“Who was that masked man?”
That was the question that punctuated each episode of the once popular tv series, “The Lone Ranger.” This western series ran from 1949 to 1957 on ABC.
The hero, simply known as The Lone Ranger, along with his friend and companion, Tonto, would arrive in various towns and villages as if out of thin air. Together they would save the day. Rescuing some beautiful damsel in distress, or perhaps a local orphanage from the bad guys.
He wore a white hat. His horse, Silver, was also white. Sure signs in old westerns that he was one of the good guys. Yet the Lone Ranger also wore a mask. The mask sometimes caused people to doubt his intentions. What a paradox. Why would a good guy wear a mask?
Fans of the show knew the reason. The mask was there to protect his identity. It preserved his anonymity. It provided the Lone Ranger with plausible deniability.
Beautiful young lady: “Was that you who rescued me, those orphans, and our pet rabbits?”
Lone Ranger: “Oh no ma’am, that wasn’t me.”
For all the townsfolk knew, the Lone Ranger could have been a neighbor or distant cousin. Maybe a coworker or hunting partner.
Whoever he was, whatever his motivation, the Lone Ranger left in his wake, a prison full of bad guys and a whole territory full of people inspired to do better. Evil was punished and virtue was encouraged.
When his work was done, the Lone Ranger would ride off with the cry of “Hi-oh Silver, away!” The question always remained, “Who was that masked man?”
Last night I had the privilege of sitting in a room with some Lone Rangers. At the last minute a friend and I decided to attend a Narcotics Anonymous meeting here in town. It was a meeting neither of us had attended before.
We both met people who were new to us. People we didn’t know. People who obviously were accustomed to meeting together weekly.
Before long I realized that though we were new to each other, they were not new to recovery. There were literally decades of recovery sitting all around my friend and me. Decades of experience with the steps and traditions. Decades of lives guided by spiritual principles. Decades of experience with the new way of life available to any addict seeking recovery.
Missing were the proud displays of black key tags, out to boast of multiple years of recovery. Also missing were the war stories about time spent in active addiction. Not a single NA t-shirt was in the house.
Also missing was any judgement or haughty attitude concerning my relatively brief experience in the fellowship.
Instead, that room was full of simple sharing. Humility was genuine not forced. There were not even any posts on social media to not-so-humbly boast about how they were spending their Saturday night.
On top of all that, this group of recovering addicts, before the meeting, shared about their lives. There was chitchat about travels, relationships, actual lives lived outside of NA. It was as if, like the Lone Ranger, they had just appeared in my life out of thin air. They were there to be of service, anonymous service, and then go on their ways.
They could have been a neighbor, coworker, or even distant cousin. Not one of them would have been mistaken on the street for an addict.
Last night I caught a glimpse of what I want to become. I want to become that neighbor, coworker, or cousin who, if and when my addiction is made known, people are left speechless. I want to be that addict who attends a small meeting, contributes what I can to helping others recover, and then goes back to a full and healthy life.
I am so easily sucked in by the desire to be popular. Getting my ego fed is so tempting. That desire to be one of the “cool kids,” even at 56 years of age, can so easily sidetrack my recovery.
Last night, though, I witnessed firsthand the kind of impact the NA program can have on lives. I was in a room of people simply doing the next right thing in life for the right reason. I’ll keep going back. I don’t want the Lone Ranger to ride off into the sunset. Instead, I want to learn to be more like him.
Have a remarkable day!