Letting Go Of Control

The following italicized excerpt comes from the How It Works chapter of the Alcoholics Anonymous Big Book and contains the words I have found to be the most challenging to face within myself throughout most of my life.

“The first requirement is that we be convinced that any life run on self-will can hardly be a success. On that basis we are almost always in collision with some­thing or somebody, even though our motives are good. Most people try to live by self-propulsion. Each person is like an actor who wants to run the whole show; is forever trying to arrange the lights, the ballet, the scenery and the rest of the players in his own way. If his arrangements would only stay put, if only people would do as he wished, the show would be great. Everybody, including himself, would be pleased. Life would be wonderful. In trying to make these arrange­ments our actor may sometimes be quite virtuous. He may be kind, considerate, patient, generous; even modest and self-sacrificing. On the other hand, he may be mean, egotistical, selfish and dishonest. But, with most humans, he is more likely to have varied traits. What usually happens? The show doesn’t come off very well. He begins to think life doesn’t treat him right. He decides to exert himself more. He becomes, on the next occasion, still more demanding or gracious, as the case may be. Still the play does not suit him. Admitting he may be somewhat at fault, he is sure that other people are more to blame. He becomes angry, indignant, self-pitying. What is his basic trouble? Is he not really a self-seeker even when try­ing to be kind? Is he not a victim of the delusion that he can wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if he only manages well? Is it not evident to all the rest of the players that these are the things he wants? And do not his actions make each of them wish to retaliate, snatching all they can get out of the show? Is he not, even in his best moments, a pro­ducer of confusion rather than harmony? Our actor is self-centered—ego-centric, as people like to call it nowadays. He is like the retired businessman who lolls in the Florida sunshine in the winter complaining of the sad state of the nation; the minister who sighs over the sins of the twentieth century; poli­ticians and reformers who are sure all would be Utopia if the rest of the world would only behave; the outlaw safe cracker who thinks society has wronged him; and the alcoholic who has lost all and is locked up. What­ever our protestations are not most of us concerned with ourselves, our resentments, or our self-pity? Selfishness—self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity, we step on the toes of our fellows and they retaliate. Some­times they hurt us, seemingly without provocation, but we invariably find that at some time in the past we have made decisions based on self, which later placed us in a position to be hurt.”

Bill Wilson wrote these words in the Big Book for those suffering from alcohol and drugs, but I believe that they can have great application to everyone’s lives in this world. All of what he wrote here can be summed up in one word…control. Many people love to be in control because deep down inside they know they’re insecure and their lives tend to get out of control because of how they’re living it. Through those controlling behaviors they also love to point the fingers and constantly say what’s wrong with everyone and everything else in the world. All of this essentially just highlights the fact that they are often completely self-absorbed, selfish, or self-centered. And most of my life, this has been me.

Letting go of control and not trying to direct the world around me has been an arduous undertaking. I grew up in a family that taught me to be this way and trying to break that pattern has proven to be quite difficult. With both of my parents having been alcoholics and never truly finding recovery, I watched how they constantly played the director in life trying to put off a good show. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t but nonetheless, everyone was often miserable in my family because of all of this behavior. When I left home and went out on my own, I essentially turned into my parents. In every friendship, relationship, job, or social interaction I was known as a control freak. And when I wasn’t in control, I was sitting back and saying how “this” or “that” was wrong and how things would be better if people would just do “this” or “that”. Most everyone eventually always got mad at me and in return I generally became self-piteous so that people would feel sorry for me instead. In many ways I was that little kid who had never grown up.

Finding recovery and the 12 Steps has changed everything. It has helped me find a Higher Power who loves me unconditionally. That Higher Power over time has also led me to finally beginning to grow up. And as I continue to grow up more each day, I have seen just how selfish I’ve been in every area of my life for most of it. The biggest realization though that has come in my recovery is the the fact that I had rarely ever let go of control with anything in my life.

I don’t want to be controlling or a director anymore in my life. Today I am working very hard to allow God to be in control and the only director. When I try to still do either, just like always, my show comes out terrible and most often will get seriously bad reviews and boos. The more that I have let God be in control and the director instead, the more my show has gotten great praise and standing ovations. And I think I’d rather have those instead…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Expectations Can Lead To Resentments…

It’s pretty easy to build an expectation for something in anyone’s life. Quite often I’ve done it myself and unfortunately, on many of those occasions that I have, I’ve also become overly resentful when they’re not met. Thankfully, I faced a situation recently with my roommate that I believe will help me prevent this from happening a lot less in my life.

The situation with my roommate (who’s also the landlord) was about a parking issue at his home of which I am renting a room within. In a previous entry I made a slight mention to what this issue was about. There’s an oddly shaped tree which mostly hangs over the half of the driveway I was given to park my car in when I moved in. While the tree is shaped beautifully and has strikingly colorful, white flowers in the spring, it also allures many birds to perch upon its branches and poop constantly. So unfortunately, throughout much of the year, my desire to maintain a clean and shiny car gets covered with long streaks of white bird fecal remains. In my first year of tenancy, this wasn’t an issue because my roommate had allowed me to park on the other side of the driveway and said he didn’t really care about the bird pooping issue on his own car. Somewhere along the line though, his tune changed and he took his original space back. My car then returned to the bulls-eye for every bird in that tree who decides to go to the little birdie’s room. About a month ago, I began asking my roommate for compromises to prevent this from happening.

Through our discussions, I learned the tree couldn’t be cut down due to it being more on the neighbor’s property. I learned he didn’t want to park in tandem and have to deal with moving cars around constantly. I also learned he didn’t wish to elongate the driveway into the backyard by losing ten feet of grass either. When I had asked him what his suggestion was, his answer had been to go get a car cover which did nothing more than make me extremely resentful towards him. What I wasn’t seeing was how those resentments were my own doing based upon expectations I had within myself on the situation. A few days ago, there was a final discussion over this issue where I finally saw those expectations and how they were creating the resentments I was feeling.

I had spent most of the day, prior to him coming home from work, helping him out with some things around the house. During it, I had come up with another idea of how to handle the parking situation. Most of that afternoon, I built up an expectation that he had to go for this option, especially since it seemingly in my own brain met all his requirements. Even more so, I figured he would be more apt to say yes due to the amount of things I had done for him earlier in that day.

Boy was I wrong…

While my roommate was quite appreciative of all the hard work I had done around the house, it didn’t translate into him agreeing to the idea I had pondered all day on how we could both park without being a target for bird poop. When my expectation that he would agree was not met, I once again proceeded to get very extremely angry and resentful at him and went out for a drive. There was only one thing I could do to calm down. I parked in a plaza nearby, bowed my head, and prayed to God. I prayed for love, forgiveness, and peace for the situation, for my roommate, and for me. Because of those prayers, over the next few hours, I felt a lot better and saw things very differently and with a more level head.

I could have been more grateful that I have at least been guaranteed an off street parking spot since first moving in, as there is no place to do so along the tiny street in front of his home. I also could have been less manipulative in my attempts to talk about the issue, instead of trying to use any work I had done for him as a bargaining chip to fuel my compromise. But most importantly, the bottom line is that I had spent all day in my head seeing him agree to this compromise. I had used my own thought patterns surrounding it and built an expectation that he had to agree to it. And when he didn’t, my ego took a blow and an argument ensued.

What’s ironic is that after I had prayed and been able to calm down, I returned home to find my roommate had already taken some time to research alternatives on how to deal with the issue. He ended up going and buying some plastic snakes to put in the tree’s branches which supposedly might help ward off those pesky birds. And he was wiling to park a little more forward thus allowing me to park a little further away from the overhang of the tree’s branches.

While I’m grateful that there’s a good chance one of these solutions will work, what I’ve realized from this situation is that the anger in my life surrounding an issue can often be based upon expectations I created in the first place. Sometimes it’s best to just take a moment and breathe, and then do a little praying to be able to see things like that a little more clearly. Because I did so, I gained a little more wisdom in my life and saw another way of how I can avoid becoming resentful down the road.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

True Happiness Doesn’t Come From Winning A $600 Million Dollar Powerball…

The biggest news in the past few days in the United States isn’t about another murder/suicide. It isn’t about anything related to politics. It isn’t about any scandal. And it’s not about anything relating to the economy. Well I guess on some level I might have to take that last statement back with the amount of money being spent to create this piece of news. The headline on Friday for most major news outlets was the Powerball jacket has soared to around $600 million dollars.

With people buying dozens and dozens of tickets at a time while enduring lines that I read in some areas were hours long, it has got me wondering how many of those individuals are hoping that a win for them would make their lives so much better.

Here’s the blunt truth. Besides the 1 in 175 million chance of winning this lottery, the sad reality is that if you feel you life stinks where it’s at now, it’s still going to stink the same if you win all that money. The only difference is that you’ll have a lot more distractions now to make you forget why it stunk in the first place.

How do I know this?

I’ve lived it.

While I haven’t won some large glorious sum of money through a state lottery, I did inherit an incredible amount from my parents after their untimely deaths. Prior to their passings, my life was often miserable. I had a lot of baggage in it that was much in part due to my own doing. I surrounded myself with unhealthy people. I chased all sorts of addictions to find temporary happiness. I didn’t like myself and I did what I could to avoid that fact. When I inherited the money, it became a wonderful new way to distract myself from me.

With it, I bought cars, houses, gadgets, clothes, vacations, and more. And for a time, I forgot about that miserable person that existed before I came into that money. Unfortunately, having a lot more money brought in other complications instead such as higher taxes and friends that I wasn’t sure most of the time if they were only around me for the free things I gave them. Even worse, the more money I had, the more I felt like it was never going to be enough. Though all of this, my ego swelled and I grew more selfish and self-centered. And eventually I blew through most of what my parents had left me, leaving me in the same state I was in before I ever had a single penny of it….miserable.

Coming into a ton of money suddenly, does not miraculously make all one’s trouble’s go away. They only get masked and suppressed for awhile. Sure I felt great for a bit of time and was constantly doing new things and surrounding myself with a lot of people. But deep down inside, I was still avoiding those things that had made me be that miserable person in the first place.

It’s like the sad and lonely guy who walks into a bar and says he’s buying everyone’s drinks for the night. He suddenly becomes quite popular and as he drinks, he forgets about how sad and lonely he was in the first place. But what happens when all his money is gone and he sobers up? The people are gone and he’s sad and lonely again. The same thing holds true with winning the lottery or coming into any large sum of money for a person who was sad, or lonely, or miserable, or hating their life before receiving it. The principle holds true as well for any person who moves from one location to another hoping for a geographical cure from their misery. It holds true with any person who consumes any substance to numb their senses so they don’t have to think about the fact they don’t like their life. Happiness doesn’t come from any of this and especially not from $600 million dollars. While it might make someone happy for a time, it won’t last.

The only true happiness I’ve found in my life is when I’m trying to do God’s will. In that, I’m not chasing money or some other thing to bring me happiness. Instead, I’m focusing in on how I can not only help myself heal from all the selfishness I lived in, I’m also out there trying to help others heal too. Thankfully, I have learned this lesson and am not out buying hundreds of dollars of tickets hoping to win. Will I buy just one for the sheer fun of it? Probably. But the difference today is that my life is already getting better and much happier with God at the center of it. And so if I was to win, the only happiness that would increase within me would be when I reach out to donate much of it to others who need it a lot more than I ever would.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson