My Sunday Best

When I was a kid, every Sunday I was taken by my family to Community United Methodist Church in Poughkeepsie, NY. For just about 17 years of Sundays, you would find me at the 11am service wearing “my Sunday best”. In other words, the nicest clothes I had to wear for a church day. My parents and my sister would also be wearing their best and we would walk into church and give the customary greetings to all the people our family knew.

There were plenty of smiles and hugs. There were many who said “it’s good to see you” to us. And there were a lot who thought our family was the family to be. A few years ago I ran into some of my old parent’s friends who knew them before they had passed. I remember telling them how bad things had gotten when I was growing up. How my father was bi-polar and an alcoholic and how my mother was also an alcoholic. They were shocked. They said our family always looked so happy and that many of their friends said they wished they were more like our family.

From the outside looking in, especially seeing us at church on Sunday with us wearing the nicest of clothes, with my mother in the bell choir, and my father being a layman and plenty visible in the church hierarchy, it’s no wonder people thought that. Sadly, it was all an act. That’s what alcoholic families do. They fake it. They cover up the truth. My mother was so deathly afraid that anyone knew just how insane things were in our household.

So there we were, sitting in church each Sunday, together as a family and I remember wishing I was anywhere but in that pew. My parents made everything seem so great with us and I remember the pastor always blessing us and being so kind to us. If he had only known just how much pain we all had inside within the safe confines of our home.

To make matters worse for me back then, I never understood church in the first place. To me, it was a lot of all rising and all sitting, reciting words that weren’t coming from my heart, singing songs that even if they felt inspiring, we weren’t able to clap at the end, and listening to a message that provided a singular viewpoint of the pastor and his relating it to some passages in the Bible.

I’ve learned that God is everything and not just about going to church on a Sunday and practicing a religion. God is in all religions not just one, and He is in nature, He is in all the people we see around us, and He can be in everything I come across each and every day. I can experience a sermon at hearing an uplifting AA message at a meeting. I can experience a reciting of words when I pray on my knees throughout the day. I can experience the church music by singing or listening to an inspiring song on the radio. I can experience my connection to people by just smiling at those that may seem down, by holding the door for those going into a building, or by just reaching out and calling someone and listening to what they are going through.

I didn’t go to any church service today and I’m not currently a member of any church. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not opposed to it. I just haven’t met a church today that embraces God in everything especially with me and my sexuality. So while my family may have covered up the truth on Sundays when we were wearing our Sunday best, I too have found many places of worship presenting similar illusions.

Even though many churches say they are, many are not all encompassing, all friendly and all welcoming. I went to church services and got the friendly handshakes, hugs, and
hellos, and was greeted with the usual “I’m so glad you’re here today”,
but when I made attempts to join those churches, I was subsequently rejected because of my sexuality and told I wasn’t welcomed. I dug deeper at those churches and I was truthful about me and I saw their truth. If anyone had dug deeper with my family, they would have seen the truth too.

The thing I’ve learned about church, religion, people, and life in general, is that what I may see with my eyes and hear with my ears isn’t necessarily the whole truth. The whole truth is what rests within my own heart and soul and all those thoughts in between. The whole truth is something that I’ve had to discover through a journey alone in prayer and meditation, and with God. The Bible, The Koran, the Torah, and any other great text are all wonderful tools to use for discernment on who God is within our own being.

I love God and I am truthful to the extreme today on every level of my life. What you hear me say, what you see me do, and how I live my life is as truthful as one is going to get. I don’t paint any illusions nor try to present myself as something other than I am. Using a famous person in the Bible; Jesus, well he did just the same. From what I read in the Bible at least, it seems Jesus never wavered from who He was and what He was all about. Why couldn’t my family have been that way? Why don’t churches just state openly their truths? Why don’t people just be honest about where they are at in their lives? I can’t really answer any of those questions because I’m not any of them. I know for me, I wasn’t truthful about my life because I was afraid of not being accepted and liked.

With the work I’ve done on myself so far, I like myself a lot more today. I’m OK with being alone and I love who I’m becoming. I present who I am to everyone else as the same that I present to myself when I’m alone. I’m rejected a lot today from people who don’t understand me and I’m often attacked on some level for reasons that I don’t even understand. But because I love myself and how I live my life today and because I have God at the helm of my life, none of that matters. I just continue to be honest and truthful because that’s how all the spiritual teachers throughout history have been.

On a final note, I still attend a church service every now and then and I’m not against it. There are some wonderful messages that I can hear and some wonderful music that I can feel at them. What’s different today is that I go to church when I would like to, I wear what I want when I go, and while I’m there, I am exactly who I am just like when I’m not there.

JUST BE YOURSELF. I know I am today.

Peace, Love, Lights, and Joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Lonely Saturday Night or A Saturday Night Enjoyed Alone?

Saturday nights many, many years ago were once nights filled with whooping it up, drinking and boozing until the wee hours of the morning or until I passed out. When those days passed on by and I found sobriety as a new way of living, Saturday nights were ones filled with clubbing and chasing after the “potential options” that were out there. Or maybe, they were spent online from nine at night until three in the morning chatting to people I knew I never was going to meet, and having conversations with people that usually happens after dating for awhile. I call all those Saturday nights, my addiction years.

From the age of 17 until 39 I occupied my Saturday nights with one intention and one intention only, to get high on something or someone. And it wasn’t a good Saturday night unless that happened. It’s amazing how many years passed doing the same behaviors over and over again and never changing it. Sure, the situations changed, the locale changed, the people changed, but I never did. I was always on the prowl for “my fix”.

So here I sit in front of my computer at just before 7pm on a Saturday night and have no plans. My roommate/landlord on the other hand just left to go out to a dinner party and said he most likely won’t be back until tomorrow morning. I remember those days. I remember them well. I remember the blackouts. I remember waking up next to people that I asked myself “Why?” I remember feeling disgusting, dirty, shameful, remorseful, negative, and sometimes even fearful. And I lived that way on just about every Saturday night for 22 years. 22 YEARS! Wow, to even say that aloud, well in words that is, seems surreal.

1,144. That’s the number of Saturday nights that I spent achieving this sole task.

Nine months ago, I made a decision to clean my whole life up. In my recovery, the pivotal nature was the 3rd step. I made a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understood him. During those 22 years, I lived in my own will more than not. God was always someone to rescue me when I was in trouble. I called God my 911 God. Nine months ago that changed. It was then that I added two words to the third step.

I made a decision to turn my ENTIRE will and my ENTIRE life over to the care of God as I understood him.

What I came to understand was that if I wanted to life fulfilled within solely by the love of God, I need to let everything go and let God put the things in my life that truly mattered to achieve that. The result? I have gone through a complete housecleaning.

All the things that were toxic, all the things that I thought were making me happy, all the places I went to that made me feel good, I parted ways with each of them. Every facet of my life was encompassed prior to this action with some level of self seeking motive. I lived a life of placing things and people in my life and going to those places that I would get what I wanted.

Zoom forward to now. I am sitting at a desk typing this and sharing my heart to no one in particular. I got a salad from the salad bar at Whole Foods and plan on eating that and watching a show or two on the television. I’ve been reading the Beautiful Creatures book series and am towards the end of the 2nd book and will probably find myself in the throngs of it before the night is over.

There is a part of me that is lonely. I’ll be honest with you. There was no one that made a phone call to me and said they would really like to see me tonight and hang out. In the same aspect, I’m ok with that today too. Why? Because I’ve learned to be ok with being alone. My loneliness is really not about the people who didn’t call me and ask me to hang out. It’s not about missing all those people that are still out in the bars who might have found me attractive. It’s not about the vast numbers of individuals who are still online in the chat rooms conversing and looking for “a special friend for the night”. It never was about any of this.

In the amount of time I’ve spent alone these past nine months, I discovered that the loneliness was about missing my best friend, God. It’s my belief that inherently my soul comes to the Earth and occupies a vessel for a lifetime. Why I would leave God’s side and incarnate into a vessel with there is most likely a ton of love and warmth with God I don’t know. Is it to continue to learn lessons? Is it required? Is it to evolve? I don’t know the answers to this. What I do know is that most people come to the Earth like I did, and get lost. They lose their focus because they are born into lives with people that were already lost.

I’m not talking about being lost directionally. I’m talking about being lost spiritually. In my life, I got lost rather early, and I spent most of my life seeking to numb that feeling of loneliness with alcohol, drugs, smoking, sex, gambling, caffeine, and well the list goes on. Now I’m facing that loneliness head on, on a Saturday night no less.

While I feel lonely, I actually am enjoying spending it alone. Tomorrow I will wake up and will not be next to someone who I’m kicking myself that I just did what I did. I will wake up having another day of sobriety. I will wake up free from hangovers, guilt, and frustration about where my life has taken me. Instead, I will wake up and ask God to be in charge of my life for the day. I will ask God to guide me in all my thoughts, actions, and words for that day. And I will wait patiently upon God to find more meaning, purpose, and direction in my life doing what I’ve been doing day in and day out for the past nine months.

I believe I have a purpose, a spiritual purpose, for God. I believe that my self will prevented this from every materializing. I’ve been detoxing on some level and energetically shifting on many levels these past nine months. All those years of doing what I did had a cost. It may have felt good doing what I did when I did it, but it sure doesn’t feel good on the way out of me as I purge my system of all of it.

The bottom line is this. I’m truly grateful that I can sit here on a Saturday night and feel lonely because I really do miss God, but I’m ok with being alone and having a night with just me.

After all, the best relationship next to mine with God is one spent with me.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

I Better Pack My Bags, I’m Going On A Guilt Trip!

What is a guilt trip?

Google defines it as: “An experience of feeling guilty about something, esp. when such guilt is excessive, self-indulgent, or unfounded”.

I define it comically today as “An experience Andrew Dawson had often during his dysfunctional childhood.”

I don’t believe God can ever be present in a guilt trip. Guilt is a tool used by those who wish to selfishly gain off the manipulation of another. Those that fall prey to guilt trips and give what the other person is asking of them are people like me that were never able to establish healthy boundaries in life.

In the alcoholic family I grew up in, there were no boundaries. There was no unconditional love. Things got done more than not with a combination of fear, control, and guilt. I was not able to say no as a child to my father or mother on anything. The sports I partook in, the classes I signed up for, the places we went out to dinner, the vacations we took, the food that was put on my plate, I had no voice in any of it. When I spoke up and tried to establish my voice and a boundary, a guilt trip was usually the result.

When one spends the first 18 years of their life with guilt, it stands to reason that responding to it favorably for someone else’s benefit will continue to occur until one heals from where it started. Until the age of 39 years old, I could easily be guilted into doing just about anything for someone.

I fought very hard as a child for approval and I shouldn’t have. All I wanted as a child was for my mother and father to tell me they loved me and were proud of me for me. I wanted to be good enough just as I was. Why wasn’t sixth place out of 25 in my sectionals swim meet good enough? Why wasn’t the B in school ok? Ironically, they were. I just couldn’t tell myself that then. I listened to my mother and father about how I had to try harder.

Sadly, what I didn’t know then, was that they were just replaying the tapes from their childhood. They were only teaching me what they had learned themselves. And I’m sure their parent’s parents were the same and so on and so forth. Someone had to break the pattern and learn what unconditional love was all about. And at the age of 39 I was exactly like my parents.

I was guilting others to get what I wanted and being guilted by others into what they wanted.

“Will you do this for me. Please? You know that I’m so good to you…”

“Will you loan me some money? You have way more than I do, don’t be selfish…”

“Why don’t you buy dinner for us? You earn more money than me…”

“Can you clean my car for me? You don’t have anything better to do since you’re not working like I am…”

These are just a few of the guilt trips that I’ve experienced. Each one of them I’ve given into. Why? Because I didn’t feel like I was worthy and deserving of unconditional love. I never had it. I only got conditional based love. If I did those things, then I was given a hug, an embrace, and a thank you. If I was lucky, I got a “I love you for that”. That’s all I knew.

I didn’t know that it was ok to say no and that I could still be loved by the person I was saying no to. I didn’t know that there were people out there that might ask if I could do something for them but not put any condition on the end of the request. I didn’t know that those same people would be ok if I said no and still love me just the same. I didn’t know any of that because I was replaying the same tapes with my parents again and again in relationship after relationship.

The saying is true that when the pain gets great enough that a person will take action. For me it took a lot of physical, mental, and emotional pain. It took a lot of fighting and anger. It took a lot of my happiness.

And there came a day when I finally said “ENOUGH!” “Enough of the guilt, enough of the manipulation, enough of the conditional based love. My pain had manifested so great that the price of continuing in the same patterns from my childhood was greater than what I was getting from it. So I faced the people that were doing it to me and said goodbye. Who I was really saying goodbye to were my sick parents. And suddenly I found myself alone and just about friendless.

I had brought into my life so many people that were begging me to work through these issues with my Mom and Dad and finally I did. And I did the one thing that I needed to after I had done the massive cleaning of my house of friends. I spent time with me. I learned how to like me. I learned how to love me. I learned who I was, what I liked, and what I wanted. I realized that I would never be able to have a healthy friendship or partnership with anyone unless I had a healthy one with myself and was able to set boundaries with everyone else.

These past nine months have been a huge learning curve for me. I’ve had to say “no” so many times when my mind was saying yes to people giving me guilt trips. My landlord has asked me many times to take care of his dog when he was running off to do something else or had fallen asleep on the couch and didn’t want to get up. I know today that his dog is not MY responsibility. I took responsibility for so many other people’s things. Their animals, their money issues, their health issues, and so much more. I’m not responsible for making anyone else happy or sad. I’m not responsible for someone else’s life. I’m not responsible for someone else’s responsibilities. I’m responsible for me. Strike that. God is responsible for me and I’m responsible for serving God as best as I can.

Don’t get me wrong. I will help out those that need help and are ailing on some level. But I allow God to guide me now and not my brain which gave into all the guilt consistently my whole life.

Would I walk my roommate’s dog if he was sick? Of course.

There’s a fine line between selflessly helping someone who needs help versus being guilted into helping someone else’s selfish nature out.

The only way I’ve been successful in not falling prey anymore to these guilt trips is to developing that loving relationship with myself and learning about what is ok and what is not. I used to always be on the go and never slowed down to even think about any of this. Thankfully my body responded with enough pain that forced me to slow down and reflect on the state of my life.

I’m still in a learning process. I know I’ve grown though. And I’m very thankful for the progress I’ve made and the boundaries I have put in place.

While saying “No!” is still rather new and difficult, I know the more I practice it, the easier it will become to not pack my bags anymore and go on that guilt trip.

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson