Month: July 2019

118. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS SOBER

Well, here I am, one year away from the quarter-century mark in my recovery. I must admit it doesn’t seem like it, but truthfully that’s a pretty good thing. Sometimes it feels like only a few months since I last drank. I still occasionally have dreams I’ve broken my sobriety, and while they are extraordinarily realistic as well as deeply frightening, I am nonetheless grateful for their continued presence. It keeps me reminded what I don’t want and sometimes that’s more valuable than knowing what I do want. I never think about alcohol in my daily life even though I’m besieged with ads, billboards, and commercials, not to mention a liquor store every two blocks whenever I get behind the wheel. None of these things sway my interest in the slightest. I was lucky in that I never really enjoyed the flavor of alcohol, I just chased the effects of it, so there’s no Pavlovian response to my five senses, thank God.

What breaks my heart the most is seeing others who are where I was and knowing I can’t really do anything to help them, although knowing this doesn’t stop me from (gently) trying. I understand how hopelessness feels, I empathize with what it’s like to want to live AND die at the same time. I wish I could hand over the experiences and knowledge I’ve accumulated to those who need it most, but in the end the best I can do is let others know I was once where they are now and try my best to be an example of someone who managed to find a way out. Looking back on the past two dozen years I’ve done a lot to get where I am now. At the beginning of my recovery I thought it would be an uphill battle, one with overwhelming challenges and unforeseen obstacles. Nothing of the future I had envisioned has come to pass. What I’d feared or wished for never happened. Disaster never struck and fortunes surpassed even my most hopeful of fantasies. Most of it’s been fun, surprising, and completely rewarding. Yes, there have been times of challenge, but my fortitude has easily outweighed every so-called setback. Nothing on my path has been a burden. It’s almost as if I exchanged ten years of my life in payment for what I consider to be a Utopian existence.

Every A.A. birthday I’ve had since I started this blog I’ve written a post to express my gratitude and to share my journey with others. The chances that this particular entry matches closely some of the other ones I have written wouldn’t surprise me. On occasion I go back to read and share other entries, but not the ones published on my birthdays, and I have a very specific reason for doing this. I want what I feel at this moment to be written down without self-bias. I don’t want to taint my connection with spirit. If it so happens to match what I said last year, well, does it really matter?

As a closing thought I will say this, my intuition, my insight, my inner voice tells me that something very, very big is on the horizon in my life, something good, something miraculous. We’ll see what I have to say next year.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

117. ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE

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.

Please follow my blog, comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood