Setting And Keeping Boundaries For Sponsorship

For the longest time, I have desired to sponsor someone again in AA using the 12 step recovery process. The last time I tried to help someone through them was over several years ago prior to my whole world being shaken up. At just about every meeting I have attended lately, my hand has been raised or I’ve stood up when it was asked who was opened to helping someone walk through the 12 steps and be a sponsor.

While my sobriety began on June 11th, 1995, my recovery didn’t begin until I went through the 12 steps myself beginning in October of 2007 with my first sponsor. In 2008, that sponsor encouraged me to start reaching out and helping others by sponsoring them like she was with me. Unfortunately, every time I was asked by someone, I became more interested in making friends with them and drawing a closer relationship than I was in going through the work like my own sponsor had done.

I had social get togethers with those I sponsored. I took them out for coffees and dinners. I hung out at their homes shooting pool and watching movies. I had them over to my sister’s house to go swimming. I even took a sponsee once to Florida for a vacation! If I had to make a gander about how many people I tried to sponsor this way the first four years of my recovery from addictions, it would probably be somewhere around 16 people. Sadly, only two of those have remained sober to this day. While I don’t blame myself directly for all of those that relapsed, as ultimately I know that I’m not the one that forced them to pick up a drink or a drug again, I do believe today that I contributed to it indirectly. The way I was trying to sponsor all of them was unhealthy for both me and them as I was more concerned about growing my friendships than I was in helping them to grasp their own recovery.

There were plenty of lessons to be learned through all of that type of sponsoring. But the biggest lesson took several years later for me to figure out and it was during a time where I sponsored no one and was focused only on healing me. Over those years, I began to realize I never had any healthy boundaries and if I did ever try to set any, I never kept to them. In the case of trying to sponsor someone, I never garnered much respect from any of those I was trying to help. Because I spent so much time on the social level with them, the times we got together to do the work ended up becoming more “fun time” than anything. In simple terms, to them, I was just “one of the guys to hang out with.”

I believe my first sponsor had it right with me in the way she guided my 12 Step Recovery.  She didn’t hang out with me. She didn’t buy or treat me to anything except the very first coffee I had at our first meet and greet. She didn’t ask me to go out for social get togethers. She didn’t call me for a friendly chat about her own life. What she did do though was meet with me once a week for one hour where we would do the step work. I would see her and greet her at meetings and on speaking engagements and that was the extent of it. And she was the first person I ever felt enough motivation to fully do the 12 step process of any type of recovery program!

Today I have been setting and keeping to many different types of healthy boundaries. And just two weeks ago, after several years of not being asked to be a sponsor by anyone, someone finally stepped forward and said they wanted what I had and was reaching out for my help in their AA recovery.

Yesterday I sat down for the first time with this person at a local Starbucks and just like my original sponsor did, I bought him his first coffee. I then proceeded to lay out my boundaries and guidelines to him and indicated he would need to respect them or else I wouldn’t be able to sponsor him. Ironically, in doing so, he told me that made him want me to be his sponsor all the more.

So I guess it’s true that everything happens when it’s meant to. I have a good feeling this time around that I will help this person get much farther in the 12 steps then anyone else I’ve worked with. I think that’s because not only am I setting boundaries and keeping to them now, but I’m also much healthier today with God at the helm in my life and not in my backseat.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Cost Of Bullying…

It happens all the time. People pick on people. Jokes are made at other people’s expenses. Individuals are bullied incessantly. Does anyone really see the cost of this in our world today?

It’s there in the newspapers, the internet, in magazines, in books, and on the television more and more these days. Another suicide, another murder rampage, or another violent attack has happened with someone ranging from a young kid to an older adult. Many of these terrible tragedies are eventually then connected back to being bullied, picked on, or abused by someone else.

I know all about what it feels like to be bullied and picked on.

It’s happened for most of my life.

Sadly, I was one of those kids growing up that was both picked on constantly at school and mentally and emotionally abused by my family as well. I’m not sure which was worse. In my grammar school years, kids just cited me out as an easy target. My books were knocked out of my hands often in the hallways. I was pushed and shoved into lockers, spit on, punched, given wedgies and terrible nicknames, and a whole lot more. At home, with alcoholic parents, my sister and I were easy targets for our parents addiction based drama with the results often being grounded or punished for things we shouldn’t have been.

By the age of 16, I felt it would be easier to die and was thinking about suicide more than not. There were many occasions too that I secretly wished I could hurt these bullies and my parents by making them suffer like I was from each of them. Thankfully, I never did either but as my years passed by, I seemed to become a magnet for being ridiculed and made fun of. In many of my places of employment or things I took part in socially, I was the pawn of other’s jokes for how they felt I looked or what I wore or how I acted. In the relationships I got into, it was no better, and often I was the butt of partner’s and friend’s jokes.

I believe there is only one reason why anyone picks on, makes fun of, or torments anyone else.

While many human beings may deny this, fear and insecurity are pretty rampant within every individual. What’s the best way to take the attention off of one’s own fears and insecurities? By distracting everyone else from seeing them by shifting the attention and focus onto someone else’s. I know this pattern because I’m guilty of it as well. For as much as I was picked on, occasionally over the years, I found someone more insecure then myself to do those same behaviors towards and I saw the results. I watched people close to me that were the pawn of my own jokes and bullying behaviors cry profusely. I’ve seen them shut down for days and weeks because of my own nastiness.

With all the work I’ve been doing to clean my act up, get closer to God, and do God’s will, I don’t like making fun of anyone anymore. I know the damage it causes now. I’m grateful it didn’t result in a serious tragedy either to myself or anyone else. I know for others, they can’t say the same. Some are dead and some are in jail because of it.

I’ve heard so many times in my life that “I shouldn’t take jokes so seriously…” I’ve heard quite often as well that I just seem like an easy target for it and I should just roll with the punches. Tell that to all those people who haven’t been able to handle it like I have and have killed themselves or others because they were picked on one too many times. Unfortunately, much of this type of behavior gets transferred down through many generations in families. Parents bully their kids who then bully other kids to deal with the pain from home and then grow up to be bullies to their own kids as well. The buck has to stop somewhere.

In the past year of my life I’ve seen things so much more clearly. I seek God to help me move beyond this craziness and am trying to heal myself so that I can get out into the world one day soon and help begin to heal others who are still suffering from this madness.

To put it bluntly, being bullied, picked on, made fun of, ridiculed, or abused sucks. It hurts not only the person receiving it, but it does damage to one’s own soul who is doing the behaviors themselves. I have separated myself from many people today because I don’t deserve to be bullied nor do I want to be around anyone who does that type of behavior. And I don’t make fun of anyone anymore at their expense because when I have slipped and gone back into an old behavior like that, I feel the pain in my own heart of how that other person feels from receiving my own poison.

The bottom line is that it’s not cool to put down other people to try to lift up ourselves. It’s not cool to put shadows over someone else’s fears and insecurities when we have so many of our own to still work on. We can prevent much of what is happening in our world today if we can just start working more on releasing our own inner demons in a healthy way that doesn’t hurt anyone else. And maybe then, we won’t make fun of or pick on anyone else, and instead we will just offer them love.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Words To Live By…

There are times I struggle with what to write in this blog. As of this posting, I have done this for 112 days consecutively. On each of those days, I have woken up and had the thought cross my mind at least once what I should talk about in writing for that day. What began as an urging from one of my spiritual teachers, blogging daily has become something much greater for me than just writing about random thoughts or opinions.

Often I wonder if there is anyone perusing any of what I am writing. To date, I haven’t had a single comment from anyone on any of these entires. The spiritual teacher who first recommended I do this has told me to just keep writing and trusting that it’s helping both me and others. So on each and every day, I have one single goal for what I write in my blog. My only intention is to be an inspiration for someone in their own journey of finding healing, hope, and God.

Writing hasn’t always been a passion of mine though. For the longest time, I was unaware I was even able to write anything. I was often recommended by therapists that I was seeing to journal as they would indicate it would be healthy and healing for me. I never quite enjoyed doing that task because what I wrote was just an endless stream of thoughts passing through my brain, none of which were probably organized enough to have anyone be interested in reading them. The first time I ever picked up writing for a purpose beyond journaling was in 2005 when I had just completed a ten day silent retreat in the mountains of Virginia. A friend had recommended that I chronicle the experience in words from the beginning to the end. I took her up on that recommendation and upon completion, I shared with her the results as well as with a few others, one of which was a reporter who wrote articles for a local newspaper who I had met in passing. Interestingly enough, this reporter liked what I had written and asked me to summarize the experience in less than 1000 words. He wanted to share it with his editor for possible submission. A few weeks later, I saw my first article get printed in a column in this local newspaper and the rest was history.

I wrote regularly for about two years after that. I submitted articles monthly for several local newspapers under the tagline of Words To Live By. I was grateful to have gained the experience but even more grateful for the few people that had gotten in contact with me after being inspired by what I had written. Their inspiration had even inspired me to work on and complete my first fiction based novel which fits in the kids to young adult fantasy genre. Unfortunately, my addictions got the best of me beginning around 2007 and I drifted away from writing anything at all for the next six years. That was until January of this year, when I finally garnered enough courage to take that spiritual teacher’s advice and begin writing again.

I’m not sure where writing is going to take me this time around. I have hopes and dreams with it like anyone might in my shoes. But on most days, I just keep on writing with one purpose, to get back into the practice of what I once did with great passion and joy, which was my desire to spread hope and love on this planet. This planet needs a lot more of that and as my hands type these words, I feel somehow that at least I’m doing more of the work that I believe God sent me here to do and less on how I’ve spent most of my life where I was running from it. I’m grateful to God for this gift and for those who may find any hope and healing in what it is I continue to write.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson