What Every Kid Really Needs And Wants…

I may not be a parent at this point in my life, but there was a time when I was a kid. Looking back at the many years I was living under the Dawson household in Poughkeepsie, NY, I realized there was one thing that was greatly absent throughout most of it……unconditional love.

My parents did the best they could to raise my sister and I under their circumstances. Both were alcoholics and both dealt with bouts of chronic depression and anxiety. For a person to be suffering from any addiction, there is one thing that is very difficult to do and that’s caring about anyone else but their own self. To make matters worse, having mental imbalances such as depression and anxiety only furthers the inability to care about anyone else’s needs, wants, or desires. So in the Dawson household, because of both of those things, any love that was present had a level of toxicity within it.

Much of the love my sister and I received growing up was given with conditions, meaning there was always something that was attached to any kind gesture that my parents might have offered…

“If you do this for us, we’ll do this back in return.”

“If we give this to you, you need to give us this back later.”

“If we offer you this, will you help us out with that later?”

Unfortunately, what I don’t remember much of because it wasn’t present often, were loving acts of kindness that came without any attachments. I see movies all the time with family’s that portray those types of values. A son comes home from school having been bullied and his mother holds him tight while he cries in her arms instead of being lectured to stand up for himself in the future. A daughter is dumped by her first boyfriend and her father consoles her with words of how beautiful and special she is instead of telling her what she needs to work on to hold on to guys like that. A child walks into the home office and asks to have a catch outside with their father who promptly gets up and takes some time with them rather than saying he’s too busy. The parents surprise their children with a trip to their kid’s favorite restaurant, just because. And those are only just a few of the many examples of what unconditional love can be all about.

As a kid I desperately wanted to have a lot more of taking walks, having catches, and getting warm embraces and consoling without having to bargain or beg for them. I desperately wanted to be listened to by my parents without them saying anything when I was really struggling with something, such as my sexuality. I desperately wanted them to just look at me and say how much they loved me just as I was and that I was good enough in their eyes. Instead, any love that was given came with a price attached, and thus guilt trips were introduced into my home.

“I gave you this, how come you are being that way?”

“I did that for you last week, how come you won’t do this for me today?”

“Don’t you remember I helped you out with that, so can’t you help me out with this?”

That’s not unconditional love. Placing a guilt trip on something later that one needs or wants and basing it upon an original gesture of unconditional love only will take away from the power that unconditionally loving act of kindness once had. Unconditional love is when something is offered with no expectations of anything coming back in return………….EVER!

Sadly, all of the conditional love and guilt trips I received as a kid became how I was with everyone else as an adult and it’s taking me a lot of hard work now to reverse engineer all of that out of me. I don’t want to live my life offering love that comes with a price. I’ve started this healing by doing random acts of kindness for complete strangers where I know I will never be able to ask them for anything in return. I’ve bought coffees and snacks for those waiting in the lines behind me. I’ve held the doors open at various stores for all sorts of individuals. I let people get in front of me in lines when they seem to be in more of a rush than me. I slow down and allow cars to merge onto a crowded road I’m traveling on. The more that I have done those things, the more I have felt the desire to go on a more personal level with offering unconditional love to those I do know. I drive friends to and from AA meetings. I help people out in the 12 steps. I take my free time to speak at various recovery centers on addiction. I offer warm embraces to those that are hurting. I do chores just because I want to help ease someone else’s burdens. Thankfully, all of these things have helped me to learn how good it feels to love unconditionally.

What I really needed and wanted as a kid was to be loved like that. What I got instead was love that generally came with a price. Over time, I became like my parents and learned how to love conditionally and often resorted to guilt trips to get what I wanted. Through my journey of trying to get closer to God, I have been able to undue much of that early on conditioning that came from my younger years. Today I want nothing more than to love others without expectations. I know I still have a ways to go. But with God at the helm so much more in my life now, I’m seeing that it’s becoming much easier to love unconditionally, and much harder to love with conditions.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

My Story Of Being Molested (And My Healing From It)

Being touched by anyone inappropriately and without permission at a young age by someone else should never have to happen. Sadly, it does and many suffer for years if not a lifetime because of it. Unfortunately, molestation is a real problem and many never find the courage to speak up about it due to fear. I’m grateful to God that I’ve been able to conquer that fear and am here to share my painful story about being molested and how I found healing from it.

I didn’t understand anything about the birds and the bees as a child. My parents didn’t show much affection at all in front of my sister and I. There never were any discussions about sex or what it involved. Frankly, I’m not even sure if I understood where I came from and on some naive level I think I believed that I came in a stork’s beak and was delivered to my parents front door! I was utterly and completely oblivious to anything that dealt with human sexuality. By the time I reached 12 years old, the only thing I knew was that I liked to stare at certain types of men and my private parts at times got stimulated because of it.

In school around that age, I didn’t have any friends to hang around with. My best friends were solely the books I read, the superhero fantasies I lived in, and the water I swam through every single day in swim practice for the team I was on. I was a good swimmer and my parents knew it. They pushed me to keep doing it even though there were times I really despised the several hours a day I was in a pool. It did help me to pass the time by which normally might have been occupied with friends, if I had them. I kept to myself a lot because of it and one of the coaches seemed to take notice of that. There were two teams with two sets of coaches where I practiced. There was the swim team and the diving team. One of those particular coaches on the diving team was someone I stared at a lot. Today I can say that my staring at people like this coach was my initial attempts at coming to understand who I was attracted to, but back then, I had no idea.

I don’t remember when it all specifically started, but at some point when practices ended and I was in the open showers, this diving coach began to bathe directly next to me naked. I never was one much for being nude around others and generally bathed in these open showers with my swimsuit still on. At first I didn’t think it was strange that this much older man was bathing next to me. But as time passed though, I began to wonder why he was always showering next to me when there were 11 other ones open to bathe under. I can’t say for sure what he noticed me doing as I showered next to him, but I’m sure he did see my eyes wander a few times and there was the possibility that since I had just hit puberty, he might have seen me get slightly aroused. In the weeks that followed, he eventually started talking to me while he showered. I can still remember him asking me if I wanted to borrow his soap. Most of the rest of those conversations and interactions I’ve blanked out and can’t remember anymore. That’s probably a good thing. One other thing I do recollect though was him asking me if I ever needed a ride to practice as he had a van and often picked up and dropped off other children. Thankfully, I, nor my parents ever did take him up on that offer.

On one particular practice not too long after he began offering me rides, I really began wondering if I was making all this up in my head and creating some fabrication that this man in his 40’s liked me more than just a friend. On some level, my brain was being stimulated because it was the beginnings of my sexual identity. On another level, my spirit and soul was detecting the wrongness of what was happening. Because of my childlike curiosity to always figure out the truth, I left practice early one day complaining of shoulder pain. When I went into the locker room, I took a quick glance over at the diving pool and then went in to take my shower. Some of what I remember that happened next is very vivid even to this day. Other parts are foggy and probably always will be for my own protection. I remember that diving coach coming into the locker room just as I was about to change into my clothes. I remember being asked why I had left practice early. I remember him placing his hands on my shoulders directly behind me telling me he can make them feel better. And I remember him beginning to touch me in other areas that shouldn’t have been touched by him. The last thing I remember was being held over his knee, spanked and touched some more all because I had said something to him that came out of the fear I was in over what was happening in those moments.

I can still see myself running to my father’s car after that experience, getting into the front seat and bawling. I can still see myself telling him what happened and the anger that arose within him towards that man because of it. I can even still see him leaving me sitting in the car as he went in to have a conversation with this man. When all was said and done, my father asked if I wanted to press charges against that diving coach. I was too afraid to do so and said I didn’t want to. Today I wonder how many others suffered at this man’s hands and sometimes have wished I had been stronger back then to have pressed charges. The only thing that did end up happening was his being kicked off the coaching staff and me never seeing him again. The last thing I remember was my father telling me that this coach claimed it had all been just “locker room fun” and that “everyone did it”. To me, it was anything but fun and it haunted me for most of my young adult life.

The incident and all my experiences with that man were squashed down by my parents and by me as time passed. It was never talked about again. But it did a tremendous amount of damage to me. That was my first sexual experience in my life, and because I didn’t understand anything about sexuality, my brain took those behaviors as normal. The result was me growing up with fantasies of being dominated by others sexually and never learning what true love and intimacy were.

Talk therapy never did much to help me bring up this pain and walk through it. Books I read about molestation didn’t help much either. But an organization I joined back in 1999, the ManKind Project, found the one path that did work and provided me the desperate help I needed to heal from that childhood trauma. Other men in this organization, who I today refer to as my “brothers”, set up a re-enactment with someone playing the part of that diving coach. Using that coaches words and gestures I had remembered as part of the trauma, I was brought back in time in a safe way to confront and “kill off” this demon of a man that still lived inside me, and in some way, still owned a part of me too. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to go through in my life for the 30 minutes I took part in this exercise in healing. But it worked. Oh, boy, did it work!

After it was over, I noticed I wasn’t angry anymore at either myself for letting it happen, or at this man who had violated me. Those feelings of anger never have returned either. As many years have now passed since then, I have worked on healing with my sexuality because I never quite understood what true intimacy was due to being molested. I’m grateful I now have a partner today who loves me unconditionally and is helping me to foster better ideals in what intimacy should have always been for me.

Whether I was attracted to that diving coach or not should never have warranted the actions that came out of it. I was molested by a man at least 30 years older than me and it caused me great pain, hardship, and suffering for much of my life. Thankfully God intervened and provided me guidance on how to heal from it. It’s my hope that in sharing my story here, others who have been molested might somehow find comfort in knowing there is healing from this and maybe theirs can begin now.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Healing Happy Mother’s Day Wish To A Great Mother

Yesterday was Mother’s Day and it’s a holiday that I have had a tendency to gloss over until recently. Just over eight years ago, my mother tragically died from a drunken binge that ended with her falling down the stairs and snapping her neck. She had just turned the age of 61.

For the longest time I was very angry about my her death. Ironically, I was just as angry about her life, especially the last few years of it. And I was extremely angry as well about how she treated me especially when she had been drinking. After her death, I played the avoidance game with my feelings about her passing. When the first mother’s day rolled around a few months later, I was extremely active in my sex and love addictions. While I might have often initially played the sympathy card to try to get something I wanted from those I knew, I wasn’t really trying to grieve nor do I remember crying much. There was a part of me that wanted to remain numb to it all.

I spent most of the next six years following her death engaging in the same toxic behaviors and continuing to avoid at all costs having to deal with the suppressed anger and rage surrounding my relationship with her. Every year another Mother’s Day would pass and I acted like I didn’t care. A few years ago though, I started having to face the pain I had shoved deep down about her. In some ways I think my body forced me to face it as the emotional side of me was too shut down. I believe that the trauma from her began to manifest itself instead in my physical body with chronic pain.

Through therapy, prayer, meditation and more, I worked hard to open up and heal all those wounds I had endured from her alcoholism and sicknesses. Today I’m not angry anymore about my mother in any way, shape, or form. Instead, I am beginning to remember the good things, and the good times, that I did spend with her throughout my life. They were always there but the anger kept me from seeing them.

In some sense, this entry is dedicated to my mother who I loved dearly. I know she did the best she could to raise me and I know she loved me as best as she was able to. While there are many memories I try to forget now as I don’t want to live in my painful past, I do want to reflect on some things I remember that I loved most about my mother.

Mom, if you can read this, wherever you are, I want you to know I love you and I miss you. I hope you had a good Mother’s Day this year and are able to see how far I’ve come in my life because of so many of the things you taught me for the better. I know you did the best you could to take care of me, and I know you raised me with the best of intentions. I honor you for that. While you had your faults, so did I. I forgive you for them and ask for your forgiveness for my own. And I look forward to the day that I see you again. I want you to know how much I miss doing things with you. Here are just some of them Mom.

I miss playing cards with you.

I miss watching movies and talking about their plots with you.

I miss going out to dinner to new restaurants with you.

I miss traveling and sightseeing to interesting places with you.

I miss sitting and taking walks on the beach with you.

I miss having ice cream sundaes and cones with you.

I miss your famous Chicken Marsala.

I miss calling and talking to you about the things we were both doing in life.

I miss getting a hug from you.

I miss hearing you play the guitar and the piano.

I miss making you laugh and hearing your laughter.

but most of all…

I just miss you.

Mom, Happy Mother’s Day. You are the best mother I could have ever had and I’m grateful to God for having me be your son. I love you.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson