Wrestling Away That Control From Your Ego

Have you ever had a confrontation with someone where your ego was screaming at you that it’s all their fault, but deep down inside you could feel your heart and soul trying to whisper just the opposite? I actually had one of those situations arise during an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) retreat I was on this past weekend where my own heart and soul had to end up wrestling my ego for resolution of a conflict that transpired between another person and myself. But before I mention the specific details of that situation, some background information might be useful for the re-telling of these events.

This AA retreat I was on actually had a name for it and was called a Matt Talbot weekend. Matt Talbot is actually the name of an Irish man from Dublin, who had become addicted to alcohol at a very early age in life around the turn of the 20th century. He later experienced a spiritual conversion and went on to lead a life of sobriety because of it. These retreats have been established based upon his spiritual experiences and are an opportunity for recovering alcoholics to enhance their spirituality and sober way of life, in a setting that promotes fellowship and sharing throughout the weekend. The people who attend these retreats are all recovering alcoholics. There are many different Matt Talbot groups that have been formed over the years in the United States, Canada, and Ireland and each continue to hold retreats throughout the year to helping those in AA recovery.

Today, I belong to Group #70, which meets at a retreat center in the mountains of New Hampshire twice a year. This wasn’t my initial group though as I first experienced a Matt Talbot retreat around six year ago in a different location with Group #5. And those experiences from that first retreat became the driving force for the confrontation that ensued this past weekend between this other man and myself.

It started late this past Saturday evening while I was sitting at a table playing some cards after the events for that retreat day had ended. I had begun a conversation by asking one of the other card players if they still went on Group #5’s retreats. He responded that he hadn’t in awhile but planned on going back. I proceeded to ask some of the other people sitting there if they too still attended #5’s weekends. None of them did and I took that moment to say I was glad that I had found #70 because of what had transpired during that one and only #5 retreat I had attended. Without anyone even asking, I explained I had been gay bashed by a member of that group behind my back during that weekend and hadn’t experienced much in the way of fun activities and fellowship there either. Suddenly from behind me came the stern voice of man who identified himself as someone who currently holds a position for that group. As he walked out of the room in frustration, he said in anger that I should be more aware of my surroundings. My ego quickly took control and tried to defend itself as I verbalized my irritation again about that guy who had been anti-gay and said things being my back. As my retreat brother left the room pissed, his last words were essentially to get over it.

For the next hour, the conversations I held with the people around me were all about trying to prove that it was his resentment and that I held no fault in the matter. Over and over and over again, my ego came up with all the reasons why I should be entitled to my opinion about my experiences from that #5 retreat. But there was a small nudge that continued to occur within me that kept trying to show me the part I played in this confrontation. My ego wasn’t having it though, so after an hour of getting nowhere with it trying to convince everyone I was right and that man was wrong, I decided to head to my room and pray instead. This alone was a major step of growth for me as I know that not more than a few years earlier, I wouldn’t have cared at all about that man’s feelings.

As I kneeled in my room and prayed, I asked God for guidance. And it was in those moments of silence, I realized I was still harboring a resentment towards that man from Group #5 who hadn’t liked gay people. I even became aware that I had in turn spent years bashing his group any chance I got because of him. Immediately, I prayed for love, forgiveness, and peace for that man who hadn’t liked my sexuality. I did the same prayer for Group #5, as well as for the other man who had gotten in the confrontation with me and I immediately felt better. The next morning, I asked God if an amends was in order and then went into my daily 35 minute meditation. It was during that meditation I received a very strong and resounding yes, as well as the words to use for that amends. Shortly thereafter, I found that man and did just that. And ironically, he made an amends back to me as well, and the two of us ended it with an embrace. As we walked away, heading to the next event, I felt a thousand times better than the previous evening when my ego had me in its grips.

All too often, during confrontations and storms like this that can happen in life for any of us, our egos do their best to take over control on how we react in them. It’s during those heightened moments where it’s always best to step away from the situation temporarily, to take a deep breath, and then to seek guidance to a Higher Power through prayer. In doing so, not only will the heart and soul be able to wrestle away that control from the ego, you will also end up feeling in the end, so much lighter and so much brighter.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Unity In Alcoholics Anonymous

There is a symbol that is used to represent the program of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Even if you aren’t familiar with AA on any level, I’m sure you’ve still probably seen it. Most often it’s found on the back of a car’s bumper, but it seems to be turning up more and more lately on things such as clothing, jewelry, and artwork. It’s a rather simple emblem that’s essentially a circle containing a triangle within it whose sides represent unity, service, and recovery. Unfortunately, it appears there are many groups, such as my own, which seem to be unaware what the unity part of that triangle really means.

By straight definition out of the dictionary, the word unity is defined as the state of being united and joined as a whole. And sadly, that seems to be the exact opposite of what my home group in AA is currently doing. But before I mention some of those things that they’re doing which don’t seem to be congruent with unity, I think it’s important to note that when a group is practicing that principle, it creates a byproduct called fellowship. And for many, the stronger the fellowship in a group, the more it seems to gain in membership and the more its members continue to come back week after week, month after month, and year after year.

I’ve belonged to several other AA home groups in the past and each of them helped me to understand a little better what unity and fellowship really looked like. The first home group I ever officially joined was probably the best one to represent this. I can still remember walking in those doors on the first Friday night of September in 2007. There were at least three greeters outside the meeting hall giving warm welcomes to everyone as they entered. Inside the hall, it was hard not to notice everyone helping each other out to get the room ready for the next meeting. There was plenty of smiling, laughing, hugging, and friendly conversations going on. And many people walked up to me and gave me huge embraces even though they didn’t know me. Even better, when the meeting was over, I had received several invitations to join many of those members who were going out for some pizza. While I didn’t live in the time that Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob Smith created the program of Alcoholics Anonymous, I have come to understand through research, that they practiced something similar in their meetings back then. I had always felt they would have been proud to have walked into my first home group to see their legacy of unity live on. But as I said earlier, there are some meetings, like my current home group, that don’t practice unity so well. And just last week, I saw this was becoming very apparent there.

Week in and week out, I am the sole person there to set up and even when the other members begin to arrive, none offer to help me out. Most of the members only warmly greet those that fall into their cliques and close friendship based circles and fail to even walk around the room and say hello to anyone else, including other members like me. When I have begun the cleanup after the meeting, most promptly leave but for those that remain, it’s only to socialize with their friends for a few more minutes. And not once, in the year I’ve been a member of that group has anyone wanted to go out together for any kind of fellowship after the meeting. My group even has occasional speaking engagements at various detoxes, halfway houses, and other places of recovery, but often many of them are sparsely attended by our members. All of this stands to reason why our group has been struggling financially as of late to pay our monthly expenses. While the speakers we’ve had may have been good, I believe it also takes a strong fellowship to draw people back each week to gain in not only numbers, but also members. In the past year, our average attendance has been around 40 and our average active membership has been no more than 10. While my attempts at creating more unity and fellowship have had the tendency to be turned against me with comments that what I’m suggesting is unrealistic and unreasonable, what my group members don’t understand is that this is going against the very principles that Bill and Bob set forth so long ago.

Finding a home group that is strong in unity and fellowship, can be critical for a person’s recovery, especially when most were probably doing the exact opposite during their active days of addiction. If you are searching for a good meeting to attend or looking for one to call your home group, I encourage you to find one where people shake your hand, hug you, verbally greet you with warm cheer, and even invite you to join them later after its over for more fellowship. These are only just a handful of the many traits that fall under a good unity based group. But if you find yourself on the other side of the coin walking into a meeting where you aren’t even pleasantly greeted by one of its members, my suggestion is to keep on searching for other meetings to attend, as that’s a definite sign of a group lacking in unity. That being said, I think I need to follow my own advice here and begin looking for another group to call home again…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

There Are Positive Things To Look Forward To With Each Change Of Season

Just the other day, my partner was verbalizing his disappointment in the fact that summer was officially over and another fall season was upon us. While I share in some of his sadness because my health seems to fare a lot better during those hot summer days, I really consider myself blessed in two ways in regards to each change of season. One, I have two eyes that are still able to see all the beautiful subtleties that come along with the shift of one season into the next. And two, I currently live in the Northeast, which gives me a front row seat to watch all those changes happen in nature 365 days of the year. But even beyond all those changes in nature, there are a lot of other things that occur with each change of season that I’ve come to look forward to.

As the fall arrives, I am grateful for the leaves changing into their various bright colors, for hearing the scary music play everywhere to embrace Halloween, for all the fun in watching kids get so excited about candy and wearing cool costumes, for pumpkin picking in a patch, for eating a slice of pecan or pumpkin pie, for drinking a cup of fresh apple cider, for taking a hayride, for carving a complex pattern into the face of several pumpkins, and for sharing that big turkey feast at Thanksgiving with loved ones.

As winter arrives, I am grateful for the first snow flake that falls on a frigid night, for the day when the sunlight comes up and all the trees and ground are coated with that powdery stuff, for walking on an ice filled pond, for the enjoyment of sledding or snow tubing, for throwing a snowball at someone with a giggle, for tasting a big icicle hanging from a roof, for drinking anything warm with peppermint in it, for seeing all the holiday lights begin to appear everywhere, for decorating my own dwelling with a festive spirit and holiday music, for sharing Christmas Eve and Day with family and loved ones, and for watching the ball come down in New York City on New Year’s Eve.

As spring arrives, I am grateful for the first flowers that pop up out of the ground, for watching all those kids everywhere get excited around Easter as they receive those candy filled Easter baskets and hunt for colored eggs, for seeing flowers planted in previous years return, for planting new things in the ground, for tilling the soil in the garden and putting down fresh mulch, for seeing the first few big budget popcorn movies that arrive at this time in the local multiplex, and for that first really warm day where I can take my shirt off and bask in the sun.

And as summer returns once again, I am grateful for a day at the beach, for a walk in the wet sand, for picking up seashells, for a swim in the ocean, for all those summer barbecues I attend, for all the fires I have in a fire pit at night, for toasting marshmallows in those fires, for sitting outside at the drive-in and watching a double feature with my partner, for huge gooey ice cream sundaes, for drinking iced coffees and other cool beverages, and for watching those fireworks explode on the 4th of July.

There really are many more things I’m sure I could mention that I’ve found appreciation for with each new season. And while people like my partner may find the end of the summer to be a real bummer (hey that rhymes!), it really doesn’t have to be for them. There are so many gifts and blessings that God provides us with each new season, no matter what part of the world someone is living in.

So as each of you head into the next change of season, I encourage you to take a moment, breathe, and allow yourself to think about some of the positive things that are going to happen at this time of the year in the area of the world you live in. I’m sure you can find at least a few of those things to look forward to. When you do, try to focus on them instead, as I’m sure you’ll find yourself welcoming in the new season with a lot more happiness, and a lot less disappointment.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson