Hope

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

73. A LETTER TO MYSELF

message_in_a_bottle

In July of 1995 I was a desperate mess. The future offered no comfort or promise, the past supplied only pain and excuses. It had been many years since even a moment of happiness had flickered. In its absence my pursuits were narrowed to chasing pleasure, and even that road was turning into a nightmarish, twisted path where my demons urged me to continue a life of madness from the sidelines. I felt doomed to die in waves of searing agony, leaving behind a life that, once extinguished, would make the world a better place for everyone.

I was wrong.

If you could write a letter to your younger self what would you say? Would you reveal things better discovered through experience? Would you try to avoid any of the pain you have felt? Would you attempt to speed up the future so better things could be done faster? It’s what I would have wanted at the time, and if those wishes had come true I guarantee I would have pissed the gift of foresight away in a matter of days.

Here is my letter………..

July 27th, 1995

Dear Daniel,

I know you are in pain, angry and scared. I promise there are wonderful times and teachers ahead. Shut your mouth, open your ears, and don’t lie. The universe will place in your path all that you need and want. Love, purpose, and health will return. The road will be challenging but you will have guidance, motivation, and peace. I will NOT tell you anything about who, what, where, or when. Here is where faith must be employed.

There are really only a few pieces of advice I can offer. Above all remember this, if you walk through life backwards you will never see the signs leading you to a better place. Let go of your history. There is nothing that happened yesterday that can be used to justify this moment; the past does not equal the future. Stop insisting on doing things your way and give in to their way. This doesn’t mean you’ll become a slave to the will of others, it means you become willing to serve something greater than yourself. Drop the need to be right. It’s a waste of time. Eventually the right thing always happens anyway. Stop judging yourself, this is the biggest breeding ground of excuses one can tend. Focus on the moment, don’t regret the past, don’t worry about the future. And this last one will not make sense for a long time, just keep it in your head. “Never give up but ALWAYS let go.” It sounds like a dichotomy; it’s not. Remember that I love you and believe in you.

Daniel

This letter is really for anyone who was in, and is in, the same place I was.  I love and believe in you too.

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

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

65. THE TOP 10 REASONS LIFE IS WORTH LIVING….OR WHY LIFE DOESN’T SUCK

you-are-here

When we go back to the 1800’s and take a snapshot of typical life, it was rather harsh, at least compared to how good we have it now. No electricity, an abundance of outhouses, no refrigeration, long hours, small wages, and no deodorant. I’m sure most were happy, but let’s face it, living was more about survival than enjoyment. I don’t know about you but I don’t think after a long day of plowing fields I would have the energy to go out and kill my dinner. Education was rare and information was limited. Sickness prevailed and medicine as we know it (if you could even find a doctor) was in its infancy. Obviously people got through their days in the most civilized and comfortable manner possible; if they hadn’t, we wouldn’t be here. One thing is for sure, I’d have a hard time regressing to a world without toilet-paper, air conditioning, and indoor plumbing. Knowing this forces me to be all the more grateful for even the smallest of conveniences. I am well aware that about half the world’s population lives on less than two dollars a day; and yes, I have researched this. I’ll wager that this same line of poverty was much more unbalanced in the past; at least I hope so, for that would be evidence of movement towards a better world for everybody. In any event, I believe we are moving in the right direction despite what the naysayers want to showcase.

Here are my top ten reasons life is worth living. They are equal in importance and the order means nothing.

  1. Never before in the history of civilization has there been a more open microphone to the world stage.  We now have the power to reach millions at the speed of light. What a wonderful, powerful tool! Victor Hugo wrote, “No one can resist an idea whose time has come.” Let expression abound, and eventually the best of the best must happen. Look at the commitment to reach the moon, or to cure polio, or to create a nation based on personal freedom, or even to connect the Atlantic with the Pacific. All of these things started with an idea expressed.
  2. Kindness, tolerance, forgiveness, and sharing are becoming the dominant shared viewpoint of the world. “How can I help?” is being heard louder and louder collectively. Don’t believe me? Read a few history books and see how prevalent the opposite used to be. As a result, the attitudes of prejudice, hate, resentment, and selfishness are on the decline.
  3. For those who suffer,there are countless others wanting to help. If you REALLY want to make a difference, If you REALLY need help, now could not be better. 12 step and other similar groups exist for every type of self-abuse and the same type exist for those who have been abused. All are volunteer and none ask for anything in return. This is a miracle of brotherhood and a gift to those who once were thought of as hopeless. I would be almost twenty years dead if not for this community.
  4. Information for almost anything is readily available to those with computer access. Granted, a LOT of what is floating in cyberspace is junk, but there is a legitimate line to most subjects we want to explore. The world’s knowledge is at the fingertips of (almost) anyone who can reach an internet connected computer. With a little application, all that is paid for through universities can be claimed for free.
  5. The universe is unfolding before our eyes. From the Large Hadron Collider to the James Webb Space Telescope, the cosmos in both its enormity and at the quantum level is being illuminated in ways that are breathtaking and unbelievable. Planets are being discovered and doorways to other dimensions are beginning to crack open. We stand upon a massive threshold that marks the end of our finite world. What once was science fiction is quickly becoming science fact.
  6. The variety of our expression as a race through the arts- music, dance, film, literature, and of course, painting, drawing, photography, and sculpture is expanding by both encouragement and availability. Again, let’s go back in time, to a place where paintings were only to be seen in museums, where the sound of master composers could only be heard in symphony halls, where the written knowledge of humanity was stored away on the shelves of scattered libraries to be enjoyed and explored by the few who could access them, where a moment of emotion, observation, and beauty was lost to time the second after it had passed.  All of these things, once rare and fleeting, are now solidified in preservation, and available (albeit two-dimensionally) to even the most remote corner of our planet.     
  7. The beauty of our home reveals itself daily. A single snowflake, The Aurora Borealis, a newborn baby, a distant thunderstorm, an elderly couple holding hands, the full moon, a glorious sunset, the sounds of crickets at night and songbirds at sunrise; these things and countless more are all we need to calm the day and bring balance to our restless spirit. It’s provided free of charge to those who stop and take the time to observe. Nature is the antidote to an overload of artificial environments; and everywhere you go, there it is.
  8. Redemption is available to EVERYONE. Thank God it is or I would be long dead. I believe no one is beyond hope. No one is doomed to live out their tomorrows based on what happened yesterday. Can a murderer become a savior? Yes. Will the universe ultimately deal to this spirit, this soul, what is just and balanced? Always. The fundamental reason I believe redemption is available to everyone is this observation; if it isn’t available to the “worst” of us, then it really isn’t available to any of us. YOU can make the world a better place just by shifting your principles and actions. I did; and I am.
  9. The world is becoming a MUCH smaller place. This will force one of two things; conflict or cooperation. I believe in the latter. Some conflict is inevitable, but coöperation on a worldwide basis must eventually take place or oblivion will be the result. The desire to live is our more powerful instinct. Knowing and spotlighting that our symbiotic relationship with the rest of humanity equals a continued existence will eventually force peace. We cannot survive without the people who grow our food, who makes our clothing, who create energy, or who transport goods. We are interconnected and dependant on the actions of millions of others. OUR current generations stand upon the edge of a cliff; we will either step up, or step off, and I for one cannot believe that those who will demand peace will remain silent. Within the next twenty years technology will have created instant translation devices effectively eliminating language barriers and this alone will serve to strengthen communication, understanding, and love of our fellow-man.
  10. We live in exciting times. Nothing against the past, but we now move toward new horizons at dizzying speeds. Those who lived only a little over a hundred years ago knew nothing of an electrified world with machines carrying man through the air and devices that would allow us to explore other planets and observe the farthest reaches of space. The idea that food could be harvested and kept fresh and edible for years was unbelievable. We had no idea what lay below the oceans surface, waiting to be discovered. Scientific progress is changing our perception of what can be accomplished. Medical advancements now save millions of lives that would have been hopeless even a few decades ago. Not only is our outer world growing, but the inner one as well. The perception of who we are and what we are capable of is changing. Anyone who has watched “What the Bleep Do We Know?” (the extended, down the rabbit-hole version) will get a feel for just what might lie in wait for the human experience. What then lies ahead twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years from now? We are witness to the largest strides in the history of our race. What a privilege.

Am I aware there are flaws and kinks in society? Of course; and I feel we have a long road ahead if we are to forge complete planetary respect for our diverse cultures and societies. There are millions who still suffer and live in squalor. There are those who do not know water is supposed to be clear. There are those who think only the rich wear shoes. There are those who live only to survive, and this is not acceptable to me. I feel the attitude of wanting and recognizing the world to be a better place is a fundamental responsibility. Keep in mind we have made it this far, and wonderful things have happened. There’s no reason this growth of wonder, imagination, and dreams cannot include everyone. Critical mass does not require a majority to move the rest of humanity, it just takes enough people with enough passion to sell their vision to the rest.

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

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

45. CHANGE YOUR LIFE – LOSE YOUR LUGGAGE

“Lost Luggage”, a new Shirt.Woot t-shirt design by Matt Leyen.

“You have NO idea what I’ve been through.” I’ve heard this frequently from those who have walked a road of suffering and yes, it’s true, I don’t know; honestly it doesn’t matter. I’m not being harsh or cold, but we cannot move forward without letting go of the past, and I’d bet my life on it. If you really do want help, or know someone who does, the best thing is stop worrying about where you came from and start caring about where you are going. Don’t think that what once happened is doomed to repetition. Don’t talk about how others have let you down, or how you’ve let yourself down, and  don’t relive it, just leave it behind. No more sentences are allowed that begin with “it’s too bad…….” or “what if….” This is the ONLY way to progress. Excuses are the enemy. They are bred exclusively from what cannot be changed or affected. EVERYONE who has stepped from chaos into harmony has done this.

I’ve been taught that most people go through life with two dominating mindsets. They’re consumed by worrying about the future or regretting what has happened. Neither of these exercises are productive, and I ought to know, I was a master of the game. When I was focused on what I couldn’t modify or influence I had little to no time to savor the moment let alone act upon it. I spent most of my waking hours looking for ways to blame. Remember this – choosing to live a life of re-action over a life of pro-action is self-imposed slavery. I’m not talking about charging through the days aggressively, I’m talking about improving the functions of being awake, aware, and alert.

It is okay, however, to reminisce and plan. Neither of these attitudes are based in remorse or victimization. I choose to not live in days gone by, but that does not equal forgetting about what is inevitably going to harm me; old patterns and habits. I also choose not fantasize or dwell upon the “worst case scenario” but that doesn’t keep me from preparing for the possibility of bad things.

Self-respect (NOT arrogance) is the goal of all who are motivated to change their lives and their futures. Self-pity is the goal of those who want to justify blaming everybody else’s lives and their past. All the garbage we carry with us as our “business card” is  nothing more than one giant reason not to improve. All that luggage we drag through life is only needed for trips into the past. If there is nothing in our baggage we would wish on anyone else, then why keep it for ourselves?

These three similarly themed “mantras” will help keep a new life in focus.

          1. Change for the better equals abandoning our history.

          2. Where I was doesn’t matter, where I am, does.

          3. Blame is the battle-cry of self-destructiveness.

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

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

43. ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

infinity

“Where understanding is present, fear is absent. Where fear is absent, love exists. Where love exists, life persists. Where life persists, the possibilities are endless.”

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

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

42. I LOVE YOU!

SONY DSCAnd I intend to prove it……….

Please stop by my site and see just how much. I’m looking for new subscribers and will respond to all who would like to leave me a message.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

35. PLEASE STOP BY…..

open

Welcome!

I write a blog dedicated to the subject of ground-floor self-help topics. My introduction says a lot about where I come from and who I am. Further subjects address different areas of interest. I’m looking for new subscribers and will respond to all who care to leave a message.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

34. A LIFE OF PEACE

peace and tolerance

“There is no serenity, no joy, no grace without embracing the attitude of tolerance.”

tol·er·ance

/ˈtɒlərəns/ Show Spelled [tol-er-uhns]

noun

a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward those whose opinions, practices, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from one’s own; freedom from bigotry.

 (this definition was pasted from Dictionary.com)
Freedom from bigotry. It sounds so simple and yet its influence can be as subtle as a reference to a single childhood memory. It’s impossible to move forward and take action without some sort of reference to the past. We equate what once happened with what might happen and make choices based on comparing the scenarios. Simple enough? Nope. We also do the same thing with emotional states. What has previously made us happy  will serve as motivation to seek out similar situations later in life; and what once frightened us we’ll remember, thus avoiding what might scare us in the future. In other words most of us (yes, including myself) pre-judge almost everything.
.
To be honest I think in order to survive we have to pre-judge, but its usage must be limited. I’m willing to bet this food or diet will improve my health.  It looks like a storm is coming so I’ll bring an umbrella. The trip may be long, so I should fill up the gas tank. All well and fine as long as this attitude doesn’t cross over into the world of people. Not only is tolerance the  gift of being free from equating yourself with others, but equating yourself with who you used to be. Without these judgments we are able to take much more action. So much energy  and time is wasted on staying ahead of  those we think we must while trying to catch up with who we want to pass. The closest I come to continued competition in my life is to consciously work at becoming better than I was. That’s it. I do not, will not, equate myself with who I used to be. Just because I was slacking in one area yesterday is no indication I’m going to repeat the action. Who I was it not who I am. The same goes for you. I also do not consider myself better or worse than anyone I know. There is no doubt I do “play” to win, but not because my goal is to beat someone else. My goal is to prove to myself that I’m becoming better. Any outcome that is ego based has no appeal to me. Bragging rights, awards, fame, etc. are opposite examples of practicing tolerance.
.
Do I have knee-jerk reactions to situations that bring up stereotypical perceptions and examples? Yes, all the time. A life of outside influences has programmed them into my hard drive. My salvation is that is I am to recognize these one-dimensional images of the world and send them on their way. I let them pass through without meaning and embrace a more nourishing, open-minded approach to those with differences. As far as I’m concerned everyone has some sort of gift to share, and if my defenses (or God forbid my offences) are in play, then I have blinded myself to whatever they have to offer. There are of course people I don’t want to associate with. Those with doubt, negativity, complaint without solution, and hostile attitudes need not bother trying to leverage me to their point of view. I honor their stand, but that does not mean I must incorporate these beliefs into my ethics. Were I to do that I would eventually become a completely unfocused, unproductive individual. I have my own set of goals and do my best to surround myself with those who support and encourage me. I’m willing to listen to other ideas and paths as long as they do not attack my current course.
Keep in mind tolerance is the mortar that bonds the entire structure of mankind together, while intolerance is the battle cry for all the violence and hatred that has caused nothing separation and destruction.
In one of my first posts titled “My Favorite Bumper Sticker” I talk about another aspect of this topic. It ties in nicely with this entry and it’s rather funny if you would like to check it out. The symbol I’ve posted as a picture accompanying this article is called a tolerance button, and can be found on eBay.
.
Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.
With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

33. “In the house…

“In the house that is LOVE, chiseled into the floor of the basement, is the word forgiveness.”

floor

I welcome you to visit my blog. Please follow me and feel free to comment as much as you would like, I will acknowledge all.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood