Month: November 2018

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