“I Don’t Have A Problem…”

“I don’t have a problem…” is a phrase many people often will say when confronted by others who are questioning them about a potential addiction issue they may be suffering from. Most of those, like myself, who have found recovery from some form of an addiction or another, can remember those days when fear and insecurity ran our lives completely and produced such statements as this. When it comes to being in the throngs of any addiction, it doesn’t really make a difference as to how many friends, loved ones, or people in general ask of them as to whether they think they have a problem, because to them, they don’t.

Throughout college when I was very active in my drinking and drug addictions, I never thought I had any problem because I felt I was still managing my life just fine. I had many friends. I belonged to various social clubs and held astute positions within each of them. I maintained a GPA that was close to 4.0. I even held a part-time job which I was always prompt and diligent for. In my eyes, everyone around me that I partied with was no different and it became a pattern to often tell myself that they were all just like me. In my senior year, when I was forced to see addiction counselors surrounding a previous night of serious binging, I can remember specifically telling them I was fine and didn’t have a problem. The truth was, until my life started to get out of control on a daily basis, saying those words were quite easy and I continued to believe them. Six months after graduating from college though, my tune began to change. When incidents like that one night of binging in college starting happening regularly for me, when the sick days began piling up at my new place of employment, and when the partying turned into every night of the week for me, it became too hard to hide anymore behind those words of saying I didn’t have a problem, because I did and because my life had become seriously unmanageable.

People in all forms of recovery from any addiction will say that until one’s life becomes truly unmanageable, that no amount of confrontation, control, or accusations from others towards the addict will make any bit of difference. In my case, that was true, not only for drinking and drugs, but for all the other addictions I actively suffered from for most of my life.

Recently, I’ve had to face this very same issue but from the other perspective of having to see and deal with someone else’s addiction. My partner deals with some overeating issues that are based upon his genetics, stress, and past traumas. For him, food has often been his weakness and his go to addiction. Currently he is managing it as well as he’s able to through the Weight Watchers program. There are times though I still see him overeating or consuming things that I would deem as unhealthy and have told him so. None of which have been met with any type of sincere graciousness or positive acknowledgement but I’m beginning to understand why now. It’s no different as to how I reacted to so many that used to try to get me to see the things I was still doing that were addictive based. I never listened to anyone’s questions or suggestions and had to fall down a lot more on my own to truly get it. This has helped me to see that my pointing out of my partner’s still active addictive behaviors is doing nothing more than causing him greater irritation, anger, and sometimes even more of the addiction itself, just like it did to me when others nagged me on my own addictions. I know I have more work to do in this area, but I am grateful I am seeing this a lot more clearly now.

I’m finding the best way I can support anyone now in dealing with their addictions is to detach from doing my repeated attempts to get them to see it, and to love them instead as best as I can, without enabling them into doing their addictive behaviors even more. The good thing about my partner is that he has a relationship with God and I believe that God is guiding him to a healthier recovery from his addiction. For those who may be in relationships with others who are in serious denial of their own addictions and have no relationship with God, the only thing you can do is work on yourself, get stronger, and make the decision whether it’s truly healthy anymore to remain with the person. Sometimes the act of walking away will be enough of showing an addict just how unmanageable their life has become and maybe then, they will no longer be able to say they don’t have a problem.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Sad And Lonely Dog…

It pains me every time I come home now and see my roommate’s dog just sitting there by the front door waiting for her master. And sadly, I’m not it but lately I wish I were because sometimes, I wonder if her owner even knows just how sad and lonely she has become.

My roommate’s dog is a 13 year old chocolate Labrador that spends most of her days now walking around the house, pacing, and laying in different rooms with her head on her paws sporting very sad eyes. No matter how many amounts of affection or treats I give her, she seems to want the attention from only one person….him. And she waits for it but quite often it never comes or if it does, it’s for a very limited amount of time.

When I moved in here, things were different. I watched my roommate spend a lot more time with his dog. He had her lay next to him a lot when he was watching television. He took her out and about to parks and beaches for walks. He played with her in the house and out in the backyard. And she was happy. Very happy. She was filled with a lot of life and zest. When friends came over to visit, she was always excited and jumping up and down. Where my roommate went in the house, she would follow. Up the stairs, down the stairs, in one room, then out into another.

Over the past five months though, my roommate has changed quite a bit towards the direction of being more focused on his own needs than anyone else’s. He might say otherwise if you were to ask him so, but I have seen so many more examples of it. I chalk that up to the fact that many of those things he’s doing are ways I once lived my life daily. If he’s not working, he’s out with someone on a date. And if he’s not out with someone on a date, he’s out looking for one at social meet-up groups. And if he’s not out at social meet-up groups, he’s on the web or on the phone at home doing much of the same searching. Add in other projects he’s added to his life that deal with his home care and the result is less and less time being spent with his dog. And with all these changes, so too has his dog changed, but not for the better either.

Dogs bond very deeply with their masters. She’s been with him since a very young age and while he might have once spent a ton of time with her doing lots of fun things to give her great memories, he rarely does anymore. I see the excitement in her eyes when he comes home and the dejection soon after when he leaves for something else after walking her. I feel her depression when she goes and lays in his room by herself ears perking up each time she thinks a car is pulling in the driveway. What’s even more sad is the fact that she is in such a state of depression over his lack of attention, that she does what a human being might when they’re depressed. She completely isolates from anyone else. I’ll have her come into my room as I watch a show, and she’ll leave soon after and go lay in another room by herself. I play with her and give her a treat, and as soon as I’m done, she looks around for him, and then goes into another room and places her head between her paws and lets out a deep sigh. And now when I have guests stop over, sometimes she doesn’t even get up and greet them anymore.

None of what I’m saying is an exaggeration either. I wish it was. But it’s not. I’ve tried to communicate some of these observations to my roommate too. What I’ve received in return from him is the same statement over and over again that I’m not her owner and I haven’t been the one to raise her. In other words, I’m told in so many few words, to mind my business. About four weeks ago though, he was observant of the fact that she developed some mysterious neck pains which kept her out of commission for a few days. Because of it, my roommate cancelled everything and spent those days doing a lot more of giving her the attention she was needing and wanting. I definitely noticed a lot of her old cheerful patterns return during that time but when the pain went away not too long after, he went back to doing what he was doing before, which was spending time with everyone but her. Was the pain simply her spirit manifesting something on a physical level to get his attention? It’s a question I’ve been pondering lately.

What I do know is that a dog is no different then having a child who depends on you. They deserve love. They deserve attention. They deserve to be played with. They deserve to be caressed. They deserve rewards and treats. And they deserve all of this from the one they bonded with and learned to love the most…their parent. My roommate hasn’t been seeing any of this going on because he is becoming so very wrapped up in his own world. So I did the only thing I knew I could the other night, I bowed my head and prayed over her. Partially because I felt helpless in feeling her sadness, and partially because I had tears in my eyes when I saw her laying upstairs alone in the office while he was downstairs watching TV. During those moments, I asked God to bless her with a lot of happiness and someone to play with all the time in Heaven when it’s her time to head there. Until then I told God I’ll continue to do my best to show her the love I know she deserves. I may not be the one she wants it from, but I hope somehow it will still help her in the loneliness she feels. I also hope it prevents her from dying from a broken heart, which I believe can happen to animals too. But what I really just hope for is that her owner will realize before it’s too late, that he has always had the best friend and loyal companion someone could ever have wanted in this lifetime or any lifetime.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

What’s The Meaning Of Life?

“What’s the meaning of life?” Such a deep question to ponder but one that most people will ask themselves at least once, if not many times throughout their lives, and one that I have been thinking about a lot lately.

The first time I heard that question was probably at a church service during my dependent days on my family as a kid. Frankly, at that time, I couldn’t really have cared less about what the meaning of life was. The only concerns and purposes I felt then as a kid prior to leaving for college were to please my parents, get good grades, and make myself stay busy by doing chores, reading, or partaking in some type of sport.

During my college years, I discovered alcohol and drugs and the meaning of life changed depending on how “high” I was on either of them. Sometimes I did marijuana or various forms of hallucinogenics which many times put me into a state of pondering this question for hours on end. I never really got much farther in finding any answers to it during those times though because I was generally too wrapped up in my own self with the feeling those drinks or drugs were providing me. I had a good laugh the other day when I remembered long ago telling friends one night when I was taking magic mushrooms that I believed I could find the cure for cancer and other diseases if I tripped more often. After graduating from college, I moved to Virginia where the meaning of life took on a new direction and one that I thought everyone was supposed to have at some point in their early adulthood. I got hired at a good paying corporate job and my focus was then on wealth and what it could get me. Life threw me several curve balls though over the next three years which began to shape the initial answers I would ever truly face to what the meaning was for why I was here.

The first was when I realized I was an alcoholic and drug addict and knew the usage of them was slowly killing me, so I quit them entirely. The second was when I faced the reality that I was gay and couldn’t hide from it anymore, so I came out of the closet. But the third was what changed everything. It was what made me really begin to ponder life and why I was here in the first place. It was the day I got a phone call from my sister and informed my father had committed suicide.

My Dad’s death was tragic. He had always been someone I had hoped to become like. My meaning in life was quite often to follow in his successful footsteps. From having been a high paid business executive to changing it all up later in life by becoming a social worker, I had strived to do what I could those first few post college years to be just like him. His death broke me and all those molds I had created in my brain of what I felt I was meant to do in life. For awhile, I stayed broken, I became depressed, and was suicidal too. Several years passed and on desperate measures, I decided to go on a men’s retreat hoping to find some great purpose for my life. During that retreat, I forced myself to face those demons within me surrounding his death. All that anger, all that rage, and all that poison came to the surface and suddenly exploded out of me leaving me feeling a lot lighter, a lot happier, and filled with total joy and love. At that point, I had the first truest answer for what my meaning of life was. The only thing I wanted to do at that moment was to spread all that joy and love to everyone else, especially to those who still needed healing from something that had broken them. And while I did that for awhile, I got lost again soon after.

Five years passed after that retreat and the light within me had become very dim again. The only focuses I seemed to have then were to either stimulate myself with sex and caffeine or make more money and spend it on what I thought I needed to be happy. I had become depressed again and thoughts of suicide had crept back in as well. I tried to engage myself on and off again in church, prayer, and meditation and found slight moments where the light began to get brighter again as the memories came back of those feelings I had after that men’s retreat. But life again would throw me another tragic curveball when a phone call came in from my sister who told me my mother was dead. She had fallen down the stairs while she was drunk and broke her neck dying instantly. Darkness quickly swept in and around me and I did what I could daily to numb myself from it and the pain. On another desperate attempt to find myself and maybe even prevent my own suicide, I went on a ten day silent retreat in the mountains. By the end of it, the lightbulb had become very bright just like before and I remembered fully those same feelings I had felt all those years before after that men’s retreat. All I wanted to do was to love everyone and help all those who were broken and needed healing. Sadly, it didn’t take long for that light to grow dim once again as I drifted away from what was good and healthy and instead got closer to what was toxic and unhealthy.

Another four years passed where the only meaning of my life was focused solely on getting whatever it needed to stay numb. My mind, body, and soul became sick and frail and my life felt directionless. I did the only thing I believed would help me get back on track at that point. I got on my knees and prayed to God to have me go through whatever I needed to, so that lightbulb would grow bright once more and never go dull ever again.

Over the past three years since then, I have found so much greater of a meaning to my life. While a retreat wasn’t in the cards this time to catapult me out of the dregs of life I was living in, I have instead been experiencing a much slower ascent. One that has helped me to slowly see and avoid all those dark paths I had fallen down year after year. One that has slowly helped me to grasp and understand the knowledge around why I fell down those dark paths in the first place. One that is bringing me the healing I have sought after my whole life. But most importantly, one that is continuing to show me that the meaning of my life has always been, and will always continue to be, to love everyone equally including myself, and the one who brought me here, which is God.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson