Another Mirror, Another Lesson

Have you ever asked someone to commit to doing a task for you in your absence and even after agreeing to do it, they never followed through with that agreement? Recently, I was faced with this specific situation in my Alcoholics Anonymous home group.

At that group, I am the General Service Representative (GSR). It’s my job in that position to go once a month to a district meeting where I’ll hear what’s going on in the AA world for the general area and report that information back to the group. Since taking on that position, I have been spending more and more time away from the area and slowly migrating myself to an eventual move in with my partner several states away. Given my travel schedule, I knew in advance I would be unable to attend any of this summer months GSR meetings beginning in June. One of the things I’ve learned in recovery over the past year is to make sure I continue to maintain any responsibilities that I’ve taken on, even when I know I’m not able to be present at them. In the past, when I lived more in self-centeredness and wasn’t practicing good recovery, I wouldn’t have cared about missing the meeting and would have allowed my brain to come up with some excuse as to why it didn’t matter if I was there or not. This isn’t so true anymore. Because of the dedication to my recovery now, I looked for an alternative person that could attend these meetings in my absence and found someone in my group that was willing to do so. After prepping them for the temporary job and giving them my GSR notebook, I headed out of town for my partner’s home. When a few days before the first of those meetings arrived, I sent a few messages over to this person’s phone to confirm they were still planning on attending the meeting in my absence. A day passed with no response so I tried calling them instead. When I was immediately forwarded into their voicemail, I knew then that they weren’t going to be attending for me. How did I know this? Because the behaviors this person was exhibiting were exactly the ones I would have done back when I didn’t care about keeping to my commitments.

When the next day arrived after the meeting night had passed, I called this person again, but this time from a blocked number. Unfortunately, I’ve learned in my life that’s the only way sometimes I can get people to answer when they are trying to avoid dealing with something such as this. My call was promptly answered and I could hear the surprise in this person voice when I identified myself. The long and short of it was that they did not go to the meeting and instead chose to go to a Boston Bruins hockey playoff game they got tickets for at the last minute. It took a lot of practicing patience, love, and tolerance for this person during and after that phone call. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed and slightly angry. But through prayer, I came to the realization that this person’s recovery was no different than mine once was when I would have done exactly the same thing that he did.

While I can see how going to a Stanley Cup game was probably much more alluring then going to a 90 minute meeting that may often be boring, there was a step they could have taken to handle this better. Although I normally wouldn’t cancel one obligation to go to another these days, there are extenuating circumstances that have led me to still doing it. When it has happened, I always contact the person I’m committed to helping out and am truthful to them as to why I have to cancel my obligation with them. More than not, I’ll even ask if they would like me to help find another person to keep the obligation so I don’t feel like I’m leaving them in the lurch. While this may still bring undue stress to the person I was supposed to help out, I at least gave them my honesty and time to find an alternative. Isn’t that what recovery is supposed to be all about?

I’ve decided I really can’t be angry with this person because of having done those very same behaviors to others all too often in my life. I also had to realize that it takes time to learn valuable lessons such as this in recovery and that this person is rather new to it all. I’m grateful to God for seeing and understanding this. God has truly shown me that in almost every situation when I find myself getting irritated or angry at someone else now, I have done those very same behaviors myself. That realization alone usually does the trick to remove any anger I might be feeling, and often it’s replaced with God’s love and light instead.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson


“Willing To Go To Any Lengths…”

On Page 58 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous there is a sentence that is as follows:

“If you have decided you want what we have and are willing to go to any length to get it – then you are ready to take certain steps…”

It took me five years of drinking and drugging and then twelve more years beyond that of white knuckling this disease with other addictions before I decided I wanted what everyone else had in the recovery rooms. Unfortunately, I wasn’t willing to go to any length to get what they had, so a portion of me continued to have my self-will run riot even as I tried to do the steps. The result was that I didn’t get very far in them nor did I seem to get any better. More often than not, I grew even sicker. Five years later, I became willing to climb Mount Everest if that’s what I needed to do, just to get what everyone else was raving about at every single meeting I attended.

Being willing to go to any length is absolutely, positively, 100% necessary in a person’s recovery, if they wish to get the full benefits from it. What’s funny is that most people who were active in any type of addiction usually were at some point willing to go to whatever length they needed to, just to get their fix, whatever that fix was. In my case, for way too long, I was willing to do what I needed to get drunk, or high, or laid, or gamble, or whatever it was I was always falling prey to. When I found the meeting rooms for different forms of recovery from any of those addictions, I initially balked at the statement of being fully willing to go to any lengths. I wanted my recovery to be handed to me on a silver platter and didn’t really want to stop doing the seeking of those quick fixes and quick highs that I was still doing throughout my life. It took me getting a lot more broken before I became FULLY willing to do whatever it would take to find true recovery from ALL of my addictions.

And when I became FULLY willing, it meant taking drastic measures in my life. I eliminated toxic friendships. I was completely thorough in my written step work. I began attending meetings on most days and developed a much better relationship with my sponsor. I volunteered both in the recovery rooms and outside of them as well. And I started spending more time in meditation and prayer to help me develop a stronger relationship with God. All of this has helped me to make much better decisions than the ones I used to make. It’s even helped me to find energy to do my recovery work during those times when I’m completely exhausted like I was today.

In a nutshell that exhaustion came from being on the highway today for over 13 hours as I drove back from my partner’s home. Most other people after a drive like that, would probably have gone home, eaten a little something, and headed to bed. The old me, the one that acted out in too many addictions, would have probably gone home and eaten some totally unhealthy fast food, looked at some internet porn, and avoided prayer as I went to bed. The new me arrived back in the town I’m living in and met with my sponsee to go through the next chapter we had left off last in our step work together. Upon completion of that, I went home and proceeded to clean up some areas of the house which had been slightly torn apart by my roommate in my absence. My evening is now ending with me making sure I continue to write at least one blog entry per day which is a goal I set for myself when I began this writing endeavor earlier in the year. And finally, I will end my day by writing in my grateful God journal and meditating for 30 minutes before falling asleep.

Some might say that this is going to just too many lengths. Well I can safely say in my case, it’s not because the last thing I desire right now is to act out in any addiction or do anything unhealthy. When I used to not go to these types of lengths, I couldn’t say as much. The bottom line is that I don’t ever want to go back to that addiction based life. If it means me dedicating myself even after an exhausting drive, then so be it. I actually feel pretty spiritually good inside because of all the work I did and thankfully, I’m much better than I was yesterday when I was felt nothing more than doom and gloom. I look forward now to resting my head on my pillow tonight knowing my relationship with God and my recovery is still intact and maybe even a little stronger too. Doesn’t that make it seem like going to any lengths is probably a good thing to do? I’d say so.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

God, Are You There?

By the time this entry is posted, I’ll be back on the road driving for twelve hours to a place I still call home. Since I left there last, my body has developed even more physical ailments that have become all the harder to endure. And lately, as much as I don’t like to openly admit this, I find myself questioning God because of how bad I feel.

I could spend pages and pages writing about the specific physical pains I feel and how they are controlling my life in its present moments. I could talk about all the things I have done and am still doing holistically to try to heal from what I believe its causes are. I could recite off all the self-help books I’ve read to bring about hope. I could share about all the homework exercises I’ve done that were assigned by practitioners and therapists to help in my healing. I could recount all the doctors and medications I tried to find some relief through. I could talk about all the recovery work I have done on myself and continue to do for others in the twelve step programs as well as all the toxic people I removed during that work to get healthier. In fact, I’m sure I could even find enough words to span the length of a novel about what I’ve gone through in these past few years in my repeated attempts to restore my health to a level where the pain doesn’t override the joys that life can bring.

It really has been tough for me lately to keep going. There’s not a day anymore that I don’t seem to be asking God whether I’m ever going to feel better again or whether anything good is truly going to come out of all the high pain levels I deal with every day. What’s even harder is facing the reality that sometimes amidst all this pain, I think about following in my parent’s footsteps and ending my life early before finding out the answers to those questions.

Just the other day in one of the many down moments I have been having lately, I received an inspirational e-mail from one of the things I subscribe to that said that there is nothing that has ever happened, or could possibly happen in our lives that is “bad”. It continued by saying it’s a spiritual law that there is never anything the universe sends us that isn’t in our own best interest and while it might not make sense in the moment, everything ultimately is either for our protection, or growth. The final words were the most difficult for me to grasp though. It said that even truly tragic things occur to make us stronger, bring us closer to others, teach us lessons, or give us a greater appreciation for life itself.

Have I gotten stronger through all of this? On some level that might be true on my ability to endure this pain. Has all of this brought me closer to others? On a day-to-day basis with interpersonal connections, I’d have to respond with a no. In fact it has done the exact opposite where I struggle to be around people especially when the pain is so great. On a level of having compassion for everyone who has gone through or is currently going through suffering, I’d have to respond though with a yes. Has all of this taught me lessons? Most definitely, the answer is yes. I have grasped many of them, each of which could be it’s own blog entry and many have been already. Has all of this brought me a greater appreciation for life itself? The sad truth is that it hasn’t, not for my present life at least. It’s challenging for me to get through even the slightest of tasks these days and the only appreciation all of this has brought me is what I once had several years earlier before all of this started. What’s a sobering thought is that I once lived life carefree where I was rarely grateful for any of what I was given including all those sports I excelled in, all those jobs I earned extremely high wages in, or all those things I did to where I pushed myself to the limits without any consequences. With it being hard for me today to even walk a few feet, I have struggled to find appreciation in anything when the pain rips through my body and nothing seems to help alleviate it.

The reality is that I don’t wish what I’m going through upon anybody. I keep trying to tell myself that everything happens for a reason, that all good things come to those who wait, that this too shall pass, and that God is only giving me what I can handle. All of those are examples of those positive sayings that people have told me along the way, and sometimes I cling to them with what little hope I have left.

The only thing I can say is that while I don’t know whether God truly exists or not, I am doing my best to maintain the belief that He does and that He has something good in store for me that I’ll be seeing very soon. It’s the only shred of anything that keeps me going anymore and to take that away from me would remove any remaining sense of hope I have to where I believe my only nature recourse would be to follow in my parent’s tragic footsteps.

I didn’t really want to write an entry in here today that was filled with so much of my pain but I am trying to keep my honesty for anyone who may be reading any of what I write. The only thing I can continue to do is pray and try to keep my faith that God is there watching me, embracing me, loving me, and telling me to hang on for just a little while longer.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson