How The Rising Cost Of Gas And Ongoing Health Issues Led To A Change In My 12 Step Sponsorship Of Others…

While I am a firm believer in the absolute importance of sponsoring others through the 12 Steps in either of the 12 Step recovery programs I attend, I decided recently to change how I plan to keep doing this invaluable recovery tool, mostly due to the stress it’s now placing upon my overall health, especially due to the rapidly rising cost of gas.

First off, I am unemployed and don’t have an income. When gas was a mere few dollars a gallon, I could easily go meet a newcomer where it cost me next to nothing to do so. But with gas now rising over $5 a gallon, it’s taking a toll upon my mental and emotional health, specifically when I drive some 20 to 30 miles away to meet a newcomer who doesn’t show up, or who does, but creates a lot more stress upon my life than leaving a healthy impact, like someone recently I had just begun to help, who got in my car and immediately started vaping and drinking an energy drink as soon as they sat down!

Look, sponsorship is meant to be a positive recovery tool for both the sponsor and the sponsee. But lately, I’m finding it far more draining because many of the newcomers I’ve tried to help don’t seem to want to do the hard work that comes in doing the 12 Step process, which has left me feeling more drained than not after meeting with them, where I’ve wished I had remained home doing what I was doing, saving myself the hassle of several hours of my time and $15 in expenses. Add in the number of relapses I’m seeing now, especially since the pandemic came upon us, where many sponsees have remained non-committal with the work, never making it past the 1st or 2nd step, continuing to sponsor others in the way I have has been weighing heavily upon me.

On the contrary, sponsorship continues to remain a positive experience for me with sponsees who have been attending meetings and remaining sober for a long period of time. I’ve had the opportunity in recent years to sponsor several who had been clean and sober for many years, who just hadn’t done the steps yet. Sponsoring each of them was rewarding, as they remained fully committed throughout the entire 12 Step process, which is why I’ve decided to only sponsor those now who have been clean and sober and attending recovery meetings for a good length of time. The fact is, sponsoring others should never cause a greater imbalance to one’s own sobriety and recovery, nor hurt one’s overall health, like it has been for me recently.

I am worn out from trying to work with one newcomer after another who regularly are manipulative, selfish, lacking accountability and integrity, and frequently laying guilt-trips upon my doorstep. It’s sad to say that the rising cost of gas and my ongoing health issues have led to me not being able to handle this. But I need to take care of myself just as much as I know it’s important to help others in my 12 Step recovery. There is a fine balance with it. I simply choose now to work with those who have remained committed to being clean and sober, who have been practicing the 1st step without relapsing for some time. Because helping them continues to rejuvenate my love for sponsorship and 12 Step recovery work and improve my overall health…something that unfortunately hasn’t been true for the many newcomers I’ve tried to help, who simply just don’t want sobriety and recovery bad enough yet…

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

A 50th Birthday Addiction Temptation From The Past…

Over the last several weeks, I’ve mostly wrote about things related to turning 50, something I celebrated on June 11th. Today, I wanted to continue in that line of discussion in reference to my 12 Step recovery work, as on my 50th birthday, something happened connecting me to an addiction temptation from the past, triggering me into some old addictive thinking.

First, and foremost, there always seems to be a discussion going on in the 12 Step recovery community of whether a person is fully recovered from their former addiction or someone who’s consistently recovering. I’ve made the mistake of getting into this debate with others and it tends to go nowhere. I think what matters is how each sober individual sees themselves, which in my case is a person still recovering from their disease and always will be. Why I say this is because every time I’ve assumed I was fully recovered from my life of addiction, I’ve relapsed into yet another one. And with what I’m about to say happened on my 50th birthday, assuming I was a fully recovered individual could have led to a very bad result.

That being said, whenever my birthday rolls around, I typically thank every person who wishes me a happy birthday in the way they reached out, whether that’s by phone, text, or on social media. My feeling is that if someone can take the time to send me a birthday wish, it’s important to thank them back, to show my gratitude. So, on my 50th, as I was in the midst of doing that very thing on my social media, I was appalled when I saw I had received a birthday wish from the very person I had a deeply adulterous relationship with over ten years ago that eventually drove me into 12 Step recovery for sex and love addicts. It was this relationship that led to my health falling apart and much of my financial ruin.

Frankly, I was shocked after I saw this person had reached out because we weren’t connected on Facebook. But, for them to reach out on a special day where I was also going through tremendous physical pain and mental anguish, I thought it was rather apropos because I’ve found addiction tempts me the most when I’m at my lowest. In this case, after seeing their birthday wish, my former disease immediately said, “Oh, it’s just a thank you I’m sending back, it’s not that big of a deal.” Thankfully though, I have a lot more of God guiding me than me guiding me because of my 12 Step recovery, as I quickly came to my senses and deleted the message and blocked them from communicating again. Ironically, thirty minutes later, temptation struck again, as this same individual had used a second Facebook account and sent me a second birthday wish, to which I just as quickly deleted and blocked as well.

Here’s the reality, while the birthday wish itself may have been sincere in nature, would it have been healthy to respond to? Here’s a good way to answer that. Would it be a good thing for a recovering alcoholic to connect one afternoon with former drinking buddies still doing the same heavy drinking, or a drug addict choosing to hang with a former dealer for a night, or a gambling addict opting to go grab breakfast one Sunday morning at a local casino? The answer to all three is no, it wouldn’t be a good thing. Because, as the old saying goes, you hang in a barbershop long enough, you’ll eventually get a haircut. Even opening the door ever so slightly to this former individual I had once toxically loved, by responding with a brief thank you, gives my old addiction a chance to come back. Essentially, it’s breathing life back into it in that action itself.

In the end, seeing this individual briefly return to my life via two Facebook birthday wishes made me clearly remember why I went into the SLAA program in the first place. Thankfully, my 12 Step recovery and my relationship with God helped me to resist a 50th birthday addiction temptation from the past to someone that at best, once loved me at best as a sexual outlet for their frustration in life, and at worst, with abuse I never want to experience again in this life…

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

The Joy And Sorrow of Watching The Top Gun Sequel…

Watching the new Top Gun sequel (Top Gun: Maverick) recently in the theater (which was excellent by the way) and hearing that old “Danger Zone” song thump through the theater’s sound system, I was immediately transported temporarily back in time to 1986 when the original was released.

May of 1986 to be precise, I was 13 years old and a lover of movies already in life. My parents were still alive and hadn’t fully descended into their crazy drama yet. I also hadn’t picked up any addiction yet, nor had I been molested yet either. Honestly, my only real concern back then was how alone I felt in life, as I was generally friend-less back then. That’s why I loved movies so much, as they helped me forget about that for the few hours I’d sit in those dark theaters and stare at the screen in awe.

I’m quite sure there’s a young naïve teenager somewhere in this world who also found themselves staring at the screen in awe watching the now 60-year-old Tom Cruise playing Maverick once again and aspiring to become something greater in life once the credits rolled at the end. That’s precisely how I felt back in May of 1986 when I was also a young naïve kid who simply loved to watch movies, swim in the pool, hike in nature, and hoped to become something greater in life eventually. Sadly, all the PTSD I’d endure and all the detours I’d take with one addiction after another and one unhealthy relationship after another, would derail all of it.

Having endured what I have since the original Top Gun, I often find myself asking others if they could go back in time while retaining their memories to have a chance to do it all over again, would they? Most say no, yet I consistently say yes, as I struggle with acceptance of where my life is now. I frequently think that maybe if I just had another chance, I could do things differently and achieve those dreams I once had as that naïve young kid. Unfortunately, time travel doesn’t exist nor do I have the youthful exuberance anymore. Yet what I do have is God at my helm and much wisdom gained from the many hard lessons I learned since that original Top Gun.

While I am thankful for all these hard lessons and life experiences I’ve gained, watching the Top Gun sequel really did make me miss where I was at in life in May of 1986. It made me miss the innocence I had then, the amazing health I carried then, the vitality I used to exude then, and the excitement I used to have then just to be alive. It’s precisely why I experienced both joy and sorrow while watching the Top Gun sequel. Joy for how much movies continue to be a wonderful escape where I’m able to forget about all the stressors of my life for a few hours and immerse myself in something amazing, but sorrow for remembering the three decades that came after the original Top Gun, decades that had me drifting far from God and far from being true to myself.

Whether another Top Gun sequel will ever be made again I don’t know. If one is though, I pray that the only feeling I have when watching it will be that of joy. Joy for my love of movies and joy for how far I’ve come in life by then. Rather than feeling sorrow, sorrow for all the choices I once made that led me into a life without God, a life of addictions, a life of detours, and a life of many dead-ends, things I won’t need to ever experience again, so long as I remain in recovery, trusting God to keep leading my way…

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

What A Mid-Life Crisis And Acceptance Of Life On Life’s Terms Have In Common…

I have occasionally met people in this life who seem to be truly accepting of every part of themselves. They accept themselves so deeply that whatever their “conditions” of life are, they don’t let it faze them. They accept life on life’s terms so gracefully that they can move through life with far more peace. As I am about to turn 50, I feel like the mid-life crisis I’m having is all about a recovering addict’s last stand of truly letting go of control and finally accepting life on life’s terms.

Why I say this is because something so simple and unaffecting to another continues to affect me greatly. Take for example me coming home late one evening recently, after having left earlier in the day to my extremely well-groomed yard and swept-clean driveway, only to see a gazillion whirlybirds from all the maple trees surrounding my home covering it all. Immediately, my OCD kicks in. My mind quickly races ahead to all the work that will be required to clean it up, including whether my partner will even help me with any of it. I spin out of control in the process and feel a total lack of control. Instead, my lack of acceptance becomes quite apparent and creates the exact opposite of peace within me. I then enter my home feeling charged, where having acceptance of life on life’s terms would have another individual entering their home without having given any of those whirlybirds even the slightest bit of negative thought.

The idea I’m turning 50 in a few weeks has really shed light on a part of my recovery from addiction. I still worry far too much in life because of my lack of acceptance with living life on life’s terms, and I lose an insatiable amount of peace in life because of it. I don’t want to spend what life I have left beyond 50 being like this. Yet, I haven’t been successful moving beyond it either. Maybe that’s because I frequently find myself thinking more about what it really means to accept life on life’s terms than just doing it? Instead of just doing it, I mind screw myself by constantly asking questions like, “Does me accepting this mean it’s always going to be this way?” or “Will me accepting this lead to feeling some sense of loss somehow?” or “Is me accepting this simply giving up in life?”

Being raised in the dysfunctional addicted family I was created this pattern that became the exact opposite of accepting life on life’s terms. And becoming the addict I became in life for as long as I was only made that worse. I spent decades not accepting life on life’s terms and instead striving for this, and striving for that, fighting for this, and fighting for that, believing I deserved this, and believing that I deserved that, all for what? It’s done nothing for me in life but stress me out immensely, which in turn has only stressed out everyone that has grown close to me. It’s affected my partner deeply at times, and my closest of friends as well. All because I never truly learned how to just accept life on life’s terms.

Turning 50, what I desire the most for the rest of what life I have ahead is to learn how to fully accept life on life’s terms. I want to be able to look at things like whirlybirds falling everywhere in my yard and driveway and not be bothered by them at all, instead having a sense of peace surrounding it, a peace that can only come from having acceptance.

Acceptance is such the foreign thing for many-an-addict, especially for those who come from addict-based families, as addicts in general tend to try to control everything rather than accept them as is. Finding recovery from addiction is about a lot of things, but one very important one is learning how to accept life on life’s terms, instead of always trying to control life. I’ve been in recovery long enough now to realize it’s the one area I could still use improvement in. I really just want to let go of whatever control I think I still need and instead leave it in God’s hands.

So, I pray God helps me find this as I turn 50. I pray God helps me move beyond this mid-life crisis, a crisis of my own making, one that’s very much due to my lack of acceptance of life on life’s terms, and directly based upon me not feeling in control. Because letting go of that control and accepting life on life’s terms will actually allow me to see something like whirlybirds falling from the sky as a gift of creation and a beauty of nature, and not solely as another angst in life…

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

When There No Longer Is Any Hidden Agenda To Doing Nice Things For Others…

My partner Chris and I got into an argument recently about the amount of time and effort I’ve been placing into maintaining a neighbor’s yard. I’ve been cutting, edging, weeding, and keeping up their yard care for well over a year and a half now simply because I care about what they’ve been going through and the struggles they’ve been facing in life. While many might question my motivation, thinking I have some hidden agenda, let me be clear in saying my only motive is to help another out of the kindness of my heart.

I frequently tell Chris that I do a lot for others these days because it makes me feel better in knowing I’m giving back now to a world that I once took so much from. Frankly, I’m trying to reverse my past where the addict I once was did far more in taking what it could out of people, places, and things, then in contributing something from my heart.

Sadly, active addicts are generally like that. They just take and take and take and take until the person they’re taking from becomes fully depleted and has nothing more to give, and that’s when the addict moves on to the next victim. I once was that addict, one who took so much from so many people. I don’t want to be that addict anymore, so I give back now and do things like taking care of a neighbor’s yard who’s struggling in life in many ways. My true motivation is merely to let them know someone cares about what they’re going through, and this is just one of those ways I show that.

I always tell Chris and others that I believe our Higher Power, whom I choose to refer to as God, sees the selfless things we do and occasionally gives us a little wink that says, “Hey, good job, I’m so proud of you.” I got one of those reminders the other day when I awoke late one morning and headed out to my mailbox to get the day’s mail. Within it was a card from this neighbor sincerely thanking me for all the yard work I’ve done for them and how appreciative they’ve been. When I saw they had also placed a $50 bill within it, I was immediately moved to tears because it’s something I didn’t ask for nor expect and felt it was one of those winks from God.

Nevertheless, I see the 12th Step of recovery as one that’s all about giving back. While its intention is more geared for helping another suffering addict once recovery is gained, I take it a step further by giving back to the world in as many ways as I can, including actions like me taking care of a neighbor’s yard. That’s a stark contrast from my old addict self who wouldn’t take care of anything for anyone else, unless I was going to regularly get something back. While I felt blessed to have received this gift from my neighbor, the fact remains I will continue doing the yard work for them, not for any future kickbacks, but simply because it’s in my spiritual makeup now to be there more for another than myself.

I hope to spend the rest of my life doing the best I can to keep helping others in this world know they do matter by continuing to do things just like this, by dedicating my time, my energy, and my love in a way that in the end will hopefully reverse the long stream of negative karma and selfish acts I lived in for so long when I was stuck in addiction. To wake up today and ask the God of my understanding how I may be of service to Him today, rather than wake up and ask myself who’s going to please me today, is the best gift that recovery from addiction has given me, one that continues placing myself more second than first in a world that was once quite the opposite…

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

Are We Moving Farther And Farther Away From Having Healthy Communication With Each Other?

One of the things I think I’m probably most concerned about with the direction our society is heading in, is the growing disconnection we seem to have with each other, especially when it comes to much of the new generations in life where the strongest form of “healthy” communication seems to be in texting.

I’ve been reading about how addictions are massively on the rise in our culture, especially since the pandemic first came upon us, and I tend to believe much of that is due to our present forms of “healthy” communication. Because the forms we are using now are really less about communicating and more about avoidance. How many times I’ve called people in recent years who’ve had voicemails that are full, I’ve lost count. I spoke to a college student last week here locally who told me they never listen to their voicemail and tend to leave it full. Most of their generation say the best way to reach them to communicate is via text.

People want to know why depression and suicide attempts continue to increase every year. This is why. Human beings weren’t born to simply immerse themselves in text messages, social media and the like. While one may have tons of friends or followers on their social media, that doesn’t translate to having healthy communication and connection. Isn’t having healthy communication and connection more about one person meeting another for a coffee or meal, or maybe taking a stroll through a local park with each other, to talk about life, and show  how much they matter to each other.

Many addicts have also been relapsing into old addictions in the past few years while others began a path of addiction, all because the pandemic moved them further away from having healthy communication due to quarantine and isolation. While video chats helped to alleviate some of the loneliness, it wasn’t enough for some who chose addictions to cope with the lack of real human connection.

Nevertheless, I miss those days when people actually had healthy communication with each other on buses, in stores, at restaurants, in public places, amongst strangers even. Today, not so much. Today, all it takes is a quick look around in public where you’ll see so many blankly staring into their phones rather than at the people they’re spending time with. Believe me, I’ve fallen into this pattern at times as well all because of the fear of missing out on something. But this is one of the main reasons why our world keeps digressing more and more from healthy communication.

Healthy communication is about being there for each other, learning about each other, supporting each other, making eye contact, and showing in those moments, that one doesn’t have to be alone in a world that these days seems so easy to feel alone.

So, the next time you find yourself feeling disconnected, alone, or isolated in this world, try reaching out to a friend over the phone, or better yet, meet one in person and be fully present with them, rather than immersed in whatever forms of the digital realm you carry with you. Because it’s in those moments you dedicate to another human soul, that often become the very thing that not only will help you feel less alone in this world, but also help another feel less alone as well, especially someone like me who has always felt more overlooked in society than embraced. I treasure real human interaction and thank all those who continue to call me or meet me in person. It’s each of you who have demonstrated healthy communication and reminded me I do matter in a world I often feel like I don’t…

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

The Time When I Saw A Proud Mother And Father With Their Son During My 30th Fraternity Alumni Reunion…

Recently, I returned to my alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), for my 30th alumni reunion of my fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi. In a few days I’ll be sharing my gratitude from that, but today I wanted to reflect on something I saw on campus while there, which was a proud mother and father walking along with their son, who was beaming from their praise.

I’ve often wished I had parents like that. Parents who looked at their son in that way more than not. When I first got dropped off at college at the beginning of my freshman year, I clearly remember my mother being the only one there. My father had walked out a few months prior, just before my high school graduation. They were amid a very long and drawn-out divorce process that would go on for several more years. Reflecting on this 30 years later after seeing the image of those parents glowing over their son, and their son who will probably always remember that moment with fond memories of his parents love for him, a wave of sadness overcame me and I began to cry.

Many of the people in 12 Step recovery have shared experiences like this. Quite a number of them fell into their addictions because they were raised in families were unconditional love was rarely, if ever, present. Many often struggle to recollect moments were either of their parents ever beamed over them. Rather, their memories are more of all the times they were feeling alone, unloved, abandoned, and seeking something to fill that pit of despair.

That pit of despair is what I felt when I saw that boy with his parents. A pit that may always be there on some level any time I see parents doting over their kids. I try to make up for that pit today by telling myself how proud I am of how far I’ve come in life and how many achievements I’ve made. I also do my best now to be a parental figure to those I help in the recovery realm, letting them know how proud of them I am as well with the work they do to change their lives for the better. Addicts tend to have a very difficult time feeling like they even matter in this world and overcoming that pit can take a long time, something that I still battle with from time to time to this very day, especially when I see parental figures showing their kid so much unconditional love.

While I was so proud of those parents and happy for their son, it truly was a bittersweet moment for me. In all honestly, I never walked for my graduation from RIT because I didn’t think my parents would show up together for the sake of me going through a special day, so I bypassed it altogether having my diploma mailed to me. But, there are still days that I do miss my mother and father, just not the mother and father that died tragically from their own additions and mental health issues. The parents I miss in those moments when I see loving parents with their kids comes from a time far earlier in my life, far before all the family drama unfolded, and far before I was ever thrusted into any courtroom battle over family finances and the like. It took me working my 12 Step recovery for years before any of those happy memories returned, all because I had held onto anger and resentment over my parents during my addiction years, as that was far easier to protect my hurting heart.

So, when I see proud and loving parents these days with their children like I did at RIT during my 30th alumni reunion, I can thank my 12 Step recovery work for helping me to remember something as simple as me playing a game of miniature golf when I was in single digits, where I just sunk a hole in one, and my parents cheered for me, beaming from ear to ear.

It’s those moments that have become precious and dear to my heart thanks to my sober and recovering life, moments I can choose to remember at any point I now see those proud parents beaming over their children, something I know that deep down below all my parents sickness was always there…

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

Saying Goodbye To Harley…

While I’ve known a few people in my life named or nicknamed Harley, today’s title and subject material isn’t about any of them, it’s about an obsession I had, an addiction at best, that I finally was able to say goodbye to, once and for all.

Just over ten years ago now, I was obsessed, codependently, with a guy named Andy, someone who loved Harley Davidson motorcycles and clothing more than anything else. When I met him, I was interested in neither, yet became immediately enamored with both him and his two-wheeled adoration. Prior to meeting him, no offense to the rest of the Harley Davidson aficionados, I couldn’t stand hearing those bikes whenever they went by. They hurt my hearing and most of the guys I ever knew who owned them were typically rude and obnoxious to me, always parking their motorcycles on sidewalks and acting like they were better than everyone else.

But in came Andy into my life, in the 12 Step recovery world, during a stint where addiction ruled some of his world temporarily. I immediately became smitten with him because that’s what an addict like me did so easily back then. It didn’t take long before I was hanging out with Andy more than not, doing my best to fit into his world, even though I stood out like a sore thumb. His world was a bunch of bad-ass biker type of guys, all heterosexual, who partied hard and talked about many things I had no clue about. In my best of thinking (but really worst of thinking), I decided that maybe if I bought a whole bunch of Harley Davidson clothing, shaved my head, and grew a goatee, that I’d fit in better into Andy’s world, and he’d like me better. As I said already, this is what serious codependency and love addiction does to an addict of that type of variety, one who becomes addicted to pleasing another to gain their love, often at their own expense.

Over the course of almost two years, I amassed close to $1000 of Harley clothes and hats, all top-of-the-line type of stuff. Most of the time I wore it people would ask me what kind of Harley bike I owned. Whenever I responded that I didn’t have one, I was usually asked what kind I’d like to have. I never had a good answer because deep down I still didn’t like Harley Davidson bikes or motorcycles in general, yet I pretended to like them for the sake of winning Andy over, so I generally made up an answer. This never won Andy over and only made myself seriously sick in the process, trying to become something I wasn’t ever meant to. This is sadly what codependent and love addicted type of thinking does to a person in the long run.

Eventually, towards the end of April of 2012, Andy called me one day to hang out. I had become so sick from that addiction at that point, I knew I had to say goodbye. While I successfully did that day, I didn’t say goodbye fully to Harley Davidson. Although, I would never again buy any of its clothing after that, I continued to wear what I had for another ten years. I don’t know why I did for so long, maybe because I felt like a bad ass whenever I wore it, maybe because I had spent so much money on it, or maybe because it still reminded me of the love I once had for Andy, I’m not sure? But eventually one evening, just over a week ago now, I opened my closet and saw all that clothing and knew I needed to let it, Andy, and any traces of that old addiction go, once and for all.

I headed to Goodwill the next day with it all in tow and handed it to a man there accepting donations. He ironically told me he was a big enthusiast of Harley Davidson motorcycles, go figure! He was shocked to see so much of the brand in my hands and in such amazing quality. I held a conversation with him about his hobby and when it ended, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, knowing it was probably going to be the final time I ever talked about Harley Davidson motorcycles again.

While this indeed was a big step for me, considering how much time, energy, and money I had spent on Harley Davidson, trying to win over Andy all those years ago, I am blessed to be fully free of it all now. Saying goodbye to Harley was probably the best thing I have done in my SLAA program of recovery in a good, long while, and I can say that I am a far healthier person now because of it. Thanks be to the strength of God and my 12 Step SLAA program of recovery!

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

An Amends To My Brothers Of NY Theta Phi Kappa Psi And A Hope For Our Upcoming 30th Alumni Reunion…

In just over a week, God willing, I’ll be attending the 30th Alumni Reunion for my fraternity, Phi Kappa Psi (NY Theta Chapter) at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT), an organization I joined in a colony status in 1991, prior to becoming nationally chartered in 1992. Originally, I wasn’t intending on going to this reunion due to financial concerns, but after receiving what I believe to be Divine help to make it possible now to go, I was left with another concern and that’s as to whether I’ll still feel a part of our brotherhood anymore.

In my collegiate years, I spent most of my time drunk and/or high. I invested very little in being there for my brothers and was more concerned with pleasing myself than helping anyone else. During the 1991-1992 timeframe, when all my brothers were doing their part to help get our colony chartered nationally, I constantly made excuses as to why I couldn’t take on any greater responsibilities to help make that happen. Other than being Rush Chairman during that period, where my goal was solely to set up fun events to bring in new candidates each semester, I invested most of my time looking out for my own interests, even with that position.

Although I became a founding father (Badge #35) when our chapter was finally inducted into Phi Kappa Psi nationally, I never truly felt I deserved the honor. I’d spend the rest of my college years after we were founded hiding from that feeling by drinking and drugging my way through graduation. Once I was done and had my degree, I moved as far away as I could with what job offers I received, landing in Fairfax, Virginia, where at the time I knew no one and that was by design.

I was not only ashamed of the life I had lived in college, but also was struggling greatly identifying what my sexuality was and assumed my brothers would only judge me if they knew. When I became sober from alcohol and drugs to figure that out, I kept my distance from my fraternity, including even my little brothers, Troy, Matt, Rob, and Jon, all of which I regret so greatly now being that I have no relationship with any of them. When I eventually came to terms with my sexuality, I finally told my fraternity the truth and while I received some support, there were a number of brothers who wished they had never let me into the chapter. I didn’t blame them though for feeling that way because ultimately, I never showed any of them why I should have been a brother in the first place. After all, I was far more selfish than selfless with the fraternity during all of my college years, often causing more chaos and drama with our brotherhood than anything else.

I let many years pass because of this, skipping each of the alumni reunions, living with shame and regret, and figuring none of them would miss me. I’d silently watch through social media one brother after another get married and start a new family and be saddened each time I didn’t receive an invitation. But why would I have gotten one when my best friends were one addiction after another for so long instead of any of them?

When I finally decided to attend my first alumni reunion, it was our 20th. I’m not sure why I went though, because I wasn’t in the right mindset, as I was still dealing with ending a love addicted and codependent toxic relationship at the time, all while trying to begin a healthy one with my present partner Chris. Frankly, I was still an addicted mess on some level and probably why I felt invisible throughout most of that weekend, consumed more with self than in trying to actually connect with my brothers again. For those I had hurt prior, I’m sure I didn’t show I had changed much at all in the way I was acting. So, when that reunion ended, I left feeling even worse and even more disconnected than ever from the brotherhood. I would then let another ten years pass with little to no communication with any of my brothers at all.

I felt great sorrow over this, enough that I started connecting locally with the University of Toledo’s Phi Kappa Psi (Ohio Eta) chapter a few years ago. I began doing alcohol and drug education with their chapter each semester and recently took on an Alumni Risk Management position. Seeing their camaraderie though each time I’m with them brings up much sorrow, sorrow for the lack of connection I have with my own brotherhood.

I’ve made so many mistakes now out of addiction and selfishness that even though I’ve long left all that toxicity behind, I wonder if the damage is irreparable, as least in forging closer bonds to my brothers. I’m sure the few articles I wrote for our national publication (The Shield) didn’t help either, as I talked quite openly about how my addiction blossomed in my undergraduate Phi Kappa Psi days.

Regardless, there’s a great pit of despair within me now that says I don’t deserve the forgiveness of those brothers I hurt and that I’ll probably always be on the outside looking in with my fraternity. Yet, I’m heading to this alumni reunion with hope, hope that God is leading me there to rectify all this. In light of that, I want to end with this.

Brothers of Phi Kappa Psi NY Theta, I’m deeply sorry for all the damage my addictions of my past caused and all the selfish actions I exuded that affected both our chapter and my relationship with all of you. I pray for your forgiveness from all my past inequities that affected my connection with my brothers for so long and truly hope to forge new brotherly relationships with each of you during our upcoming 30th Alumni Reunion.

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

The Life In Tampa That Wasn’t…

There was something I was going through this past month that I haven’t been writing or talking about with the masses because it wasn’t my story to tell. My partner Chris was offered a position in Florida that would have truly been an amazing step up from the one he currently holds in his present field of expertise. The job offer came just prior to our 10th anniversary vacation to Cozumel, one I was so excited for, prompting us to cancel our trip so we could reroute to Tampa to check out the area and the potential position. After the trip ended, Chris had fully accepted the new job, immediately thrusting our lives forward on a new trajectory, one that would have had me living for a good while here in Toledo alone, while Chris worked the new job in Florida, as financially we realized it wasn’t going to be possible to have us both starting out this new life there together. While that path recently dried up with Chris choosing to remain in Toledo for a number of reasons, I learned a lot about myself over these past four weeks.

The biggest thing I learned through all of this is that I still have significant codependency issues. Honestly, I cried a lot over these past four weeks with the notion of having to remain here in Chris’s home in Toledo by myself for an indefinite period of time. I never wanted to move to Toledo in the first place, as I’m an East-Coaster tried and true. I only came here because I wanted to develop a relationship with a person I fell in love with and was willing to give up what life I had in Boston to explore that. I’ve had that now for over eight years, so the thought of remaining here where I had very little friends and connection overall and have received more rejection than acceptance led to a great amount of daily sadness within. In addition, living with the amount of physical, mental, and emotional pain I go through on most days, I’ve had to lean quite a bit on Chris at times just to make it through those hard days. I’m not proud of that fact, because for the longest of time, I was extremely independent and lived quite comfortably without the need of anyone’s help. Thus, the idea of having a life in Toledo alone and Chris a life elsewhere, where we agreed we’d only be able to see each other for about a week a month was ultimately very depressing for me.

The other thing I learned during this period of unknowingness is how much my former addictive life is still affecting me today. Life in Tampa, and in Florida in general, is far more expensive than life here in Toledo. With rents being upwards of $2200 a month for a decent place and good homes starting at $300,000 or greater, years ago, I wouldn’t have blinked at either number. I probably would have even purchased a house outright for Chris and I to begin our new lives together. But those times are long gone. I’m that prodigal son who squandered his parent’s fortune for things that didn’t really matter. I learned a very hard lesson after blowing through the majority of the money my parent’s left me. With each house Chris and I looked at with a real estate agent during our trip in Florida, I realized how much my addiction took away from me. I also realized how dependent on Chris I am financially. I began to resent myself and the life I once lived before Chris. Not having anything really to bring to the table to help make the move possible truly upset me.

In the end, the decision Chris made to not pursue the new position and ultimately turn it down, remaining at home is one that wasn’t taken lightly. It involved many conversations between us and one that I was told not to blame myself for. There were many circumstances that we both felt God was telling us this wasn’t a viable path, things that I didn’t need to get into for the real point of this story.

The real point of this story is one of addiction. Active addiction in regards to my awareness of the financial and health-related codependency I have presently with Chris, and former addiction in regards to my awareness of how much my old addictive lifestyle continues to affect me today. While I’m sad that addiction continues to play through much of my story in life, I’m thankful to God nonetheless for all the awareness, for my ongoing work in 12 Step recovery to change all this, and for a partner who continues to stick by my side, “warts and all.”

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

What Do You Do When Someone Relapses Back Into Their Addiction And Contacts You During It?

In the past two weeks, I was contacted by two separate individuals who both identify themselves as alcoholics, each having struggled massively with their addiction for a very long time and each being people I’ve attempted to bring through the 12 Step program. In both cases, they contacted me during a relapse, where they were severely drunk and reaching out in pain. If there’s one thing I’ve absolutely learned in my recovery from alcohol and drug addiction, it’s that you can’t ever talk successfully about recovery with anyone while they are actively drinking or drugging.

Anytime I’ve ever tried to seriously communicate with someone about 12 Step recovery while they were under the influence of alcohol or drugs has always been met with either “woe is me’s”, profuse anger, or “I just don’t know what to do anymore.” Trying to talk anyone down off a drunken or high ledge is impossible, believe me I’ve tried repeatedly over the years only to become toxically drained in the process. There really is only one way a person can ever successfully communicate recovery from an addiction to another individual and it’s when they are sober.

That being said, when the first individual reached out during their relapse, I was with some friends in the middle of playing cards. They texted me repeatedly about how messed up they were and wanted to know what to do. I told them to reach out to me the next day and we could talk through it then, but they pleaded for an immediate answer of what to do. I told them if they wanted to get sober, the only thing they could do was check themselves into a detox or some place that could handle their relapse. Their response was one word, “Thanks.” I could tell they were mad, but I knew there was nothing more I could do at that point. I never did hear back from them after that and even tried to reach out several days later to make sure they were ok. I could tell on Facebook though they were by their postings, yet why they didn’t call me back was one simple reason. The only reason they reached out to me during their relapse was that they were looking for someone to rescue them from their addiction. I will NOT do that anymore because I’ve learned it only causes both them and me greater harm than good.

Having learned this invaluable lesson through prior failures really helped when that second individual reached out to me. They were holed up in a hotel drinking profusely alone. As I listened to them cry, I felt compassion for them, yet I also saw how insidious their disease was. They had thought the night prior that going to a pool hall where alcohol was served with someone they were attracted to, someone who was also newly sober, was a good thing to do. Of course, it wasn’t, because as soon as the other individual went into relapse mode, so did they, hoping to impress. The dominoes quickly fell after that, leading me to receive their very sorrow-filled call the next day with them still in full-blown relapse. My only words were that I cared about them, that I loved them, that I would help them once they got sober, and to call me once they did.

Many might think I didn’t do enough with either of these cases of individuals in full-blown relapse, but here’s the harsh reality. Parents and friends often try to rescue and save their loved ones during their relapses, only to be sucked into a vortex of lies, manipulation, despair, and hopelessness. The fact is…I’ve never been successful talking to anyone who had relapsed and was presently drunk or high. The only solution I’ve ever found to be successful in such cases was to lead them back to Step 1, something they have to do for themselves.

Until a person stops drinking and drugging and remembers that they are powerless over their addiction and their life is unmanageable, they won’t want any help you try to offer. Attempting to do so anyway is only going to lead to a futile effort, one that could very well drag you down along with them…

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

“Annoying, Pretentious, Judgmental”

It is said that resentment is the number one offender that leads many sober people to a relapse of their addiction, which is why I work diligently to remove any within me, and to seek the forgiveness of others if I discover I’ve harmed them somehow. So, when I learned not too long ago that a person I hadn’t spent time with for years didn’t want to come have a coffee with a mutual friend and I over potential tension, I made an attempt to connect with them to see if I had harmed them at some point in the past. Because I was totally unaware of anything I may have done to lead to such tension within them. When I finally got a response from them via text as to what the tension was all about, it wasn’t anything I had done at all. Rather, it was their opinion of me, and it was described in three words.

Annoying. Pretentious. Judgmental.

I was at dinner with a friend of mine when this text came through. And sadly, I let it ruin the rest of my meal because I continue to struggle owning what other people think of me, no matter how hard I try not to. I have worked so very hard to be a selfless person in my life and to erase the selfish nature of my past. I don’t think of myself as better than anyone else. I do my best to accept everyone as they are. And I try to keep my childlike sense of humor alive to keep going in a world I often feel less than in, especially when I find myself owning other’s negative opinions of me.

My only desire ever with this individual was to make amends if I had harmed them somehow, but ironically, one of the things I received in return from them was the very thing they were accusing me of being. Judgmental. But it shouldn’t matter what they thought of me. Their approval shouldn’t matter one bit. Except I can’t seem to shake this pattern of me owning what others think of me. So, I keep writing about it. I keep dealing with it in therapy. I keep trying to be a good person. Yet, I keep allowing myself to get struck down by others’ negative opinions of me again and again.

This individual like so many others who’ve had negative opinions of me in recent years have no idea the humility I’ve put myself through by being as transparent as I am through my writing and speaking on the life I’ve had. They don’t see the world I live in, one where I do my best to help so many, just to try to make a difference. But it shouldn’t matter they don’t see this. What should matter is what I will declare once more…

I AM A GOOD PERSON!

I AM A BEAUTIFUL SOUL!

AND I DO MATTER IN THIS WORLD!

I spent an entire childhood and most of my adulthood feeling completely the opposite of those statements. When I finally got right with myself and God and found true recovery from my toxic past, I began to find myself in the line of fire from so many who felt the opposite of those positive statements when they thought of me. And the more I listen to them, the more I find myself thinking about checking out like my parents did. Yet, I press on. I fight to live. And choose to end this by saying to this individual…

I love you and forgive you for your judgments of me. While you may not choose to see the beauty of my soul and all that I do every day to contribute to the love of this world, rather than take from it like I used to, all that matters is that God sees it. I just need to keep reminding myself of that…especially when the world around tries to tell me otherwise…

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

When Someone Lashed Out At Me During One Of My 12 Step Leads…

Sometimes I really think that the darkness of this world, or maybe even beyond this world, is always trying to find ways to snuff the light out in any way it can from those doing their best to bring light to others. I feel like I experienced this firsthand during one of my 12 Step presentations recently at a residential housing program for recovering alcoholics and addicts where my only purpose was to bring light to those there.

Whenever I do a 12 Step recovery lead, it’s typically for an hour, where I begin with my journey talking about the dysfunctional childhood I had with addicted parents. I next move on to discussing how I fell into addiction with alcohol and drugs. I move on from there talking about the many addictions I fell into after I found sobriety from them. And finally, I conclude by sharing the life of recovery I’ve been doing my best to live over the past decade. I was close to the end of one of these leads recently at one of the addiction programs I volunteer at here in Toledo, Ohio, when suddenly a voice cried out in the room in front of me this…

“I don’t like you man! You’re full of ego and arrogance. I don’t like you one bit! I think you’re full of sh$$!!!”

I’ve probably shared my personal testimony of addiction to recovery easily over 1000 times now and never once have had any outburst like that…ever. Truly, I was shocked, taken aback, and really didn’t know what to say.

Whenever I do 12 Step leads nowadays, it’s never about ego or arrogance. In fact, it’s the exact opposite, where I level any pride and ego and talk about how much I had to lose to gain my heart back and a more selfless nature. Sharing about the crazy upbringing I had with addiction, getting both molested and bullied along the way, watching both of my parents die by terrible tragedies of their own making, then losing most of the money they left me due to my selfish and addictive nature, I would never classify what I share in my leads as coming from ego or arrogance.

Thankfully, many of the 30-something people who remained after that outburst told me afterwards, they felt nothing of the sort and offered me reassurance of how much it helped them. But, by that point, I was deep in my head. Why? Because, I used to be a very prideful, arrogant, and egotistical individual, who couldn’t walk in a room because I lived with such a fat head, always thinking I was better than most. I tend to think the opposite these days, and find myself more than not, putting myself down, struggling to love myself unconditionally, mostly because I don’t have employment and continue to battle so many health issues.

Nevertheless, after this man’s outburst, I really did question myself, wondering why I was continuing to do this work, because being on the receiving end of something like that frankly sucked. Of course, my ego wanted to engage before that man had fully left the room. But all I said was I’m sorry he felt that way and that my story was truly one coming from humility. While I may battle from time to time with ego thinking I should be better off than I am, if there’s one thing I can say for sure about my 12 Step leads is that it most assuredly is a humbling, pride-leveling, action for me each time I stand in front of a group of strangers, sharing about how much I “f$$ked my life up” due to my seriously addictive nature.

In the end I became thankful for this man’s outburst, because I learned later that much of the PTSD I’ve worked through was the very same PTSD this individual continues to battle, falling into drug addiction to cope. I know that place oh so very well, and pray this man finds healing one day from it all in the 12 Steps and with a Higher Power’s help.

As for all the darkness that’s out there, you can say what you want about me, but truly, I am going to keep doing my 12 Step leads, as I do them from my heart and for God, and I know it’s helping others, even if you find one person to throw shade at me, trying to convince me otherwise…

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

A Very Alarming Recent Opioid Statistic…

I learned of a very alarming opioid statistic recently. It is estimated that 1.25 million years of life have been lost to drug overdoses amongst American teens and young adults based upon an average life expectancy of 78.8 years over the last two years.

While COVID itself has sadly taken many lives, the opioid crisis continues to grow exponentially yet remain relatively unseen to the masses. This pandemic has led to social isolation for so many, where addiction and mental illness have grown in the process. Much of the younger generations out there right now don’t know how to ask for help and continue to turn to things like drugs for answers.

In the year ending May of 2019, there were 374 reported overdose deaths in teens between 13 to 19. But in the year ending May of 2021, that number jumped to 1,365. That’s a very disturbing jump because if you do the math, it won’t be long before we begin to see overdose deaths amongst youths regularly being in the 10,000+ range.

While I do care about all the deaths related to COVID, I feel it’s my job to shed light on something that continues to get overlooked, especially since COVID began. I know I’ve written about this before but seeing this latest statistic of 1.25 million years of life lost to something that can be prevented, I’m deeply saddened.

How many family’s lives have been torn apart and shattered due to all these sudden deaths of so many children from opioid overdoses is countless by this point. Many often don’t even know their kids are struggling with an addiction to opioids until it’s too late. Fentanyl-addiction is the biggest culprit now for this and I face this every time I volunteer at a local detox.

No one seems to be talking anymore at these detoxes about alcohol addiction, or addiction to any other substances. It’s all fentanyl now. I’ve worked with enough teenagers to know, and most don’t know how to stop or have the support at home either. So much of the public health drug intervention gets focused on adults, when the reality is this addiction typically begins at adolescence, which by the time adulthood is reached, it’s extremely difficult to break, regardless of education.

I consider myself one of the lucky ones really. With all the mental, emotional, and physical pain I’ve gone through over the years since getting sober from alcohol and drugs, I know for a 100% fact that I would have been a fentanyl addict right now or probably dead from it if I hadn’t found sobriety when I did.

Opioids are the main driver of drug overdose deaths these days and fentanyl, a synthetic-based version, is the biggest source of them. It’s 100 times stronger than morphine and originally developed to treat intense pain from things like cancer but now can be found far too prevalently on the streets everywhere. Whenever I do my addiction-leads now, I ask how early people have been introduced to drugs like this. The age keeps getting younger and younger. The other day, one such person talked about being exposed to it when they were 10!

What COVID has done to this world may take a long time to repair, with kids needing that the most. All this isolation isn’t healthy as it can lead to profound feelings of emptiness and loneliness, which in turn can lead to picking up an addiction to cope. While on a spiritual journey, spending time alone can be beneficial, in general it’s not, especially when kids are coming from broken homes with unhealthy family dynamics, where opioids are often used for coping mechanisms in both kids and adults alike.

Look, I know COVID has led to so many painful deaths, but honestly, at some point it is going to go away, or at least become an annoyance like the flu, but this opioid pandemic isn’t. It continues to grow exponentially and to end it, it means bringing greater connection and love to the children in our world, to drawing closer together, especially during these isolating times.

Choosing to spend most of our lives on our phones, on the Internet, streaming long hours on TV, immersing oneself in games, away from the world in general, is only going to lead to kids turning more and more to things like drugs to cope. I pray that this world will wake up and realize that there are things growing worse the more we only focus on COVID. I hope more people will wake up to this and see it’s time to stop isolating and instead begin connecting a little more with each other again. You never know, you may be helping to save someone’s life from addiction just by loving them a little more…

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

“Is There Another Solution To Sobriety And Recovery Outside The 12 Steps?”

It seems like every time I share my story now of addiction to recovery, I’m asked by some individual at their beginnings stage of finding sobriety or still deep in the throngs of addiction whether 12 Step recovery is the only solution to working through it. The only answer I have to that question which I know to be true is that it’s the only solution that has worked for me. Are there other solutions out there to becoming sober and living a healthy recovery life, free from toxic addictions? If there are, I never found them, but I sure did try many things to figure that out.

Therapy was my first, but it only got me so far and really was good so far as get my addiction out in the open with a safe individual to talk to. Then came joining a men’s organization, which helped me to become more accountable with my actions in life with others outside my therapist. But there too, it only took me so far on the path of sobriety and recovery. After that, I tried changing my lifestyle by living healthier with a variety of forms of holistic healing, including eating better, taking herbs, homeopathic remedies, and seeing plenty of natural practitioners. Yet that only took me so far too with my sobriety and recovery. As the years went on, I tried to live a more religious path, became a Deacon, immersed myself in religious studies, trying multiple spiritual paths, including Nichren Buddhism and chanting, only to keep falling into the throws of addiction in some form or another. When I discovered the power of meditation after going on a 10-day silent retreat, I thought I had finally found the answer to everything, to all my sickness that still lived deep within me that drove me constantly back into one type of addiction after another. While meditation worked for a while, it eventually didn’t like everything else. And working longer hours, volunteering greater, and even moving to places I thought would be more conducive to finding true sobriety and recovery didn’t work either. I truly tried so many ways to remain clean and sober and live a healthy recovery life, but none were ever successful in the long run.

One day, I finally realized why none of those paths ever worked. It was because I was always looking for the solution that could be implemented for a period of time to fix my addiction, where after implementing, I’d be done with it, and move on to other things. But that’s not how recovery from addiction works, especially 12 Step recovery. You see, 12 Step recovery works because it’s something one needs to implement every, single, day upon waking, where it’s then lived throughout the entire day into the next, one day a time, for the rest of one’s life. It’s not something one learns and graduates from, which is precisely the thing I kept looking for and never found.

The 12 Steps have taught me that I get a daily reprieve from my addictive behaviors by implementing them every day I wake up and carrying them through my entire day. They aren’t a temporary solution, and they aren’t a quick fix, something an addict is constantly looking for.

The 12 Steps ultimately led me to find a deeper relationship with not only myself, but also with my Higher Power. They truly helped me to see how I was always looking for one quick and easy fix after another to cure that addiction part of myself, when what was driving that search was always the addict in me. The 12 Steps removed what was driving that process and led me to be driven by something far Greater.

I thank God I found the 12 Steps of recovery and continue to live them out on a daily basis. Because the life I lived before them was one constant attempt after another to find some “instafix”. There is no “instafix” that ever worked for me, but the 12 Steps of recovery have, because what they led me to, was a solution far Deeper and far Higher than my addict-self ever found…

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

When A Friend Dies And You Don’t Have Anything Good To Remember About Them Due To Their Addiction…

I lost a college friend recently who was only 48 years old. I discovered this when his ex-wife contacted me via Facebook messenger to let me know. When she asked me if I could maybe send her a few comments about good things I remember from his life, I spent days struggling with the task, because in all honesty, I never developed a close connection with this friend due to his incessant search for sex and love that consumed him from one woman to the next.

When I eventually spoke with my friend’s ex-wife over the phone, I was truthful with her about this and apologized for not having anything positive to say about him. I told her that her ex struggled with his addiction to women, but she let me know she already knew that.

My friend would move from one state to another, one city to the next, and from town to town, consistently believing that each woman that led him there was “the one” for him. In the pursuance of this, he abandoned his son, friends like me, and all his loved ones, which at times made me very angry.

People often forget that sex and love can be addictive, and my friend denied he ever had this addiction like most people do when confronted about it. But when one’s life becomes dependent on finding that “one”, when life becomes a blur of one sexual escapade after another, when friendships and family and children get thrown to the wayside in the pursuance of sex and love, and when the only thing that becomes important is the search itself for sex and love via the Internet or in various other places, it’s a good sign that it’s become an addiction for the person.

My friend was a constant reminder of that for me, because I struggled with this addiction for as long as he did, until I woke up one day and saw the mirror in him. Thankfully, I finally addressed this addiction and found recovery for it, which has led me to have a 10-year monogamous relationship now, as well as freedom from pornography and a number of other toxic sexual behaviors as well. My friend never found that, even after I tried many times to get him to see how much his pursuance of sex and love was consuming him.

The thing I have the greatest sadness for now that he’s gone is not for the loss itself, it’s for his son who will grow up never having developed a close relationship to his father, something I know quite well given my father suffered from this addiction too. When my dad left my mother at the end of my senior year of high school for another woman, I never would live with him again under the same roof or feel incredibly close to him either. In light of that, my mourning for my friend’s son is because I know what comes next for someone who experiences this and that’s a struggle to ever develop close male connections and be open with deep emotions in general.

Nevertheless, my friend didn’t get to know the true me either like he didn’t with his son. Most, if not all of our conversations, were always about him and his desires and plans and the like, about women and money, and all the grandiosity that came from living in his addiction. Yet I never saw my friend find any real happiness, peace, love, or joy in any of the relationships he landed in, as he constantly found fault in each of them. That’s what happens when addiction consumes the soul.

I’m thankful I’m sober from sex and love addiction and have a long-term monogamous relationship to speak of because of it. I’m sad my friend never found this and that we never got to know each other deeply either, as I believe below his addiction and self-centeredness surrounding it, was an amazing soul, completely worthy and capable of giving and receiving unconditional love.

What I’ve come to know through his death and so many others from this addiction or any addiction is this. For as long as any addiction consumes an individual, the only sure thing that will come from it by continuing to pursue it with all of oneself is sure death. But finding true sobriety and recovery can and will ultimately lead to deeper connections, more loving friendships and relationships, and a much brighter life.

Thanks be to God for my still being on the path of sobriety and recovery. May my friend who never found it rest in peace now and may all those who continue to suffer from sex and love addiction, or any addiction, find sobriety and recovery from them before it’s too late. Because one day your luck with any addiction will run out, like it did with my friend, someone I really never got to know and wish I had…

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

Thought For The Day

Today’s quotes are ones that deal with 12 Step recovery and many of the things I’ve learned in sobriety from former addiction by working the 12 Steps and continuing to work them, one day at a time, hopefully for the rest of my life…

“When I got sober, I thought giving up was saying goodbye to all the fun and all the sparkle, and it turned out to be just the opposite. That’s when the sparkle started for me.” (Mary Karr)

“Being in recovery has given me everything of value that I have in my life. Integrity, honesty, fearlessness, faith, a relationship with God, and most of all gratitude. It’s given me a beautiful family and an amazing career. I’m under no illusions where I would be without the gift of alcoholism and the chance to recover from it.”

“Addiction is giving up everything for one thing. Recovery is giving up one thing for everything.” (Anonymous)

“The first three steps taught me how to give up. Four, Five, and Six taught me how to own up. Seven, Eight, and Nine taught me how to make up. Ten, Eleven and Twelve taught me how to grow up.” (Anonymous)

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

God Focuses On The Good In Me, Do You?

There are so many times I feel like people can’t and just won’t stop focusing on their judgments of me, seeing me more in a bad light, than a good one, even when I’m doing my best these days to place others first before myself. Even when I do nine things out of ten to the best of any human potential, but fail at one of them, it seems as if that one failure gets focused upon with glaring energy more so than any of the other nine good things. I have often joked lately that even if I somehow could walk on water like Christ once did, that plenty would still find fault with me somehow.

I’ve noticed this pattern quite a bit in recent years the harder I’ve worked on my spiritual self. I seem to get more criticism than praise the harder I work, compared to how it used to be when I didn’t care about my spiritual condition at all. Then, I had plenty who liked to gossip with me and judge with me and act out in addiction with me. But that isn’t who I am anymore, and I work so very hard to not be that way. Even so, my flaws continue to be the main focus with too many, so I’ve come to accept that maybe my work isn’t in trying to get any of them to see I’ve changed, it’s in accepting that God has already seen that change in me and that’s ALL that matters.

Why some continue to only see my mistakes and not the heart I have, I don’t know. What I do know is that those who keep on judging me says a lot more about them than it does me. Regardless, I’m distancing myself from those people in my life now who can’t seem to find positive things to say about me and like to cite out my flaws and imperfections instead. Ultimately, I don’t want or need people like that in my life who do so, as that only reminds me of my alcoholic parents who disapproved first and praised second, a pattern that only ever led to me never feeling good enough in life and one where I always felt like I had to try harder.

I AM good enough and I AM a good person, just as I am. I do my best to love everyone with the unconditional love of Christ and I accept everyone with all their flaws and imperfections, always looking to see the good in everyone I meet. God sees that and has given me a clean slate to work with, one I feel He gives me EVERY, SINGLE, day. I don’t believe He holds me to my past failures, or even my present ones, and doesn’t dwell on when I make mistakes either. Only human beings do that, usually because of their own inner inadequacies.

Anyone who chooses to focus more on my flaws and imperfections, instead of seeing the good in me and how far I’ve come in my 26+ years of sobriety from alcohol and drug addiction and the almost 10 years of sobriety I have from sex and love addiction, isn’t someone I want or need in my life. I know there is nothing I will ever be able to do to change their opinion of me, as only God can do that within them, as He has done within me. It’s time for me to finally see myself in the same light that God does, with unconditional love, and to stop worrying about all those who continue to see me as anything else…

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

The Male Bravado Syndrome…

Male bravado is a trait I used to be attracted to in another. Having grown up with a father figure who was mentally and emotionally absent and unstable far too often, I repeatedly found myself drawn through much of my childhood and most of my adulthood to males who exuded this trait that I erroneously thought to be a strong trait of masculinity. I find myself being turned off to that trait now though, as most men I know who exude it, have no idea how to truly be empathetic and intimate in non-sexual ways with another male, something I truly desire in my life these days.

Men often struggle showing compassion, empathy, and intimacy with other males because their raised to show it’s a sign of weakness. For plenty of male individuals I’ve sponsored over the years in the 12 Step world of recovery from addiction, most had absentee fathers and had to learn how to grow up and take care of themselves all on their own and became hardened in the process. Hardened in the sense that when any male came into their lives outside of maybe their own children, who were struggling with anything and just wanted some love and compassion, their response was always to essentially get over it, because it’s what they had to learn to do to grow up quickly and be the man in their household. The notion of showing compassion, hugging another male, offering supportive words was so completely foreign to them, that it wasn’t even in their makeup.

For much of my life, I honestly believed men like this were alluring, but the more work I’ve done on myself, the more I’ve seen it was only alluring because it’s only what I knew as a kid. Unfortunately, my father’s mental health issues and addiction issues often caused me to feel a strong distance between the two of us, so I never quite learned the love and support from another male. This in turn led me to seek peers in grammar school and friends and partners later in life who acted just like him, never feeling all too supportive on an empathetic level.

When I first began dealing with my sexuality, instead of seeking someone who was willing to offer me strong unconditional love and compassion, I sought those bad boys, closeted men, and men who had no idea how to be close to another man, because all in all, it was the only comfortable pattern I knew with men given I learned in with my absentee father.

Today, I’m finding myself more drawn to individuals who have gotten in touch with their feminine side and have a greater balance with both their feminine and masculine parts of themselves. Because it’s men like that who have developed the exact opposite of male bravado, who know how to be close to another male, and express a depth in intimacy that has nothing to do with sex whatsoever.

It’s ironic how one of my closest friends today was also someone I once dated back in 1995, who I passed up the chance to be with back then, all because of how much they were in touch with their feminine side. A male having this trait truly scared me back then, because I had never had any male figure in my life who had demonstrated it with me. I’m thankful to say this doesn’t scare me anymore and I’ve worked hard to be in touch with both my masculine and feminine side as well. I know how to offer compassion now to others deeply struggling in their lives, to hold their hands and show my true love and support, especially when they’re feeling broken.

People who struggle with this male bravado syndrome don’t know how to do this with others and quite often instead will judge when males are seeking compassion, as only being needy and living in self-pity. The irony in this I’ve discovered over the years working on this is that the very thing they’re truly seeking within is the very thing they’re constantly judging in their minds as weak and pushing away in the process. I know this because I once did it myself, that is until I saw it really wasn’t weak at all, it was someone being strong all along…

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

21 Days…Without Caffeinated Beverages

21 days. That’s how long I’ve gone now without consuming any caffeinated beverages, after almost two solid years of binging on high quantities of them. A friend asked me the other day how the withdrawal process has been from them. Honestly, it’s not the withdrawal that’s been difficult, as that was over in about 3 to 5 days. What’s been more difficult than anything is choosing each day to stay away from consuming them again, all because of the numbing effect it gives me from my physical pain and other frustrations of my life.

Consuming high levels of caffeinated coffee as frequently as I did over the past two years, ever since relapsing from doing nothing more than decaf beverages for well over a decade, was a choice I made each day simply as a crutch. The effect helped me temporarily feel better in a world where I struggle to ever feel better. While I love coffee in general and was fine for the better part of 10 years drinking decaf, once I returned to consuming caffeinated coffees after my cat died abruptly, I fell in love with the effect it gave me.

It not only numbed out some of the pain receptors of my fibromyalgia, it also numbed out me caring much about all the people who seem to have a negative opinion of me. I also leaned hard on this addiction to cope with this pandemic as well, waiting as long as 45 minutes at Starbucks drive-thru’s sometimes just to get my fix. I’d always rationalize all this was ok, after all it’s just coffee right?

But I had many rage-out moments while on high levels of caffeine. I’ve thrown things, had Jekyll and Hyde moments, experienced severe mood changes from sad to happy to exuberant and back to sad in short periods of time, and even gone all day at times not eating anything while consuming multiple-shot espressos just because it hit me faster having nothing in my stomach. Yes, I’m one of those real hard-core addicts and at 21 days now without caffeine, on some days it often feels like I’m missing my best friend, which is no different than how I once felt with my alcohol and drug dependency.

While the withdrawal from caffeinated beverages hasn’t been anywhere as challenging as my withdrawal from alcohol and drugs were, the trying to find happiness in going back to decaf has been an immense struggle. I regularly find myself drinking my decaf coffee quick fast like I once did my caffeinated version, because having many of those high-level espressos was often not about the enjoyment of it, it was about seeking the high of them.

People have asked me so many times over the years how I know I’m still an alcoholic and addict, given I haven’t had either in my system in well over 26 years now. Seeing how I am acting and feeling at 21 days without caffeine and looking back over the last two years at how I was on it reminds me so very easily how much I know I am absolutely, 100 percent, still an alcoholic and addict.

I’m sure some who read this might be wondering why I would choose to even write about something like this. Beyond the fact that this blog originally started out as a tool for my 12 Step recovery (hence the site’s name TheTwelfthStep), the deeper reason is to be accountable with others with what I’m going through in this.

I’ve woken up each day in the past 21 days asking, and sometimes even begging my Higher Power for the strength to stay away from caffeinated beverages for one more day, because it’s very clear to me now just how much they affect my stability on many levels.

I have noticed I’m calmer, more mentally and emotionally stable, less angry, had lower blood pressure, felt more connected in my heart with others, and maybe even closer to Source on some days by abstaining from caffeinated beverages these past 21 days. Those benefits do seem to outweigh the slight numbing caffeine gave me over these past two years. But for a true addict like me, sometimes even the smallest benefits are enough to keep an addiction going.

Regardless, one day at a time, as 12 Step recovery says, I continue to do my best to remain free from caffeine, sharing openly with all of you about my struggles and my triumphs.

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

How High Blood Pressure And An Addiction Were Potentially Connected In My Life…

I recently did a home blood pressure test at a friend’s house who had one of those small machines you put on your left wrist that can register it. It registered high each time he tested it. I tried to tell myself that maybe his machine wasn’t calibrated right, so I went to a brand-new setup that can register it at a local Rite Aid where I took the test again…and three times at that! Each registered high as well, which alarmed me, as I’ve never had high blood pressure before in my entire life and have always registered in the “extremely well” range. Why it’s high? Beyond the stress I have over my health issues, I know it’s not because of my diet, because I eat very healthy more than not. I also know it’s not because of family genes because no one in my family roots have ever had high blood pressure either. What I do think is causing much of it is an addiction I’ve fallen back into yet again.

There are many health and doctor reports out there that show the chronic consumption of caffeinated beverages can raise one’s blood pressure, especially the more one becomes addicted to it. Truth be told, I’ve fallen back into this addiction all over again. I’ve now tried three times since I fell back into consuming caffeinated coffee in November of 2019 after more than a decade of being caffeine free. I consumed my first caffeinated coffee on November 1st that year, the day my cat Smokey suddenly passed away due to urinary tract issues. I was so upset over this I went to a Starbucks that night and consumed the equivalent of 5 cups of coffee in about an hour’s time. It was truly an addictive move to numb myself and one I’ve been paying the cost of ever since.

I’ve spent A LOT of money at Starbucks over the past two years. I’ve planned most days around my visits to Starbucks and even looked at maps before going on vacations just to see where the locations of Starbucks were. I’ve probably averaged the equivalent of 400mg of caffeine a day from there, all of which tends to be consumed in less than an hour’s time. I’ve been doing this because frankly, it’s kept me numb from dealing with a small portion of the pain I carry every day. But like any addiction, one must keep doing more and more of it to keep that effect going, which is how I’ve arrived at consuming as much as I have.

The effect of all this has led to unstable moods, rapid talking, heart pounding, overly sweating at times during physical tasks, increased anger, irritability, impatience, and a few other unpleasant side effects. Yet, I’ve continued to consume it, and now have realized it’s truly causing me more harm than good, which is why I am trying yet again to pull myself off of it.

People always talk about the headaches they get when they go a day without their coffee. When you get to the levels of consuming caffeine like I have, withdrawing from it is a much bigger bitch, to put it bluntly, then for the simple cup or two a day type of person. On some level, it’s reminded me of the serious withdrawals I went through from alcohol and drugs, as this morning alone, I woke up sobbing and wondering how the heck could I live my life without all my cold brews and five-shot lattes. To build my days around the consumption of coffee is ludicrous and I know this. I’ve been down this addictive path so many times in my life, and here I am again, battling another stupid addiction all over again.

I share this with you because it’s the first step in getting honest with myself. I don’t think I’m capable of moderating even something as minor as caffeinated coffee, because of the very reason why I choose to do it in the first place.

Caffeine really is an addiction and can cause serious complications with one’s health and life overall, especially when one comes to rely upon it to cope with any of their circumstances like I have. I lived without it for a very long time, always enjoying decaf instead. I know I need to return to that, as having high blood pressure at the moment is enough of a warning sign to me to finally do something about a crutch I’ve fallen back into these past few years…I pray to God I can do it…

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

What Happens When Addict Parents Blame Their Kids For Everything…

For any of you who grew up in a dysfunctional home, where one or both parents suffered from some sort of an addiction, there’s a good chance you suffered from frequently being the recipient of blame, even when things weren’t your fault. There’s also a pretty good chance that as you got older, you started blaming yourself for everything that went wrong in your world, even when most of it probably wasn’t your fault either. I always feel sorry for those I meet in my 12 Step recovery world who are still strongly living out this pattern, especially if I learn their childhood was just like my own.

I’ve done my best to overcome this pattern, although I still struggle from time to time falling back into it. Kids in addict-based homes like the one I grew up in, tend to take the blame for things even when it’s not their fault solely out of fear, fear of being disciplined in harsher ways.

When my sister and I went back to our childhood home after our mother passed and were clearing out all that old stuff, we found a box of letters we had written our parents throughout our younger years where we apologized for one incident after another, consistently taking the blame, saying we’re sorry, that we’re bad kids, and will try harder to be better. I don’t remember writing those letters, but I can assume I wrote them out of fear. Fear of not being punished, yelled at, spanked, mouth washed out with soap, privileges taken away, or something worse. I always found that if I just took the blame, somehow the result was far less painful, as compared to if I didn’t. And, I often felt I was made out to be a liar when I didn’t take that ownership.

The fact is, my parents placed blame on my sister and I, because it was easier than looking at themselves and all their misery. As I grew older, I allowed this pattern to exist with most of my friends, partners, bosses, etc. What I realized in therapy though was that in most cases, I shouldn’t have been taking the blame at all and how toxic it was to my spirit each time I did. While I’m not perfect and do own a part in some of the negative things that happen in my life, I know now that more than not, I’m not the cause of everything people say of me and instead have been a magnet for this because I haven’t fully worked through it yet.

I often grow frustrated at how many try to blame me for things that have nothing to do with me whatsoever. My partner has done this with me many times, but I’m not innocent of it either. It’s taken a lot of work to identify this pattern and it happens most often with those I’m closest to, who I don’t want to lose. Because at the core of this pattern really is a little kid who just wanted his parents to love him unconditionally, who learned through their addiction that if he just owned what they were blaming him of, they seemed to love him better than if he didn’t.

Addicts love to blame the world for their problems. My parents were no exception in this and did this to my sister and I far too often, and so have I with others whenever a serious addiction has gotten a firm grip on me. I’m thankful I can identify this pattern far easier now when others are doing it with me, because at my core, I am a good person, who knows now that I’m not the blame for all the world’s problems, even though I was raised to feel like I was.

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

“You Bring Yourself Wherever You Go…”

There’s a saying I heard long ago in the rooms of 12 Step recovery from addiction that says, “You bring yourself wherever you go.” While it’s no secret that I’m ready to leave the Midwest and move back East, it’s the underlying message of this saying that has kept me here far longer than any other home I’ve ever lived in throughout my life since I left my childhood home and went off to college.

After almost 8 years here in Toledo, I feel now mostly like a fish out of water. I just haven’t quite fit this Midwest mentality, which in a nutshell is one of great reservedness. My partner Chris says I’m far too transparent for this neck of the woods and he feels it’s the main reason why I’ve struggled to connect with anyone here on a deep level. I’ve really wanted to jump ship because of this and head back East, preferably somewhere warm. My heart longs to live in the Tampa, St. Pete, Ft. Myer vicinity of Florida, but I’m open to living anywhere that’s close to the ocean really, as I’ve always felt closer to God there. It’s why I often think my life would be far easier living near the ocean somewhere, that maybe all my loneliness and daily pain would become far less. But that saying of bringing myself wherever I go comes to mind each time I ponder that.

Addicts tend to move around a lot in their lives, always thinking their unfortunate circumstances of life won’t be present if they move somewhere new. How many times I did this myself, recreating the very same situations repeatedly each time I moved I lost count. Here in this area, I’ve talked to many individuals that remind me of my old self, who say if they could just escape Toledo or Ohio or the Midwest in general, they’d be able to escape their miserable lives. It’s all a lie of course, one their ego tries to convince them of its validity. Because the reality is precisely what I learned over a decade ago, that whatever one’s unfortunate circumstances of life are, it will follow them wherever they go, so long as they aren’t working through what’s causing them.

I know my loneliness and pain levels wouldn’t shift much anywhere else. Over the past few years, I’ve seen that by getting away for good lengths of time, where none of my unfortunate circumstances changed whatsoever. So, even if I did find my way to somewhere like southern Florida and live within mere minutes of the ocean, I know it’s not going to change my life much for the better. This is primarily why it took me two years of long-distance dating before I moved here to live with Chris. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t trying to run away from something then. It wasn’t until I felt God push me in this direction that I finally did move. It’s indeed why I’m waiting here now, rather than letting my ego push me into moving right away.

Honestly, I feel like I was always meant to spend a period here in the Midwest, in Toledo specifically, and I’ve learned many wonderful lessons doing so. While I feel I’m ready to go now, I also trust that God will make a path to wherever I’m meant to go, when He’s ready for that. Leaving any time sooner is one that I feel would emanate from my ego and not my Spirit.

Therefore, I accept now that I really do bring myself wherever I go and maybe I’m still here in Toledo because I’m meant to finish working through something before God is ready for me to move on to somewhere new. After experiencing so many dead-ends and heightened struggles from the many ego-moves I’ve made in my life, I’m staying put until I truly feel God says it’s time to move on again…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How A Reoccurring Thing In My Dreams Is Connected To My 12 Step Recovery Life…

I dream a lot at night when I’m asleep and I do mean A LOT. Sometimes my dreams are precipitated by whatever happened prior to going to sleep. And sometimes it has nothing to do with that whatsoever. Often, I can’t even explain why I’m dreaming about what I am. But there is one reoccurring thing that I have had in a vast majority of my dreams over the past nine years or so that connects to my 12 Step recovery life and I’ll get to that in a minute.

Let me start out first in saying, I believe that many dreams have meaning. I also believe that many dreams hold no importance as well other than our bodies simply processing through various electrical stimuli and energies. There are dreams I wish I could remain in, where I’m playing sports again, running, jumping, and the like, and those of the sexual variety that probably will never happen in real life. And then, there are some dreams that absolutely would be classified as nightmares I hope to never have again.

Nevertheless, I have had messages come in dreams that have truly helped me on my path in life. Sometimes they’ve been answers to prayers and sometimes I believe it’s my inner guidance moving me forward on my spiritual journey. I was told long ago that any dreams we vividly remember from days to weeks to months and sometimes even years are ones that carry important guidance for us on our spiritual journey in life. I’ve most definitely seen proof of that with life playing itself out in front of me. There are countless books and reading materials out there on dreams, some having great depth and helpful insight, while others have felt like they were just trying to make a buck off of people.

Many say they don’t dream, but I tend to think everyone dreams, they might just not be as open to remembering them. Before I ever slowed down in life, that is before I learned meditation, I rarely remembered any of my dreams either. When the mind is racing as soon as one awakes, where one finds themselves thinking about this or that, it’s quite easy to forget about any specific dreams that played themselves out the night prior.

Regardless, back to the one reoccurring thing I continue to notice in a number of the dreams I’ve had over the years. Whenever my dreams are bordering on the nightmare variety or just dealing with themes that aren’t so pleasant such as sickness, things chasing me, people dying that I care about, etc., I’m consistently calling out to God for help in the matter. Sometimes I’ve even woken myself up as I’m literally shouting prayers out to God in real time. Why this is important to me and something I’m thankful to see, is that I realized, even on my subconscious level, I’m seeking something Greater than myself for help in life.

Why that’s important is this. Coming into 12 Step recovery many years ago, I never sought the help of anyone but myself. I thought I could do life all on my own and typically ran on self-will. It didn’t get me very far in life though and honestly, got me in more hot water than not. But, going through the 12 Steps and doing my best to live out the 12 Steps now has changed that. It’s helped me to see the importance of turning my will and life over to a Higher Power, something I really try to do every day. While some days are better than others with this, seeing myself seek God in prayer in a number of my dreams has been enough of a reminder that my 12 Step recovery life has been working on some level.

To be totally frank, turning my will and life over to something far Greater than myself is the ONLY thing that has kept me clean and sober from all of my past addictions and it’s the only thing that will continue to keep me sober from them for the rest of this life. That’s why I’m thankful for the reminder that even in my dreams, I’m still looking beyond my ego and self-will and asking God for help, proof that my 12 Step recovery is most definitely working and deeply within me at that…

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

The Path of Sober Living Doesn’t Mean Living A Monastic Life…

It’s never intended for a recovering alcoholic to not get around alcohol ever again. It’s just not feasible to avoid being around it permanently when it’s present in so much of the world. The same principle holds true with recovering addicts of all varieties. Entering 12 Step recovery isn’t about living a monastic life, it’s all about helping an individual with a former addiction to learn how to live in a world sober where the substance of their addiction continues to exist all around them.

A recovering food addict for example can’t avoid being around food unless they want to starve themselves to death. A recovering sex and love addict can’t avoid being around attractive people in this world unless they want to become agoraphobic and never leave their home. Quite similar, the recovering nicotine addict can’t avoid people smoking or vaping pretty much anywhere these days. And with marijuana becoming legalized in one state after another now, it’s becoming harder and harder not to be around those freely smoking it, thus challenging a recovering drug addict. The list goes on.

That’s why I’ve learned in my 12 Step recovery life that the stronger my program is and the healthier my spiritual foundation of my life is, that I can be around any of my former addictions. Let me clarify this though, as some newly sober individuals from an addiction might run with this and justify actions that are very unhealthy for them.

I’m not saying that a recovering alcoholic should hang out in a bar regularly. Nor should a recovering drug addict hang out with a friend repeatedly who’s doing a drug regularly they once did. I’m also not saying a food addict should frequent dining places like buffets either. But should a recovering alcoholic be able to attend an event at a bar or shoot pool from time to time for example? Most definitely. Should a recovering drug addict be able to be at a birthday party for example, where someone suddenly lights up a joint for themselves and be ok with that too? Absolutely. And should a recovering food addict be able to be around someone eating something they once had no control over. Certainly. Trying to avoid being around every single trigger from a former addiction would lead to a very lonely and monastic life. But learning how to be around the substance of a former addictions truly takes time. And it takes a lot of work, the core of which is developing a strong relationship with a Higher Power, something all 12 Step programs lead sober individuals to.

My work in 12 Step recovery and my relationship to God has absolutely helped me to dine out with individuals having drinks, to attend parties where someone lights up a joint, to be around those who smoke or vape, and even be friends with people I’m attracted to.

The bottom line is that one doesn’t enter recovery for an addiction to live a monastic life. I tried that, attempting to block myself off from every possible way where the substance of former addictions was present, and I still came across them in some way, shape, or form. That’s why 12 Step recovery is all about learning how to live in a world where those substances of former addictions still exist and having enough of a spiritual foundation from their recovery to not fall back into any one of them whenever they come across our path.

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

“I’m Freakin’ Hungover And I’m Calling Off Work Because Of It!!!”

Just the other day, I overheard someone noticeably upset as they yelled into their phone about how hungover they were and how they were going to take the day off of work because of it. Man, I truly don’t miss those days whatsoever!

One of the things that Bill Wilson (co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous and the 12 Steps) once said was how none of his best days drinking were better than any of his worst days sober. Listening to this person in their extreme hungover state was a great reminder of why that still remains true for me when it comes to this disease even after being over 26 years clean and sober from it.

How many times did I used to wake up in the morning over the course of my alcoholic and drug addicted days to excess did I feel awful, cranky, angry, smelly, with headaches, and filled with shame about what I had done the night before are far too many to recollect. I rarely felt good about myself on most mornings back then, most of which came during my college years and just beyond after graduation.

I most certainly remember those days when I skipped my classes because of hangovers, as much as I remember going to my classes and learning nothing as I gripped my throbbing head hoping to stifle the pain somehow, all while drinking copious amount of water to make it go away. And I most certainly remember my first job out after graduation taking days off due to hungover states, telling myself it was ok, when it wasn’t. Because ultimately, both in college and in my life after, there were people who were relying upon me and responsibilities I had that I selfishly never thought about each time I drank or drugged to such excesses, where I had to remove myself from all my obligations the next day because of it.

A sad fact is that alcoholics and drug addicts are selfish to the very core and tend to think nothing of actions such as calling off of work, never once caring about who’s affected by decisions like that, such as their boss who’s already struggling with a limited staff, who has their own challenges in life, and ends up having to force those who do show up to work, to take double duty, causing them far greater strife in the process. In my case, it was the software team I was on, who had to work overtime to cover my slack, not even getting paid for it due to being salaried.

The goal of 12 Step recovery for me has always been and continues to be one that moves away from behaviors like this. Rather, I work hard at being more of a selfless person, one who thinks about each of my actions and the ramifications they might have upon the masses, something I never did during my days of drinking and drugging to excess, where harsh hangovers in the mornings led me to doing the exact opposite.

Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and all 12 Step programs of recovery not only can prevent a person from ever having to be in a hangover state again, where bad decisions like calling off work tend to happen, but also will help an individual learn how to be far more selfless in a world where they once were far more selfish and consumed with self more than not…

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

Everyone Has The Potential Of Succumbing To A Toxic Addiction…

I’m frequently asked in many of my alcohol and drug addiction presentations with nursing students what causes a toxic addiction to rear its ugly head in someone and what type of person typically tends to succumb to it. Let me be very clear here in saying that anyone can succumb to a toxic addiction and it usually stems from a desire to avoid something that feels uncomfortable going on within an individual.

I always find it rather comical during any of my addiction presentations outside the rooms of 12 Step recovery when no one raises a hand there to my question of whether anyone has ever been addicted to anything in their lives. The truth is, everyone at some point or another has had an addiction to something, it just may not be one of the truly toxic ones that end up destroying a person’s life.

Some examples of non-life destroying addictions that people often succumb to are binge-watching, video game marathoning, frequent Amazon purchasing, indulging in large quantiles of sweets or caffeinated beverages, working long hours, etc. Doing anything of those for the purpose of receiving some desired effect or outcome is ultimately at the core of every addiction. Of course, any of those things can be done in moderation and there are good addictions as well, like working out once a day in a gym for example. But what happens when someone works out for hours and hours on end until they start harming their body? Why are they working out so much in the first place where injury begins to happen? This is precisely when a good addiction turns into a bad one for someone and how many of the more toxic addictions begin to take form in an individual.

Take the student who is pushing themselves so hard in their university due to external and internal pressures to succeed. Maybe their release from all that pressure initially starts out in a positive way by exercising in a gym. But one night, they’re invited out for a drink after a completely overwhelming day, on a day they didn’t get their workout in, all because of their heavy workload and pressures they are putting themselves through. That first drink that night really hits the spot well, so well that it provides them a quicker ease and comfort to cope with all that pressure they’re under than doing their daily workout. So, they have a few more drinks that night because of the benefit it’s providing, making them believe that pressure has subsided. It hasn’t though and at some point, the pressure gets overwhelming again, enough so that their mind reminds them it can quickly be alleviated by taking a few drinks. So, they do that again that night, for that desired effect, and once received, they are off and running to the addiction races so to speak, creating that vicious cycle. Not everyone will succumb to alcohol or drug addiction though under even similar circumstances because there are plenty of other toxic addictions out there to numb a person from something uncomfortable going on in their lives. The same person under those school pressures could have picked up food one night and binged incredibly because it made them feel really good doing it. Or maybe they went to a casino and won big. Or maybe they hooked up with someone and had great sex. In each of those actions, the individual is avoiding dealing with what’s at the core, that being all that heavy pressure they’re putting themselves through and don’t want to feel.

The reality is, doing any action in the excess, where it begins to consume a person, and interfere with them living out a balanced and positive life, is the start of every toxic addiction, no matter what the action is. Whether it’s seeking likes or comparing oneself to others on social media, looking at things like pornography on the Internet, saying yes when you’re already overloaded, or something else, each may start out harmless, but turn harmful when it becomes a repeated action to avoid some uncomfortable condition, feeling, or fact of life.

The bottom line is that everyone has the potential of succumbing to a toxic addiction at some point in their life. As soon as any individual starts trying to avoid an uncomfortable reality in their life by using some external means to numb themselves from it, it’s precisely when a toxic addiction begins to rear its ugly head…

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