WELCOME TO SELF-HELP AND RECOVERY FOR BEGINNERS!

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For both men and women, knowing where to begin a better life can be overwhelming. I’m only the doorman to tomorrow. I can show you where to start, but I will not tell you where to go.

“…it’s easier to undertake a journey when the entrance is clearly marked.”

When I first set out to seek out new avenues and new sources for self-improvement, I made a trip to my local book store expecting to find exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t. I stood there facing several hundred choices wondering where to start. Surely someone had written a beginner’s guide, a square one launching point that wasn’t overwhelming. My goal was to find something not only easy to read, but informative and entertaining. I sought plain and straight forward instruction on how to move ahead in my life. I wanted a resource that would offer the basics and inspire me to continue researching whatever subject might stimulate my interest.  After thumbing through several dozen publications, I found out rather quickly my thirst for knowledge was being offered to me through a fire hose. There was no doubt every answer conceivable lay buried in the pages of the volumes I was wavering in front of, but the process of sifting through endless manuals to look for what appealed to me was not one I was eager to attempt. For the most part, each title addressed a specific topic, and that was fine, but my tastes were much more generalized. What I longed for, even though I didn’t know it at the time, were the right questions. Eventually, through trial and error, I became interested in specific authors, various subjects, and diverse teachings. Even though the road I chose was slow and treacherous, I never stopped progressing. There is, however, little doubt in my mind, I’d be a lot further along than I am now if it had been somewhat less intimidating. It is my opinion that the absence of an easy first step keeps many a wandered traveler from finding their way home.

There was a time when I was truly certifiable. I had nothing in my world that someone would have wanted in theirs. In 1995 I was drinking two-fifths of vodka a day. Since July 28th of that same year, I have been in recovery. As the years progressed, I worked on various elements of my character that needed nurturing. My health improved as did the rest of my personal life. Abundance flowed in, while misfortune waned. In the summer of 2007, came one of my biggest wake-up calls. I had hit the high mark of my weight–347 pounds. After committing to a weight loss program early in 2009, I lost over 105 pounds in six months without loss of energy or strength. I now tip the scales at an average of 220. I’ve had heat stroke, carbon monoxide poisoning, viral pneumonia, MRSA (staph infections), pulmonary embolisms, and car accidents. There are those who may use similar events to convince others how unlucky they are; I use them to prove how fortunate I am. I’ve survived these and other temporary setbacks with flying colors. If attitude is everything, then I’m the direct result of the resolute belief that life gets better every day.

My attempt with this blog is not to provide a goal, but rather an introduction. I’m not a scholar, nor am I a counselor. As a matter of fact, I’m a plumber; a blue-collar worker who has no problems getting his hands dirty and breaking a sweat for a living. Hopefully, my background will offer an approachable and relaxed alternative for those just starting out. I know it’s easier to undertake a journey when the entrance is clearly marked. I’ll never tell anyone where to go, but I’ll be glad to talk about where I’ve been and if you want to visit these places, I’ll simply point the way.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

117. ALMOST DEAD

One of the weirdest things about my life is the amount of times I’ve almost died. Despite having one foot in the grave on several occasions I’m (obviously) still here, as cheerful and productive as ever. If nothing else, these incidents have served to magnify a continued appreciation for each day. My ever-increasing gratitude towards life has been elevated by several close calls, though I’m not sure how much more I’m willing to take. This ”payment/reward” program I’ve been both fortunate AND unfortunate enough to participate in is getting old, and I’d like to think I can continue my path of elevated awareness without occasionally standing on the edge of oblivion.

1. Car accident

The day after Christmas December 1980, I was planning on spending the weekend at my (yes, we are still) friend’s house. I can’t remember how I got there, perhaps my father had dropped me off. In any case we were both excited to have some time to goof off together during our two-week vacation from school. In our misguided excitement for the forthcoming weekend of pointless activities we managed to talk my friend’s mother into letting us drive to the nearest town for some junk food. Now… my friend, who had his learners permit, did NOT have a driver’s license yet. He promised to stay on the back roads leading in and out of town. It was perhaps six to seven-mile round trip. His brother, also my friend joined us and off we went. Just outside of the limits of his community we got into a wreck. No one else was involved and there was no property damage. We ended up sliding out of control on a dirt road a driving headfirst into a rather steep ditch where the vehicle, a 74′ Ford LTD, flipped over; on its side first then onto its top. The momentum threw me into the back seat and through the rear passenger window where I did a human impression of a cannonball hitting the ground a split-second before pushing me back into the cab. As I was still flying around, I put my hand to my head expecting to feel my brain. No joke, I hit THAT hard. Well, my head stayed intact, and I had no other real injuries. IF I had been wearing my seat belt, I’d be either dead or much shorter as the dash was smashed flat against the floor of the vehicle. I do wear them these days, BUT in this instance my laziness in not putting it on probably saved my life. The emergency clinic my father (reluctantly) brought me to said I had a concussion of my entire right hemisphere. They sent me home to sleep it off. Doubt if that would happen today. Both my friend and his brother ended up no worse for wear than I was. Events such as these serve to solidify my belief that more than luck guides our destiny.

2. Carbon monoxide poisoning

I was a janitor in the late eighties where we used propane buffers quite often as a final step to our cleaning process. They resemble lawnmowers with either seventeen or twenty-seven-inch buffing pads. They’re heavy, but normally extremely safe. Not this night. Apparently, the store we were working in had forgotten to leave the air circulation system on. This, coupled with a faulty scrubber on the exhaust system of the unit we were using, ended up filling the store with carbon monoxide fumes… only we didn’t know that at the time. I recall feeling a little sleepier than normal, but not alarmingly so. Another man who had just moved from Phoenix to work for our company was with me. He’d never done this type of work before and I was training him in our procedures. He too was unaware of our deadly atmosphere. We got a rude awakening upon leaving early the following morning and walking outside. Apparently the fresh are changed how we felt, and I for one began to REALLY falter. I got in my van after loading up our equipment and started driving down one of Denver’s main streets towards home. The highway had little appeal as it was rush hour and I was a good twenty miles from home. Thinking my symptoms might eventually clear, I headed south with my window down in the middle of winter. My suspicions were correct as to what was wrong with me, but I underestimated my condition. The further I went, the worse I felt. It wasn’t long before my arms and legs began to go numb and it felt like someone took a home-run swing with a sledgehammer at my crotch. Looking back the pain probably helped to keep me somewhat alert. The people around must have thought I was drunk and it’s a wonder the cops didn’t pull me over. I recall thinking if I fell asleep, I’d die, so I started fighting the urge. It finally dawned on me I had to go to the hospital. About five miles from home I managed to pull into the parking lot of a 7-11 knowing someone would be there no matter what. I parked next to a cabdriver who was calmly eating his breakfast behind the wheel, opened my door, and fell onto his hood and then the ground with a thud. He was understandably alarmed and ran to get the employees of the store to help. Eventually an ambulance showed up and they whisked me off to the emergency room. I recovered of course, but this incident was the beginning of the end of my career in janitorial.  By the way, the gentleman I was with ALSO ended up in a different emergency room. He quit after one day and moved back to Phoenix. Don’t blame him…

3. Alcohol Withdrawal

In January of 1995 I was six months away from sobering up for good. I was still working nights and on my way to a job surprisingly close to the store I had carbon-monoxide poisoning in several years prior. This was at the peak of my highest consumption, two-fifths of vodka a day, but on this day I hadn’t had a drink for about forty-eight hours. Anyone who has knowledge about alcohol withdrawals will know this is a dangerous time, I hadn’t a clue, but today was about to be a life-changing lesson in it. I was shaky, felt like crap, but going to work nonetheless. It was a Sunday and still light out. Since it was a Sunday the store closed early making the night several hours longer. This never bothered me since a longer shift always allowed more  time to get things done. As I approached the halfway mark between home and work, I had an “incident”. The whole left side of my body shut down. My eye blacked out as my face started melting of my skull. At the same instant my left arm curled instantly up under my chin, totally useless. My leg was immobile as well, no longer able to activate my clutch; all this while going 70 miles per hour. I tried screaming “What’s happening to me!” but couldn’t really pronounce what I was trying to say as my mouth wasn’t working. I managed to pull off the nearest exit and behind a Denny’s restaurant without killing anyone. I managed to get out of my van in panic mode and began trying to uncurl my left arm while hopping on one leg and trying to see everything through my right eye. I imagine the whole scene was rather comical to the casual observer. After about fifteen minutes of flailing around everything popped back, kind of. My mobility returned as did my vision, but I started involuntarily shaking so hard it’s a wonder I didn’t take flight. I crawled back into my van and continued to work. Going to the hospital never entered my mind. Such is the madness of alcoholism. I arrived to the job early and put on a fake smile while hiding my hands in my pockets as much as possible. When I was locked in and knew no one could see me, I collapsed on the floor. Probably stayed there for an hour before I even moved. I called the A.A. hotline that night and although it was some time before I finally quit drinking, this was the first real domino toward my eventual recovery.

4. Heat stroke

I’m a new construction plumber, and since 1995 my job has required me to work outside fairly regularly. Sometimes the weather conditions can be extremely hostile. I’ve had days where it was twenty below zero and some that were pushing a hundred and ten in the sun. This day was the latter. I was installing gas pipe on the roof of a building and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It was damn hot and had no air conditioning in my vehicle to occasionally retreat to, so I was toughing it out. I DID keep up on my fill of water BUT I can’t stand salt, so I avoid it. As a result my body doesn’t retain fluids like it should. The day wore on and I after approached about thirty piping cuts I began to feel the effects. When I leaned over my work I was reminded of Robert Hayes in “Airplane!” My face had sprouted a faucet, nothing was staying in me, just flowing through me. I packed up around three-thirty and decided to head to our office which was, fortunately, only one mile from the job site. I wasn’t thinking straight and my mental symptoms were rapidly deteriorating into a state resembling being drunk, which I hadn’t been in about four years. As soon as I got behind the wheel I called my boss and told him what I thought was wrong with me and that I was headed to the shop. He yelled at me, rightfully so, but at this point I was only several hundred yards from pulling in. When I did park I fell out of the van (jeez, I REALLY do keep falling out of vans, don’t I?) and another co-worker, Ralph, saw me and came running. He asked if I was okay and I promptly assured him I wasn’t. He literally dragged me into the building and plopped me into a chair in the hallway while office personnel gathered around to see if they could help. By this time my body was shutting down. Both my arms and legs had become immobile. My skin had dried out and I was dying of thirst. When heat stroke (NOT exhaustion, that’s the first stage) kicks in this is what happens. The brain, which has begun to cook in the skull, says “save the core” meaning, of course, the head and torso. Everything else becomes expendable. All body fluids withdrew from my appendages to save my organs and brain and I became a temporary quadriplegic. No one knew what to do; neither did I. Rather quickly an ambulance showed up and took me to the nearest hospital. I called my then girlfriend, now wife, and she met me there. It took a while, but after several hours and multiple intravenous bags of fluid, I was released. Believe it or not I was back to work the next day, though I probably shouldn’t have pushed it.  Those who have had heat stroke become extremely susceptible to a re-occurrence. The “switch” gets turned on but can never be turned off. If I work in the heat these days I take “Thermotabs” and they work wonders for me. They’re cheap and can be only purchased over the counter, but no one needs a prescription. They aren’t for everyone so talk to your doctor before using them.

Since I’m still here I suppose I haven’t fulfilled my destiny as of yet, which means if I want to stick around, I need to keep a road of continued purpose clearly laid out. So far, so good!

That’s all for now, part two coming soon with three more “stories.”

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

116. WHO AM I?

For years, decades actually, this simple statement, finding out who I REALLY was, was never on my radar. I shuffled through the days with no eagerness, no purpose, and no intent on manufacturing a life of abundance. Status quo was fine. As long as tomorrow wasn’t much worse than today, why would I try reaching towards dreams that seemed more like fantasy than possibility? Looking into the mirror I never saw anyone of value; twice nothing is still nothing; this world with me or without me would be the same. Trying and failing was a much more painful prospect (I thought) than never starting, so motivations were completely absent. Nonjudgmental self-evaluation was something I never knew existed, let alone how to practice, though I DID constantly criticize myself, and this path almost led me to an untimely death. Why? Because in my mind all perceived error deserves punishment, or so I thought. I saw all my “mistakes” as permanent character flaws rather than temporary learning opportunities.

One thing’s for sure, I’ve ALWAYS felt like a triangular peg living in a round world; maybe more accurately a star shaped peg. In any case my attitudes and beliefs have never quite seemed to match anyone else’s, especially when I was young. I’m sure this feeling is true for a great many people, but my point is when you (think) you’re a drop of water in a dessert, it’s difficult to find kindred spirits. As a result I began to question if my thought process was totally out of alignment with the rest of mankind’s. Wondering if my sanity was intact was a disturbing notion, one I avoided contemplating. It’s no wonder alcohol and its ability to numb my emotions had an eventual massive appeal.

With these two outlooks on life, basically (choosing to become) an “apathetic alien”, I subconsciously attacked myself from more than one angle. The more I convinced myself I didn’t belong in this world, the more I died a little every day. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, WHO AM I?

I’m now a person who doesn’t care about the question “Who was I?” I remind myself of the past by keeping an occasional eye on my rear-view mirror because it’s good (and in my case, healthy) to know what I don’t want. These days I do indeed look to the horizon (something I NEVER did in my youth) and fantasize about all my plans and dreams, but this still isn’t my primarily focus. I’m hyper-aware I’m neither what was, or what might be. I am what the moment presents, part intent on my part, part what the universe hands me. I refuse to believe I’m the sum total of my (unwanted) history because I try my best to avoid letting previous negative patterns influence the present. Just because I responded a certain way before is no excuse to repeat my behavior under similar circumstances. I’m sorry to say this doesn’t always happen, but I’m much better at this exercise than I used to be. Recognizing a Pavlovian response is eighty-percent of the battle anyway.

Perhaps it would help to define who I am, who I choose to be now by generating a list.

  • I am open-minded.
  • I am Loving.
  • I am receptive to criticism.
  • I am a morning person.
  • I am creative.
  • I am enthusiastic.
  • I am always looking for a good laugh.
  • I am idealistic.
  • I am decisive.
  • I am constantly improving.
  • I am driven.
  • I am a good communicator.
  • I am spontaneous.
  • I am (also) well prepared.
  • I am well connected to my emotions.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I am in recovery.
  • I am kind.
  • I am artistic.
  • I am concerned more for others than myself.
  • I am organized (at work…)
  • I am blessed.

A rundown of qualities is all fine and well, but coming up with a list of my inadequacies is probably much more important to REALLY answering “Who am I?” It’s important to note I do NOT currently consider these as defects like I used to. I see them now as nothing more than areas needing the most attention.

  • I am a procrastinator.
  • I am a poor listener.
  • I am out of shape.
  • I am impatient.
  • I am an interrupter.
  • I am forgetful.
  • I am disorganized (at home…)
  • I am not using my time wisely.
  • I am putting off my dreams.
  • I am not practicing my art like I know I should.
  • I am not even close to my potential.
  • I am annoyed by reminders of what I should do.
  • I am not as healthy as I could be.
  • I am judgmental.
  • I am wired for addiction.
  • I am stubborn.
  • I am loud.
  • I am undisciplined.
  • I am undereducated.

It’s difficult to self-diagnose, and I’m sure even my closest friends could write a longer list of my needed “upgrades” than I could. The good news is I AM on a path of constant improvement. It’s not as fast as I’d like it to be and I do often find myself taking two steps back for every three forward, but these side trips do not discourage me in the end.

So, “Who am I?”

I’m a work in progress, I’m a person who won’t ever go into “glide mode”. I am opposite of everything I don’t want to be, and honestly, that’s a damn good place.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

115. THE REAL MAGIC WORD

As far as I’m concerned it’s NOT “Please”; though I have no objection to generously using it on a daily basis. The following question should help distill my objective.

“Other than money, what’s the biggest reason you go to work and do what you do?”

The vast majority of us have bills, obligations, and essentials requiring a paycheck. No one can survive without food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond the absolute basics there’s transportation, communication, and most importantly, toilet paper. Further down the list are a plethora of other motivations urging us to seek a source of income. These include entertainment, comfort, and unfortunately, all kinds of bad habits. In all, what keeps us breathing, and hopefully looking forward to coming home, manifests from the rewards of our work. Obviously a massive part of what influences us to be a productive part of society is our ability to generate an income. We’re driven to fulfill what we need and what we want. This is the clay of a purposeful life. Desires and necessities coupled with compensation for our actions and skills are the basic ingredients for what we hope to create. There’s little doubt as to why money is at the top of most people’s lists.

So the first question remains, “Beyond money, what do people expect most from their jobs?” The answer may possibly reveal a highly common thread, one that if recognized by those who can strengthen it, will end up wielding great power. I put this before one of my supervisors years ago to see what kind of answer I’d get and got nothing in return but a blank stare. Just as I figured to begin with, he really had no response. I’m a supervisor as well, and I  do my best practice what I preach, so I knew exactly what my answer was. 

The great lever of motivation is, in a word, appreciation. Those who feel appreciated will usually do whatever it takes to keep the flow of positive acknowledgement from waning. It’s not that applause or title is necessarily sought, just the knowledge that their efforts have had a positive effect on the people they associate with (and their extended environment) is often all the reward one needs to keep themselves moving forward. Yes, money is indeed wonderful compensation for our services, but sometimes a simple “thank you” is almost more valuable to the employer than throwing dollars at the issue. As I continued my conversation (with my then boss) I felt compelled to point out that a crew of people who receive no accolades are, in the end, working only for a paycheck, and that’s it. Few in this situation will step up and and raise their standards above expectations. Those who do remain in such positions for only brief periods before moving up the food chain.

In my youth I had supervisors who were, in my opinion, extremely flawed. As I observed the behaviors of those I thought were incompetent, I made mental notes of what to never do once I got in a position of higher responsibility. One such man was the type to take all the credit for what we had done. Make no mistake, he had every right to, he was the supervisor, but I knew how this affected the rest of us when he’d give his nightly progress report (right in front of us) to the store manager every morning. “I” did this, “I” did that with no tip of the hat to the crew whatsoever. Lesson learned. From then on, no matter what, if someone did something good, I was going to hand them the credit, even if it was something that might make me look somewhat less than 100% efficient. 

Giving credit where credit is due creates powerful allies. It may occasionally chafe the ego, but the price still remains a bargain. It’s easy enough to understand the dynamic of it because the opposite is just as glaringly true; taking credit from others breeds enemies. An egotistical attitude is as common as dust and therefore has little value to those who hand us our paychecks. Humility, on the other hand, is a rare commodity and by its nature demands compensation. Gratitude is the energy of growth and resentment is the fuel of destruction. Don’t be like everyone else looking to tear down as many as possible just to try and shine a light on yourself. Spotlight others for someday they may be in a position to return the favor. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood 

 

114. PLEASURE AND HAPPINESS

Pleasure and happiness are commonly interpreted as interchangeable. They aren’t. Like the collaborative relationships of nature, north and south, man and woman, day and night, and so on, they share a singular purpose but have significantly different energies. Embracing or aligning with just one end of the spectrum will eventually result in oblivion for both. This observation can be made in a personal context as well. Our duality of existence is thought and action, or perhaps more easily relatable to most as spirit and body. Both of our “worlds” need the proper nourishment to survive, feeding one and starving the other will result in dangerous imbalances, yet this type of lifestyle is exactly what we are taught.

Looking around there are endless examples suggesting we seek one thing, pleasure, and ALL pleasure is designed to please either the body or the ego. The list is ridiculously long and reminders are everywhere. Ads for food, cars, clothing, money, drugs, image, and on and on are plastered ad nauseum in commercials, movies, television, magazines, billboards, and honestly anywhere our eyes might wander. The hope is, of course, to appeal to our need for pleasure. It may even be safe to say most of it is designed to reinforce our desire to not lose pleasure. In any case the energy that drives our lust for pleasure is… fear. Fear that we don’t have what might make our lives better, fear of not being able to sustain our lifestyle, and fear of being left behind while the rest of the human race steps up their game. Pleasure isn’t evil, never was. It’s our imbalance of pursuit that’s the cause misery. Any life lived from the outside-in eventually leads to pain and suffering. When we identify who we are by external methods we quite literally let go of our control of self-image. Our foundation becomes based on “stuff” rather than ideas. principles, ethics, beliefs, and dreams. The oft misquoted Bible verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 sums up the idea rather nicely, even if one isn’t Christian – “For the love of money (or, all things material in nature) is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

We are creatures of thought FIRST, because without thought, we cannot act. It doesn’t matter if the thoughts are “good” or “bad”, conscious or subconscious; intent always precedes achievement. Yes, outside influences can trigger decision making, but actions are still powered by choice, which means it’s something we can learn to manipulate. Therefore, if one seeks a stable existence, then one must do so from the inside out. Not only that, once we realize how it works, we are obligated to become more and more aware of what we are thinking so what we really want aligns with what we want to manifest. If most of our thoughts (subconscious or not) are negative to begin with, then life has no choice to react outside of us in a destructive manner. It’s not that difficult to observe, negative people lead destructive lives, positive people lead constructive lives.

Happiness is generated from within. It’s produced from an attitude of appreciation, tolerance, empathy, and all the qualities that make up what we label as Love. It’s Love that fuels the power of this elusive emotion. While pleasure is based solely in the physical world, happiness is mental in origin. The journey from our inner existence to our outer one is easier than one might think. Don’t take my word for it, look for examples in other people, especially those who have come back from dark places and you will see the truth of it. If you’ve ever wondered why some are “blessed” with abundance coupled with ACTUAL happiness, it’s because they have learned to live life from spirit first. They are the ones with ethics, they are the ones who never mock or scorn others, they are the ones we are most envious of.

Finally we come to the dual purpose of these seemingly opposing forces. Where pleasure and happiness balance each other out, peace originates, and peace is the most elusive of all pursuits. It carries the most value because this is where we become free from the burdens of worry and regret. This is where we stop judging and start accepting, especially who WE OURSELVES are. This slim border between our two energies is where we as humans are meant to live and thrive. So few have, and they are the ones we worship.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

113. SEEKING HIGHER HIGHER POWER

Higher-Power-Chip_BRM132_1

Twelve step programs can be life-saving paths for those in desperate need of direction and support. My opinion sides with the obvious, they are highly available and free; which means when it comes to people blithering out excuses they’re in a hopeless place where no one will help them, my eyes roll backwards so far I can see my bald spot. One thing’s for sure, the effectiveness of any particular group is limited to the quality of the recovery of those in said group, which means messages and lessons will vary drastically. This sucks, but it’s all too true. It ALSO means when first entering the program one must go to a large variety of meetings before one where healing and more importantly, honesty is required on both sides of the table.

The idea of embracing a higher power, insofar as what’s expected by the steps themselves and those who are willing to help and guide you, is probably the most common stumbling block I’ve encountered. Some oppose the structure of A.A. and similar programs because of what they feel are built-in Christian ethics and ideas. Hogwash. Yes, there are some references to religion, but rest assured no one is forcing this. There are zero recruitment practices encouraged. It exists for two very important reasons, at least as far as I’m concerned.

  1. Most people have some sort of religious background in the first place, and in the United States it happens to be Christianity, which, by the way, covers a plethora of beliefs and titles, most of which don’t get along anyway.  Even if this is only from unwanted childhood experiences, very few people have never been to a church service. Let’s face it, a lot of us grew up with celebrating the holidays of Christmas and Easter anyway through television specials and family events, so there’s a Pavlovian response built-in.
  2. There HAS to be a starting point to the idea of embracing a “higher power.” Where the person goes from here is totally up to them.

The preconception of a “higher power” as needing to be a deity of some sort is nothing more than an excuse on the part of the person seeking treatment to deny help and go back to a self-destructive and self-centered lifestyle. 

Let’s take a look at what “higher power” actually means. I can think of no one on Earth who cannot look toward a “higher power.” No one at all. If you are the type of person who wants more money, there are thousands of people who are obviously above you on the food chain. If it’s a peaceful mind you seek, one free of mental torture and anguish, there are legions of people who successfully practice this lifestyle. If it’s alcohol you want to be free from, trust me, there are plenty of those who were once in a hopeless state now willing to share their journeys. ANYONE who possess what we want is indeed a higher power. This is the way of life to begin with. We learn to read, communicate, work, play, and improve everything we do on the heels of those who have gone before us. Without the willingness to be led by others we are left with nothing but trial and error, and while trial and error may ever so slightly advance us toward our goals, it’s a horse and buggy ride compared to the rocket ship of teacher/student. The speed at which we learn from others is determined by a single factor, we MUST be willing to be criticized, which is the same thing as dropping the ego and embracing humility. This is a skill, one that can be honed and perfected, and when it’s wielded with practice and focus, can command the very power of the universe. Take notice that religion is totally off the table at this point. If this way of embracing life leads to an inner understanding of what God means to you, so be it. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t matter.

I will add this last observation which comes from experience. Don’t let the walls of A.A. (or any 12 step program) hold you in from exploring other venues and ways of expressing your dreams and goals. The Big Book itself says these two sentences towards the end of chapter eleven. “Our book is meant to be suggestive only. We realize we know only a little.” Even the authors of this manuscript were insightful enough to admit their way was only a start. I’ve known many people who have sought out other paths in addition to the program and it can be a wonderful, and more than likely necessary enhancement, to a stratospheric life. It certainly has for me.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

112. MY SECOND FAVORITE JOKE

http://whyatt.com.au/

I started off this blog a few years back with my favorite joke. This is a very close second. If you don’t get it, just keep looking…

I think Tim Whyatt is a brilliant cartoonist although some of his stuff can be a little off-color. There’s a link to his website under the panel.

Hope I don’t get in trouble for posting this.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

111. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART FOUR

When I turned twenty-nine my self-worth was non-existent. I really had forgotten, even for an instant, what happiness was. I occasionally had moments of pleasure and amusement, but these fleeting experiences were poor substitutes for what I wanted most. I attempted to manifest what I lacked by serving the hedonistic urges of my body, but I really had no idea how to feed my spirit. The soul needs only one nutrient to live, and I was starving it to death.

I loathed mirrors. All I ever saw looking back was someone not worthy of living. Rosacea covered my face. Massive amounts of straining from vomiting every day further enhanced the look of my existing splintered redness, especially in my eyes. Sometimes my heart would race wildly, so much so I thought a heart attack was imminent. I felt as if my absence from this Earth would improve the lives of everyone I knew, and the sad truth was, I was probably right. To be honest it was only after a year of recovery I could finally face my reflection and say out loud “I am a man!” Thirty-one years into my life before this would resonate as a warm truth instead of an outright lie.

For six months into of my last year of drinking I had sporadic contact with what would eventually become my home group in Alcoholics Anonymous. The man on the other end of the phone (when I’d called in January) was also a part of this circle. That night I was working at an Office Depot doing a monthly scrub, wax, and polish. I walked in, stuck my left hand that wouldn’t stop shaking in my pocket, put on a smile, and kept my distance until everyone left and locked me in. Once I was sure I was alone I immediately collapsed on the floor. No kidding. It was then I said a prayer, though at the time I had no idea it WAS a prayer. Before I made my call to destiny I said out loud in total desperation “I don’t care if I die broke and naked tomorrow as long as I die sober.” This was my bottom. It was also the beginning of my rise (it did NOT feel that way however) because I had, at that moment, resolved to pay any price the universe asked of me. I had painted myself into a corner where my only option was to start screaming for help.

As I said in part three my worst days were yet to come, and since I felt my health had no chance of a return to anything resembling normalcy, I went full-bore towards what I honestly hoped would be a quick death. The pain of D.T.s, my blackouts, and so on escalated. Still, there remained a steadfast flame inside, one that sprang to life the night I said my fateful prayer, it was the candle of willingness. Willpower it seems (also known as ego) had little to do with what I wanted to accomplish and everything to do with my self-destruction. Einstein said it best, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” 

These days I realize being open-minded equates with the ability to admit I’m wrong, and I’d indeed become open-minded, even if the door was cracked ever so slightly, although I’ll admit it seems like it came about by accident, albeit a stupendously fortunate one. Before I quit for good, and during the time I was wavering between sobriety and oblivion, I found myself once more on the phone with the same gentleman whose voice greeted me on the A.A. hotline a few months prior. I was working overnight in yet another location. The previous week had been one of the worst.

“You know Jeff, I just don’t know if anyone can really help me.”

“I actually agree with you, Daniel. I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth who can help you.”

That pushed me back on my heels. I was pitching the victim, and Jeff hit a home run with it, though it wasn’t until many weeks later I recognized the true dynamics of this particular conversation. After a few moments of stunned silence on my part I managed to get out another question.

“So,” I said in a shaky voice, “I’m never going to quit?”

“I never said that, don’t worry, you’ll quit eventually, trust me.”

Well, THAT knocked me down for the count. I felt my lips and face go numb at the truth of it. This moment was the turning point for me. I was both deeply frightened and massively inspired. Here was my “why not?” moment. Soon after this I took my last drink, and on August 28th, nineteen ninety-five I had my first thirty days of recovery in over ten years.

One thing’s rock solid, I had nothing to lose by going full tilt into the program. Two belief systems I owned ahead of time saved my life. First, I’ve never had a problem with accepting a higher power exists. I’ll admit my definition of a “higher power” is somewhat different from most who hold the same conviction, but in the long run it doesn’t matter anyway. No need to explain myself further on this point, at least for now. Second, I had a knowing I was going to express anger toward those people and ideas I was soon to surround myself with, and honestly, that helped with both expectations and tolerability.

I went to meetings the first year about three times a week. Many were in clubs and other fairly public venues like church basements or rented spaces, but it was my once a week home group on Thursday nights (which was in an actual home, my sponsor’s) where the REAL healing took place. I allowed myself to become deconstructed and reassembled here. This is where my spirit became greater than my body. This is where I FINALLY shed the layers of armor, masks, and secrets I’d buried myself under all my life, not just the past ten years. For the first time ever I felt…

human.

Happiness, purpose, prosperity, Love, a career, a real home, and many other facets of my life came rushing in. What I never realized was these things were there all the time, waiting for me to do nothing but step beyond my walls.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

110. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART THREE

big book 3

Before I get on with the history on how I immersed myself in A.A. I need to clarify something. I was NEVER a mean drunk nor was I destructive. As far as I know, other than being completely unreliable, I never hurt or abused anyone; astonishing considering how much I drove under the influence. The biggest change in behavior, prior to the inevitable crash on the other side of my binges, was I’d talk more, and for those that know me that seems like an unachievable task, but it was sadly true. When I lived in Des Moines long distance was still a costly endeavor, one that carried heavy charges if abused, and boy did I abuse it. All too often my phone bill rang up to three-hundred dollars or more a month leaving very little for me to spend on frivolous things like laundry and food. It was during these calls I ended up randomly pleading for a fresh start.

In nineteen ninety-three I asked if I could moved in with my friend, his wife, and two children in Aurora, Colorado. It was understood the arrangement was to be temporary until I could get re-situated into my own place. To my delight they obliged and I headed back to Denver after leaving my job to a fellow by the name of James who was sober (as far as I know) and much more responsible than me. I took off with high hopes and a false sense of new horizons.  Upon arrival I had little more than a closet to stay in, but it was very private, had a window, and there was just enough room for a twin bed and a chair. Whoever designed it to begin with probably intended it to be a small office because there were built-in bookshelves at one end of the room. From here I could come and go as I pleased through the garage without disturbing the family, and that too was nice for both of us.

Once more I stayed sober for some time before the impulse to drink fogged my self-centered resolve. By this time I was disposing of at least two pints of eighty proof rot gut a day, no particular brand or type mattered, as long as it was cheap. I cleverly hid the empty bottles in my dirty laundry figuring no one would go through my soiled underwear to look for evidence. I spent a few weeks at my friend’s home and when I’d saved up enough money I contacted another friend who thought it was a pleasant idea to get a place together. In all honesty the apartment we ended up sharing WAS a nice one, at least compared to where I’d been almost all my life. We each had a bathroom, so “duties” here would not cross paths. There was a sliding glass door, a small deck on the bottom floor, and a dishwasher, high amenities for those deprived of such luxuries up until that point.

Here is where my final days of drinking came to fruition. I worked nights and my roommate worked days. We saw each other on occasion and we were casually friendly (still are, by the way) but Ron really had no idea just how much I was pounding away. I quickly worked my way up from two pints to two fifths of vodka a day. My typical routine was to buy a Tombstone pizza, sour cream,  one can of soda, and a bottle of the cheapest crap I could find. I’d refused to get drunk unless it was on an empty stomach because I loved what I called the sledge-hammer effect, so I’d wait to eat until afterwards. I could make a bottle disappear in twenty minutes using the soda I bought to wash the taste a little. All too often I be finished with my booze and still have half my pop left. I’d then eat my pizza with the sour cream (hey, I considered it just a huge, fancy, potato chip thingy) and proceed to play video games until I passed out, that way I could waste my time twice as poorly.

The last two years of my drinking saw a lot of deterioration in every aspect of my life. Whenever I awoke from passing out I’d usually purge. Got so good at it I learned to throw-up silently so I wouldn’t bother my roommate if he was home. I’d even drive while tossing my cookies into a Big Gulp cup; nasty and insane. If it came out of me it was tainted with blood. First time I saw the toilet full of bright red water I almost had a heart attack at the sight of it. I’d spit pink, piss pink. Nosebleeds were common as well. Saw it  every day and I figured my time was short for this Earth. I started getting delirium tremens (more commonly known as the DT’s) several times a month. There were periods where I’d force myself to stay sober for a week or two, white-knuckling it so to speak, only to become repossessed with an uncontrollable urge to drink again. It really felt as if another spirit entered my body and took over. I went through boxes and boxes of Altoids doing what I could to cover my breath to those I’d encounter.

Six months before I finally stopped I had an incident while driving. It’s detailed more in my upcoming book but, in a nutshell I almost died. I called A.A. that night and this was the first real step towards my eventual life of recovery, though it was another six months before it stuck for good. One may ask why I didn’t quit that night. In all honesty I was much more afraid of living than dying so I figured I may as well get it the f@#$ over with. During the last weeks of my march of suicide I started blacking out. It was surprising I hadn’t before, at least not that I could recall. (Feel free to laugh here.) Here’s the REALLY weird thing. I’d apparently know when I was entering a blackout but not when I was exiting one. I could see the “storm” coming as it were, so as a precaution I started taking notes. I’d answer the phone the next day and my boss would talk about what we had planned, all the while going through my almost incoherent scribblings from the day before, having no idea whatsoever I’d talked to him a few hours prior. Remember, my M.O. from the day I started drinking was to see if I could act completely sober while being totally hammered. There’s no doubt I got WAY too good at that. People to this day don’t believe I did this, but I swear it’s the truth, should have kept some of those reminders around, but my sponsor eventually made me throw all those things away, too many “bad vibes” attached I suppose. 

I met the man from A.A. who was on the other end of the phone that weekend and he invited me to his home-group where my eventual sponsor sat in waiting. For the next few months I’d talk to him, usually after a bad binge, and he finally said something that scared the hell out of me. This was the turning point.

Next up, my final chapter to how I started in A.A.  

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

109. HOW I STARTED IN A.A.- PART TWO

big book 3

For part two it feels appropriate to backtrack somewhat. It should help the arc of the story to see where my disposition for self-destruction has its roots.

I first got drunk when I was barely seventeen. A friend of mine and I paid some other drunk twenty dollars to buy us booze. We then proceeded to slam down a fifth of Jack Daniels in about an hour, chasing it with whatever soda we had on hand. We were smart enough to stay home and decided to play UNO in my bedroom with a strobe light on. For someone who had NEVER drank before it hit me like a piano. My friend didn’t make it to the bathroom but I did. My father came home from his own partying around midnight and found me lying on the bathroom floor, holding onto the base of the toilet trying to keep the room from spinning. He stood there staring at me.

“Looks like you’ve been drinking, son.”

“Oh yes, yes sir, we have.”

He stared a bit longer, looking back and forth at both me and my inebriated friend on his couch and finally said “Well, looks like I don’t need to punish you.”

“Oh God no.”

I had a hangover for two days and as a result I swore off booze for the next four years. Time rolled on through my late teens and eventually a lifestyle of minimum responsibility changed. I had to quit high school because Dad was laid off and they contested his unemployment. I was working at the local Target full-time nights during the summer to help with bills and also so I could buy my own clothing and school supplies; I figured it was the adult thing to do. I had planned on quitting once school started; unfortunately I had to keep working. With my measly three dollars and eighty cents an hour we lived on the barest of necessities for nearly a year. Once his mess was straightened out I felt like it was too late to reboot my schooling. I’d been held back in kindergarten for having a big mouth (go figure) and now I was two years behind everyone else. This was a massive lie I convinced myself of and it spawned a lot of shame.

Dad took off to live elsewhere and several months later after hopping roommates, I was in my own boring little apartment. A few months after that Dad moved back in with me after breaking up with his girlfriend and we stayed together once again (after moving into a larger apartment) splitting the bills for the next two years.

Eventually my father got the itch to change his environment once more and I ended up moving in with a friend of his from work he knew and had lived with at one point. By this time I was pushing twenty-one. Here was first real step of my descent into darkness. Jon liked to party and he ALWAYS had booze, not to mention he was the apartment manager where we lived and had a lot of similarly minded friends around, so he controlled the environment lock, stock, and barrel. Weekends were just another day, no need to wait when Tuesday would do just fine. I figured It was time to try drinking again and this time I found I liked it. The tingling in the fingers, the dropping of tension, the false sense of emotional detachment all were alluring, and honestly, extremely effective. At first four of five drinks were plenty, and it was just enough to allow me to continue my other responsibilities and activities without inebriation interfering. There WAS one thought I had prior to diving back in, I wanted to see if I could hide my behavior from the effects of alcohol. This early resolve was almost certainly the subconscious catalyst that drove me to insanity. Indeed I became quite good at it, even my father nor anyone else couldn’t tell when I was drunk right up until the very end. When I mentioned I was, they were always in disbelief, perhaps they figured telling me the truth wouldn’t matter or in denial themselves. More than likely the best explanation was I acted drunk all the time, so one couldn’t tell what sobriety looked like on me. Some of the evidence I was actually accomplishing my goal was that I drank and drove EVERY DAY FOR ALMOST A DECADE and was never even pulled over.  Such is the mind of madness.

Then it came when I finally said “Why not?” Why not just drink all the time? I was home during the day and worked the graveyard shift. I had the house to myself (we had moved by this time from the apartments and my father had moved back in, so now it was the three of us under one roof) and no one was around to witness my behavior. Sleeping wouldn’t have been a problem except our neighbor had dogs that would bark all day. All damn day. This was my excuse. This was the line I stepped over most never return from. Alcohol allowed me to literally pass out and ignore the never-ending noise coming from the yard next to my window. This was in nineteen eighty-eight, two years away from moving to Seattle.

Jon started his own business and I ended up under his employ. I worked nights in an Albertson’s grocery store and he was doing maintenance for Payless Shoes. When I’d come home Jon would be getting ready for the day and I would offer to go do his itinerary, which he loved. It allowed him to get more business and also brought me more money. Ultimately I got way too busy with the day work and he hired a replacement to take over the duties at the grocery store. My plan was working, I was off nights and motivated to better my life despite my drinking. When one of the district managers from Payless in Denver moved to Seattle, and in turn wanted to continue Jon’s services in the upper North-West, I saw my opportunity. I talked him into allowing me to take over three districts in the Puget Sound area, almost eighty stores all total. In late nineteen ninety I packed up the company van, rented a trailer, and set off to Kent, Washington.

How I started in A.A. – Part Three next.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

108. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART ONE

big book 3

Long before the first time I walked into an A.A. meeting I was well aware I had a problem. Embracing the idea I was a drunk and letting others know gave me wonderful excuses to avoid anything approaching a life of responsibility. Often I would be called to do something on a whim or at odd hours only to be more than ready to tell my supervisor I was too hammered to drive. So be it. They knew, and as a result I could keep pounding away at my lifestyle. In the early nineties I maneuvered myself into a way to live on the upper west coast where all my bills were paid including everything but food. Rent, gas, electricity, phone, and even vehicle maintenance were covered by my supervisor. I thought I was being crafty and clever, but in reality I was putting a noose around my neck. Those gentle winds of change marked a coming hurricane of chaos I never saw coming.

I won’t lie, it was intoxicating at first. I was living in a new city, alone, traveling, and often making my own work schedule, but, I was poor in the truest sense of the word. I had nothing to come home other than a ten inch TV and of course, alcohol. My actual paycheck, past all those prepaid bills I mentioned, was only about one-hundred and twenty dollars a week. The cash I did have was spent on alcohol and food, in that order. I also dropped about twenty dollars a week into pinball machines, so my wasteful spending had more than one outlet.  I spent about two years in Seattle from mid ’90 to  late ’91 and through a huge mistake on my part I was eventually shipped off to Des Moines to do the same work under the much worse conditions. Upon arrival I was actually sober for almost a month, white-knuckling it as it were. All too soon I found the availability of booze was much easier here than on the west coast. Grocery stores handled it, whereas in Seattle all liquor outlets were state-owned. At the time this was part of their “sin tax” program that was a substitute for most state tax programs. This has since vanished as far as I know.

By this time my days of blissful incoherence were a distant memory, one I still blindly chased, totally unaware I was even doing it. I was always sick and it showed. My diet, as unwholesome as it was, almost matched my skills of self-destruction with the bottle. When I did eat it was only after drinking a pint or two of very cheap vodka (usually taking less than twenty minutes) and never unless it was on an empty stomach; I wanted what I called “the sledge-hammer effect.” Frozen pizza with sour cream was my favorite meal after getting blitzed. The best way I could describe my existence was as if I were becoming a copy of a copy of a copy and so on. Each day my resolution faded a little. The structure was still there, but the details were slowly disappearing. Nothing that interested my only a few years prior held any appeal. Reading, writing, and art were collecting dust as reminders of a time when simpler, and honestly more productive and creative endeavors, held value.

I began to spend more and more time on the road. Half-star motels fueled a made-up need to drink more away from my lovely piece of crap apartment. The one I had in Seattle was actually somewhat nice compared to where I ended up. It was wasn’t modern or fancy, but at least it wasn’t built around the turn of the century. The building I was living in at this time was so old the storage bins underneath used to be horse stalls. Wooden floors, metal cabinets, radiators, and a refrigerator that only came up to the middle of my chest had replaced what I taken for granted in my previous residence. I used to describe it as living in Sam Spade’s apartment.

Once I arrived in Des Moines whatever sense of responsibility I still clung to started deteriorating rapidly. I began blowing off more and more duties in favor staying home and getting sloshed. All too often I would get out on the road and show up late just so I could go to a motel and lose myself in the bottle. The area I covered was from the Quad Cities to Lincoln Nebraska and down to Kansas City; quite a large triangle. I’d call who I was supposed to show up for that night and reschedule for the following evening. I continually talked myself into believing I wasn’t inconveniencing anyone since I was being locked into the store and no one else had to be there anyway. It was a wonder I was able to keep my job let alone drive. The people I pissed off were too numerous to count, and that included my then supervisor back in Denver.

I had never been to Alcoholics Anonymous before, but one day, when my shame was really getting on me, (and I WAS sober, by the way) I finally made a phone call. Turned out there was a meeting within walking distance of where I lived. I set off on foot not knowing what to expect. The memory of that first meeting is burned into my consciousness. I recall walking into a rustic looking room, which was in the basement of a building, sitting down in the corner and saying nothing. I looked around at the various faces; happy, angry, peaceful, in pain, confused, determined. My first order of business was to silently judge everyone, at least that’s what I was wired for. The initial inclination I came to was actually correct, I was surrounded by criminals, and I was one of them. The place scared the hell out of me, but I sat through the entire meeting. People were talking about things I had no connection to. I knew nothing of the structure of this organization, let alone the Big Book. For the next year I went sporadically in between my binges. Occasionally I would be able to stay sober for a week or so, but I would always find myself with a bottle in my hand, sitting alone, full of regret and hopelessness.

In nineteen-ninety-three, out of desperation, I called my best friend in Colorado and asked him if I could move in temporarily while trying to sober up. Amazingly he and his wife obliged. I separated what I wanted to keep, left everything else neatly stacked in the middle of my apartment, and set off back to Denver without telling the building management I was leaving. I convinced myself the furniture I left behind  and other items were not going to be much of a burden to the owners of the apartments since they already offered furnished units stocked with whatever have been left behind by previous tenants. I ended up throwing away thirty paper grocery bags full of empty bottles that were lying around my place. It added up to close to four-hundred pints, and that was only about six months worth since I had cleaned up several months prior. Keep in mind I spent more time on the road  than I did in my own place, so the number was actually quite a bit higher as to what I had consumed.  After everything I owned was packed into the back of my van, I could see out the rear window from the driver’s seat. What I still considered valuable, the stuff I both needed and wanted, was truly quite sparse. I was 28 years old and had nothing to show for my life. Once I got back to Denver that’s when things started  getting REALLY bad.

Part two coming soon.

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With Love and Compassion,

Daniel Andrew Lockwood