know in doing so I’ll be able to be at peace no matter what comes my way that forces me to stay home or be alone, like a pandemic or anything else…

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

Are You Afraid Of The Coronavirus?

Over the past few months, the world has gone from one extreme of reporting the Coronavirus as simply something to watch out for and remain cautious of, to the other extreme of something that should be totally feared.

While I do have some fears in my life that I currently am working on overcoming, getting sick from a virus and dying from it isn’t one of them, mostly because I’ve spent the better part of the past decade already feeling that way. I’ve carried so much physical pain for so long now, that the fear of getting sick doesn’t seem to consume me anymore, like it once did. As for the fear of dying, well when you live with great pain for as long as I have, you begin to long for what’s beyond this life in the hopes it’s far better than this one.

Nevertheless, what’s ironic about the Coronavirus is that not too long ago, it really would have been something that would have completely consumed me in fear. I probably would have washed my hands obsessively throughout the day and been concerned about every sneeze or cough that I, or anyone else around me, expelled. I would have also been one of those who would have allowed all the stuff being reported on this virus to drive me into the doctors or the emergency room to be looked at, especially if I suddenly came down with a fever.

Regardless, it’s been reported that at the most, 2 to 3 percent of those who contract this virus will die from it. In light of that statistic, that means that if somehow the entire world population was to contract the Coronavirus, that being around 8 billion individuals, the death toll would be somewhere between 180 million and 240 million. Ironically, at those odds, the chances of being someone that might contract this virus AND also die from it is about the same odds as winning the Powerball or the Mega Millions! And we all know how desperately some of us have attempted to win that and never have, even doing our best to win by purchasing countless entries.

What I find more interesting though with this statistic of 2 to 3 percent, is that one actually has a far greater chance of dying in a plane crash (about 1 in 5 million), a train crash (about 1 in 500,000), a car crash, (1 in 103), or from cancer (1 in 5) just to name a few. Yet, that hasn’t stopped the majority of us in life from flying, from riding on a train, from being in a car, or from simply going on with our lives without worrying obsessively about getting diseases like cancer.

Except that’s exactly what much of this world seems to be doing right now, obsessing in fear over a virus that doesn’t appear to be one that will ever take the majority of our lives. Close to a million people every year die from the flu, yet most of us don’t worry about that happening to us, nor does it stop us from living our lives knowing that potential is out there. Yet, with the Coronavirus, it is.

I get the fact that there is a greater chance of lives being lost from it, that 2 to 3 percent is a far larger chunk of lives than the .1 percent that die from the flu every year. And of course, I don’t want anyone to die from any virus or disease either. I’m just saying that I don’t think it’s healthy to let the fear of a virus or anything that hasn’t happened to me yet, to consume me. Unfortunately, it has for plenty of others though.

Many businesses have ceased production. Big events are being postponed. People are getting warned not to travel. Surgical masks are selling out. And financial markets are fluctuating wildly because of it all. Would all of those things still be happening if the news media wasn’t disseminating so much fear, causing so many in turn to live in fear about this virus? I don’t know, but maybe a big reason why I’m not afraid is that I accept my life expectancy is out of my control.

I’ve always believed that whatever is greater than me, God if you want to call It, or my Higher Power, or the Universe in general, is in control of when it’s my time to pass from this plane of existence. So, if it’s meant for me to get this Coronavirus and also die from it, then so be it. If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go. It’s that simple for me. And for all I know, living in fear over it, may be the very thing that could cause me to get it.

That’s why I’m refusing to be afraid of the Coronavirus, because frankly, I have enough worries to work on in my life that are right here, right now, then to worry about something I may never get. And even if I do get it, I will trust my Guidance that it was meant to be and that it will do what it’s meant to do to me. Until then, I’m going to choose to keep going on with my life, doing my best to live it as best as I have been, because letting the fear of getting it and what it may do to me seems totally pointless…

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

Finding Acceptance Isn’t Always So Easy, Especially When It Comes To Family…

Even if acceptance is the answer to all of my problems today, as I learned long ago on my spiritual path of recovery from addiction, sometimes it’s a really hard thing to do, as has been the case in my relationship with my brother-in-law.

A few months from now, his twin boys will be graduating from high school. It’s an event I promised myself and them I’d be there to support many years ago and yet, sadly, it looks as if I won’t be able to attend it now, simply because my brother-in-law continues to have major issues with me that he seems to struggle immensely letting go of. Whether those issues are resentments, fears, or something else altogether, I really don’t know. I have speculated for a long time that it could be related to my sexuality and his Christian beliefs, failure to let go of his negative memories of my former addict behaviors that I’m no longer exhibiting and haven’t for many years, jealousy over the close relationship I have with my sister and my nephews since he has little to none with his own, or his constant comparison of me to my deceased mother, a person he never much liked and always made pretty well known.

Regardless of whatever his reasons, he doesn’t generally welcome me with open arms. Last summer was probably the most extreme example of this during a 50th birthday surprise he was planning for my sister. He had booked a flight for me to come without asking my schedule and availability, and when I changed the flight to accommodate my own travel concerns, covering the cost difference myself, with no expectations on him or any of his family to change any of their set plans, he cancelled my flight in anger and told me I wasn’t welcomed to attend. After rebooking the flight and paying for it in entirety myself, he chose to spoil the surprise with my sister, which led to her in tears asking me not to come because it would be too stressful. And even when I was allowed to come several months later as a consolation with a promise by him that he’d keep his distance and let my family make whatever plans they wanted with me, that got broken as soon as his plane landed from a business trip two days into my visit.

It was after that when I began to wonder if maybe I needed to ultimately work on acceptance surrounding all this. Because I’ve tried to prove myself a good person to him more times than I can count, only to repeatedly have him see the few mistakes I make rather than any of the good I do. Which is most likely why when I inquired about coming to my nephew’s graduation about a week ago, that I was told the conversation surrounding it created a terrible amount of drama for them all, leaving my nephews with the attitude that they didn’t want me to come if it was only going to make their Dad that upset.

Because of this, after much praying and pondering the Alcoholics Anonymous acceptance prayer, I told my sister it was time for me to finally let go of trying to visit her family, because my presence there is only causing them more harm than good these days, which is the last thing I want for any of them. And in all honestly, it’s also not healthy for me anyway to be a guest anywhere I’m not being fully welcomed.

While I’m sad about all this, deep down I know my sister and nephews love me incredibly, and in a different world, one where my brother-in-law is able to unconditionally embrace and love me for me, I’m sure I’d be attending my nephews’ upcoming graduation and a lot more family events. But until that world becomes a reality, until either my brother-in-law is able to let go of his issues with me or my sister and nephews choose to take a stand for me, I know all I can do is accept that the best decision for now is the one where I let go of my repeated attempts to spend time with them and to let God handle the rest…

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

Are You A Rescuer?

Are you the type of person who keeps trying to fix a friend or loved one’s problems only to find yourself getting totally frustrated when they don’t do the work to fix themselves and instead, continue to repeat the same behaviors?

My hand is definitely raised quite high right now because I’m so very guilty of this. I have spent an incredible amount of energy attempting to rescue those who keep drowning by their own actions, often pulling myself in way too close to the point where they end up trying to drown me along with them. And each and every time I get that close to those going around and around in circles in their lives, I often become the recipient of their guilt trips and shame, which habitually causes me to become angry and frustrated. I began this behavior as a kid with my alcoholic mother and I’m tired of it. It’s time to let this rescuing behavior go and it’s time to let those people go who aren’t willing to help themselves.

Today alone I received three very long voicemails in a short period of time from a guy who was extremely angry and extremely desperate to get from Ohio to Michigan because he believed the legalized marijuana there would help his PTSD and chronic relapses with alcohol and other drug addictions. I had already presented the solution to him a number of times prior, by suggesting the 12 Steps, in patient treatment, and seeking a closer relationship to a Higher Power, but he wasn’t having any of it. Because of this, I decided the healthiest solution for me was to not return any of his calls, as I know it wouldn’t have done any good and only would have caused me to expel energy I don’t want to expel anymore.

It’s time to take care of myself and stop taking responsibility for all those like this who are broken, but aren’t willing to do the work to fix themselves. As I know that no matter how many times I try to fix them, I’ll keep getting burned and be constantly reminded of all my repeated failures to rescue my mother.

My ultimate realization now is that I’m not the cause of anyone’s constant relapses into alcohol or drugs or any other addiction for that matter. It’s also not my responsibility to correct another’s financial problems, relationship issues, health troubles, or any other repeated difficulty they are having. What I can do is pray for them to become truly willing to help themselves.

I’m so ready to take my life back from all the years I gave away to my mother and those like her, who only have ever known how to take and take and take and take, which sadly, I was one of them for periods of my life as well. Thankfully though, I’ve worked hard to change this, but now it’s time to work on the other side of the coin, to not keep giving myself away through rescuing.

It’s time to become a stable, healthy, individual who has boundaries and keeps to them, who helps to lead others to the water, but doesn’t try to force them to drink it. Because the only one who can drink that water, who can fix themselves, who can change themselves, is the person they see in the mirror every day. It’s not my problem and never was to make them see otherwise, or to take ownership of any of their drama either.

It’s time to finally free myself from this burden in 2020. I’m done playing the rescuer. Sink or swim, that’s up to them, but when they finally do become ready to do the work, I know God will give me the strength and guidance to help, as then it will be healthy and productive for both them and me…

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

A Quick Reflection Back Over The Past Decade And A Prayerful Look Ahead To The Next One…

The first day of another new year and a new decade as well. I’m honestly having a hard time believing the 2010’s are now actually over. It was a rough decade for me overall on so many levels, and one I hope and pray isn’t repeated in the 2020’s.

2010 began with me in January of that year losing my business, most of my finances, a connection to someone I loved deeply who I thought was meant to be in my life forever, and a few months later, my health. Over the next 15 months, I’d succumb to sex and love addiction behaviors and a number of other addictions as well, and would ultimately try to end my life at the end of that period. Between 2012 and 2014, I worked hard to make it back from that, get healthier, and along the way, met my current partner who I eventually moved to Toledo to be with. Those three years would prove to be the best part of this entire past decade for me. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the years that have passed since then. As ever since, I’ve struggled to cope and live with my health issues, my partner has had heavy difficulties connecting with me on non-sexual intimate levels, especially in the mental and emotional department, and up until just recently, I’ve felt so very alone in this mid-west city, having made no real deep friendships, no matter how hard I’ve tried. This past year alone I’ve lost three people to tragic deaths, each of whom I felt very close to in my heart. And with the recent sudden loss of the only thing I felt demonstrated true unconditional love in my life, that being my cat Smokey, 2019 has been the most challenging of it all. That being said, I do have gratitude for the two new friends I’ve made in recent months, Mike and Rob, who I plan on writing more about in my next Grateful Heart Monday. I also have gratitude for my partner remaining by my side through thick and thin, and for God having provided me ample food, water, and shelter through it all.

As I leave 2019 behind, I have no resolutions made or planned for 2020 and beyond. Actual statistics have proven that only 25 percent of resolutions made ever achieve even partial success, and only 8% of them ever get fully completed. In light of that, I’m leaving it all up to God now to fully guide me where my life heads from here on out, because frankly, I’m not sure what direction to head in any longer. The last thing I want is to randomly head in any direction that only will end in more pain and dead-ends, something I most certainly have experienced before and don’t have the energy to deal with anymore.

Nevertheless, I pray that 2020 and beyond will be filled with abundant peace and joy for me on a daily basis, as they are two things that have eluded me for the majority of the past five years, more so than not.

So, as I begin this first day of 2020, I’m hopeful things will improve, grateful for what I still have, faithful that God is still with me somehow on this crazy journey of life, and in all truthfulness, fearful for what my future may bring…

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

To Heal The Broken…

Time and time again, the biggest reason why I see people falling into any sort of addiction is because their heart is closed off from receiving love and subsequently, they tend to feel unloved in this world because of it. The fact is addiction then becomes a great numbing tool for those who have closed off their hearts and constantly live feeling unloved.

I know this first hand because I lived that way for most of my life. It took me a long time to reopen my heart to the level it is now, but with that comes a great burden at times because it’s often led to me getting hurt. Yet, in the same breath, it’s also been quite rewarding as well. Case in point, in the jail meeting I run each week on Monday nights, I recently met a 19-year-old kid who confessed he can’t stop doing Percocet’s and wanted to know how he’s ever going to stop. Instead of going through the usual, “when the pain becomes great enough” spiel, or suggesting going to meetings, getting a sponsor, and doing the 12 Steps, I felt compelled to ask him about his childhood. He angrily began talking about his drug addicted mother and how his father supplied her with those drugs. When I asked if he ever felt loved by either of them, his quick response was a resounding “no.”

While I didn’t know this guy whatsoever before that meeting, I knew exactly how he felt, because that’s how I grew up. As he told me the story of his passion for wrestling and how he was never quite good enough in his parents’ eyes, no matter how hard he tried to succeed in the sport he loved, I could see the anger swelling within him. It was then I looked directly in his eyes, in front of a dozen other inmates sitting around me, and said “I am so proud of you for your honesty and your desire to change, and I want you to know that I love you and you deserve to be loved. And this is the very reason why you remain broken and choose to live in your addiction day after day.” As soon as I said that, he went from being totally angry to totally crying, because I had successfully guided him to the very source of what keeps leading him back to his addiction, that being his broken childhood.

Whatever the addiction, the reality is that deep down there is a broken part of us somewhere within that keeps leading us to engage in an addiction to numb us from that part of ourselves. In this case, this 19-year-old inmate had grown up not loving himself at all because of never having been unconditionally loved to start with.

People always ask me why I do this recovery work as much as I do, and why I get so personal. Well, ultimately, it’s because I’ve learned we’re all broken somehow, especially those of us who are addicts in this world. And deep down within us is a little boy or girl who just wants to feel loved and not broken anymore.

So, it’s my hope to continuing being this vessel to help mend the broken, especially in the world of addiction. There I will keep planting those seeds of unconditional love with one goal in mind, to bring greater light into the darkness of a broken heart and soul to show them that someone out there truly does give a damn about themselves, until they can give a damn about themselves and walk the path along my side of sobriety and recovery.

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

“The Lord Giveth And The Lord Taketh Away…”

I, like I’m sure so many others often do, tend to question why God lets loved ones die by unnatural causes and tragic circumstances. This past year I lost two good friends to drug overdoses, one was in his mid 50’s and the other in his mid 30’s. I also lost a very dear friend of more than two decades to an immune system failure, and just the other day my 4-year-old cat Smokey abruptly died due to his bladder bursting from a urethra blockage.

When my cat left in the carrier that morning to head to the vet from not being able to pass urine for almost 12 hours, I had prayed and prayed and laid hands on him, asking God to help him. Little did I know that the help would be to put him out of his pain permanently a mere hour later. At first when my partner returned home to tell me the terrible news, I was shocked and wanted to believe it was all a joke somehow. Smokey had been my rock over the past three years, constantly bringing me comfort whenever I was hurting from my health issues. How could God have taken him away when I needed him the most? Why would God do such a thing? Was this really the answer to all my desperate pleas and prayers I had done that morning and all the prior evening when Smokey had started not feeling well?

At that precise moment my partner had told me this heartbreaking news and stared at me in tears, all I could think of was that King James verse from Job 1:21 that said “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” and believe me, it did nothing to comfort me. I’ve struggled in recent times to find comfort in reading the bible, having suffered for far too long.

As I thought about that passage, my anger began to consume me. I then pondered all the other awful deaths I went through this year and felt my physical pain overwhelming me, when suddenly I started cursing my existence just like Job once did with all the loss he went through.

I really wanted to take a drink or do a drug or act out in some serious addiction, just to numb the hurt, the pain, and the loss of the only thing I had in my life that represented 100% unconditional love. Not once did Smokey ever treat me poorly.

Thankfully, I kept all my sobriety and went out that afternoon and evening with a rapidly growing friendship to a guy named Mike while my partner decided to distract himself with his schoolwork. Mike has been such a blessing for me in a number of ways, including being able to make me laugh pretty easily, which normally doesn’t come that easily. After a few hours of hanging out with him over a meal, a coffee, and a drive, I felt much better and was far less self-piteous. It’s then I began coming into a greater place of acceptance.

The thought crossed my mind that if my partner and I had proceeded down the path we were considering that morning, that being to get immediate surgery to correct Smokey’s urinary condition he was born with, there was a very good chance it could create a long road of heavy vet expenditures, as we were told. For a guy like me with no job and no steady income, and a partner who supports the both of us, maybe indeed God saw best to take Smokey from this plane to save many expenses, headaches, and anguish? Whatever the reason why it was Smokey’s time though, I also had acceptance that he was at least no longer in pain. I had watched him countless times over the last three years sit in his kitty litter, sometimes for more than 10 minutes, desperately trying to pass urine.

So, in the end, I accepted that even if Smokey’s passing had nothing to do with God wanting my partner and I to avoid paying high vet bills in the future for his health, that God must have had a reason that was for the greater good for both Smokey and us. Accepting that made his passing much easier to deal with and ironically even helped to appreciate that biblical verse, even if it took me a good number of hours to get there, when I finally could say it really is ok that “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away” because in the end, it ultimately is.

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

My Need For Human Touch…

I think human touch is very important. I’m always reminded of those studies that were done scientifically with babies where it was proven that the lack of physical affection can actually kill a baby or seriously limit their growth and development.

As a baby, I was often told I received a lot of human touch. But, as a kid, when my parents succumbed to alcohol addiction, I didn’t get much of that whatsoever. Rather, I remember days when I’d go into the family room in tears wanting my mother just to console me over being bullied at school where she’d tell me to be quiet as she watched her soap operas and drank her wine. She even sent me off to learn karate when I broke down one day about the ongoing bullying, instead of providing me any sort of loving touch.

My first real experience as a kid receiving human touch was sadly when I got molested around the age of 12 from the coach of the swim and dive team I was on. After that, I began to fear anyone touching me and instead felt wickedly uncomfortable with any sort of affection. That lasted for years causing me to recoil inside any time someone placed a loving hand on me or even touched me on any level. Eventually, I worked through this issue mostly because of the work I did through the ManKind Project organization (MKP), which I continue to remain a part of to this day.

Unfortunately, these days, I continue to struggle with one thing that still relates to human touch. I have this overwhelming need now to have physical affection more than not, all because of how low I feel inside about my life due to my long-standing health issues and where my life has been left because of them. And while I crave human touch as much as do, my partner is the exact opposite with it, as he doesn’t need much of it at all. Part of that relates to issues he has in that arena that he’s just beginning to work on. Because of that, quite often I know I come across to him as overly needy, typically when I ask to hold hands more or be held more or simply just to be touched more.

I’m beginning to wonder if for as long as my health issues stick around, will I always appear as being overly needy, chiefly when it comes to craving human touch. But like a baby who needs this for development and really to live, is it the same for adults as well? Do we ultimately need human touch? And can human touch prevent things like depression and anxiety and other sickness? I tend to think so because of the benefit I always feel whenever I receive love through human touch. The downside though is how many people in this world seem to struggle giving or receiving it due to their own upbringing and the lack of ever getting it on a healthy level. Frankly, for many I’ve gotten to know, human touch is such a foreign thing and seems to make plenty uncomfortable.

All I know to do is to keep on showing the physical affection I do to others and to remain thankful for those who offer me any human touch in return. Sometimes a deep hug, an arm around my shoulder, and a hand on my leg, from anyone, goes a long way, especially for a guy like me who hurts so badly inside on more days than not.

So, if you should ever happen to see someone who is truly hurting from anything in life, know I believe that deep down each of them biologically desires some type of human touch and physical affection. While some may generally not be open to receiving it yet due to not having worked through some issue around it, know there are others who would love to receive it and when they do, it may just make their day and help them to keep going for one more day, others that include someone like me…

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

A Reminder From God Through My Cat Smokey…

I believe that God can send us messages and reminders through anything, even a cat, like I feel he did through my male cat Smokey on the day I came home from my trip to my sister a week ago this past Sunday. It was then I found him acting very distant and depressed. Normally he’s a very unconditionally loving and high energy-based cat, even more so immediately after returning from a trip away. But not this time and it didn’t take me long to discover the reason why when I saw him sitting in his litter box for over 10 minutes struggling to pass urine.

You see, Smokey has had an issue with his urethra ever since his birth in which it was discovered it was much tinier than most cats making it harder to pass urine. We’ve tried a number of specialized diets to fix it, but it only made things worse and even with increased water consumption, the unpleasant condition remained. Eventually, we were told by our veterinarian the only solution was an extremely costly surgery to permanently correct it. Unfortunately, we couldn’t afford it. In light of that, our only recourse whenever this condition arose was to show him some TLC, pray over him, and give him a quick couple of drops of something called “Bach Rescue Remedy for Cats”, which helps him to relax. Typically, within an hour or two after this course of action, he’s always become able to pass urine leaving him afterwards just as spunky as ever. But not so this time around.

I watched as Smokey spent hours and hours pacing the house, laying on the floor meowing in pain, and trying to pee in the weirdest of places. He didn’t want to be held. He didn’t want to play. He just wanted to be left alone. Even holding him didn’t create his usual deep purring. On the outside he looked as normal as could be, making any onlooker think he was totally fine. But on the inside, I knew he was feeling extremely uncomfortable, making him have very little desire to live the joyous and overly social life he usually does with his human companions. And boy, I could relate.

Having long suffered with a number of health issues myself that can never be seen from the outside of me, I’ve quite often become depressed and unsocial. Frequently, that’s led to me getting told by others to just push on through it by forcing myself to do things such as getting out of myself and helping another. It’s rarely helped though, especially when the physical pain has been at a high level. For the longest time, I thought maybe I just needed to try harder, achieve mind over matter, or find some alternative path to feel better. But after watching my cat during his 12-hour urinary ordeal, I really do think God was trying to provide me a little guidance for my own healing journey.

I say that because Smokey doesn’t have the thinking processes that I do. He, like most other cats and even dogs, exist to simply show unconditional love and comfort to their owners. Yet, when my cat Smokey had this urinary issue arise to the level it did that night, I watched as he simply took care of himself until he felt better. He didn’t get out of himself and try to please his masters. He didn’t try to play or even purr. He didn’t try to force joy either. He just curled up in a ball and took care of himself, until suddenly for whatever the reason beyond his or my control, he became able to pass urine again and once he did, he immediately was a barrel of joy once more.

So, thanks to Smokey, I decided I’m not going to listen to those erroneous voices anymore who keep on telling me I need to rise above my pain and just get out and do more things. Instead, I’m going to take a page out of his book and trust it was a reminder from God letting me know it’s ok to take care of myself whenever I’m feeling a lot of pain. I know there’s deep joy and exuberance below it somewhere, it’s just waiting to surface for when my pain levels become far less than they have been. I’m just thankful I’m open enough to see how God can use even something like my cat Smokey to remind me it’s ok to be still when I’m hurting and leave the healing to Him, because I know if I do, I will get better just like Smokey did, and when I do, I too will become a barrel of joy once more.

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

Why Do The Selfish Seem To Often Prosper On This Planet?

Why does it always seem like those who live hedonistically, that tend to put their own needs, wants, and desires in front of everyone else’s, often seem to succeed in comparison to those who regularly try their best to be selfless, kind, and good-natured people on this planet?

I honestly wish I had the answer to this question, especially as of late, because I keep finding myself getting frustrated at the number of people I know who are promiscuous and yet have suffered no consequences whatsoever from doing so, even after years, and maybe even decades of living that way.

That being said, my personal sexual conduct was quite atrocious between 1995 and 2011. I definitely lived a hedonistic life to say the least for much of that time period until eventually my mind and body began to suffer because of it. So, why isn’t it that those who are still living like I once did, going through multiple sex partners on some type of regular basis, or regularly living in other hedonistic ways ever seemingly paying for it?

Many religious folks often answer this question with passages that basically say it’ll catch up to them in the long run. But, I’ve most certainly known people in this life who lived out their entire lives promiscuously, never once suffering even remotely close to what I’ve experienced thus far. Others often tell me not to worry about any of those still living hedonistically, because God has a great plan for me and all this suffering is going to eventually lead to it, yet nine years later, I’m really struggling to keep on believing that. And then there’s those who make sure to adamantly state that on judgment day all will receive accordingly to how they lived their lives, but if I go on that logic, most of those same people who say this, also feel that me being in a monogamous gay relationship is just as bad, so this point doesn’t hold much weight to me either. Regardless, I’m frustrated. Frustrated for continuing to see people doing the exact same things I once did hedonistically, yet never facing any ramifications from it and having great lives.

The fact is, I don’t know why my former hedonistic ways affected me so deeply on such a negative level, one that stopped me dead in my tracks before I even turned 40, while others I know in their 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, and even 80’s are able to keep doing much of what I once did, and never experience any ill effects from it .

WAAAAH. I’m sure that’s how I sound at the moment, but here’s the deeper reality I’m seeing through all this. I never liked living hedonistically, because it consistently felt like I was stuck in a never-ending cycle of unfulfilled needs. Living that way made me so deeply insecure as well, always looking for something outside of myself to fill that deep pit of emptiness within me. So, on some level, all the pain and suffering I’ve experienced starting at the tail end of my former hedonistic life has actually helped me. Not only has it helped me to see how spiritually toxic a life I used to be living, but it’s also helped me to become a much more selfless being who has a whole heck of a lot of compassion now for others I never used to care about. In other words, it’s been through all this pain and suffering that an incredible spiritual transformation has been taking place. One that has helped me to become more of service to my Higher Power’s needs, wants, and desires, than me looking at how the world can service my own needs, wants, and desires.

So, while I may complain about my pain and suffering from time to time, especially because of how long it’s gone on for, in the same breath, I think it’s important to keep on thanking God for it, because at least I am able to look in the mirror these days and know I’m doing my best to give back to the world, instead of constantly being on the lookout for all the ways I can take from it…

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

Do I Do Good Because I Really Want To Or Because I Really Want Something?

Do I do good because I really want to or because I really want something? This is a question I have asked myself many times over the past few years as I continue to do my best to give back to this world rather than take from it, even in light of all my ongoing pain and suffering.

Up until 2010, before any of my severe pain and suffering began, I was still quite a selfish being, taking more from this planet than giving back, living more for myself, than for others. When the first bout of physical pain hit in late April of 2010 that would begin my long journey of suffering, I resisted changing anything about myself and thought I could just wait it all out. When a year passed, and then another, and the pain and suffering didn’t end, my heart started to open, and as it did, I truly began to see just how selfish of a person I had been for most of my life. I saw how all the good I had done prior was usually because I really wanted something, whether that was to get noticed, to gain some type of glory or recognition, to receive compensation, or to achieve some other type of agenda. It was rare that I did anything where there wasn’t an angle, where I wasn’t seeking something in return.

But pain and suffering have a unique way to shift a person’s energy field completely and as the years went on with it remaining a part of me, I found myself striving to do good more and more, without any expectations or hidden agendas. Volunteering my time to help others became something I simply wanted to do, not because I had to do or because I was hoping to get something out of it.

Yet, I’ve endured a solid nine years now of pain and suffering that still seems like it has no end in sight and as I continue to sponsor others in recovery, to volunteer both at a local jail and a local crisis center, and to carry positions of leadership in the 12 Step groups I belong to, I have pondered what might happen if all my pain and suffering suddenly went away? Would I still want to do good? Or was my underlying motive all along for me to do all the good I’ve been doing for years now been to gain God’s favor, to restore my health, and my sanity?

If you want me to be perfectly honest, then my answer to this is that I don’t know. I don’t know what my life would be like if my pain and suffering suddenly went away. I don’t know if my motivation would still remain the same to give back to this planet rather than take from it. I don’t know because all I’ve known is pain and suffering and a burning desire to help others who are in pain and suffering, so long as I have enough energy to keep doing it. As there are days where my pain and suffering get so great, I am forced to remain home and take care of myself.

Nevertheless, I know I want to feel far closer to God than I do in life these days. I know I want to feel far healthier in life than I do these days too. But, is there some part of me that’s driven to do all the good I do, solely because I want those things, or solely because I’ve been transformed from the once quite selfish and self-centered person I used to be most of the time.

I don’t have those answers, and often ask God to give me a chance to experience my life without this pain and suffering, to show Him I’ll still do the good I do so prevalently now. Sometimes I think God keeps me in this pain and suffering because He has seen me freed of this pain and suffering, returning to the selfish being I used to be. But, seeing God in that way is not a very unconditionally loving God and, on some level, is more looking at God as the controlling and punishing mother I used to live under.

Regardless, I don’t have an answer to this question at this time. While I’d like to believe I spend the majority of my life these days doing good simply because that’s who I am now, I’m plagued with ego-based fears that tell me I’m still that same selfish and self-centered person below all this pain and suffering. I really hope the latter isn’t true and that when God lifts my pain, because I believe He will, that I’ll find myself with this same drive to give back, to do good, every, single, day, without wanting or expecting anything in return…

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

I Feel So Empty…

I feel so empty, like a car running on fumes that’s seriously in need of a fill-up, except in my case, I can’t seem to find the fuel, or the pump for that matter, no matter what I do.

In my 12 Step recovery from addiction world, it’s always said that when one feels empty, it’s best to get out of oneself and help another. So, I’ve tried to fill that emptiness by sponsoring others, by volunteering, and by attending more meetings. Yet, most frustratingly, it hasn’t helped much to fill up that feeling of emptiness whatsoever. Through my recovery, I also learned to pray and meditate each day, do daily affirmations, write gratitude lists, listen to positive music, and eat healthy, but none of that seems to have any effect on removing my emptiness either. In addition, I’ve tried to deal with the emptiness by keeping myself busy with healthy hobbies like going to more movies, working on puzzles, watching uplifting television programs, and coloring in my adult coloring book, but none of them have had much success with removing the emptiness, even for brief periods, either.

And as much as I’m not happy to report this, I’ve even resorted to trying to fill the emptiness with things I know wouldn’t be healthy for me in the long run if I kept them up. Things such as the occasional flirting and fishing to see if someone else finds me attractive, glancing at pictures of people on Facebook I find handsome, or trying to hang out with people I think are good looking. Things such as eating 92% dark chocolate for comfort, pigging out on junk food till I feel bloated, or overeating in general. Things such as buying a scratch ticket or visiting a casino here and there. And things such as trying to oversexualize my own relationship. All of which has done nothing to remove my emptiness and if anything, created even more of it.

And last, but most definitely not the least, I have sadly attempted to forget about my emptiness by attempting to control other people, take their inventory, and make it my business to help them see the work they could do on their life. All any of that’s done is just piss people off.

Honestly, I have no idea how to remove this emptiness and believe me when I say I’ve been sitting with it more than not, without trying to temporarily fill it, for about a year and a half now. I have begged God to fill it. Begged and begged and begged. Because ultimately, I don’t believe there’s any person, place, or thing here that can take it away and I’ve exhausted countless energy, money, and resources to figure that out.

It is said that only God can truly ever fill that emptiness and help us feel full of life and zest and joy, but no matter how hard I’ve tried to connect with God, He seems to be on radio silence with me. I’ve waited and waited and waited and waited, asking for guidance and direction, often feeling like I’m being punished for something when I receive no answers as to why I feel so empty.

I have no answers right now as to how to comfort this little boy within me who keeps crying day after day, who feels like he’s been abandoned. I continue to do my best to remain clean and sober and help others in the process. I continue to keep doing my healthy activities as well, with an occasional backslide here and there. But, all in all, I remain still and wait upon God and have never gone through as long of period as this where I haven’t felt God’s presence and instead, have felt this incredibly deep and dark emptiness. An emptiness that I can’t seem to fill or escape from, no matter what I do.

Lord, my tank feels empty and I’m in desperate immediate need of Your fuel. I have nothing left to give but my life itself, which you know is Yours anyway to do with as You wish. Please help me God. Please remove this emptiness and replace it with joy and a lot more of You, as I know only You can do. Because a life that constantly feels empty, where I don’t feel You, is a life I’m truly struggling to see is still worth living. Yet a life filled with You is most certainly one worth living, one where even something as simple as taking a single breath will provide me all the fuel I need to keep on, keeping on, and one where I know  my car will never run empty again…

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

Missing The Ocean, The Caribbean, And Most Definitely Some Snorkeling…

After recently discussing how I’ve been running out of things to say in my blog, a friend suggested talking about any of my vacations to exotic or interesting places. Ironically, the last time I took any sort of exotic trip was to where I actually met this friend, that being Grand Cayman in February of 2016. Sadly, I haven’t travelled since because of how challenging it’s been with my health.

Nevertheless, there is one thing I truly miss from all those exotic vacations I used to take with such regularity in my life and that’s seeing the brightly lit clear blue ocean that I always experienced when in the Caribbean. By way of cruise or a land-based resort, every year for more than a decade, I’d take a one to two-week vacation somewhere in the Caribbean. And one thing I always made sure to do whenever I was on one of those getaways was to go snorkeling, and usually a few times at that.

I love snorkeling and wish I could somehow beam myself onto a Caribbean island whenever I want, solely to do this activity at least once a week. Gliding across the top of the ocean and exploring what’s underneath was always so peaceful for me. Even with all my pain, the buoyancy of the salt waters and the warmth of them as well would always support and soothe me, all while I found a wonderful way to draw closer to another aspect of God.

Through my many snorkeling adventures, I’ve swam next to huge sea turtles, been within arm’s length of the largest and most colorful lobsters you could ever imagine, held starfish in my hands, stood still as schools of vibrant fish surrounded me, fed and petted stingrays, explored shipwrecks and other treasures left on the seafloor, weaved my way through complex coral reefs, been face to face with barracuda, touched many shiny humongous fish, and plenty more.

In the silence of the depths of the ocean, stress just seems to melt away for me. Quite often I’ll even take a long deep breath and swim down as far as I can where I pretend that I’m part of all the ocean life somehow. I have definitely had some strong spiritual experiences doing so and am very grateful for them.

While I’m told that scuba diving is far better for this type of exploration, I unfortunately can’t equalize the pressure within my ears and suffer too much pain the deeper I dive, so I resort to doing what I can do, which is snorkeling and diving down to about 10 to 15 feet at the most. And honestly, I’m fine with that, as I’ve fully enjoyed all my experiences every single time I’ve done this activity throughout my life and probably would do it on a daily basis if I lived in the Caribbean.

I find the ocean to be extremely healing for me, mind, body, and soul, and know that someday I’d like to be living far closer to one of its shores than I do now. I keep saying I’m going to take a trip again to the Caribbean soon, mostly because I miss those bright blue waters and exploring their depths, but I still haven’t and have gone three years now without doing my most favorite activity in the world. I’m sure a day will come again though where I’ll be snorkeling once more, but for now, I’m at least thankful that I have such vivid memories of doing this activity in plenty of years past.

Regardless, I still like to take a few moments from time to time to close my eyes and visualize myself feeling supported by something so much larger than I. As it’s in each of those moments, where I’m brought back to a place and time that I surely have felt much peace and joy and most definitely the presence of God…

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

My Writing Dilemma

Three times I began writing this article for today and three times I realized it was something I’ve already written about sometime in the past. With 2,225 entries thus far, over six years of writing, and not missing a single day ever since this blog’s inception, I find myself now facing a writing dilemma, as I’m beginning to feel like I’ve run out of things to say and am questioning where to go with it from here.

All of this began back on January 14th, 2013 when I posted my very first blog, which was nothing more than basically a “Hello World” type of entry. Ever since, I’ve written about everything in my life, fully exposing every single facet of myself, sometimes to the point where I even surprised myself at how open and honest I was being.

With all the gossipy judgments and criticism that seem to be plaguing our world these days, it’s probably a good thing that neither my blog, nor I, have gained any type of notoriety over the years. The general public would most likely have a field day with me and find plenty of things to crucify me with from my past. Believe me when I say I definitely have a tainted past, yet one I’ve still fully laid out for the rest of the world to see nonetheless.

I know I have some loyal readers who have stuck by my side ever since the beginning and I’m very thankful for them. Frankly, sometimes I think I continue to write solely because of them. At the same time though, I also think about not wanting to bore any of them either with yet another article about something they’ve probably read about time and time again.

Honestly, I wish somehow my life would move out of this pause mode that God seems to have me still on. I’ve been waiting on God for so long now for guidance and direction with my life that I’ve forgotten what having any type of normal life feels like.

My health issues have kept me in this pause mode, and left me writing about a lot of the same subjects, with me often repeating many of my same viewpoints, which is most likely the very reason why I don’t garner much in the line of increasing readership.

I’m quite sure my spiritual teacher would gently remind me though that I’m not writing for any of them, that I’m writing for myself, and that even having one reader is a gift in itself. But, truthfully, I’m bored with writing anyway, because I don’t have hardly anything new happening in my life anymore to muse about.

My health issues have kept me mostly sidelined from achieving any of my dreams, aspirations, goals, and the like and all of my prayers surrounding them and my health have been answered by God with mostly silence. And so, I’ve waited. I’ve waited on God and in the process, written about the same things again and again and again, and now I find myself struggling to keep on doing it.

I truly wish that God would end my long-standing health crisis, so that I had enough energy to take on some new tasks in life, tasks that I know would absolutely lead to plenty of more things to write about. Yet, “be still” is the only thing that continues to present itself to me, as anytime I’ve attempted to control this process or my life, has been met with dire results.

So, yes, I’m facing a dilemma with my writing, with this blog, and with my life in general. As I struggle to even make it through most of the basic of life’s tasks nowadays, I continue to write, but with ever depleting hope. I’ve never faced such a long dark night of my soul, one that seems to never have any end in sight. Yet, I still faithfully wait upon God for dawn to come, for the sun to rise within me again, for joy to return, and for His promise to be made true, as I know when it does, that an endless inspiration to write will return…

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

Holding Onto Hope And Faith As Another New Year Begins…

I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around where 2018 went. I always remember hearing tons of adults say how fast the year seemed to go by when another New Year’s Eve and Day rolled around. Now, I’m actually one of those adults.

As a kid, I always wanted to speed life up. I couldn’t wait to get to my teenage years. I couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive. I couldn’t wait to be done with high school.  I couldn’t wait to become of age to drink legally. And I couldn’t wait to be done with college and out on my own making a living.

Now, I’m on the other side of the coin where I find myself as each new year begins, wishing I had a magic want that was able to slow life down or turn back time. Having spent the past eight years mostly on the sidelines with a ton of health issues has made me dread when each new year arrives.

While I set three primary goals at the beginning of 2018 of doing my best to serve God, doing my best to treat others with unconditional love, and remaining 100% sober from all former addictions, and actually kept to all three, I had a few other goals that continue to be passed on from one year to the next. That being to feel healthier in my physical body, to get back into the work force, and to actually take a real vacation again where my only obligation is to sit by a pool or a beach for a week. Unfortunately, I haven’t come close to meeting any of them yet and thus I begin another year of my life with the same feelings I did the last time another new year began, that being sadness and hope.

I have sadness that at the age of 46, I’ve actually been unemployed and unable to carry a job since the beginning of 2010. I have sadness that I can’t support my partner in most of his monthly expenditures. I have sadness that I haven’t been able to return to participating even recreationally in any type of sport. And I have sadness, that my partner and I haven’t been able to take an annual vacation together without having to go through mega stress over my health problems. Yet, even in light of all that sadness, as I said, I still remain hopeful, hopeful in God that is, which is the ONLY thing that has kept me going from one new year to the next thus far.

You see, without having hope in God, I have no faith that God is going to do anything good for me ever again. And without having faith that God will ever doing anything good for me ever again, I can assure you I won’t feel any purpose for me to live, as whenever I’ve been in that place, I’ve become suicidal and really don’t wish to experience that again.

So, as 2019 begins, I begin it with hope and faith once again. Hope and faith in a living out a much brighter life. Hope and faith that there is a greater plan for me. Hope and faith that all this suffering hasn’t been in vain. And hope and faith that my life is going to improve.

Who knows where I’ll be standing this time next year or what I’ll be writing about when another new year arrives in 2020. But at least with my hope and faith, I am starting 2019 on a more positive note by saying I trust in God with my entire life, enough to keep waiting on my goals, and enough to continue believing that God does have a greater plan for me and for all of you too…

May all of you be blessed and filled with much unconditional love and light in 2019!

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

The Eight And A Half Year Storm…

Eight and a half years ago now, I was still deeply engaged in an adulterous relationship with a married man and was very spiritually sick, so much so, that my mental and emotional state had become completely unstable. On one particular afternoon, the pain had become so great that I humbled myself enough to finally ask God for help. I prayed to be freed from everything that separated me from Him. I prayed to have ALL my addictions removed and asked that I be brought through the healing as fast as I could handle it, so that I didn’t waste another day of my life living apart from Him. And I meant EVERY word of it, as torrents of tears fell from my face while I said those prayers. What I didn’t know was that two weeks later, a storm would begin in my life, one that I continue to believe is somehow the answer to all those prayers. But sadly, that storm still rages on in my life and has yet to depart.

There are many slogans, passages, and uplifting words out there in the world about the storms that fall upon us in our lives. I’ve been quoted many of them, often from the Bible, and various other religious text, as well as from my 12 Step recovery realms over the years, about how those storms always do pass. During the first few years of this, all of them were actually comforting and kept me going. But, as my health issues began to pile up, one after another, and my life fell apart more and more, my skies remained mostly grey with only a few moments of sunshine suddenly bursting through. Moments that never lasted more than a few hours to a day here and there. Moments that have only added up to about the number of days I can count on two hands.

This storm originally began somewhat small and was quite akin to a few passing rainstorms, one always following another. Eventually, those rainstorms turned into heavy downpours, yet I continued to endure, even when they didn’t let up. But, just when I thought those rains couldn’t get any stronger, they did, and my life now feels like it’s experiencing a Class 5 hurricane. And there I’ve sat in the midst of this crazy storm, as it ravages my life with so much physical pain and mental anguish, leaving me in in a place where I’ve actually forgotten what it’s like to not live in a such a storm.

I honestly don’t remember what it’s like to experience blue skies, light breezy winds, and a hopeful horizon. All attempts on my part to clear these dark skies and send all these heavy winds and rains away, have been thwarted by things seemingly beyond my control. People have asked me many times, especially recently, if I regret saying those prayers now. While my ego says yes, my heart and soul continue to say no. Because in all reality, I despised the person I once was, before this storm first began.

Somehow, I’ve continued to find enough faith to keep going though, and to keep believing that this storm will eventually end, even as the skies around me have turned totally black as of late. As I face probably the darkest moments of my life now, the Devil, evil, or whatever dark forces that plague our world, beckon me constantly to take my life, to give up on God, and to pick back up any number of addictions that used to comfort me. I have resisted all those temptations thus far, but honestly, I’m out of energy. Frankly, I’m tired, exhausted really. I have nothing left to give, but my life itself, and yet I still employ that to God. Because science, medicine, natural healers, and all the things this world has to offer for healing, have been unable to clear this storm away, and if anything, have often led to it becoming even stronger.

So, when people ask me now what they can do for me to help, as this storm feels like it’s about to ultimately break me in two, I have only one thing left to say. Pray that I’m given enough strength to get to the other side of this storm. Pray that God will see me through to its very end. And pray that I have enough faith to not give up on God, or myself for that matter. Because I can only imagine how clear the skies will become and how close I’ll feel to my Maker, when this storm finally does end.

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

Having That “Stuck-Like” Feeling In Life?

Lately, I really have been having this “stuck-like” feeling in life, almost as if I’ve not been moving forward, like my life has been on pause for far too long, which in all honesty has felt like an eternity.

There have been many days in which my ego has pushed for me to take a step backwards because of this and engage in unhealthy behaviors that I once did with regularity just to numb myself from the doldrums of life. There have also been plenty of days in which my ego has wanted me to take a random step in what it feels is in a forward direction, by trying something random, just to see if somehow that might remove this “stuck-like” feeling.

Yet, in the midst of all this spiritual confusion, there has been this part of me that continues to tell me to remain still and wait because my past actions have shown that any step backwards only leads to a greater feeling of being stuck and any step forward that doesn’t come from my Higher Guidance only leads to more of the same as well.

So, I’ve been waiting, waiting for God’s guidance and direction to come, but it hasn’t thus far, which has left me feeling like I’m in this very “stuck-like” place, one that has been extremely painful and primarily devoid of any real peace and joy in life.

While I have done my best to get out and help another, as that seems to help a little, and while I have done my best too to remain busy doing constructive things like upkeep around the house and hobbies, neither have removed that “stuck-like” feeling, which has left me thinking.

Maybe, this is precisely where the Universe wants me? Maybe, I’m meant to be still and stop trying to guide my own path, stop trying to push myself in some direction I think I should be going in, and stop trying to control whatever destiny I think I’m supposed to have, as it’s quite obvious from my past, how far any of those actions ever got me, which was pretty much nowhere.

In light of that, maybe I’m just meant to sit with this “stuck-like” feeling because I’m not stuck at all. Maybe I’m really moving forward and it’s only my ego that keeps saying I’m not. And maybe, just maybe, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, and the sooner I accept that, the sooner I’ll see just how very much I’m not stuck at all…

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

“God Is Always There And Never Abandons Any Of Us!”

It’s extremely easy to say that God is always there and never abandons any of us when one’s life is going well. It’s also extremely easy to cite out scripture to back that argument up. But, what’s not extremely easy is to continue believing that when a storm keeps on ravaging one’s life day after day for years, with no end in sight.

Personally, I’ve been living in such a storm for quite some years now, especially during the past two, with my body enduring high levels of physical pain throughout every single day. While I’ve done my very best to seek help and take care of myself, to stay away from toxic people and toxic situations, to pray and meditate, and wait upon God for further guidance and instructions on what to do, I’ve been through an entire year now feeling like God has gone on radio silence with me. In the process, I’ve felt a profound emptiness I’ve never felt before and have started to believe that God has totally abandoned me.

Honestly, it’s hard enough living with chronic pain, especially at 46 years old, because of how much it’s prevented me from engaging in fun activities with others, activities where I used to find much of my connection to God. It’s even harder though to live in pain like I have, when even in my many moments of time by myself, I don’t feel God communicating to me anymore. It’s as if the radio station I’ve always tuned to God is nothing but static now. And believe me when I say I’ve done an incredible amount to tune into plenty of other stations knowing God isn’t limited to just one. And believe me when I say as well how hard I’ve pushed myself to find God anywhere, somewhere, but so far, it’s all been to no avail. It’s almost as if God has totally hidden Himself from me and I have no idea why.

There is a notable figure in the Bible, the apostle Paul, who talks about going through great suffering and how he was able to endure it because he felt God’s grace. I get that, because there were times in my life when I was suffering, yet still felt God’s grace, which was always able to sustain me through those difficult times. Unfortunately, I haven’t felt any of that over the past year, which has led me to relate far more to Job’s suffering, another notable figure in the Bible. As he too went through incredible suffering similar to mine, and never felt God’s grace throughout it either.

Job’s friends tried to convince him that he didn’t feel God’s grace because he must have done something wrong and that God would return when Job repented and changed his ways. But when God showed up at the end of that story and said Job’s suffering wasn’t because of anything Job did, Job’s health and life got restored and when it was, Job immediately felt God’s grace and presence again.

This is why I tell people that living in chronic pain for long periods of time can become an inhibitor to feeling the sunlight of God’s spirit. Like Job, mine has acted as an overarching dark presence that has often blocked me from hearing, feeling, and connecting to God. I feel like I can safely say this with conviction because on those rare days where my pain levels have dropped even a slight notch, I’ve felt joy immediately return and God’s presence as well.

Take last year, around this time period for example. I travelled to Nashville to visit my sister and her family for a long weekend. There I experienced a rather dramatic decrease in my pain levels that I hadn’t experienced in years. And because of it, I felt more connected to God and His grace than I had in a very long time. In turn, the furthest thing on my mind during that period was thinking that God abandoned me, because it felt quite the opposite. Unfortunately, the day after I returned from that trip, I received what I believe to be the last direct communication I’ve had from God. Sitting on the door handle to my car in an empty parking garage was the largest praying mantis I had ever seen. Its presence prevented me from opening my door and thus I’ve come to learn that when something like this happens, it’s a sign from Source. I’d discover later that day through a little research, that in Native American symbolism, the praying mantis symbolizes a period of waiting, being patient, and knowing exactly when to move forward. After discovering that, I had no doubt it was a message from God, yet, ever since, the silence from God has been deafening.

I have remained opened though to however God may choose to connect with me, as there have been many, many ways I’ve experienced God throughout this life, yet I unfortunately continue to feel nothing but emptiness. And what’s difficult about this for a guy like me, who’s been an addict more than not in this life and many of my previous ones as well, is that my ego keeps trying to convince me that God has abandoned me and that I just need to return to any one of my addictions, as life will be far better when I do. Yet, I know that’s an illusion and will only bring me greater emptiness in the end. Sadly, my ego has also tried to convince me to take my life on far too many of my painful days. But, I’m a stickler though, for following through on what I said I’m going to do, and even though all signs of God’s presence have been blotted out for such a long period, I’m choosing to hang on to my faith and trust that God is still there, that he hasn’t abandoned me, and that there is an end to my suffering and this long-lasting storm.

So, while it may very well be true that God indeed never abandons any of us, it’s also true that when one is dealing with incredible suffering for long periods of time, such as living with high chronic pain, that it becomes harder and harder to believe in that. And if and when that starts to happen, the hardest part of one’s spiritual journey is to keep that mustard seed of faith alive long enough to reach the day when the storm departs and God’s grace is revealed to have been there all along…

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

“Keep On, Keeping On!”

You know what’s more challenging than dealing with difficult health issues on a daily basis? Dealing with them while on a vacation.

It’s been over two years since I took a full week vacation anywhere, all because of the health issues I’ve had to deal with. I promised myself when I was in the Grand Cayman’s back then that I wouldn’t travel anywhere again until I felt better. Honestly, it’s much easier to be at home feeling totally miserable and uncomfortable in my own skin than it is being away and spending lots of money while feeling that way.

But when my best friend Cedric decided he really couldn’t keep doing the travel to see me twice a year and wanted to reduce it to a visit during the winter only, I realized that if I wanted to continue seeing him during the summer as well, I had to start travelling again. Last week’s trip to Massachusetts was the first time I undertook this new and fearful venture, which for the most part turned out to be not as difficult as I thought it would be, that is until Friday arrived.

Have you ever felt so crappy on any given day of a vacation, that you really didn’t want to do much of anything but spend it in your hotel room? That’s about how I felt last Friday as soon as I awoke, yet I didn’t remain in my room that day, as I felt that would only have made me feel even worse.

Instead, I spent the majority of it along the ocean side of Newport, Rhode Island, doing something called The Newport Cliff Walk, which essentially is a 3.5-mile-long walkway along the coast, high up on some cliffs, that parallel in front of a bunch of huge mansions. It’s rather picturesque and breathtaking at certain places along the way, yet for someone who’s battling debilitating pain, it tends to have the opposite effect.

When I have days where my health feels like this, I usually find myself praying quite a bit to God for the strength to keep going and that’s precisely what I did as my partner, Cedric, and I walked along a rocky trail that on any other day would probably have invigorated me and brought forth some child-like joy.

So, as I took each step on that cliff walk and prayed for that strength to keep going, I wondered more than not if my body might give out at some point, yet the words of my spiritual teacher kept coming forth from within my brain…

“Keep on, keeping on Andrew!”

In all truthfulness, I used to cringe every time she used to tell me that, but on some level, I knew I needed to do just that as I pounded the pavement and rocks one step at a time. And as I did, I began to think, maybe this is what faith really is all about, to just “keep on, keeping on” until things get better, until I feel God shining His light back onto me, or at least until I make it through to the next hurdle life brings me.

While unfortunately, my pain levels didn’t lessen much during the rest of last Friday, I can at least confirm that I did finish that cliff walk and was pretty proud of myself for it and very thankful to God as well. Because I believe it’s with accomplishments like this, that are little reminders from God that my prayers are being answered, that my faith is helping me to continue moving me forward, and that I am a living, breathing, example of what it truly means to “keep on, keeping on”…

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

When The Extrovert Became The Introvert…

Recently, I did a Myers-Briggs test for my therapist that essentially breaks downs every individual into 16 different personality types and the most interesting thing I learned from it is how I migrated away from being an extrovert and become far more an introvert.

Ironically, 20 years ago or so, when I first took the Myers-Briggs test, which essentially is a long list of questions one answers to determine their four-character personality type, it clearly showed I was an extrovert tried and true. But in all honesty, learning that was really a no-brainer, as back then I loved being around people, I loved carrying on conversations with total strangers, and I loved talking to anyone really, with just about anything. But today, not so much, and the Myers-Briggs definitely reflected that change, which I know precisely why it did.

It all comes down to where my life is currently due to my health issues. You see, twenty years ago, I was a cocky, over-confident, and vane individual solely because I had a great computer career, plenty of money, considered myself a handsome guy, and an all-around athlete. This made it exceptionally easy for me to talk to people and I totally lavished in it every, single, day.

But zoom forward to 2010 when I began to face financial ruin, the loss of my business, a serious problem with my sex and love conduct, and a number of growing health issues, and I suddenly found myself slowly withdrawing from all my social circles. That trend would only continue over the years that followed, as my health issues intensified rather than lessened, causing me to lose all of my athleticism, my ability to hold a job, and even keep a decent physique I once worked so hard to maintain.

In the past few years, all of this has led me to become a total introvert, as I really don’t like being around people anymore, including even my partner sometimes, as I don’t feel like I have much to offer anyone. Maintaining talking points is a huge part of being an extrovert and I don’t feel like I have any of those right now.

Case in point, the number one question that always seems to arise when I’m in a social engagement is what I do for a living and boy do I not enjoy answering that question because it never leads to anything uplifting. Ditto the same sentiments if anyone should ask about my health when they see me nursing various parts of my sore body, because then any conversations I have next with them usually involves a gazillion suggestions where they try to fix me. That’s why I find the most peaceful existence these days is spending time by myself, hanging out in my yard, or down by the lake, or sitting right here working on a blog article, exposing my deepest vulnerabilities to the masses, but in an introverted way.

What’s interesting though is how quickly my old extroverted ways return, as last summer I experienced a four-day period where my health drastically improved and when it did, I found myself talking to everyone I came across and enjoying every minute of it. Unfortunately, any of those moments of noticeable health improvements haven’t lasted long. Instead, a repeated life of chronic pain and mental and emotional instability has led to an introverted existence and a relativity boring and not all too alluring personality to the general masses.

Don’t get me wrong though, I can be a very interesting person these days, especially when it comes to talking about spirituality, ascension, and the interconnectivity of all things in life, yet most people don’t want to talk about these things. Rather, people seem to like to talk more about are the very things that my life isn’t about anymore, like it once used to be. But, I’m ok with that. I’m actually ok with being more of an introvert than not nowadays.

That’s why I like working on my puzzles, coloring in my coloring book, watching my science fiction, fantasy and superhero TV shows, going to the movies, and writing my blogs all by myself, as I never have to sit in judgment by the world when I’m doing any of those things.

Regardless, I tend to believe my Higher Power always wanted me to experience this extended period of introversion solely for purposes of learning greater self-awareness and undergoing deep spiritual healing, two things of which were never able to occur in the busy, extroverted life I once lived. But I also tend to believe that my health will fully improve one day in this life and when it does, I’m inclined to feel as my therapist does in that my extroverted ways will return, except this time, I think they’ll be put to far greater use, on a Higher scale for God’s purposes, something of which I will gladly welcome with open arms…

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

What Is Body Dysmorphia And How It Affects Me…

There’s a condition that’s quite similar (and maybe even related) to hypochondria and it’s one that I and few others I know suffer from. It’s called Body Dysmorphia, or as doctors would refer to it, Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD).

In short, BDD is a mental illness involving an obsessive focus on a perceived flaw in appearance. The flaw(s) may be minor or imagined by the person dealing with this condition and they may spend multiple hours a day trying to fix it. Some may even resort to cosmetic procedures or exercise to excess to deal with it. And lastly, a few other common traits for individuals with this disorder is to frequently examine their appearance in a mirror, constantly comparing their own looks to that of another, and a tendency to avoid social situations or having their picture taken.

Currently it’s estimated that 1 out of every 50 people have this condition where treatment for them is generally through therapy and the use of medication like anti-depressants. While I’m currently using multiple visits a week to a therapist to handle this condition, I have continued to avoid the use of any medications due to the over-sensitivity I have to most drugs, i.e. terrible side effects. Instead, I have been utilizing holistic modalities to treat it. Unfortunately, that decision does have a consequence in that I have many-a-days where this disorder has gotten the best of me.

Here are a just some of the ways of what that looks like (when this condition may get the best of me):

  1. Seeing myself as overweight, especially in the love handle and belly button regions, even though I’m 6’5” and currently weight in around 172 pounds.
  2. Seeing pimples, aging spots, sun spots, and any type of skin blemish in general as grossly exaggerated, where I find myself doing whatever I can to remove them, often causing myself small wounds in the process.
  3. Nose appearing hugely out of proportion to the rest of my face, especially when I look at my side profile.
  4. Regularly heading into bathrooms wherever I am, solely to stare in the mirror, where I often find myself critiquing the way I look.
  5. Pushing myself to overexertion at times solely to keep an image up.
  6. Freaking out when anyone touches my face or neck usually because my brain thinks it will cause me to break out.
  7. Becoming overly anxious when an accident causes a wound to my face or neck.
  8. Seeing things on my skin that no one else sees and picking at them as a result.
  9. Asking people if they see certain things on me when it comes to my image.
  10. Frequently thinking and worrying throughout much of the day about what other people may be thinking of the things I don’t like in my appearance.

While many might think that the majority of these are the same as being self-obsessed, it’s really not. Individuals like me who deal with BDD usually feel more ashamed about our appearance, rather than loving and glorifying in it. In other words, it’s not a vanity thing, it’s a mental illness and honestly, it sucks for any of us who have to deal with it because it regularly robs us of ever being fully present wherever we are.

In light of that, I have been wondering a lot lately if this condition may have gotten passed on to me by my parents who too demonstrated some of its negative behaviors. I also remember my mother constantly putting pressure on me when it came to looks, like being forced to place medicated cremes and ointments on my face any time a pimple showed up on it. And now, living in a world where looks seem to be more important than anything, especially in the gay culture, makes my obsessiveness with this condition all the worse.

Nevertheless, BDD has been besting me more than not lately and caused me plenty of shame. I have been picking at my skin more than ever, some of which is also out of sheer frustration with where my life is at given all the health conditions I’ve been going through in recent years. Sometimes I think that if I was totally blemish free that my other health issues wouldn’t matter as much, but I know that’s just an illusion and part of what this condition wants me to believe.

A close friend of mine who also deals with this condition would probably agree with all the points I’ve raised so far when it comes to BDD. The only difference between them and I is that they finally opted to get on one of the medications used to treat this condition just recently. And while it has helped them curb much of those obsessive behaviors that come from this disorder, they’ve told me it’s also stunted much of their ability to feel, be compassionate, and creative, all of which I personally discovered myself any time I ever attempted to use them in the past to curb my own obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

So, instead, I do my best to pray every day, meditate, and seek more holistic ways to help with this disorder, but still struggle to be present more than not because the obsessive thinking and compulsive actions that often play themselves out throughout my days.

Do I believe that this will always be this way though? No. And I say that because I am working on some things in life that I feel have brought this condition to the surface more than ever before. You see, my identity as a human being, my worth, and my purpose are all a big question mark right now in life, given I am not able to work or bring in any type of income at the present time. Nor am I able to be the all-around athlete I once was in my free time. And with my sole worth for most of my life being based upon status, position, income, and personal abilities, I look at myself now and think the only thing that I may have left of worth is my looks, which is why I believe this condition has arisen so much in the past three years.

Regardless, I have faith in God that I am working through this and will find total healing from it, but I must continue to remember that disorders like BDD take time and patience to work through, require surrounding myself with unconditional loving support, and keeping myself busy in activities that don’t involve staring at myself in the mirror and critiquing all that I see…

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

Why Are People Relying More On Medications To Deal With Any Sort Of Ache Or Pain These Days?

I’m beginning to think that human beings are no longer wanting to feel any sort of ache or pain whatsoever and instead are starting to rely more and more on medications to either fix their life or keep it going in the direction they want without interruption.

Why I say that is simply from observation. Case in point, I spoke with a friend of mine recently, who’s also a primary care doctor. They told me that more and more people are coming in these days, seeking some sort of a medication to take care of even the slightest ache or pain and gave me an example of one patient who came in with their shoulder being slightly sore. When my doctor friend asked them how long they had been dealing with it, they said it had been less than a day and just didn’t want to deal with it anymore, when in reality, it healed itself in a few days’ time with just a little trust and a little rest.

So, if people really are moving more away from trusting in their body’s natural healing processes for aches and pains and instead are trusting more on a medication a doctor prescribes them to deal with them, why is this trend happening? Well, I have two ideas.

One, is that I believe people don’t have time to feel pain anymore and have become far more impatient nowadays. Schedules are crammed with one thing after another, hardly anyone seems to take time to be still, and the sayings “I’ve got places to see and things to do” and “Time is money” are more of a reality now than ever. The truth is our society is incredibly sped up more so these days than in days past when people took a lot more time to have rest and relaxation. Thus, in light of that, having to deal with any sort of ache or pain that might slow that hurried and busy pace down, even in the slightest, is contrary to what the ego has become accustomed to. Hence, medication becomes the solution to handle any of those aches and pains, even when those aches and pains may simply be the body’s way of telling someone they need to slow down a little and have some of that rest and relaxation.

My other notion as to why medication is being sought more and more these days for any sort of ache or pain deals with a principle that I’ve become quite adamant about. I don’t see a lot of individuals anymore wanting to face the things that are truly broken within themselves. What I mean by that is all the stuff that one has experienced in their lives that wasn’t pleasant. Things such as tragic deaths, war-time experiences, bad break-ups, abandonment, abuse, etc. I see it all the time at the local place I volunteer at once a week where I put on a recovery meeting for patients in crisis. There, I hear story after story that ranges from sexual abuse to PTSD from individuals who tell me they’re only there to get some sort of a medication to balance themselves out and aren’t really open to facing what actually may be causing their mental and emotional imbalances in the first place. Trust me I get it, who wants to feel pain like that. But, the reality is that there isn’t a single medication out there in this world that can keep any type of past trauma down. That type of painful energy always finds a way to resurface again and again until one finally chooses to walk through the fear by facing it head on. Sadly though, many would rather switch from medication to medication for the rest of their lives, constantly pushing those past painful experiences down, rather than work through them once and for all.

How I came up with these ideas as to why people are choosing medications for most aches and pains these days is because I’ve lived through both of them. I opted for medications years ago when I didn’t want my fast-paced life to slow down one bit. And I opted for medications as well when I didn’t want to face the pain from my traumatic childhood experiences or the tragic deaths of my parents. To my ego, it was just too painful, so I sided with it and the concept that God created doctors and medications to deal with these things.

Unfortunately, that choice hurt me in the long run, as eventually, it all caught up with me in a lot more aches and pains than I could ever have imagined and caused me to lose faith in my body’s natural ability to heal itself by instead relying more upon science and medicine. And that’s what I’m currently working on unravelling day in and day out for the past bunch of years. Trust me, it’s not fun facing all this at 45 years old. Yet, even through all the aches and pains I’m facing without any sort of medication, I still feel this is indeed what is for my Highest greatest good.

You see, I never wanted to feel much of anything up until only a short number of years ago and really just wanted to keep my life going at blazing speeds to achieve my own ego’s goals and desires. But I think the Universe had greater plans for me that involved the need for me to work through all those things I avoided for so long. And to do that called for the need to live on a path where I feel and face all those aches and pains, rather than trying to avoid them through one medication after another.

While I’m not opposed to taking medications when it truly becomes necessary, like if I was in an accident or had some type of medical emergency, I believe that my body is far more capable to fix the majority of my aches and pains than I used to give it credit. But I think it comes down to slowing down a lot more in life and working through all my past painful traumas head-on like I have been, instead of looking for some sort of a pill to be my daily miracle cure like I used to believe was necessary for survival in this world…

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

Why Talking About My Aches And Pains And Health Issues In Depth With Others Isn’t Helping Me…

I have come to the conclusion only recently that it’s not helping me on any level to talk about my aches and pains or my health issues in depth to anyone but God for one really important reason and that’s the negativity it seems to create in me and around me whenever I choose to share it with someone.

A good example of this occurred just over a week ago when I attended my bi-weekly spiritual men’s group. There I opted to share in depth about the extremely pain-filled day I was having and felt that maybe if I talked about it there a little, I might end up feeling better. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Instead, I started whining and complaining, coming off as if no one in that room had ever experienced anything as painful as what I’ve been going through. That in turn created a wave of suggestions coming my way from each of those in attendance, which in turn created a wave of defensiveness and complaining on my part given the number of things I’ve already tried over the years to heal myself with to no avail.

The fact is, I believe the best person to share in depth any of my health struggles with is God because if a piece of God lives within me, then God truly knows exactly what I’m feeling inside every single day. And knowing that has brought me more comfort than any of those times I’ve ever attempted to share in depth my health struggles with someone else. Because no one here on Earth really can or ever will understand the depth of my suffering because they aren’t living in my shoes and the same is true for all of us as well in respect to each other’s pains and sufferings of life.

Case in point, whenever I’ve had people share with me their own various levels of pain whether it was mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual in nature, I’ve often thought that their suffering didn’t seem that bad. Yet, that’s precisely the problem because in believing that, I become motivated to say something like “Just remember that there are people out there in far worse situations than you…” or I become motivated to offer my own suggestions on things they might consider doing to alleviate some of it. Unfortunately, both of these things only tend to create a level of defensiveness and negativity in the one who’s going through the pain and suffering.

Why this is can directly be related to the reality that we each have our own unique filters, wiring, up-bringing, etc. So, something that is not painful to me may be totally painful for someone else and vice versa. It’s unfortunate that this fact tends to be overlooked more than not, instead of simply doing the very thing a grief-stricken person usually needs the most, that being to receive only reassuring words of support and compassion. But sadly, most human beings aren’t hard-wired this way.

That’s why I feel it’s better opening up in depth to God about my pain and suffering rather than another human being these days because at least when I go to God in prayer, I can safely bawl my eyes out, bear my heart and soul in entirety, and be angry if I so choose, without having any of those human filters come back my way.

This is why I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s for the best I don’t go into depths anymore with anyone about my aches and pains and health issues. It isn’t helping me  because I know where it always leads to, that being to become consumed with negativity, which is something I definitely don’t want to spread or be filled with anymore in life. So, I’m going to work harder on praying more to God about my pain than sharing it in depth with others, because I can clearly see now how that’s a far more positive light-inducing path.

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

Have You Ever Felt An Emptiness Within You That Nothing Seems To Fill?

Have you ever felt an emptiness within you that nothing seems to fill? If you have, then you can probably relate to my words today and how I’ve been feeling for most of the past several months. I honestly feel like there’s this gaping hole within me that I can’t seal no matter what I do. Helping others, positive affirmations, healthy eating, meditation, spending time outside, artistic expression, prayer, reading uplifting materials, listening to spiritual music, you name it, I’ve tried it and yet I still feel this profound emptiness constantly gnawing at me inside. And for a recovering addict like me, that’s when things always start to get a little dangerous. Because prolonged feelings of emptiness have consistently led to me giving into some type of temptation in the past, that at least was able to numb that sensation for a short while.

Regardless, I do know what this emptiness stems from and is about. But let me first say this. I don’t believe it’s about something I’m not doing in life and need to be doing, or something I am doing in life and need to stop doing. Rather, it’s about something that has proven to be 100% out of my control to obtain and that alone has definitely been oh so frustrating.

So, what is it? What do I believe this emptiness is coming from?

THE LACK OF FEELING GOD’S PRESENCE WITHIN ME.

There, I said it and at least that weight is off my chest now. I’ve fought so hard to put a smile on my face when I’m out and about lately, especially when I’m engaged in recovery work. After all, who would want to pursue a life in recovery, seeking something Greater than themselves when the person they’re listening to is showing nothing but sorrow and despair all over their face.

But indeed, that’s truly how I feel inside, EVERY. SINGLE. DAY., where nothing I do, no matter how positive, how uplifting, and how driven I can be to get it ends up getting it. Instead, I’ve been left with this abysmal pit within me that is in stark contrast to how my best friend feels, the one who led me into a life of recovery and the one who guided me to seek a life filled with Christ.

He tells me that every day he wakes up feeling God’s presence bubbling up within himself and honestly, his smile, his words, and his actions all naturally demonstrate that. It exuberates out of him so much so that when you’re around him, you really do feel compelled to seek a closer relationship to God because of it. It’s the very reason why I sought a life of Christ and God again, after decades of giving into temptations to temporarily fill my emptiness.

Truthfully, I don’t know why I’m not feeling God’s presence right now, nor why I haven’t for as long as I have. I can only compare it to what Job or David described in the Bible in their respective chapters. Like them, I’ve felt God’s Grace before and lived for long periods being driven by such an amount of it, that no matter what pain I felt, I was always able to rise above it. Yet, that’s not what’s going on within me right now. Instead, it feels like I’m living in the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Some might say, like those church signs have often displayed, “If you’re feeling that far away from God, who moved?” The irony in that is that I haven’t moved. Not one bit. I’ve continued to do all the things I can to seek God. I have resisted all those temptations. I haven’t fallen back into addictions. And yet here I stand, feeling like God’s a million miles away and that’s precisely what my emptiness has been about.

I wish I knew how to feel God’s Grace right here, right now, as I type these very words. I wish I knew how to turn that switch on like it happened back in August over the course of an entire weekend, where one second I was feeling precisely like this and the next second I wasn’t anymore. For four days after that, I felt God’s presence exactly as my best friend describes and passed that on as much as I could while it lasted. But then it switched off again suddenly, as abruptly as it began, and for no specific reason.

So, that’s left me asking myself, what do you do when you’ve exhausted all avenues to fill that emptiness with God’s presence and are still left feeling empty?

Here’s my answer…

Stay the course.

As hard as it is.

And keep praying for the strength to not give up or give in to temptation.

So far, that’s helped me to keep going, to keep trusting, and to keep loving God, even as I continue to feel all this emptiness. Maybe this is what building faith is meant to be about? Who knows? What I do know is that I’d rather sit in this emptiness than fill it with something that will only cause more emptiness in the long run. Because in the end, I ultimately believe the only thing that will ever permanently fill it is God’s Grace…

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

Is It The Best Course In Life To Be Totally Honest And Forthcoming?

Is it the best course in life to be totally honest and forthcoming about one’s feelings and inner truths? I have traditionally felt it was until recently, when it seems as if me expressing myself as openly as I have, is only causing me and plenty of others greater distress.

I speak openly on my blog about the harmful addictive past I lived and do the same in recovery meetings, with friends over the phone, and everywhere else I go as well. In doing so, people have quite often misunderstood me and in turn, labeled me with plenty of their projections. This has frequently lead to me feeling as if I caused myself more drama by being so forthcoming.

In the process, I’ve become overly lonely and feel like an outcast in society, tending to feel lately that I’m still that little kid back in grammar school who was always the last to be picked in group events like in gym class.

People seem to like me from afar when they only know me a little and see me expressing those truths in meetings and such. Yet, when they get to know me better and see my total honesty up front and center, they are inclined to shy away from me and I end up being more alone than not.

I don’t have many close friends in life much in part because of my honesty. Yet, it keeps me asking the same question lately, do I keep this up?

Do I keep telling people about my life through the stories I go through, through what I’ve grown from and did? Do I keep myself in the firing line of people misunderstanding me and then projecting their own stuff back onto me, when I could just remain silent and say nothing?

Is my blog really helping anyone with all the honesty I put forth?

Is this writing even helping me being as honest as I am?

Is sharing my full truth even God’s will for me?

These are all the questions I ponder on most days as of late because back in the day when I wasn’t being honest and lived more in deception, it seems like I had way more friends and way less painful drama.

I’m not even sure what my purpose is in writing about this today, but in the spirit of all truthfulness, this isn’t even what I was going to post today, as I opted to scrap an entire 675-word article about something else that I felt would only cause me greater pain in publishing.

So, I’m at a crossroads right now in life that I know is being affected by the pain I keep having to go through, by the throngs of people who keep misunderstanding me seeing that I can’t seem to find a way to communicate to everyone successfully, and because no matter how hard I try to change my past and be a good, loving, Christ-centered person in the present, I feel like I keep failing and keep being judged that I’m more of a problem, than a helpful solution.

If you’ve ever felt like this in your life, then know I’m truly sorry for that, as it’s an extremely sad place to be in. I have great compassion for you, as living on this Earth in a life of truth and making ourselves completely vulnerable and open isn’t easy and probably never will be.

Nevertheless, I trudge ever onward, asking for forgiveness to those who have misunderstood me and taken my words in ways that I never intended. I’m not perfect and am flawed like I’m sure we all are in some way. But in the end, I know I can only keep on, keeping on, as my spiritual teacher once said, and hope that somehow my being as honest and forthcoming as I am about my life, is still doing what God wants me to be doing and is actually helping me and others as well…

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

Holiday Season Depression And Joy

It’s hard to believe it’s already the middle of November and the holiday season is now upon us. I feel like life is racing on by while I continue to wait as patiently as I can for guidance and direction from my Higher Power, a much healthier mind and body, and the one thing I desperately want more than anything in life, that being joy.

Some have suggested I might find all of that by just going and trying something new, but so far each of my attempts to do so haven’t had much success and instead only left me in even greater despair and pain. In the past few months I’ve become so exhausted with my life that I find myself struggling on most days to even do the bare necessities.

People would say that’s depression and while I may be experiencing that on some level, it’s only because of the intensity of what I keep having to deal with inside me. Because on the few days where that intensity has subsided even slightly, the depression completely lifts and that’s when I find joy automatically radiating from within.

Nevertheless, this time of the year is notorious for people getting depressed for all sorts of reasons. And seeing all the good cheer going on around those who aren’t feeling that at all makes it so very challenging to navigate through this season for them. I get that completely. I may have a partner who loves me dearly and a warm house to live in as I enter this holiday season and I may also have an abundance of food and water and the ability to go treat myself to a movie or dinner from time to time during it too. Yet the pain I deal with inside me robs me of truly enjoying any of it.

My faith is definitely being tested that’s for sure and I find myself continually asking lately, “God, are you there?” And I wonder if God has seen me crying as often as I have been, while I beg for help and answers. All of which of course is totally working against me being able to appreciate a season that is meant to be synonymous with joy.

Many Christians would say it’s a joy to follow Christ and that this time of the year is all about experiencing that because of the birth of Christ, yet I struggle to feel any of it because of that painful intensity going on within. I told this to a friend of mine recently who said I should just stop focusing on the pain and instead place my attention elsewhere. Trust me when I say I do my best in that, but even with my greatest attempts to do so, Christ’s joy continues to elude me.

If you don’t understand why, try doing the following exercise with someone close to you. Grab their arm with your hand and clamp down on it really, really, really tight, so tight it could actually leave a bruise behind if you did it too long. Now start having a conversation with them, make a joke, or do something that usually would get them to smile, and see what happens. Do they laugh and carry on the conversation with you, or are they just wanting you to stop hurting their arm? I would gather it’s the latter and that’s about on par with why I am not feeling joy hardly at all in my life as I enter another holiday season with that hand clamped down on my arm and everywhere else around my body as well.

I’m sure some may be wondering at this very moment as they read this, why I’m writing in such a depressing way today and why my writing has been more down than up lately. Ultimately, my writing has become an outlet to express my ongoing grief, especially as I enter the depths of yet another holiday season riddled in pain.

I may still have my faith and hope in God, a mustard seed at best right now, but I’m lacking the one thing I really want to have this holiday season, and that’s to experience true joy from within. True joy that’s not based upon receiving or giving some gift, or from any charitable act I do, or anything else that comes from an action outside of me. The joy I seek this holiday season is one I remember experiencing as a kid, one that fully emanated from within, and one that simply came from being alive and loving Christ.

So, that’s where I’m at as I enter this 2017 holiday season and if you happen to be someone who’s also going through something similar, please know I have great compassion for you as well. Know that whatever type of depression you are going through, albeit from health issues, being alone and single, penniless and broke, having family issues, experiencing abuse, or something else altogether, my heart grieves with each of you, as all of us wait upon our Higher Power for guidance, direction, and deliverance into a better place of joy, one that I know we all so desperately need and want in life.

I love all of you and thank everyone for the prayers of healing that are sent my way and to all others who are suffering during this holiday season. I do believe God hears each of them and I remain faithful and hopeful in God that they will be answered when they’re meant to and when they are, I eagerly await that life where I know will be filled with a lot more of Christ’s true joy…

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