This is a brand new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.
It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. This week we're featuring Andrew "Dozer" Fleming - a story you have to read to believe.
They say you need to spend time walking in the shadows to truly appreciate standing in the sun.
But what if the shadows are so dark that it’s impossible even to crawl? What do you do when you’ve tried every key at life but none of them have opened the proverbial lock? If the night is darkest just before dawn, exactly how much darker can life get?
For Andrew Fleming (aka “Dozer”), life seemed like a dark, endless winter. It wasn’t until 2013, sitting alone in his Lower Buckeye jail cell on Halloween, when summer became a tangible reality.
To get to that point, though, you need to understand Dozer’s entire story.
“I was born and raised in Illinois,” he said. “I played sports and was very active growing up. My parents divorced when I was 11 so I bounced back and forth between my mom and dad’s homes. Through it all, though, they always supported me. I was a three-sport athlete in high school and ended up receiving a partial academic scholarship to the University of Dayton.”
That’s where Dozer discovered two things: freedom and alcohol.
“Drinking became my life,” he said. “I was an alcoholic and barely making it. I graduated in almost five years with a Bachelors in Sociology. By that time, I was a full-blown alcoholic with a DUI.”
Wanting to keep his party lifestyle going, Dozer moved to Phoenix to join a few buddies in 2004. For the next several years, he continued drinking and partying every night. Then in 2007, he found out he was going to be a father.
“I wasn’t ready to be a dad, but I wanted to do the right thing,” Dozer recalled. “So I got married. My son was born in 2008. At this point, I was cheating on my wife and alcohol had evolved into cocaine and meth.”
Addiction caused Dozer to lose everything.
“Alcohol no longer mattered,” Dozer said. “My wife and son didn’t matter. My job, my car, my house, my family, my friends… none of them mattered. Meth was my only care in the world.”
His wife divorced him. Rarely saw his son. His job, money, retirement… everything… gone.
The shadows became so dark that Dozer decided to take his own life.
“I attempted suicide on March 20, 2008,” he said. “I pulled the trigger and my gun misfired due to some defective ammunition and I was left sobbing on the garage floor.”
Broken. Confused. Angry. Hopeless.
Pick one and you’d be right; Dozer was feeling them all.
With nothing left, he moved in with someone who was also using meth. Their lives devolved further into the darkness. Living in a foreclosed home. No water. No power for months. His second son, Braylon, was born weighing just 3 pounds in late 2010.
“He spent the first weeks in the NICU,” Dozer said with a tear running down his face. “We left the hospital homeless, sleeping in a bush behind a 7-11. With no money, I had to turn to crime to fuel my addiction. I began robbing and stealing, and racked up several felonies.”
From that point on, Dozer’s life would be consumed with drugs and prison. When all was said and done, he was in and out of jail six times. Faced with a possible 16-year sentence after aggravated assault on a police officer and sales of dangerous drugs, his life became about two things: rage and violence.
That’s when, on Halloween night in 2013, he made a life-altering choice.
“I just decided that my misery had lasted long enough,” Dozer reflected. “I was sobbing in my jail cell and I stopped using drugs at that very moment. I began writing family and friends from my cell, knowing that my words meant nothing to them because of my years of lies. But I needed to try.”
Dozer wanted to rise up and be the man he was born to be… the man everyone knew he could be. He knew he had to make people believe that he was a different person from that moment forward. Slowly but surely, Dozer’s actions started speaking louder than his words; he worked his way down from maximum custody in 2013 to minimum custody.
“The days of rage and violence were gone,” he said. “I began to focus on my recovery and became a Peer Mentor in prison teaching my fellow inmates about anger management, yoga, parenting, the 12-step process, cognitive thinking and more. I built this program from the ground up with an amazing counselor and supportive Warden.”
He left prison a model inmate in 2017 and vowed to continue paying things forward. But Dozer had to, essentially, rebuild his entire life. After working manual labor and other odd jobs to pave his way, he landed a job with an organization that helps addicts navigate their life from an integrated health perspective. Dozer helped addicts who were chronically homeless to know, through his story, that real change is possible.
“I then moved from that organization to Banner, one of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S. and the largest employer in Arizona,” Dozer said. “A six-time convicted felon being able to clear the multiple security protocols and policies of a large organization was a feat in and of itself - proving that a felony doesn’t have to define a person, but can add valuable insight to someone’s perspective.”
Though Dozer is certainly proud of his newfound success, there is nothing that compares to the depth of his love for his wife, Amanda. In fact, his face lights up at the mere mention of her name. He credits her support as being a major catalyst to striving to always do better.
“I met my wife in 2018 and we were married a few months later,” Dozer said with a smile. “We moved in together with her son, Ayden, in 2018 and had a son together, Ace, in 2019. Amanda is absolutely incredible. She is way out of my league. She is a homeless outreach worker who has overcome severe trauma, addiction and trips to prison herself. She shares her story with others daily to help them get connected to services and off the street. Nothing is more important than my wife and my family. It’s because I spent years taking relationships for granted, now I’m fully invested in everyone that is in my circle. I am obsessed with my wife…she’s the baddest, finest, most loyal woman on the planet.”
Dozer’s inspirational story teaches us that nothing is ever over. That you are stronger than you think, stronger than any circumstance. That we all have the ability to change. To self-reflect and be honest with ourselves.
That the moment you’re ready to quit is usually the moment a miracle happens if you're willing to keep moving forward!
“I haven’t even been out of prison but a few years and we own a home, two cars, and we are raising our sons together while working to rebuild other relationships,” Dozer said proudly. “My life is one full of service along with my wife’s. We feel that we didn’t go through all of that struggle for nothing. We need to use our experiences - no matter how difficult - to help the next person.”
Today, Dozer is an Executive Board Member for David’s Hope (a non-profit organization dedicated to the decriminalization of mental health issues), a member of the Arizona Peer and Family Coalition, a member of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and a member of the non-profit charitable organization, the Bearded Villains.
Dozer exemplifies a never-give-up mentality. You may not be able to change the past, but you definitely can change the ending.
“Tough times… everyone has them,” he said. “Everyone’s are as real and as tough as the next person’s. My struggles and valleys were mine and mine alone. My choices got me into those dark and lonely places repeatedly, so in that same light, my choices could get me out of those places. Once I stopped caring about others’ opinions and relying on and expecting others to help me – I was finally able to help myself.”
Dozer’s philosophies of actions being louder than your words and holding each other accountable align perfectly with Live Bearded’s beliefs. That it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
“My physique and my beard are the top two ice breakers for me in most conversations or why people approach me in-person,” Dozer said. “I have so many reaching out to me now and I’m able to show them what’s worked for me and why – because I’m informed and educated and all of it stems from a company that isn’t just selling products but helping men be the best version of themselves. I walk with confidence now because not only does my beard look, smell and feel better than it ever has, but I have the backing of a brotherhood behind the products.”
At the end of our talk with Dozer, we asked him one final question and his answer was so powerful, we wanna end with it.
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!