Drug Addicts Lives Matter Too…

While much of the news in the world continues to be on the incredible amount of COVID deaths whose number sadly keeps on increasing (close to 5 million worldwide as of the time of me writing this), there’s another fatality rate rapidly rising as well, and that’s drug overdoses.

While nowhere close to the staggering tally of COVID deaths in such a short period of time, the amount of drug overdose deaths in our country has been increasing by 20 percent every year. Last year close to 100,000 Americans died from drug overdoses, which sadly, deaths like theirs often get overlooked. But, drug addicts lives do matter just as much as COVID lives matter.

Many tend to think that drug addicts are hopeless beings not worth the effort saving. I’ve even heard some say “good riddance” when the news has reported on another drug overdose death. What the news doesn’t tell you is how many times these deaths aren’t from chronic drug users. Many are just people who picked up some drug for the first time, like during this pandemic to cope with all the quarantining and isolation it has brought. And as drugs have been getting laced more and more with lord knows what these days, people are dying at rapid rates.

A few weeks ago, for example, a tainted drug shipment was seized in California of a close derivate of fentanyl, where each dose was discovered to be lethal. If it had been released into the US population, it would have killed close to 50 million individuals. Then there’s the sad statistic of a girl I met recently at a detox I volunteer at weekly in my area who told me that 47 of her graduating class of 84 people have already died from drug overdoses!

Some might say that her classmates’ deaths could have been prevented far more easily than COVID deaths. Being in recovery from the same addiction, when I was once deep in this disease, I had very little control if any at all over my substance abuse. My brain always made it feel like I had no choice but to keep on doing the addiction. When I was in that place, I couldn’t stop no matter how hard I tried. I also felt like I didn’t matter through most of it and many made sure to tell me that during that period, rather than ever offer me any love. The irony though is that what ended my life of addiction wasn’t me finding control over it, it was others loving me and reminding me I did matter.

Nevertheless, while vaccinating, mask wearing, and hopefully herd immunity will end this COVID pandemic at some point in the near future, the drug epidemic is only going to keep increasing so long as we keep on ignoring all the deaths coming from it. Since 1999, 1 million U.S. citizens have died from drug overdoses where each of those lives mattered. I do my part every week now to remind those struggling from this disease that they do matter to me and that I love them, as that truly was the only thing that helped me to ever find salvation from this disease.

At some point, the death toll from drug use is going to surpass that of COVID. One day it’s probably going to become front page news when some toxic batch of drugs gets released into the masses and kills in the tens of millions or more. I honestly wish we would all start placing more focus on helping those struggling with this disease, by providing the one vaccination drug users most need, which is one of love and light, something they are often devoid of. It will help make a huge difference in this drug epidemic, as I’m living proof of that.

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

“I’ve Got This!”

After 26 years of sobriety, working the 12 Steps several times, attending thousands of 12 Step meetings, sponsoring so many individuals, doing countless 12 Step speaking engagements, and volunteering my time in a multitude of other ways as well in the recovery world from addiction, the last thing you’ll hear ever coming from my mouth ever again is the line “I’ve got this!”

“I’ve got this!” is a line frequently spoken from far too many addicts of all varieties. It tends to emanate from their mouth once all the hell of their past relapse begins to wane and life starts feeling better again for them. While it may seem harmless to say such a thing, what most addicts fail to fathom is that the precise moment those words are coming from their mouth, is the very moment when their ego is leading them straight back into their next relapse.

So many addicts don’t understand that there is no graduation from addiction and 12 Step recovery. The work we do in our recovery from addiction can never end because this disease is always doing pushups in another room waiting for us to breathe life back into it. I learned that the hard way by saying “I’ve Got This!” back in 2009 once I completed the steps for the first time.

After saying “I’ve Got This!” I began calling my sponsor at the time much less. I began going to meetings much less as well. Ultimately, I slowly stopped being of 12 Step service to the suffering world of addicts. Within a very short period, I fell back into my old selfish and self-centered behaviors, the very behaviors that lead most addicts back into another relapse. For this addict, I became convinced that all the hard work I had put into my recovery from addiction in 2007-2009 was enough to take a break and finally enjoy the benefits of all my 12 Step labor. It was my ego’s way of saying “I deserve a break from all the time put into this 12 Step stuff!” But it was all that 12 Step stuff that was keeping me selfless, sane, and spiritually healthy. And the more I got away from it, the more toxic I became as I surrounded myself with unhealthy things once more. In 2009, I became deeply engaged in several adulterous relationships because of going down this path. They consumed me for almost three years until I attempted suicide in 2011. I came very close to picking alcohol and drugs back up during that time as well, of which I am convinced today that none of this would have ever happened if I had just stuck around the rooms of recovery and gotten honest with myself and those there. Now, every time I do a 12 Step speaking engagement at a detox, I always ask now how many people there have said “I’ve Got This” prior to arriving there. Generally, at least 75 percent or more of the hands present have raised.

Engaging in an addiction always comes from the ego believing it knows better. It doesn’t because it’s the ego that feels a break is needed from all the recovery work when that’s the last thing that should be done. Most never realize that it’s all that recovery work that’s keeping a recovering addict healthy. And as soon as the ego convinces a person a break is needed from 12 Step recovery work, it’s the very moment where one’s addiction starts coming back to life again, where those push-ups being done in another room start manifesting themselves in far worse ways.

While doing all my 12 Step recovery work at times can be frustrating, exhausting, and tedious, it is something I have committed myself to stick to the rest of this life because I know ultimately where it took me the last time I mouthed those words, “I’ve Got This!” and that’s a road I pray I’ll never travel again…

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

When Meeting A Famous Person Reminded Me What My Addiction Took Away…

I’ve only met a few famous people in my life. Probably the most famous of which was Bill Clinton when he was President, which only happened because I’d been on a date with someone who worked for NPR that had gotten me onto the White House grounds, where there I had gotten to greet Clinton once he had exited his helicopter. That being said, I had another “famous-sighting” recently when I was in Columbus, Ohio that got me thinking about where my life would have taken me if I hadn’t followed the addiction-path I did.

Before I say who that famous person was, it’s important to note that quite often in the rooms of 12 Step recovery, you’ll hear stories from people who once had the chance to become famous in something, many of which often seem to be sports-based. But, due to falling into their addiction, each had lost that path. For me, that was with swimming, which all came back front and center when I recently met Tokyo Olympics Gold-Medalist swimmer Hunter Armstrong at his job at the Chocolate Café in Columbus, on a fun day-trip to the area.

Armstrong, a junior at Ohio State University, had just returned from Tokyo, fresh off his biggest achievement in life thus far, getting a gold in the 400 Medley Relay. I spent a good 15 minutes talking with him about my former love of the sport. He had just begun his journey with it and let me know his goal was to qualify for at least the next two summer Olympics and possibly even a third. I can honestly say I felt a twinge of sadness after talking with him because I had once been on the same path as he, that is until I became more interested in hanging out with someone I was attracted to at the age of 17, who told me swimming was for losers. And it would be this individual who’d also introduce me to the power of alcohol not too long after I left the sport due to their comment, a sport I felt I was essentially born into.

Here’s a little history for you when it comes to my former love of swimming. My parents had me in the water swimming competitively starting at the age of 5. By the age of 8, I had already conquered my first big feat in the sport by swimming over 120 laps in a marathon-type of benefit! I was swimming miles and miles a day by the age of 12, and had a wall of medals, trophies, and ribbons to show for it. During the summers, I’d either be participating on some private swim team or was in a swim camp improving my strokes. In case you’re wondering, 50 or 100 Back or Freestyle were my two favorite strokes in the sport. By the time I reached the age of 17, I could swim 2 ½ lengths underwater with the lung capacity I had, was a varsity swimmer on my high school team, and had the tendency to win more than lose in the events I was in. Most likely, I would have been captain in my senior year and would had received scholarships to several colleges with the sport. But, what I did instead would be to leave the sport I loved because of addiction, a sport I really never have returned to ever since.

Hearing stories like this in the rooms of recovery is truly one of the saddest parts of becoming an addict. The things one gives up after becoming heavily engaged in an addiction is incredible. How many former athletes I’ve met who could have turned pro if they hadn’t discovered a love for things like alcohol and drugs is countless. Who knows where my path would have gone if I had remained on my swim team in my senior year of high school? Could I have eventually made the Olympics? I’ll never know of course. What I do know is that I’m thankful for people like Hunter who have dedicated their lives to a sport they’re good at and have a sincere passion to put it first in their lives rather than some toxic addiction.

So, while I may never know where my life would have gone if I had stayed in the water all those years ago and continued to work on a sport I was pretty dam good at, I’m blessed to have made it out alive from an addiction that not only took me away from what I was good at, but almost took me out from this life as well…

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