Self Actualization

117. ALMOST DEAD

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

1. Car accident

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

2. Carbon monoxide poisoning

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

3. Alcohol Withdrawal

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

4. Heat stroke

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

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

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

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

116. WHO AM I?

For years, decades actually, this simple statement, finding out who I REALLY was, was never on my radar. I shuffled through the days with no eagerness, no purpose, and no intent on manufacturing a life of abundance. Status quo was fine. As long as tomorrow wasn’t much worse than today, why would I try reaching towards dreams that seemed more like fantasy than possibility? Looking into the mirror I never saw anyone of value; twice nothing is still nothing; this world with me or without me would be the same. Trying and failing was a much more painful prospect (I thought) than never starting, so motivations were completely absent. Nonjudgmental self-evaluation was something I never knew existed, let alone how to practice, though I DID constantly criticize myself, and this path almost led me to an untimely death. Why? Because in my mind all perceived error deserves punishment, or so I thought. I saw all my “mistakes” as permanent character flaws rather than temporary learning opportunities.

One thing’s for sure, I’ve ALWAYS felt like a triangular peg living in a round world; maybe more accurately a star shaped peg. In any case my attitudes and beliefs have never quite seemed to match anyone else’s, especially when I was young. I’m sure this feeling is true for a great many people, but my point is when you (think) you’re a drop of water in a dessert, it’s difficult to find kindred spirits. As a result I began to question if my thought process was totally out of alignment with the rest of mankind’s. Wondering if my sanity was intact was a disturbing notion, one I avoided contemplating. It’s no wonder alcohol and its ability to numb my emotions had an eventual massive appeal.

With these two outlooks on life, basically (choosing to become) an “apathetic alien”, I subconsciously attacked myself from more than one angle. The more I convinced myself I didn’t belong in this world, the more I died a little every day. I’m glad I didn’t.

So, WHO AM I?

I’m now a person who doesn’t care about the question “Who was I?” I remind myself of the past by keeping an occasional eye on my rear-view mirror because it’s good (and in my case, healthy) to know what I don’t want. These days I do indeed look to the horizon (something I NEVER did in my youth) and fantasize about all my plans and dreams, but this still isn’t my primarily focus. I’m hyper-aware I’m neither what was, or what might be. I am what the moment presents, part intent on my part, part what the universe hands me. I refuse to believe I’m the sum total of my (unwanted) history because I try my best to avoid letting previous negative patterns influence the present. Just because I responded a certain way before is no excuse to repeat my behavior under similar circumstances. I’m sorry to say this doesn’t always happen, but I’m much better at this exercise than I used to be. Recognizing a Pavlovian response is eighty-percent of the battle anyway.

Perhaps it would help to define who I am, who I choose to be now by generating a list.

  • I am open-minded.
  • I am Loving.
  • I am receptive to criticism.
  • I am a morning person.
  • I am creative.
  • I am enthusiastic.
  • I am always looking for a good laugh.
  • I am idealistic.
  • I am decisive.
  • I am constantly improving.
  • I am driven.
  • I am a good communicator.
  • I am spontaneous.
  • I am (also) well prepared.
  • I am well connected to my emotions.
  • I am a hard worker.
  • I am in recovery.
  • I am kind.
  • I am artistic.
  • I am concerned more for others than myself.
  • I am organized (at work…)
  • I am blessed.

A rundown of qualities is all fine and well, but coming up with a list of my inadequacies is probably much more important to REALLY answering “Who am I?” It’s important to note I do NOT currently consider these as defects like I used to. I see them now as nothing more than areas needing the most attention.

  • I am a procrastinator.
  • I am a poor listener.
  • I am out of shape.
  • I am impatient.
  • I am an interrupter.
  • I am forgetful.
  • I am disorganized (at home…)
  • I am not using my time wisely.
  • I am putting off my dreams.
  • I am not practicing my art like I know I should.
  • I am not even close to my potential.
  • I am annoyed by reminders of what I should do.
  • I am not as healthy as I could be.
  • I am judgmental.
  • I am wired for addiction.
  • I am stubborn.
  • I am loud.
  • I am undisciplined.
  • I am undereducated.

It’s difficult to self-diagnose, and I’m sure even my closest friends could write a longer list of my needed “upgrades” than I could. The good news is I AM on a path of constant improvement. It’s not as fast as I’d like it to be and I do often find myself taking two steps back for every three forward, but these side trips do not discourage me in the end.

So, “Who am I?”

I’m a work in progress, I’m a person who won’t ever go into “glide mode”. I am opposite of everything I don’t want to be, and honestly, that’s a damn good place.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

115. THE REAL MAGIC WORD

As far as I’m concerned it’s NOT “Please”; though I have no objection to generously using it on a daily basis. The following question should help distill my objective.

“Other than money, what’s the biggest reason you go to work and do what you do?”

The vast majority of us have bills, obligations, and essentials requiring a paycheck. No one can survive without food, shelter, and clothing. Beyond the absolute basics there’s transportation, communication, and most importantly, toilet paper. Further down the list are a plethora of other motivations urging us to seek a source of income. These include entertainment, comfort, and unfortunately, all kinds of bad habits. In all, what keeps us breathing, and hopefully looking forward to coming home, manifests from the rewards of our work. Obviously a massive part of what influences us to be a productive part of society is our ability to generate an income. We’re driven to fulfill what we need and what we want. This is the clay of a purposeful life. Desires and necessities coupled with compensation for our actions and skills are the basic ingredients for what we hope to create. There’s little doubt as to why money is at the top of most people’s lists.

So the first question remains, “Beyond money, what do people expect most from their jobs?” The answer may possibly reveal a highly common thread, one that if recognized by those who can strengthen it, will end up wielding great power. I put this before one of my supervisors years ago to see what kind of answer I’d get and got nothing in return but a blank stare. Just as I figured to begin with, he really had no response. I’m a supervisor as well, and I  do my best practice what I preach, so I knew exactly what my answer was. 

The great lever of motivation is, in a word, appreciation. Those who feel appreciated will usually do whatever it takes to keep the flow of positive acknowledgement from waning. It’s not that applause or title is necessarily sought, just the knowledge that their efforts have had a positive effect on the people they associate with (and their extended environment) is often all the reward one needs to keep themselves moving forward. Yes, money is indeed wonderful compensation for our services, but sometimes a simple “thank you” is almost more valuable to the employer than throwing dollars at the issue. As I continued my conversation (with my then boss) I felt compelled to point out that a crew of people who receive no accolades are, in the end, working only for a paycheck, and that’s it. Few in this situation will step up and and raise their standards above expectations. Those who do remain in such positions for only brief periods before moving up the food chain.

In my youth I had supervisors who were, in my opinion, extremely flawed. As I observed the behaviors of those I thought were incompetent, I made mental notes of what to never do once I got in a position of higher responsibility. One such man was the type to take all the credit for what we had done. Make no mistake, he had every right to, he was the supervisor, but I knew how this affected the rest of us when he’d give his nightly progress report (right in front of us) to the store manager every morning. “I” did this, “I” did that with no tip of the hat to the crew whatsoever. Lesson learned. From then on, no matter what, if someone did something good, I was going to hand them the credit, even if it was something that might make me look somewhat less than 100% efficient. 

Giving credit where credit is due creates powerful allies. It may occasionally chafe the ego, but the price still remains a bargain. It’s easy enough to understand the dynamic of it because the opposite is just as glaringly true; taking credit from others breeds enemies. An egotistical attitude is as common as dust and therefore has little value to those who hand us our paychecks. Humility, on the other hand, is a rare commodity and by its nature demands compensation. Gratitude is the energy of growth and resentment is the fuel of destruction. Don’t be like everyone else looking to tear down as many as possible just to try and shine a light on yourself. Spotlight others for someday they may be in a position to return the favor. 

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood 

 

114. PLEASURE AND HAPPINESS

Pleasure and happiness are commonly interpreted as interchangeable. They aren’t. Like the collaborative relationships of nature, north and south, man and woman, day and night, and so on, they share a singular purpose but have significantly different energies. Embracing or aligning with just one end of the spectrum will eventually result in oblivion for both. This observation can be made in a personal context as well. Our duality of existence is thought and action, or perhaps more easily relatable to most as spirit and body. Both of our “worlds” need the proper nourishment to survive, feeding one and starving the other will result in dangerous imbalances, yet this type of lifestyle is exactly what we are taught.

Looking around there are endless examples suggesting we seek one thing, pleasure, and ALL pleasure is designed to please either the body or the ego. The list is ridiculously long and reminders are everywhere. Ads for food, cars, clothing, money, drugs, image, and on and on are plastered ad nauseum in commercials, movies, television, magazines, billboards, and honestly anywhere our eyes might wander. The hope is, of course, to appeal to our need for pleasure. It may even be safe to say most of it is designed to reinforce our desire to not lose pleasure. In any case the energy that drives our lust for pleasure is… fear. Fear that we don’t have what might make our lives better, fear of not being able to sustain our lifestyle, and fear of being left behind while the rest of the human race steps up their game. Pleasure isn’t evil, never was. It’s our imbalance of pursuit that’s the cause misery. Any life lived from the outside-in eventually leads to pain and suffering. When we identify who we are by external methods we quite literally let go of our control of self-image. Our foundation becomes based on “stuff” rather than ideas. principles, ethics, beliefs, and dreams. The oft misquoted Bible verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 sums up the idea rather nicely, even if one isn’t Christian – “For the love of money (or, all things material in nature) is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.”

We are creatures of thought FIRST, because without thought, we cannot act. It doesn’t matter if the thoughts are “good” or “bad”, conscious or subconscious; intent always precedes achievement. Yes, outside influences can trigger decision making, but actions are still powered by choice, which means it’s something we can learn to manipulate. Therefore, if one seeks a stable existence, then one must do so from the inside out. Not only that, once we realize how it works, we are obligated to become more and more aware of what we are thinking so what we really want aligns with what we want to manifest. If most of our thoughts (subconscious or not) are negative to begin with, then life has no choice to react outside of us in a destructive manner. It’s not that difficult to observe, negative people lead destructive lives, positive people lead constructive lives.

Happiness is generated from within. It’s produced from an attitude of appreciation, tolerance, empathy, and all the qualities that make up what we label as Love. It’s Love that fuels the power of this elusive emotion. While pleasure is based solely in the physical world, happiness is mental in origin. The journey from our inner existence to our outer one is easier than one might think. Don’t take my word for it, look for examples in other people, especially those who have come back from dark places and you will see the truth of it. If you’ve ever wondered why some are “blessed” with abundance coupled with ACTUAL happiness, it’s because they have learned to live life from spirit first. They are the ones with ethics, they are the ones who never mock or scorn others, they are the ones we are most envious of.

Finally we come to the dual purpose of these seemingly opposing forces. Where pleasure and happiness balance each other out, peace originates, and peace is the most elusive of all pursuits. It carries the most value because this is where we become free from the burdens of worry and regret. This is where we stop judging and start accepting, especially who WE OURSELVES are. This slim border between our two energies is where we as humans are meant to live and thrive. So few have, and they are the ones we worship.

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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

 

 

109. HOW I STARTED IN A.A.- PART TWO

big book 3

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

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

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

“Oh yes, yes sir, we have.”

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

“Oh God no.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

106. THE SEVENTH SENSE

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Knock knock stuff

Let’s see, there’s touch, smell, taste, hearing, sight and of course the sixth sense or the ability to see dead people.

So what’s the seventh sense?

Humor, duh.

Give me comedy over drama any day. Not to say I’m not laser focused when it comes to being responsible, I most certainly am. Here’s the thing, I’ve found the biggest secret of humor it that’s it’s not at odds with seriousness. If nothing else it has the ability to enhance it. Too much spice, however, and the meal is ruined. Just enough and it brings out the best intended flavor. One must know when to add, and when to stop. Presentation is everything.

Over the years I’ve written a smattering of jokes, mostly to entertain myself more than anything. Here are a few examples –

  • Did you know that urinating is my number one favorite way to lose weight? You know what number two is?
  • Being a plumber I used to have nightmares about my job until I realized they were all just pipe dreams.
  • Years ago I had my steering wheel converted into a loom. That way if I got pulled over for weaving I had a REALLY good excuse.
  • It’s a good thing I’m surrounded by idiots ’cause the opposite would really suck.
  • And one of my favorites – Your faith in my abilities is undermining my self-worth. I’ve only met one person who actually got that joke. Still one of my favorites.

There was a time where I thought it would be a good idea to pursue the comedy stand-up field. Had me pages of stuff written down. Glad I didn’t, but I still laugh at the thought of a few of my ideas like doing karaoke as “Sling Blade” singing “On the road Again”. Wouldn’t actually sing it though, just talk it out. Room full of drunks and you’ve got an easy audience. I mentioned this to someone some time back and they suggested I change the song to “Walking on Sunshine”. Yea, that might be a lot funnier. Also thought about doing Chris Farley imitating Bob Ross doing some P.O.S. painting as an SNL skit. Too bad he died, that would have been his crowning achievement. Easy to imagine too. Huge afro, beard glued on crooked, super tight shirt, slinging paint everywhere, ripping holes in the canvas with sharp pallet knives, and complaining about making mistakes every time he touched a brush. All this while he paints the van down by the river. And remember how Bob showed squirrels and other wildlife he shared his home with? Chris would be like “I’m gonna show you a little animal now, it’s my neighbor’s ROTTWEILER!! (shows picture of snarling dog with a huge spiked collar) S.O.B. keeps me up day and night! I’m going insane!!! Then he finishes the skit by pulling off a contact paper pattern hoping to show a nice rounded frame of white on the canvas around the picture, but instead pulls off the entire painting to reveal a blank canvas full of holes. Proceed to tackle the easel and, well, the end. Too funny.

My personal sense of humor is extremely warped. Not rude or cruel. just strange. One of my favorite activities is to sit down with old “Herman” collection books and read one caption as it applies to a completely different picture. The result is highly entertaining to me. Here’s three examples I quickly made up, hope it doesn’t piss anyone off. Remember, the captions go to other comics, I just swapped them to make a nonsense joke. Sometimes  wonder if I really am certifiable.

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My parents, the everlasting weirdos they are, taught me this type of humor. Stuff like, take any book or movie title and then add “between the sheets” after. Endless entertainment for an eight year old with no siblings who had only two channels of TV available to him as a kid. And spoonerisms? Ugh, I’m hard-wired for that now. My Father happened to say the other day, “there’s a mist falling” which, of course flips to “there’s a fist mauling.” Yep, fists do that sometimes. All kinds of weird ones out there. Day at the store becomes stay at the door, field positions reverses to say peeled physicians (whatever the heck THAT means) and sugar beet…. booger sheet. I know, yuck. Still funny. One of my first ones occurred when I was about six years old. I blurted out on a comment made by my mother upon seeing a little “fuzzy duck”. Immediately my parents whipped around intending to yell at me, but I have a feeling they were doing their best to keep from laughing while asking “What did you say??” Hell, I had no idea. Really.

I feel when humor is nurtured it enhances all areas of our lives, not the least of which is our health. If nothing else it can manifest into the first link of a lifeline where hope is needed most. It seems cliché to say “we’ll look back on this someday and laugh.” I disagree; all too often, all too true. That being said I do indeed feel there is such a thing as toxic humor. I refuse to laugh at the misfortune of others. It’s not that I hold back; don’t need to. Pain on ANY level, be it physical or emotional, holds no entertainment value for me whatsoever. Humor used to hide pain is obviously unhealthy as well. There are way too many examples of those who’ve tragically died practicing this lifestyle. Humor has to be who we are, not who we want the world to see us as, in other words it cannot be a mask. One of my favorite comedians, if you can even call him one, is David Letterman.  Why?  Because he comes across as if he could care less if there’s an audience. Apparently the only person he’s trying to make laugh is himself. Though he can be a little caustic from time to time, it’s nonetheless an admirable quality. one I wish more people practiced.

Lastly I’d like to say I feel the ability to laugh at oneself is a valuable skill, one that removes self-judgement. When Wayne Dyer talks about Abraham Maslow and speaks of self-actualization, one of the qualities mentioned most is indeed this. It’s all about acceptance, because acceptance eliminates the need for punishment. Doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve, of course I do, it’s just that I can be satisfied with where I am as nothing more than part of the journey, one that seems to make me laugh more often than not.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

By the way…

The link under the picture of the “WTF” post-it leads to a site stuffed with funny note pads and other humorous items. Check them out.

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

 

103. A MAD LIB FOR ADDICTS PART 2

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

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

Even more confessions of an addict

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

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

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

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

Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

102. STAYING YOUNG

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As long as I live I’ll anxiously await those cheesy Halloween haunted houses that pop up in the weeks preceding what’s arguably the weirdest holiday of the year. They tap into the goofy nature of who I once was and reconnect me with an important part of my psyche I never want to abandon.  As I make my yearly pilgrimage through these dark macabre labyrinths I always seem to find myself laughing. The creativeness and to me, silliness, feed my desire to stay connected to a sense of wonder. It’s an alluring ride of shock and suspense without any real threat of danger. Another, similar experience I clearly remember was my first time visiting a carnival. I was probably six or seven and still wide-eyed almost everywhere I went, but this was different. It was like stepping onto another planet. Barkers in strange costumes were selling their corner to any passerby who would listen. Smells of foods I’d never before tried or heard of wafted through the air, and the lights and sounds of the whirling rides and alluring booths lit the night and gave it an eerie but uplifting soundtrack. Some of it was scary, but most was jaw dropping. It was if I’d stepped into a custom-made dream. Amusement parks still have their appeal, but alas, my constitution disagrees most violently with anything that spins these days. I wish it didn’t.

Childhood, in my opinion, is where the least amount of discrimination and the most amount of acceptance is found. I believe this observation is the first key to youthfulness. As we grow older we must not only remain open to new and exciting experiences, we also have an obligation to deliberately put ourselves in the position of attracting and manufacturing such events. Any situation of unpredictability mixed with anticipation is the secret ingredient for a powerful life affirming experience. Witness the abundance of death-defying activities from the fairly benign, like roller-coasters, to downright dangerous even for those who are experts, free climbing. Once a certain age has passed creating awe becomes paramount when reconnecting to a youthful perspective. It comes naturally when we are young because our mind still has a lot of blank space. There’s relatively little in our past to equate to current events, so we simply experience our lives. The problem is the more we age, the more we compare and life becomes smoother and easier. It’s supposed to, but in the process we leave behind our ability to face the world in a non-judgmental or open-minded manner. I recognized this a long time ago so I started looking for new roads to explore. Planning and taking action on setting up surprises is a huge part of my life, and strangely I receive almost as much joy in the arrangement and expectation as I do once my intentions come to fruition. It’s a double win; which brings me to the second key.

Envisioning and perusing new events will usually result in adventurous or exciting circumstances, but there’s a more important reason to practice this habit. When we were kids almost ALL our thought processes were in the mode of anticipation. We constantly looked forward, which is why it felt as if our birthdays were three years apart. And the days before Christmas, are you kidding? THAT took forever. The opposite was true if we didn’t want something to happen, time would seem to speed up and all too soon we would find ourselves standing before an angry parent over a bad report card or facing down the class bully after school. In any case I believe looking forward STILL slows down time no matter what, it’s just that looking forward to good things slows it down to a greater degree. Life marches on and history accumulates as we grow older prompting a tendency to want to reminisce more and more, but here lurks a hidden danger. Our brain is hard-wired to want to forget bad things and remember good things, which is why so many look back to what they think are “the good old days.” This is an illusion, one that breeds the conviction our past is where all the best moments are. It’s easy and common to get lost in this train of thought. The more we immerse ourselves in yesterday, the more we fail to look ahead, or even acknowledge our present situations. This is why the older we get, the more time seems to speed up and in the process it ages us terribly. Occasionally reminiscing is not all that horrible, but continually doing so  can eventually lead to regret. Once the veil of what we wanted to forget is inevitably lifted because of how much time is spent looking back, it can trap us there. We dwell on what we cannot change and (subconsciously) punish ourselves for not doing things differently. This can become a dark path few return from.

Those who embrace anticipation and create excitement perpetuate youthfulness. There’s a common behavior practiced daily that separates them from everyone else. It’s laughter. Humor, especially the ability to laugh at oneself, is the secret ingredient to living enthusiastically. Laughter (in the context of kindness ONLY) is hardcore evidence of an enjoyable and often spontaneous lifestyle. It’s obvious when we look to those who don’t seem to age. They are masters of not only seeing the bright side of life, they elevate it to the next level by doing what it takes to express themselves beyond simply smiling.  Often they have a gift for unintentionally raising the attitudes and dispositions of those in close proximity. On the other hand, those who seem to age faster than they should spend most of their time looking back and reacting to life rather than acting on it instead. Their laughter, when it does happen, is almost always at the expense of someone else’s pain or misfortune and it’s akin to inviting cancer into one’s life, not a good idea.

I am not my past, nor do I want to live there no matter how wonderful I try to convince myself it was. Old news. It’s no doubt important to know what needs avoided or re-created, but I can accomplish this quite efficiently using a rear-view mirror. No need to turn around, no need to spotlight events from yesterday in order to justify the moment. All excuses for lousy, self-destructive behavior (which leads to a fast-lived, quick to die life) thrive in the gardens of history. When we stop watering and tending to them, excuses disappear, as they should.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood