“Coming Out” Of Fear

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

A “Drive-In” To Good Memories

Spring is in the air and summer will be here shortly. With both comes the return of activities that the warmer weather can only bring. And one of those I was able to enjoy just the other night…the Drive-In.

There aren’t many of these left in existence today. Most will say it’s because of the rise of the multiplexes and their huge screens, digital surround sound systems, stadium seatings and plush recliner seats. While I love the movie theater experience, no matter how amazing it seems to get each and every year, I continue to be drawn to finding drive-in theaters and reliving one of the good moments I had in my childhood.

It’s true as they say, the older one gets, the more nostalgic one becomes with things of the past. While my childhood was filled with many unsettling moments, there are some that I am beginning to remember when I felt happy, the more that I heal. Going to the drive-in was one of them.

In my hometown, Poughkeepsie, NY, there were at least four drive-in’s in local proximity that my family would go to quite often throughout the summer. My family liked following the same habits a lot so that when we would attend the drive-in on a summer night, it would always be the same pattern. Dinner would be McDonalds take out where I usually had two cheeseburgers, an order of fries, and a diet soda. We would eat it after finding the spot to park the family station wagon which was faced backwards towards the movie screen. I can still remember sitting on the tailgate, eating that meal back then which I always found to be delicious. Today I’m not so sure but that’s because I’m a more health conscious person and McDonalds isn’t the first place I think of when it comes to eating healthy. Anyway, I usually devoured that meal so that I had a good half hour to hour on the playground that was situated right below the large movie screen. I spent most of my time riding on this contraption that doesn’t really exist anymore because of the danger it brought over the years. I can only describe it as a circle of interconnected benches that sat on top of a spindle, that someone would grab onto and run as fast as they could until at the last second, they would hop on it and enjoy a dizzying spin. Between that and the swings which I usually loved jumping off of once I got really high, I was always quite excited by the time the first movie was about to begin. My parents were pretty strict about the movie ratings with my sister and I. So for most of those drive-in experiences, I could only watch the first movie and not the second as it was beyond my age range they would tell me. With it, I was supposed to fall asleep but never really did. I remember one time I peaked over the seat without getting caught and watched a bit of Animal House that was “R” rated. I know today that wouldn’t be that big of a deal to many children who’s parents allow them to see just about anything at the movies but for me it was exhilarating.

Thankfully, there are others like me around today who are nostalgic and still enjoy going to a drive-in during the warm summer months. Poughkeepsie still has two in operation but I live no where close to there now. Unfortunately in the area of Massachusetts where I still live, there aren’t any close by. Where my partner lives though, there’s one still left behind in operation and that’s where I found myself with him this past Saturday night. There are some differences today from back then that I notice have evolved over time. Gone are the playgrounds where I once would have played. Gone are the bright colored poles with the small radios that would have gone on a car window to listen to the movie. And gone are the reel to reel devices the movies were brought in on, having been replaced by digital versions. Regardless of those changes, I still enjoyed my time there watching Oblivion and Identity Thief. Although I must say, what’s funny is that I really liked the first movie which my parents would have allowed me to see as a kid. The second movie, the “R” rated one, I didn’t like at all.

Thinking back to just a few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed going to any drive-inn because everything that I thought of with my family brought back the bad memories and not the good ones. As I have worked hard this past year in turning my entire will over to God, I have found more healing from all those not so happy childhood memories and begun to remember all the good ones. Going to the drive-in was just one of them and now today because of all that work I am doing on myself, I can enjoy this experience and think back to a time in my life where I knew my parents loved me and that being a kid was pretty cool.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Fixing Me, Not You

It’s so easy to point the finger at the ills of society we see everyday. It really is. I did it for most of my life before I became aware of one simple fact, that I was the one that needed to have the finger pointing back at myself. I was the one that needing fixing, not everyone else.

I once thought this to be a trait that alcoholics and addicts only shared. As I’ve delved deeper into my relationship with God, I’ve begun to see that it’s a trait shared amongst much of the world’s population. So why is that? Why is it that people are prone to cite out something negative around them that someone else is doing? The answer is simple. It shifts the focus away from themselves. It prevents people from seeing who they really are. And for most of my adult life, I’ve been this way.

For the longest time, I mostly hung around with people who were living blatantly immoral. I always had at least one active addict friend in my life that I was close to who was regularly lying, cheating, stealing, scamming, or more in their lives. I would tell myself that I wasn’t anything like these people and I’d continue hanging around them because it made me feel more superior. My ego would congratulate itself on a daily basis as it felt I wasn’t doing anything remotely as negative as the people I was spending time with. So when the drama would happen in my life, I would usually transfer the blame and shift the focus onto those people around me that my ego felt superior towards. But what’s ironic in all of that behavior was that while I told myself that my crap didn’t stink, it really did. I just made sure to constantly shift everyone’s including myself’s focus onto those people living so outright lopsided.

Sadly, my life was filled with a lot of its own darkness that was just as immoral as those people I was trying to point my fingers at and fix. I was harboring sex and love addiction issues secretly in my life. I slept with married people. I skipped out on a lot of plans and promises so that I could live in these addictions more. I spent hours on the web at night perusing porn and communicating with people sexually that I never had any intention on being with. And I lied often to cover all of this up. I backstabbed people often by character assassinating them. Gossip was a regular part of my life and so was greed.

For a long time, I didn’t want to take a real long, hard look in the mirror at myself both literally, and figuratively. It was too painful. I didn’t love myself and I knew I was broken. I stayed away from me by trying to point out and fix other people’s toxic lives. I rarely focused on myself and the healing that needed to take place for me to spiritually grow. Instead, I kept these toxic connections to others alive so that I could feel better about my own craziness and have some project outside of myself that I could place my energy in fixing.

Over time I began to notice that no one ever got better. Not the people I pointed the fingers at and tried to fix, and not me. If anything, both grew worse. I became a very negative person. I began looking at all the bad things happening in the world around me and constantly commented on them aloud to anyone that would listen. I yelled at reckless drivers. I talked bad about those in the news who were doing shady behaviors such as politicians, actors and actresses, policemen and policewomen, coaches, teachers, etc. Through all of that negativity, my immorality increased until I was doing just as much of that type of behavior as those I had been pointing the fingers at.

Thankfully, a year ago when the pain in my life was becoming too great to handle, I decided it was time to turn over my entire will to something I knew could show me how to live a much better life than the one I had created. That’s when I turned all of the reigns over to God. It was the best decision I ever made as I realized soon thereafter, that I was the one broken and needed fixing and not everything I had been pointing out.

This makes me think back to a specific moment in my life when I had been trying to live as I am now. I was being interviewed by the local news and asked to comment on whether I thought President Bush was doing a good job or not and if certain problems our society was facing today were worse because of his holding office. I think my answer shocked them. I said that the President was just a figurehead and that the problems could all be fixed when each of us begin to realize the real work is done by healing ourselves first. This is one of the greatest illusions in the world today. Every single problem that all of us see happening now can be changed by changing ourselves, by fixing ourselves, and by taking that finger we point so quickly and turning it back on ourselves.

This is what I am doing today. I am working on fixing me. Little by little, I am repairing more and more of the damage I caused myself throughout the years. As I continue to work on fixing all those parts of me that were broken, I am seeing less of what’s wrong in the world today and more on how I can help God to heal it.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson