Grateful Heart Monday

Good day and welcome to another Grateful Heart Monday, where gratitude gets expressed to start the week off on a positive note, which for today is for my dear friend Keith Genest who recently passed away.

Twenty-one years ago, at the young age of 26, I found myself one evening venturing into a bar in downtown Washington D.C. with a few sober friends, solely to listen to some music and hang out on a random weekend evening. There I’d meet a towering heavyset individual at the door, a bouncer named Keith, whom I had to even look slightly up to at his 6’7” stature. It didn’t take long for Keith and I to connect, with his sense of humor, his light-hearted nature, and his kindness and generosity pouring out right from the start.

A week later, Keith and I were out on a date where I’d really begin to get to know a wonderfully warm-hearted individual, who most certainly wasn’t afraid to show his emotions and often wore them on his sleeve. After it became clear to me that he and I were better meant to be the best of friends, I soon got to know one of Keith’s most positive traits, that being someone I could trust with anything.

Keith was indeed a loyal friend, someone I could spill my heart out to and have a shoulder to cry on if need be. Someone who didn’t judge me, even when I lived deep in addictions for much of our friendship, especially early on. No matter how many painful job losses and changes I went through, no matter how many partners I cycled through, no matter how crazy my selfish behaviors got due to my addictive lifestyle, Keith remained a constant, always there to show me how much he loved and cared about me.

When I suggested he join a spiritual men’s group I believed might help him on his own spiritual path, that being the ManKind Project (MKP), Keith didn’t bat an eye and quickly signed up. Soon we were not only the best of friends, but also brothers as well, and I had much joy in watching Keith soar within MKP where he dedicated substantial personal time to a program that helped broken kids find a healthier way into adulthood.

When I eventually moved away from Washington D.C., Keith continued to support me in all my endeavors like coming to visit me at the remote bed and breakfast I owned for a spell. You see, that’s just the type of guy Keith was, someone who stuck by your side through thick and thin, always doing his best to be there for you, supporting new ventures and achievements, and offering heartfelt consolation when needed.

After moving to the Boston, Massachusetts vicinity for a number of years, Keith made sure to never lose touch with me and was far better than I in maintaining contact. In no time at all on any given phone conversation, Keith would have me laughing or vice versa, and it was as if no time had passed. I spent a number of years travelling back and forth from Massachusetts to the Washington, D.C. area to connect with my friends like Keith. About every six months or so, I’d visit and stay at either his place or a mutual friend, where we’d get together for a big game night, which Keith always loved. His big, booming voice, and his infectious laughter, was such a blessing to those fun evenings.

I always hated saying goodbye to him after those brief visits, but I knew he was only a phone call or Skype chat away, which quite often we did. When I moved to Toledo to be with my current partner Chris, God blessed my life by having an employment change bring Keith to Chicago, a mere 3 ½ hours or so from me. I spent several weekends with Keith during his few years there and got to know a city I didn’t ultimately know through his eyes. On one such visit, he took me to Michael Jordan’s restaurant for my birthday, a place I had frequently dreamed about going to, which turned out to be quite the memorable evening.

I must say that even during the last bit of my addictive lifestyle years, when my selfishness and self-centeredness hit an all-time high, when I took everyone and everything for granted, Keith was one of the rare people in my life who still remained by my side. Crying with me when I ached due to all my body pain, laughing with me at my stupid jokes, and doing his best to lift my spirits on so many down days to help keep me going, honestly, it’s hard to imagine a life now where Keith isn’t going to be an active part of it.

When Keith’s health began to go rapidly downhill about two years ago, it was really hard to see, as he was one of the main strongholds in my life on so many levels. As his body size began to shrink and his uplifting demeanor go by the wayside, I still saw the same friend I made two decades prior doing his best to remain my close friend. Keith would move to the Kansas City area not too long after where his sister would take care of him to his very last breath. And from what I can tell, it seems like loyalty and unconditional love runs deep in their blood. My last call to Keith was quite the emotional one, both for him and for me. While I didn’t know it was going to be our last, he made sure to tell me how much he loved me and how he always considered me to be his best friend.

Keith Genest was truly a beautiful soul who brought happiness and love into so many lives, especially mine. Fiercely loyal, funny, charming, strong, and yet deeply in touch with his feminine side, Keith will permanently remain a part of my heart and someone I will always be grateful for. I pray and live with hope now that God may have him become one of my guardian angels, because if there’s anyone I could ever trust and rely on getting me through the worst of the worst and the scariest of scary, it’s Keith. I love you Keith and pray you are finally experiencing the peace and love I know you absolutely deserve and I know I’ll see you again one day when God says it’s my turn to come home…

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

Question To Ponder For The Day

Today’s question to ponder is…

What are some of the healthy ways you have grieved the death of a loved one in your life?

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

The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step  The Twelfth Step

Death And The Recovering Addict

Experiencing the death of a loved one is usually pretty difficult for most people, but for the recovering addict of any kind, it’s often far harder, as has been the case for me with the recent death of one of my oldest and closest friends.

When I found out a few weeks ago that my friend Keith had taken a sudden turn for the worse from his long bout of health issues, something inside me began to close up. It wasn’t my heart though, because that remained quite opened with many profuse tears, as I accepted this might be the end of the line for him in this life. When his sister called me a few days later and let me know he actually did pass away, I did like most people would. I struggled to believe he was gone for good, at least from this life.

During my brief conversation with her, I offered my condolences and talked about how much her brother meant to be and how much he’d be missed. I pondered the thought that maybe I should have gone to see him months prior, even though he and I had agreed together to wait for his 60th birthday later this year, which sadly would now never arrive. I felt anger over that and even questioned why God didn’t take my life force to let him live, given how much I’ve grown weary of fighting to keep going with my own health circumstances. I honestly think Keith wanted to live much more than I have as of late. Regardless, as soon as the melancholy call ended, depression and sadness swiftly descended upon me.

Yes, I began experiencing those normal stages of grief right away like most probably would, but with an added twist. Being an addict who’s succumbed to far too many addictions in this life and has had to fight doubly hard to remain clean and sober from all of them, and having lost so many people to tragic deaths in this life starting with my parents, addiction to something was always my go to temporary fix for when death came-a-knocking around me to those I loved.

Addiction truly was always my cure, even if it was momentary at best, to deal with those extreme tragedies in my life when people I loved died far too soon from tragic circumstances. Yet, I’ve fought hard against my addict life and by the grace of God been able to remain clean and sober through so much pain and loss. But in light of all the personal pain and suffering I’ve been enduring from my ongoing health-stricken life, this death has been far harder to deal with.

With the loss of Keith, someone who’s been in my life for 21 years, someone I considered a brother and member of my family, and someone I loved immensely, I feel absolutely crushed, so crushed, that my mind has been nudging me to numb the pain with something. That’s probably why I have found myself overly flirting, making innuendos, wanting to look at racy pictures on the Internet, taking longing glances at alcohol in the stores I passed, looking at cigarettes like they were potential candy, and indulging in tons of dark chocolate and other desserts. While none of them have broken any of my sobriety, it frankly has felt at times like I’ve been teetering on the brink of losing to addiction all over again.

I’ve seen this pattern before in plenty of other recovering addicts, when a death of someone they loved dearly hits them so hard, they can’t take sobriety anymore and look for something or someone to take their pain away. Movies and TV shows often depict how grieving involves quick sexual hook-ups or drowning sorrows in alcohol or taking pain or sleeping pills or simply overeating until one feels quite sick to the stomach. I don’t want any of that, as none of those ways are healthy ways to grieve. And I know that Keith, who always believed in me, wouldn’t want any of that for me either. So, I fight, I fight to keep going through the stages of grief…but sober.

You see, that’s why death is such a challenge to an addict, because having numbed ourselves from everything painful with some form of an addiction for so long, when things like death come along with someone so dam close to us, our first thought is to want the pain to go away immediately…the pain of the loss, the pain of the abandonment, the pain of now feeling more alone, it’s all so hard to endure in our minds.

So, I write these words today, not because I plan on relapsing over the loss of my dear friend Keith. I write them to show how the life of an addict plays itself out in our minds when things like death come along our way. And I write to remind myself, that I am an addict who’s continuing to recover every single day, and someone who will continue to recover, by choosing to remain clean and sober, even through a tragic death of someone like Keith, a friend I miss so very dearly…

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