Redemption

67. AA BIRTHDAY……19 years, JULY 28TH, 1995

19 years

When I went to my first meeting I was living in Des Moines; alone with no future and a lot of past. It must have been a bad weekend or night because something prompted me to make a call to find the nearest group. Upon walking through those doors for the first time I definitely became a little weak-kneed. Even though I was uncomfortable with the environment, the urge to bolt never occurred to me. I was unwilling to put myself in the spotlight, so I sat tight-lipped and did my best to listen while I silently judged those surrounding me. I came to the conclusion I was in a room full of criminals, me included. That was three and a half years before I finally stopped drinking. I’d been living a life of constant desperation, and that’s just about as close to death one can get before breathing stops. We see movies and TV shows about the living dead, zombies if you will; and I’m here to tell you, they are real. I was one of them. So are a great many more. I fed upon death and produced nothing. I didn’t care who I had hurt, I didn’t care about tomorrow, and I didn’t even care for the moment. The only thing that kept me going was fear.

Occasionally I would go to meetings when my shame weighed heavy and my life seemed lost, but I never did what was asked so simply of me until  drank my last drink; I HAD to hand my life over to a higher power. The humor of the situation (so easy to see now) was that almost everyone had a better life than I did, in other words I didn’t have to search very far for my “higher power.”

If you are looking for your “higher power” please keep in mind all this has to mean is asking for help from someone who is in a better place. In the end, this is all it should be anyway. God is omniscient to begin with, which means the presence we seek is everywhere and in everybody. I’ve said it for years, “the cosmic radio has never moved from the station, we just turned down the volume.” Turning up the volume will effectively drown out  our own misgivings and insecurities. Keeping it down will amplify our doubts and fears that in turn will be the seeds of self-destruction.

IF you are thinking about going to a meeting; if you are considering trying to change your path, here are a few pointers. These are the first flames in the darkness, may they guide you to a place of peace and prosperity.

  • Ask for help from those who have made it beyond the same place you now stand.
  • Do not question what comes next, do what you are told. For the moment whoever “they” are, they are the higher power.
  • Know that you will probably be angry about what is asked of you, this is normal and unavoidable, do it anyway.
  • You must be willing to pay any price. This is better known as a leap if faith.
  • Breath. Do not worry about the future, do not regret the past, focus on the moment. This is called “one day at a time.”
  • This is a program designed to strip the ego. Selfishness and self-centeredness must be eliminated or you will die. Period.
  • This program has never failed those who live by its words.

The BEST people I know are members of this organization. I’m totally serious. If it weren’t for them I would most surely be long dead. Those who take it to heart and practice and share the steps I would trust my life to; actually I do. Do not let your fear stop you from a future that might never happen. Know that I and many others Love YOU, really. Give us the chance to prove it.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

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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.

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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

33. “In the house…

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

floor

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

32. “The right …

“The right lived life does its greatest work in the final hour.”

I invite new followers and will respond to all comments.

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

31. “We cannot be …

“We cannot be motivated to rise to greater heights without first exploring the depths of what must be avoided.”

With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

29. IN SEARCH OF BEAUTY

Observing the Moon

I’ve always been intrigued by the night sky. As a boy I was privileged to have lived in the Colorado mountains far from the “pollution” of city lights. Sometimes, long after my parents had gone to sleep, I would quietly get out of bed and sneak outside just to look up and wonder. When the moon was new, the milky way, that massive arm of our galaxy, would shine in all its glory arcing from horizon to horizon. I knew some of the constellations and occasionally I would spot a shooting star. I never felt small or insignificant compared to the vastness that lay before me; what I did feel was connection to infinity.

Strangely enough it never occurred to me to try a more comprehensive approach until I was an adult. In my mid twenties (the late 1980’s) I was getting ready to attend a Pink Floyd concert. In anticipation of the upcoming event I had gone out and bought a nice pair of binoculars. One evening I happened to notice a spectacular full moon rising. On a whim I grabbed my new field glasses and set my eyes to something I had never seen before. There before me, in detail I had never bothered to explore, was another world. Another world! I’m telling you for a fact the hair stood up on the back of my neck. I couldn’t stop looking. Eventually I bought a telescope and continued my gaze to even deeper discoveries.

It bothered me a little that I had completely ignored  what was probably the most beautiful thing I had ever seen up until that point. I took its presence for granted and I began to wonder what else I had treated with the same attitude. This thought was put on hold as my alcoholism (which had begun several years earlier) began to assert itself. Soon everything was either bleak, boring, or annoying. Life quickly became self-centered. Nothing met my so-called standards so disappointment was the only outcome. Those who helped me get past the chaos and disorder worked tirelessly to bring me back to sanity and beyond. Along the way they encouraged an attitude of gratitude which now is permanently woven into my being.

I began to see the smallest of things in new ways. Colors popped, my surroundings looked new and exciting. I began to pay attention to how everything is symbiotic. I realized that whatever created me also created the world that surrounded me. I’ve said it before, “I believe nothing exists that isn’t supposed to” which means that everything must have some sort of purpose. My respect for the smallest of life forms skyrocketed. That spider that used to give me the creeps I can now let crawl into my hand while I gently place him outside. The same life-force that compels me to survive is the same that pushes this little animal to do the same.

I now see the beauty in everything. Ugliness is an illusion, a judgment created and used to satisfy the human need to rank and label. All that surrounds us is sculpture, all we hear is music, all we communicate is poetry, and all we do is part of the harmonious dance of the universe.

Some may question the need, or perhaps the ability to see this quality in everything. Can I see the beauty in the starving children of the world? You’re damn right I can, if I didn’t see the potential to change it into something inspirational I would never want to. How about in the carnage left once violence has taken place? Yes, I see what has survived, what will ultimately prevail, and what will be learned that must never be repeated. For those that seem lost, the beauty of hope prevails. For those who live a life of cruelty, the beauty of redemption exists. For those who constantly criticize, the beauty of acceptance can be attained. For those who are vindictive, the beauty of forgiveness is available.

Expression of this quality is a gift not only to yourself, but to all those you associate with. Do I still look for fault and criticize things? Yes, absolutely, but always with the intent to create something better, or at least present solutions instead of problems. I consciously begin tasks and challenges by first knowing my involvement can transform them into higher beauty. Do I recognize some things as having more beauty than others? Yes. I’m not beyond that yet; but keep in mind I  know it’s in everything at some level, and I feel it’s my duty to find and acknowledge it . Actually, I think it’s ultimately everyone’s job to take what’s in front of them and make it better by expanding its beauty so much that it can no longer be ignored or hidden.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

14. THE STRENGTH OF COMPASSION

heart water

Once, a long time ago, I was witness to a hit and run. Never really saw the car, but I was the man who stopped to help the victim. She remained conscious and I remained calm, all the while telling her that things were going to be just fine. I knew they weren’t. She was bleeding from her eyes and ears and was concerned about her husband getting upset that she was going to miss work that day. I took off my coat and gently placed it over her, worried that the cold, snowy ground was going to compound problems of shock. The collision was so hard that her shoes bounced off my windshield some forty feet away, so my gut feeling was that there was much more injury than could be diagnosed by casual observation. I continued a simple reassuring conversation with her, never letting on what I really thought. My only goal was to keep her from panicking. Within minutes the paramedics showed up. Her condition in this short span had already showed signs of deterioration. The blood flow from her injuries was increasing and she had lost her eyesight. I never asked her what her name was. I guess I didn’t need to. They whisked her off, and I continued to work, wondering if she was even going to live. Seventeen years later, I still wonder.

What behavior marks the pinnacle of our aspirations? That morning I spent ten minutes lying to a total stranger, and yet at the time I knew I’d done the right thing. That morning I treated someone differently than I might have wanted them to treat me, and looking back, I wouldn’t hesitate doing the same thing again. That morning, though tragic for someone else, forced me to abandon what I normally thought of as proper conduct and embrace a much more powerful idea, kindness.

The “Golden Rule” that all of us are familiar with is something I cannot fully endorse anymore. It is a good idea and a great place to start, but it can be abusive and heartless if practiced with too much passion. I am forty-eight years old. I carry no shame with my age and I never will. For one, I’ve never associated how old I am with who I am. Now I ask you, just because I carry this belief close to my heart, does this give me free rein to ask all who cross my path what their age is? There is no doubt that this is indeed treating others the way I want to be treated, but the very idea of doing this is selfish and inconsiderate. The “Golden Rule” applies in this situation only when I change the angle of approach by generalizing the moment; would I want a total stranger asking me a question I was unprepared or unwilling to answer? Of course not.

The second situation that seemed to violate my ethics all those years ago was lying. My heart knew this was a circumstance where the outcome could easily end with the death of the person I was talking to. Yes, it did cross my mind; what I would want to hear if the roles were reversed? If I felt the end might be near, would I like the chance to say goodbye to those I loved? Would I want to express a final thought? Would I want to ask forgiveness for things I could no longer correct? These are harsh questions and not to be lightly asked when a life hangs in the balance. I suppose if death were eminent, that there was no chance living, then yes, by all means I would want the truth. Even then I suppose I’d want it tempered with reassurance and faith that what awaited was not to be feared. I had no idea what lay in store for this woman an hour from then, but I had a grasp of what the immediate future held. Instead of handing her the facts, I opted to give her nothing but hope. It wasn’t just for her, but to a small degree, me as well. I had to share a belief that things were okay, if nothing else so that she could hang on long enough for those who could bring real aid to have a better chance.

One of my mentors says, “When facing the choice to be right or to be kind comes up, choose kindness.” This means never saying to someone “I told you so.” There are of course times that require a blunt approach, but they always seem to come before any given incident not after. I feel honesty is best used as a warning. It also comes in handy to point out unrecognized acts of self-destruction, but even this is still nothing more than a warning to not repeat oneself. Basically, I believe that “Honesty precedes, while compassion follows.”

To live  compassionately is my goal. To be empathetic (not sympathetic) towards all I meet is  the life I demand of myself. To align with another individual’s priorities, even for just a moment, erases my ego. I cannot be “self-centered” when I become “they-centered.” This is a blessing of the highest sort. All the pain, anguish, bitterness, hostility, angst, regret, and fear that had so effectively eroded  my life was the direct result of the storms of my selfishness. The peace that compassion continues to feed me, strengthens me. May it strengthen all of us.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

11. ELIMINATING REGRET

regrets

In my post “What I Believe”, there is an affirmation that says “I believe in doing the most, what I’ll regret the least.” This philosophy goes hand-in-hand with the statement: “I believe regrets are grudges I hold against myself.” These two ideas are like bookends that keep the direction of my life organized, upright, and on purpose. My past has proven that the presence of regret equals an urge to manufacture excuses. Once I’ve done something I knew wasn’t supposed to, I’d feel compelled to justify why it happened, leading to a defensive posture. As soon as I’ve done something someone else knows I shouldn’t have, and they point it out, I’ve been known to take an offensive stand. Both times I’ve sought to excuse my behavior.

I live my life in two modes, action and reaction, or offensive and defensive. They have their place, but one should not be favored over the other. They compliment with strength and harmony when properly mixed. The people who do this skillfully lead well-adjusted lives. They are easy to pay attention to and quick to listen. A balanced approach attracts, while the unbalanced delivery repels.  No one likes those who are too defensive. Neither do they take kindly to those who are overly offensive. People who play the defender claim to be constantly victimized, and those who play the offender claim to be forever insulted. In either case neither person generates respect or trust from those around them. Each example must come up with constant excuses in order to continue their theatrics, or the behavior will not persist. I should know, I’ve visited the two sides with great frequency over the years.

If the erasure of regret equals the disappearance of excuses, then I say bring it on.  Without regret, I cannot own or operate being either patsy or aggressor. This does not mean I’m not opinionated or that I won’t stand up for what I believe that is right and good. What it does mean is that I’ll move forward with the attitude of doing the most what I’ll regret the least. When I find myself at an intersection, the only question that must be asked is, “what will I regret doing?”  I then avoid moving in those directions. As soon as I choose a lesser way, and create regret, then I begin to hold a grudge against my own actions. Those actions that we hold grudges against, we feel the need to punish. If I do the same to myself, then I’ll inevitably seek out some sort of punishment–mostly unaware I’m even doing it. This is a primary root of self-destructive behavior. ALL self-destructive behavior needs excuses to survive, so it stands to reason that it will consistently choose the lesser of two (or more) destinations in order to perpetuate its existence.

When I feel the impulse to defend, I do my best to use it by helping someone else, especially if they are not present. I’ve noticed people are more willing go into attack mode when there is no chance of retribution from the focus of  their argument. Rarely will I defend a personal agenda. If what’s being threatened is my safety, only then will I not hold back. On the other hand, I’m rarely offended. I’ve chosen a few items over the years I want changed, and these I’ll let offend me. Nothing gets better unless I become dissatisfied with how things are, so this attitude is useful when an action follows that’s designed to improve something. I never do anything that undermines someone else’s quality of life just so mine can get better. Looking at both actions, I will of course avoid doing anything that would lead to a regret.

I think all of us have had episodes of supreme confidence. When I’m in these moments I move forward without complaining or explaining. No excuses, just action. “Don’t complain, don’t explain” is a very famous and useful saying. It helps eliminate other people’s opinions, bad OR good, and keeps me focused on the task at hand. When the thoughts of others are eliminated, then there’s no need to argue (defend) or no need to listen (take a chance on being offended.) There are, of course some people in my life I want feedback from, but there are VERY few.

All I know is, I’m not going to be laying in my death-bed and allow the last words of my life begin with the line “It’s too bad I didn’t…..” A life lived without regret is one of the greatest freedoms we can seek. It’s absence serves to eliminate pain and helps to invite serenity.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

5. 12 STEP MEETINGS – BEHIND THE DOORS

people helping

If you are reading this, it’s possible you’ve considered approaching one of these meetings as a way to eliminate whatever it is you seek to remove from your life. There are of course many groups for a variety dependencies. All follow the same basic pattern, and all are excellent choices for beginning a new way of living. Some are held in homes, some in semi-public places, and others in clubs. An on-line search will reveal locations and phone numbers. Here is a link to a nationwide network of groups-   http://www.sobernation.com/list-of-12-step-programs/   Dues are never required, but donations are gently encouraged from those who can afford them. Some groups are “closed”, meaning they are intended only for those directly involved in seeking recovery. Most are “open”, which encourages friends and family members to be welcome in order to support guests. Other subgroups include:  women only, men, Spanish speaking, GLBT, and so on. They exist so attendees can open up in a  more comfortable, less-vulnerable environment. Each meeting usually starts with standard readings from the appropriate literature. Before the period where members speak, you will be asked (along with everyone else in the room) to identify yourself  by first name only and to state your suspected affliction. This is the only time you should be prompted  to say anything publicly, and even then, no one should chastise if you choose to remain silent. When the period for sharing starts, it usually goes to the person who talks first. I have been to meetings where people call randomly upon others to share after they are done. No pressure here; if you don’t want to say anything, simply turn it down. Most meetings will last only one hour. They will be concluded  when the  designated chairperson makes a few announcements and asks some final questions. In the end, all will stand,  join hands, and repeat aloud “The Lord’s Prayer.” This is a condensed version of what will probably happen. There are actually still some meetings where you’re allowed to smoke, and these will identify themselves as such through an official schedule. Coffee, tea, and water is usually available.

If you’re anything like me, there’s some apprehension ahead of passing through those doors. I wondered what kind of people would be waiting. Who would look at me and suspect what I wanted no one else to know?   It felt like I was walking into court. My fears vanished when I realized that any given room may have a doctor, student, housewife, prostitute, cop, teacher, business owner, criminal, grandmother, soldier–I’m sure you get the picture. Basically, there is no stereotype for identifying who might be sitting across from you. What they all will have in common with each other (and you) is that they found themselves in the same place. Although each person’s past will be different, there will be plenty of mutual understanding and support for present circumstances.

In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons the “anonymous” label  exists, is to level the playing field. Here, where privacy is revered, there is no authority–nor are there other titles designed to establish any kind of pecking order. Each individual stands upon their own accomplishments within the program and believe me, that is enough. What is said in confidentiality is promised to be kept at that level. Without this ethic in place, it’s doubtful many would open up far enough to allow any kind of healing to take place.

The 12 steps themselves are a set of declarations, principles, oaths, and actions structured to rebuild a life of health, abundance, and love. They CANNOT be self-interpreted. They must be approached through a trusted and disciplined source. IF you decide to attend and make a commitment to following the curriculum, you will need to seek out a willing sponsor. Success  will not come to fruition without one. As far as I’m concerned, friends are not allowed to be considered. Those you choose must decide to accept you and must be impartial to your goals and feelings. They will tell you the truth, despite how they think you may react. Please read my post “HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT TRACK”  at this link for further clarification on this subject https://danielandrewlockwood.com/2013/05/04/how-to-know-if-you-are-on-the-right-track/

Approaching this environment is not as overwhelming as you might think. The people here are highly motivated if not overjoyed to help you. If you thought you were alone in your pain, that’s the first idea that’s going out the window. Every meeting has in its traditions a statement that reads something like this, “The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop.”  That’s it; nothing else will be asked of you.

May you find the peace and happiness that evades so many. I wish you the best that life can offer.

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With Love and Compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood