An Eye For An Eye Won’t Bring Peace

This past week, Boston became the latest casualty of another death filled tragedy. As the Boston Marathon came to a close near the end of the day at its finish line, several homemade pressure cooker type bombs went off injuring hundreds and, as of the time of my writing this, killing three people.

It was supposed to be a normal day of running, cheering, and spectatorship for everyone as Boston was celebrating another annual marathon and Patriot’s Day. The state government and many local businesses were closed to honor the day. The sun was out and spring was in the air, yet someone decided to turn the day red with blood for whatever dark agenda they had within.

Lately it seems as if a week doesn’t go by anymore without one of these deadly sprees occurring. With a quick glance at any of the major newspaper’s websites on any given day, some husband or wife has shot each other, their children, and then themselves. Some disgruntled worker has gone and killed their boss and co-workers. Some young adult found a gun and opened up fire in some public venue. Public mournings and vigils are held because of these senseless tragedies. But it seems as if something else is being creating from all of this bloodshed. Revenge.

I was standing in line this past Tuesday morning waiting for one of the local state offices to open as I had some paperwork that I had to take care of. In front of me in line was a woman who was being anything but silent about the bombings. She told anyone who might have been in earshot that they need to find who did this and cut off each and every finger of that person one by one making them suffer too. I could see the anger and rage in her eyes. I’m sure for some of those who were directly affected by the bombing, or even by the Newtown or Aurora massacres, they felt similar.

Revenge isn’t the answer is though. That old saying, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth doesn’t bring resolution or peace to anyone. Sometimes I think that people don’t realize going after someone to kill or torture them won’t bring that closure they’re seeking within. Even worse, it creates a domino or ripple effect outward. Let me explain what I mean.

Person A goes and murders Person B. Person B had Persons C and D in their life who adored and loved them. Person C and D are now angry and full of rage and decide to take justice into their own hands and seek out Person A for revenge. Person A is then murdered. Unbeknownst to Persons C and D, Person A had two close people to them in their life as well, Persons E and F. Persons E and F decide to continue the revenge based spree and seek out the families of Persons C and D and kill all of them. I could go on and on with this. What people don’t realize is that this is how wars start. Look at what’s happening with North Korea lately.

The country is escalating their threats of nuclear terror daily. The country reminds me of the Napoleon complex in that they are so small yet they want to create a name for themselves. If North Korea was to fire upon anyone, especially South Korea, a full fledged war would begin imminently with South Korea firing back and then the U.S. and other allies getting involved and also doing the firing. The death toll that would result from those actions would be staggering. Who wins in all of that? Does any of that really bring peace and resolution?

Guns, fighting, wars, and battles…none of them will create peace. All of them will foster more anger. All of them move in the exact opposite direction that the world needs to go towards which is love. I was asked at one point in my life if one of my family members was murdered wouldn’t I want to exact revenge and have that person either killed or put on death row if they were caught. My answer, albeit painful, was a resounding “No!”. More death won’t ever bring back my family member and it won’t offer me any closure in my heart. I also believe in forgiveness because of God being at the center of my life. I believe that the person who does something such as murder should be given the chance to see the err in their ways even if its in a jail cell for the rest of their lives.

The only way these senseless tragedies and massacres can end in this world is if we all work on loving each other a little bit more and hating each other a lot less. The only way that I see newspaper’s websites reporting on anything else but these awful events is if all of us realize that we are all connected through a greater Source which for me I label as God. By one of us dying tragically, some part of all of us is affected. The answer isn’t to seek revenge. It’s to ask for forgiveness and healing not only for ourselves and all those who were affected, but, hard enough as it may seem, those that created the tragedy in the first place.

One day people will realize that all this bloodshed is doing nothing but creating more of it. When that day comes, everyone will begin to see the only way to a world filled with peace is to love, even in the face of hate.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 12 – 12 Step Recovery

“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts, and to practice these principles in all our affairs…”

Sometimes I think people take this step too lightly. Maybe the reality is that for a long time I was the one taking it too lightly. There’s a joke in some of the recovery rooms that I’ve heard some people make when speaking at the podium. “Don’t you graduate once you reach the 12th Step?”, they say. For any addiction, recovery is a way of life and not a fad. It’s not something that once this step is reached that a person just moves on to the next thing in their lives. This step speaks directly to that issue.

By the time a person reaches Step 12 in their recovery work, it’s assumed that some level of spiritual awakening has occurred. In my case, that was true but not on the level it could have been. As I have mentioned in several other of my blog entries, I didn’t fully invest into Step 3 in the first several years of my recovery. I didn’t turn my entire will over to God. And I didn’t get the full spiritual benefit the steps are meant to bring because of it. This created a cascade effect in my life. Any message that I tried to carry to other addicts still had quite a bit of my own toxins and poisons involved in any help I offered. Much of the work I did with the still suffering addicts was tainted with my own selfishness and self-centeredness. As a result, I didn’t have much experience, strength, and hope to pass on to those that needed it. Even worse, what I was practicing in the rest of my life, even after doing the steps the first few times, was character defected driven and addicted related. This was all because I was unwilling to fully let go of my self will and trust in God’s will completely. That can’t be said though in the work I’ve done in my life these past 365 days.

A year ago on April 17th of 2012, I made the decision to turn my entire will and life over to the care of God as Step 3 stated. I decided it was time to try that path as the pain had become too great to handle in my life. I removed all the toxic people around me that didn’t desire a spiritual based life. I separated myself from those who were still living in addictions. I began a spiritual routine every day that involved more prayer and meditation. And I sought out greater help from a therapist and some holistic healers that got me on the track I could have been when I first got sober so long ago.

Something good happened because of that decision and those actions.

The spiritual awakening that so many had often eluded to in many meetings that I attended, started happening to me. I became less self-piteous and more positive in every area of my life. A large chunk of the selfish and self-centered ways I had been living in, slowly began disappearing. And my desire to help others started increasing on its own.

I employ this step today more naturally because of the way I’m now living with God at the center of my life. I go to detoxes, prisons, hospitals, halfway houses, and other venues to speak about my experience, strength, and hope in my recovery. I raise my hand every time I’m at a meeting when the secretary asks if anyone is willing to help sponsor someone. I make phone calls to the new people in my group to reach out and make them feel more welcomed. And I show up early and often leave last at my home group because I have found I enjoy setting up and cleaning up. There is one part of this step though that is important to highlight beyond the help I offer to other addicts today.

The 12th Step speaks of practicing these principles in all of our affairs. An easier way of understanding this is what do I do when no one else is paying attention to me? How do I carry myself in my personal life when I’m away from the recovery rooms? In the past, when I wasn’t turning my entire will over to God and not practicing the steps fully, I would gossip and backstab others because of it. I would drive recklessly and impatiently on the road all the time. I used people for what they had to offer me and rarely offered them anything in return. I hoarded greedily any money I had for my own desires. And I engaged in other addictions that weren’t alcohol or drug related but just as deadly to my mind, body, and soul. All that has changed today and then some. Who I am in the recovery circles has become the same as who I am outside of them. I realized that if I was to continue to have spiritual awakenings in my life and if I truly wanted to find inner peace, my life had to be fully vested into applying the recovery work both inside and outside the rooms.

My life is changed so dramatically now from where I was a year ago when the 12th Step didn’t mean that much to me. With God at the helm of my whole existence today, it’s become natural for me to carry this message to as many addicts as possible because I want to. It’s become natural for me to live spiritually all the time because I desire to. Because of this, it’s become natural for me to practice all of what I’ve learned in the 12 Steps, anytime, anywhere, and in any moment where God has me.

The 12 Steps of Recovery helped me to find God. They helped me to find myself. They helped me to heal. And they changed my life forever for the better. They can do all the same for you too.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Step 11 – 12 Step Recovery

“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out…”

Step 11 is the longest in wording of all the steps, yet I find it’s message short and sweet. I’ll sum it up in three simple phrases…

“Spend time with God. Learn God’s will. Then ask for strength to follow it.”

It has been quite difficult in my life since getting sober to spend much time by myself with God. For a long time, I thought watching TV or going to a movie alone qualified, except in both of those cases, it didn’t. My focus and interest during those things was not on being with God so much as it was on experiencing something visually stimulating. Frankly, I hated the idea of being alone as most of my childhood life was that way. The bottom line was that I was afraid to face that part of me again. Ironically following the 12 steps slowly led me back there to facing that fear and it’s the 11th Step, that has become the strongest catalyst to helping me overcome it.

Step Eleven deals with two different elements, prayer and meditation.

Prayer is simply the act of talking with God. So often I’ve made prayer a complicated action. I thought it had to be big words and filled with eloquence. I believed there was a special format on how to communicate with God. For the longest time, my image of God was one of a figure sitting on a throne where I had to bow before it and speak with Shakespearean prose just to be heard. Following these steps in all of the recovery programs led me to the same conclusions. God is not way up there. God is not way out there. God is not beyond my reach. God is right here in front of me and all around me, all the time and I can carry on a conversation with God in any given moment like I was talking to a best friend. Because truthfully, God is my closest friend. The simplest prayer I have ever said to God is just three words.

“Please help me.”

That prayer has come in handy lately when my pain is at its greatest or when I’m feeling tempted to go back to old toxic behaviors. On the other side of the coin, I have said prayers that are much longer and more complex such as the following.

“God, I want nothing more in my life than to find your will for me and follow it. Please take from me all of my self-will and guide me away from all the addictions and obsessions that have kept me apart from you. Steer me instead towards all the things that are filled with Your love and light.”

The reality is that any time I want to talk with God, I simply start by saying “God…” and start talking. In doing so, I’m praying. Many in the recovery rooms say that prayer has to be on the knees with heads bowed. While that is one way of praying, prayer can be done anytime, anywhere, and in so many more ways. It can be done when walking, when running, when singing, when dancing, or even when sitting. There is no right way or wrong way to pray. Anyone who says so is continuing to manifest that illusion. But as important as it is to talk to God, it’s just as important to listen to God and that is done through meditation.

Meditation is simply the act of listening to God. Most of the people I have met in the recovery rooms struggle with this because it can involve being still and in silence. For anyone recovering from any addiction, being still and in silence can seem next to impossible. I attribute this to how the brain of an addiction prone person is like an untamed puppy. This puppy wanders from one thing to the next, sniffing this, and sniffing that, barking here, and barking there. The brain is no different, especially for someone just coming into recovery from their addictions. Practicing meditation can help with that, but it takes time and effort, and most importantly, patience.

For a recovering addict of anything, patience can be hard to come by. When active in any addiction, there is never any patience. The only goal is to get high off of something as quick as possible. The opposite holds true in recovery. The goal is to distance oneself from seeking those highs and to become more balanced in life with its natural ebbs and flows. Meditating helps with this as well.

For some odd reason though, when people are told to try meditation, they picture Buddhist monks sitting for hours on end in silence or they tell themselves there is no way they can sit still for any length of time. But yet, most never try. Meditation can be as simple as sitting still on the side of a bed for 5 minutes and just focusing on breathing. And if that’s too difficult, one doesn’t even have to be completely still. Meditation can be as straightforward as taking a walk along the ocean and becoming aware of everything being experienced from the sound of the surf or the feel of the sand below the feet. The key is to be silent in whatever form attempted.

I started with just five minutes of sitting in silence when I began practicing meditation. During those first attempts, I wanted to give up before I started. I didn’t want to sit with myself in silence nor try to hear any inner guidance from God that may arise. My mind had a fit and gave me all the reasons of why it was stupid. Thankfully I never gave up with it. Over the years, I have done everything from being on silent meditation retreats to teaching it to others. In every case, like I do everyday now for 35 minutes, I sit in silence, initially focus on my breathing, and wait for God to speak to me. I have come to believe that God is always speaking to each and every one of us all the time in a way that we can all understand individually. The problem is that we’re often too busy in our brains or in our actions in life to hear what’s being said. While prayer helps all of us convey what’s on our minds and hearts to God, practicing meditation is like putting on a hearing aid to listen to God’s responses to those prayers.

The 11th Step takes both meditation and prayer to help to develop that closer relationship with God. It is essential to a person’s recovery from any addiction but it takes time. It takes practice. And it most definitely takes patience. Talk to God anytime and anywhere and you’re praying. Go find some silence and listen to God and you’re meditating. It’s that simple.

Pray for God’s will and meditate to learn what it is. When it comes, pray for God to gain strength to follow that path and meditate to receive it. By doing this everyday, eventually you’ll see you’re receiving it and you’ll forget you’re even doing the eleventh step as it becomes your way of life.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson