A.A.

144. PATIENCE

I’m NOT accident prone, but since I am in construction, I’ve had my share of mishaps. I wear my personal protective equipment diligently, but no matter the caution I take, things do occasionally happen. Cuts, bumps, scrapes, punctures, twisted ankles and knees, smashed fingers, minor burns, and so are on the usual menu of occasional injuries. There have been a few fairly bad ones over the years, one involved tripping and falling plus a couple of major lacerations on separate occasions. I will say it’s been a long time since I had an incident that needs to be reported, and I intend to keep my track record clean. ALL of these events, however, have one thing in common. At the time of occurrence, I had become frustrated or lost my temper, mostly because I wanted to speed things up.

In my history lack of patience has always led to unwanted outcomes. One might think my experience with this personal truth would keep me from repeating the equation. Sadly, my resolve is not as disciplined as it should be. I do indeed become agitated from time to time, but my emotional state is nowhere near anything that could be labeled as theatrical, though I’m sure some of my colleagues who have witnessed such outbursts were, nonetheless, highly entertained. Fortunately my (negative) behavior has waned as I’ve aged, and I’m pleased to say it’s been some time since I’ve pulled the trigger.

My occasional lack of impatience has clearly been a major catalyst leading to an overabundance of disappointing results. Since I’m aware this is true, it then stands to reason exercising the opposite behavior should reap highly beneficial rewards, and it has. Calm dedication has been the most productive energy I’ve ever expressed. Everything which has come to me and made my world a better place always has had its roots in consistency.

On what would seem like the other hand, one of my root beliefs is to let go of what I’m driving myself into the ground trying to manifest. This initially comes across as a dichotomy to my resolve, it isn’t. Letting go is NOT giving up. Giving up is being in your boat lost on the ocean and deciding to poke a hole in the bottom, then sabotaging the radio, and finally tossing all provisions overboard. Giving up is suicide, so please don’t do this. Letting go is being in your boat, admitting you’re lost on the ocean, finding an unknown port, and deciding to hire a person you’ve never met to take you somewhere you’ve never been. This requires a ton of faith. It’s still YOUR boat, make no mistake, you’ve just… let go. What I’m saying here is, letting go IS a form of patience; maybe the highest form, because it requires the total absence of ego or self.

In A.A. there are two dominant sayings, “Let go, let God” and “One day at a time”. If you’re not a “God” person, an agnostic, then “Let go” all by itself will suffice. In any case, these short philosophies are designed to promote consistent action tempered with patience. When we ask for help and react with tolerance and gratitude, the world will eventually roll at our feet.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood


143. 26 YEARS SOBER

When I stopped drinking, I found I was dying of thirst. Yes, I had a temporary longing for what I’d left behind, but this wasn’t the REAL issue; my mind was suddenly parched. Just as stated in my entry, 140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY, I went full bore into the ocean of new information, and while I spent my early days on the beaches of exotic mental locations, these days I find my wanderings to be less adventurous.

The winter of my life is nearing, I’ll be 57 this year, but this doesn’t mean I’m approaching the end, it simply means my outlook has shifted to different priorities. I no longer see the world as something to be conquered, I do not see life as a competition, and I certainly have no need to prove anything to anyone other than myself. That being said, I do still have high aspirations, and when I die, I plan to leave behind a full calendar of appointments and pursuits. What does bother me a little is my speed has slowed somewhat. I watch TV when I don’t need to, I waste time when I could be making the next move on my chessboard, and worst of all, I talk about what I want to do more than just doing it.

Time to shift gears.

For some reason I’ve begun to equate comfort with peace, and while I’ll always seek peace, it’s not necessarily incompatible with occasional doses of chaos. A comfortable life is, in a word, boring, and I’ve become way too comfortable, predictable, and repetitive. I’m NOT looking for discomfort, it’s a life of surprise, stimulation, and challenge which has been missing for far too long. Anticipation and excitement, in the proper proportions, are wonderful ways to spice up life. There’s nothing wrong with status quo if it’s what someone wants, but it’s not for me.

Today marks the completion of my 26th year of recovery and to celebrate I’m making a resolution to be in a much different, much better, and more rewarding place a year from now.

We’ll see in a year if my resolve has been strong enough. Don’t bet against me.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY

 

I had no idea what taking out the trash would do. All I really knew is I was done with my old perspectives and expectations. I gathered up everything I used to believe in and hauled it to the cosmic dumpster, and as you can speculate, it took several trips.  At any rate there I was at the age of thirty, starting over from scratch. The vacuum it created surprised me. All of the sudden I was in possession of an empty house. Fortunately, I immediately accepted the idea of being open to criticism, especially from those who obviously had something I wanted. Admittedly it never felt good, but I was convinced my old ways were suicidal.  One might think this would leave me hollow when in fact it turned me into a magnet, a sponge as it were. There was obviously little for me to cling to so I tossed out my desire to defend myself as well. The freedom and thirst my purging left in its wake were overwhelming sensations, and I was quickly determined to replenish my rooms with furnishings of discipline and quality, and the first one I wanted to rebuild was my library. Other than working with my mentor and following his suggestions without question (since all of my old habits and directions were out of some nightmarish Dr. Seuss travel guide) I soon found myself buried in books. Alan Watts, Wayne Dyer, Tony Robbins were common authors, and titles like “The Peter Pan Syndrome” and “Stage II Recovery” by Earnie Larson also made their way into my mental athenaeum.

My collection grew rather quickly and along the path I discovered a new way to absorb information. I drove a lot in those days (still do as a matter of fact) and instead of having the radio droning away in the background (playing songs I no longer cared about) my attention turned towards audio versions of what I’d been drawn to study and explore. I read a ton as a youth, but most of that was fiction. Now with renewed zest I turned to unexplored categories. Philosophy, religion, and self-help became my go-to focus. Slowly, like a massive puzzle coming into focus, MY picture, my understanding of how life needed to proceed for me became clearer and honestly, more beautiful, more synchronous.

My first excursions into the world of spoken books was rather antiquated. Cassettes often lay scattered in my cab along with a crappy radio to play them on, but play them I did. As my funds and accessibility to better technology increased I acquired CD’s. Eventually I purchased an iPod into which I crammed hundreds of titles. These days I use an iPod Touch, and for good reason. I’ve found nothing better to carry and play books on. There are services I could pay for, but they are extremely limited to accessibility and all too often they offer only abridged versions of what I’m looking for. Not only that but I already own a ton of hard copies and this acts as my own foolproof replacement policy. Also, once on my iPod I can backup what I’ve downloaded to a cloud. In any case, it’s extremely easy to use, durable, and portable.

It’s unfortunate, but many books are simply not yet available in audio format, so a more tactile approach is required. That being said, sometimes there’s no substitute for the feel and absorption of the written word in an old-fashioned manner. It can be an almost meditative experience, spiritual if nothing else, at least for me. Another downside is some seminars I want still exist only in cassette format, and while this is annoying, at least they do exist.

For those who are looking for a jump-start on some decent titles, both books AND seminars, here is a list of my favorites.

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

This is the granddaddy of self-help literature. The title is deceptive for those with shallow aspirations. Some of the writing (first published in 1937) is a bit off-color, but it’s said with good intentions nonetheless. This is a GREAT place to start a foundation of building a solid and rewarding life.

Alcoholics Anonymous – AKA – The Big Book

I read this book twice a year at least, and I’ve been in recovery for twenty-five plus years now. For those who are in the grip of addiction AND are willing to admit it, this is a good source of information. Anyone who has gone through the program is going to argee it can actually apply to anyone, not just addicts. Once you get past the stumbling blocks of what a “higher power” is, the doors open. Different versions are written for different addictions, but the message is the same.

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

First published in 1946 this book was written by a concentration camp survivor and is often referred to as the third school of psychology past the teachings of Freud and Jung. It is both depressing and highly uplifting. Hard to read, hard to put down. If you think you have a horrible life, your wrong. After finishing this tiny book your outlook will improve significantly over what you have as well as what you may have overlooked. It’s a truly inspirational book worth multiple readings.

There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every ProblemWayne W. Dyer

Anyone who reads this blog knows this man is my main (but NOT singular) source of inspiration. I Love all his books, but this is my favorite. Keep in mind spiritual means “of the spirit”. Religious connections are not necessarily applicable here, although some religious beliefs are referred to within the pages. There are two stories on the audio version that make me cry every time.

Personal Power II – Anthony Robbins

Anthony Robbins? That really tall goofy (but good looking) dude who sells self-improvement programs in old infomercials? Yup. Seriously, this man is light years past my spot on the food chain and he has the genre’ dialed in. I’m not belittling myself here, my goal has always been to encourage a first step, shining a light on the doors people are looking for. He, on the other hand, offers up a detailed roadmap to your wildest fantasies and his lifestyle matches his beliefs and ethics. This program, which is quite involved (and a bit aged now) is right on target. He’s engaging, entertaining, and brings real tools to the table anyone can pick up and use. There’s usually tons of his stuff on eBay, so go that route first. Also check Craigslist in your area. This is NOT a book, it’s a seminar.

I have many other authors in my collection, Deepak Chopra, The 14th Dalai Lama, Louise Hay, Marianne Williamson, and so on. Yes, even the Bible is in my iPod. I’m not pushing anything here, just sharing. If you really want a better life there are so many choices. Please don’t think you have no route, you’d be surprised just how accessible it is with a minimal investment of money and time. Besides, who doesn’t enjoy a good trip, especially when it leads somewhere you’ve never been?

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

132. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN RECOVERY

12 Step Jewelry Alcoholics Anonymous 925 Sterling Silver Men's AA Unity Ring with Turquoise

“Stick around and the miracle will happen.”

Well, the miracle happened…

These words were spoken early on from those who encouraged me, and I still hear them frequently when attending meetings. At the time I had no idea what the “miracle” was. All I wanted was to just not hurt anymore. That alone would have been, and eventually was, a blessing in and of itself. It was astonishing the amount of misery I put myself through, throwing up several times a day, every day. Seeing blood pour out of my mouth (and everything else that came out of me) was a ritual I got used to. I’d shattered the vessels in my face so many times I looked as if I had a permanent sunburn. I hadn’t had a real night’s sleep in years, choosing to pass out, day, after day, after countless, pointlessly lived days. Such is the insanity of self-destructiveness.

As my recovery finally began to move diligently forward, the hurricane of pain slowed and eventually subsided to the point where I began to function somewhat normally; yet this was STILL not the miracle. My sleep improved, and my horrific nightmares dwindled; and this was still NOT the miracle. I began to laugh, enjoying the smallest of what most would consider mundane moments while looking forward with enthusiasm to whatever tomorrow had to offer; this too was not the miracle. On a leap of faith I switched jobs. I went from working over a decade and a half of mostly graveyard shifts to the beginning of a career that still supports me. I moved into an apartment on my own without a net under me. I began to pay my bills on time. My refrigerator always had food. I got a decent vehicle. I met the woman I Love. The list is long, and continues to grow, but all these things do not define the miracle spoken of in the Big Book.

Although I had read it several times, the passage had escaped me, droning on frivolously in my mind while I went through the motions of repetition. I must say, once I zeroed in on it, the revelation was both astonishing and, in my case, accurate. In the fourth edition of the Big Book, in the chapter “Into Action” at the bottom of page 84 and on to the top of page 85 it says this –

“You will seldom be interested in liquor. If tempted, you will recoil from it as you would from a hot flame. You will react sanely and normally. You will find this has happened automatically. You will see that your new attitude toward liquor has been given you without any thought or effort on your part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it. You are not fighting it, neither are you avoiding temptation. You feel as though you had been placed in a position of neutrality. You feel safe and protected. You have not even sworn off. Instead, the problem has been removed. It does not exist for you.”

There was a time where I thought of alcohol every minute. Every minute; and I’m not kidding. When we choose to carry chains, we are never unaware of their presence, so the best we can do is justify their existence. Alcohol was my calling card. It was my foundation for blame as well as my attempt to escape. I spent so much of my life pointing and running, and then the day went by where I just stopped. I didn’t think “today I will stop”. The monster withered when I ceased to feed it. It quit tapping me on my shoulder every time I had a Pavlovian trigger. I quit looking for liquor stores on my way home. On the other hand when I saw a billboard or commercial advertising booze, I thought nothing of it. There was neither a feeling of superiority over thinking I had beaten my demons, nor a fear I might slip. As said in the text above, I was placed in a position of neutrality. Do I see it these days as something I’ve beaten? Nope. Instead I have a knowing that my path of progress, or recovery to be more specific, will continue to nourish tomorrow and starve yesterday.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

127. GODSHOTS PODCAST WITH LYDIA CORNELL

Lydia Cornell

For those who might recognize the name, Lydia Cornell is a star of the highly successful sitcom from the eighties, “Too close for Comfort”.  Her name under the picture is a also a link to her IMDB page. In addition to an acting career, she also runs a blog, PoliticallyHot and a web page called GodShots. Her resume’ includes a wide range of projects, talents, and passions from writing to mentoring and even stand-up comedy. Please visit her links to learn more.

Our paths crossed by coincidence some time back on another web site known as Quora. We have common ground in recovery, and it’s here we began communicating our enthusiasm for helping others. This, I hope, will be the first of many conversations designed and directed towards offering answers where so many silent questions lie painfully embedded in the souls of those who suffer.   

Listen this and previous podcasts by Lydia here.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

122. SOBRIETY VS. RECOVERY

 

I’ve met people have who have twenty-plus years of sobriety… and not a day of recovery. I don’t want to come across as some sanctimonious finger-pointer, that’s not my intent. It’s just when listening to those who have a long history of nothing but abstinence, as opposed to one of growth and improvement; well, it shows. It shows in the amount of bitterness, regret, hostility, judgement, and most importantly, blame they project. Thankfully I realized quickly just who I wanted to align with. Yes, there were those I felt drawn to who displayed a caustic exterior, BUT they did so with a twinkle in their eye, and it was also presented as a challenge to those worthy of commitment to a program. True desperation equals the willingness to do anything, which in turn allows others to hold a mirror to my faults while my defenses are lowered. I wasn’t looking to purge the result of my problems, (drinking) I was determined to eliminate the cause of my problems. I was so sick of being sick, and I was willing to do anything to eradicate my ever-deepening spiral of self-destructiveness. I wanted more than anything to be around those whose lives had obviously improved, not the ones who were able to rid themselves of the object of addiction and nothing else. 

The definitions we assign the words we choose for our inner dialogue is massively influential, both positively and negatively, and of course both consciously and subconsciously. I’m a huge stickler for this, so much so that I still look up words quite frequently. The fifth commandment contains a good example of misinterpretation. It says rather simply, “Honor thy Mother and Father.” Most people translate this as “Love Mom and Dad.” This is NOT what it means. One of the definitions of “honor” is “to do better than” which makes sense from a spiritual perspective. We are duty bound to be better than our parents, and our children better than us. I Love my parents but I’m more obligated to become greater than they are, at least from a Christian perspective. This small example led to my insistence in using the proper language. I’m not nearly as good at it as I’d like to be and it shows most in my writing. I try, but, my skills in this arena are mediocre at best. I do pay for an editor for that which I plan to publish, but on this blog you’re going to get my best effort without professional critique. Writing does help me to refine my ever-lengthening list of words and this in turn helps with my speaking skills. 

I’m a firm believer we cannot manufacture happiness from the outside in. I’ve said this many times both on this blog and in person. That which brings us peace and contentment must resonate from our center. If our priority in life is to nurture core attributes, this will eventually magnify outer abundance. If our primary focus is to gain outer abundance this, will lead to atrophied inner qualities. Sobriety is essential to a healthy life, but if this is all one wants, one will eventually end up empty. It’s an action designed to work from the outside in. Abstinence is better than indulgence, that’s for sure, especially for those around the person who’s a train wreck to begin with. Recovery, on the other hand, is designed to promote growth, not just stop disease. Sobriety, in my experience, prunes the branches, and it helps. Recovery eventually heals the entire tree.

Make no mistake, sobriety comes first. It’s the most important step of all. If we equate addiction with another action, say vandalism, then alcohol (or any hedonistic practice) would be the sledgehammer and our motives would be the need or desire to vandalize. Sobriety is, therefore, the absence of the sledgehammer, which is a wonderful thing, especially for that which is being destroyed. What remains, is of course, the impulse to demolish. In this scenario I’m sure it’s easy to see how the need to drop the “weapon” comes first. If, however, this is ALL that’s done, another “weapon” will present itself to accommodate the motive to destroy. This is why it’s essential to address the reasons behind the “need to swing.”  It ALSO explains why those who drop their bludgeon must never pick it up again because doing so will trigger all the reasons to use it.  

Sobriety was and is my first step, it being the same action over and over, but recovery isn’t. It’s the evidence I’m improving and it’s a track record I intend on extending until I die. So, how long have I been sober? Twenty-four hours. How long have I been in recovery? Over twenty-four years. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

120. ALMOST DEAD – PART TWO

ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE is, of course, the first part in case you’ve missed it.

If you’re wondering why I’m including this topic on my blog, the answer’s simple. Most of us have experienced some sort of overwhelming, life challenging stumbling block. Many have had much worse than I’ve ever experienced, no doubt, BUT I feel it’s important to point out how we can (eventually) use these detours as inspirations rather than excuses. Some people move and reshape the world from wheelchairs, and there are those who, by their own hand, have trouble getting off the couch long enough to accomplish even the most basic of needs. It’s a mindset, one I still struggle with more often than not. Some areas of my life are well ordered, while others I label as totally chaotic. My ego, my attitude, is what holds me back from progressing in a productive, positive manner. Remembering I have indeed moved beyond my worst periods of uncertainty helps to reestablish determination and allows me to tackle areas in need of attention. This next statement is from another post of mine, and it sums up my historical dynamic.

The beauty in the fabric of my life comes from all those events which have had a pleasant outcome; but the strength of it lies in those circumstances that have challenged me to be a better person. I’m therefore MORE thankful for the pain I’ve moved past than the pleasures I’ve experienced. I do not seek suffering as a means to improve myself, but there’s a wonderful comfort in knowing it’s capable of eventually providing increased gratitude.

And it does…

5. Viral Pneumonia –

I never knew one could “catch” pneumonia; figured it was just something that happened if the conditions were conspiring against you. Apparently I was wrong. Now, for some, viral pneumonia can be rather mild, not in this case however. I’d originally contracted symptoms almost a month before on a cruise and came to the conclusion I had a bad cold, really bad. I was hacking like crazy and it hurt like I needed to push razor blades out of my lungs. Looking back I’m shocked the airline that flew us back early didn’t reject our request before we even got on board. I spent a few hours facing away from everyone and trying as hard as possible to not cough into my hat. After returning home I still had a few days off before resuming  my job. During this time I saw my doctor and they concluded, inaccurately, it was just a cold. I even had a chest x-ray because of the added pain I was experiencing. They told me I’d pulled a muscle and to take it easy. I went back to my normal grind thinking life would get better and better, but my energy level was just gone. The more I worked, the more I depleted my resources because, unknown to me, my body was using every ounce it had to fight the infection in my lungs. Finally, one day, when I was working on a two inch copper drain line in the ceiling of an office building, I realized I’d had enough. I was coughing up blood and it felt as if someone had taken a home-run swing at my rib-cage with a telephone pole. My breath started getting shorter and shorter and by the time I made it home I could barely breathe. I don’t scare easily, the other incidents where I had one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave were nothing compared to this. I really thought I was going to die. If I’d been alone it wouldn’t have done me any good to call 911 as I could barely get out a whisper of a single syllable at a time. I had to write down what was wrong. My wife got me in the car and we sped off to the hospital where a real diagnosis was finally made of my condition. I spent two or three days (I don’t really recall) under close observation and was sent home with a bunch of antibiotics. I went back to work soon thereafter but It was another month before I felt normal. Since then I’ve had two more bouts of pneumonia but neither of those were as bad as that first time. It’s totally disabling, and I wouldn’t wish it on Satan himself.

6. MRSA –

MRSA stands for “Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus” which obviously is (ewww…) a mouthful. I for one am glad it’s most commonly referred to by its acronym. It’s basically a strain of staph bacteria that’s become highly resistant to antibiotics. CA-MRSA (which specifies my exposure was outside a medical facility) is the strain I was lucky enough to make friends with. It started with a sore knee. There was no cut or break on my skin of any kind, which was weird. I didn’t think much of it at first, just figured I’d banged it on something a little too hard, but the swelling kept increasing with more and more pain accompanying it. Finally, after several days I reluctantly went to my physician. My wife went with me and was in the room for the initial exam. The doctor literally jumped back a little when he saw my leg and proceeded to very, very carefully touch it. The moment he did he said  “This is extremely hot, you need to go to the hospital, now!” He must have called ahead because they seemed to be expecting us and I was only in the emergency room for a few minutes. I spent at least three days bedridden, and to be honest, I really don’t remember much of the incident, but I DO remember a few things. I was on a constant flow of liquid antibiotics, I was also on morphine for the pain, and I recall a visit from the surgeon in charge of my case. He was standing at the foot of my bed looking at my knee which was swollen to the size of a football and said “We can’t risk draining it, it could spread like wildfire. We are going to monitor this extremely closely and if the infection moves into the joint itself (apparently it wasn’t yet, and I have no idea how they knew) your leg is coming off with in the hour.” I was in no position to argue, that’s for sure. Soon thereafter my condition improved and I went home. I did need follow up visits of course but all ended up fine, until…

A year and a half later it happened again, to my other knee. Same thing, no break in the skin or visible cut. Luckily my hospital stay this time was shorter and the case was somewhat less severe. I have both legs these days but my knees still hurt occasionally, although that’s probably more my age and job than anything… I hope.

7. Back Surgery with Complications –

On January 16, 2015 I had back surgery. Less than twenty-four hours before I wrote a post on this blog – 76. So close to giving up recalling the weeks leading up to where I found myself. The days to follow were a totally different story. I was eagerly looking forward to some sort of relief from my sleepless nights and 24/7 suffering, little did I know the worst was NOT behind me (yes, pun intended.) The operation went fine although it took almost twice as long as was originally intended, four and a half hours as opposed to an estimation of two and a half. I was told there was more “complications” than anticipated once they had a better look at my condition. No matter, it was done and I figured I could go home and at least sleep. This fantasy was short lived. Now, my memory of a five month period from the start of my injury to when I returned to work is almost a blank slate. I can recall certain incidents, but the timeline is a complete wash. My guess is my mind went into some sort of “wipe” mode, something I never thought could happen. These days I have to rely on my wife’s recollection of events to fill in almost every detail. I’d originally thought my second setback during this time happened right after regaining consciousness from my anesthesia, apparently not. I’d been home for only about twenty-four hours and was resting on our bed when I realized I had almost no energy, I wasn’t actually paralyzed, but I then again I couldn’t move in the slightest. My wife wasn’t home and the phone wasn’t anywhere near me, so I laid there, fading away. At some point, perhaps an hour after the episode began, she came home and I managed to explain my condition. Took me over half an hour to make it to the car, by far the hardest physical struggle of my life. Once I finally made it back to the emergency room I was diagnosed with  pulmonary embolisms (blood clots in my lungs) accompanied by pneumonia. The doctors told my wife if she hadn’t come home when she did I would have died. I recall the head physician telling me I went down to about 3%. He said it was extremely close but I was going to make it. I was another week on the hospital, nine days total. It’s amazing just how much mobility and even muscle strength can be lost by staying in bed for a week, and my heart breaks for those who go through such ordeals, often for much, much longer periods than me. The next few months saw a HUGE weight gain along with periods of boredom and depression. I went back to work in May of that year and while it was excruciating, it was also invigorating. Took a long time to feel normal again, but I did and here I am over four years later, ticking away just fine.

I’m convinced my recovery from alcoholism has given me added diligence to help me to step past everything that’s happened since I sobered up. It would be nice if my life ahead would be guaranteed clear sailing; BUT you know what’s even nicer? It’s knowing I can confront my almost inevitable upcoming setbacks with an attitude valor because I have LOTS of practice.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

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