“When The Pain Becomes Great Enough…”

It’s easy to say when one is hurting and, in a jail, or a detox, due to alcohol or drugs or some other addiction, that they’re ready to do whatever it takes to get sober. Why? Because in places like these the pain always feels great enough to say things like that. But what happens when they’re no longer in that jail or no longer in that detox? Sadly, most don’t tend to feel that way anymore.

Week in and week out I meet so many during my commitments at a local jail and a local detox where I hear plenty of sad stories with addiction at their source. Stories of burglaries. Stories of domestic violence. Stories of being homeless. Stories of getting abused. Stories of illness. Stories of abandonment. Stories of loss of kids. So many sad stories!!! Yet, I can’t count the number of times I’ve given my number out at these commitments to people with these sad stories where they look me straight in the eyes and tell me they’re going to get it right this time once they get released. I’ve even had a rare few go so far as to call me as soon as they do get released to make plans to get together with me, but save the rare exception or two, none have ever followed through. Why?

Because the pain wasn’t great enough…

At the source of ALL who find recovery from ALL forms of addiction is one common denominator. That their pain became great enough to do whatever it took to get sober and find a healthy path of recovery. Being in a jail or detox though, while the pain there might be great enough initially, especially in those depressing environments, the sad reality is that once they walk out those doors and are free to do whatever they wish, the idea of going to a 12 Step meeting, or sitting down with a potential sponsor like me, or going into some type of recovery program doesn’t usually seem all that alluring.

Rather, the addict brain tends to take over, pushing them straight back into their addiction, and quite frequently within the first few hours of release at that!!! I often believe that any human in some form of captivity will say just about anything to free themselves from being in an unwanted environment. But with freedom also comes the harshness of the world where the addict brain says I don’t want to experience that harshness, which is precisely what leads straight back into their world of addiction.

Over and over this pattern will continue where I’ve seen people go from the streets to detoxes and back to the streets and back to the detoxes and maybe throw in a few jail sentences in between, never once getting more than a few days sober here and there, until finally, one day, something big happens, something usually pretty tragic, that finally shakes them up enough, to do what it takes, and that’s exactly when the pain becomes great enough for them to do the work to get sober once and for all.

My pain became great enough the first time around when I was drinking and drugging so much that I wasn’t drawing any sober breaths anymore, all because I was covering up my sexuality and didn’t want to be gay. My pain became great enough a second time around at a much deeper level when I lost a seven-year relationship and realized money had become my addiction, yet it wasn’t fixing my problems anymore. And finally, my pain became great enough a third and final time around at such a deep level because I had let sex and love addiction behaviors corrupt my soul.

I don’t want my pain to become great enough a fourth time around, because I’m not sure I could survive that type of pain or even find my way back into my 12 Step recovery again. That’s why I do as much as I do in the world of recovery now and it’s why I’ll keep on telling my story at those jail commitments and those detox commitments. Because there, I know I’m planting seeds of recovery for God, where one day, when the pain becomes great enough, those seeds will sprout, leading them into the rooms of recovery, hopefully once and for all.

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

Is Alcoholics Anonymous The Only Path To Recovery From Addiction?

Lately, I keep getting asked if Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the only path to recovery from alcohol and drug addiction. While AA has been the best solution to my former life of addictions, I honestly believe there are many other paths to recovery, just as much as I believe there are many paths to God.

I’ve frequently inquired those who’ve said AA didn’t work for them on why it didn’t. The answer has usually been the AA meetings are too boring, they’ve tried it before and it didn’t work, the meetings trigger them too much, or they don’t feel comfortable talking about the drug part of their addiction lives there. While my ego often wants to judge those answers, I know I can’t because I’ve experienced each of them at some point on my own journey to recovery from addiction. The fact is, AA may not be for everyone, but there are tons of other paths to follow to establish a life of recovery from addiction. Some are 12-Step based, some are spiritual-based and some are religious-based. And I mustn’t forget those who simply choose paths of recovery by devoting themselves to more selfless existences where volunteering at places of need become the center of their lives.

While I can only speak to how AA has successfully worked for me, I have personally met others where AA didn’t work, yet another program did. I had one sponsee once who just couldn’t put any length of time together of sobriety under my 12-Step AA guidance, but eventually they found a program called “Racing for Recovery” that totally changed their life. Now, they have several years of sobriety under their belt and a very strong program of recovery.

One of the places I find the most resistance to the AA 12-Step way of life lately is when I bring an AA meeting to the Toledo jail on Monday nights. Most of the guys there have suffered more from drug addiction than alcohol. While I’m actually supposed to be there only representing AA, I have chosen to open the meeting up to talk about any and all addictions, as well as any and all paths to recovery. Because frankly, what’s more important to me is helping every individual find the most suited path of recovery from addiction for them.

There were many years that I tried countless other paths of recovery. I tried other 12-Step programs like Narcotics Anonymous (NA). I tried immersing myself in meditation retreats and long hours of meditation sessions. I tried one religious path that included becoming a Deacon. And I tried another that involved chanting long hours of the day. None of them worked in the long run unfortunately, or maybe I should say fortunately, because it’s what ultimately led me to try AA. Today I attend two 12-Step programs, AA and SLAA. Each has kept me sober, balanced, and focused on recovery from two very former difficult addictions.

All in all, I really don’t think it’s for me to say what the best path is for recovery for anyone. I think that can only come by doing what I did, which is exploring ones that are suggested to finally find the one that works. I have to say though that if someone does not find any path of recovery from addiction after trying a good number of options out there, there’s a good chance they just haven’t found enough willingness yet to do the work necessary to be on ANY PATH to recovery.

And of course, there will always be those who say that remaining clean and sober is enough, but as Bill Wilson, the founder of AA once said, alcohol is but a symptom of a greater problem, which is precisely why I’m glad I finally found my own path of recovery, because I’m far healthier today than when I was a dry drunk and addict following no path of recovery.

The bottom line is that while AA may not be for everyone on the journey to recovery from addiction, I believe it’s crucial to find at least one path of recovery, because remaining clean and sober and doing nothing else usually only leaves a person as sick as they were when they were active in their addiction, or quite possibly even worse…

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

Everyone Has The Capability Of Becoming An Addict And Yes I Mean Everyone…

I’m thoroughly convinced that every single person on this planet is capable of falling into some sort of addiction in their lifetime. Now hear me out before you say that’s totally preposterous.

Several times a semester I meet with a set of nursing students from the University of Toledo to provide them some alcohol and drug education by sharing my story of how I became both an alcoholic and addict and how I eventually found recovery. For every one of the classes I meet with, I always begin by asking each of them to introduce themselves, to tell me where they’re from, what they want to do with their nursing degree, and whether they’ve dealt with addiction with themselves or someone close to them. In most cases, every one of them has consistently known someone that has dealt with addiction issues, usually to alcohol or drugs, and sometimes to a few of the other big addictions out there like gambling. But no one has ever outright come out and said they themselves have engaged in any type of addiction. Yet, when I’ve asked if any woman in the room has ever gone out multiple times and bought a ton of clothes or shoes, got excited over it, and then regretted it later, almost every hand shot up. For the guys in the room, the same principle has constantly held true with playing video games for hours and hours and hours on end, just to achieve the passing of some level or completing a game entirely. The same has also proven true with students eating whole bags of chips, large boxes of chocolates, cartons of ice cream, numbers of energy drinks, and more, where each felt great while doing it, and then crappy afterward. What most of them didn’t realize is that addiction begins by relying upon things like that to feel better. Going shopping and buying a bunch of clothes is a great therapeutic tool to feel good about oneself for a moment in time. But does it truly make a person feel better from within in the long run. Not at all. The same holds true for solving that video game or overeating anything. In the moment, it might feel great when doing it, but then afterward, there’s always the crash, a letdown, and a new craving in the mind to find something else as a pick-me-upper.

My addiction life started on these very paths, buying things to make myself feel better, spending countless hours playing video games on my old Super Nintendo, shooting hoops for hours and hours until I felt sick to my stomach, etc., all of which were avoidance techniques to dealing with the reality that I wasn’t very happy inside with my life. Each were initially things I engaged in to numb myself from the madness I had going on around me like my alcoholic parents or being attracted to men or being molested, and so on. For the most part, they were harmless at first, until they weren’t enough to numb me from my reality of life anymore, and that’s the very moment I discovered my love of alcohol, and then drugs, and then sex, and then relationships, and then gambling, and well you get the point.

What’s funny about the point I’m trying to prove here is that 90% of the population in our country is already addicted to one specific thing and many don’t even realize it. What’s it to? Caffeine. True statistic, look it up if you don’t believe me!

But, while over-caffeinating or over-shopping or overeating or over playing video games here and there is most likely not going to destroy one’s life or become a severe addiction, the point I’m making is that each are precursors that can turn into bigger addictions. All it takes is for everything to turn upside down in one’s life, like getting fired from a job, losing a loving long-term relationship, developing a chronic health issue that’s painful, getting abused, or experiencing a major financial crisis, to name a few. It’s when those types of things happen where relying upon something to feel better such as over-shopping for dresses and shoes, can start turning into something far worse. It’s precisely when addiction often finds an icy grip in the mind and body of the now suffering human being and starts planting a seed by saying, “If you do this right now, you’ll feel a whole lot better, and won’t have to feel this pain anymore.” And you know what? Every single human being has the capability of listening to that voice and believing its lie and when they do, it’s exactly when a person who says they’ve never dealt with addiction suddenly becomes someone who is.

Never tell yourself that you aren’t and won’t ever become an addict, because deep down in all of us is the capability to become an addict of some sort. I’m just thankful I see that so clearly now, so that another addiction doesn’t get the chance to take hold of my life again like it used to…

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