Meeting Makers Don’t Always Make It!

In the recovery world, there is a slogan which has been around for a long time that is far from always being true. Often it’s the old-timers (people with long periods of sobriety from some type of addiction) who use this phrase but that’s not always the case either. Regardless of who says it, the statement that “Meeting makers make it…” is extremely misleading, especially to a newcomer for any type of recovery from any addiction.

Recovery from an addiction is so much more than just attending a 12 Step meeting every day. In fact, something that is suggested for newcomers to recovery from any addiction is to attend 90 meetings in 90 days. While attending a 12 Step meeting can often help in one’s path to becoming recovered from an addiction, I’ve come to learn that there is so much more work to be done in a program of recovery than just going to those meetings.

It seems as if each week now I’m being notified of yet another person who has relapsed, overdosed, or died. A group member of mine in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) world did so just a few weeks back and he attended many 12 Step meetings diligently. But that wasn’t enough to keep him clean and sober. Recovery is so much more than that. The work to be done in it involves more than just sitting through an hour a day or several hours a day of people talking about their recovery. It involves a complete life changing experience when one undertakes that path. Going to a 12 Step meeting is just the beginning of that path. Getting a sponsor, becoming a member of a home group, taking on a position in that group, reading the literature from that recovery program, doing the writing exercises, sponsoring another, making amends, and going out to speak about one’s experience, strength, and hope are all activities that are just as important as attending those 12 Step meetings. And that’s just what one would do in their recovery circles. But what about outside of those circles?

Recovery from an addiction is not just about what one does in their 12 Step program, it’s also about how a person maintains their life outside of that program. How do they treat other people day to day such as at their jobs or in social gatherings? What do they do when no one else is paying attention to them? Are they lying, cheating, stealing, gossiping, or judging throughout their days? Are they still holding onto unhealthy and toxic people still active in the same addiction? Are they substituting one addiction for another? Each of these questions are just as important to answer and do work surrounding them as it with attending those 12 Step meetings and doing the recovery program based activities I mentioned above.

The truth is, finding recovery from any addiction is tough work. It really is so much more than just going to a 12 Step meeting. Time and time again, people come in for weeks, months, and even years, doing nothing more than just attending those meetings. And while those meetings may help that person on some level in their recovery to understand their addiction better, it’s not making that big of a dent into what causes this person to act out in their addiction in the first place. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do enough to get to the root of that person’s disease.

I spent 12 years in sobriety from alcohol and drugs doing nothing more than going to meetings. My disease remained active on many levels because of it. Thank God I never relapsed with those addictions, but I can say, without a doubt, that no matter how many meetings I attended, until I was ready to do the work in all areas of my life to rid myself of the disease, I stayed relatively toxic and sick.

Meeting makers don’t always make it. For those who do nothing more than attend those 12 Step meetings, many will end up relapsing, some will overdose, and a number will eventually even die from their disease. Recovery is so much more than making a meeting. It involves some serious life altering changes that involve both work inside the halls of recovery and outside in one’s own personal life. If you truly want to find full recovery from any addiction, seek a Higher Power, turn your entire will and life over to that Higher Power, and ask for the strength to do all the work necessary to achieve that. You’ll probably still end up going to many 12 Step meetings because of it, but you’ll also find yourself doing a lot more than that too in becoming fully recovered from your addiction once and for all.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Self-Seeking Will Slip Away

Have you ever been the kind of person who has regularly looked for an angle in which to pursue your own ends and interests when it comes to the things you involve yourself with in life? If you have, then you’ve spent time doing something that so many of us are guilty of at some point or another, and that’s self-seeking.

My first sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) often said to me that I was synonymous with the term self-seeking. In fact, there were quite a few occurrences of me calling her up on the phone and talking about the latest drama in my life, which only resulted in her responding that I had been a self-seeker and brought it on myself.

To be a self-seeker simply meant that with every action I took, my motivation was usually all about what I was going to get out of taking that action. In other words, I rarely took any action unless I was going to get something out of it. Friends would call me to ask for my help in doing their household move from one place to another and I’d want to know that a meal would be provided. In AA, I often only chose those sponsees to help through the twelve steps because I was attracted to them, or thought they seemed relatively cool and would make great friends. There were times I’d go out for a meal with someone who I really didn’t even like that much only because I knew they would cover the check. I’d only go to certain recovery meetings where I knew I’d be able to go in front of a podium, or raise my hand, just to speak for awhile and have the spotlight on me. If my family or close loved ones asked me to do any specific chore for them, I’d do it and then store it away as a poker chip that I could cash in later when I needed something in return from them. I was selective about the people who I treated to various things such as meals or trips because I was trying to impress them or draw them closer in, while there were others who I also considered friends that I never did anything of the sort for. All of this really just boiled down to one thing, selfishness and self-centeredness.

Thankfully, I have worked quite hard in the last few years to shed that self-seeking, selfish, and self-centered skin I wore so tightly around me. That really only came about through getting closer to my Higher Power. Before that, it was such a joke to me when people looked my way and laughed as they said I was being a self-seeker again. What I never realized was that was one of the main reasons why they kept their distance from me. Why would anyone really want to be close to someone who is constantly thinking of only themselves? All my conversations, all the times I was with people, and even all the times I was alone, I was focusing on what I could get out of life and not what I could contribute to it.

Self-seeking is self-serving. And self-serving is just plain self-centeredness. To grow deeper spiritually, any of this type of behavior must absolutely be removed from oneself. I am grateful that my walk with God has helped me to migrate away from that old me who was only ever looking for that angle on what I could get out of life itself. Just yesterday, I received that confirmation of this growth from my sister of all people, who was once someone that constantly told me how self-seeking I always was.

She had been struggling with her job, as well as with some health issues and instead of me quickly shifting the focus away from her opening up to me, I spent the majority of the conversation listening to her and asking questions that ended up helping her. As she was getting ready to end the phone call due to her next engagement, she said thank you and told me it was the first time she felt I was really there for her and it wasn’t all about my drama or me lecturing her. I took that as an amazing sign that all my work to grow closer to God is truly guiding me in the right direction and I’m finally feeling that my life is becoming more meaningful.

If you are searching for a more meaningful or spiritual based life as I have been, I encourage you to take a moment, breathe, and ask yourself whether you’re always looking for that angle on what you can get out of the actions you take in life. If you are, then you’re being self-seeking just like I once did with regularity. This will only continue to take you in the exact opposite direction of a life that is filled with spiritual depth and meaning. If you really want to change that direction, all you need to do is what I did. Pray to a Higher Power daily to become more selfless and pray to be filled with a lot more love and light. In doing so, I’m sure that you’ll then begin to see, your self-seeking will slip away for good.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Please Stop Beating Yourself Up…It’s Not Helping You!

Why is it such a human trait that when a mistake is made by someone, they often go into the negative process of beating themselves up afterwards? I often asked myself this question for a number of years because I too was one on those who liked to self-flagellate by mentally and emotionally beating myself up when I thought I made any mistake. Through many sessions of therapy, meditation, prayer, and work surrounding my recovery from addictions, I discovered that my metaphorical process of picking a bat up and beating myself senseless when I thought I did something wrong, all stemmed from growing up in a dysfunctional family where I usually took the blame for everything.

Some of the most painful memories from my childhood are of my parents suffering from their own alcoholism and mental imbalances. In many dysfunctional homes where the parents are sick from any disease of addiction, the children often get blamed for anything that goes wrong, regardless of whether it was their fault or not. Most that suffer from addictions don’t like to look in the mirror and see that they are the cause of their own misery. It’s easier to put that blame on someone else and make them as miserable as they are. In the case of my own family, this often proved to be true. My sister and I were often the blame for the slightest of things that in most healthy homes would never have even been an issue. Both of us were punished quite a bit for even the slightest of mistakes that we did make. And unfortunately, the two of us spent much of our childhood years apologizing for every single little thing that went wrong in our parents lives. Sadly, that pattern continued even after we left home to venture out into the real world on our own.

When one is beaten down with regularity on any level, whether it be mentally, emotionally, or physically, it becomes very easy to start doing that same pattern to themselves when they encounter a triggering situation. One example of that could simply be when a person makes a similar mistake as to one they made during their childhood which resulted in them being punished. I once found it was much easier to put myself down long before someone else got the chance to scream and yell or seriously discipline me from an apparent mistake I made.

It’s taken some seriously hard core work to understand that there are a lot of things in life that aren’t ever my fault. It really is sad that people have a tendency to just place the blame on someone else because they can’t face it within themselves. I’ve gotten much stronger now to see many of those times when that’s happening so that I don’t go into the process of picking that bat up and beating myself up for something that’s not my fault.

On the other side of the coin, there are also those times when I really have made a mistake that affected myself or others negatively. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to beat myself up in those situations either. Everyone makes mistakes. EVERYONE. And when I make them, I try to love myself now through it, instead of beating myself up mentally. God has helped me to see that all of that punishing my parents did to me as a kid for those mistakes I really did make, never really helped me to become a healthier person. In fact, it did just the opposite. So for all of those times I spent beating myself up in my adult years, it was only reinforcing the same negativity I experienced as a kid when my parents were doing that to me.

I find that many people in recovery meetings seem to do a lot of this pattern of beating themselves up. There, they speak of how they have been a scumbag or a loser or use some other terribly negative word to describe themselves with how their addiction took over their lives. And they talk about how bad of a person they got to be. But what they don’t realize is that the only thing they are doing at that moment is hurting themselves even more when they are saying those words. Deep inside each of them is a little kid who from the start, only ever wanted to be loved and cared for, and is still waiting for that. But for many of them, like it was in my sister’s and my life, this never happened. Instead we became punching bags for our sick parents and then when they were no longer in control of us, we became our own punching bags by continuing to beat ourselves up, which only kept ourselves sick and miserable.

The process of beating ourselves up over any mistake, whether it really was our fault or not, is seriously unhealthy for each of our souls. It doesn’t help us to grow and it won’t increase our levels of love and light within us. So the next time you make a mistake that is your fault or find yourself being in receipt of someone else’s mistake, I encourage you to take a moment, breathe, and remember that you don’t have to beat yourself up in either case.

For those situations that really were your mistake, try practicing forgiveness for yourself and all others who were affected as that is the most loving action to do. And for those situations that weren’t your fault, stop taking ownership of them by asking God for the strength to deflect that negative energy being aimed at you. Send love instead to those sick people who refuse to look in the mirror at their own problems.

In either case, you’ll find in following these simple suggestions, that you’ll be beating yourself up a lot less until you no longer want to ever do it again.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson