Ask Paul at the RSIC: Lower your thunder, embrace the lighting |

Ask Paul at the RSIC: Lower your thunder, embrace the lighting

Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S
Special to First Nation’s Focus
Making amends is about a lot more than simply saying you’re sorry.
Courtesy photo

RENO, Nev. — Time is one of our most valuable gifts from the Creator. Many of the people I serve have experience with the court system. They complain about monetary fines and the time it will take to complete court obligations, but the most painful consequence is their time away from loved ones.

One court requirement often mandated for those leaving jail with substance abuse issues is to attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. In the court’s view, AA is easy to attend, available in many locations at many different times, free to everyone, and shows some positive results.

Since time is valuable and many of the people I serve are ordered to attend AA, I ask them to honor their time and make the most out of the meetings. I understand that people are usually resistant to AA meetings and going to court, and I share with them if they change their thought process, retaining their power and freedom will be a lot easier.

I ask them to embrace their requirements and court obligations. Some say, “What!?! I’m not embracing any of this stuff.” Some people are loud and defiant. They make a lot of noise, but get very little done — like thunder.

The Elders tell us thunder makes a lot of noise and gets a lot of attention, but lightning gets the work done. I ask people to lower their thunder and work on their lightning.

Don’t be a ‘magician’

Judges see many people every day. Some people show up to court in gang colors, with their caps and attitudes, defiantly staring down the judge and giving one-word answers. They’re most likely wasting their time. I call these people “magicians.” They’re magically able to turn a temporary court compliance situation into more misery and time because of their attitudes and actions.

I tell my clients to be different — show up dressed nicely and professionally, refer to the judge as “Your Honor,” and have all paperwork signed and filled out completely. This is a time to use the precious few minutes in front of the judge as an opportunity to make the punishment more lenient and shorter.

The time in front of the judge can be very valuable in reducing a sentence. This is not to say that people need to grovel or feel humiliated. This is being responsible and smart with your time. The groveling and humiliation occurs when the person is drinking or using substances, not when being responsible and paying a debt to society.

If AA is ordered by the court and the person doesn’t want to be a magician (turning a temporary situation into a lot more time and misery), the best response is to honor the Creator by spending the time wisely.

We change the way we perceive the world from the inside out. Begin to think about your motives. If you want more freedom at work, contribute with your hard work and show your boss you can be productive without being watched all the time. The boss will appreciate the extra time to devote to other projects.

If you want a happy marriage, treat your spouse with dignity, respect and love. If you have kids together, she’ll appreciate having a partner instead of another kid to watch. If you have to go to AA or want to go to AA, be present don’t just attend.

Facing West for steps 7-9

Last month we discussed steps 1 through 6 in the 12 Steps of AA. This month we are discussing steps 7 through 12 to share a better understanding of the 12 Steps so people can make the most of their time when they are there.

The last 6 steps are about rebuilding relationships and avoiding making the same mistakes and problems the person made when he or she was drinking.

“The Red Road to Wellbriety” has us face to the West for Step 7. This is where we find our Relatives.

These are important steps and need to be taken with a sponsor, medicine man/woman, or trusted Elder who will help the person make amends in a healthy way.

Amends are not saying, “I’m sorry.” That term has been worn out. Amends mean making things right with the other person. This is about saying, “I respect you, I think I hurt you, how can I make things right with us?” After making things right with the other person, the relationship becomes much more honest, real and strong.

Step 7: “We humbly ask a Higher Power and our friends to help us to change.”

Step 8: “We made a list of people who were hurt by our drinking and want to make up for these hurts.

Step 9: “ We are making up to those people whenever we can, except when to do so would hurt them more.”

The final steps: 10-12

The final steps have us face the North — finding the Elders’ wisdom

Step 10: “We continue to think about our strengths and weaknesses and when we are wrong we say so.”

Step 11: “We pray and think about ourselves, praying only for the strength to do what is right.”

Step 12: “We try to help other alcoholics and to practice these principles in everything we do.”

The last three steps say going forward, the person will quickly fix a mistake or problem and make amends. Since the person has already done a lot of work cleaning up their past, making quick and honest amends going forward helps the person easily keep their side of the street clean.

Our Red Road to Wellbriety group is on Tuesdays at 9 a.m. at the Reno Sparks Tribal Health Center. Please come and join us in the Behavioral Health Department level 2. And as always if you have any questions, please feel free to call me. O

“Ask Paul” is a health column by Paul Snyder, MA, LADC-S, a Substance Use Counselor at the Reno-Sparks Tribal Health Center. It publishes each month in The Camp News, the monthly newsletter for the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony community. Have a question for Paul? Email him at