Each-othering: The Act of Giving and Receiving Love in Recovery
This Q&A, facilitated by Jeremiah Gardner of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, was published for Hazelden Betty Ford’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive our advocacy emails, subscribe today.
You hear it frequently — that people thriving in recovery from addiction often have healthy morning routines. And when I think of folk singer and antique dealer Tom Humpston, that’s what always comes to mind — mornings on the back porch of his home near Clinton, Tenn. I’ve never been there with him, but he has painted a vivid picture in his daily posts in the online recovery community for which the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is the steward: The Daily Pledge.
Tom’s porch is surrounded by woods and frequented by hummingbirds and other colorful creatures of flight. He describes quiet mornings filled with coffee, a recovery reading, meditation and prayer, nature-watching, maybe a photo or two of the birds, and something he calls “each-othering” with the community on The Daily Pledge, where he is known as MusicianThomas. Over two decades, through every up and down of recovery and life, Tom has shared his daily journey; offered and received inspiration and support; and soaked in the stories and experiences of thousands of others who have passed through the online community formerly known as Sober24 — believed to be the first of its kind when it launched 23 years ago this week.
Q: How has the online recovery community at Sober24/The Daily Pledge enriched your recovery and life? And how has the role its played evolved for you as your recovery progressed to span many years?
Short Answer: Because the site has always been here full of loving, caring, patient people 24/7 around the clock every day of every year.
Longer Answer: I have to chuckle a bit. I’m now the old-timer I used to make fun of in the early days of the site. I’ve been around long enough to remember the screeching connection sounds that dial-up made when logging on. It was all we had at the time. That and caring, patient, loving people there around the clock. Even in the wee hours, people would often be chatting. Because of online recovery, I have developed very close relationships with people I’ve never even seen. Very close! And I’ve also had some opportunities to meet some of the site’s members in-person. Some years ago, a group of about 40 of us from the site got together in Akron, Ohio, for AA Founder’s Day, and that still is one of my most cherished memories ever. Being totally honest, I just don’t think I would have made it without my online community of family.
Q: Why is having a healthy, consistent morning routine so important to you and your recovery?
Because empowered recovery taught me early on: “If you conquer the morning, the day pretty much conquers itself.” My morning hour (sometimes longer when time permits) is the only non-negotiable thing in my life and recovery. The only thing that comes before that time each day is my coffee. I can count on one hand the number of mornings I wasn’t able to commit to that important hour. And there is no set routine. Sometimes I write, read something inspirational or review how I can deal spiritually with my day ahead. Weather permitting, I enjoy being out on the deck overlooking the forest, and thinking about all the people and situations that will be in the upcoming day, and focusing on how life is good no matter what the day will involve.
Q: You’re a longtime musician and, in 2016, performed a solo set at Hazelfest, our music festival on the campus of Hazelden Betty Ford in Center City, Minn. That’s the one time you and I got to meet in person, which was wonderful. How does the story of your music intersect with the story of your addiction and recovery?
Creating music has been in my heart all my life, starting in grade school. I performed professionally for years but that part of my life eventually was lost to addiction, and it was perhaps the greatest of many tremendous losses. But that all changed in recovery. I began using my guitar, voice, and instruments as tremendous therapy tools. Many told me I needed to accept not performing in places where drinking occurred. But once I discovered and began to practice what I call empowered recovery, one day out of the blue, my heart said, “You’re fine. You are empowered. It is your time again.” And I’ve been performing publicly ever since, never once experiencing issues related to substance use. It’s the greatest of miracles that have come from my empowered choices.
Q: In the 23-year history of what became The Daily Pledge, it’s pretty safe to say that no one has written more words, shared more personal experiences, or offered more support to others than you. What does it mean to you to be able to advocate for recovery and “be there” for other people?
Countless others were there for me, so it means everything to be there for others now. Early on in my recovery journey, it was a chaotic time of relapses, arguing and denials. But never did the people on the site turn their backs on me. Instead of finding judgment, I was relentlessly supported and inspired daily with at least one sliver of hope and the encouragement to never, ever give up. I was a hurting, wounded man who found love and acceptance in a family I didn’t even know. That’s why I’ve stayed so very long on the site. If any person comes searching and reaching, I will reach back with a mirror so they can see just how deserving and strong they really are … if they just take hold. No matter how long or how many times it takes.
Q: Your personality and recovery vibe is incredibly positive and uplifting in nature. Love shines through every word you write, even when the message might be difficult. I always feel better when I read anything you’ve written, and I’m certain many, many others — thousands — feel the same. You brighten the page, the day, and the world, and that’s a gift. For you, it’s also a very intentional approach to recovery and life. Tell me more about your own design on living and the philosophy guiding it, including your term “each-othering,” which I love.
There is no greater power on this earth than “each-othering.” Period. The so-called secret of how and why recovery works is no secret at all. (AA co-founders) Bill and Bob started it publicly. They found each other … only two people … and look what that one “each-othering” has accomplished and become. We all have that same power, and we have the opportunity every single day. With each other in recovery, we can bring smiles to one another and make each other’s days better. Whether it’s the person hurting due to substance use or the grocery clerk — or anyone — we all have the power to change lives. If you believe you are too small to make a difference in the world, find someone who doesn’t believe in themselves or their dreams and prove them wrong. When you do, the world will be a better place, and you just might find you are dancing in it.