The Problem With Video Conferencing For A Recovering Addict Like Me…

In our current COVID-19 state of the world, many who are sober from former addictions are choosing to do video conferencing meetings as the only safe alternative to in-person 12 Step meetings. Unfortunately, for an addict like me, even video meetings can prove to be a challenge. Let me explain.

Almost eight years ago now, just before I became sober from unhealthy sex and love-based addict behaviors, I spent much time communicating via video. There, I lived in a voyeuristic world of lust and temptation with plenty of adults far older than I. Sometimes it even seemed that I lived more in that world, than in reality, enjoying a totally make-believe cyber world of individuals I’d never meet. Talking on video eventually translated to just another form of sex for me, a very unhealthy one at that. I saw things on video with others that I wish today I could un-see and I did things on camera back then that I wish I could undo. But I can’t of course. And now I’m living in a world where video is becoming more and more of a way of communicating through things like Facetime, Skype, Facebook Video Messenger, Zoom, and a number of others, each to help us all connect a little closer.

While I do occasionally use video talks with close friends, sponsors and sponsees, or those in the sex and love addiction recovery programs, it’s always with those who know my addiction backgrounds, who are respectful, and don’t pose a threat to my sobriety. But, now, as 12 Step meetings are being forced to move to the video realm to continue functioning in this COVID-19 world, it’s posing a problem for me. Let me give you a recent example to explain why.

One of the men’s spiritual groups I’m part of has chosen to move online temporarily to Zoom recently like a number of other groups have. While there are a few individuals in this group I find attractive, I’ve never had an issue with that aspect at our in-person meetings, and have always been able to remain focused there. But, as I sat on our first Zoom meeting, waiting for each person to get online, suddenly a camera came online with one of the group members I find attractive. They were lying down in bed, were shirtless, and it appeared they had minimal clothing overall as well. I was immediately triggered and suddenly I was thrust back into the days when seeing people just like that on video, were all part of my normal day-to-day addict behavior. Thankfully the moderator forced the person to put a shirt on and sit up, but the damage to my ability to remain present was shot by that point. As the meeting wore on, I also became distracted when another member straddled one of the wooden posts of their bed frame, as they tried to get comfortable. As they sat there with the phallic-looking object in between their legs, they rubbed their hands on the ball at the top of it, causing me even more addiction distress.

While I’m sure both were oblivious to the impact of their actions and held no hidden intentions in them whatsoever, it’s those type of things that were precisely what made up much of voyeuristic video life long ago. The fact is, I struggled the entire meeting to remain present because of those actions, constantly remembering the days of old when I’d sit on my computer and stare at a number of video chats in front of me of people I was lusting over. As those who may wonder why I shy away from doing 12-Step video meetings, which includes my own AA home group who’s using this modality now, this is the reason why. Like the recovering alcoholic would never go to a bar for recovery, it’s not the best modality for me to use video chats for my recovery from sex and love addiction.

So, as I continue to navigate these uncharted waters that COVID-19 keeps bringing, I am doing my best to find healthy ways to maintain my sobriety and recovery and thankfully, I still do have a few other options that don’t have to involve video conferencing.

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

When The People You Hurt Don’t Come Back, Even After An Amends…

Making a thorough amends using the 12 Step recovery methodologies doesn’t always mean that once it’s complete you’ll get everything back you lost during your addiction-laden years. Sometimes the only thing that happens is that you did your best to clear your side of the street and clean up the wreckage from your past.

I’ve worked with many people in the steps over the years and quite often one of the first things they say when beginning the sponsorship process with them is how they want their wife back, or their kids back, or their job back, or their friend back, or someone else back.

The point of the steps is not necessarily to get any of those things back. It’s to become a better person, with a better set of life values, one who has been freed of their obsession to engage in their former addiction. Trying to get something that was taken away or lost during all the years of addiction should never be the goal of anyone’s recovery. Because the problem that happens when a person bases their entire recovery with that one goal in mind is that if it doesn’t end up happening, their recovery crumbles and they tend to return then to their addiction solely out of despair. That’s not to say though that those things that are lost or taken away during addiction years don’t ever return, because sometimes they do through a lot of hard work. It’s just not a guarantee when doing the 12-step work, as sometimes the pain caused upon another is so great and so deep that those hurt don’t wish to reconnect whatsoever, even if the person in recovery has completely turned a new leaf and is nothing like their former addicted self.

The harsh reality is that sometimes a wife never returns to her recovering husband and sometimes a husband never returns to her recovering wife. Sometimes a son or daughter never reconnects with their recovering parent and sometimes a parent never reconnects with their recovering son or daughter. Sometimes a sister never fully reestablishes connection to their recovering brother and sometimes a brother never fully reestablishes connection to their recovering sister. And sometimes best friends and former employers and many others as well, never reconnect their ties to a recovering addict they once were close to.

I recently experienced this with someone who once was in love with me, a guy by the name of Tom Wells. Some 25 years ago now, he and I were inseparable and hung out pretty much all the time. I had just come into a new life of sobriety and had also just come out of the closet. I was a total mess, selfish still at the core, and hadn’t worked a lick of recovery at that point. Tom was always there for me back then, but I hardly was for him. I broke his heart and turned down all his affections and advances, even though deep down I felt the same as he, all because I was so afraid of true love and intimacy. Although he accepted my amends many years later, after I had worked on myself and my recovery, he made sure I knew that he wasn’t open to reestablishing our connection and that the door needed to remain closed because it was just too painful for him.

Sadly, the same happened with a guy by the name of Dexter Ramey. While I felt the same for him during our time together, the fear I had of true love and intimacy always kept me in addiction behaviors instead of drawing closer to him. My rejection of him hurt him immensely and even though I did my best to rectify that over the years, he too wishes to not be in contact with me at the present.

This is the price of addiction, that sometimes even with a healthy recovery and full remission, the things we loved the most that we lost somewhere along the way, never do return.

Currently, I’m facing something similar with my sister Laura. She was on the receiving end of multiple addictions that controlled me for several decades and although she has witnessed a total transformation in me and accepted the living amends I’ve made with her over the years, even commenting on how much I’ve changed for the better, there is still great pain within her that seems to come up whenever I make a mistake. I’m not sure if her wounds from me will ever fully heal. I’m not sure if she’ll ever be able to fully let go of all my past toxic behaviors that affected her so deeply. All I know is that when I screw up from time to time, as I’m not perfect, she often reminds me of my addictive past and all the pain I caused her.

Nonetheless, sometimes the pain truly has gone too deep in those we hurt during our active addictions. Sometimes they don’t return to our lives at all or sometimes they return partially but never fully. Amends making isn’t about getting them back though. It’s about becoming a better human being and not causing those you loved any more pain by doing your initial amends, then living it, and leaving the rest with God.

If whatever you lost or was taken away from your life due to addiction, does eventually come back after your recovery work and amends, be grateful, thank God, and keep working on your recovery. But if it doesn’t, keep working on recovery anyway and know you’re doing your best to make this world a better place for them, for yourself, and for everyone else as well…as that is the true key to a recovering life from addiction.

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

An Unpopular View Of My Response To COVID-19

My views on COVID-19 have drawn somewhat of an unpopular response by some lately. While the rest of the world around me has been self-quarantining more and more, I have continued to do my best to keep serving, doing my recovery work, meeting with those who truly still need human contact and help, volunteering where I’m still allowed, and having one-on-one interactions where I can with people in need. While I am also doing my best to do the social distancing, washing hands, etc., a number have wondered if this is still being reckless, selfish, and risking the health and lives of others. I pondered this quite a bit in recent weeks and felt my Spirit answer.

Did Christ or his disciples ever avoid putting themselves in places where the sick and ailing were? Did Mother Teresa? Martin Luther? St. Francis? These are just a few of the many selfless individuals who put the needs of others in front of themselves.

Each of these individuals are heroes to me and walked a spiritual path I’m doing my best to follow these days. Take Martin Luther for example. He lived during a time when the bubonic plague had come to his hometown of Wittenberg, Germany. As that disease continued to kill and spread rapidly, he remained there to tend to the sick and ailing, to be of loving support, while the majority fled in fear, leaving many of their own behind who were sick and dying. Martin Luther stressed his reason for that was the importance of caring for his neighbor. He emphasized the gift that came in serving in this way, and cited Jesus and Paul many-a-times as those who came before him who did the same.

So, now as we live in a world where people are becoming so afraid of how long this virus is going to last, where there are still far too many unknowns, where grossly exaggerated rumors of this virus pervade our common language daily, where so much of it seems out of everyone’s control, and where the news continues to raise the fears more and more everyday, many are turning to addictions to cope, are feeling hopeless, and getting depressed, where talking on the phone or doing video chats either hasn’t helped much or at all.

Like the sick need doctors and nurses to attend to them in person, I’m a firm believer that human beings in general, especially addicts of any kind, need the same. Like Martin Luther and his inspirations of Christ and Paul, each could have contracted the diseases they came in contact with or even spread it themselves. But, they had faith in their spiritual mission. They felt a conviction to help the sick and they trusted God enough to guide them through all they did, including keeping them and others safe. And I feel the same, doing the best I can do to keep safety precautions, but still reaching out and helping nonetheless.

I’ve been around a number of people lately who were grateful I was still willing to put myself out there, to be with them, to talk about recovery, or to simply give them some loving support and company. This past week I was at Rescue Crisis and held a meeting there for the clients, where I saw one individual have a spiritual breakthrough, where tears flowed from their eyes, all because of the love they felt in the recovery meeting that was held.

The fact is, while I respect science and medicine and the precautions for this virus itself, I have a faith that helps me to do this work. But look, I’m not an idiot either. If I was to become sick for any reason, I also trust enough that my Higher Power would want me to take care of myself, to self-quarantine like others, and to remain that way until I’m better. In the meantime though, I just can’t imagine someone like Jesus, or any of his disciples, or Martin Luther, or Mother Theresa, or anyone else who has ever followed a Higher Calling like they did, letting the fear of the Coronavirus prevent them from doing the spiritual work they felt called to do. I mean didn’t Christ talk about choosing faith over fear countless times? Didn’t he and his disciples walk into colonies of lepers and other communities where the sick were constantly being left to die, never once letting fear control them? While I’m not Christ or any great spiritual teacher and may never be any of the sort in this lifetime, I admire all those in our world’s history, who always chose faith over fear in helping others. Faith that led them to tend to many who were sick and ailing, no different than what we all are experiencing currently with COVID-19.

So, while I respect all those who choose differently and wish to remain in the safe confines of their homes right now because of this virus, I feel the God of my understanding constantly nudging me every day to keep putting myself out there where I’m called to help, to comfort those who are afraid, to be a companion, to love, and provide hope in any way I can, especially to those who might be struggling with addiction. Because if everyone chose to self-quarantine, who really would be there to tend to all the neighbors who actually do need some unconditionally loving help right now?

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