Grateful Heart Monday

It’s time for another entry in my Grateful Heart Monday series, a series which continues to focus on only one thing, that being an important piece of gratitude from my life, which for today is for no longer being afraid to cry in front of others.

A long time ago, I was taught that if you were going to be a “real man” in this world, you should never cry in front of others. That grown men should not openly display this type of emotion in the world. My mother was the first to tell me this and she often did her best to help me grow into those big boy pants, to make me tough, and never show any vulnerability like that. I did pretty well with it for many years, even taking Tae Kwon Do and becoming a brown belt to be strong. Later, I learned that alcohol and drugs were also great ways to keep those vulnerable emotions suppressed. On the really heaving drinking and drugging days though, when I went too far with the substances I was consuming, my emotions got the best of me and I’d often end up in a torrent of tears about all the insecurities of my life. I’d always blame the alcohol and drugs of course the next day and toughen right back up, vowing to not allow myself to ever do that again. I did of course time and time again, but only when I was under the influence.

When I finally got sober from alcohol and drugs, and had nothing to suppress those emotions anymore, I went to the next best thing, anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, mostly because I started crying all the time and didn’t want anyone to see that. I honestly believed from what I was taught that it made me weak and I wanted to remain strong, So, I tried my best even sober, to never openly shed my tears.

I took that to the extreme, like I have most things in my life, and rarely did I show my tears, even when my father took his life or when my mother took her tragic drunken fall down the stairs. I began to use other addictions to numb myself from those deep emotions and pain and paid the price for that, as I eventually learned that putting a stopper in those feelings and holding all those painful emotions down, only led to me becoming an angry and rage-filled individual, someone who walked around in the world with a major chip on his shoulder.

The only individuals I ever really let see the real side of me for much of my life were those I fell in love with and a few therapists I saw. To the rest of the world though, I hid my true self, someone who deep down was a hurt little boy who always felt sad and alone. When I finally came to terms with that and realized how much damage it was causing my mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical health, I began working on opening those flood gates. To do so meant walking away from a number of other addictions that only suppressed those emotions.

The past eight years or so, I’ve done pretty well with this and have really worked hard to show my vulnerability. I still have my good days with it and some bad days. On the good days, like just tonight for example, when I was hanging out with a good friend of mine, I let the tears fall from my face and it was rather healing and connecting with my friend. On those bad days, when I don’t want to take that wall down around my heart, I tend to yell and cause arguments, trying to create separation with those I love, all because of the fear of getting hurt, something I know all too well throughout much of my life with abandonment and loneliness.

But, the reality is I know it’s ok to cry now and how healthy it is as well, not just alone on my knees on the side of my bed, but everywhere. While I do cry more than not these days about the state of my life with my health, especially in the morning when I awake and am alone with all my pain and all that angst it causes me, I am thankful I can express it more openly now too. I do so with plenty of others in my life, to the groups I speak to, to my close friends and even those who aren’t friends at all. I am authentic now in my life in my emotions more than not, and for that I am so very grateful. Because at the core, showing my tears, allowing my tears, for the world to see, while my mother long ago would have said grown men don’t do that type of thing and that it makes one weak, I see otherwise. Showing my tears actually make me strong, strong in myself for being true to me, and strong in showing to other men that there really is a strength that comes from expressing feelings like that with another.

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

Thought For The Day

Quote #1

“Addicts may seem apathetic to the problems they are causing. Be aware they are relying on an innate defense mechanism – denial.” (Unknown)

Quote #2

“If a person doesn’t want to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions, they may try to blame others. Don’t accept blame or try to fix things for them when you’ve done nothing wrong. They need to learn that if they want different outcomes, they will have to make different choices.” (Doe Zantamata)

Quote #3

“Blame is a cigarette. It soothes your mind and your muscles when you take a drag on it. It feels like it helps. If you do this long enough, you forget that it helps only because it takes away the same stress it creates. Blame is an addiction.” (Vironika Tugaleva)

Bonus Quote

“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent. Caring for myself is an act of survival.” (Audre Lorde)

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

When A Sponsee Blames Their Sponsor For Their Own Issues…

I love sponsoring others in 12 Step recovery, as it’s very rewarding spiritually, but at times it can also be extremely draining, especially when a sponsee indirectly or directly blames me for their own issues, baggage, and addiction itself.

Just over a month ago now, I had a former sponsee tell me they didn’t want to call me every day to check in, which is one of my requirements. They had over 13 years of sobriety from another program, but very little sober time in the one I was working with them in. They felt it was beneath them to check in each day because of how long they’ve remained sober in their other program. After talking with them at length though about this, the real root wasn’t about me at all, it was about them not wanting to do the work in the 12 Step program I was sponsoring them in anymore and them feeling they could handle their addiction on their own.

And just recently, I had another sponsee infer that the work I was doing with them and the traditional 12 Step recovery method itself was the very thing leading them into one relapse after another. What they failed to see was that before I even started the work with them, they were in a chronic relapse pattern over and over again for years, which was very evident a few days after stopping the work with me when they had another relapse. Here again, the problem wasn’t in my style of sponsoring, nor was it with the 12 Step program either, it was that they just didn’t want to do the work necessary to remain clean and sober.

The fact is, addicts are notorious for believing they can handle their addiction on their own, especially after getting some sober time under their belt. It’s a false assumption that’s often made, specifically when a sponsee begins to grow weary of the amount of work involved in the 12 Step process. And when that starts to happen, it’s typically their ego that often drives them to attack the very person trying to help them, in this case the sponsor, solely to allow them to be back on their own. Why would one’s ego want that? Because if there is no sponsor or 12 Step recovery program guiding them, it becomes very easy to allow the smallest of circumstances to guide them straight back into their addiction without anyone or anything to help keep it in check.

How many times I’ve had sponsees attack my style of sponsoring or the 12 Step method itself is countless at this point over the 14 years I’ve been doing this type of work with others. Hell, I even did this myself during my previous 12 years of sobriety prior to that with all the sponsors I had during that time. Nevertheless, it’s always the same reason why this happens. It’s because addicts are addicts and addicts don’t like facing the pain of themselves and their disease, which is precisely what sponsors and the 12 Step process does. It makes an addict face themselves, the very thing their addiction causes them to run from like I did during the first 12 years of my sobriety where I just became a dry drunk.

I have a lot of sadness for any sponsee who attacks my style of sponsorship or the 12 Step process because most tend to disappear after doing so and ultimately end up reengaging in their disease not too long after with very few ever returning. Those who do are usually quite apologetic, realizing how sick their mind and ego actually was. Having succumbed myself to so many addictions throughout my life, I know addiction behavior all too well and how my ego always is trying to lead me back into it. That’s why I have a sponsor and a sober support network. It’s why I’m still going to meetings all these years later in both of my recovery programs. And it’s why I remain very active in sponsoring others and volunteering.

Because the last thing I want is to start believing the problem is in my sponsor, a 12 Step program, the meetings I go to, or anything else that’s outside of me. The problem is within me, always was and always will be. Addiction is not out there, it’s in us. It’s never anyone or anything else’s fault. It never was and never will be. Believing anything otherwise will only give power to our addiction itself and that’s something I absolutely don’t want to ever do again…

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