Addiction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

109. HOW I STARTED IN A.A.- PART TWO

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

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

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

“Oh yes, yes sir, we have.”

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

“Oh God no.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

108. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part two coming soon.

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With Love and Compassion,

Daniel Andrew Lockwood

104. IF I COULD SNAP MY FINGERS

I believe redemption (not necessarily as a theology would define it) is available to the most desolate; because if it isn’t, how could it possibly be available to anyone? Are there really souls so lost they have no hope of manifesting the best life has to offer? Millions feel this way, as did I, but now that I’ve both experienced and witnessed miracles, you’ll never convince me otherwise. Even if it’s for an instant, the gift of true freedom lies in wait; all one needs is one bright perfect moment. For the right price, it’s ours. Everyone holds the currency, but hardly anyone knows what it is, let alone how to spend it.

The best people I know today are the worst ones I would have never trusted, listened to, or associated with in the past. Criminals all, and leave there be no doubt, I was one myself. When we find a passage out of darkness, when we learn to step ahead of our demons, when we tear down our self-constructed prisons, and when we find health and happiness again, two things happen; we are simultaneously lifted from the gutters and we become synchronous with life itself.  We are filled with light, purpose, and gratitude.  I’ve written this before and I mean it more than ever as the days of my life roll by,

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It is NOT, however, our place to force such information upon others. We merely should be the beacon that lights the path. It is up to the individual to “drink” or not. I say at the beginning of this entry “If I could snap my fingers…” meaning of course what would I manifest if I had one wish? Would it be to give those who are lost everything they think they want and desire? You may not believe this, but that kind of thought process violates my ethics. Good or bad, I would NEVER force anything whatsoever on another person if I felt what they sought could ultimately be earned. Rewards struggled for, fought for, and ultimately won, are the ones we treasure the most.

If I could snap my fingers this is what I would create –

We live in a world where we praise those doing well and belittle and judge those doing poorly. It breaks my heart to see such cancerous behavior. Inspiration is obviously needed most where it is lacking the most. With the glut of reality television these days I see an opportunity to change lives, and in turn, perhaps even mankind’s future for the better.

I would like to see a show where a group of people who have experience and passion to help others go to different cities, gather those who are willing; the homeless, broken, abused, and so on, and offer them a real way to hit the reset button on their lives. The process would be six fold.

  1. Choose a recovery program – By “recovery” I mean more than what many might jump to conclude. If one is in a precarious physical or mental state, this is a vital choice, one that requires humility and courage. Most people living in conditions of despondency are in need of a structured starting point. I myself am a “graduate” of the 12 step process, but I’m far from believing this is the only or best way.  That would be presumptuous on my part and disrespectful to those who’ve completed other methods of re-positioning their lives. Besides, the “anonymous” part of these programs would have little to no meaning in a public forum. Many of the “steps” that follow are woven into recovery programs anyway, so this is the most logical and important of the six I’ve suggested.
  2. Pick a mentor – All of us need direction, though a lot won’t admit it. The best, fastest, and most reliable way to find what one wants is to do nothing more than follow the trails blazed by those who came before us. We do not clone ourselves by doing this as many would argue, we strengthen the chain of those who choose follow. It has been my experience that people who have hit bottom and risen to heights once thought of as impossible are more than willing to help others. There is no lack of potential leadership.
  3. Pick a path of spirit –  Notice I did not say “spiritual path.” What I mean by spirit is to nourish the basic human need to feel right from the inside. Life does NOT get better from the outside in. Never will. Ever. Old belief systems, old “programs”  that no longer serve must be over-written with ones that do serve. This takes a TON of willingness and open-mindedness on the part of the person looking to stop their ship from sinking. The most common definition attached to such types of dynamics are referred to as “criticisms” which, by the way, NEVER feel good. Here is where the garden is weeded. Most will not bow to such actions, the ego is too powerful. A few, however, will go on to great things and inspire others especially if the transformation is public. There are a plethora of ways to follow through with this choice. Physiological evaluation is an excellent way to look in the mirror as it were. If there are those who choose something a bit more academic, books, seminars, and so on, that’s healthy as well; and if religion is the way for some, so be it, I have no arguments there. Just pick something and follow through on it.
  4. Start a health and physical program – They say one cannot judge a book by its cover. That’s a lie. I’m tired of hearing it too. Can one project a sense of self-worth in the way they display who they are? Damn right. If one is obviously lack in taking care of themselves, are they able to provide a better life for others? Probably not.  I’m NOT speaking of becoming self-centered or superficial with how we present ourselves, I’m talking about honoring the “house” we live in, our bodies. When the body is malfunctioning (or repels others) because of neglect, we lose the ability to interact with life as we were meant to. There are, of course, physical limitations many cannot overcome, but that’s not what’s being spoken of here. Many, many conditions are reversible, and there are thousands who’ve already proved it.
  5. Face the past – All excuses for crappy behavior are rooted in the past. It is vital this action must be addressed, from contacting law enforcement about unaddressed transgressions, to facing those we have wronged on a personal or ethical level and asking for amends, to admitting our own mistakes and owning them, this step cannot be overlooked. In a nutshell this part of the program is about ridding oneself of excuses. No excuses equals no more self-destructive behavior. Period.
  6. Learn a new skill or refresh an old one – If education has been deserted, it must be corrected. Haven’t finished high-school or followed through on that degree?, this will be focused upon. If one has a desire to step into a new trade or skill, that’s fine as well. One cannot function in society without purpose nor can one function in one’s own life without purpose. If purpose has been to get to the next high, well, that’s a horrible purpose, one that life will rid itself of quickly. The more we increase our value, the more we have a reason to live; the more LIFE wants us to live.

I also feel doctors, both medical and physiological, would have to be part of the show. In my opinion it would be irresponsible to offer less than this to both the participants and viewers.

Each year one season would take place in a major city. Sponsorship of rewards (jobs, housing, etc) for those who make it through to the last episode should be rather easy to entice. Let’s face it, the cause is not only good advertisement, it’s the right thing to do anyway. Everyone who’s truly willing to turn their lives around deserves a chance. I got lucky, not many do.

What would be the name of the show?

“Redemption” of course…

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

103. A MAD LIB FOR ADDICTS PART 2

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Well, here we go again, another mad lib for those looking to lighten the mood. Many of us have a past filled with cringe inducing memories. Dwelling there can fuel regret and in turn ignite new and destructive behaviors in the present. This pattern is all too common, and it’s one of the covert ways addiction tries to reboot itself. Learning to cope with personal history and forgive ourselves, even to the point of laughing at who we were, is an important step in starting to remove our symbolic chains.  Doing so can help purge our outdated and flawed database of excuses. Please read the opening for my first entry because it further clarifies why I’m doing this. Here is the link –  75. A MAD LIB FOR ADDICTS

As before there’s no way to utilize a fill-in-the-blank format for this entry. Please use a separate piece of paper and simply match the numbers. The choices I have provided for the blanks make things a lot more specific than your typical mad-lib. It’ll come out much funnier this way, trust me. Try to fill out your form without scrolling all the way down or highlight just the word prompts on the top half and print it out. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Even more confessions of an addict

  1. A yummy food ______________________
  2. A yucky food ______________________
  3. A number _______________________
  4. A weird object(s) ________________________
  5. A moderately high number ________________________
  6. Any laundry item ________________________
  7. Disgusting adjective ________________________
  8. Something smelly ________________________
  9. Embarrassing action ________________________
  10. Adverb or adverbial phrase (how did you jump? like an idiot, quickly, halfheartedly) ________________________
  11. A person you don’t like ________________________
  12. A way of speaking ________________________
  13. A famous song that has lyrics ________________________
  14. A person you associate with ________________________
  15. A way to put something in your body (feel free to get REALLY creative here, it can be a phrase) ________________________
  16. A hazardous substance ________________________
  17. Something addictive, doesn’t have to be a drug ________________________
  18. An action directed towards an object or person ________________________
  19. Another action directed towards an object or person ________________________
  20. A famous person ________________________
  21. A weird or made-up deity (God) or an object of devotion ________________________
  22. A fluid ________________________
  23. A plural object capable of holding a small amount of something ________________________
  24. An undesirable place ________________________
  25. An article of clothing or costume ________________________
  26. A weird person ________________________
  27. Objects ________________________
  28. People (age groups, occupation groups, lifestyle groups as in cops, babies, bums, etc., you get the idea) ________________________

Just like the first one I posted, this one works the same way. Words with a ( ) are optional to help flesh out and make sense of the players chosen words.

  1. My favorite food to eat after getting wasted is _____1_____ mixed with _____2_____.
  2. Once during a blackout I got online and bought _____3_____ _____4_____ for _____5_____ dollars.
  3. At one time I went so long without washing my _____6_____ that they ended up smelling like _____7_____ _____8_____.
  4. One of the shameful things I’ve done is  _____9_____  _____10_____ and then (ended up) blaming ____11_____ for it.
  5. Unbeknownst to me, my friends once filmed me _____12_____ all the words to _____13_____ while I was trying to talk to (my, the, a) _____14_____.
  6. The first time I tried to sober up I desperately tried _____15_____ ground up (liquefied) _____16_____ because I couldn’t find (or “wouldn’t”) _____17_____.
  7. I once found a picture on my phone of me _____18_____ and _____19_____ (on) a statue of _____20_____.
  8. Someone once told me that at twelve-step meetings they worship _____21_____ and drink _____22_____ out of _____23_____.
  9. I once woke up in (an) _____24_____ wearing nothing but a (an) _____25_____ and looking like _____26_____.
  10. I remember stealing _____27_____ and trying to them to _____28_____.

Please put your responses into the comments below so all of us can share in your laughter!

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

100. POSTS FIFTY THROUGH ONE-HUNDRED SUMMARY

Well, I finally made it to one-hundred posts. The past two years have slowed me down a bit since my back surgery, but I’m feeling much more normal and motivated these days. That being said, I expect future entries will be a little more forthcoming. My book is almost finished and I should be able to see it in hardback fairly soon, so that’s more than enough motivation to keep writing here as well. Been working on it for a decade now and it’s almost reality; kind of exciting. In the meantime here is a rundown to my blog from fifty up. I’ll get to categorizing each entry into the appropriate slot at the top of the blog fairly soon.

Thank all of you for reading my entries.

50. Fifty Post Summary – Just what you think it is.

51. Ghost Story – A paranormal experience worth sharing. All about my A.A. sponsor.

52. Building Confidence –  The recipe for inviting confidence into one’s life.

53. I Was Ashamed…….9/11 – How I reacted to 9/11. I hope I’m the only one.

54. Another Observation –  Just a random thought.

55. The Disease of Addiction – This is the most important post here so far in my opinion. Anyone who is addicted or knows someone who is will walk away with a better understanding after reading this. Please read the comments under the entry.

56. Radio Show #1 – BlogTalkRadio –  My only radio interview, so far…

57. A Question – What the world needs more of; what I need to generate more of…

58. Surefire Self-Destruction – How to ruin your life.

59. Inspirational Music – Personal page, just music that inspires me when I need it. I’ll add to the list from time to time.

60. The Greatest Gifts – Those things in life that I’ve found true value in.

61. Poetry for the Soul – My favorite poem I’ve written.

62. An Open Mind – Think you have an open mind? This definition might upset you.

63. Fire and Water – Clearing those paths in life that seem impassable.

64. Genie – Third example of my art – Self explanatory.

65. The Top 10 Reasons Life is Worth Living …. or Why Life Doesn’t Suck – So you think life sucks? Sorry, but times have never been better in the history of mankind.

66. Seeking Dreams – Finding the path is easier than you think.

67. A.A, Birthday……19 Years, July 28, 1995- Seems like yesterday.

68. Finding Love – It starts inside and nowhere else.

69. Spiritual of Religious? – A great definition of whom I’m attracted to and why.

70. Leadership – How generating and positioning out solutions is fundamental to being a leader.

71. What do Women Want? –At the risk of sounding esoteric, I do indeed know a little here.

72. What do Men Want? – Oh, yea. I know what men want, and most women get it wrong.

73. A Letter to Myself – Advice to my younger self.

74. Welcome to Hell – Do you believe in Heaven or Hell? I do, but it’s not what you think.

75. A Mad-Lib for Addicts – This is both fun and disturbing.

76. So Close to Giving Up … – Written a day before my back surgery.

77. The Writing’s on the Wall – My interpretation of some of the sayings one hears at 12 step meetings.

78. A New Blog for a Better World – Introducing my new, second blog.

79. False Words – Some words I just don’t believe in.

80. Eliminating Evil – Want to rid the world of evil?  Here’s how you do it.

81. Words of Power – Why not? A powerful tool for manifesting.

82. Gratitude Means… –Why I believe in, and practice, gratitude.

83. A Minor Miracle – A cool story about a friend who needed help.

84. Twenty Years in Recovery – July 28th, 2015 – Twenty years, hard to believe.

85. Truth – Yes, it is.

86. Wayne Dyer – I wrote this the day after finding out Wayne Dyer had passed. It’s how I got to know him and how he influenced me.

87. A Dying Wish – How a poor decision almost killed me.

88. You Are Loved –Yes you are, even  if you don’t know it.

89. The Power of Honesty – One of the funniest stories I know.

90. The Lonely King – Another piece of artwork.

91. My Depression – How I got past my own bout of depression and how I keep it from coming back.

92. My Most Embarrassing Moment – Hysterical and cringe-worthy all at the same time. Lesson kind of learned.

93. 21 Years in Recovery –  I’m finally legal now?

94. A Friend Has Died – You know, I didn’t think I’ll ever stop being mad about this.

95. The Gift of Giving – The secret of abundance.

96. In Search of Perfection –It’s not what you may think.

97. Being Right –  A life free from a huge cause of emotional pain is a wonderful thing.

98. What’s  your House Built On? – Three rock solid foundation principles.

99. Twenty-Two Years Sober – Seems a little like yesterday, and that’s a good thing.

 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood