Alcoholism

143. 26 YEARS SOBER

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

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

Time to shift gears.

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

140. A BRAND NEW LIBRARY

 

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

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

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

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

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

Think and Grow Rich – Napoleon Hill

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

Alcoholics Anonymous – AKA – The Big Book

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

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

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

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

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

Personal Power II – Anthony Robbins

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

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

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

139. SEEING 2020 – 20/20

I’d be lying if I said this year has been easy for me. Just like almost all of us on Earth, the pandemic has quite honestly hit close to home, touching everyone I know in one form or another. Early on a friend of mine at work lost his father to it. I looked over one day and saw him weeping, still barely holding the phone in his hands. Some of my family members have had it and I’m beyond grateful they are still with us. Our planet has been, and continues to be scared, in pain, mourning, and yes, angry, frustrated, and just plain exhausted. We feel caged, lashing out at anyone who tightens our restrictions, all the while not realizing we are the ones who built the prison to begin with.   

I see 2020 as a divine test, an exam we will either pass or fail. There’s no middle grade on this one, and regrettably, it isn’t over yet. Religious people always want some sort of “sign from above” hoping for divine rescue to whisk away the darkness falling upon them while at the same time obliterating the perceived enemy. What they don’t seem to realize is the hand of God, when it comes to correcting the mistakes man has burdened himself with, has historically come in the form of floods, disease, and unfortunately, extinction. God’s solution to our problems (when they get completely out of control) is to effectively erase almost everyone on both sides of the conflict. If we are to survive, if we are to persevere, we MUST look to each other for salvation.

What then is the best way to help our fellow human? Is it by charitable means? Is it through kindness, tolerance, and prayer? Should our energies be focused in the name of cooperation and encouragement? I do indeed believe these are worthwhile paths, and I swear I practice every one of them, but in my experience there’s a much higher calling we all can choose to act upon, the projection of constant gratitude.

I’ve been debating whether I should put a list on this entry of my setbacks this year. Everyone has a similar one, and many, in fact most I would imagine, have ones that make mine look rather tame, but I thought it best to show that even though I can come up with an inventory of negative events, I’m ALSO capable of generating one of a positive nature. I think the exercise of doing this is good not only good for my soul, it’s also capable of resonating beyond just my tiny existence and will hopefully inspire others to do the same.  

I’ll try to keep what might be interpreted as complaining or, of course, generating excuses for self-destructive behavior, to an unemotional, somewhat dry summary.

  • There have been deaths, my father in February, and a coworker, one of whom I was quite fond of. He was the son of a supervisor of mine, the same man who hired me almost twenty-two years ago. He (my supervisor) committed suicide the day after thanksgiving in 2019, so now both are gone.
  • I’ve had some weird medical issues pertaining to, of all things, amnesia. I’ve experienced two episodes this year, the latest, and more disabling of the two, taking place on December 1st of this year. The doctors, who have been slow to respond, still have no idea what’s causing this. I’m currently not working as a result.
  • Our Hawaii vacation we had paid for lock stock, and barrel, was, for obvious reasons, cancelled. We got back about 25% of our costs. Several thousand dollars lost.
  • By my own hand, literally, I’ve regained a ton of weight I managed to lose last year.

Those were the big “negative” events beyond other shared roadblocks with mankind this year. And while they did push me back on my heels, I’m still standing, as it were. This being said, it’s rather easy to come up with a list of positive events, and this is where I choose to direct my attention.

  • My wife managed to find new employment that, conveniently enough allows her to work, for the time being, from home. Coincidentally the wheels started turning on her new path just weeks before the pandemic. In fact, she worked from the main offices for some time before being shuffled to her current base of operation.
  • I too, being an essential worker under the categorization of new construction, never skipped a beat. Having skills at building laboratories and medical facilities came in all too handy.
  • Our Honda we bought new several years ago was paid off just prior to the ensuing chaos, so this was a nice relief in our finances.
  • Believe it or not my 401k has gone up a lot this year. (I recommend to everyone who has one to consult with financial advisors before dolling out percentages to what might look profitable to an untrained eye.)
  • My company is angelic as far as management goes. They work hard with me to ensure my needs are met and their kindness and ethical practices are truly rare. I do my best to keep my behavior and skills worthy of such compensation. This company also pays for short-term disability which I am leaning on for the moment, albeit reluctantly; but it is a blessing.
  • I reached a milestone in my recovery in July; twenty-five years. I know it’s just a number, one day at a time of course, but it’s a nice marker nonetheless.
  • I said above my father had passed away in February, and although it affected me in ways I hadn’t expected, I was still happy to see him suffering no longer.
  • We never ran out of toilet paper.

So obviously I have some wonderful energies being sent my way, and I am constantly openly, as well as silently, thankful. Could I take the first list and totally ruin my life with it, disregarding the second list in the process? Easily. As a drunk I was a master of excuses, and those skills that expanded my misery are still programmed into my mind. Luckily stronger, more powerful, and consciously practiced skills now override those old, dusty habits. I still have moments of depression, fear, and doubt, just like most, but my track record at this point is leverage and practice is enough for me to find inspiration to look forward rather than dwell on the road behind me.

This ACTION of constant gratitude is how I feel we are best armed to help others find their way out of desperate suffering. Without judging or preaching we can, by example, be living proof to others there is a way through life’s cruel labyrinth, there is hope, and eventually, peace.

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind. 

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

132. TWENTY-FIVE YEARS IN RECOVERY

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

“Stick around and the miracle will happen.”

Well, the miracle happened…

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

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

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

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

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

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Comments are welcome, I will answer in kind.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

125. SEARCHING FOR INSPIRATION

The older I get the more I know what the highest personal achievements in life are, and surprisingly, in the end, we don’t seem to want anything material at all. We may think we do, especially in our youth, but what’s truly sought after are the feelings that come from what we’re convinced will trigger whatever state of euphoria we seek to manifest. Many (including myself) buy into false repackaged, cliched, and resold icons associated with happiness which usually revolve around power, money, and fame. When people find they cannot gain footing on this type of path, drugs inevitably become the number one go-to in pursuit of mood-altering experiences, and I can understand why; it’s easy, extremely available, and it works…sort of. I myself was a slave to the idea of alcohol induced tranquility just like millions of others. If you don’t believe this to be true, take a ten-minute drive through the nearest business district and count just how many places you pass by who sell liquor. Damn near every street corner is testimony to the immense popularity of booze. Illicit drugs are a bit more covert, but I’d wager almost no one on Earth is unaffected in their own family by their ubiquity and use. All too often this path becomes extraordinarily self-destructive; physically, yes, but more importantly, emotionally. When we force our state of mind to change from the outside in, we ignore spirit and embrace pure hedonism. We also forget how to express ourselves naturally, how to explore our passions and allow our sorrows. I know from experience when the spirit dies from lack of nourishment, so does the body.

Complete contentment, peace, ecstasy, excitement, harmony, and bliss are good examples of the type of heightened emotions everyone wishes they had instant access to. Unfortunately, we’re all too familiar with the opposites such as discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery, and believe it or not it’s here the secret of inspiration can actually be found. Stick with this article and by the end you’ll be, well… inspired. Trust me.

We are creatures of negativity for two very distinct reasons, but this isn’t necessarily a “bad” thing. We have built into our limbic system the “fight or flight” response which is on the constant lookout for the safest path. There are those who confront this instinct by intentionally risking limb and lifestyle, either for excitement or to challenge tendencies, but it’s always there in one form or another. And this skill is extremely useful, no doubt about it. Our ancient ancestors knew enough to be afraid of danger and avoid unjustifiable risks. The second reason is a little weird. We approach most tasks and challenges with a mindset that says “how can I fix this?” OR “how can I improve this?” As a result we automatically look for lack, and when we do, we force our minds to notice and all too often manufacture flaws, even if they don’t exist to begin with. One thing’s for sure, very seldom do we walk through life carefree and totally accepting of the world around us. Those souls who do are almost nonexistent. This is why we identify with negative points of view so easily, it’s a covert  and highly practiced habit to begin with.

The least desirable emotional states I listed above are actually easier to understand and diagnose than their counterparts because of the way we’re wired. They aren’t simple, no illusions here, just more relatable, more common as it were. I’ve stated this many times on this blog, I’m no doctor nor am I a professional on any subject I bring up, all I try do is share how I’ve moved past those barriers in life so many of us seem to share. Most states of negativity I’ve found a way past, although I don’t practice what I preach as much as I should. My ego occasionally gets inflated, I look for excuses, and play the victim from time to time, there’s no doubt about it, BUT I do know how to get beyond these temporary setbacks

There’s a one-word response for neutralizing negativity. Those I’ve named above, discouragement, conflict, depression, boredom, apathy, and misery have a redundant thread.

  • Discouragement = giving up on taking action
  • Conflict = absence of seeking cooperative action
  • Depression = unwilling to take action
  • Boredom = no action at all
  • Apathy = not caring about taking action
  • Misery = not taking the correct action

Obviously the key word is… action. Action designed to avoid destructive tenancies is, by default, creative in nature, and all things creative hold the seeds of inspiration. If this is true, then it stands to reason creativity breeds inspiration. You see, most believe inspiration comes before creativity. Not true. If you want to be inspired all you need to do is choose to be consistently active in your own life. The activities don’t have to be all rainbows and unicorns, and most likely they’ll be annoying rather than comforting, though this isn’t always the case. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what the nature of your activities are as long as they’re intended to be part of a bigger (positive) picture. Think of life as setting up dominos, once they’re in place all that’s needed is a push on the first one. Yes, the preparations can be tedious and time consuming, but the payoff is easy to visualize. The satisfaction of seeing them make a predetermined pattern, to act in a perfectly synchronized, harmonious manner is pure gratification. The same logic can be applied to those goals and dreams we so often abandon because the road leading to our visions seems overwhelming and hopeless. Little steps and movements all too often lead to huge accomplishments, in fact I would say this is the only way one finds themselves seeing their dreams come true.

When I look back at the things I’m grateful for, the accomplishments I’ve followed through on, they all consisted of constant, small, sometimes almost imperceptible movements. Most were drudgerous, but in the end it has always been more than worth it. The price is not that high upon appreciating the worth of the finished product. Seeing one’s goals make the finish line IS inspirational, and THAT inspiration is what is needed to start all over again on a new, perhaps even more impressive task.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

122. SOBRIETY VS. RECOVERY

 

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

120. ALMOST DEAD – PART TWO

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

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

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

And it does…

5. Viral Pneumonia –

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

6. MRSA –

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

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

7. Back Surgery with Complications –

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

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

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

118. TWENTY-FOUR YEARS SOBER

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

117. ALMOST DEAD – PART ONE

One of the weirdest things about my life is the amount of times I’ve almost died. Despite having one foot in the grave on several occasions I’m (obviously) still here, as cheerful and productive as ever. If nothing else, these incidents have served to magnify a continued appreciation for each day. My ever-increasing gratitude towards life has been elevated by several close calls, though I’m not sure how much more I’m willing to take. This ”payment/reward” program I’ve been both fortunate AND unfortunate enough to participate in is getting old, and I’d like to think I can continue my path of elevated awareness without occasionally standing on the edge of oblivion.

1. Car accident

The day after Christmas December 1980, I was planning on spending the weekend at my (yes, we are still) friend’s house. I can’t remember how I got there, perhaps my father had dropped me off. In any case we were both excited to have some time to goof off together during our two-week vacation from school. In our misguided excitement for the forthcoming weekend of pointless activities we managed to talk my friend’s mother into letting us drive to the nearest town for some junk food. Now… my friend, who had his learners permit, did NOT have a driver’s license yet. He promised to stay on the back roads leading in and out of town. It was perhaps six to seven-mile round trip. His brother, also my friend joined us and off we went. Just outside of the limits of his community we got into a wreck. No one else was involved and there was no property damage. We ended up sliding out of control on a dirt road a driving headfirst into a rather steep ditch where the vehicle, a 74′ Ford LTD, flipped over; on its side first then onto its top. The momentum threw me into the back seat and through the rear passenger window where I did a human impression of a cannonball hitting the ground a split-second before pushing me back into the cab. As I was still flying around, I put my hand to my head expecting to feel my brain. No joke, I hit THAT hard. Well, my head stayed intact, and I had no other real injuries. IF I had been wearing my seat belt, I’d be either dead or much shorter as the dash was smashed flat against the floor of the vehicle. I do wear them these days, BUT in this instance my laziness in not putting it on probably saved my life. The emergency clinic my father (reluctantly) brought me to said I had a concussion of my entire right hemisphere. They sent me home to sleep it off. Doubt if that would happen today. Both my friend and his brother ended up no worse for wear than I was. Events such as these serve to solidify my belief that more than luck guides our destiny.

2. Carbon monoxide poisoning

I was a janitor in the late eighties where we used propane buffers quite often as a final step to our cleaning process. They resemble lawnmowers with either seventeen or twenty-seven-inch buffing pads. They’re heavy, but normally extremely safe. Not this night. Apparently, the store we were working in had forgotten to leave the air circulation system on. This, coupled with a faulty scrubber on the exhaust system of the unit we were using, ended up filling the store with carbon monoxide fumes… only we didn’t know that at the time. I recall feeling a little sleepier than normal, but not alarmingly so. Another man who had just moved from Phoenix to work for our company was with me. He’d never done this type of work before and I was training him in our procedures. He too was unaware of our deadly atmosphere. We got a rude awakening upon leaving early the following morning and walking outside. Apparently the fresh are changed how we felt, and I for one began to REALLY falter. I got in my van after loading up our equipment and started driving down one of Denver’s main streets towards home. The highway had little appeal as it was rush hour and I was a good twenty miles from home. Thinking my symptoms might eventually clear, I headed south with my window down in the middle of winter. My suspicions were correct as to what was wrong with me, but I underestimated my condition. The further I went, the worse I felt. It wasn’t long before my arms and legs began to go numb and it felt like someone took a home-run swing with a sledgehammer at my crotch. Looking back the pain probably helped to keep me somewhat alert. The people around must have thought I was drunk and it’s a wonder the cops didn’t pull me over. I recall thinking if I fell asleep, I’d die, so I started fighting the urge. It finally dawned on me I had to go to the hospital. About five miles from home I managed to pull into the parking lot of a 7-11 knowing someone would be there no matter what. I parked next to a cabdriver who was calmly eating his breakfast behind the wheel, opened my door, and fell onto his hood and then the ground with a thud. He was understandably alarmed and ran to get the employees of the store to help. Eventually an ambulance showed up and they whisked me off to the emergency room. I recovered of course, but this incident was the beginning of the end of my career in janitorial.  By the way, the gentleman I was with ALSO ended up in a different emergency room. He quit after one day and moved back to Phoenix. Don’t blame him…

3. Alcohol Withdrawal

In January of 1995 I was six months away from sobering up for good. I was still working nights and on my way to a job surprisingly close to the store I had carbon-monoxide poisoning in several years prior. This was at the peak of my highest consumption, two-fifths of vodka a day, but on this day I hadn’t had a drink for about forty-eight hours. Anyone who has knowledge about alcohol withdrawals will know this is a dangerous time, I hadn’t a clue, but today was about to be a life-changing lesson in it. I was shaky, felt like crap, but going to work nonetheless. It was a Sunday and still light out. Since it was a Sunday the store closed early making the night several hours longer. This never bothered me since a longer shift always allowed more  time to get things done. As I approached the halfway mark between home and work, I had an “incident”. The whole left side of my body shut down. My eye blacked out as my face started melting of my skull. At the same instant my left arm curled instantly up under my chin, totally useless. My leg was immobile as well, no longer able to activate my clutch; all this while going 70 miles per hour. I tried screaming “What’s happening to me!” but couldn’t really pronounce what I was trying to say as my mouth wasn’t working. I managed to pull off the nearest exit and behind a Denny’s restaurant without killing anyone. I managed to get out of my van in panic mode and began trying to uncurl my left arm while hopping on one leg and trying to see everything through my right eye. I imagine the whole scene was rather comical to the casual observer. After about fifteen minutes of flailing around everything popped back, kind of. My mobility returned as did my vision, but I started involuntarily shaking so hard it’s a wonder I didn’t take flight. I crawled back into my van and continued to work. Going to the hospital never entered my mind. Such is the madness of alcoholism. I arrived to the job early and put on a fake smile while hiding my hands in my pockets as much as possible. When I was locked in and knew no one could see me, I collapsed on the floor. Probably stayed there for an hour before I even moved. I called the A.A. hotline that night and although it was some time before I finally quit drinking, this was the first real domino toward my eventual recovery.

4. Heat stroke

I’m a new construction plumber, and since 1995 my job has required me to work outside fairly regularly. Sometimes the weather conditions can be extremely hostile. I’ve had days where it was twenty below zero and some that were pushing a hundred and ten in the sun. This day was the latter. I was installing gas pipe on the roof of a building and there wasn’t a cloud in sight. It was damn hot and had no air conditioning in my vehicle to occasionally retreat to, so I was toughing it out. I DID keep up on my fill of water BUT I can’t stand salt, so I avoid it. As a result my body doesn’t retain fluids like it should. The day wore on and I after approached about thirty piping cuts I began to feel the effects. When I leaned over my work I was reminded of Robert Hayes in “Airplane!” My face had sprouted a faucet, nothing was staying in me, just flowing through me. I packed up around three-thirty and decided to head to our office which was, fortunately, only one mile from the job site. I wasn’t thinking straight and my mental symptoms were rapidly deteriorating into a state resembling being drunk, which I hadn’t been in about four years. As soon as I got behind the wheel I called my boss and told him what I thought was wrong with me and that I was headed to the shop. He yelled at me, rightfully so, but at this point I was only several hundred yards from pulling in. When I did park I fell out of the van (jeez, I REALLY do keep falling out of vans, don’t I?) and another co-worker, Ralph, saw me and came running. He asked if I was okay and I promptly assured him I wasn’t. He literally dragged me into the building and plopped me into a chair in the hallway while office personnel gathered around to see if they could help. By this time my body was shutting down. Both my arms and legs had become immobile. My skin had dried out and I was dying of thirst. When heat stroke (NOT exhaustion, that’s the first stage) kicks in this is what happens. The brain, which has begun to cook in the skull, says “save the core” meaning, of course, the head and torso. Everything else becomes expendable. All body fluids withdrew from my appendages to save my organs and brain and I became a temporary quadriplegic. No one knew what to do; neither did I. Rather quickly an ambulance showed up and took me to the nearest hospital. I called my then girlfriend, now wife, and she met me there. It took a while, but after several hours and multiple intravenous bags of fluid, I was released. Believe it or not I was back to work the next day, though I probably shouldn’t have pushed it.  Those who have had heat stroke become extremely susceptible to a re-occurrence. The “switch” gets turned on but can never be turned off. If I work in the heat these days I take “Thermotabs” and they work wonders for me. They’re cheap and can be only purchased over the counter, but no one needs a prescription. They aren’t for everyone so talk to your doctor before using them.

Since I’m still here I suppose I haven’t fulfilled my destiny as of yet, which means if I want to stick around, I need to keep a road of continued purpose clearly laid out. So far, so good!

That’s all for now, part two coming soon with three more “stories.”

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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