Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Self-Discipline, Diets, and Remote Controls

I remember as a child, in the early 1970’s, watching my dad and a few of his co-workers hold a weight-loss contest. Each was betting against the others. I think the winner would receive $100 from each of the other participants at the end of the contest.

Among other things that my dad did to lose weight was to invest in a stationary bicycle. He set up the bulky frame in our family room, where he would climb on while the rest of us sat comfortably on the couch or in a recliner, watching TV.

TV’s were a lot different back in the 70’s. A lot were still just black and white sets. Of the color tv’s, only a few had remote controls. Most had dial on the front that made watching tv like exercise. One had to actually stand up, walk across the room, and turn dials or knobs to change channels or adjust the volume. How uncivilized!

Well, our tv not only had the dial and knobs, but also a very rudimentary remote control. It only had one function, changing channels. Fortunately there were only like 12 or 13 channels to rotate past. Of those, only five actually had signals.

Looking back, I wonder how we managed. It was almost like not having toilet paper or something!

Anyway, my dad would sit on his bicycle spinning away. As he did, he somehow would begin to produce some sort of magic voodoo electric waves with his stationary bike. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the dial on our old Magnavox tv began to turn. Our not-so-clear picture of the news on channel 7 would change to snow on the signal free channel 8, then on to 9, 10, and so forth.

When this phenomenon first occurred, none of us knew what the cause was. “Kent, are you sitting on the remote?”

Me? I’m the baby of the family. The only way I ever get the remote is if I get up at the crack of dawn. Don’t look at me!

Nope, the remote was on the end table. No way it was being accidentally activated.

After much todo, my parents somehow figured out that dad’s stationary bike was to blame. It was somehow producing a radio frequency that mimicked that of the remote control. My dad even learned the bike’s sweet spot, where the channels were most likely to change. I’m pretty sure he got a good laugh out of changing channels in the middle of sappy scenes during shows like The Walton’s.

Very funny Dad!

Well, the point is, my dad worked hard on his routine of diet and exercise. He even began walking up to his seventh floor office each day. Most of the others who were in the pool took the contest seriously too. They all lost weight. They all got a little healthier and developed some good habits as a result.

All except for one. Randy was the winner of the grand prize. His victory was controversial though. Randy has skipped the diet and exercise part of weight loss. He had skipped the self-discipline that the others had developed in the process.

Instead, Randy dropped the pounds the good old-fashion way… diet pills.

When he was awarded his grand prize, the losers of the contest each paid up. Nothing had been stated up front about how the weight had to be lost. Randy had won. His victory may not have been fair and square, but it was a victory all the same.

Randy’s prize came in the form of hundreds of dollars worth of pennies, drenched in tar! Randy won the contest, but the rest of the group got the last laugh!

The Narcotics Anonymous program makes it clear that, for an addict like me, the fact that something isn’t against the rules of our society doesn’t make it safe for me to do. Alcohol is just one example of this principle. For me, alcohol is just as dangerous as any other drug. Even that innocent glass of wine with a steak dinner will take me down a slope that quickly turns slippery.

My natural bent toward shortcuts must be subject to self-discipline. My desire to feel different, to change my emotions, cover over any sadness, must not be allowed to guide my actions. I cannot allow myself to take the “diet pill” route to feeling better. No, like my dad on his stationary bicycle, I need to practice self-discipline. I must be willing to do the hard work of recovery.

I’ve tried shortcuts to staying clean. I’ve tried to stay clean while only giving lip service to the NA program. Like the tar that covered Randy’s prize, my reward for my lack of discipline was relapse. A “prize” covered in tar. What a waste.

Then I got serious. I began to do the hard work. It continues today. Working steps. Prayer and meditation. Applying spiritual principles. Meeting attendance. All these things are like my dad riding that stationary bicycle, or walking the steps up to his office.

There are no shortcuts to recovery. It’s hard work that happens each and every day. At times it is full of joy and very rewarding. At other times it is a chore and inconvenient. Regardless, each and every day, my recovery must be my priority.

I have so many fond memories of my childhood. It’s amazing to me how many life lessons I learned in those formidable years. Both of my parents practiced self-discipline in a variety of ways. Sometimes, when I feel like I just can’t do this anymore, I think back to the example they set for me, and continue to set for me. Those memories inspire me, and I can press on.

Have a remarkable day!


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