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

“This Too Shall Pass”, An AA Slogan You Need To Stick Around For It To Come True…

“This too shall pass.”

A slogan I heard the very first day I checked out the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) back in early summer of 1995 when I first became clean and sober. Regrettably, I didn’t stick around long enough to know that slogan only came true if I worked the 12 Step program that Bill Wilson and Bob Smith laid out decades ago for all of us. It took me another 12 years of what I like to call living out a life of “sodriety” to finally figure that out.

Living a life of “sodriety” was me living a completely sober life free from alcohol, but still acting like a drunk. Most people in the rooms of recovery these days refer to someone like that as a dry drunk, which I most certainly was throughout the majority of my first 12 years of sobriety. In fact, the exact opposite of “This Too Shall Pass” happened to me during all those years, as nothing passed at all. Nothing really changed for me other than things continuing to fall apart, resentments building, and wreckage stayed wrecked. My spiritual life remained mostly stagnant during that time period as well, except for some brief moments where I’d go to meetings for a while and share my drama, feel better for doing so, and then disappear again as soon as I did. While I did see a therapist during those years and went on a few retreats to help the imbalance I lived in, I stayed clear of doing the 12 Steps because I didn’t want to fully look at myself in the mirror. What I didn’t know was that for that slogan, “This Too Shall Pass”, to fully come true in my life, it meant taking a hard look at myself in the mirror, something the 12 Steps do very well for every individual who pursues them. But, I didn’t want to take a hard look at myself, as I was just too afraid to go through the pain of healing, so nothing really passed at all from my life that would have made my life far better.

In the process, I fell into countless other addictions, lost plenty of money, relationships, friends, and the like, just a like an active alcoholic often has happen to them, except in my case, I wasn’t drinking anymore and hadn’t been for many years. While God took away my obsession to drink beginning on June 10th, 1995, He didn’t take away all the baggage of my life. That was for me to work through and the 12 Step program was a perfect way to do that. I truly wish I had applied myself back then, at the beginning stages of my sobriety, by doing those 12 Steps, as I’d probably have gotten far healthier, mind, body, and soul, much sooner in life. Thankfully, I found enough honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness, to finally do the 12 Steps in the fall of 2007 and ever since life has gotten better.

The heavy burden I once felt when I first checked out AA so long ago now, truly did become less and less the more I kept coming back, the more I worked those 12 Steps, and the more I sought the guidance of my Higher Power through it all. Now, I’ve come to see that a simple and once thought, silly little slogan of “This Too Shall Pass”, really does have a truth to it that one will only ever grasp, by just sticking around, something I didn’t do for over 12 years, but something I do now, one day at a time, hopefully for the rest of my life.

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

Do You Practice Contempt Prior To Investigation?

One of my favorite sayings I use quite often now came from the rooms of recovery and it’s to never practice contempt prior to investigation, something I once did regularly both in and out of the rooms of recovery and occasionally still need a reminder of, like I did during my recent vacation with a restaurant I dined at.

Where this slogan began in my life was when I first checked out AA meetings back in 1995. I practiced contempt very quickly, judging the program, and everyone in it, feeling it wasn’t for me. I remained sick, mind and body, with countless addictions and addiction-based behaviors for years because of it. When I finally came into the rooms of recovery in 2007 with honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness (the HOW of the program), I saw a spiritual depth to the program that I clearly didn’t see from the few meetings I attended here and there over the 12 years I remained mostly a dry drunk/addict. Since then, I’ve learned that when coming around to 12 Step recovery, until one attends a good number of meetings, actually does the 12 Step work with a sponsor, and helps other suffering alcoholics and addicts, the gift of the program will remain hidden, thus making it quite easy to practice contempt. The investigation that’s ultimately needed is the one where a person sticks around in 12 Step recovery and follows the program as Bill Wilson and Bob Smith once laid out. I learned a lot by sticking around since 2007 and attending countless meetings, sponsoring many individuals, and volunteering my time in many ways where I’ve continued to share my experience, strength and hope. It truly has changed my life and something I was glad I finally fully investigated.

What’s truly ironic about this slogan is how it can also be applied to life in general. How many times have we all judged something without truly exploring it further, only to learn when we do it wasn’t at all what we expected? From people to places to things, I’ve done it numerous times myself over the years and found myself doing it again, albeit briefly, when I asked my best friend Cedric to pick a restaurant for us to dine at on our final night of our vacation together in Gloucester, MA. He picked a place called The Causeway, one I had never heard of. Upon arrival to their parking lot, at best it looked like a small breakfast/lunch café. To my ego, it wasn’t much to look at. Once we walked in, I felt even more that way as the ambience there was really just some folding tables, no music playing, and tons of people crammed in, some just ordering at a counter to go. But, knowing how much I’ve lost out on in life practicing contempt prior to investigation, I said nothing and sat down at the table we were directed to. An hour later, I must say, I had probably the best seafood meal I’ve had in decades. The waitress was so kind, the portions were incredibly large, the fish chowder was definitely the best I’ve ever had, and my main meal, my Baked Coconut Rum Haddock, was to die for. Truly, my old self would never have even given this place a chance, as I used to always only look for those prestigious and snobbish places to dine at, the ones where you usually need to dress up for, often where the meals weren’t even that good. At The Causeway though, a place where you can wear t-shirts and tank tops and ripped shorts, a no-frills type of place, you’ll most likely have an extremely marvelous meal that you’re going to remember, one I most definitely did and would give five stars.

The bottom line here is that practicing contempt prior to investigation has only ever led to one thing for me in life, that being to miss out on some pretty amazing things. Sometimes we just need to bypass our egos and give things a chance just to see how truly awesome they are for our lives like 12 Step Recovery and The Causeway have been to mine.

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

What Is The True Purpose Of The 12 Steps?

One of the questions I’m asked A LOT when doing alcohol and drug addiction presentations is what is the true purpose of the 12 Steps. There are many answers I could give to that question, and I’m quite sure every person who’s found their sober path following the 12 Steps could answer it differently, but my answer is always the same. The purpose of the 12 Steps for me is to shift my addict’s nature of pointing the finger at what’s wrong in the world to one where I instead take a hard look at myself in the mirror at what’s wrong with me and work on changing it.

Most addicts don’t want to look in the mirror at themselves solely because they don’t like what they see. Instead, they focus on all the things around themselves they don’t like with their friends, with their loved ones, and with the world in general. I met an addict in a detox recently just like this, who didn’t think there was any issue in him having 14 children with 13 mothers and was more focused instead on the actions of his children and mothers.

It’s in Step 4 of the 12 Steps where an addict like this is meant to take that hard core look at themselves as they write out all the resentments they have in life. Just seeing on paper the hundreds of resentments I carried for years really opened my eyes to how negative of a person I had become. But, it’s in the next part of the 4th step that truly held the mirror up to me, and maybe even clearly for the first time in my life where I actually didn’t look away, where I saw all those resentments had originated from my selfish, self-centered, dishonest, and fear-based addict nature. That became even more clear when I did the sex inventory that comes at the end of the 4th step, where the mirror totally reflected the countless people I had used for my own gratification throughout the years.

Nevertheless, the 12 Steps to me have really just become a very large mirror to hold up in front of myself, to go within, and to see all those wounds that had constantly led to me always pointing my finger outward. How many countless wounds I had when I first discovered the 12 Steps that I had been projecting outward for most of my life, consistently pointing the finger at what I perceived was wrong in the world, rather than moving beyond my ego to see what was clearly wrong within me.

An addict rarely thinks that anything is wrong with them and wholeheartedly tends to believe that everything that makes them angry and upset is always because of someone or something else. The only tool I’ve ever seen that can ultimately fix that gross misconception wasn’t one I learned through therapy, or on some retreat, or at church, or in the Bible or any other spiritual book, or in any type of self-help book for that matter either. It was only through my 12 Step recovery work that I finally began to see myself in the mirror for who I truly was, someone I had come to hate because of my addict nature and someone that took that hate and constantly projected it outward, seeing the world as broken, rather than seeing myself as broken.

So, what is the true purpose of 12 Step recovery? For me, it’s to look in the mirror, to look within, to find the source of each of my pains, angers, irritations, frustrations, and the like in life, to talk about them, to write about them, and to forgive, accept, and let them go once and for all, so that I may become totally free of them, free of their burden, and free of any desire to ever project the pain of them outward upon anyone else, something addicts sadly love doing, and something I’m so thankful I do my best now to not do anymore, thanks to the 12 Steps.

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

A 50/50 Relationship Is Erroneous…

When I first entered the dating scene in 1995, I began to hear that relationships should always be 50/50, but over the years through many long-term connections, both platonic and intimate, I’ve come to see that only offering 50/50 is erroneous.

What 50/50 means is that each party gives 50 percent to the relationship. But, what about the other 50%? Shouldn’t each party give 100 percent? Shouldn’t every type of relationship be giving 100% of themselves? Shouldn’t all relationships be 100/100?

To be perfectly honest, until I worked hard on my recovery from addictions, I was the type of guy who usually did give 50%, or far less, to those I was in connection with. Giving 100 percent meant being willing to change and spiritually grow, neither of which I was willing to do, because frankly I was selfish and self-centered, two traits that most active addicts carry.

Nevertheless, to be successful in any type of relationship, for it to blossom and last for years and years, and sometimes a lifetime, I’ve come to see that striving to give 100% is truly necessary. Striving to give 100% means I need to always be willing to work on myself, because as soon as I say I don’t need to work on myself anymore, it’s a clear statement that says I don’t care to address any of my own flaws or imperfections and when I do this, I start giving far less than 100%, and the more I travel down this path, the more I stop giving, and the more I stop giving, the more I start taking. Eventually that only leads to the dissolution of that relationship because there becomes a gross imbalance in the give and take department.

Presently, this is what’s going on in my relationship with my partner Chris. I love Chris dearly, I truly do, but he’s been stuck in a place for a good while giving far less of himself to bettering us as a couple. While I continue to do my best to give all of myself to us, our relationship isn’t feeling very balanced anymore. Rather, it’s feeling as if I’m giving far more than receiving now and that Chris is taking far more than giving. This is precisely what happened in my last long-term relationship. When my mother passed away suddenly during that relationship, I was utterly broken. I really needed my partner, but he became more concerned about our business we had at the time rather than helping me through that very difficult period. When he chose to not spend my first Christmas without my mother with me and my sister, it truly became the final nail in the coffin for our relationship.

I don’t want this to happen with Chris, but I’m really struggling with the many decisions he makes to focus more on himself than us. A great example of this was when I asked him one evening recently to do a small cleanup for me outside in the yard when I was unable to, solely due to a scheduled outing. He agreed to do so, but when I came home after that outing, the work hadn’t been done and his response was that he hadn’t felt like doing it and instead focused only on his own needs, wants, and desires. While that may be ok at times when one needs some personal downtime, when that becomes the regular behavior, it’s definitely not striving to give 100% to a relationship. It’s exactly why I’ve been wavering to remain in this relationship with Chris because I, like anyone in a relationship, deserve an equal balance in giving in taking, hence the striving to having a relationship of 100/100.

While no relationship is perfect and never will be, doing one’s best to give 100% shows the other person how vested they are in it. I have that type of connection with my best friend Cedric who lives almost 700 miles from me. While we are very different in some of our hard-core belief systems, we always make sure to talk twice a week, every week, and we always make sure as well to see each other twice a year, every year, and have been doing so since I moved away from his neck of the woods over 8 years ago now. This is part of us striving to give 100/100, which at the core we both believe is a glue that keeps this going and that’s our faith in God.

So, maybe the reason why people stop giving 100/100 and instead start giving far less, like 50/50, or some other imbalanced percentage, is because they start relying more upon themselves and their egos, who tell them that their needs, wants, and desires are far more important than anyone else’s. I choose to live by a higher creed, something greater than myself, something that I choose to call God, who helped a former addict like me go from giving 50/50 or far less, to constantly striving to give 100% in all my relationships, even when my selfish ego might not want to…

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

Always Looking For An Easier, Softer Way?

Sometimes I really don’t want to feel anymore because the pain gets too great in my heart and I just want to stop feeling it, even for a moment, which is the very moment when my brain often does its best to convince me there’s an easier, softer way out there to deal with it all. And do you know what nine times out ten that easier, softer way has been in my life? Some type of an addiction.

A long time ago, before I ever became an addict of any sort, I was a very lonely kid who felt pain, rejection, and loss on most days. But, when I discovered the effect that alcohol had on me and how it could take all that pain away temporarily, it immediately became my easier, softer way to handle it each time it came up. I clearly remember the first time I discovered that.

It was the day my mother and father went off to see “Pretty Woman” at the theater because I had recommended it. I thought it might be a great romantic movie to bring them closer together. Sadly, it actually had the exact opposite effect upon my father at least, as he left my mother during the middle of the movie and never returned to her or our home. When my mother came home, I was sitting in one of the family room’s soft chairs just relaxing and watching television. She was hysterical and screamed at her innocent 17-year-old son, “How could you have sent us to that movie?! It’s all your fault! Your father left me because of you!!!” After I had a few minutes to take that in, I stormed into the kitchen, opened up the cabinet, and took out the bottle of vodka, poured myself a drink, mixing a ton of it with a little orange juice. As I did so, my mother asked me angrily what I thought I was doing. I told her, “I’m doing best what you do, by numbing all my feelings.”

That pattern in my life of avoiding feeling and looking for an easier, softer way to cope with all the pain in my life began at that very moment. From then on, my life became a whirlwind of one type of addiction after another for more than 20 years. It really wasn’t until my late 30’s did I realize there was no easier, softer way to deal with pain that really worked, and if I wanted to truly heal from anything, I had to feel.

Most addicts struggle to feel in life with just about everything. It always starts out for an addict with avoidance of feeling something uncomfortable that comes up. Maybe it’s rejection from the family, or at school, or with a romantic interest, or friend? Or maybe it’s not from a rejection at all and instead is from a sense of inadequacy in life, such as a deep-seated insecurity that one doesn’t measure up to the world around them? Or maybe, it’s because of some deep-seated trauma that happened to them, that created a very painful bout of PTSD that still hasn’t been dealt with. Or maybe it’s because of something else altogether that causes them too much pain, so much so that they seek an easier, softer way to deal with it, over and over and over again, hoping to never have to face that ball of pain inside The sad thing that happens though never facing that ball of pain and doing everything one can to avoid it with those easier, softer ways, is that it only expands. That ball of pain grows. And grows. And grows. Multiplying beyond measure until life becomes pain itself and an addict lives in a constant state of looking for easier, softer ways to cope with life itself.

Here is the bottom line. There is no easier, softer way in life that will ever fix pain. The only way to heal from anything painful is to feel it, to walk through, to face it head on. And addicts hate to do that, which is why many never make it through the 12 Steps of recovery and remain clean and sober, because the 12 Step process requires feeling one’s pain.

I’m glad I know now there’s not an easier, softer way out there to successfully cope with all the pain I’ve gone through in life, because I wasted too many years of my life seeking them, only to learn each were a dead-end leading to the next dead-end.

If you can relate, if you are someone who often looks for an easier, softer way in life to cope with pain, please, take a moment right now, breathe, and know the only way you’ll ever get through that pain, where it won’t bother you anymore, is to face it head-on. In doing so, you’ll become a lot stronger in life to cope with the next bout of pain when it comes your way, because pain always comes, but it will get easier to face it, each time you do…

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

Living Life On Life’s Terms…

I often think the Universe keeps bringing me things onto my spiritual path to help me face my biggest defect of character in life and that’s being controlling. I’ve written quite a bit about this over the years, something the addict in me has constantly sought and something that’s been more of my downfall than anything.

Lately, I have four issues occupying a tremendous amount of space in my mind on a daily basis where each have provoked me to want to take some form of control back. Ongoing struggles with my health, my relationship to my sister, my relationship to my partner, and of all things, my relationship with a company that hosts this blog on their server, each have brought out of a side of me that shows how controlling I still can be.

I really want to let go and trust God. I really want to accept life on life’s terms. And yet, I often don’t. Instead, I take 12 Step serenity prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” and warp it. I start believing I can change everything if I just exert enough control and all that’s ever done is make things worse.

The most recent issue I mentioned about my hosting company deals with the fact that I’ve been having issues quite a bit with my site remaining up and running. I spent a good 12 hours on the phone over a recent stretch of five days or so with my hosting company’s highest level of tech support trying to convince them the problem with my site was all them. Every bit of control I was shouting into the phone at them wasn’t helping. Nothing got resolved other than my site’s problems growing worse temporarily with them trying to muck with things at my request. All it left me was feeling totally bent out of shape even more and having quite a bit of restless nights and a lack of sleep. What was ironic though was how after that stretch of days, I finally just gave up and said, “God, I turn this over to you. It’s in your hands…” and later that day, my site suddenly began working far better. I have no idea why, but, I feel the message was clear. I just need to work more on letting go of my Achilles heel, that being my control issues, and start working harder on accepting life on life’s terms.

Regardless, the bottom line is that my ego frequently gets in the way of this because it’s afraid to let go, afraid to accept life on life’s terms. Deep down inside me is really just this little boy who is simply scared to let go and trust God.

Honestly, I don’t want to spend the rest of my life trying to put life on Andrew’s terms because I will end up being a very miserable person for the rest of it if I do. But, I’m quite sure that if I let go of control a lot more than I have lately, that I’ll probably see that living life on life’s terms is a far better path filled with greater peace and joy, two things that have eluded me for much of my life, especially as an addict.

Living life on life’s terms, that’s what I am praying to strive for now. Because I truly want a life filled with greater peace and joy, things that I know will never come through any form of control.

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

Having A Game Plan For Recovery From Addiction Instead Of Just Winging It…

When I volunteer at the detoxes that I do here in Toledo, I’m always amazed at how hardly any of the clients there ever seem to have any type of game plan on how they’re going to handle their addiction once they get discharged and instead often just wing it.

Many addicts and alcoholics tend to look for a miracle cure to their issues, hoping some medication will quickly fix all their problems. I lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people introduce themselves to me at the detoxes I attend who state they are only there for medication and that they either don’t have any alcohol or drug problems, or that they do, but it’s well under control. Yet, after getting them to open up a little more, I generally discover how much their alcohol and drug use has been a major catalyst to why they need medication in the first place. Why they never seem to understand that alcohol and drugs affects one’s brain chemistry, often causing the very reasons why they are there, including anxiety, depression, and plenty of other mental health disorders, is beyond me? Regardless, even if medication gets prescribed to them there, that alone is never the sole solution or a good game plan.

So, what is a good game plan for someone coming into the world of sobriety from alcohol or drugs, especially if they’re emerging from a detox? Depending on one’s life situation, there are truly two paths that one can take for help.

For those who are homeless or have no real responsibilities in life, I tend to recommend that their best course of action is one where they go into an in-patient alcohol and drug treatment program. Here, in Toledo, there are many of them now. One of my favorites is Midwest. At places like Midwest, structure gets created for the person new to the world of sobriety, or someone coming back to it after a relapse. Having structure is so critical to the alcoholic and addict, as those without structure, frequently just relapse back into their disease, especially if they’re homeless or have no responsibilities in life. At in-patient treatment programs like Midwest, a client gets exposed to communal living, the 12 Steps, meetings, and learns how to function again in the world starting with a controlled environment without alcohol or drugs. And after completing a program of 30 days at places like this, they can move into halfway houses or other sober living type situations, where the structure becomes less for the individual, yet enough still remains to help guide them sober in the real world.

The other path is for those who have a full set of life requirements already, such as those with an important job, a family, someone they’re taking care of, etc., where they can’t necessarily go into some in-patient treatment program without having serious repercussions because of it. For them, the recommendation is usually to find a therapist to talk to, a home 12 Step group to attend, a sponsor to do the 12 Steps with, and going to other 12 Step recovery meetings daily. Having structure like this is crucial for the person who returns to living in the real world immediately upon getting sober. Without this type of structure, an individual like this often tries to build their recovery into their life, rather than the other way around, where most often doing so leads them straight back into their addiction.

I’ve worked with individuals throughout my recovery life who have followed each of these paths and have seen great success for those who stuck to it. But coming out of detox and having no game plan, trying to just wing it in life, rarely ends well for any alcoholic or addict. Even, I, myself, continue to have a game plan all these years deep into my life of recovery from addiction. I’m glad I do, because the last time I tried to live life without one, well that didn’t end so well, as I landed in a mental ward and had a suicide attempt during that period of my life.

The bottom line for any alcoholic or addict is that once the alcohol and drugs are out of their system, whether that occurs in a detox or at home, there NEEDS to be some sort of a game plan in life for their recovery from addiction. One that keeps them connected to other sober individuals, one that helps them learn how to function in a world without using alcohol or drugs for survival, and one where ultimately, they find a Higher Power who will keep them clean and sober through anything. Without this, trying to just wing their recovery and hoping that things like a medication will fix it all, usually results in nothing more than constantly living in a vicious cycle of addiction and temporary stints of sobriety…

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

Choosing To No Longer Be Used In Friendships…

Recently, a friend of mine I once did a numerology reading for over 14 years ago texted me and asked for some more numerological advice. When I did their numerology reading all those years ago, I was paid for it and provided them exactly what I do for anyone else who has ever asked for one of these readings. Each has appreciated what I offered and never asked for any further advice, yet this friend has done it numerous times over the years. I finally decided after their most recent attempt that it was time to put a stop to it, as I realized it wasn’t healthy for me anymore to continue to do so.

While it may not take up a lot of my time to keep answering the numerology questions I have for this friend over the years for free, the reason why I’m putting a stop to it really boils down to the fact that I’m not getting anything back in the friendship. Simply put, I feel as if I’m being used, something I’ve often allowed myself to be in life.

During the most recent persistence of this friend reaching out for further free numerological guidance, I let them know what I was going through personally. I told them my life felt like it was in pieces because of the state of my health and the state of my relationship, and asked them for prayers. I told them I’d be unable to help them at this time because of it all. It truly was my first attempt to set a boundary and take care of myself and I felt far better after doing so.

I guess I should say I wasn’t all that surprised though when I didn’t get any response back from them showing any support of where I was at in life, no kind or reassuring words, only them continuing to not understand why I couldn’t just take a few moments of my time and give them the numerological answers they needed. The interaction was a strong reminder of what I don’t need or want in my life anymore, which are friends who aren’t capable of being there for me when I need them. It’s something I’ve come to see with this individual over the years, as each time I’ve reached out to them, needing a friend for support, promises get made to call me back and are never fulfilled, yet each time when they’ve needed me, I’ve always done what I could to be there for them.

Friendships like this are toxic in the long run. I don’t want friends like this because they only lead to a lower self-esteem for me. Friends like this are only there when it benefits them somehow and that’s not a real friendship. Regrettably, I know this behavior all too well, as there were many addict years of my life when I was this type of friend to others.

I’ve come to painfully learn this over the years in my 12 Step recovery work for my former addictions. I see so clearly now that friends aren’t a commodity to use when you need them and to discard when you don’t. Rather, friends are people you are there for when they need you and not just when it’s convenient for you. On some level, it’s why I’m thankful for the strong reminder this friend gave me of this, a reminder of how I once was and how it probably affected those who once considered me a friend.

The friend I want to be today for another is someone who can be trusted will be there for them when they need me, a shoulder to cry upon, and someone who will listen without judgment. I still have a lot of work to do in this area, which I so clearly saw through the actions of this individual.

Sometimes the best learning lessons in life come in ways like this, ways that might not feel so good when it happens, but ways that are necessary to evoke change. I’m choosing to act now by removing friends like this from my life, who aren’t healthy for me and are consumed more in what I can do for them, than ever being there for me, as I deserve better, and so did all those who I once used just like this. If you happen to be someone I once did this too, I truly am sorry and pray you forgive me.

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

I Often Wish I Had A Family…

I often wish I had a family. A big biological family with extended family beyond that. That kind of family with plenty of aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews and first cousins and such. I have many friends and even a partner who have much of that and while I’m grateful for them and the support and connection they continue to receive from those various family members of theirs, it’s left me feeling very alone in this world. Because beyond my sister and her family, individuals I haven’t had any connection with in the past few months, I have no other family to reach out to.

My father and mother were the only children of their parents and they passed away long ago when I was 25 and 33 respectively. My grandparents did have a few brothers and sisters who had kids but I never got to know any of them deeply when I was growing up and to this day have no real direct connection with any of them. In light of that, my current sponsor and others in the past have frequently told me I need to create my own family and I’ve tried. And tried. And tried. And repeatedly come up short.

Recently I came to realize just how difficult this is for me during an extended car ride home from Cleveland where my friends Mike and Frank were talking about how much love and support they have in this world. After an hour of hearing about their extended families and how many people care about them, I told them to please stop, as it was wrenching my heart incredibly.

Beyond my partner Chris of nine years who I live with and consider family of course and my best friend Cedric who lives in Massachusetts, I can’t say I have anyone else in my life who I’d consider “family”, someone who’d drop everything to come be there for me if I asked. I have a few good friends from former cities I once lived in who I know care about me from a distance, who I talk to from time to time, but that’s different.

A family member to me really is someone who is there for comfort, especially in times of great need, who enjoys seeing you regularly, and surrounds you with love and joy when they do. I don’t have that beyond Chris and Cedric and wish I did. Why this is may indeed be related to having lived in addictions for far too long, diseases that took me away from connecting to others. Or it may be because I’m weird and not most people’s cup of tea when it comes to someone they might grow deeply connected to and consider family one day. While I’ve often prayed that God would bring a new family into my life and have tried so many different avenues to bring that to fruition, that prayer has yet to be answered.

Some days this has led me to honestly wish I had been born straight, as I would have had a big family with many kids if I was, who hopefully would have had many kids themselves. Having grown up feeling alone with only my sister and I, two people who sadly fought like cats and dogs for most of our childhood years, I truly have deep compassion for those who may be reading this and feeling like they can relate.

How many of you wake up each day and wonder if you passed away, who really would show up at your funeral? Or if there would even be a funeral? And how many of you have wondered if anyone would really miss you in the long run once you were gone? I think these things daily and cry out to God in tears on most mornings on my knee’s bedside, begging Him for answers as to why my suffering and aloneness has been so great in this life.

Continuing to bear the brunt of the health issues I do, having such difficulties making deep friendships that could become “family”, having no biological family anymore to connect with, I’ve come to treasure those moments when Cedric and I talk and laugh like no days have passed since we last saw each other. I thank God for those moments and all the ones with Chris as well each time we take small road trips for a day and create new memories with each other. And I even treasure those small gifts in life like my cats jumping on top of me and calling me their family as they purr away and fall asleep on my lap. I am very thankful for those simple moments, especially on those days when I feel so very alone in this world.

That’s why I believe that having family is something to truly be thankful for, which is also why it bothers me when I hear individuals tell me they couldn’t care less about their family and harbor resentments towards them, unwilling to forgive and reconnect. Because family is something I may never have, but if one day I do, if one day I have a handful of people who truly are there for me, who would come from wherever they live if I called upon them and said I really needed them here, I will forever be grateful for it. That I can promise.

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

Is “People-Pleasing” Just Another Form Of Being Controlling?

I know I have control issues and continue to work on them. I think all of us in this world have control issues actually and sometimes I think those control issues mask themselves in strange ways through our behaviors that to us might seem like we’re doing the right thing, but to others, it comes across as controlling. One such way I believe is through “people-pleasing”, a behavior I’ve battled on and off through much of my life, which recently, I came face to face with through an action I took in a men’s group I’m part of.

In one of our meetings a few weeks ago, we were working towards coordinating an upcoming outdoor meeting and barbecue. After much discussion, a date was voted upon and agreed to, after which I realized that a member of the group (and also a good friend of mine) who wasn’t there to vote, might not be able to make that date due to their work schedule. So, I asked the group if they wanted me to contact this person and ask about their schedule. The answer was yes, and so I did. The answer I received from my friend was for a different date than the one the group had already agreed upon. So, I immediately brought that back to the group and made sure I expressed my desire to have this person included in the event. The result? The date got changed to accommodate them, which only led later to far more drama, chaos, and frustration in the group. In the end, my desire to be there for this friend and make sure they got included in that group outing was ultimately a “people-pleasing” action, the consequences of which led to nothing more than the appearance that I had been controlling through it all.

While my intentions were good to include this friend, the better solution would have been to just leave the initial date agreed upon by the group and hope that my friend could have made that date. How many times have I done this? How many times have I tried to “people-please” through what I thought were good intentions, by trying to include “everyone” in various events being scheduled? Countless. And how many times has that ended up backfiring on me, causing more drama and stress and always making me look controlling? Also, countless.

A good friend of mine recently told me that he learned long ago that when scheduling any event, he just settles on a date and sticks to it. Those who can be there, will, and those who can’t be there, won’t, and he doesn’t worry about trying to include “everyone”. On the contrary, I do always worry about including “everyone” in event planning and get concerned about letting someone down if they don’t get included in that planning, which always seems to get me in hot water. That “people-pleasing” action really does come across as controlling, rather than looking like I’m just trying to be a good guy.

So, I think I’m going to start taking a page from my friend’s book and just let events get planned on the day that seem most suitable for those present, rather than me worrying about including every single person not present. Because me trying to arrange everything to include everyone really has consistently come across as controlling, led to more drama and chaos rather than peace and unity, and frankly, has been completely exhausting upon my life.

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

When A Sponsee Blames Their Sponsor For Their Own Issues…

I love sponsoring others in 12 Step recovery, as it’s very rewarding spiritually, but at times it can also be extremely draining, especially when a sponsee indirectly or directly blames me for their own issues, baggage, and addiction itself.

Just over a month ago now, I had a former sponsee tell me they didn’t want to call me every day to check in, which is one of my requirements. They had over 13 years of sobriety from another program, but very little sober time in the one I was working with them in. They felt it was beneath them to check in each day because of how long they’ve remained sober in their other program. After talking with them at length though about this, the real root wasn’t about me at all, it was about them not wanting to do the work in the 12 Step program I was sponsoring them in anymore and them feeling they could handle their addiction on their own.

And just recently, I had another sponsee infer that the work I was doing with them and the traditional 12 Step recovery method itself was the very thing leading them into one relapse after another. What they failed to see was that before I even started the work with them, they were in a chronic relapse pattern over and over again for years, which was very evident a few days after stopping the work with me when they had another relapse. Here again, the problem wasn’t in my style of sponsoring, nor was it with the 12 Step program either, it was that they just didn’t want to do the work necessary to remain clean and sober.

The fact is, addicts are notorious for believing they can handle their addiction on their own, especially after getting some sober time under their belt. It’s a false assumption that’s often made, specifically when a sponsee begins to grow weary of the amount of work involved in the 12 Step process. And when that starts to happen, it’s typically their ego that often drives them to attack the very person trying to help them, in this case the sponsor, solely to allow them to be back on their own. Why would one’s ego want that? Because if there is no sponsor or 12 Step recovery program guiding them, it becomes very easy to allow the smallest of circumstances to guide them straight back into their addiction without anyone or anything to help keep it in check.

How many times I’ve had sponsees attack my style of sponsoring or the 12 Step method itself is countless at this point over the 14 years I’ve been doing this type of work with others. Hell, I even did this myself during my previous 12 years of sobriety prior to that with all the sponsors I had during that time. Nevertheless, it’s always the same reason why this happens. It’s because addicts are addicts and addicts don’t like facing the pain of themselves and their disease, which is precisely what sponsors and the 12 Step process does. It makes an addict face themselves, the very thing their addiction causes them to run from like I did during the first 12 years of my sobriety where I just became a dry drunk.

I have a lot of sadness for any sponsee who attacks my style of sponsorship or the 12 Step process because most tend to disappear after doing so and ultimately end up reengaging in their disease not too long after with very few ever returning. Those who do are usually quite apologetic, realizing how sick their mind and ego actually was. Having succumbed myself to so many addictions throughout my life, I know addiction behavior all too well and how my ego always is trying to lead me back into it. That’s why I have a sponsor and a sober support network. It’s why I’m still going to meetings all these years later in both of my recovery programs. And it’s why I remain very active in sponsoring others and volunteering.

Because the last thing I want is to start believing the problem is in my sponsor, a 12 Step program, the meetings I go to, or anything else that’s outside of me. The problem is within me, always was and always will be. Addiction is not out there, it’s in us. It’s never anyone or anything else’s fault. It never was and never will be. Believing anything otherwise will only give power to our addiction itself and that’s something I absolutely don’t want to ever do again…

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

Demi Lovato And “California Sober”

In 2018, pop singer Demi Lovato had a near-fatal overdose. At first, after her survival from that, she remained fully clean and sober from alcohol and drugs. But, three years later, she is now declaring to the world she’s doing something called “California Sober”, which in a nutshell is drinking and using cannabis in moderation. Being a recovering alcoholic and addict myself, hearing this come from a mega star with millions of followers truly disturbs me, solely because it’s going to mislead countless people into believing that the controlled use of addictive substances is possible for an alcoholic/addict.

I like what Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous once said on this very subject:

“We do not like to pronounce any individual as alcoholic, but you can quickly diagnose yourself. Step over to the nearest barroom and try some controlled drinking. Try to drink and stop abruptly. Try it more than once. It will not take long for you to decide, if you are honest with yourself about it. It may be worth a bad case of jitters if you get a full knowledge of your condition.”

I actually did exactly as Wilson suggested in my active addiction days, as I believed that I could control my alcohol and drug use, and for a while I did. But, honestly, anyone, even the hardcore alcoholic/addict just like myself can control their use of addictive substances for a period of time, sometimes if only just to prove to themselves they’re not as sick as others suggest they are. But, in the long run though, here’s the simple truth I discovered on this path of controlled drinking and drugging:

I ALWAYS EVENTUALLY RETURNED TO BEING A SERIOUS ALCOHOLIC AND ADDICT. 

That’s why it really frustrates me when someone as famous as Demi Lovato suddenly declares publicly that controlled drinking and drugging actually works. Look, I’ve known countless alcoholics and addicts over the years besides myself who have tried the controlled approach to their addiction at some point in their using days, none of which ever ended well, as there was always, and I do mean always, some condition of their life that ultimately led them back into their disease again. Whether that was the loss of a job, a financial hardship, some relationship woe, a death of a loved one, or maybe even just a seriously bad day, none ever remained free of their addiction in the long run.

Sadly, not only will many end up believing that controlled drinking and drugging is possible because of Lovato’s words, but many will also end up wreaking more havoc upon their life in the process of figuring that out. Some may even go to the brink of death or actually die because of believing that something like “California Sober” actually works.

Bill Wilson was totally right in his words on this subject, which thankfully I experienced long enough to know that controlled drinking and drugging doesn’t work and short enough to thankfully remain alive to tell others of this.

This is precisely why I fear for Lovato, as she is walking a very scary line that quite possibly will lead her down the same road she’s already been, one that almost led to her death prior. I pray she wakes up before that happens and realizes that “California Sober” may sound like a good thing, but it really doesn’t work. Because addiction is always doing pushups around the corner, waiting for us to have some unfortunate circumstances arise, circumstances that will lead to welcoming the disease fully back with open arms, solely to help cope with it. As one who has done controlled using has never fully learned how to cope with life on life’s terms.

God willing, this is exactly why I’m done with consuming alcohol and drugs in this life, as controlled drinking and drugging, or “California Sober” as it’s being referred to now, never worked for me and re-engaging in either will only lead me straight down the same paths I’ve already walked, and they are ones I know I wouldn’t survive again if I tried to traverse them again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are You The Same Type Of Person You Were 10 Years Ago?

Would you say you’re mostly the same type of person you were 10 years ago or would you say you’ve changed dramatically since then?

I’ve heard quite often so many say that people really don’t change much as they age, that at their core, they’ll always remain the same type of person, that essentially a person isn’t able to ever change their stripes. While there are some personality traits I’ll probably have for the rest of my life that have been a part of me since I was a little kid, who I am today is a far better person than the person I was 10 years ago.

10 years ago, at this very moment in time, I was a very unhealthy man due to addiction still ruling my life. Back then there was a guy named Andy in my life who I had become completely consumed with, or far better said in my addiction recovery terms, romantically obsessed with. I idolized this guy so much that I literally sat around at my home constantly waiting for him to call, where most often he didn’t. The irony in that connection was that he wasn’t even gay or bi. Rather, he used me knowing he could, knowing my feelings for him, and got a lot out of me financially and emotionally, yet never offered me hardly anything in return except stress and anguish. I was truly living in insanity then, all of which led me straight into the doors of a mental institution about four months later. And even after a five-day stint in the nut ward, I’d return to that insanity for almost an entire year before I finally woke up and began a shift to a much higher vibration in my life that I’m still working on cultivating to this very day. That shift came solely due to my relationship with God, as back then, I was still focusing more on what God needed to do for me, rather than even caring about what I could do for God. That’s because at my very core, selfishness and self-centeredness continued to consume me, where Him meeting my needs, wants, and desires was the only thing that mattered to me. The fact is, God knew I was a manipulative, hidden agenda-based, dishonest, and self-serving type of individual on most days and yet I still fought against Him changing it.

So, how did my stripes change then? Why is it today I care more about the needs, wants, and desires of others than my own and go out of my way to help another without any hidden agenda? And, how come I don’t get entangled anymore in romantic obsessions and remain dedicated to a life of 12 Step recovery?

Well, I can definitely say it didn’t arise out of my own thinking or was due to any promises or resolutions I made with myself. All of that got me nowhere actually. Ironically, the shift was born out of the very thing I was using addiction to avoid feeling, that being my chronic pain. It was indeed the very catalyst that eventually led me onto my knees, begging God to transform me into a better person. While I still bear the weight of a lot of chronic pain even to this day, it continues to have one positive effect upon my life. I seek God greater now because of it and ask Him every day to guide me in all my thoughts, words, and actions. It truly did take something Greater to shift me into the person I am today. And while I don’t believe I need to remain in pain to remain the better person I continue to become, I am thankful I’m not who I was 10 years ago am living proof that a person can truly change their stripes.

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

What 12 Step Recovery And Working Out At A Gym Have In Common…

According to some health statistics I found online, only 18% of those who join a gym actually go consistently and for those who do only 49% go at least twice a week. Aside from almost missing the entire month of January due to being very sick with COVID, I happen to be one of those who can be counted in both statistics since joining a local YMCA last year. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a member there, it’s that you go when you want to and even when you don’t, which is no different than what I was told long ago in the 12 Step recovery world from addiction.

There have been countless days over the past decade where I haven’t wanted to do some part of my recovery work. Whether it was attending a meeting I normally went to, or fulfilling some volunteer gig I had, or working with a sponsee or sponsor, or doing some part of my daily 12 Step work I do each day at home, my ego has often tried to convince me it’s ok to take a break from it. What I learned in doing so, when I’ve listened to my ego and taken that break, is how easy it is to slide backwards, where I eventually find myself skipping this and skipping that, until I’m skipping pretty much everything meant to keep me sober and healthy. It’s why my first sponsor in AA once told me, “Andrew you go to AA when you want to and you go to it even when you don’t want to.” The good thing about applying this is that I typically feel better after doing so, even on those days when I really didn’t want to do any 12 Step stuff. Learning this is why I’m now applying the same methodology to working out.

How many times in the past I’ve said to myself, I’ll go to the gym tomorrow and then awoken when that tomorrow comes and not gone, and then said once again, I’ll go tomorrow, until I don’t go at all and eventually just cancel my membership. That’s why I make sure now to go at least twice a week and often even three times a week. Not only has it been a great therapeutic tool for my pain-riddled body to keep it moving, it’s also been a great calming tool for my weary mind that has been running in way too many circles lately. After climbing a Stairmaster or using an elliptical for 30 minutes or more, I ALWAYS feel better on some level, not just because of raising my metabolism and keeping fit, but more so because it’s another win against my ego.

There are many days when I feel so lousy my ego says to stay home and skip both the gym and any of my 12 Step recovery obligations. But you know what, I push myself on those days to still do both because it does work to improve my mood and my self-esteem. Of course, there are also days when I do feel totally motivated to go to the gym and do those 12 Step recovery obligations, but going when you feel great is far easier than going when you don’t feel great.

I deal with a lot of feeling not so great in my life these days and have been for several years now. But continuing to keep all my 12 Step recovery obligations during this difficult period, as well as going to the gym a few times a week, have been great therapeutic tools for my life. In light of that, I’ve learned that what both 12 Step recovery and going to the gym have in common is attending either when the ego doesn’t want to may be one of the hardest things to overcome, but also one of the most truly rewarding things every time I do…

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

Getting COVID Helped Me To See The Void I Was Never Going To Fill In The Ways I Kept Trying…

If there’s one thing COVID-19 gave me a lot of, beyond feeling sick, it was a ton of time laying on my bed pondering my life. Through all that pondering, I realized I’ve been trying to fill a void within me in several unhealthy ways for a few years now and came to the conclusion that I needed to stop those behaviors immediately.

All this started several years ago when I felt God went on radio silence with me. The last time I can officially say I really felt God communicating with me was during the Christmas holidays of 2018 heading into 2019 when my partner and I were visiting my sister’s family. I had a pretty profound God experience during that period of time. But, by the spring of 2019, my pain levels had grown pretty significant and that silence from God felt deafening. But, instead of sitting through that emptiness, I began trying to fill it in temporary ways.

At first, I found myself saying sexual innuendos here and there merely as a way to joke around. But eventually, it led to me flirting with others as well. I initially told myself it was ok because it wasn’t breaking my sober line in my sex and love addiction recovery program. By the fall of 2019 though, I also started inviting a number of new people into my life I found attractive. All of this is what’s referred to as slippery-slope behaviors in the 12 Step Sex and Love Addiction program. By the time the pandemic arrived, flirtation and saying sexual innuendos had become a regular thing for me and I had several new friends that seemed grounded more in mutual physical attraction than in a spiritual connection. At that point, I was also consuming caffeinated beverages on a regular basis, which wasn’t a good thing because the euphoria from it often led me to only doing more of these slippery slope-type behaviors. When I eventually came down with COVID, it really forced me to see all this from a different set of eyes. I realized that the majority of 2019 and 2020 was spent trying to fill a void in my heart, a God-sized void. I’m actually pretty thankful I saw this because I think in time continuing to do all those slippery-slope behaviors would have led to me actually breaking my sober line.

Regardless, there are some pretty significant changes I’ve begun to make now because of all this. Changes that include me no longer spending time with those who were mainly interested in me due to physical attraction, me taking time apart from others for awhile whom I found attractive to focus that energy more at home upon my partner, me ending the use of sexual innuendos with everyone, me no longer flirting with anyone but my partner, and me returning to the consumption of decaffeinated beverages only.

While this may seem like trivial changes to some, for me they are huge because I’ve most definitely relied upon them far too much for ease and comfort over the past few years. I see now I need to sit in this void rather than try to fill it with things that can’t ever fill it other than temporarily. I’ve often wondered if maybe this is one of the reasons why I haven’t felt the presence of God in a long time because I’ve been so busy trying to fill that void with the things I was. I’ve also wondered if the emotional distance I feel with my partner is due to the same behaviors. This is why I need to get right with myself, which means ending all these slippery-slope behaviors immediately.

In all my moments of COVID sickness, I clearly felt convicted over this and while my physical healing from COVID and all my other health issues may be out of my control, what comes out of my mouth, who I hang out with, and what I consume is all within my control. As I take action on this renewed path and pray for the strength to see it fully through, I know it will allow that emptiness to finally be filled with the only thing I want it to be filled with, that being more of God.

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

Another Taste Of My Own Former Medicine…

The longer I remain clean and sober and doing my best to live out a life of healthy recovery, the more I seem to get a taste of my own former medicine by being on the receiving end of behaviors I once did with regularity to others that ended up hurting them. One such behavior was pushing my close friends aside for my sexual interests and romantic pursuits.

If there’s one thing I did quite hurtfully far too often during my addiction years, it was to draw friends in really close, showing them they matter, developing a heart connection with them, only to abandon them altogether or drastically pull back from them once any sexual interest or romantic pursuit came along. Most frustratingly, I’ve been on the receiving end of this in recent years.

I’m thankful it happened to me though, so that I truly know how it felt to those I did the same behavior to, but far worse, years ago. I almost lost my best friend Cedric to this very pattern, always placing him second to every one of my sexual interests and romantic pursuits. I did the very same thing to another close friend Dexter, constantly leaving him regularly feeling like he was chasing after a carrot on a stick, watching it get pulled back time and time again. And you know what, sadly and regrettably, my behavior wasn’t too far off from that, yet I never once stopped to think about how he or Cedric might have felt each time I did this. Instead, I selfishly assumed they understood because in my mind, sexual interests and romantic pursuits were paramount to all other interests, including developing deeper friendships.

In fact, I was so selfish and self-centered back then, consumed with my own needs, wants, and desires, that I lost sight over and over again of what was far more important, that being to nurture my friends loving hearts who were there for me long before those sexual interests and romantic pursuits ever came around. And even worse, I always expected those friends to still be there for me each time those sexual interests and romantic pursuits didn’t work out or were in some type of jeopardy.

Being on the receiving end of another one of my old addictive patterns of behavior has helped me to see this is the very thing I did to so many others like Cedric and Dexter. It’s also made me think of a number of others I did it to as well like my sister Laura, my friends Marvin, Louie, Debbie, Scott, and also, Randy, a friend I once loved dearly who eventually left my life because of this very behavior.

While I’ve worked hard to do a living amends for this by investing more time and energy into the connections that remain in my life these days, I think it’s important the Universe has allowed me to be on the receiving end of this, to specifically feel the pain that comes from this type of selfish addictive behavior. Sometimes I think we all experience a taste of our own medicine from time to time to spiritually grow out of selfish behaviors and into more selfless ones. And this one is proving to be no different.

I truly am sorry to Laura, Cedric, Dexter, Marvin, Louie, Debbie, Scott, Randy, and so many others who deserved far better than they received from me each time I allowed my sexual interests and romantic pursuits to be a higher priority than them. They deserved better which is why I continue to do my best to showing the world today that friendships matter to me deeply, and should never be placed on the back burner for sexual interests and romantic pursuits. Because in the end, what I’ve really learned in my recovery from sex and love addiction is that friendships tend to last far longer than any sexual interests and romantic pursuits ever do…

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