Stop and Think

I’ve known my friend Barb and her husband Alan for over twenty years. Recently Barb has been dealing with a condition that is limiting and painful. As a result, she started take a pain management class. One of the great things she took away from the class is Stop and Think. “If you take nothing else from this class,” the instructor said, “that will get you through so much. And if you don’t take that in, nothing else I tell you will help.” Oh what a simple lesson, yet so often forgotten.

Stop and think reminds me of a safety lesson from grade school oh so many years ago. If you ever find your clothing on fire don’t run, rather, Stop, Drop and Roll. I’m pretty sure that we can apply this here because so often whenever we run into difficulties, we run around like the proverbial headless chicken. Stop, drop and think! I have the urge to do something to make things right and better. I want to help and do. However, I don’t always think my solutions through and often react by doing the same thing I did the last time I had this problem, which, obviously didn’t solve the problem because here I am trying to solve it again. Stop and think. I’ve come to the conclusion lately that ‘common sense’ isn’t all that common at all. There are a lot of folks out there in the world going off half-cocked doing and saying things that, if they had stopped, sat down and thought about it, wouldn’t have done or said.

In my recovery program, it is extremely important that I stop and think. At first it is difficult. It seems so easy to go to my angry place because of what my partner did. It is easier to slip into self-pity than to stop and think about the situation. The pill bottle or the liquor bottle will help out. I try the ‘easier, softer’ solution rather than stopping and thinking about what I am doing. We are breaking a habit that has been practiced for years. So the idea of stopping and thinking is new. And I must stop and think I can ask myself what’s the next ‘right’ thing that I need to do?

It’s not easy at first. I have neither the tools nor the experience to have any idea of what the ‘right’ thing to do is in this situation. Stop and Think Tim. I can talk to my sponsor or other addict about it. I can (and so often still do) say the Serenity Prayer to help calm and focus my thoughts. I can learn to play the tape through to the end, envisioning the results. In the process of my thinking about it, the answers came.

Sometimes the best thing about stopping and thinking is the realization that I don’t have to ‘do’ anything about this. So much of what was happening around me wasn’t my problem. I didn’t have to fix anything because it was never up to me to fix it. And other times when I trying to solve a problem it dawns on me that it isn’t a problem to be solved, rather, it’s a fact that must be accepted.

Stop and Think! At first, like any other habit that we are trying to cultivate, it is awkward and doesn’t feel right. Give yourself time. Gradually we learn how to apply the steps to our lives. I learn to do the ‘next right thing’, it doesn’t automatically happen because I’m now clean and sober. A drug or a drink will give me another problem on top of the original one. Stop and Think! because if you don’t get this, nothing else in the program will work.

Thank you for your thoughts Barb.  Check out her blog post here.