Alcoholics Anonymous

108. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART ONE

big book 3

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. Around nineteen-eighty nine 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 ’89 to ’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 liqueur 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 memory. 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 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

105. TWENTY-THREE YEARS IN RECOVERY

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Well, here we are, another birthday. It’s amazing how so little endearment to my actual birthday I have these days. Noting the passage of time since I was born means nothing to me, especially when one doesn’t believe in age to begin with.  I even removed the date from my Facebook page. I guess we mark the days forward in life from the moment we truly start to live. Existence without positive purpose is unthinkable, and I weep for those who trudge from sunset to sunset satisfied with nothing more than status quo.

I remember my third year anniversary; seemed like it was an eternity since I’d had my last drink. I broke down sobbing, wondering why I was even still alive. For a daily/maintenance drunk who used to pound two-fifths of vodka a day, a thousand plus days dry was  nothing short of miraculous. Now, two decades past that, twenty more years, seven thousand plus days later, I’m surprised to find it feels a whole lot closer; and for that I’m grateful. I still have nighttime dreams, nightmares really, where I’ve broken my vows and ethics and wake up in a cold sweat because it’s just too damn real, but the frequency of these wake-up calls are waning, so this part of my recovery is NOT as close as it was, and that does bother me a little. I never want to get jaded to the idea of my ability to stay ahead of the monster.

I live a life I love to come home to. I have a job I enjoy going to. The people in my life, most notably my wife, who is also my best friend by the way, add joy and Love to my foundation. There was a time where nothing mattered. Oblivion was my only real pursuit. The present moment meant as little to me as tomorrow did. Things have changed and I plan to die someday with a full calendar of events ahead of me.  There’s so much to look forward to. I’m not angry at the time in life I’ve thrown away, for it’s a history I continue to see in the rear-view mirror, a constant reminder of what never to repeat. One would think twenty-three years down the road is quite a ways from my last drink, a long journey one can make a trophy of. It’s not. Why?  because even though I’ve done so much since then, as far as I’m concerned, I’m just getting started.

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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

 

93. 21 YEARS IN RECOVERY

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Well, here I am at my 21st A.A. birthday. I remember looking forward to my other 21st birthday because it meant I wouldn’t have to rely on others as much to make decisions. I had gotten drunk only once before when I was seventeen. My friend and I scraped together a little money and bribed some guy to buy us a fifth of green label Jack. We stayed home and got sloshed while playing cards using only a strobe light to see by. It was fun for about an hour and then we both got sick. I had a hangover for two days and vowed to never drink again; and I didn’t for what seemed like a long time.

Then, some years later, after I’d turned twenty-one, I moved in with a guy who had booze everywhere and I thought “why not?” I began drinking about once a month and it felt OK. I got past the occasional hangover rather quickly and I began looking forward to the next embracement of self-induced oblivion. Within two years it was happening pretty much every weekend.  Then came the day I was screwed. I found out that “hair of the dog” actually worked when I’d drank too much the night before. From then I was a maintenance alcoholic. Too much and I couldn’t function because I’d pass out. Too little and I’d get the shakes or worse, delirium tremens. I had no idea just how close to death I’d been until looking back. That was a long road.

If you’re suffering now I have this advice for you. There is no shame in asking for help. Many wait out there with solutions and Love. Trust me. Those I know who have made it back from what seemed like hopelessness are truly the best people I know these days. It’s a heck of a price to pay, walking through hell to find oneself,  but it’s worth it.

Who knows, you may end up liking and eventually Loving that person in the mirror. I did.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

87. A DYING WISH

generics

When I turned nineteen in 1983 I moved into my first apartment. It instantly became clear that this was not going to be the freedom filled adventure of youthful fantasy. My take-home income was around four hundred dollars a month and my bills added up to about three hundred and twenty of that. I didn’t own transportation so there was no financial burden in this category. I didn’t even have a phone. I did however have a quiet, clean place to call home only two blocks from both work and the nearest grocery store. I had my art, my books, and a (color) television to help pass the time. Food turned out to be a luxury. When it came to eating my belly was filled from the generic aisle. In the eighties there was a “fad” in nationwide supermarkets of extreme no-frills, basic products. They were generally at least half the cost of the lowest comparable item and the quality barely matched the price. Here was my salvation from starvation. Most of my consumption was in the form of macaroni and cheese dinners at 10 for a dollar, ten pound bags of potatoes, and butter and sour cream. My high carb, high fat diet provided enough energy to keep me from looking for a third source of income.

Because I worked nights, and held down two jobs, my social life consisted primarily of talking to whomever I happened to be in the vicinity of. I’d never been a party going person nor did I pursue any other kind of pastime that would have drained my wallet. I’d been in a couple relationships already but wasn’t jumping at a chance to renew the experience; besides I couldn’t have afforded a girlfriend even if I wanted one. As it turned out, I didn’t need money at all. On one of my rare days off I came home from the store to find a woman moving into my apartment complex. I was surprised to learn she was on her own, apparently a couple of friends had let her down. So, me being me, I jumped in and began helping. Turned out she has secured the unit directly below mine. Within a couple of hours we had all her possessions through the door. Once it was set up her place was almost as sparse as mine. I found out she was manager of a General Nutrition Center in a local mall and was in the middle of some life changes. There was a ten-year age difference between us but that didn’t stop us from becoming fast friends.

I discovered rather quickly she was in (recent) recovery from alcoholism, but that meant little to me. She seemed normal enough and as time strode on our friendship branched into prolonged visits and activities which she paid for and I gladly accepted. Going to the movies or a restaurant was a rare event in those days and I jumped at the chance to do anything other than sleep and work. Eventually, and probably inevitably, our friendship turned more intimate.

I remember during one of our conversations she mentioned she hated to hear men say they loved her. I was understandably confused at her statement and asked why. She said it was because it always turned out to be a lie. One day I was watching her put on makeup and get ready for work. I must have been staring at her a little weird because she suddenly blurted out, “Don’t look at me that way!” I was a deer in the headlights. “What way?” I asked feeling really nervous. “You’re looking at me like you love me.” I couldn’t and wouldn’t say it. It had been purposely set up this way; at least it felt like it at the time. Soon after the entire fling fell apart. She ended up going out with another man behind my back and I began to build a wall of self-pity. The foundation of this eventual prison was built on a single desire; the one that almost killed me.

“I wish I couldn’t feel Love.”

Everything I did for years was tethered to avoiding the action and emotion of Love. Slowly, painfully, this pursuit drove all the passion, all the color, and all the variety out of my life. I became a generic person, a “human” who “worked” and “ate.” My value to the rest of humanity was soon bottom shelf. Living only for the sake of living will eventually cause one to run out of reasons to continue, and in time that’s exactly what happened to me. Survival was my singular quest and even that began to erode with a lifestyle of escalating self-abuse. My primary goal was quite honestly, oblivion. I shunned any responsibility other than those involving support of my my basic needs; earning enough money to buy alcohol and stay off the streets.

For twelve long years I lost touch with my spirit until quite by accident I invited Love back into my life. It re-manifested by uttering a single, heartfelt word.

“Help.”

When I finally reached out with a willingness to leave everything behind, including my possessions, my belief systems, and even my acquaintances, I found an abundance of outstretched arms willing to guide and support me. The trip has been stormy and frightening, but never have I lost my footing. When I couldn’t see ahead I was carefully led. Every action that pulled me further from certain doom was carried out with patience, compassion, and understanding. My surrender of the past and embracement of a mostly unknown future has remained dedicated and focused. As a result, twenty years later, I now have what many may see as an enviable life. I’m at peace, I have a beautiful, loving, responsible, and sober wife who’s also my best friend. There’s no need for anything yet I have access to resources for manifesting whatever I want. Best of all I’m back in touch with myself.

You see, when I decided Love wasn’t worth pursuing, I unintentionally lost what positive feelings I had for myself. A connection to spirit vanished. The decision to eliminate this action, this emotion, led to the eventual elimination of ALL motivation and feeling. No matter where Love may lead me now, I choose to embrace it because it is the nourishment of a life well lived, and I encourage all to feast.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

84. TWENTY YEARS IN RECOVERY – JULY 28, 2015

20th

I, like many people, used to let my mind wander obsessively on two types of thoughts, worry and regret. I could conjure future fantasies and find any excuse for not moving forward at the moment. Likewise I had similar skills that would keep me immobilized when looking back on my life. “What if?” and “It’s too bad.” were the same chapters I kept rereading. The reality I didn’t know at the time was that both these places are unreal; paranoid fantasies used over and over to fuel and excuse self-destructive behavior. Keep in mind worry and regret are NOT equal to reminiscing and planning. The latter two are healthy and honestly, necessary.

These days I concentrate mostly on what’s in front of me, and there’s a lot. I have a tendency to work on the moment; living and breathing with expectations of the future fueled by forgiveness of the past. So far, I’ve found no better way to live. A life without the fear of tomorrow or the pain of yesterday is the greatest gift of my recovery.

Does it feel like twenty years? Not really, and for that I’m grateful. This disease is always there, it never really goes away. Probably the best that can be done is to keep it behind me which in turn forces me to stay ahead of it, always moving, always learning, always helping.

I will say this, the BEST people I know are those who have gone headfirst and thoroughly through the program. They have nothing in common past A.A. They all have different beliefs and priorities and they are all utterly reliable and honest. There are those who feel 12 step programs are not the best route for those struggling with addiction. I have a little to say about this. The program itself says two things, and always has, that it’s a choice to be made by the individual when all other avenues have been exhausted and that it’s simply not for everyone.

Keep this in mind……..EVERYONE QUITS, AND MAN I MEAN EVERYONE.  How you choose to get away from the demons of your life is a choice; just please, don’t choose death.

The cross and coin in the picture were given to me by my wife in honor of this day. The A.A. coin commemorating my twenty year mark is solid silver. My Love; she is thoughtful and supportive.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

83. A MINOR MIRACLE

ticket

May, 1999…….

I hadn’t talked to Joe in some time. He was my sponsor and my friend, but our relationship was more than those words two can describe. His patience and teachings had saved my life. There was a bond to the common ground of alcohol addiction and an understanding of other things that linked us as well. Physical separation and a lack of communication did not weaken our connection. I’d been in recovery for almost four years and we hadn’t spoken for some time when he called. I knew a few sentences into our conversation that something was wrong.

“Joe! It’s good to hear from you!”

“Daniel. How are things in your world?

“I’m doing well. I have a wonderful girlfriend and my job is going very well.”

There was a silence, not too long but definitely noticeable, before he replied. “I’m glad to hear it.”

His tone alerted me as well. “What’s wrong, Joe?”

He sighed. “I’m going to lose my apartment. I was wondering if I could borrow some money. I’ll pay you back next month.”

“I have some saved, what do you need?”

“Five-hundred dollars.”

“I’ll be home tomorrow, when can you come by?”

“How’s one o’clock sound?”

“I’ll have your money then. See you tomorrow.”

“Thank you, Daniel.”

I was still living single for the most part and made almost daily trips to the grocery store. There was obviously a need to stop by the bank as well, so out the door I went. After picking out my usual lot of crap-food, I paid for my load and got another ten bucks out of my account to buy a scratch ticket. I did, and still do play frequently, so this was not a spur of the moment departure from my usual behavior. The result is the scan of the ticket above. (Sorry about the resolution, it’s a copy, of a copy, of a copy so it sucks, but it IS the ticket I won five-hundred dollars on.) Figuring no one would believe this story I quickly made use of the store’s copying machine to obtain proof of the serendipitous moment.

Five hundred dollars, no more, no less. You’d have a hard time convincing me this was random. Joe showed up right on time the following day.

“Nice to see you, please come in.”

“You’ve got a nice place here.” Joe hadn’t been to my apartment since I’d moved in. It was too bad he had to see it under these circumstances.

“Here’s your money.”

“I’m so sorry for this, it just kills me to ask for help. I’ll repay you next month, I promise.”

I’d told Joe on numerous occasions that I owed him my life, and if there were anything I could do to attempt to repay the debt I would be not only obliged, but honored.

“There’s no need to compensate me, the universe already did.” With that I showed him the scan of my scratch ticket I’d bought the day before. “All I’m out is ten bucks.”

Even after showing him the ticket he still was insistent on compensation. I finally convinced him otherwise. He was moved by the gesture and after we talked a little more he went on his way.

I have seen enough of these “coincidences” in life to be firmly convinced that they are of divine intent. My faith that whatever is needed will manifest at the perfect moment finds new footing as each day passes.  Such has been the case for every circumstance of my life so far. It isn’t as if some things were perfect and some weren’t; all my choices, all the so-called unplanned events, and even the most seemingly insignificant occurrences have conspired to give me what I choose to call a perfect life. One thing’s for sure, I would have never recognized any of it before I quit drinking, now close to twenty years ago. As a direct result of my recovery I embrace each moment as part of something wonderful waiting to unfold. There’s no doubt that what’s directly in front of me might be unwanted, but no matter what all of it is part of a better tomorrow.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

81. WORDS OF POWER – WHY NOT?

Leap of Faith

“Leap of Faith” is one of my favorite movies. For those who haven’t seen it (and that’s quite a few) here’s a vague synopsis. Steve Martin plays a con man whose pretense is a faith healer. He’s not an evil person, but he does take advantage of those who are believers. Through the course of the story, as one thing leads to another in an unplanned series of events, he finds the real meaning of conviction. No comedy here, Steve plays it completely straight which is, I’m sure, a big reason the movie was unsuccessful. That’s too bad. If you have the chance, check it out. If you’ve seen it, feel free to leave your opinion in a reply to this blog entry.

Faith, for me,  comes down to two words……

Why not?

So far I’ve never taken a chance I’ve come to regret. I will say there have been times long past where I have failed to take a chance and those have become moments of regret. If the thought process of moving through life is preceded by constantly asking “what if?” (for me the “opposite” philosophy of “why not”) then the fear of what might happen will keep me from doing hardly anything. It therefore becomes logical to avoid this situation. I’ve said it before, “regrets are grudges we hold against ourselves.” When we embrace this emotion, we also accept the actions that must define what a grudge is. When we hold malice towards another for a perceived act of persecution, we want justice, usually in the form of painful punishment. When we do the same to ourselves, we subconsciously invite self-destructive behavior.

In A.A., and of course all twelve step programs, there’s the saying “Let go, Let God.” It’s one of the most commonly quoted beliefs within the program. In my opinion this is the very essence of a leap of faith. Some interpret it as giving up. Letting go and letting God is far from it. The prerequisite to giving up requires us to shut out any chance of hope or rescue; essentially we lower the sail and drop anchor in the middle of the ocean. In a very real sense it’s a form of suicide. On the other hand the action of letting go will attract those forces willing to guide and teach us. It’s the equivalent of tossing the map, letting go of the rudder, and inviting someone else aboard to lead the way. In other words, “Why not let go of your own life and let a higher power take over?” The semantics are subtle, but the result of absorbing the proper definitions are essential to a healthy future.

Trust does not come easily to those used to living life from a defensive point of view. For me the “enemy” used to be anyone who didn’t agree with me. Now my allies are those who are willing tell me the truth no matter what. Often this attacks my ego, and yes….I still feel it. All too frequently I have my defences up, I’m not past that yet, but at least I’m able to recognize my reactions as shallow and unproductive. When people say what I don’t want to hear I do my best to say to myself, “Why not?” Sometimes this takes a day or so, but eventually I get past my selfish attitude. Why not take what they say as something of value and caring?

Being open to new a experience into our lives is often interpreted by the brain as an attack on old ideas. This isn’t always the case of course. When we do resist, it’s a safe bet we’re acknowledging fault at some level, and I don’t know anyone who loves admitting they are a lier. I don’t. The most common lie I used to tell myself was, “Inviting the unknown tomorrow is far worse than a safe expectation of the future.” This antiquated belief has held me back on several occasions; never again. If you, the reader, and I have any common ground, I’ll wager it’s lies here. Don’t face tomorrow with an attitude of “what if?” Meet it head on with the philosophy of “why not?”

Why not try that diet and stick to it? Why not write that book? Why not try for a promotion? Why not ask out that beautiful person you dream about? Why not apply for the job you REALLY want while continuing to work the one you’re on? Why not start a fitness program? Why not further your education? Why not forgive those who have hurt you?  Why not pick a faith? Why not ask for a raise?

Now…….

Go back and re-read that last paragraph, but this time replace the words “why not” with the phrase “what if.” If you’re anything like me you’ll hear a flood of excuses entering into the picture. Can you see the potential damage one can allow when they live the wrong principle? It’s so sad, all what might have been, gone to waste. Please don’t sit and wonder about your life. When you improve your world you improve the entire world; and that includes the one I live in.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

79. FALSE WORDS

what dogs hear

Fairly quickly after my last drink I found myself moving towards a strange place. Old habits once anchored by my alcoholism began to lose their footing. So much of my life had balanced upon this single point. Perhaps the most prominent of these demons was the need to blame. Everything I had pushed away began to rush back in; emotions long-lost, dreams forgotten, and memories of pain and anguish I had tried so hard to bury. My life of apathy was about to vanish. Luckily I had a good program and sponsor who guided me along without allowing me to fall.

I found many of my belief systems were nothing more than elaborate excuses. On the back of many of the dozens of tokens available to anyone in a twelve-step program are the words from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “This above all: to thine own self be true.” In order to follow through on this declaration, one has to eliminate the triggers used to convince ourselves that we are indeed victims.

In my experience those triggers are nothing more than simple words. Refusing to use them has kept me from sliding back into old patterns. Following is a list of examples that, if either spoken or thought, will provoke a negative, self-destructive reaction in my life.

  • Seduction – The bottom line here is no one can make you do something you don’t want to do. As long as we choose to remain sober there are no situations where we have no choice and there are no situations with only one choice. If someone is holding a gun to my best friends head and says, “Take this drink or I’ll shoot” do I have a choice? Yes. Granted it’s a lousy one, but there are always alternatives. If someone slips you a drug and then proceeds to take advantage of you, did you or do you have a choice? My opinion on this extraordinarily rare (thank God) situation is this; you’re not doing anything to begin with, it’s ALL on the other person. This sounds like a dichotomy to my earlier statement, it’s not. When we are capable of making choices, then there are always choices; and this scenario is taking place 99.999999999% of the time. Can I be seduced? Absolutely not, and all the “what ifs” in the world won’t change my mind. No one can coerce me without my permission. If you believe others can control you, then you will have handed them your soul. Please don’t.
  • Luck – The reason I refuse to believe in luck, good or bad, is because as soon as I do, I open myself up to being a victim, and that’s something most claim but few can prove. I just had back surgery and after the operation I developed blood clots in my lungs and pneumonia. Was the entire episode bad luck? Nope. Were there things in my past I could have done to prevent such a situation? Of course! Perhaps there should have been less careless lifting of heavy objects? No doubt about that. I suppose I could have seen my Doctor more for regular check ups. Maybe I could have followed a better diet, done more exercise, and asked for help instead of letting my ego say “I can do this by myself.” Any current “story line” in my life has roots in the past that I made choices on. Just because I had no foresight to today doesn’t mean I’m at the whim of chance. This why we have the ability to plan and prepare. Owning our lives is quite empowering and this action will force the best out of every tomorrow. Things are still going to happen I do not wish for, but my hindsight will anchor those moments to where I made certain decisions.
  • Hate – My argument is “why?” Nothing productive comes from this stand. Hate, for those who think it’s the opposite of love, is actually unrefined anger; and the opposite of anger is joy. The opposite of love is fear; this is the foundation of anger. As soon as I move past any fear those branches attached such as turmoil, conflict, worry, anger, and suspicion also disappear. Keep in mind that saying you hate something is pretty much the same as saying you’re scared of it. I don’t hate anything. This doesn’t mean I accept everything either. It simply means I will not allow myself a reason to experience unnecessary fears. Remember, the more we fear, the more we defend, and the more we defend the more we cut ourselves off from higher truths. If we become unwilling to embrace new ideas and situations then we choose to stagnate. Here is where we wither and die; mentally at first, and eventually a probable premature physical death as well.
  • Impossible – Everything now in existence was once considered impossible. Everything. Never say “I can’t” because right behind you is the next person who will at least try. When stuck in a corner, try this little exercise. Ask “what would someone else do to make this work?” You’ll be surprised at how quickly an answer comes. It may not align with your priorities or principles, but there is ALWAYS a way to complete the task. It might involve getting into hot water or pissing off the boss, but the path out of tangled problems is rarely smooth. History is proof and there’s further evidence. Ask this second question and you’ll see what I mean, “A year from now, will this have been resolved?” Yes, every time. Either you’re going to be a part of the solution or someone else is. It’s up to you.
  • Blame – Dropped this like a hot rock. It’s a cancerous attitude and you already know these people. When blame is embraced we hand control of our lives over to EVERYONE. We also drop any need to be responsible. Do you want to be a puppet? Then by all means, please accuse everyone for your lousy lot in this world. If I didn’t have the biggest hand in my life it would belong to someone else and sorry, just not going to let that happen. There have been times in the past where I did just that, both by neglect and choice. The neglect almost destroyed me and the choice saved me. Now……here’s the REAL kicker; you’re also not allowed to blame yourself. Why? Because you are not the same person you were yesterday. No one is. The past does not equal the future. Just because something happened yesterday does not mean it will today. The best people I know are ones with whom I would never associate with if they were their former selves. When you refuse to blame you embrace hope, choice, and growth.

Well, I know that’s not a lot of words but they do seem to get used to death by the majority of people, so if nothing else, they are popular. I swear I really don’t use these words when referring to myself. I occasionally might say, “She thinks she’s a lucky person” or “He has a lot of hate” but that’s it. If you can help me think of more to add to the list, by all means please drop me a line.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

77. THE WRITING’S ON THE WALL

sayings

Anyone who has sat through even a single twelve step meeting has heard and seen more than one piece of what can sometimes come across as clichéd advice. Framed sayings are on the walls and even more are usually tossed out during any given group discussion. When hearing over-quoted and under-explained philosophies, I can understand why those who are in and out several times (which I imagine most are; I was) eventually start to roll their eyes at seeing such examples as “Let go, let God.”

My personal belief is to NEVER use one of these “sayings” around newcomers without explaining the structure of how they work. This is not only unfair to the listener; it’s irresponsible of the speaker. When a newcomer is told “One day at a time” are they really going extract any usable information from just the adage itself? I doubt it. We who are beyond the initial pain and fog of coming out of a life lived under the influence have an obligation to explain the logistics of the idea. I think anything less is arrogance.

One of the most common statements I hear in meetings is “Stick around and the miracle will happen.” Believe it or not it was over six months before I was finally aware just what the miracle was. Yes, I’d probably read the Big Book three times by then, but I’d never made the connection. I was flabbergasted when I finally did because by then it had already happened. In the fourth edition at the top of page 85 from the chapter “Into Action”  it’s made clear just what the “miracle” is. This is what it says. “We will see that our new attitude toward liquor has been given us without any thought or effort on our part. It just comes! That is the miracle of it.” Be honest, would you have been just a little more motivated at the beginning of your program if the answer were available rather than just the question? Knowing that the day will come where you may not even think of having a drink? Is that a miracle? It was, and still is, for me. Do I think that holding back this information from a newcomer could lower their chances at recovery? Yes, I most certainly do.

Another piece of advice I hear frequently is to strongly suggest those new to the program to not get involved in a relationship for at least a year from their sobriety date. This one I’ll just explain outright. If you are already in a relationship, so be it; but those who are single should not seek companionship for the recommended time, and for damn good reason. Here’s why. The program is designed to change behavior from self-destructiveness to benevolent-constructiveness. This takes time and discipline as I’m sure anyone reading this would agree. When we seek comfort or companionship in others we will, without knowing it, be attracted to those who support what we believe in. In other words we will subconsciously seek reinforcement of old patterns. This is where we think we will find comfort. This is where we think we will begin anew when in reality we are rekindling old habits. Addiction is sneaky and it WILL seek ways to reassert itself. In the arms of what we think may be love, may lay nightmares of continuing the past. I have seen it myself. Those who look at each other in meetings with hardly any time away from their demons may think the common ground of A.A. (or any 12 step group) will strengthen once they join together will be quick to find they are dead wrong. Good intentions are not enough to overcome what has become instinct. We must place ourselves in a place of discomfort for a decent period. This means immersion into an environment of constant challenge to our old way of living. Here we will face loving criticism from those we have chosen to guide us to a better place. I was lucky enough to know this ahead of time. Many are not.

Obviously this article could go on long enough to fill a book. My desire is to ask you to continue what has been suggested here. Please, I beg you from my heart; do not tell someone who is lost and afraid for every moment, shaking with tremors and fear, “One day at a time” without explaining how to do it. It’s like pointing to a vault and telling them there are answers beyond, but they must search for a way to open it themselves. We must attempt to define the actions, not simply by relating the outcome but by, at the very least, telling them where to find the key. Even I must admit there is some benefit in being slightly covert because this may stimulate curiosity and self-motivation, but when the labyrinth becomes too overwhelming it will serve to discourage instead.  When we know why something needs to be done, we are much more motivated to follow through on the actions required.

I have a passionate opinion about this subject. Please consider what I have shared here.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood