This is a link to a radio show I was a guest on from Tuesday April the 22, 2014. It’s a basic discussion of my goals for the future and some background information on who I am. Thank you again Mark Rawson and Mike Snyder for making this a pleasant and comfortable experience. I look forward to further collaboration.
All addictions are dis-ease. Whatever anchors us to (any) material gain in favor of nourishing the spirit is the result of a breakdown in the way we are supposed to live and thrive. You may say our very existence is material in nature so the world “out there” is what provides us life, happiness, and purpose. That’s a lie; and if you have the courage to read forth, I’ll do my best to illustrate the point.
A full year into my recovery I was still having a hard time accepting the notion that alcoholism (or any addiction) was a disease. Evidence supporting my conviction seemed strong enough. My life and body were returning to health. I felt productive, peaceful, and focused. In my opinion, as long as I stayed away from the bottle, and continued in the program, the road of success would continue to unfold; I was wrong. It was all too soon that well-worn symptoms and habits once commonplace during my years of blurred and incoherent meandering began to reassert themselves. They weren’t the dominating force they once were, that’s for sure, but they were hazardous to my well-being, destructive to the environment, and they were beginning to escalate. Was the “shine” of my new life beginning to tarnish? Was I fooling myself that simply staying away from alcohol and following the steps would cure me of what seemed to be my nature? There is no doubt. Luckily the relationship with my mentor was still in full swing. He helped me put the brakes on the resurrection of my old lifestyle before it got to the point where momentum would overrule any intent of stopping it. This is the turning point where I finally learned that alcoholism truly is a disease.
The term “Dry drunk” is the label for identifying the reactions of alcoholism without the catalyst being involved. (Notice that I said reactions, not actions; I’ll get to that later) I’m sure the term can be applied to any addiction as long as “drunk” defines an excess of self-destructive, self-centered behavior. Food, sex, drugs, money, power, and so on, can all be obsessive objects of an unhealthy focus. In essence we can be “drunk” on almost anything.
I sat down one evening with my friend and he explained it to me. “You’re still having a hard time coming to grips with the notion that alcoholism is indeed a disease?”
“Yes. I suppose I still see it as nothing more than a bad habit meant to be broken.”
Joe smiled one of his “here we go down the rabbit hole” smiles and continued. “Describe to me what happens when you drink.”
“Describe what happens leading up to you taking a drink. Let’s say you have been sober for a few days, white knuckling it so to speak. What takes place when you make the decision to get drunk?”
I attempted to clear the uncomfortable feeling beginning to build in my throat and went into state. “Well……I guess it’s like another spirit enters my body. I’ll be feeling good, terrific in fact, and it seems to come at me sideways. I’ll get in the car in this dreamlike trance knowing I’m doing something horrible, drive to the nearest liquor store and buy my usual brand of poison.”
“I always start asking myself questions. Why am I doing this? What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I quit? I’ll walk in to my apartment and sit there for a few minutes with an unopened bottle in my hands, staring at it, thinking it’s not open yet; I haven’t broken any rules unless I drink it. I then open it up and slam it down along with a boatload of shame and regret.”
Joe wasn’t smiling anymore. In fact he was crying a little. “I know what you mean. Been there myself.” He paused, searching for the exact right words to say next. “Is alcohol the problem in the scenario you just described to me?”
“I’m not sure I know what you mean.”
“Is not alcohol a reaction to the problem?”
A light bulb started going off over my head, and I began to see the truth of it. “Yes…..there’s a long series of events that must take place before I even drink.”
“Now you’re getting it. The thought process that leads up to you doing something you know you don’t want to do is broken. You are going somewhere you don’t want to go and you’re going to end up somewhere you don’t want to be. Your brain is at war with itself. In other words you are mentally……….. what?”
I filled in the blank rather quickly. “….ill…..”
“Certifiable, mister. Alcoholism is a disease of the mind, not the body.”
“Is there no cure then? Will it never go away?” I asked nervously.
“No, not completely. Its influence can wither and lose strength, but the seed will survive and continue to ask for nourishment and rebirth throughout your lifetime. The good news is there are actions you can take to keep it in remission, and done properly they will steer you towards great achievements. There’s an advantage to continuing an effort in pursuit of what is desired and evasion of what must be avoided; this is called conscious evolution. All people inevitably evolve by means of subconscious evolution. They adapt to the environment, they do what is necessary to survive, they avoid pain, and they seek pleasure. The few that go beyond the automatic requirements of living can command great resources. They are the ones the rest of the human “tribe” will look to and recognize what is possible. They are also the ones who will provoke more opposition than support, because challenging someone to be better by example is often interpreted as pointing out that where they are now isn’t good enough.”
Joe went on to explain how the brain works. He had a higher education in philosophy and psychology, so when he spoke, I listened. The way it was put to me was like this. Think of the mind as the hard drive of the human computer. Programs are input as we grow older so we may adapt to specific tasks. Some we embrace through awareness, others are downloaded by pure instinct. All are designed to cope with our environment. Most are compatible with the rest, but when a program such as “excessive drinking” eventually begins to fall out of harmonious synchronization with the others, (that is the “program” has become outdated and inefficient at providing the mind and body what it once was capable of) pain and suffering usually occurs, both mentally and often physically. “Programs” can be made obsolete or unused by installing new, upgraded programs, but old information can never be erased. Here lies the real (and BOY, do I mean real) problem with addiction. When we attempt to re-route thought patterns of addiction, we will experience great difficulty, because the neural pathways of addiction are located in the limbic system- the area of the brain that processes functions directly related to emotion and survival. Make no mistake, thought patterns of addiction are energetically alive, and that which is alive and becomes threatened with obsolescence will fight to survive, sometimes in covert ways. The nature of these impulses will continue as long as we live, which is why awareness must be maintained and progress must be continued.
Do the shadows of the past ever attempt to block my path of dedication towards a better tomorrow? Of course; but in doing so they remind me of what I am motivated to stay ahead of. You may find it strange, but I would not give up one minute of experienced misery for the promise of eternal bliss. I have said this before and I mean it, because all the suffering and all the pain I once went through is my most prized possession. Knowing what I must move towards as a result of the chaos I leave behind is truly priceless. Do I have a disease called addiction that resides even now in my mind? Yes. Is my destiny set to a live a life of constant courageousness as a countermeasure to what affects me? Yes; but all of this is a gift, not a curse, for I can think of no better way to fulfill my absolute potential.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood
I do not like who I used to be. There is no doubt I’m a better person than I was, far beyond that which once caused me self-disgust, but I do wonder if there are other traits laying in relative dormancy, waiting for an unknown catalyst that will allow them to come festering to the surface. If they are anything like what happened to me here, I both dread and welcome it. This entry does not reference any addiction; it addresses a personality flaw that came to light in the weeks following 9/11. If you’re wondering how this could align with the ongoing topics of self-improvement, self-actualization, and recovery, read on. You’ll realize by the end of this article why I’ve written it.
Tuesday morning, September 11th, 2001….. Two co-workers and I were at a high school in Denver awaiting the delivery of an underground acid tank that was to be installed as part of the laboratory remodel. Our work load was light and there was nothing to do but wait. I was getting caught up on paperwork to pass the time while we listened to the radio in the trailer. Normal programming was soon interrupted and news came on that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. The DJ said there might be some deaths. My first thought went back to WWII when I had read about a bomber hitting the Empire State Building. There were some casualties and the structure is obviously still there, so while there was an immediate concern for the events so far, my initial reaction was more of curiosity than horror. With nothing else to do I suggested we go to one of the empty classrooms where construction was taking place and turn on a TV to see if we could get some more information. Like everyone else in the nation we had no idea what we were about to witness.
We came in just in time to see another plane fly into the second building; and although I had no insight to my reactions at the time, this is where my character defect started kicking in. I ask you, the reader, to forgive me for what I’m about to say. It’s difficult to write about, but I feel it’s an important observation nonetheless. Bear with me and you’ll find out how everything came out on the other side.
In my opinion it’s rude to slow down past car accidents to gawk at the wreckage. I’ve always been one to insist on NOT looking out of respect. It’s reprehensible behavior and I’ve been practicing what I preach all my life; that is up until that morning. It was so difficult to not look. I remember dozens of shaky camera angles; obscured views from the sky and street where confusion and panic were being voiced. Images flitted across the screen while stoic news reports and random speculations were voicing their opinions in the background. And then it happened. None of us watching really saw the first tower fall, but we did see the second one. Its mighty bulk tilted ever so slightly and disintegrated into itself obscured by a giant cloud of smoke and dust. Like so many of us the image is burned into my memory, unfortunately so was my reaction to it. All I could think was, “Wow, that’s good special effects!” I might have even said something, I don’t really remember. I was so detached from the event I had no empathy about it for some time. The question was, why couldn’t I feel anything?
Three weeks have passed now. I don’t think our enemies were counting on the reaction we had as a nation. If they expected us to cower and crumble, well, THAT didn’t happen. If anything our resolve was strengthened by the disappearance of all the petty squabbling amongst ourselves as we (and a good portion of the planet) banded together and stood in unity for peace. It was a nice side-effect to the carnage of that day. Every night the news was dedicated to what had happened, and while I believe that news is only news the first time it’s seen, I agreed with the continuing coverage. Like Novocaine, the numbness I was injected with was beginning to vanish as the events of 9/11 were re-played in an unending loop. They began to get harder and harder for me to watch. Finally I had enough. I walked into the bathroom and threw up. I also began sobbing; partially for the victims but more because I realized there was something very wrong with me.
I was immobilized.”Why hadn’t I reacted this way when it happened? Where is my humanity?” “Am I evil and selfish?” It took some reflection but I now know what was “wrong,” and as I move through the second half of my life, I seek to reinforce a crucial part of me that was missing. Sometime in the late eighties I came across an article debating the influence of violence in media aimed namely at television and movies. Video games weren’t realistic enough to be mentioned, but I’m sure they’d be included if it were written today. I read forth with a preset point-of-view. My opinion was that people know the difference between what is make-believe and reality, and honestly I still believe it’s true, but that wasn’t the focus of debate. The argument was this; if someone sees any act of brutality whether it’s real or not they will not react with the same revulsion that would normally surface once the actual event is witnessed. They become desensitized. What should obviously be an expected reaction becomes dulled and unsympathetic. I changed my mind once I had finished reading the piece, but I never changed my habits; I went on watching and being entertained by violence. By the time 9/11 occurred I was so detached from reality that my mind went to the only source of connection I had established, fantasy.
As time went on I slowly began changing. Most of the actions in my life since I’ve stopped my self-destructive behavior have been focused on creativity; writing, drawing, building, and learning have worked wonders as they drive me towards becoming a better man, but what I initially missed was improving upon a more productive and creative, reaction to life. When I magnified appreciation, acceptance, tolerance, and forgiveness I ended up manifesting a creative environment. My perspective on all which surrounded me was beginning to align with what I wanted for myself. I’ve done my best to drop the desire to compare the present with the past and this has helped me to better absorb the moment without as much prejudice. Taking on the roles of both participant and observer has shifted my perspective towards a more compassionate lifestyle, though I’m not nearly in a place I should be yet. Selfishness and self-centeredness still assert themselves frequently, especially in the form of not listening and interrupting. Impatience, judgment, procrastination, and a whole plethora of other unwanted personality traits are still in my bag of tricks. Fortunately, a lot of them are becoming rather dusty.
My “observer” is to the point now where simply I cannot watch the yearly replay of those horrific events from twelve and a half years ago. I’ve tried, and it’s just too much. Too much suffering, too many lives forever fractured by the losses of their loved ones. All the tomorrows gone forever, and all the memories that cannot be erased. For those wounded who survived, it must be like a splinter in the soul never to be removed; a constant reminder of what cannot be repaired or replaced.
Last year my wife and I visited ground zero. I fully expected to enter a space of restlessness and despondency. It was nothing of the sort, in fact it was one of the most spiritual places I’ve ever been; peaceful, beautiful, and inspiring. The museum on the grounds was not open yet, but we did attend another called “The Ground Zero Museum Workshop.” There are stories and photos here you probably have never heard or seen. It chronicles the event itself along with the aftermath in the weeks and months that followed. Here is a link- Ground Zero Museum Workshop. This tiny gallery (it’s literally one room) is also a holy place. I highly recommend it.
Those people who died that day paid with their lives to give us the gift of not only a more United States of America, but a more united world; one where we can look at each other and not just accept our differences, but ignore them completely. They say what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. Damn right.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood
There was a time, not so long ago, when believing in myself was nothing more than knowing I could drink a fifth of vodka and then eat a whole extra-large pizza in one sitting. My skills were as dull as a marshmallow and my drive was limited to wherever the closest liquor store was. I placed no value on my existence, nor did anyone else. It was as if I were incarcerated, doomed to watch the world pass me by through the bars of my little window. To be honest, I was jealous of those who seemed to flow through their days with focus, determination, and purpose. Their attitude was one of self-respect, fortitude, and dedication; while mine was one of lack, self-destruction, and selfishness. I wanted more than anything to possess what seemed unreachable. Through practice, patience, and effort I was able to nail down the following definition of success and fulfillment.
I believe above all other (material) pursuits, beyond money, power, and fame there sits at the top of the mountain, confidence. Once possessed nothing else is needed. This elusive quality is the elixir of manifestation. It moves in grace, planning its strategy while embracing the moment, knowing what it wants without ignoring the audience. It does not seek to improve its image by boasting or advertising. It is quiet, calm, and aware. It does not complain, nor does it ridicule. It gives credit and takes little. When this behavior is attempted by those who don’t understand how it must be carefully developed, it comes across as cockiness, and this of course, is the way of oblivion.
Here is the equation- Cockiness wants admiration for its “abilities” without being asked to provide actions or a history to back them up. Its modus operandi is recognition and approval. It prefers the sales pitch over the product. Confidence, on the other hand, wants to take action, thereby allowing it a chance to build a list of achievements. It needs no recognition from others and cares not for trophies. It prefers the product over the sales pitch. Cockiness lives in a state of reactiveness, it plays the antagonist. Confidence is about moving through life proactively and it plays the ally. Cockiness is quick to point out what needs fixed and is easily insulted, which means it’s reactions are mostly of a mistrusting, defensive nature. Confidence is quick to complement and willing to help, which means it’s actions are mostly trusting and cooperative.
How many seek the self-assured life but settle for its adversary? I certainly have on many occasions, especially when I was a young man. It’s easy to understand the temptation of trying to impress others without having to provide evidence. Shortcuts have an appeal, but rarely do they yield reward. The “reward” in this case is the journey, nothing else. It’s like trying to convince someone you’re a bodybuilder without having the muscles to prove it. It sounds funny, but this type behavior is overwhelmingly common.
All I can share is what I know so far. Most of what I’ve picked up over the years comes from mimicking the patterns of those who already possess what I want. Here is a list of twelve bullet points that might help. It’s not professional, it’s just my opinion.
Don’t ask others to believe in you; believe in yourself.
Make a list of values and ethics that will force you expect more from yourself than others will ever expect from you.
Moving or thinking somewhat slower allows for more calculated actions and responses. It will appear to observers that there’s a dedicated mind behind the process; which there is.
Be quick to admit fault. This removes the temptation to blame.
- Be quick to admit defeat. This creates partners instead of rivals.
- Be quick to offer praise, be hesitant to express dissatisfaction.
- Shine a light on the past to sell the future. Nothing beats a track record.
- Avoid anger, frustration, and resentment. Remember, “He who walks away from confrontation with the lowest blood pressure, wins.”
- The only punishment allowed for “failure” is to keep going with a new strategy. Repeating old tactics isn’t permitted.
- DO NOT hesitate to ask for both help and criticism from those who are better than you.
- Say “Yes” and “No” a lot without embellishment. I.E.- Do you want to eat out tonight? No. Would you be willing to help me next Thursday? Yes.
- Strive to become better than you were yesterday. The only person you are allowed to compete with is who you were.
Am I always confidant? No. I am, however, much more than practiced I used to be, and I expect this skill will increase with continued awareness. Not a day goes by where I don’t “break” at least some of these rules and end up paying instantly for my ignorance. At least I am also confident that by action I’m quite capable of demonstrating what NOT to do.
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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood