• author
    • Tom McMasters-Stone

      Columnist
    • September 4, 2017 in Columnists

    Thumper’s mother would be proud

    I encounter many “book-thumpers” in my travels. I am not one.

    Certainly I have become a strong believer in the books, the two main texts of recovery.

    Alcoholics Anonymous was the first, about 1939, the same year as “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.” It is that from which all other recovery books are descendant.

    It’s not perfect, though. It talks too much about God, with a capital “G,” and not enough about other, nontraditional, nonreligious forms of Higher Power.

    It”s also horribly sexist, but no surprise there, right? Only 25 years after women got the right to vote, there was and is still a long way to go for equality.

    Narcotics Anonymous, of course, is much more contemporary, as it is a much younger text. Naturally, it appeals to a younger audience and that’s a good thing, since the median age in NA is much younger than AA.

    So, while I am very much a believer in the books, I am not a book-thumper. The basic answers are found in both books, and I view them as interchangeable, but there are other life lessons to be had.

    I am also not a hardcore traditionalist, as far as the Steps.

    My focus in helping other people is on their success — no matter what their program looks like. If they are an atheist, fine. Atheists recover too. If they are a traditional religionist, that’s also okay. If they can’t embrace one or more of the steps, depending on which ones, of course, that may be okay, as well.

    I know of a guy who uses a Martian as his higher power, and he’s been sober for seven years.

    Okey dokey. The focus has to be on success, no matter how unorthodox a path might seem.

    So, anyway, I am not a pure book thumper. On the other hand, I AM what I describe as a “sign-thumper.”

    Here at the Ranch, there is a sign on the wall. Brown background, yellow lettering. “You can’t think yourself into a new way of living. You must live yourself into a new way of thinking.”

    This is not rocket science. It’s a well-known concept to anybody making changes in their life, most often in their mission to add an exercise regimen. After 30-60 days of forcing yourself to exercise, it becomes a necessity, a second nature that you miss if you don’t do it.

    While a well-known concept, it is of particular importance to addicts and alcoholics. Our best thinking got us where we are in life and simply rethinking is not a viable option.

    Stoppage of drinking/using is just the beginning. The substances involved are just a symptom of the underlying cause(s), a method of medication.

    When we cease the intake, we struggle for the first 90 days, and then it becomes easier.

    When we first go to meetings, it is often a burden. Many people use the “90 in 90” formula, meetings in days. The intent, of course, is to get a foundation in place. At some point, meetings also become second nature — just a normal part of life.

    Yes, exercise is the tough one, whether it’s biking, jogging, running or swimming- but there are many other things.

    Meditation: For many, it’s tough to get into this habit, to just let everything go and be one with where one is. Finding a good spot is important, and you might  have to create one. A special spot in the garden, off the patio, maybe a fountain and/or pond?

    Yoga? It’s not for everybody, but those who do it absolutely love it. It’s not for me, even though I can still do up — and down — dogs. My knee won’t let me do what I really would like to do, so I just don’t try and avoid the frustration!

    Service? Addict or not, we now know scientifically that helping others is spiritually good for everybody. The rewards are pretty quick to happen, too, in just a matter of days, perhaps, but sometimes immediately.

    For addicts and alcoholics, the odd statement that “We can’t keep it if we don’t give it away!” is key. Helping others who are also afflicted is key.

    A kind word, a boost here and there are nice, of course, but sponsoring somebody is epic. We never learn a subject material as well as we do when we are put into a position of training others.

    Not everybody gets to be a sponsor, though, and the more general being of service is vital. Set up or take down of meetings. Making coffee. Being a secretary or chairperson. Reading one of the preambles. Passing the basket. Serving on a local or regional committee.

    For me right now, service is key. The other sides of the triangle are important, as well, but unity and fellowship are second and third to service. I try to provide the right comments at the right time, but I am not always sure, of course. Is it a caustic, tough-love moment, often prefaced with “AYFKM?” Or is it the steady, empathetic time.

    I get up early, clean up the dregs of the night before. I make breakfast every day. I distribute meds and cook dinner four or five times a week.

    From a management standpoint, I walk the line between friend and boss. If I can be supportive and at the same time keep them focused on me, then they don’t quibble amongst themselves as much.

    Leadership 101.



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