Do You Practice Contempt Prior To Investigation?

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

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

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

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

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

What Is The True Purpose Of The 12 Steps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A 50/50 Relationship Is Erroneous…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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