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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

109. HOW I STARTED IN A.A.- PART TWO

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

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

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

“Oh yes, yes sir, we have.”

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

“Oh God no.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

108. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART ONE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part two coming soon.

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With Love and Compassion,

Daniel Andrew Lockwood

107. AN UNPOPULAR OPINION

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If I could share the truth of one and only one thing, it would be this –

We cannot make the world a better place by fighting to get rid what we don’t want. We MUST, instead, focus our energies on what creating we do want. Creation is the force of positive change. Destruction is the catalyst of negative change.

Here then is the cyclical problem facing us today…

“Ignorance of hate” and the “hate of ignorance” are the exact same energy.

Too few realize this.

I grow weary of a society that’s essentially eating away at itself. I speak, of course, about our political and social climate in the United States. There are throngs who support our destruction (or perhaps better illuminated as de-construction) with blind ignorance, and on the seemingly opposite side, there are those who unknowingly give the monster exactly what it feeds upon the most, unending hate. These motives are anchored equally in selfishness. They both magnify pride over humility.

What then is our course of action? Which path leads to our best mutual benefit? It hasn’t been walked in a while, that’s for sure. It lies in hibernation, waiting for the resurrection of sanity and unity. The disease of blame we have embraced as a country must be cleansed. We collectively point fingers, convinced we’re doing good by showcasing the so-called enemy as a force that must be eradicated.

Please stop, I beg you. I plead with all my heart and soul. The art of cooperation, the quality of empathy, and the spirit of service must rise from the ashes of separation, indifference, and malice. We are wallowing in a state of reaction rather than action. We think we’re doing something when in fact we are doing nothing at all.

If you’re truly open-minded, if you really are religious (and I don’t care what religion you insert here), if you consider yourself a good person, ask yourself, “how am I making the world a better place by example?” What actions (again, NOT re-actions) are you putting your energy into? I’m not suggesting to lower one’s defenses when being attacked, that’s suicide by default and is the fast track to erasing motivation. Let me be blunt here, defending our beliefs, while it’s occasionally justifiable, must be a distant second to the manifestation of what we want. Without a clear and active vision of what tomorrow should be, we inevitably invite those waiting in the sidelines to fill the coming void, and all to often those replacements are far more powerful and destructive than their predecessors. Just because the so-called “enemy” is defeated doesn’t mean the audience it attracted goes with it.

It sounds clichéd to say we give power to those we oppose when we defend ourselves, it’s not. Why? Because if the opinion of another doesn’t matter to begin with, it’s impossible to get mad at them. As soon as we do, we validate their viewpoint and in turn give the enemy exactly what it seeks. I know, it’s SO tempting to want to fire back, especially when we see actions that hurt or belittle others. Please do not meet them on their terms, invite them to yours. Stay aligned with your beliefs while letting them know the intimidation game they’re playing has no effect on your goals. I do, however, applaud the direct involvement of stopping pain and suffering because this creates an example of action, one that can possibly inspire thousands more. This takes a ton of courage, both to stay calm while doing it, and knowing we are placing ourselves in the line of fire, sometimes literally.

Fantasy may be the blueprint of reality, but so is fear. Whatever energy we choose magnify will inevitably materialize, so obviously there’s more than enough motive to avoid what’s despised, yet this is what most people do. Remember, all visionaries were once criticized by their oppressors as dreamers. Let this intended insult serve to reinforce ideals instead. Do not focus on what you fear, instead act on what you envision.  I do.

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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

 

104. IF I COULD SNAP MY FINGERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What would be the name of the show?

“Redemption” of course…

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

103. A MAD LIB FOR ADDICTS PART 2

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

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

Even more confessions of an addict

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

101. WHAT’S YOUR CALLING CARD?

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Everyone has a sales pitch. They may not think so, but the truth is we are always attempting to sell how we want to be accepted by whomever our audience happens to be at the time; and the theme or vibe we put into our song and dance is determined by the perceived importance of those we meet and what we think we can gain from their alliance. This means that we too are going to be entertained by the same routine from the other side. It may not come out as obvious in some, that’s for sure, but a calling card is always presented. It can be in the way we move, the clothing we wear, the timber of our voice, eye contact, or even the way we smell. The biggest one is, of course, what we say. In the end we are looking to trigger certain Pavlovian responses in others that will determine how we want an interaction to take place.

The most seductive calling cards are, in my opinion, based on the (mostly subconscious) search for reinforcement of being victimized. What I mean is that many look to find support for continuing a life of pain and self-abuse. If you’re thinking this doesn’t make any sense, I don’t blame you, it didn’t to me either. Their card says, in a nutshell, “Here’s why my life sucks.” All too often when a traumatic event happens, we look to alleviate our intensely negative emotions in the fastest way possible. “Nope, can’t handle this; not right now!” This relates to both the memory (mental) and the physical repercussions (if they exist). Nine times out of ten, this pans out to an inferior or mindless knee jerk reaction – the quickest coping mechanism that pops into our minds rather than a knowledgeable reaction rooted in awareness. Always resorting to this habitual escapism can mean any hope of true recovery is going to vanish. A fast diversion may cause the illusion of elimination, but the problem with this tactic is it doesn’t last. The negative emotions inevitably come roaring quickly back into our conscious minds, and the escapist cycle must be duplicated if feelings of apathy and oblivion are to be maintained. Pushing these negative emotions back into our subconscious minds, out-of-the-way, and falling off the emotional scale into the numbness is where we find our escape. The catch is every time a “cheap” cycle is repeated, its effectiveness diminishes slightly until nothing but the habit exists without any of the reward. It can become a deep hole from which few find a way out. The memory of false bliss lingers long after the effectiveness of temporary solutions have stopped functioning, which is why so many keep chasing it; they think there’s a way to repeat the original formula and catch that initial sensation of relief.  Ultimately, you begin to realize that numbness no longer feels like relief.

I know people who complain about abusive relationships they were in thirty-plus years ago. This is a choice the victim perpetuates, the question is, why? I myself have a history of seeing my own blood at the hands of those who were supposed to show me compassion and Love. Some would let this be their calling card, and for me it was… for years… BECAUSE it was also a wonderful excuse for self-abuse; one I was naïvely unaware of. When I handed this definition – this label – of who I was to acquaintances and strangers, I got back exactly what I wanted: justification for keeping myself in this loop. No wonder so many turn to drugs and alcohol. I get it, I really do. Letting go of the initial reason for pain (which usually manifests in the form of forgiveness) EQUALS letting go of the habits and reactions attached to it. For a long time, this wasn’t an option, and it nearly destroyed me. Issues that are strictly physical are similar to those that induce or include mental anguish, but in my opinion are not nearly as common. I could be wrong here, of course.

I witness so many “calling cards”: some are sincere, some comical, some necessary, and some revolting. The “Alpha male” card always makes me vomit (and laugh) a little. “How can I impress you while beating you at something right off the bat?” Yuck. The “Righteous belief system” one is fairly common, and frankly it’s usually designed to start an argument. But sometimes it’s nothing more than a search for common ground, and that’s kind of nice. There are obviously a plethora of examples. Mine (I hope…) goes a little like this, “Smile, shake hands, introduce myself, and ask how I can be of service?” It basically says nothing more than “How may I serve you?” Yes, as time goes on in any relationship my library of continued and amended introductions takes many paths, but I do my best to consciously make them optimistic and, above all, kind.

Kindness seems to be the rarest card of all. People think it’s the weakest one in the deck when in reality it carries the most strength and power. It does not, however, wield strength and power for the individual who offers it, but strength and power to the environment surrounding them. Look at someone like Mother Teresa or Gandhi, their goals, their focus centered on helping others rather than themselves. In the end, the energy came back and elevated them without any egotistical agenda whatsoever. Humility is so rare.

So, what is your calling card? It might surprise you. It might nauseate you. It might piss you off. In any case, it’s now going to be hard to pass off without recognizing it, and THAT is the power to change it.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood