“Open Relationships”

There are two words that are becoming more and more widely used in the gay culture today and they are “open relationships.” Unfortunately, those same two words are also undermining a road the gay community is already trying to take in gaining the full right to marriage.

I first came across the term “open relationship” a long time ago when I was active within a subsection of the gay community known as the “bear culture”. There, I began meeting couples in those circles who had “agreements” with their partner on what type of intimacy they could share with others outside of their relationship. Boundaries were made by each of those couples as to whether kissing, fondling, cuddling, or various depths of sexual acts with others was ok. Unfortunately, like this bear community which is all male, much of the rest of gay males also seem to be accepting these types of relationships as a normal and healthy option.

What’s sad about this is that I don’t see this happening so much in any other community that is not gay male based. Over the years, I have had met many couples in those other types of communities who have spent several decades or more monogamously with each other. There was never any “outside playing” going on, and if there was, it was usually considered adultery. So while a large amount of people are taking their fight all the way up to the Supreme Court of the United States to gain equal rights with gay marriage, it’s not putting forth a very convincing message when a growing number of relationships with two gay men are only staying together by opening up their relationship for intimacy with an outsider.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure in the Lesbian community as well as in the general Heterosexual community that some of this does go on as well, but those percentages are far smaller as compared to what is happening with gay males these days. And I really haven’t come to understand yet why two gay males have such a hard time settling down in a long term relationship monogamously. When I have asked couples who went to this “open status’ why they did so, I always get that they had grown bored over the years with their sex life and wanted to spice it up. If that is the case, then how come I rarely hear that happening with the heterosexual and lesbian couples I have met. They don’t talk about “playing around”. They don’t go to parties to fondle other people. They don’t go to bars to flirt with others. And yes, like I said before, I’m sure there are a select few who engage in an open relationship, but those numbers are so small as compared to the growing number of gay men today who are making this a common practice.

This is one of the main reasons why I don’t like going out to a gay bar anymore. It’s also why I don’t want to go to most other places either that will have a predominant amount of gay males at it. I have seen this same thing happen at gay social clubs, gay based churches, and even at things like gay parties during the holiday season. A few years ago, I went to a predominately gay male based Christmas party. There, I watched as many of those individuals in those relationships would grope, kiss, or flirt with others that weren’t their partner and no one thought anything of it.

If this is what works for most gay males, then I must not be a typical gay male. I have a partner today who I love dearly and the last thing I want to do is jeopardize that relationship by putting it front and center amongst those who wish to have relationships and connections like this. It’s my hope that I’ll be one of those couples that one day has twenty or more years of being monogamous.

I believe the best part of a monogamous relationship is the love that God can grow within it. And I have seen that when God is at the center of a relationship like the one I have now, I find more and more ways each and every day to love my partner. Will the sex and intimacy eventually not be as alluring…I don’t think the answer to that question really matters. I feel the real question is for all those couples having those open relationships to ask themselves why it is they feel they can’t be happy with one person and only one person on all levels including intimacy.

My conclusion is that for people who entertain the notion of open relationships and eventually succumb to them, that it’s not that they really have grown bored with the sex and intimacy in their existing relationship, it’s that they have fallen out of love with their partner and haven’t realized it yet or that they never were really in love in the first place and just didn’t want to be alone.

Sadly, all these “Open relationships” are doing now is nothing more than tearing down any efforts that are being made to show that gay people can have healthy, long term monogamous relationships. If we are ever going to get gay marriage to become legal in the entire United States, then we are going to have to show that we are a lot more than just sex and horny crazed people who go from one partner to the next.

All I can do is my part which I am now doing with my partner. The two of us have no desire to frequent most places anymore that gay males congregate at because of this decline in moral values that are happening in our culture such as these “open relationships”. And the sad reality in all of this is that I have yet to see any one of those types of relationships ever last for any long periods of time. Instead, what most often happens is that one of those people eventually leaves the relationship for someone they were “playing around” with. In that case in knowing this, is an “open relationship” really worth it then when it’s just a pre-cursor to the demise of the relationship in itself? I think that’s a question that all gay men need to seriously ponder, when they begin to feel the need to consider it as an option for the relationship they’re in.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

AA Commitments

In the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) within Massachusetts, there is this thing that people take part in called a “Commitment”. When I first moved to this state, I had no idea what that was. My idea of an AA meeting was always where either one person just shared about their full story of addiction or where people just raised their hands and talked about whatever was on their minds. In this state though, things are done a little different, as many AA groups have monthly standing obligations on a calendar to go to other meetings, hospitals, detox centers, halfway houses, and prisons just to share about their recovery to others who have suffered or are still suffering from addictions. And each one of those obligations is what is referred to here as a “Commitment.”

It’s funny looking back now at the first commitment I came across in this state. In my first week of moving here, I had been invited to go to my closest friend’s home group which was on a Friday night in West Bridgewater. The group was named A New Way of Life and when I arrived there, having no knowledge of commitments or what they were about, I told my friend I needed to speak about what I was going through. When he informed me about these things called commitments and how a group was coming in that night to speak about their experience, strength, and hope in recovery, I told him I had a lot of that even though I didn’t. To me AA had always been about a dumping ground where one would lay out their garbage at everyone’s feet just to get it off their chest. I did this for years when I attended any meeting and this was what I was wanting to do that night as well. Prior to that night, all I had were twelve continuos years of being nothing more than a dry drunk with no hope and no recovery. I pushed him to convince this group, who I had no affiliation with, to let me speak anyway during this meeting. Ironically, I was called up to share, and when everyone was there to be inspired, all I managed to get out was my name, that I was an alcoholic and an addict, and that I was going to kill myself if I didn’t get help that night. Then I finished with nothing more than tears.

That was the beginning of my recovery and soon after, I started going out on those commitments with my friend’s group as I joined it that night. At first it was hard because I had nothing really positive to share, but over the years that followed since then, the more that I have worked on my recovery, the better my shares have become and the more people have listened. The less that I have worked on my recovery, the worse my shares have become and the less people have listened to me when I’m speaking. Over the past year, I have given 100% dedication to God and my recovery and in turn, have seen the benefits from that when I’ve gone on a commitment and shared.

Last night I actually got to go on one of these with my group when we had a standing commitment at a detox center in Weymouth. Before it came time for me to share, I prayed to have God’s words flow through me. I have found this really helps to focus on God’s will and not my will when I speak anywhere these days, especially on a commitment. So when my turn finally came at that detox center to convey my story, I believe that prayer helped me to get fired up with passion about my recovery. I spoke quite a bit about my closer relationship with God and how much work I’ve had to do to get to where I’m at in my sobriety. I mentioned how my addictions went way beyond just alcohol and drugs. And I offered hope to everyone by showing how far I’ve come since that first night in recovery when I convinced my friend and that group to allow me to speak on their commitment.

It seems as if everyone pays full attention to me today when I share in any type of meeting such as what I saw happen last night. I attribute that to the 100% I’m giving to God and my recovery now each and every day. An even better sign of my growth in recovery came last night when most people came up and shook my hand and a man named Will even asked for my phone number. In the past, I can remember many of these commitments where none of that ever happened.

I really live for this type of volunteer work now and look forward to each time I go on one of these speaking engagements. It’s my hope when I share now at any of them, that at least one person will be inspired enough to take more action in their recovery like Will did last night. I’m glad I’ve grown so much healthier from that ego-centric person who just needed to speak on someone else’s commitment all those years ago. There is a night and day difference between who I was then and who I am now when I go out with my group on any of them. I can only give that credit to the hard work I’ve placed in my recovery, and of course to God, who has solely guided me there.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Nothing Is Beyond Resuscitation When It Comes To God

For most of my life, friendships were hard to come by. Either I never fit the image of what was cool, or if I did, I was far too selfish and self-centered for anyone to want to remain within it. But one of those friendships denied all those odds and withstood the many tests I put it through over the sixteen years since it began. And this past weekend I got to spend quality time with this friend while I helped him celebrate his 50th birthday in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

It’s pretty amazing to see how far this friendship has come ever since the first day we met. That was on a Monday evening back in 1997 in Brockton, MA during a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous. For whatever reasons, we hit it off immediately and were soon inseparable friends. There was a major difference between us though back then. He was very immeshed in his recovery from his addictions, whereas I was very immersed into finding more of them to live in. Within six months from that time, I chose to move back to Virginia after having lived in Massachusetts for less than a year, solely for the purpose of finding another geographical cure for my misery in life. Many miles and a bunch of states then began to separate our friendship, but something deeper kept it alive, which today I can only say must have been God.

Over the next decade though the distance between us grew as my path of self destruction got worse, while his path of freedom from addictions grew even stronger. I would occasionally visit him on trips I took back to Massachusetts to see my sister who still resided there. As hard as it is to say this, it was always about me when I was in town visiting. I never wanted to go to those AA meetings with him when he asked. More often than not, I guilted him into not going to them and instead would convince him to do something completely different. So what we did, where we went, and any itinerary that was established always came back to my own doings and control. Essentially the friendship was running on a lot of my own self will and was weakening day in and day out without me really even knowing.

Eventually my life fell apart in Virginia, when I had lost my business and a long term relationship. I felt I had nowhere else to go except back to Massachusetts since the only two remaining people left in my life who seemed to give a crap about me were my sister and this friend. In a total act of desperation, I chose to go to his AA home-group on a Friday night when he asked me to tag along. For years I had only gone to an AA meeting for either the sole purpose of looking for a sexual hook-up or for those times when I was having a down day and just wanted to dump my mess on someone else. Having so much pain and anguish within me, and seeing how happy this friend always was, a part of me felt that maybe the path he took all those years ago when we had first met, was the choice I should have taken too. That night, I began my recovery after many years of being a dry drunk, but I also started something else as well. I starting trying to work on a much closer friendship with this friend seeing that it was beginning to run out of steam due to my actions.

Unfortunately, over the next five years, I tried to juggle my recovery alongside my addictive behaviors while trying to maintain that friendship. I continued to perpetuate those seriously unhealthy and toxic based relationships and became so codependent on most of them, that I often sacrificed the time I could have been spending with this long standing friend re-developing a closer bond. For someone that had stuck by my side through thick and thin, I didn’t show much of the same dedication back towards him. After enough times of me choosing to stay more devoted to those toxic friendships than to working on mine and his, he began pulling back a little at a time until so much distance was between us that it was as if I was living again in another part of the country. It’s ironic that just about a year ago, that distance had grown so great that I thought this friendship was truly over. The damage I had done to it from all those years of acting out in various addictions had made it seem totally beyond repair. But one thing HAD started to change last year that gave this friendship a glimmer of hope. ME.

It was around that same time that I had finally begun removing all those toxic people out of my life who I had kept around for way too long. Layers and layers of baggage were lifted off of me and my life from that action alone. Then I started working on turning my life COMPLETELY over to the care of God every single day. Not partially and not by a certain percentage like I had always done in prior years, but fully, I made the decision to have God take over the reigns of my life. Through this, my friend became willing to sit down with me to see if God wanted us to salvage what was left from our once very strong connection. When that day arrived and we met, it had been over two months with almost no communication between us. I had already come to the acceptance that if God wanted the friendship to still be there, it would be. And if not, I would move on.

Three hours later, my friend and I embraced after having made very deep amends to each other for the parts that we both contributed to, in the distance that had grown between us. We made a promise to set time aside each week to hang out from that point forward, and to talk in the days that came in between those times. And through our own relationships with God and the strength that continues to build in each of them, we have kept those promises now for close to a year.

I can safely say that today, as this Provincetown trip comes to a close, my friendship with this person is now stronger than it ever has been in any of our previous sixteen years together. The laughter, the tears, the embraces, and the warmth within it, are beyond any of the friendships I have ever had in this life with anyone else. For that I must give all the credit to God who was able to guide me out of that darkness back into the light, and also saw fit to breath life into something that I thought my destructive ways had moved beyond resuscitation.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson