Faith

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.

Please follow my blog, comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

111. HOW I STARTED IN A.A. – PART FOUR

When I turned twenty-nine my self-worth was non-existent. I really had forgotten, even for an instant, what happiness was. I occasionally had moments of pleasure and amusement, but these fleeting experiences were poor substitutes for what I wanted most. I attempted to manifest what I lacked by serving the hedonistic urges of my body, but I really had no idea how to feed my spirit. The soul needs only one nutrient to live, and I was starving it to death.

I loathed mirrors. All I ever saw looking back was someone not worthy of living. Rosacea covered my face. Massive amounts of straining from vomiting every day further enhanced the look of my existing splintered redness, especially in my eyes. Sometimes my heart would race wildly, so much so I thought a heart attack was imminent. I felt as if my absence from this Earth would improve the lives of everyone I knew, and the sad truth was, I was probably right. To be honest it was only after a year of recovery I could finally face my reflection and say out loud “I am a man!” Thirty-one years into my life before this would resonate as a warm truth instead of an outright lie.

For six months into of my last year of drinking I had sporadic contact with what would eventually become my home group in Alcoholics Anonymous. The man on the other end of the phone (when I’d called in January) was also a part of this circle. That night I was working at an Office Depot doing a monthly scrub, wax, and polish. I walked in, stuck my left hand that wouldn’t stop shaking in my pocket, put on a smile, and kept my distance until everyone left and locked me in. Once I was sure I was alone I immediately collapsed on the floor. No kidding. It was then I said a prayer, though at the time I had no idea it WAS a prayer. Before I made my call to destiny I said out loud in total desperation “I don’t care if I die broke and naked tomorrow as long as I die sober.” This was my bottom. It was also the beginning of my rise (it did NOT feel that way however) because I had, at that moment, resolved to pay any price the universe asked of me. I had painted myself into a corner where my only option was to start screaming for help.

As I said in part three my worst days were yet to come, and since I felt my health had no chance of a return to anything resembling normalcy, I went full-bore towards what I honestly hoped would be a quick death. The pain of D.T.s, my blackouts, and so on escalated. Still, there remained a steadfast flame inside, one that sprang to life the night I said my fateful prayer, it was the candle of willingness. Willpower it seems (also known as ego) had little to do with what I wanted to accomplish and everything to do with my self-destruction. Einstein said it best, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” 

These days I realize being open-minded equates with the ability to admit I’m wrong, and I’d indeed become open-minded, even if the door was cracked ever so slightly, although I’ll admit it seems like it came about by accident, albeit a stupendously fortunate one. Before I quit for good, and during the time I was wavering between sobriety and oblivion, I found myself once more on the phone with the same gentleman whose voice greeted me on the A.A. hotline a few months prior. I was working overnight in yet another location. The previous week had been one of the worst.

“You know Jeff, I just don’t know if anyone can really help me.”

“I actually agree with you, Daniel. I don’t think there’s a single person on Earth who can help you.”

That pushed me back on my heels. I was pitching the victim, and Jeff hit a home run with it, though it wasn’t until many weeks later I recognized the true dynamics of this particular conversation. After a few moments of stunned silence on my part I managed to get out another question.

“So,” I said in a shaky voice, “I’m never going to quit?”

“I never said that, don’t worry, you’ll quit eventually, trust me.”

Well, THAT knocked me down for the count. I felt my lips and face go numb at the truth of it. This moment was the turning point for me. I was both deeply frightened and massively inspired. Here was my “why not?” moment. Soon after this I took my last drink, and on August 28th, nineteen ninety-five I had my first thirty days of recovery in over ten years.

One thing’s rock solid, I had nothing to lose by going full tilt into the program. Two belief systems I owned ahead of time saved my life. First, I’ve never had a problem with accepting a higher power exists. I’ll admit my definition of a “higher power” is somewhat different from most who hold the same conviction, but in the long run it doesn’t matter anyway. No need to explain myself further on this point, at least for now. Second, I had a knowing I was going to express anger toward those people and ideas I was soon to surround myself with, and honestly, that helped with both expectations and tolerability.

I went to meetings the first year about three times a week. Many were in clubs and other fairly public venues like church basements or rented spaces, but it was my once a week home group on Thursday nights (which was in an actual home, my sponsor’s) where the REAL healing took place. I allowed myself to become deconstructed and reassembled here. This is where my spirit became greater than my body. This is where I FINALLY shed the layers of armor, masks, and secrets I’d buried myself under all my life, not just the past ten years. For the first time ever I felt…

human.

Happiness, purpose, prosperity, Love, a career, a real home, and many other facets of my life came rushing in. What I never realized was these things were there all the time, waiting for me to do nothing but step beyond my walls.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

105. TWENTY-THREE YEARS IN RECOVERY

depositphotos_87156364-stock-photo-colorful-word-cloud-for-celebrating

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.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

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,

761ce9c9b41dec0273cde9ef037dff7d

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…

Please follow my blog, comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

91. MY DEPRESSION

depression

I’m not in a position to give professional advice to those in the grip of depression. I’m not a doctor nor am I a counselor. That being said, what I can do is share the details of my journey beyond desolation. Perhaps shedding some light on where I was compared to where I am will help, perhaps not. In any case I certainly know what it feels like to be immobilized and lost.

Thoughts of doom and suicide dominated my life for a long time, years in fact. I had love, no spark, no peace, and no purpose. Surviving was my only motivation, and even that began to deteriorate. Chasing pleasure quickly became a substitute for manufacturing happiness. This mental prison I’d built started in the mid eighties and finally began to erode in the mid nineties. Going over a decade without hope, self-respect, or direction sounds like an impossible journey, one destined to end in disaster, yet here I am.

They say the further you fall, the higher you rise. Considering just how high I’ve risen in the past twenty years, my low must have been exceptionally deep, especially since even now I continue progressing with great strides. So, what exactly was the moment I started to ascend? When did my life finally stop spiraling towards oblivion?  There were three major shifts in my life that allowed the floodgates of redemption to swing wide open.

SHIFT NUMBER ONE……

The first began with letting go of a belief I had drilled into my skull since I was a small boy. It’s one many are programmed with, and have wrongly reinforced through our peers and mentors. This belief was that somewhere buried inside me I had the tools and desire to fix who I was all by myself. Most people call this elusive, superhuman skill ……willpower.

What garbage.

In my playbook, if I want to become a better person, then I must step past my ego. This maneuver is called “Letting go”. Letting go involves zero willpower. It DID require me to take an action once previously thought of as demeaning and painful. I had to open my arms and mind to criticism. Keep in mind there are two very specific types of criticism, one is a form of abuse, and the other is pure Love, and there’s a big difference.  Most will criticize with the intent of cloning themselves; that is they want you to be more like them. Those who do it with Love in their hearts will only be interested in you becoming a better person. Trust me; you’ll know the difference with this definition in mind.

Some equate letting go with giving up; nothing could be further from the truth. Here is the equation. Giving up is the equivalent of steering your boat to the most remote point of the ocean, lowering your sails, and dumping all your provisions overboard. Not a good scenario. Letting go, on the other hand, is akin to deciding you’re lost on the water, pulling into a port, and asking someone else who is obviously skilled and wise to pilot you and your ship to somewhere you’ve never even heard of. This requires a massive step out of one’s own feeling of self-control.

If I’m to embrace my full potential I must allow those to lead me who are already somewhere I want to be. Keep in mind the boat is still mine, I’m ultimately in charge, but for the moment I’ve decided to allow forces that align with faith to guide me. I’m relaxed and am open to outside direction. If this is the case, then what I was attempting before was fighting against the tides. I was closed to suggestion and focused on using only my own energy to guide me. Here lies the difference between being problem aligned rather than solution oriented. It never feels good going forward, it’s a vulnerable and uncertain maneuver, but this choice always reaps massive rewards. So, this action illustrates the first step I took towards serenity.

SHIFT NUMBER TWO……

This second step is a bit more personal so you may not have any common ground with what I’m going to share. In any case, this exercise defiantly helped me, and to this day it still continues to do so. In a nutshell I was told by a professional in the field of mental health that depression is basically rooted in unexpressed anger.

Unexpressed anger?

Yes, unexpressed anger. This does not, however, mean un-generated anger. It means I’d felt hostility, bitterness, angst, and rage but they were never fully expressed in a mentally healthy manner. My mind had reactions to events I’d kept muted or even completely bottled up. In my experience (and all too often in my observations of others, especially men) ALL emotions we hold back on eventually find their way to the surface both unexpectedly and mutated.  The road to mental health is paved with the stones of proper expression and use of emotion. Depression, in my case, was created from the inability to let out and deal with those events I found undesirable.

One may ask, why anger? Couldn’t other emotions poorly expressed and downright withheld be the cause of depression? Yes, but consider this; if Love is not revealed when it’s deeply and desperately felt, would this not eventually cause anger towards oneself? How about sadness, celebration, shame, or satisfaction? The truth is, at least for me, holding back on any emotion no matter the source, will eventually cause the feeling to go from regret to anger.

It helps me tremendously to ask “what am I mad about?” rather than “what’s depressing me?”  In other entries of this blog I write about the quality of our questions equaling the quality of our answers and thus in doing so improve the quality of life. This question is a terrific example.

SHIFT NUMBER THREE……

Nothing transforms my emotional state like movement, just plain old moving around can initiate massive changes in my outlook and attitudes. The good news, nothing has to be all that focused on what I feel needs “fixing”.  Examples may include doing the laundry, going for a walk, cooking, and especially……cleaning. I have a feeling that last one, cleaning, has psychological benefits that can have other, subconscious healing effects. It should be clarified I’m not going to the point of becoming a germophobe. Simple elimination of junk and clutter in the course of reorganizing my environment has always reverberated to other tasks and neglected responsibilities. If this is true, then surely the opposite is just as obvious.  When I’ve been depressed, and have decided to do nothing but sit, sleep, and remain as motionless as possible, it waters the seeds of my hopelessness. To be very clear here I’m NOT talking about meditation, that’s a completely different (spiritual) dynamic designed to center and focus myself. I guess the more I concentrate on anything outside of me, removing my focus from my perceived “problems,” the further I get away from the fear-based voice of my ego, which seems to be the very root of every problem I’ve ever faced.

Honestly this last suggestion has been extremely easy for me to observe in the lives of others. Those who are depressed usually seem to do very little physically. Likewise I’ve never met a depressed person who was one to get out of bed and exercise first thing in the morning. I’m sure this is a generalization, and like I said at the beginning, I’m no doctor. All I want to do here is share what has worked so far in my life. Take it as you will. I truly hope no one ever visits those places I’ve been, but if you have I’m here to tell you I found a way out.

I would like to acknowledge the help of a Facebook friend who helped me iron out and make a few suggestions that help clarify what I’m attempting to share here in this entry. She is a professional in the field of mental health and my gratitude is eternal, thank you Alma!

May the breadcrumbs of my life nourish those who are lost.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion,  Daniel Andrew Lockwood

88. YOU ARE LOVED

Water

Do not despair, do not give up, do not shut yourself away. Ask for help, ask for Love, ask for life.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

83. A MINOR MIRACLE

ticket

May, 1999…….

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

“Joe! It’s good to hear from you!”

“Daniel. How are things in your world?

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

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

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

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

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

“Five-hundred dollars.”

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

“How’s one o’clock sound?”

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

“Thank you, Daniel.”

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

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

“Nice to see you, please come in.”

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

“Here’s your money.”

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

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

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

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

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

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

82. GRATITUDE MEANS…

cb28c749bcb502f8e8f4d7c10134525f

I’ve almost died on several occasions, if you read the introduction to this blog I mention some of them. The latest event was earlier this year from a double dose of pneumonia and blood clots in my lungs following back surgery. While the operation alleviated the constant overwhelming pain on the left side of my body, the episode left me unable to walk without a cane; and even then only a little ways. Twelve days in the hospital all total left me weak and atrophied. I was off work almost five months, the longest period since I was sixteen. The doctors did not want me to lift more than ten pounds and I couldn’t even drive or attend a physical rehab program until I was healed to the point of allowing some stress on my spine.

In the middle of this I asked and paid my friends brother to drive me to the store to get roses for my wife on Valentine’s Day. I’d never missed one yet, and this wasn’t going to be the first. My job was kind to me so that was really never an issue, but I did constantly wonder what my future held. I finally went to work on May 1 of this year, and even though I was thrilled to get back to a life of labor, it was a difficult week.

You might be hard pressed to believe this, but I’m grateful for the entire experience, and here’s why.

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

I do not measure success by material means; I measure it against my former self to see if I have become a better person; stronger, kinder, more patient, more determined, more enthusiastic, less judgemental, etc. If life is a journey, (one chosen on purpose by myself to be somewhat challenging) then sometimes the road inevitably leads to parts unexpected and unknown. This is consistently rewarding, however I must admit the moment can seem occasionally gloomy. No matter the situation, gratitude is generated in my life by constant forward movement, although all too often progress is made by taking two steps back and then three ahead. If the mountain range I’m currently climbing leaves my spirit beaten and bloody, so be it. The healing process will strengthen me for newer and even more demanding events.

Evidence of this approach to living is apparent in the lives of the poor and oppressed as opposed to those in positions of wealth and power. Gratitude comes easy and with sincerity when those who have so little gain even the most basic of needs and comforts. In my opinion this attitude can be diminished when abundance becomes unlimited, especially if one is born to it. A connection to the needs of others often disappears too, so instead of projecting a nurturing and empathetic attitude, one of judgement comes into play instead. This is not always the case of course. My hat comes off to the select few who can connect to each end of the human spectrum. They are the ones capable of moving the planet to a better place by both the leverage they wield and a pursued connection to those in need. By their actions they can lift, inspire, and give strength those who struggle, while showing others like themselves how to influence and help even more.

For me, as this type of symbiotic relationship is internalized, I find I’m able to manifest personal salvation. The “parts” of me that are overflowing with proficiency are capable of assisting those parts of me that are lacking in proper function. Here is an example of how I do this. My right knee has bothered me recently causing a painful limp and disturbing my sleep. I’m well aware that the body has amazing recuperative powers, so tapping into these forces is a simple matter of asking it to do so. I will literally strike up a silent conversation and say “Hey, brain…… you’ve got a job to do. Work on my knee and fix it.” I did this several times a day and it’s better now. This not the only time I’ve done it and I continue the practice because, quite frankly, it’s never failed me. Sounds simple doesn’t it? Well, don’t knock it until you try it. When I take what I’m grateful for (my attitude and outlook on life) and focus it on where I need it most it does two things. My life improves and my gratitude increases as a result. It becomes a self feeding, doubly rewarding experience.

The struggles that come my way often become the platform for an even better tomorrow; and I know this even when I’m in the middle of the worst of times. When I wrote this entry- So Close to Giving Up I really was out of my mind with pain, and if you read it you’ll still see this philosophy being embraced and seeded. Honestly, gratitude is the best doctor I know. So far it has healed everything in my life.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

52. BUILDING CONFIDENCE

henry-david-thoreau-dreams-quotes-if-one-advances-confidently-in-the

There was a time, not so long ago, when believing in myself was nothing more than knowing I could drink a fifth of vodka and then eat a whole extra-large pizza in one sitting. My skills were as dull as a marshmallow and my drive was limited to wherever the closest liquor store was.  I placed no value on my existence, nor did anyone else. It was as if I were incarcerated, doomed to watch the world pass me by through the bars of my little window. To be honest, I was jealous of those who seemed to flow through their days with focus, determination, and purpose. Their attitude was one of self-respect, fortitude, and dedication;  while mine was one of lack, self-destruction, and selfishness. I wanted more than anything to possess what seemed unreachable. Through practice, patience, and effort I was able to nail down the following definition of success and fulfillment.

I believe above all other (material) pursuits, beyond money, power, and fame there sits at the top of the mountain, confidence.  Once possessed nothing else is needed. This elusive quality is the elixir of manifestation. It moves in grace, planning its strategy while embracing the moment, knowing what it wants without ignoring the audience. It does not seek to improve its image by boasting or advertising.  It is quiet, calm, and aware. It does not complain, nor does it ridicule. It gives credit and takes little. When this behavior is attempted by those who don’t understand how it must be carefully developed, it comes across as cockiness, and this of course, is the way of oblivion.

Here is the equation- Cockiness wants admiration for its “abilities” without being asked to provide actions or a history to back them up. Its modus operandi is recognition and approval. It prefers the sales pitch over the product. Confidence, on the other hand,  wants to take action, thereby allowing it a chance to build a list of achievements. It needs no recognition from others and cares not for trophies. It prefers the product over the sales pitch.  Cockiness lives in a state of reactiveness, it plays the antagonist. Confidence is about moving through life proactively and it plays the ally. Cockiness is quick to point out what needs fixed and is easily insulted, which means it’s reactions are mostly of a mistrusting, defensive nature. Confidence is quick to complement and willing to help, which means it’s actions are mostly trusting and cooperative.

How many seek the self-assured life  but  settle  for its adversary?  I certainly have on many occasions, especially when I was a young man. It’s easy to understand the temptation of trying to impress others without having to provide evidence. Shortcuts have an appeal, but rarely do they yield reward. The “reward” in this case is the journey, nothing else. It’s like trying to convince someone you’re a bodybuilder without having the muscles to prove it. It sounds funny, but this type behavior is overwhelmingly common.

All I can share is what I know so far. Most of what I’ve picked up over the years comes from mimicking the patterns of those who already possess what I want. Here is a list of twelve bullet points that might help. It’s not professional, it’s just my opinion.

  • Don’t ask others to believe in you; believe in yourself.
  • Make a list of values and ethics that will force you expect more from yourself than others will ever expect from you.
  • Moving or thinking somewhat slower allows for more calculated actions and responses. It will appear to observers that there’s a dedicated mind  behind the process; which there is.
  • Be quick to admit fault. This removes the temptation to blame.
  • Be quick to admit defeat. This creates partners instead of rivals.
  • Be quick to offer praise, be hesitant to express dissatisfaction.
  • Shine a light on the past to sell the future. Nothing beats a track record.
  • Avoid anger, frustration, and resentment. Remember, “He who walks away from confrontation with the lowest blood pressure, wins.”
  • The only punishment allowed for “failure” is to keep going with a new strategy. Repeating old tactics isn’t permitted.
  • DO NOT hesitate to ask for both help and criticism from those who are better than you.
  • Say “Yes” and “No” a lot without embellishment. I.E.- Do you want to eat out tonight? No. Would you be willing to help me next Thursday? Yes.
  • Strive to become better than you were yesterday. The only person you are allowed to compete with is who you were.

Am I always confidant? No. I am, however, much more than practiced I used to be, and I expect this skill will increase with continued awareness. Not a day goes by where I don’t  “break” at least some of these rules and end up paying instantly for my ignorance. At least I am also confident that by action I’m quite capable of demonstrating what NOT to do.

Please follow my blog.  Share and comment as you wish.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

51. GHOST STORY

ghost

This is a tale of supernatural coincidence. It is the story of a miracle, and I swear every word is 100% true.

Day 1

A few years ago, around 2005, I decided to find out how my AA sponsor was doing. It had been some time since hearing from him and didn’t quite know where he was since I hadn’t written down his address. His phone had been disconnected as well.  This didn’t surprise me because the last time we spoke he’d mentioned cutting back on non-essential bills now that he was in retirement with  a limited income.  I’d visited his apartment since he moved, but couldn’t recall exactly where it was. The general vicinity was known, however I wasn’t about to go around randomly looking, hoping to recognize it. I found a web site designed for locating people and paid for some information, which to my surprise, proved quite useful. The following Saturday morning I set out to see my friend. My spirits were dampened upon arriving, it was a security building; hadn’t remembered that. After trying Joe’s number for several minutes without an answer I randomly tapped on several other buzzers hoping the occupants wouldn’t get too mad; there was no response. I then spent the good part of an hour trying to figure out how to get word to him some other way and was finally rewarded with a chance to approach a tenant who was leaving. Gathering my groveling skills I pleaded shortly with the gentleman to let me in so I might at least leave a note on his door. The first synchronicity was about to happen. The man was living in the apartment Joe had occupied. He suggested talking to the property manager and maybe she could give me some information on his whereabouts. It was a couple of buildings over, and I found the office with little effort. I called the number on the door and left a message that went something like this, “You don’t know me but I’m a friend of Joe Patton. He used to live here and I can’t find him. I know you don’t have to, but could you please call me and let me know if you remember him and if he is ok?” I left her my number not expecting a reply since I’d asked for information of a personal nature.

Day 2

On Sunday morning around 8:00 a.m. I received a call from the manager of the apartment complex. She was very kind, more than helpful, and a little sad. I had a slight suspicion what was wrong. She told me Joe had committed suicide about a year and a half prior.  My response to the news was surprising. A peace settled over me and I was happy for him. The funny thing was, I didn’t think I would react that way. By no means did I agree with his actions, but I felt I understood them. He had said some time back he may be going into hospice. I thought he was exaggerating his situation, not out of rudeness or insensitivity, but because he always acted and moved with such a healthy swagger. Obviously this had not been the case. After looking at his situation from the point of view of an addict, I could understand why it made sense to him. He had left a lifetime of dependencies in his wake and when suddenly faced with the possibility of leaving this world full of drugs that would violate his ethics, then the option of self-termination became a justifiable alternative. I’d read years ago that suicide is actually a crime, so I surmised calling the police might yield more information. My goal was to pay respects to wherever his remains were. They told me that obvious suicides are not crimes and are simply handled by the coroner’s office. I sent off an e-mail with all the information I had asking if they could let me know anything else about Joe. Synchronicity number two was about to happen. That night I went to my basement and got online to relax. Literati is a generic version of Scrabble I used play almost every day on Yahoo! While playing I would usually turn on my “personal” radio station through a now defunct web site called Launchcast. It was a music service that allowed the listener evaluate songs, albums, and artists. Given enough time, 90% of what streamed would become whatever the user had  graded. At this point I had around 5000 ratings, more than enough to cater very personally to me. For the most part every tenth song or so was either a new release or something that the system had guessed matched my preferences.  About half a dozen times or so (at this point, for the last year and a half) a soundtrack had popped up  that never matched my tastes or had anything on it I’d approved. This was the music to Joe’s favorite movie. It’s called “Last of the Dogmen.” It was released in the mid nineties and it’s about a lost tribe of American Indians found in modern times. Well…….as I was playing online that night, here it came. The name of the track was, “Somebody’s out There.” The hair on the back of my neck went up, not out of fear but recognition of what was going on. I was alone and looked around slowly to see if anything was moving or if I could actually glimpse an apparition of some sort. I didn’t notice anything and didn’t have to. I slept very well that night.

Day 3

It’s Monday morning now, and another phone call came, this time around nine. There was a kind and sympathetic person on the other end. Within a few minutes the Coroner had given me all the details he could about Joe. He told me how he died and that one of his friends had taken care of the funeral arrangements. I knew he couldn’t give me any private information about Joe’s friend for obvious reasons, but instead asked if he could call the man in question and give him my number. He said he would be very happy to try and I said goodbye thinking it wouldn’t work. (I would have been upset if I hadn’t tried.) Within three minutes there was yet another call from a man named Chris.  We talked for a while and came to the end of the road metaphorically speaking. He told me his ashes were spread in a park near Boulder. Chris was most compassionate and he seemed happy that someone still cared for Joe. And that was it….I thought. Synchronicity number three was about to bear down like a locomotive. As usual that night I was in the basement playing my game to unwind while listening to music when Joe’s soundtrack popped up again. Two days in a row for something that had never been listened to or rated? Now it was weird enough it played the night before, but this was way too specific to be considered some sort of random event. The title of this particular track was “Leaving Forever” Hmm. Now……….the next song was one that actually had been rated years before but not heard yet. Queen released an album in 1980 called “The Game” it was extremely popular at the time and being a fan of the group I had marked all the tracks as high as possible. The song that started playing next was called “Don’t try Suicide.” What a way to say farewell. I leaned back in my chair without needing to look around for any physical evidence of his presence and said out loud, “Good-bye, Joe.”  

Is he gone now? No. I still ask him for his opinions; I still ask him for guidance; I still ask him for his presence; and while my prayers may not be answered in ways I can verify or explain, they are indeed always answered. I miss my friend even though I know he’s never really left. This story is for you Joe, rest in peace.  

Please subscribe to this blog. Share and comment as you wish.

 

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood