This June 11 will be both my 41st birthday and my 18th year of sobriety from alcohol and drugs. For many years the latter didn’t matter to me because I wasn’t working any type of recovery program. That all changed a year ago since investing myself deeply into working on that part of me and on developing a closer relationship with God. In doing so, I am noticing something changing in me a lot lately. I’m facing fear in the deepest of respects and walking through it, sometimes even in areas that I’ve kept under lock and key for the longest of times. One of those areas is something I have struggled most often to speak about publicly in my life…my sexuality, especially in the rooms of recovery.
Many will say that everyone is equal in any room of recovery for those seeking help from addictions. While I try to practice this principle in my life daily, I have found it to not hold as much truth with many others. As much as the world is changing with its acceptance of homosexuality, there still is quite a bit of resistance to accepting it both inside and outside the rooms of 12 Step programs. Because of this, a large part of my journey in recovery has been hidden often when I share in any meeting. The other morning, I decided it was time to step out of this fear and trust in God that it’s time to permanently start “coming out” in every area of my life.
On that morning, I attended a 7am AA meeting which is close by to where my partner lives. It’s one I generally show up for when I am visiting him. The meeting is filled with an interesting bunch of men and women that come from many different backgrounds, each of which seem to have a strong desire to remain sober and work on their recovery. This is the main reason why I have enjoyed going to it. The difficulty though is that there is one thing in common with 98% of them…their heterosexuality. Many of them discuss during their sharing about how their disease has affected their wives or their husbands. For someone who is gay such as myself, it’s not often one will hear someone share about their lover or partner or boyfriend unless the meeting being attended is primarily gay-based. In this case, it’s not, and my mouth is generally tight-lipped and closed about my sexuality, out of fear of rejection. When I arrived the other morning, we were told to open the 4th Edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous book sitting in front of each of us to page 359. The story was titled “TIGHTROPE”. A person volunteered to start reading and he began with the one line italicized summary for the story.
“Trying to navigate separate worlds was a lonely charade that ended when this gay alcoholic finally landed in A.A.”
At the utterance of the word “gay”, I paused and wondered if it was just that old time reference people used way back when for someone who was being jolly or happy. As this alcoholic’s journey to find recovery continued to be read, I realized it wasn’t that type of reference at all. I was hearing someone’s story who had struggled with their sexuality, who had used alcohol addictively to deal with it, and who had a strong inability to truly turn over their entire will to God because of it. What I was hearing was my story.
Growing up in a Christian home and in a Christian world, and learning that the Bible had several passages which said a man shouldn’t ever lie with another man as a man lies with a woman led me to try to be anything different from how I was born, which was homosexual. For years I dated women and felt nothing. When I found alcohol and drugs, they seemed to solve all my problems for as long as I was drunk or high, I felt asexual. During those times, I didn’t care about dating, sex, or my attractions. I just cared about getting drunk, high, and passing out. But God had different plans for me. In my junior year of college, in the midst of a whirlwind of booze and illegal substances, I met a guy who had been rejected by my fraternity’s pledging process. It had been my job to go tell all of those, including him, that they didn’t receive a successful bid to pledge and to try again next semester. I didn’t expect any of them to cry, but he did, and I felt a level of compassion because of it. This was surprising to me because of my normal attitude of self-centeredness. Instead of me going and partying with the rest of my fraternity brothers and the new pledges that night, I chose to stay and comfort this man in the only way I knew how to. I bought a case of beer and hung out with just him and me. Over the next year and a half, I forged a best friendship with him that grew closer and closer until one day I looked over at him and realized I didn’t want to look away. I had fallen in love for the first time in my life and it was with a man. From that day on, my stomach churned more than not over this situation and the only solution was to consume more alcohol or drugs. Eventually they began to work less and less and I felt I was soon to meet my demise. I graduated from college and got hired at a computer based job several hundred miles away from it and the object of my affection. The next six months of my life were nothing but evening after evening of passing out and blacking out from all the things I was trying to consume to numb the pain I felt inside. When the weekend of my 23rd birthday arrived, this best friend of mine came to visit me. I attempted to get closer to him through a consumption of many cans of beer to no avail. This led to an argument and the feeling within me that I was going to throw up. As I proceeded to kneel on the floor in the bathroom alone, that feeling passed and instead I did something I never did. I prayed to a God that I thought didn’t love me because of my sexuality. I asked God to help me heal from my addictions and to help me with my feelings towards men. It was on that day, and in that moment, I had my first spiritual awakening as the desire to drink, do drugs, and even smoke cigarettes all left me. The next day, June 11th, 1995, I began my path towards freedom from addiction and on acceptance to my being a homosexual.
While my story with that best friend ended tragically with him rejecting me and using the Bible as a weapon six months later, I have come to be grateful to God for this former friend’s presence in my life back then. Because of him, not only did I begin to face my alcoholism, drug, and cigarette addictions head-on, I also had begun to face the realization that I was gay. And almost eighteen years later, I found myself sitting in that 7am AA meeting with mostly a bunch of strangers listening to someone else’s story that was so close to my own. When the final minutes of the meeting came down to a close, I walked through all that fear I still hold sometimes around my sexuality, and raised my hand to share about it’s impact on my recovery. Five minutes later and a lot lighter, I realized just how far I’ve come in my recovery. But even more importantly, I realized just how far I’ve come through a deeper relationship with God.
Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson