The Sobering Reality That Came From Learning What $5000 Of Amazon’s Initial Stock Is Now Worth…

Do you know how much $5000 invested in Amazon stock when it first went public would be worth now? I almost shudder as I write this. $4 million dollars!!! Why do I shudder, because in 1997, when Amazon was taking its company onto the stock market for people to begin investing their money into them, I was a naïve and angry young adult who had just lost his father to suicide and who also inherited about $400,000 from him!

At the time, I wasn’t thinking at all about what stocks to invest my newly acquired money in. In fact, I wasn’t thinking at all when it came to that money. Rather, I had a pure alcoholic and addict mentality that was thinking about all the physical things I could now buy with it, like the trips I could take, the gadgets I could own, the cars I could possess, and so on. And I went on to do that quite wastefully, like a good alcoholic and addict often does.

Now getting back to that initial public offering of Amazon stock, here’s a very sobering thought I’ve had to face lately when it comes to that inheritance I once received. If I had followed the wise council of a few financial investors in my life back then by taking $100,000 of the money left to me and placing it in Amazon, I’d now be worth over $80 million dollars!

$80 million dollars!!!!!!!!!!

It’s almost hard to fathom, especially knowing the path I took instead was one wanting to have fun with it right away, like a good alcoholic and addict. So, my life became one that was filled with gadgets that eventually became worthless, cars that long ago were either wrecked or sold for next to nothing, and plenty of memories of going places and wasting money on things that almost feel totally ridiculous now. Frankly, I spent all that money like it was never going to run out, but it did.

I know I shouldn’t do this, but I often wish I could go back in time to talk to my younger, overly addicted self, to not only give him a few stock tips that would eventually make him a millionaire, but also to tell him to get his ass into recovery and work the 12 Steps. But, there wasn’t any Higher Power in charge of my life then, but my ego was though. And ego drove me to quick and rash decisions that spend dollar after dollar after dollar of my father’s well-earned and saved money. It took me a long time to get over the shame of spending all of it on the dumbest of things in this world, but in doing so, a hard lesson was learned and one I am thankful to have learned.

That lesson? Well it’s one pretty much all of us in this world have heard before, that money can’t buy happiness. Regrettably, it took me spending all of my father’s money and most of the money my mother left me when she died years later to figure that lesson out. Most alcoholics and addicts, and maybe even people in general in this world, don’t ever get to learn this lesson though, because they constantly remain on the chase for money their entire life, never having enough to realize the truth.

Thankfully, this recovering addict did and I spent that vast majority of my parent’s money left to me to learn that not only does money not buy happiness, but that there also isn’t any person, place, or thing I need to ever chase after, that much of my addiction-fueled life once did with incredible regularity, that can ever fix any of the brokenness within me.

The only thing that can ever fix any brokenness within me is me under the guidance of the Higher Power I seek to follow, whom I choose to call God these days. While I may not be a millionaire now who invested wisely in Amazon stock when it first went public, and while I may be exactly the opposite of that now on some level financially from what I could have been if I had invested wisely from the start, I feel pretty priceless because of one thing I do have.

It isn’t what money ever brought me and it’s not something that investments ever gave me. Rather, it’s something that was only ever able to be cultivated within me once I stopped looking outside of myself in dollars and cents for the answers to all my emptiness. What makes me feel priceless is the unconditional love that is emanating from my heart more and more every day  now, for both myself and others, as that is something I never had when I was an active alcoholic and addict blowing through money like it was going out of style, when Amazon was first going public…

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

“I’ll Gladly Pay You Tuesday For A Hamburger Today!”

There once was a cartoon character that used to really get under my skin back in the day when I watched the show he was in. His name was Wimpy and he used to be on this cartoon called Popeye. He constantly said this totally annoying phrase that went as follows: “I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!”  The worst part about this phrase was that everyone kept falling for it, time and time and time again, even though Wimpy rarely ever paid up! AARGH!

Why does this bother me so much? Because I’ve had far too many friends throughout my life who were just like Wimpy, who’d want something up front and always offer promises to repay the debt at some later date, only to never repay, unless you hounded them repeatedly, and even then, it still wasn’t a guarantee you’d ever see it get repaid.

Throughout my life in recovery from addiction, I’ve come to see this is very much of a regular character defect of those who are either deep in the throngs of some addiction or are sober but haven’t worked their 12 Step recovery programs well enough yet to see they’re still doing it.

Has any of the following “Wimpy-like” statements ever been said to you, where the debt was never repaid?

“If you can give me a ride to my appointment, I’ll give you a few bucks for gas (and/or) take you to lunch.”

“Could you spot me $10 bucks for some food, and I’ll pay you back when I get my next paycheck?” 

“Do you think there’s any way you could buy me a coffee (or my meal) and I’ll get the next one the next time we go out?”

“I really need to get this bill paid, but I don’t have the money to cover it right now. Is there any way you could cover it for me and I’ll pay you back and even give you a little extra in a week or so when I get some more money?

“Is there anyone who can spot me for “this” and I’ll make sure I have the money to pay you back the next time I see you?”

I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve fallen for these types of requests from a number of “Wimpy’s” in the world, where the debt was never repaid, where accountability and integrity were grossly lacking.

Accountability and integrity are big with me today. I set healthy boundaries now because I’ve seen how spiritually toxic it is to support this Wimpy type of behavior, both for the person doing it, and for myself.

This doesn’t mean I don’t help out someone anymore when they ask for something with a promise to repay the debt a little later, because I have. But I approach it far differently now. Sometimes I just give what’s being asked for as a gift when I know the person truly has a serious need and has done everything they can to rectify their situation themselves and are still coming up short. Other times, I give it as a gift simply because I feel my Spirit move me to do so. Occasionally though, I do take someone at their word, and provide what they’re asking for, typically if I don’t know them, just to give them the chance to become a person of accountability and integrity.

These type of qualities are so important to me today. I’ve worked hard in my own life to keep my promises because there was a time when this addict definitely was very much like Wimpy, making many promises for things that I received, never to repay those promises, always hoping they’d forget my debt.

But let me tell you, most people don’t forget. They might tell you they do, but they truly don’t. They simply overlook it for a time, that is until one too many failed promises to “pay on Tuesday for a hamburger today” end up making the person resentful enough to cut the other from their life. Sometimes though, that resentment arises in another way, when you see the person spending money on things for themselves that aren’t necessities while you continue to wait for their debt to be repaid. 

I don’t ever let it get this far anymore. I simply give a person ONE chance to remain accountable and live in integrity with me. If I have to ask repeatedly for their debt to be repaid, I know I can’t trust the person to be accountable and in integrity and I don’t help them out anymore. While this doesn’t mean I don’t remain their friend, I just don’t give them “any more hamburgers”, because in doing so, I’ll only eventually become resentful at their lack of accountability and integrity.

Nevertheless, I’ve done what I can in my own recovering life from addiction to go back and repay all my debts because that indeed is a very important step to a healthy recovery. Thankfully, I don’t see myself as Wimpy anymore and neither do those around me. I’m not a mooch, I’m not a user and I pray I never am again. But, for all those out there who might still be acting like Wimpy, hopefully one day you’ll see the toxicity of this behavior and do everything you can to eradicate it from your life. Because I can promise you that when you do, your friends and loved ones will respect you far more, and you’ll feel far better about yourself as well…

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

When To Leave A Recovery Home Group…

I decided a few weeks ago it was time to leave my Sunday evening AA home group after five years of service there and I leave them with plenty of good memories, but I want you to know it wasn’t an easy decision to leave and one I definitely didn’t make in haste.

For those who might know what a home group is, it’s the main meeting a person in recovery from an addiction chooses to join and attends every week, pledging both their attendance, as well as their service, to the group itself. Unfortunately, what I’ve come to know over the years is that far too often people end up finding a home group they like, they join it by putting their name on the group list, but then only show up when they feel like it, and rarely do anything to help keep the meeting going. Sadly, many recovery meetings around the country and the world end up failing because of this.

Having been sober and in recovery for many years now, I’ve come to see the rise and fall of a number of different recovery meetings, always for the same reasons of people either not showing up or not helping to keep the meeting going. This tends to put the burden upon those members who are willing to help keep the meeting going, which then leads to them juggling multiple jobs, eventually burning out in the process. This is exactly what started happening to me about a year or so ago, long before COVID ever hit.

Before all this began though, the camaraderie of my home group was outstanding. It’s why I joined it in the first place. I was fully accepted there and never once questioned my desire to be a member. Frankly, I looked forward to attending every Sunday night and usually showed up quite early and left as the lights were being turned off. Even though this was expected of  members, I did it because I wanted to. Once a month, we’d have a business meeting to assign various group responsibilities and talk about the ongoing health of the group as well. There were typically plenty of us on hand for this where a number of us always were willing to take on the positions needed to fill. Years ago, I took on the position of secretary, as well as the “chip guy” who’d hand out anniversary tokens. At some point, I also took on social coordinator, setting up monthly events outside of the meeting for us all to connect a little more, as fellowshipping is very important to recovery.

The first time I noticed things were moving in the opposite direction of why I joined this group came during the summer of 2019 when most members had stopped attending the social gatherings. Shortly thereafter, I saw how many members weren’t showing up early anymore to help set up the meeting and were leaving as soon as it ended. A number weren’t attending the business meetings either, and for those who came, many didn’t want a duty, yet still wanted a say in the direction of the group. As an FYI, most AA home groups have the following positions: coffee/snacks person, a literature person, a chip person, a chairperson, a secretary, a treasurer, a GSR representative along with its alternate, and an Intergroup representative along with its alternate. Each month, I was noticing the same people remaining in the same positions and filling in where the rest didn’t. The one reason why people weren’t willing to take a position was frequently that they were too busy. The irony in that is that none of us were ever too busy to engage in our addiction when it had a grip upon us!

Regardless, when COVID finally hit, the overall sense of group lethargy and disunity only amplified. Those of us who were already doing our best to carry the group continued to do so, while the rest just seemed to disappear. During the past six months, my secretarial duties often felt like I was either pulling teeth to get feedback, or it was met with a sense of passive aggressiveness, even though I was merely just doing my job. After the last email I sent out was met with this repeated type of response, I decided it was time to leave the group.

I honestly never thought I’d leave this group though, but I feel secure in knowing it’s the best decision for my recovery. I’m often asked how a decision like this is actually made and this is it in a nutshell. I look for how many members actually show up at each meeting and how many come early and leave late as well. I look for laughter, connection, and fellowship amongst its members. And lastly, I look at how many members are willing to fill those group positions. But truly, at the very core, when you stop looking forward to going to your home group, it’s probably time to go.

So, as I say good bye to a group that’s been my home for over five years in AA here in Toledo, I’m excited for God to lead me to my next home where I look forward to new opportunities for fellowship and service.

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

The 12 Steps Of Insanity

While it’s pretty obvious I’m a huge 12 Step recovery proponent and often feel that the 12 Steps themselves can be applied to anyone’s life, regardless of whether they have any sort of addiction to recover from or not, there are parodies of the 12 Steps out there that actually fall in line with how most recovering addicts once were when deep in their addiction. Thanks to my buddy Tom, I received one such iteration of those parodies that frankly, is eerily close to how I once lived, when my life was a total self-will run riot.

Here is “The 12 Steps Of Insanity” that my buddy sent me:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over nothing – that we could manage our lives perfectly and those of anyone else who would allow me.
  2. Came to believe there was no power greater than ourselves, and the rest of the world was insane.
  3. Made a decision to have our loved ones and friends turn their wills and lives over to our care even though they couldn’t understand us at all.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of everyone we knew.
  5. Admitted to the whole world at large the exact nature of everyone else’s wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to make others straighten up and do right.
  7. Demanded others to either “shape up or ship out.”
  8. Made a list of all persons who had harmed us and became willing to go to any length to get even with them all.
  9. Got direct revenge on such people wherever possible except when to do so would cost us our own lives or, at the very least, a jail sentence.
  10. Continued to take the inventory of others, and when they were wrong, promptly and repeatedly told them about it.
  11. Sought through bitching and nagging to improve our relations with others as we couldn’t understand them at all, asking only that they knuckle under and do things our way.
  12. Having had a complete physical, emotional, spiritual breakdown as the result of these steps, we tried to blame it on others and to get sympathy and pity in all our affairs.

I’m sure most 12 Step-based recovering addicts of any kind can probably relate to this parody of the 12 Steps, because ultimately it’s how we all used to live. I had to laugh at Step 4 and 5 here, because that indeed is precisely the toxic behaviors I once exhibited with such voracity that I regularly pissed tons of people off because of it. Ironically, those behaviors seem to be happening quite a bit these days with plenty of non-addict-based  individuals in this crazy COVID world we’re all living in presently. That’s why I continue to feel the 12 Steps can be applied to anyone.

Nevertheless, in regards to the final step in this parody, I had my own complete physical, emotional, and spiritual breakdown back in the 2011-2012 time frame when an unchecked sex and love addiction was completely ruling my life and a suicide attempt became the only rational option.

Thank God I do my best now to live the true 12 Steps in every area of my life and that all of my former severe addictions are in recovery mode. Thank God I really can’t relate anymore to The 12 Steps Of Insanity and am not living any of them out. And thank God I absolutely know now that taking my will back and using control to guide my life will only lead me straight back into those all those steps of insanity, which is most definitely not a place I ever want to return to ever again…

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

No More Enabling Another’s Addiction!

I’ve fallen into enabling people with addictions for much of my life starting with my mother. You may be wondering what that means. Put quite simply, it means helping another acquire something they’re addicted to, that’s not healthy for them.

Long after I stopped consuming alcohol, taking drugs, and smoking cigarettes, I was still helping people who were addicted to those things to acquire them, whether that was by means of me buying it directly out of my pocket for them, driving them to get it, loaning them the money to get it, or taking money from them to go get it. Doing any was extremely unhealthy for me, as it was for them. Helping another to further engage in the substance of their addiction, knowing it is only going to hurt them even more, is toxic on every level.

Recently, I was on a retreat and was going out on a coffee run with another friend who was driving when I was asked by a fellow retreatant, whom I also consider to be a good friend, to pick up a pack of cigarettes for them while out on that run. They were going to give me the money for it, yet I refused to do it. The result? They weren’t very happy with me and proceeded to give me guilt trips, suggesting that I was going out to feed my Starbucks addiction, so why couldn’t I help them with their vice.

So why couldn’t I? The reality is I could have. I could have taken my friend’s money and bought him another pack of cigarettes. But, I also had just sat next to him in his hospital bed several months prior where his state of health was in dire straits and honestly still is. With kidneys not functioning correctly, some of the advice given was to stop smoking and to stop consuming energy drinks, as both were only going to make his health worse.

So, why the heck would I even consider taking my friend’s money to get something that is only going to lead to continued health problems for him. In my past, I would have done it, just to make them temporarily happy and not mad at me. It was always essentially me people-pleasing, especially more so if I was attracted to the person. But, if I truly care about him from my heart and soul like I do, there is no hell in high water, on any planet, anywhere in this universe where I would want to help him acquire another cigarette or energy drink because it’s only going to lead to greater health problems and possibly even death down the road.

I really do care about this friend, like I do other friends who have serious addictions as well, where each I’ve at times had to set a boundary and not help them further engage in their addictions. I am setting healthy boundaries today which includes preventing myself from people-pleasing addicts into remaining addicts.

Sometimes unconditional love hurts, as it did in this case when my friend deemed my actions unloving, when indeed if he could have stepped out of his frustration and withdrawal from his heavy smoking habit, he would have seen a caring friend and brother in God’s love simply trying to help him remain a little longer on this planet by not taking another breath of poison into his body.

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

Drama Bombing A 12-Step Meeting…

I can’t imagine what it would have been like for me to get sober during a global pandemic where the majority of meetings and in-person 12-step recovery work was grossly limited. But, there are people out there who are trying to do that very thing right now in their life. Unfortunately, not everyone who is trying though is always serious about getting on that recovery path and often uses the 12-Step meetings instead simply for drama bombing.

Before I get into what drama bombing is though, let me say this. I often wonder where the direction of the meetings I attend are going to head, because quite frequently, whenever any newcomer arrives, like this man did, the direction is one where many of us who’ve been around for some time pep up and have a lot of good things to say to help the person out. In other words, “newbies” frequently tend to reinvigorate us “oldbies”, which is precisely what happened at my home group that night.

It began with this man standing the entire meeting and sharing how his wife wants him out after 34 years of marriage. He spoke how his life is presently in total shambles because of his alcoholism. I initially empathized with him, as he spoke in tears of how he doesn’t want to lose his marriage and how he came to a meeting 5 years ago and scoffed at why long-timers keep coming back, even after decades of sobriety. He had wondered why they couldn’t just manage well on their own and had left that day never to come back until now, having let his disease grow even worse for five more years. He also mentioned how in two weeks he’d be on an annual fishing trip with his son and how that trip is normally a big drinking fest for him. He was really concerned how he could manage going on it. Overall, he genuinely appeared very broken over the state of his affairs, which I’m sure included the DUI he recently got.

I heard a lot of fire come out of a number of us there that evening after he got done sharing all this and it was most definitely one of the best meetings I’ve been to since these COVID times began. The man received priceless suggestions of what to do next in his life and it got hammered repeatedly for him to stick around after the meeting to get some numbers from men who could help him remain clean and sober through this difficult time. I honestly hoped much of what we had all said had resonated with him and that he was ready to finally get on the path of recovery. But instead, as soon as the meeting ended he left, without talking to anyone, and ultimately did what I used to do quite a bit in my own early sobriety, that being to drama bomb every meeting I attended.

Do you know what drama bombing is?

Drama bombing is when someone simply shows up to a meeting solely to unleash all the crap from their life onto those there, to complain about what’s going on, mostly to gain sympathy for a brief moment in time, and then to leave without any plan to actually do anything about it.

OH, HOW I KNOW THAT PATTERN FAR…TOO…WELL!

The first 12 years of my sobriety, where I didn’t do any recovery work whatsoever on myself, I did that very thing this man did with incredible regularity. I went from meeting to meeting eliciting sympathy from one person after another about the state of my own affairs. Crying about my father’s suicide, my mother’s tragic drunken fall, the countless losses of friends, jobs, relationships, and more. Yet, taking all those suggestions and really, metaphorically speaking, doing nothing more than throwing them all away in a trash receptacle as I left at the end of each meeting.

Here’s the bottom line I learned long after the pain of avoiding doing the recovery work had damaged multiple facets of my overall life. 12 Step recovery meetings aren’t for drama bombing! They aren’t for someone to simply come in and share all the misery that alcoholism and drug addiction, or any other addiction for that matter, has unleashed upon their lives. What they are there for, are for people to find a plan to recover. They’re there for people to receive sober support. And they’re there for individuals to listen to other’s experience, strength, and hope so that one day it can become part of their own sober journey in future sharings. But what they’re not there for is to hold a meeting hostage with drama bombing, as that is only continuing in a long-pattern of selfishness that addiction always tends to brings an individual.

But you know what? In the end, it was this man’s drama bombing that provided me a much-needed reminder of one of my worst patterns of addiction and it showed me how far I’ve actually come in my recovery. So, thank you 12 Step recovery, Alcoholics Anonymous, and of course God, for this man and for continuing to attend the meetings for the right reasons, the reasons that have kept me recovering for over 25 years and counting!

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

Alcoholics And Addicts Of All Varieties Are Truly Great Liars!

Alcoholics and addicts of all varieties are truly great liars. I was greatly reminded of that just about a week ago when a potential sponsee pulled a fast one on me that I fell hook, line, and sinker for.

After all the years I’ve been around the rooms of recovery and all the lies I’ve been told from people that were still living deep in their disease of addiction, I can honestly say it’s been a good while since someone actually lied to me where I didn’t know it was a lie. That’s why I was so surprised when it happened the other day and this is how it all started.

I had met this guy at the local place I volunteer at. He had been one of the clients at the meeting I put on Wednesday evenings and had engaged quite a bit throughout it, asking plenty of questions, including asking for my number. Having given my number out countless times in the past, I didn’t place much stock into him even using it. Ironically, I was wrong, as I received a call the very next day after he had checked out of the crisis center.

He immediately asked for a sponsor, of which I agreed to meet with him that Sunday afternoon. He then proceeded to call me the next two days, checking in to help him remain clean and sober for another day. When Sunday morning came, I received a text asking for confirmation of where we were meeting and I responded with the details. Two hours prior to our start time, he called me, asking again for confirmation of where we were meeting, indicating he hadn’t gotten my text.

After having talked with him at length on the previous three days, I gave him the benefit of the doubt that he really hadn’t gotten my text with the details. I gave them to him again and then he asked a strange question, which at the time I didn’t think anything of. He told me his girlfriend was probably going to come with him, as she too was struggling with some alcohol addiction issues, but had some level of agoraphobia and needed to see the configuration of our meeting for her to attend. I told him that would be breaking tradition and again accepted he was telling me the truth.

When 5pm hit, I was waiting at a Starbucks where we were to meet. 5pm turned into 5:15, then 5:30, with none of my calls to him getting answered. At 5:50, my phone finally rang. He sounded normal and profusely apologized that his car wasn’t working. He said he had been trying for the past few hours to get it working and finally gave up. He apologized again and asked if we could meet up sometime during the week to attend another meeting. After telling him the only availability I had was the following Sunday at the same time, he agreed to try again then, but in the meantime was going to go check out another meeting I had suggested. And then I asked him to call me the next time he might be late for one of our meetings.

I moved on with my evening after that, attending my home group, during which my phone rang twice from a number I didn’t recognize. When I called it back after my meeting ended, it was this guy’s wife. She asked me if her husband had come to my meeting, which I thought odd, given how he had briefly mentioned that his car trouble had involved his wife trying to help him get it started.

When she told me that he had left in his car at 3pm and had just returned home, I, of course, knew then he had lied to me. She continued by letting me know that he said the meeting was great and how good of a lead it was. What’s funny is how my meeting is an open discussion and not a lead. It also then occurred to me why he wanted that picture of the configuration at the meeting. He was going to use it to convince his wife that he attended!

Here’s the sad reality I will re-mention….

Alcoholics and addicts of all varieties are truly great liars. They do everything right for a short bit of time, creating smoke and mirrors for everyone close to them to believe they are finally on the right track. But inevitably, at some point, for many, the disease beckons them back in to where they then create even greater smoke and mirrors, through lies and deception, so that no one knows they’re back in their disease. Lies then become greater. More lies are told to cover up the previous lies. Until all those around them don’t even know what to believe anymore, like this panicked wife calling me and eventually putting me on a three-way call out of anger, which was extremely uncomfortable to say the least.

So, while I have no idea whether this guy’s wife really was agoraphobic or not, I was actually thankful to have been on the receiving end of all this guy’s lies. If for anything, it reminded me that addicts are sick to the very core and will lie in the most amazing ways where even they tend to believe them, just to escape the truth that they are sick and screwed up.

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

Are You In Touch With The Little Kid Within You?

It’s so easy to grow up, put our “big pants” on, and forget about that little kid in us. But deep down in each and every one of us is a little boy or little girl still longing to have fun, even as we become adults. Yet, too often we end up neglecting that part of us as adults and ignore any of those urges to be a kid again, even for a few moments. I’ve come to learn in my life how crucial it is to not ignore those inner urges anymore and to let my kid out on a regular basis, because when I don’t, I tend to find myself becoming totally sad and depressed.

I’ve seen this same type of depression in a number of people in recovery from addiction I’ve worked with, each having mostly neglected their inner child for most of their adulthood. How I learn this is by having them do a homework exercise of coming up with a list of things they liked to do as a kid and to identify the last time they actually did any one of them. Most haven’t done a single one of them in many, many years.

When I realized this for myself, it was a game changer. It’s when I saw that there was the big me, adult Andrew, the guy who calls the day to day shots in life, and then there was the 8-year-old me, little Andy, the kid who still longed to play and do kid stuff. I hadn’t honored that part of me in so long and it was the very thing making me quite sad on a daily basis.

In light of that, people tend to ask how to figure out what their kid wants. Well, I began that process by first identifying what my kid didn’t want. Things like alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, sex, gambling, and the like that big Andrew got addicted to that caused little Andy to get neglected.  Once I eliminated all those unhealthy addictions and stopped living in them, I began to remember the many things I liked as a kid.

Things like mini-golf. For those who know me, I probably play close to a hundred games of it every single summer nowadays. I’ll even take day trips to play courses in towns in the middle of nowhere or in cities a few hours away too and I always seem to feel better after doing it. Or things like eating ice cream and chocolate. My little kid loves both. Just a few weeks ago in fact, I felt my little kid nudge me with that urge and so I abruptly went to Cold Stone close to 10pm and got myself a treat. And you know what? I felt really good afterward. Not from the sugar itself, but from listening to that little kid in me.

The bottom line is that I’ve found it so important to keep a healthy relationship to my inner child. Whether it’s exploring a new game of mini-golf, gorging on some ice cream or chocolate, going to the movies, taking hikes, pulling out some of my board games, playing cards, working on puzzles, coloring, or even just making silly faces, noises, or goofing around like I did as a kid, each I’ve found to be uplifting, sometimes even pulling me straight out of sadness and depression.

So, if you should ever find yourself being regularly depressed, may I ask you to consider the last time you allowed your inner child, your little kid, to come out? When’s the last time you let him or her have some fun? Fun that your 8-year-old self would have had. If you can’t remember, then maybe it’s time to finally reconnect to that part of yourself. Who knows, it may end up being exactly what you need to improve your mood and your life…

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

The Temporary Insanity Of Alcoholism And Drug Addiction And The Importance Of Those Meetings…

When my partner and I were down in Columbus hanging out just over a week ago, his phone began blowing up with messages from family asking if we were ok. We soon discovered that a few houses over from us some guy had gotten wasted and high, lost his mind, and been firing shots in the air until he barricaded himself in his house. While his story came to an end a few hours later by getting arrested and taken to jail, it was a strong reminder of why I stopped drinking and drugging. While some may think this is merely an extreme example of what could happen when alcohol gets consumed in large quantities, this sadly can be very normal behavior for the chronic alcoholic, just like I once was.

Thankfully, when I was still active in my own disease of alcoholism and drug addiction just over 25 years ago now, I never got to the point of wielding a gun and firing shots in the air in any of my states of getting wasted or high, nor did I ever get incarcerated. But truly, I know that if I had stayed on the path I was, it was only a matter of time before either happened. The fact is, alcoholism, unchecked, never gets better, it only grows worse and so do the consequences of living in it.

I thank God when I hear stories like this. Stories that remind me why I remain clean and sober in a world where craziness seems to becoming the norm these days. A world that has been drastically altered in a COVID landscape. When COVID first hit our world back in mid-March, one might think after having a quarter century of sobriety from alcohol and drugs, that I’d be relieved when there were no meetings to attend in person anymore, given the tens of thousands of hours of meetings I had attended up to that point in my life. That it was actually a good thing for me because I could take a break from it for a while. Ironically, it had the exact opposite effect on me and I’d even go so far as to say that the effect was similar to that of removing insulin from a diabetic’s life.

What many fail to understand is that 12 Step recovery meetings are critical to the recovering alcoholic and drug addict, because they are the daily medicine we need to be reminded of how crazy it can get out there by just picking up one more time. It’s in the rooms we often hear stories from people doing things like getting massively drunk or high and wielding things like a gun in a temporary state of insanity. It’s where we tend to hear how someone has gone off their rails and gotten arrested or done something else pretty insane. And it’s that insanity that provides each of us a wonderful dose of medicine to stay clean and sober for one more day, even when our egos attempt to tell us in the worst of times or the best of times, or in these crazy COVID times, that maybe a drink or a drug might be exactly what we need for a little comfort.

While I can’t honestly say the exact path I’d take if I picked up another drink or drug again, I’m not willing to take the risk, even for the ease and comfort it might initially provide in doing so. I’m not willing to risk losing my mind and doing something so insane that it harms myself or another and lands me in an even darker place than the one that this COVID world has taken me to at times.

For as sorry as I am to hear about one wasted person’s demise or another person’s relapse in any room of recovery I attend, I’m grateful I remain on the course I do, staying clean and sober and fighting to attend whatever meeting I can, because I know it’s exactly the medicine I’ll need for one more day not to pick up a poison that will most certainly destroy my life in the end…

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

The Most Common Signs Of Alcoholism

It’s been a while since I wrote about this, but in light of a number of questions that people have asked me in many of my addiction presentations lately, how does one really know whether they’re an alcoholic or not?

Ok, here’s the thing, I’d love to totally say that there’s a perfect answer to this question. But there’s not, as there are so many shades of alcoholism. More importantly though, it’s truly not for anyone to say anyway whether someone is an alcoholic or not because the fact is, there are countless people who consume alcohol regularly and still live normal lives. So, in light of that, here’s how I will answer this question, by sharing a list of the most common traits that alcoholics tend to exhibit when deep into their addiction.

  • Hiding alcohol in various places / keeping hidden stashes
  • Attempting to regulate the number of drinks consumed in a single sitting
  • Attempting to regulate the number of drinking days
  • Attempting to regulate the number of hours spent drinking on any given day
  • Making resolutions to go for periods without drinking to themselves or loved ones
  • Never leaving a half-drunk beverage
  • Switching from one type of booze to another thinking it’s less of a problem for them
  • Regularly consuming “non-alcoholic” beverages like O’Douls
  • Getting buzzed or drunk every time spent drinking
  • Blacking out on a regular basis when drinking
  • Justifying their drinking because they’re still maintaining their lives, paying their bills, keeping their jobs, etc.
  • Asking another if they think they’re an alcoholic
  • Comparing their drinking to someone else’s drinking and saying it’s not as bad as the other person
  • Telling themselves they are drinking to take the edge off
  • Trying to convince others to drink with them
  • Drinking well beyond when the party/evening events are over
  • Drinking during the work day
  • Drinking in strange places like the shower
  • Drinking more and more to achieve a desired effect
  • Drinking even after health risks arise
  • Engaging in risky behaviors when drinking like driving, unprotected sex, hurting oneself, and doing other drugs/addictions

While this list is no where’s near a comprehensive list of every symptom an alcoholic may ever show, they are the most common I personally have either observed or lived in myself when I was once was active in my own disease of alcoholism. The thing to remember in all of this is simply this. If you are truly questioning whether you are an alcoholic or not, there’s a good chance you are. Just know that if you are, there is help out there for you and hope for recovery and when you’re ready, all you need to do is check out Alcoholics Anonymous. It truly saved my life and it can save yours too!

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

Only Those Who Are Truly Desperate…

It is said that only those who are truly desperate will ever end up doing the entire 12 Step recovery process from beginning to end. Desperate for what you may ask? Desperate for a new way of life.

I asked my best friend a few weeks ago, how many sponsees of his have fully completed the entire 12 Step recovery process in his almost 28 years of sobriety. He guessed somewhere between 20 to 30, which is out of what I’d say is well over 500 people by now that he’s ever sponsored. Personally, I’ve sponsored well over 100 individuals now myself in the years I’ve been doing this 12 Step recovery process, and can count on two hands the number of people who’ve actually completed the work.

I provide these unsettling statistics because most really aren’t desperate enough to finish the 12 Step recovery process after a few months of sobriety and stability get under their belt. The sad reality is that most individuals when they first make their way into the rooms of recovery are only desperate until whatever drove them into the rooms gets resolved or calms down enough for them to start focusing their energy elsewhere.

Quite recently, I had to let a sponsee go for this reason. They started out in total desperation with a desire to do this 12 Step recovery process and for the first three to four months, they proved that week in and week. At some point though, their work, relationship, family, a new home, and more began to take higher precedence, all of which ironically were in dire jeopardy of being lost when they started out with me. But, once those things no longer seemed to be in serious jeopardy and once their life began to feel far more stable, I watched as they slowly pushed the step work aside more and more. After several months went by with no real progress being made on their step work and constant promises that they’ll eventually get it done, I realized I could no longer be held hostage when so many others were still out there desperate for a solution.

When I first came to 12 Step recovery, I was 100% desperate for a solution. When a woman saw that fire in my eyes, she took me under her wing and brought me through the 12 Step recovery process. And even when my life started to get calmer and more stable, I clearly remembered how desperate my life was before the work, so I stuck with it and that desperation is precisely what powered me through to the end of the work.

I’ve learned in all the years since, that being desperate truly is the key to doing the 12 Step recovery work and sticking with it till the end. That’s why I had to cut my sponsee loose because they no longer were desperate enough to be driven to do this work and instead, were making excuses to getting it done.

The fact is, it’s desperation that drives a person to do just about anything. But when life provides a person the things they desire, like a good job with good pay, a great partner, a wonderful family, a beautiful home, etc., there begins to not be the need for the 12 Step recovery process, because it’s then that feeling of desperation starts to go away. I know this oh so well because I spent the first twelve years of my sobriety having everything I wanted in life and thus never feeling desperate enough to do the 12 Step recovery process. It was only after I lost a seven-year relationship, a business, my mental and emotional health, and my home, that I became desperate enough for this work. And when life started to get better again for me, because it eventually did, I didn’t lose that feeling of desperation, because I forced myself to constantly remember all the pain I had gone through prior. For those who aren’t desperate enough to complete the 12 Step recovery process though, the tragic reality is that they tend to relapse. Why? Because they start believing their life is more important than their recovery, which is the very thing that leads them away from this work. But, my door always remains open for those who are desperate.

What does desperation look like? Well, sometimes, it looks like a person knocking on my front door at 11:30pm on a weeknight, where I welcome a person into my kitchen with a fresh cup of coffee and a shoulder to lean on while they cry. I only wish when that type of desperation comes, that I could bottle it up, so it could be returned when things get better for them, to help remind the person how bad it once was.

Nevertheless, the 12 Step recovery process is ultimately only for those who are totally desperate, desperate for a new way of life, and desperate enough to stick around, even when life begins to get better. Because it always does, and when it does, it’s those who hold onto that desperation that tend to make it through, and I thank God for each of them, for I wouldn’t be here doing what I do today, even right here in this blog, if it wasn’t for them…

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

Yep, I’m Still An Alcoholic!

Many have often asked me how I know if I’m an alcoholic since so many years have gone by since the last time I ever consumed anything with alcohol in it. Some have even suggested that maybe I could handle it differently now, especially since it’s been so long (25 years now). Well, I can put all those questions to rest in light of something so silly as how I found myself consuming caffeinated beverages again in recent weeks.

I know caffeine isn’t good for me. Frankly, it makes me have incredible mood swings where I quite often do a Jekyll and Hyde transformation whenever I’ve had too much of it. Yet, every time I go through certain rough periods where everything seems to feel upside down in my life, I tend to start consuming caffeinated beverages for the slight ease and comfort they give me.

Here’s a quick statistic you may not know. Every day, about 90 percent of Americans consume caffeine in some form. More than half of the adults in the country consume 300 milligrams a day, making it America’s most popular drug. Scientists have even classified caffeine as a psychoactive drug that can alter moods and behavior, which is probably the very reason why I’ve frequently fallen back into consuming it from time to time, even when I know it’s not good for me.

My most recent battle with it started 5 weeks ago on a day where I was feeling totally unloved by my partner, where my pain levels were also high, and where loneliness was the only feeling I felt within me. On that day, I chose to go to Starbucks and order my favorite drink, one that normally had 3 shots of decaf espresso in it. But, this time I ordered two of them to be decaf and one to regular. A week later, I ordered the same drink with 2 regular shots of espresso and only 1 decaf. The week after that, I had all 3 be regular espresso in my drink. And finally, on the fourth week, I began ordering iced drinks with 4 shots of regular espresso, which is precisely when I realized how much I had fallen back into an addiction to caffeine and how much it also reminded me of the way I once consumed alcohol.

One beer to relax, became two beers, became three beers, became four beers, until it was many beers. The same became true with so many other addictions over the years as well. So, I’m actually thankful I saw how quickly I descended into addiction with caffeine because it was such a great reminder that I still have that “addiction gene” going on within me, meaning that if I drank any bit of alcohol again in my life, that same old drunk within me would return.

Thankfully, a caffeine addiction can be easily broken in a week to two, even for the die-hards who’ve consumed caffeinated beverages for years and years. In my case, after only four weeks of it, I was able to quickly detox from it in about 4 days. But, I can promise you that breaking an alcohol addiction is far more difficult, and something I don’t EVER want to risk trying again to see if I can handle it differently. As they say in many-a-meeting I’ve been to in Alcoholics Anonymous, “I may have another relapse, but I may not have another recovery.”

While there probably will be another relapse of caffeine at some point for me, and another quick recovery when I see my reaction to it hasn’t changed, I’m not willing to risk a relapse with alcohol ever again, because I know I wouldn’t recover from it, not after all these years. So, thank God caffeine doesn’t destroy a life as bad as alcohol can, and thank God for the great reminder through something as silly as overly consuming caffeine, that yep, I’m still an alcoholic and always will be!

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

Am I Really Sticking My Head In The Sand With All That’s Going On In Our Country?

Some have said that I need to take more of a serious stance on the pressing issues in our country presently, that I should pay more attention to the news, and stop sticking my head in the sand with all that’s going on in our country. Am I really sticking my head in the sand because I haven’t been paying attention to the ever-increasing number of cases and deaths from COVID-19? Am I really sticking my head in the sand because I haven’t been out there protesting alongside the Black Lives Matter movement? And I really sticking my head in the sand because I haven’t cared much about what our current President has said or done or who our next President will even be?

Here’s my simple truth.

I do care about all those who have suffered from COVID and who have died. I do care about all the tragic police brutality and all those who have wrongly suffered from it. And I do care about having a spiritually healthy President who I could actually aspire to be more like. But, the fact is, I haven’t been placing my energy into any of those things whatsoever, not because I don’t care about them, but because my energy has been 100% focused on something that’s far more important to me, that being my recovery from addiction.

I have often pondered, especially in recent months, giving up my sobriety to alcohol and drugs and cigarettes and sex and love and a number of other former addictions as well, all because I’ve felt so terrible inside my body day after day after day. So, one might say I’ve been fighting daily to keep my sobriety by investing ALL of my energy both into remaining clean and sober from so many deadly addictions that each almost took my life, and into helping others still suffering from any of those addictions too.

There still are over 130 people a day dying from overdoses in this country. There still are people regularly drowning their sorrows in booze who don’t know how to stop. There still are people who have COPD and yet continue to chain smoke. There still are people who spend hours engaging in unhealthy promiscuity and pornography. But helping them isn’t the priority for the majority of the masses right now, but it is for me. Because my sobriety and recovery depend on helping others who are still suffering from addiction.

The only remedy I’ve found to all my frustration, suffering, and outright madness surrounding my present state of health has been to stay in the trenches helping others who have suffered from any one of the addictions I ever succumbed to in this life. And somehow doing so, has kept me clean and sober through all of these difficult times we’re living in.

Look, if I don’t remain clean and sober, I will die. I know that today. My father and mother both died from addiction and I’ve often thought about following in their shoes because I can’t take the pain of my existence at times. But, somehow, getting out there and helping another suffering addict, has kept me going in a different direction then them, ONE DAY AT A TIME, through even the worst of pain I’ve felt within.

So, while it may seem like I’m sticking my head in the sand on all of these pressing issues in our country right now and that I don’t care about them, I do care. BUT, I care far more about my sobriety, remaining alive, and doing everything I can to stay clean and sober from a number of addictions that once completely ravaged my life. How I do that is the only way I know, by placing every bit of my energy into my 12-step recovery work, especially by helping another suffering soul who hasn’t been freed yet from their addiction.

My energy is totally on my 12 Step recovery and I’m ok with that, because if I don’t have my recovery from addiction, I have nothing, including the energy for anyone or anything else, not COVID, not Black Lives Matter, not the President, nothing. So, thank God for my sobriety and thank God I’m not sticking my head in the sand when it comes to my recovery. Because without it, I’d surely be dead…

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

When Getting Unfriended By Someone Close To Me Led To A Spiritual Breakthrough…

I was unfriended recently by someone I considered very close to me. There was no explanation given, no discussion prior, leaving me truly shocked, angry, and sad. It’s someone I looked up to and considered a peer who had previously promised me that if there ever was trouble between the two of us, any boundaries crossed, or any problems, they would let me know. They didn’t, which led me to doing the very thing I’ve done for most of my life in situations like this, I totally blamed myself…for all of it…without even really knowing why it even happened in the first place.

Sadly, whenever any conflict or disconnect arises with close friends, family, or my partner, I often end up taking the total blame, especially if they start to distance themselves from me. It’s a bad codependent pattern that began back with my mother and one I’ve continued to see is still a negative factor in my life at times. My unfortunate reality for a long time is that I often say “I’m sorry” for conflicts with others before even knowing the real truth behind those conflicts, which in this case is no different.

I truly don’t know the reason why this person left my life as abruptly as they did, and for that alone, I shouldn’t be blaming myself. Regrettably, I tend to think that everything is my fault only because of how much I got blamed for the world’s problems when I was a kid in the dysfunctional family I grew up in. My sister and I discovered many letters in our parent’s office when we were cleaning out their house to sell it, where each was us apologizing for their drinking, their arguments, and so much of their life’s conflicts. How that translates in this situation is that I must have said something or done something to make this person unfriend me. When the fact is, they are the one who took the action to leave without communicating the why, so it’s on them, not me.

Believe me, there are many times when I’ve discovered I’m actually at fault for some of the disconnects and conflicts that have arisen, but that’s only if they’ve gotten communicated with me. When there is no communication though, it ultimately is in the other person’s court to deal with, not mine. It’s sad that I carried the total blame ever since my childhood for so many conflicts and disconnects, even when I didn’t know the real reasons behind them. That’s why my anger arose when this person suddenly unfriended me. It triggered the pain of continuing to live out this pattern, of people abruptly departing from my life without any explanation and me owning it must have been because of me.

I’ve decided in light of this, that I am no longer going to accept this type of behavior in my life. I’m not going to accept ownership of when someone suddenly departs from my life or distances themselves from me without letting me know the reasons for it and giving us the chance to work through it. While I’m always willing to own my side of the street, (Thank you 12 Step recovery!) I refuse to own someone else’s side of the street anymore, like in this case, with someone abruptly exiting my life with no explanation given. It’s their side of the street to clean up this action, not mine.

While it’s my hope that this person will eventually reach out to me and work through whatever the situation is, in the meantime, I must accept this is their baggage to carry, not mine. It’s time to start taking my life back, my power back, and my innocence back. Because the fact is, I’m a good person who is willing to work on himself, who is willing to change, who is always trying to better himself. If someone I care about decides to leave my life with no explanation given, it’s their loss and burden to carry, not mine, and honestly, I feel so much better in finally making this declaration, as it’s one I should have made long ago…

Peace, love, light and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

How To Not Add To The Instability Of These Unsettled Times…

It’s quite easy to see how we’re not living in the most stable of times these days. COVID-19 has drastically changed life for all of us in so many ways. The constant reports of racism, police brutality, demonstrations, and riots have done the same to all of us lately as well. Volatile financial markets, business closures, and overall economic instability also continues to plague our everyday existence now. And in the very near future, the battle for our next President, along with those countless smear tactics, and smoke and mirrors techniques will probably only further add to all this instability felt amongst us all. But, there is one thing that we can be assured of that doesn’t have to add to even more of that feeling and that’s choosing to not numb ourselves with some type of addiction from what’s going on in the world around us.

Let me clarify this with even greater simplicity. Choosing to numb ourselves from all this chaos in our world right now by heavily engaging in drinking, drugging, smoking, gambling, overeating, promiscuity, pornography, infidelity, going from one relationship to the next, overspending, etc., is only going to add to any feeling of instability we already have.

Addiction to something, no matter what it is, doesn’t do anything more than create a terrible instability in one’s life in the long run. Sure, it may provide some much-needed ease and comfort at the onset from whatever one’s worldly stressor may be. It initially takes that “edge off” so to speak. But, that’s how addiction always begins. A pattern of craving begins as soon as that “edge is taken off”, because when that effect wears off, as it eventually will, the addict then seeks the substance of their addiction again to recreate the same effect. Soon, they’re off and running in the pursuit of that addiction each time their worldly stressor comes clamoring upon them.

After 25 years of sobriety from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, and 8 years from toxic sex and love behaviors, I’ve learned a little to know that addiction always starts from a desire to numb oneself from someone or something. I’ve already seen this happening a lot more lately in our current unsettled times at my place of volunteer work. Many clients have been choosing to engage in one addiction after another or relapsing back into former addictions they had previously found recovery from, solely because they’ve been trying to numb themselves from a world they don’t understand anymore nor have any perceived control over.

Yes, there is a lot in our world right now that seems to be in control of us, but that doesn’t mean we have to become even more out of control by engaging in some addiction. Because by engaging in some addiction, although it may provide an illusion of some form of control, it’s really only making our world become even more out of control the more we engage in it.

The bottom line here is not to let the illusion of someone or something out there become our solution to dealing with all this craziness in our world right now. Numbing ourselves from any of it with some type of addiction is only going to add to the instability we feel.

So, I encourage you to remain sober by steering clear of choosing anything addictive to cope with these unsettled times, because you’ll find you have a much easier time navigating through these choppy waters if you do…

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

Yes, There Is A Reason Why I Spend So Much Time In My Yard And Gardens…

It’s a pretty regular occurrence for me to get asked why I spend so much time in my yard and gardens. While I know some of my neighbors and friends have had a good chuckle at times surrounding my OCD with it all, the easiest answer I can give deals with what I’m not doing during all those countless hours and meticulous care I put into it all.

What I mean by that deals with addiction. While some may argue that the incredible effort I put in daily to the upkeep of my yard and gardens is an addiction in itself, I’d gladly take that addiction over all the other ones I used to engage in throughout the many days of my life in prior years.

Being that I don’t have a paying job to speak of at the present, I have plenty of free time. That often translates into something that can drive a recovering addict back into addictive behaviors that aren’t good for them. That’s why it’s often recommended to have healthy addictions or healthy outlets to channel a former addict’s energy into.

For me, instead of sitting around the house drinking, drugging, and chain-smoking cigarettes, I’m doing things like trimming, pruning, weeding, fertilizing, and mowing. Instead of looking at pornography, living promiscuously, and fantasizing about others, I’m raking, planting, mulching, mowing, and watering. And well, I’m sure you get the point.

The fact is, I put so much energy into my yard and gardens because it not only prevents me from doing any of my old addictions, it also seems to help me feel better about myself and my recovering life. Recovering addicts tend to beat themselves up and think pretty low of themselves at times, something I personally have been guilty of doing to myself throughout many of my recovering years. Thus, channeling a ton of energy into the nature around my home has had a positive effect on my self-esteem, which in turn has helped to reduce any desire to act out in some toxic addiction.

That’s why I sometimes spend entire days outside in the scorching heat while my neighbors just shake their heads and think I’m crazy. It’s why I’m outside picking up all these countless whirlybirds that fall from the maple trees multiple times a day in the spring and it’s why I do the same with the leaves that come down during the fall. It’s also why I clean my ponds regularly and constantly prune my perennials. And it’s why it takes me several hours to simply cut and edge my postage stamp of a yard. The reality is on most days during the spring, summer, and fall, you can usually drive by my home and find me somewhere outside, doing the silliest of things like hand-picking every weed that I find popping up in my yard.

I know all of this probably sounds quite obsessive to the masses, but to me, I’d gladly take my yard and garden addiction any day over any of the former addictions that used to rule my life. And of course, being constantly in the nature around my home has one more positive effect on me as well. It always helps a little to feel closer to God when doing it.

Take today for example when I was watering for several hours in the blazing heat. A young robin landed nearby and appeared as if it recently had learned how to fly. As it stood there, mere feet from me, it seemed as if it was beckoning for some of water coming out my wand. So, I held the wand over it and watched as it splashed and played and cleaned itself in the cool shower over its head. When it was done, it looked up at me almost as if saying thank you, and then flew away. I truly felt closer to God after that and had a smile on my face.

So, for all those who ever wonder why I obsess so much in my yard and gardens, even when the holidays come where I look like Clark Griswold out there setting up all my decorations, know it’s keeping me sane and sober and helping me one day at a time find a little peace and serenity and connection to God…

Peace, love, light, and joy
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Daily Reflection

“Regret is the only wound the soul does not recover from.” (Sarah Ban Breathnach)

It is said that living with regrets isn’t healthy for any individual’s spiritual growth, yet many of us still harbor one or more of them for days, weeks, months, years, and sometimes even a lifetime. I’ve been guilty of living with regrets, especially on days when I find myself wallowing in self-pity and pain.

Regret is defined as a feeling of sadness or disappointment about something a person has or has not done in life, which is something I most definitely have grappled with. Over the years, I’ve found myself struggling with regret for all the addictions I succumbed to and the plenty of harm they caused others including myself, for all the friends I’ve lost due to the many selfish actions that came out of an addiction-laden life, for all those I could have had a relationship with but never invested or devoted enough loving time to, for all the business ventures I pursued that led to one financial loss after another, for all those negative things I said to my parents, especially during my final conversations with them before they abruptly died, for all the money they left me that I wasted after their deaths on so many needless things, for all the years I could have been working my 12 Step recovery program but opted to be a dry addict instead, for spending my entire college life getting drunk and high and having to live with fuzzy memories and lack of long-lasting bonds because of it, for all the people I sexually chased after who were so unhealthy for me that I allowed to lead me down such dark paths, for the computer career I once had but never felt passionate about that I spent 15 years in solely for the pursuit of money, and for how poorly I treated my sister for most of her life that caused many of the very problems we still have in our connection today.

I’m sure this list could go on and on, but here’s the thing when it comes to each of those regrets. They’re all in the past and I can NEVER change any of them, so it’s completely pointless to keep dwelling on them, because doing so only leads to greater suffering, something I don’t want or need any more of in my life. Equally as important is that each of those things that led to me feeling regret are things that helped me to become a far better person, a far healthier person, a far more caring person, a far kinder person, a far more selfless person, a far more devoted person, a far more loving person, a far more compassionate person, a far wiser person, a far more generous person, and a person I like far more than I ever used to.

The way I see it, instead of looking at all those things as regrets, maybe it’s better I see them as lessons learned. Maybe each of those things needed to happen exactly as they did for me to become the person I am now who’s full of heart and truly does his best to see the good in everyone, including myself. And maybe I just need to consciously choose now to live in acceptance of all of my past actions, knowing that doing so will lead to greater self-compassion and greater self-love. Because the greater I cultivate self-compassion and self-love, the lesser the chance I’ll find myself living with any regrets…

Dear God, I pray to live a life without regret over any of my past actions, just awareness of lessons learned and the wisdom of how to proceed forward with greater understanding and love for myself.

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

Another’s Projections Onto You Is Really More About Them…

One of the biggest things I’ve been trying my damnedest to remove over the past eight years is a character defect that plagued me during most of my addictive years and that’s selfishness. Yet, for some reason, no matter how hard I keep trying to do so, to become a selfless individual, some continue to project their own selfish behaviors onto me.

Recently, I experienced this with a good friend I care about greatly. They’ve been going through a good amount of depression. I’ve done everything I can to reach out to them, to get them involved in a men’s group we both are part of, and to call or text to let them know I care, all of which has been met with silence. While they have reached out to others who have contacted them, they’ve opted to not get back to me whatsoever. After expressing my sadness surrounding this through email and asking for some sort of contact from them, I received a short response completely void of any compassion or understanding that said I was selfish and to leave them alone. In their mind, somehow my repeated attempts to connect with them and to show them I care was thought of as selfish. Yet, I know my intentions were nothing of the sort, as in my selfish past, I wouldn’t have cared less about their depression or anyone in their state of mind and being, and would never have reached out to someone feeling like that, because it would have had to been a conversation about them and not me. Yet, I know in my heart my repeated attempts to contact this person was out of concern for them, even if they couldn’t see that.

But, because I often internalize what people think of me, another character defect I continue to work on, I let this friend’s negative opinion of me ruin a few days of mine in a row. I went around this over and over again in my head trying to see if maybe I was being selfish somewhere. But, after delving through it with my partner, my best friend, my therapist, and two other close friends, I realized this wasn’t my issue at all, and was merely a projection of someone’s own stuff. It was indeed also one of those types of things where hurt people often hurt the people they care about the most.

After coming to accept that, I began to wonder how many times I’ve owned other’s projections onto me. I can safely say that this happened quite a bit with my alcoholic mother. While she was often quite selfish in her actions, she often pointed out anything she felt was selfish that my sister and I did, even though many of our actions weren’t nearly half as hurtful as some of hers were. The fact is, people who aren’t happy with themselves often project their character defects onto another, especially to those they are close to and actually care about.

The more I work on my self-love, the more I see this, that I don’t have to own any of the projection’s others place onto me. Because ultimately, I am a good person who’s far more selfless than selfish these days, which I feel has been pretty apparent to those who’ve been a part of my 12 Step journey.

It really is ironic though, because my best friend and I were talking about this the other day when he laughed and said, “if only this person knew how selfish I really was back in the day…” How true that statement was. If only my friend could see how much I’ve changed.

The bottom line is projections are nothing more than judgments that are typically far more about the person saying them, then about the person receiving them, which hopefully my friend will eventually see for themselves…

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

How Codependency With Someone Can Hurt Those Closest To You…

I decided recently to take a few steps back from my relationship with my sister because of her codependency with her husband. It wasn’t an easy decision and, on some level, I’ve been totally wrestling with feelings of guilt surrounding it.

You see, for years, my sister was there for me when I struggled with one addiction after another. She stood by my side, even if it meant regularly putting herself in the line of my toxic fire of addict behaviors. She suffered greatly because of it and truth be told, if she hadn’t been codependent with me, it would have helped her to live a far healthier life and maybe even driven me sooner into the rooms of recovery, because I kept relying on her to fix and nurture me, when I should have been doing it for myself.

Now the role is reversed, as I’ve continued to work on my recovery from all my former addictions, I’ve witnessed just how deep her struggle is with her codependent addiction. I’ve seen how it’s robbed her soul of being true to herself, typically due to fear and a desire for approval and acceptance, something I too have known all too well and learned it came from never learning how to truly love myself. The deeper I fell into this addiction, the more I placed the majority of my hopes, dreams, needs, wants, and desires, and sometimes even my entire life itself far behind those I became codependent with. Both my sister and I learned this so very well because of our mother. Our desire to receive her love was how it all started. No matter how hard we tried, no matter how much we did right, there always seemed to be something more we had to do to gain our mother’s love.

I spent the better part of four long-term relationships and almost two decades of my life stuck in that pattern, accepting far less than what I deserved. It took a few severely abusive friendships during 2009 to 2011 that were extremely codependent to wake me up and see how much I was throwing my life away. Most of the things I did socially with those I was codependent with was what they wanted and rarely what I wanted. I threw money their way, even when I couldn’t afford to, and I gave up all my hobbies and friends for their interests. I’d drop everything just to be with them, even at the expense of another. My belief was they’d ultimately love me the way I wanted if I just did everything they wanted me to do. I eventually discovered it was a lie, but I kept on believing it, usually because once in a while they’d do something really nice for me. Deep down I always knew I deserved better, except my fear kept me a prisoner until the pain became great enough to do something about it. I’ve become much freer from codependency the more I’ve worked on my recovery, but I can definitely feel that part of me still there in my guilt to stick by my sister’s side, just like she did for me, except now I see how unhealthy doing so really is.

The pain I’ve experienced thus far trying to do what she did for me years ago has become too great a toll upon my health. It’s often driven me to want to re-engage in my old addictions all over again. The painful rejections of my attempting to make visits there or here while they keep on taking vacations everywhere else, the pain of never being allowed to go on vacations with them, the pain of not being able to see my nephews graduate from high school, the pain of being told that her Christian therapist says the issue is between her husband and me and not her work to do, the pain of my addictive past regularly being brought back up as a passive-aggressive weapon, and the pain of continuously watching her go round and round for years in this vicious cycle of misery with him, has become too much.

My pain isn’t because of how he feels about me, because how he feels about me ultimately doesn’t matter. My pain is due to constantly putting myself in the line of fire of her codependent behaviors with him. As much as I want to keep standing by her side, like she once did for me, I realize I can’t anymore, because continuing to do so, may very well drive me straight back into the hell of a life of addiction.

That’s why I’m at least for the moment, taking this step back from my relationship with my sister. My only prayer is that in fully removing myself from any part of the equation, that she’ll finally see the problem isn’t with me, or even her husband, it’s with her codependent addiction to him. And as Al-Anon says, one might need to  “detach with love” when the pain of dealing with an addict becomes too great.

So, I just hope my sister can understand why I’m doing this, because for as much as I love her, I don’t love her codependency, nor the great pain it brings upon my life…

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

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

“Lack Of Control, That Was Our Dilemma”

A friend of mine from recovery called me the other day and said they were really afraid of everything that’s happening in the world right now due to this global pandemic and really just wanted to engage in their addiction. I could totally relate, because when an addict’s world feels out of control, they tend to engage in their addiction to grasp some sort of imaginary control back. The irony in that is how it’s not them in control when they engage in their addiction, it’s actually the addiction that’s in control of them.

But that doesn’t stop the addict, because an addict likes to live in the illusion of having some form of control over something. That’s why these are such dangerous times for addiction to really blossom. With so much fear pervading the entire planet now, with financial markets across the globe in total ruin, and people being forced to remain in their homes for safety as everything gets temporarily shuttered in the hopes of keeping everyone healthy, addicts often tend to look for some way to regain control somewhere in their lives. So, they resort to drinking large amounts of alcohol, or taking heavy doses of drugs, or engaging in unhealthy forms of sexual activity, or spending hours looking at pornography, or consuming mega quantities of caffeinated beverages, or overeating foods that aren’t healthy for them, or smoking one cigarette after another, all with the sole purpose of believing they’re more in control of their lives as they do it.

But they aren’t. It really is an illusion.

Because the more they follow this pattern on a repeated basis, the more it becomes a very vicious cycle, falling deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole, until the addict one days realizes they never were in control in the first place while doing their addiction.

I personally know that pattern well and even felt that old desire to act out in unhealthy sexual behaviors on a number of late nights in recent weeks. Thankfully I haven’t and have instead utilized a number of recovery tools to prevent such a thing from happening. Because the last thing I want is to fall back into yet another vicious cycle of addiction where I keep grasping at gaining some form of imaginary control where none was ever there in the first place.

“Lack of control, that was our dilemma.”

This being one of my most favorite quotes from the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill Wilson, the man who helped to start the movement of recovery from addiction. How true this statement really is because at the very core of every single addict is the desire to have control over their lives. Will downing a ton of alcohol repeatedly gain that? Will taking a bunch of drugs do that either? Will cheating on your partner gain that? Of course, the answer to each is no, but to the addict who isn’t treated, or the recovering addict who’s drifted away from their recovery work, or the person who has the traits to eventually become an addict, none of that usually matters. Because temporarily forgetting all their pain and fear from their lives seems far better than suffering in it for even a moment. But in the end, the addict always loses in their many attempts to regain control.

True recovery from addiction isn’t about regaining or even being in control, it’s about letting go of it and trusting in something greater to get you through those hard times just like the one we all are living in currently.

The only solution I’ve discovered along the way on my journey to recovery is to keeping walk through all my pains and fears and to stop trying to run from it by looking for control somewhere else such as engaging in an addiction. Because on the other side of walking through all pain and fear is a level of peace that remains present, even when the rest of the world seems to be falling apart around you.

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

Recovery Fatigue

Recovery fatigue is a real thing that can happen in sobriety and just recently, a sponsee of mine began to face it. What is it? Quite simply, it’s when a person gets tired of doing their recovery work week in and week out.

Recovery fatigue is most definitely something I faced once before. I say once because the actions I took from it eventually almost led to a relapse and convinced me I need to do my recovery work for the rest of my life. It’s probably best I explain now how I learned this invaluable lesson.

Back in 2009, I had two years under my belt of recovery work. I had finally saw the promises of a recovery-based life coming true. My life truly was coming back together after 12 years of being a dry drunk before ultimately realizing I needed to do the step work, which I began in the fall of 2007. There was such a dramatic difference in my personality by the end of 2009. I was happier, laughed more, had increased confidence, and extremely energetic. I was also sponsoring five individuals through the steps, going on AA speaking commitments at least two to three times a week, and attending about four 12 Step meetings on top of that. One day in the midst of all that, I thought to myself,” Why do I need to keep doing all this recovery work?” I had learned the steps and was practicing them to the best of my ability, I wasn’t feeling tempted to engage in my old addictions, and felt very stable in my day-to-day moods. Recovery fatigue had set in and I bought into it.

First thing I did was to change sponsors to someone who didn’t have any recovery requirements for their sponsees. Then, I began attending less meetings. Sponsees started to drift away the more I drifted from the program. And somewhere along the way, I stopped doing most of those commitments as well. But, I still felt good in my own mind and hit a meeting here and there, telling myself it was enough. Oblivious to it all, new addictions began to take over my life. A year later, I almost relapsed with alcohol and drugs, attempted suicide, and was institutionalized for a number of days.

So, what happened?

They say that once you get a taste of true recovery from addiction and have worked a very healthy program, it’s hard to get away from it, because you’ll notice a big difference if you do. They also say that the recovery work for an addict is medicine that’s no different than the insulin a diabetic requires. Both are crucial for survival. Yet, my ego didn’t believe that. While I had heard all that so many times before I gave in to my recovery fatigue and was convinced none of it would happen to me, but it did and almost cost me my long-term sobriety and my life!

So, when a sponsee told me recently they were going to start attending less meetings for the very same reasons I once did back in 2009, I told them about recovery fatigue and what happened to me when I gave into it. But, even with that, they were still convinced it was ok for them to take somewhat of a break in their recovery work. In light of that, my final suggestion was to take a total break for a period of time, because they had been doing their recovery work with much reluctance for a good while and it was totally apparent.

While I don’t know how this individual’s story will turn out, I do know that Bill Wilson once said if someone wasn’t convinced of the recovery way of life, that they should go out and try some controlled drinking again. In the case of my sponsee who really doesn’t want to go back to their addiction, they are still doing somewhat of the same thing by attempting to control their sobriety on their own.

Trying to control my own sobriety without the support of recovery work left me defenseless and put me at great risk. It almost killed me. I’m not willing to face that again, which is why I’ll keep on doing my recovery work, God willing, to the day I die. Let’s just hope my sponsee will figure that out before they reach any where’s close to where my recovery fatigue took me…

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

Do You Find it Hard To Say No?

Do you find it hard to say no? Are you a person who tends to say yes to new responsibilities being added to your plate, even when your plate is already full and you really just wanted to say no? Do you often agree to doing things, even when you don’t want to? I feel your pain if you nodded in agreement to any of these questions, because saying no is something I too have struggled with throughout my life.

I learned to say yes early on in my life to everything my parents asked of me and wanted me to do, solely because it was easier than saying no to them. Saying no generally had its consequences. Sometimes it meant less love was offered to me. Sometimes it meant guilt trips were thrown my way. And sometimes, it even meant getting punished. Because what was asked of me was never a question in the first place, rather it was an expectation formed in a self-serving way that appeared as a question, where saying no was never meant to be an answer that emanated from my mouth.

Sadly, not being able to say no throughout my childhood became a pattern that went well into my adulthood, mostly with people I became smitten with. From spending hordes of money on them that I should have been saving for my future, to giving my body away when I didn’t want to have sex, to accepting forms of mental and emotional abuse when I was only hoping for love and acceptance. It took a lot of work over the years to set healthy boundaries in this part of my life, boundaries that I now keep to and say no to if someone tries to cross them. It wasn’t easy at first, but it got easier the more I said no.

Ironically, at the same time I was struggling to say no to those I was smitten with, I had no problem saying no to everyone else. I said no to just about every possible thing that could have been added to my plate because I was quite selfish and wanted to have as much free time as possible to keep saying yes to all those people I was attracted to and addicted to. Once I found recovery from that addiction, that all changed. My pendulum then swung to the other extreme where I began saying yes to just about every favor being asked of me, because I didn’t want to be that selfish and self-centered person anymore.

“Hey Andrew, can you sponsor me?” Yes!

“Hey Andrew, you’d make a great social coordinator for the church? Will you?” Yes!

“Hey Andrew, why don’t you plan monthly socials for our AA home group? Will you?” Yes!

“Hey Andrew, I think you should take on the IGroup MKP contact? Will you?” Yes!

On and on this has gone, with many things being asked of me, most of which I kept saying yes, because I didn’t want to be selfish and let anyone down. Meanwhile, I didn’t realize how much I was letting myself down in doing so. I was burning out…rapidly…and becoming resentful in the process. Thankfully, it took a friend asking me to drive them home from work one evening at midnight, on a night I was just plain exhausted, where I finally found the courage to say, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t do it, I need to take care of myself and my health.” That was all it took. Saying no to a good friend began a push within me to create more of a balance of things to say both yes and no to, where I didn’t feel totally selfish with saying no from time to time, nor completely taxed out from saying yes all the time.

Now, I’m setting healthy boundaries and learning to see how important they are for the process of saying no. If one doesn’t have healthy boundaries established for themselves then it’s pretty easy to always say yes to the things that people ask of you. But, by having healthy boundaries, it makes it far easier to say no when what’s being asked encroaches upon those boundaries.

I’m still working on some areas in my life that absolutely need some healthy boundaries. Some of those areas are emanating during times I’m continuing to say yes, but figuring out later that I really wanted and needed to say no.

Saying no is a work in progress for me, but I’m feeling a whole lot better learning how to do it. I’m not as overwhelmed and overburdened lately, and am feeling empowered more than ever, the more I keep to my boundaries and realize it truly is ok to say no, no matter how the other person may feel about it.

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

12 Step Recovery For The Non-Believer

When I first came to 12 Step recovery programs, I struggled with the whole God concept. To me, it all sounded so religious, and at the time, I was still carrying a lot of resentments towards the God I was raised with. But, after being brought through the 12 Steps, I did a 180 and became someone who preached that a person needed to find God if they wanted to remain clean and sober. I’ve since changed my tune on this and have seen through other people’s recovery programs that doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. I once sponsored an individual here in Toledo who was the very person that became the catalyst for this change in belief.

Initially, they couldn’t quite grasp the steps in the way I taught them, mostly because they were atheist and struggled with the whole God concept. They were at their core, a non-believer. I watched as they kept relapsing until they eventually disappeared from my life altogether. I made the erroneous assumption it was solely because they refused to find a belief in God and judged they were still out there living in their addiction. Little did I know they had found another sponsor who was more in alignment with their spiritual beliefs and was able to guide them successfully into a healthy sobriety and recovery. That individual now has several years under their belt and yet is still an atheist. It is because of their journey to recovery and the sponsor that led them there, that I’m now convinced that one can find sobriety and recovery from any addiction without having to eventually conform to Christianity or any traditional religious sense of God.

While I myself still maintain my beliefs in God and continue to follow the main teachings of Christ, I’ve learned through this individual and their sponsor that one can be successfully taken through the steps by using the rooms of recovery as their Higher Power. There are plenty of people around the world who have remained clean and sober from their disease of addiction for years and years, all by following the 12 Step recovery program. So, by having faith in the program itself, in all the rooms of recovery around the world, and in the people themselves who continue to remaining clean and sober year after year, is the very channel with which an atheist can effectively be guided through to reach that healthy sobriety and recovery.

Frankly, I was too stubborn to believe this could actually happen during my early years of recovery work. It was either my God-based way in my sponsorship or the highway until some of my sponsees began to walk away. My spiritual methodology was honestly too rigid. I’ve come to see though that the spiritual journey of a person in recovery, and in life in general, is often specifically tailored for the individual, by that individual. Who am I to say how it has to be done and who the God of one’s understanding must be? Saying so only ever made me egotistical and placed myself on a pedestal I was never meant to be on. Thankfully, over the past few years, my perspective on this has totally changed, and while I continue to work the steps in a way that works for me, I’m learning how to help a person work their steps and find a Higher Power that works for them, even if it doesn’t align with my spiritual views.

Thanks to my long-sober friend Gene, who sat down with me over a meal and coffee recently, I learned how I might be able to start helping those in recovery who struggle with the whole traditional God concept and religion in general. He told me that all those prayers in the literature can be turned into personal affirmation statements and how one can set intentions for the day, which will help create a mindfulness in sobriety in the process. He also expressed how observations of all the beauty in the world like with an amazing sunset for example, can be a form of prayer as well. And on a similar note, sitting by an ailing person’s side, holding their hand, listening to them, and honoring their wishes, even if those wishes aren’t in alignment with one’s own spiritual beliefs, can be yet another way of practicing prayer and exercising faith in something greater than oneself.

In the end, I see now that it indeed is possible for one to live a healthy sobriety and recovery without ever following what many in the rooms of recovery follow, that being a devotion to a traditional sense of God through Christianity. While I may continue to follow a more traditional approach on some level by practicing the main teachings of Christ, I choose to be more open now to accept that there is plenty of room in the rooms of recovery for non-believers. And that maybe the good heart and good nature of each of them, and all the good they do in this world to help others, is at the very core following the very same principles of the God I believe in. It may just look a little different and that’s okay.

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

Why Long Sober Individuals Need To Keep Regularly Attending 12 Step Meetings…

12 Step Recovery is most definitely a program of “We, Us, and Our” that totally relies on all of us being there for each other, and going to meetings regularly is a big part of that. But sadly, people tend to forget about that once they have some sobriety time under their belt, which is why I think many 12 Step meetings are getting fewer and fewer attendance.

Granted, there is a lot more to recovery than just attending 12 Step meetings, but it’s the meetings themselves that truly are at the very core where sobriety and recovery usually begin. And once a person is brought through the 12 Steps by a sponsor, it’s their responsibility to continue to show up and do their best to help others, just as their sponsor guided them. Yet, if everyone began to hold the attitude that it wasn’t that big of a deal to show up to meetings anymore, there’s a good chance there’d be plenty of addicts who never found their way simply because there weren’t enough places for them to go and find connection to those just like them.

I always find it funny that people were willing to go to any lengths when they were active in their addiction, staying up to all hours of the night engaging in it, even driving through fierce weather at times, all the while avoiding sleep many-a-times and not taking care of their overall health either. Yet, once sober and through the 12 Step process, once sobriety feels stable to them, they become unwilling to go to any lengths to get to those meetings, citing fatigue, scheduling issues, and plenty of other things as excuses to not show up, when all of that was never an issue when they were active in their addiction. There was nothing at all, not even terrible sickness, that usually kept us from engaging in our disease.

The fact is, newcomers rely on those meetings. They rely on the people who attend them, on those friendly hands being outstretched to them welcoming them there. They rely on hearing the attendees to share their experience, strength, and hope, which helps them to keep coming back until they find their own way into sobriety and recovery.

Thus, when sober and recovering individuals make decisions to not attend meetings because they feel it’s not necessary, or really helping them anymore, or frankly just because they’re inconvenient on some level to their own lives, it’s frankly selfish and self-centered, the two very character defects that drove all of us into our addictions in the first place.

In the end, it’s a safe bet that if one keeps skipping meetings and finding excuses to not go to them, that they will eventually find their way back into their original addiction or another one. But, it’s also a safe bet that if they keep showing up, not so much for themselves, but more so for the newcomers, for the suffering, and even for those who’ve been around for a while that may be going through those storms of life, that they’ll probably remain sober and feel a whole lot better too!

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

“So…How Do You Know You’re Still An Alcoholic/Addict After All Those Years?”

“So…how do you know you’re still an alcoholic and addict after all those years?” That’s the question I’m asked from time to time when someone discovers I haven’t drunk any alcohol or taken any drugs since June 11thof 1995. And the answer to that question has become quite obvious to me over the last few months ever since relapsing with caffeine.

Up until the very beginning of this past November, I had purposely always avoided the consumption of caffeinated beverages for probably close to ten years now. I opted to give caffeine up back then mostly because I had become far too dependent on it to keep me awake in the afternoon, to keep me focused on all those mundane day-to-day tasks, and to also regularly provide me a sense of euphoria too, as well as the fact that it had been greatly affecting my moods and physical health by that point. But, when my former cat Smokey died suddenly at only 4 years old, due to a tragic urinary issue on November 1st, I opted to go to Starbucks that night where I’d break my caffeine sobriety in a big way. There, I would have a three-shot espresso-based latte and sample a shot of cold brew on the side. I didn’t sleep a wink for the next 24 hours after that and when that caffeine high began to wore off, I was off and running again seeking out my next caffeinated drink.

There are some people who fall slowly into an addiction, and there are others who fall quickly into them. I’m definitely the latter, as it didn’t take me long for my caffeine consumption to get out of control again. It was as if I had never stopped drinking caffeine at all.

I began building all my days around making it to some type of coffee shop after that initial relapse. I opted to specifically make out of the way visits to coffee shops just to try things I never got to try before during all my years of caffeine sobriety. And I saw how each time I had that caffeine buzz going, I’d look to supplement it with even more so that I didn’t have to come down off that buzz.

Soon, I was staying up into all hours of the night, pushing myself beyond my limits, getting headaches on a regular basis, becoming overly sexual in verbiage while high on caffeine, sleeping very restlessly for a mere four to five hours at times, friends noticing how up and down I was becoming, making promises to them and myself that I’ll stop tomorrow, yet as soon as the exhaustion hit me I’d go right back to it, all the while trying to reduce the amount I was consuming from four shots of espresso to two shots, to half espresso/half decaf, to a single shot and maybe some tea on the side, to eventually forcing myself to skip a day or two here and there, while constantly comparing myself to others who seemed far worse with their caffeine consumption than I, only to relapse back into at some point starting the vicious cycle all over again.

These behaviors are NO different than to how I was when I drank alcohol or drugs or was with any other addiction either. Why? Because addiction is addiction is addiction and the patterns of behavior while engaged in any are always the same.

Nevertheless, my harsh reality now is that I’ve become seriously addicted to caffeine again and yet at the same time, I find myself being strangely thankful for this as well, solely because at least I have the answer to that question as to whether I’m still an alcoholic and addict. I have zero doubt now that if I was to pick up an alcoholic beverage or some type of mind-altering drug, that I would fall hard back into the life of addiction I once knew with both.

So, for as much as I am seriously disliking my hard relapse back into caffeine, I find myself being overly thankful for this great reminder that I was, still am, and always will be an alcoholic and addict and don’t need to ever sample any alcohol or drugs to figure that out.

(Oh, and in case your wondering, as of the time of me publishing this article, I’m 7 days now without caffeine and pray diligently every morning to God to remain free from it for another day.)

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

It’s Those Little Things That Make The Biggest Difference…

I’ve always said that it’s the little things we do or don’t do in this world that end up making the biggest difference, especially when it comes to the health and longevity of relationships, both intimate and platonic.

For every single relationship, or friendship, I’ve ever been in that’s ended, it’s consistently come down to those little things that were regularly overlooked as the cause. In the past few years, this is precisely what’s been one of my biggest frustrations with my partner.

A good example of what I’m talking about here happened just this past Christmas Day. At the end of that holiday night, I had a stack of holiday cards that had been given to me and were now lying on our kitchen counter, waiting to be hung with the rest already adorning our walls in the living room. Typically, this was a duty my partner does quite diligently as soon as any new card comes in the mail or was given to us, so I asked if he’d hang mine before going to bed that night. His first response was that the holiday season was just about over and that soon everything would be taken down anyway, so why bother. I told him it was important to me and he said ok he’d do it. But it actually wasn’t until two and a half days later and several repeated requests from me, that he eventually got around to doing it.

All in all, hanging those few Christmas cards really wasn’t what mattered to me. What mattered to me more was feeling like I mattered to him. So, when the little things I ask for get forgotten about, neglected, or only done after repeated requests, it tends to make me feel like I don’t matter.

Growing up, this was the very same pattern I dealt with day in and day out. The things I cared about, the things I wanted my parents to listen to, the things that were most dear to my heart, were often forgotten about, neglected, or only done through much pleading and begging. That’s because my parents were caught up in themselves much of the time with their arguing, their addictions, and their selfishness. After I left home and went out on my own as a young adult, I continued falling into the very same pattern with me getting into one relationship after another, and many friendships as well, where the little things that mattered to me the most, never really mattered much to any of those I loved.

Thankfully, through therapy, the ManKind Project, and my 12 Step recovery, I learned that all of those people were simply a mirror for me. I too had often neglected those little things when it came to others and was more selfish than not throughout much of my earlier adulthood. Once I discovered this, I began to work on changing it, which included forgiving my parents for how they were and accepting they did the best they could. I then started making a far greater effort to do those little things for others to show they mattered to me, like I regularly try to do with my partner nowadays, by leaving him special little notes in secret places for him to find, or making it a point to come right away whenever he’s calling me for help, or by doing a chore he asks of me right away, rather than putting it off till I feel like doing it.

Nevertheless, the bottom line is that I ultimately believe it’s those little things that tend to make the biggest difference in all of our relationships with others. Why? Because deep down, I think every one of us wants to feel like we matter in this world, and sometimes it’s those little things that really show we do.

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

The More Important Side Of “Willing To Go To Any Lengths”…

“Willing to go to any lengths” is often a topic in the rooms of recovery from addiction, as it was in my own home group just recently. During the entire hour, I listened intently to each individual share what they were willing to do to remain clean and sober. There was talk of making sure sponsors were regularly called, step work getting done, meetings being attended, etc., all of which are the standard things I’ve heard over the years any time this topic surfaces at a meeting. Unfortunately, there’s one thing that people tend to forget about whenever this topic arises, and for me, it’s the very reason why I’m still active in my recovery 24 years in.

What is it?

It’s a willingness to go to any lengths solely to be there for others.

The whole point of a 12 Step program, no matter what the addiction, is to eventually get out of oneself to help another. I’m willing to go to any lengths today, not necessarily for myself to remain clean and sober, but more so for others who may need my help. In my humble opinion, that is the true foundation of 12 Step recovery work. It’s why I feel I’m in recovery in the first place, because someone else with much greater time than I did that very thing for me when I couldn’t do it for myself a long time ago.

People seem to overlook the whole point of recovery is getting to a life of selflessness, where the drive is to be of service to others and not to themselves, which is precisely why I get frustrated when I hear people saying they are skipping a meeting they normally attend because they’re tired, or there’s bad weather, or some other more important event to go to.

I don’t really attend meetings anymore for myself, I do it because I believe that God can use me there as a vessel to help others find what I was given and taught. So, me not showing up for anything short of sickness or emergency, often feels like I’m just being selfish, for my very presence in any meeting at any point, could change the life of another, just by me listening to them before the meeting, by giving them a hug, by sharing my own experience, strength and hope during the meeting, or by connecting with them after the meeting ends.

12 Step recovery programs were founded on the principle of “we, us, and our”, and not “I” and “me”. We are not here just to keep ourselves clean and sober. We are here to support each other, to lift others up when they are down and we are up and to be lifted up, when we are down, and others are not.

The bottom line is that I am willing to go to any lengths today in the world of recovery for others. I am willing to go to any lengths to show up for others, because I never know where God may use me to be of service to Him. Maybe I’ll be used to save the life of another suffering addict and do the very thing for another that was so graciously done for me all those years ago, when my life was saved from certain doom, when addiction had its icy grips on me, when one person named Lorraine said I’m there for you…because she had the willingness to go to any lengths for me, and I’m forever grateful for that. And now it’s my turn, to return the favor, by going to any lengths for another…

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

Are you a Giver or a Taker?

Are you a giver or a taker? It’s a question I never gave much thought to in my life until I finally made my way into the rooms of recovery from addiction back in September of 2007 when I began to see for the first time that I was clearly a taker and always had been up to that point.

Active serious addicts of any kind are usually takers more than not. They constantly look for the angle in everything they do for anyone else. I.E. There are typically strings attached and hidden agendas to any of their actions for another. And oh, how I know that pattern so well.

I once would help a person with a favor they asked of me, but at the same time I’d store it away in the back of my mind until I really needed something from them, and when I did, I’d quickly remind the individual of my “generous” help to them from however long ago.

Then there’s that other form of takers who hijack conversations during social times such as in group gatherings or at meals dined out. They constantly like to be the center of attention instead of being a good listener and allowing for others to be the main focus of conversation. That was me as well, consistently trying to steal the spotlight and thunder from all in attendance in social settings, solely to feel more important in my life.

I mustn’t forget to mention another type of taker as well, that being one who frequently asks for handouts and favors, yet claim their busy or broke or have some other when something is asked of them. Sadly, here too, as an active addict I was definitely this, placing my needs always first and disappearing when a friend or loved one needed anything.

Essentially, a taker is no more than a user. A user of everyone’s energy, time, money, etc. I.E. A drain on everyone’s spirit. Something I just couldn’t see that I had become until I worked on the 12 Steps to become more selfless than selfish.

Over the past 12 years since I first walked in the doors of recovery and got myself a sponsor, a full 12 years after living as a dry addict, I’ve slowly done my best to chip away at that taker part of me, doing my best to become more of a giver.

Today, I rather enjoy sitting in conversations with loved ones, letting them become the focus, all while showing them how much I care about what they need to talk about. I also regularly like to help others when they ask for favors and do my best to never ask for anything in return, save the exception of possibly asking for something to eat if the favor happens to occur during a mealtime. And I absolutely am no longer that person who places my needs first above everyone else’s, as I have found a much greater appreciation making myself second.

While there are some areas I’m still chipping away it that I deem I’m still being a taker of sorts, like in my frequent need for human touch and hearing positive feedback, I think I can safely say I’ve become more of a giver, enjoying my desire to help others, enjoying volunteering in the world of recovery and outside the rooms as well, and enjoying being there more for others than myself.

The bottom line I learned along the way on my journey from addiction to recovery is that as an untreated addict I was always going to remain a taker in this world, draining it of whatever I could to survive, regardless of how it affected another. To become a giver, I had to turn my will and my life over to the care of a Higher Power, as in doing so, I discovered a genuine willingness to give back to the world I took so freely from for far too long, and the longer I’ve remained in the rooms, turning my will over to God, the more that willingness to be a giver has grown greater…

So, what are you? A giver or a taker?

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