Grudges and Resentments – Poison To the Soul

One of the things in the New England area that AA groups do are commitments. A commitment is when an AA group will go out to either another group or to a place of recovery such as a Detox, a jail or a halfway house. At those places, its members will share their experience, strength, and hope in their AA recovery. It’s part of the 12th step work of reaching out and helping others.

Recently, I had an interesting experience happen one night when my group was on the schedule to speak at a detox in Brockton, MA at a place called High Point. Sometimes groups get double booked, meaning two different groups are scheduled to speak at the same time. The normal process when that happens is for one person to chair the meeting and to call a mixture of speakers from both groups.

I made a phone call to the detox ahead of time to make sure my group had the commitment that night as a few times that’s happened as well with a group showing up that wasn’t on the calendar. To my disappointment, my group indeed that night was not on the calendar for some unknown reason even though we had it on our calendar. What was ironic though was that the group that was scheduled was my former home group of which I still had AA friends in.

One of its members was still a friend of mine, her name is Jen. I called her and asked if she was going to be there. Sadly, she was not, but she encouraged me to still go. Truthfully I had really been looking forward to the commitment that night as I had not been on one for quite awhile.

After some dilemma, I agreed with her and went. When I walked in there were two people I knew and two I did not from my former home group. Up in the front of the room were five chairs and four of them were occupied. A girl I knew out of the people there asked me if I was even part of their group anymore and I made a joke about not being sure where my home was lately. She laughed and then I told her about my group having been on the calendar and then suddenly we weren’t.

This is where the story brings up the title of this posting. Also at this commitment was a guy who I had known for several years. He is most often referred to by a nickname but for purposes of anonymity in this posting, his name is Darren. Having just seen him a few weeks before and sharing a good conversation, I said hello and he ignored me which I found odd. Then he slid his chair towards the wall as far away as he could get from me which I found even more odd. He was chairing the meeting and just before he was to begin I asked him what was up and why he was sitting so far away.

The only response I got was that he was just claiming his space. During the commitment I noticed he wouldn’t look my way at all and when I tried to talk to him silently during it he closed his eyes and ignored me. He proceeded to call the three people to my left that were members of his group first and then with 15 minutes still left in the meeting, he called me.

When the meeting ended the other three members said goodbye and it was nice seeing me and hearing from me and several of the women and men in the detox came up and thanked me for a God centered message. I went to say goodbye to Darren and he was already gone.

I’ve really tried in my life today with recovery to not take ownership of other people’s stuff. I’m far from perfect in this and can say there are still areas of unsettledness within me and insecurity when I know someone has an issue with me.

Two nights later, I showed up at this former home group for a beginner’s meeting. Darren was in the front of the room helping to set up. I went to talk with him and ask him what was up from the other night and he walked away. When I proceed to follow him into the kitchen in the church basement and ask him for a few minutes as I had a question for him, he said he had nothing to say to me. I could feel the anger seething from him towards me and yet I had no idea what it was about.

Then the topic that night was presented at the beginner’s meeting by the speaker. It was about letting go of anger and resentments. How ironic! I listened to each person that raised their hand and was called up. One of which was Darren. I found it interesting when he shared because he talked about how he was free of anger and resentments and how his program was working so well that he didn’t walk with the anger anymore in his life that he once had.

It reminded me of much of my own journey where I went into meetings and wanted to speak just to feel important. I would tell everyone when I shared how great things were in my life, how I was free from this or that, and yet deep down I was still that same angry and resentful person. In hearing Darren’s message I saw the mirror for myself on something that I did quite often in my life until I truly decided to turn over my will completely as the 3rd step says to the care of God.

It’s been about two weeks now since that night and I have come across his path a few more times. Each time he has completely ignored me. Last night was the most difficult as I was talking to two AA friends of mine and Darren was also talking to them and when he left he said goodbye to the both of them directly with their names and said nothing to me.

I really don’t know what Darren’s anger and resentment towards me is about. I’m not really sure why he’s ignoring me. I wish I did. The human side of me has thought a lot about every possible thing it might be and I finally just prayed and I’ve been praying. A pacifist by nature, I like everyone to be happy and joyful with each other and I don’t like feeling anger or resentments. They are poison within. They eat away at the soul. If I was to walk in a room of 10 people and 9 of them shake my hand and say they are happy to see me and one ignores me, guess what, I want to know why and the self-centered side of me wants to fix that person and make them talk to me or like me again.

I’ve been praying daily for Darren to be free from whatever anger or resentment he holds towards me. I send him peace, love, and light and hope that whatever it is will come to the surface and that he will share it with me. My recovery today has taken me to a place where I will own anything that I may have done to bring harm to anyone else on any level. And what I’ve learned as well in my recovery is that I can make the attempt to find out what it is by speaking with the person if I don’t know what it is. If that attempt is met with a conversation, then I listen with an open heart. If that attempt is met with avoidance as such with Darren, I’ve learned there is nothing I can do.

It’s frustrating on some level now for me because it’s like the “elephant in the room” when I see him. I go to say hello and then I realize he doesn’t want to talk to me for whatever resentment he’s harboring. I don’t want to hold anger, resentments, grudges or anything negative towards anyone today including him. My own will leads me to being angry back at him. God’s will helps me to let it go and pray for peace, love and light for him.

It’s IMPOSSIBLE to be spiritually centered and God driven when I hold anything negative towards anyone. Where Darren is at is where I lived for most of my life. I am not better than him. I spent many years harboring negative thoughts and feelings towards people that I didn’t like for whatever my mind told me. Today, it’s not a way that I want to live and I’ve made a choice to live differently. I practice daily praying for those that I might feel anger or resentment towards. I also have a list of mantras that work around that same area and I do them each morning. It’s my goal each day to serve God faithfully and love all the people here on this planet, even those that I may not like how they are treating me.

I will continue to pray that Darren will find peace within himself towards whatever it is that has cause him to now ignore me. As much as it’s difficult for my wanting the whole world to get along and for everyone to like each other, the sad reality is that people aren’t there yet and that people carry those grudges.

To be filled with God’s pure light and be a beacon of hope and joy for everyone, all darkness, negativity, and toxicity must to be removed. I pray that one day Darren may approach me and talk about whatever he has been carrying negatively towards me, until then I turn it over to God and will pray for Darren’s happiness.

Peace, love, light and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Progression of Addictions

I was listening last night to a speaker at my AA home group and heard him mention something that I’ve heard many times before. He made mention to how there is “us”, meaning alcoholics and addicts, and “them”, meaning all others.

My experience is drastically different from that viewpoint. For most of my life I have been more of an extrovert and have chosen to not be so “anonymous” about my addictions. In the midst of being so vocal about them, I have talked to many people who weren’t addicted to alcohol or drugs, but the majority of them were battling with some other dependency. I found too that most people didn’t like to label themselves as addicted to anything.

In my spiritual journey to get closer to God, I have come to realize that anything I found solace in and built a dependency around was simply because I was covering up an emptiness inside. In AA meetings this is often referred to as the “hole in the soul”. People share quite often about how alcohol or drugs filled that hole and numbed that emptiness. I can attest.

My emptiness began a young kid. I lived with an alcoholic mother and father who chose to point out flaws and imperfections instead of loving unconditionally. Pointing the finger was commonplace. And more than often, the blame for my parents problems was placed on either myself or my sister. When my mother died in 2005, I had to clean out my childhood home with my sister and we found many letters that we had written as young kids to our parents. Each of these said in some way that we were sorry for being bad kids, for their fighting, and for any pain we caused them. Yet my sister and I were not bad kids. We tried out best to show them how good we were. We both excelled in school, sports, after school activities, and even in the thoroughness of the chores that we were assigned to do.

In the eyes of an alcoholic or an addict, it’s never good enough. Something is always wrong. And I grew up with a very strong message that I wasn’t good enough.

To make matters worse, in trying to excel in my sport of choice, swimming, I ended up being molested by the diving coach. I was 12, he was in his 40’s. I had known from a very young age that I was attracted to men, prior to being molested. The molestation was my first sexual experience in my life sadly. I was never given a birds and the bees talk prior to that or after. Left to my own thinking, I found fantasy and self-gratification through which I relived being molested again and again. I thought it was normal what I had experienced and it had for a moment, made me feel good on some level as compared to the hole I normally felt inside.

Until the age of 17, I lived in my fantasy world alone. If I felt down I would go back to the fantasy world. If I felt up, I would go back to the fantasy world to try to feel even better. And then I discovered alcohol.

I had never had a drink before because I didn’t want to be like my parents. After a pivotal junior year in high school where I went from being an outcast and a loaner, to merging into the “in crowd”, I was invited to a party. After lying to my mother to get to that party, I was handed my first cup of beer. When I finished the first cup, the effect was amazing, even more so than the fantasy world I lived in on most days. So I had a second cup and then I blacked out and passed out and began a five year long run of alcohol and drug exploration.

Combine that deadly combination with picking up cigarettes during those years and I found myself smoking a pack of Newports while I drank or took some type of drug every day.

For awhile, it did was it was meant to do. It numbed me. It hid down all those years of loneliness. It hid down that “hole in the soul”. It quieted down the demons from being molested, abused, and picked on for most of my life. It covered up the fact that I was attracted more to men versus women. And it made me feel like I just didn’t care about anything that I would classify as painful. With any addiction or dependency though, eventually consumption grows more and more to get the same effect. Those terrible voices from deep down inside me were getting louder and louder no matter how much I was consuming of any of them. And one day I found myself not being able to quiet them down anymore and my life started to spiral out of control.

I hit my first major bottom on June 10th, 1995, the day before my 23rd birthday. I was sitting with my closest friend from college, Rob, at my apartment in Fairfax, VA watching TV. I had developed feelings for him and was using all those substances to cover that up. I had acted only a few times during my college years on my attraction to men, each of which was when I was in a complete state of inebriation of which I passed it off onto as the cause.

On this moment in my apartment, I was attempting to get closer to Rob while he attempted to move farther away. It spurred on an argument which led to me feeling that I was going to throw up. I went into the bathroom and got down on my knees and instead of hurling, I prayed. I had never really prayed before selflessly. God was always a genie type of God to me. God, I wish for this please. God, I wish for that please. In this moment, it was different.

“God, I can’t handle my life like this. I can’t handle all these feelings. I don’t want to be addicted to any of these things anymore. Please help me. Help me get beyond this. Help me become a better person.”

That was as close to the prayer as I remember. And God answered. I can only describe it as a spiritual awakening, but instantaneously, the desire to drink, do any type of drug, or smoke cigarettes went away. My sobriety date for all three is June 11th, 1995, my first full day without any of them.

I wish I could say this was the end of my life as an addict. I titled this blog entry as “The Progression of Addictions” because that is what happened to me after this day. The alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, were not my problem. My problem was all that pain inside. My childhood was filled with a ton of it and on top of that, I was not sure if I was bi-sexual or gay. Without those things to “calm me down” and “cope with my life”, I had two choices. I could bring it all to the surface and seek help through counseling and recovery support through 12 step meetings, or I could keep numbing myself through other dependencies. I chose the path that was easier for me back then. I found other dependencies. I wasn’t ready to face all that pain.

Over the next 16 years, while I never did pick up a drink or a drug again. And while I never went back to smoking a cigarette. I found that there were many other things I could do that would make me feel good for a moment and I chased them.

I got addicted to sex instantly and joined groups that made that seem acceptable.

I jumped into long term relationships to hide from the random sex and became codependent on each one of them until they no longer made me feel good and I would move on to the next.

I got addicted to seeking better jobs that might “fix me” and “make me happier” so I quit job after job citing something was wrong with each of them, and got subsequently re-hired at a higher paying one each time.

I found that caffeine gave me a buzz when I drank it and also enhanced my euphoria that went hand in hand with my sexual prowess. My consumption of high caffeinated coffees and sodas became astronomical.

As the money I earned increased with the higher paying jobs, so did my purchases. I bought every techno gadget that came out. I had to be the first to have it. I bought multiple cars, houses, designer clothes, shoes, and so much more.

I found gambling and grew dependent on buying lotto tickets, scratch tickets, and playing slot machines.

The internet rolled around, and I discovered free porn and online chatting. I would spend hours and hours until dawn rolled around engaging in it.

I made tons of friends and then tons of enemies and got addicted to geographical cures. I moved from place to place thinking I could hide from the past and just recreated the past wherever I went.

I travelled outside the country when the money came in greater to afford that and went from country to country, cruise to cruise, destination to destination, seeing some of the greatest things this world has to offer and yet I was miserable.

I bought a business, investing money in someone else’s dreams, and lost that business.

I chased after heterosexual men who were active in their own addictions and tried to fix them while I grew addicted to being around them.

I overate filling myself with so much food (especially desserts) and then went and worked out for hours on end to burn it off.

And eventually the spiritual pain I originally started with as a young child became mental pain as I chased addiction after addiction,which then became emotional pain as the abuse to myself from all the addictions and obsessions I had got worse, and one day as I mentioned in my last blog, it all cumulated into massive physical pain.

That is the progression of addictions. There was nothing that I could consume or do without becoming addicted to it. Each of those things I mentioned was a numbing agent to me. Something to cover up that emptiness within. Something that would hide the fact that I had done nothing important in my life. Something that would shadow over the truth that I was so selfish and self-centered and rarely helped another with any type of unconditional love.

I had no God at the center of my life. I was the center of my own life. And I acted accordingly as I saw fit and was destroying my life and this vessel my soul lives within as such. It was the physical pain that manifested that made me hit the worst bottom that I’ve ever hit in my life. And it made me slow down and look at what I did to myself. And that’s when I took action. When the pain was great enough to face all those demons that were there prior to me ever doing any type of dependency on anything in this life.

Over the past 9 months, by placing God first in my life, I have successfully stayed away from caffeine and any other stimulants, gambling, all toxic friendships that were surrounding my sex/love addictions and codependency, started eating much healthier and in much healthier portions, focused on healing as the only job to pursue, and learned how to like being with me alone.

My conclusion in all this is that with me being at the center of my own world, trying to find my own happiness, I found nothing but consumption of things that there never was enough of. Placing God first in my life on everything has led me down a path where I don’t want to be quickly stimulated by anything or anyone. For as high of highs that I’ve experienced in this life with so many different things, I too have experienced the worst low of lows. The rollercoaster hills were great in my life without God at the center. Today, it’s more like I’m on a kiddie coaster as my life smooths itself out and I continue to heal from all those wounds I endured since a child.

If you find yourself needing anything to “quiet the nerves” or “enhance your mood” on any given day whether it’s a drink, drug, sex, gambling, caffeine, chocolate, food in general, material good, trip away, or whatever it may be that you find a drive towards, you may want to look within and ask what you are covering up. I covered up my wounds for way too long and at 40 years old, I’m finally facing all of it and having God direct me from here on out.

Peace, Love, Light, and Joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson