Tom Oates Jr. as interviewed by
The CFIDS Chronicle, Summer 1995
Chronicle: How do you define recovery?
Oates: For me, recovery is having enough energy to pursue the things
that bring joy and meaning to my life.
Recovery also means that I do have a foundation of health. Before
CFIDS, that foundation was made of concrete. It is now made of wooden
planks. I can jump up ant down on it, and sometimes my foot punches
through a weak spot, but the recovery period is two to three days
of stillness and quiet, not two to three months, or years. For example,
last weekend I hiked up Mt. Defiance in the Columbia River Gorge.
It was a 4,800-foot, 12-mile hike that took eight hours. I pushed
the envelope a little too far. I guess my foot fell through the
floor. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were recovery days.
C: Are you now completely asymptomatic or do
you find yourself still making accommodations to avoid CFIDS-type
O: My whole life is one big, creative accommodation. I have to
go where the energy is for me. I moved from Tennessee to Oregon
to breathe the cleanest air possible and to live near spectacular
surroundings. I live in the country to avoid the drains of city
struggle and to be surrounded by the peace and harmony of the earth.
If I had to work in corporate America, I don't think my foundation
would hold very long. It would be hard to sleep in when I felt it
necessary or to take work home in the middle of the day. CFIDS is
the boss and it's a benevolent one if I listen to it.
C: How long have you been recovered?
O: It's a blurry line. My foundation has held up 90 percent of
the time since I moved to Oregon in winter 1993. I'm still building
my health; I do not take it for granted. Everybody has bad days,
but when I have a bad day it's a red flag telling me to slow down,
review what I did to bring it on and wait for it to subside. Stillness
and quiet are key.
C: Were you taking any allopathic or homeopathic
medications which might have played a role in your recovery?
O: No, however I wish that there could have been something to reduce
the brain fatigue. I was taking vitamins and drinking fresh-squeezed
juices two and sometimes three times a day. My palms are still orange
from all the carrot juice I drank!
When I was still very sick and searching for a way to get well
(as opposed to healing all things), I did take Echinacea angustifolia
(a nutritional supplement). I had heard that it helped boost the
immune system. I do not know if it helped or not.
Also, some nights I would have trouble falling asleep. It was like
my system would rev up and not slow down. My heart would speed up
and slow down with every breath. Instead of missing a night's sleep
I would take a Tylenol PM. I never took them in succession, to avoid
becoming dependent on them. Quality of sleep was and still is very
important to me.
Another big factor in my recovery was having a supportive family.
I was not the one squeezing fresh juice three times a day or going
to the grocery store, etc. I was waited on hand and foot.
C: Do you think your 12 Steps were the key
to your recovery?
O: Yes. Those are the 12 things I did every day that helped me
reach a state that removed the roadblocks to seeing my healing path.
Everyone's path is different, but I feel like these steps will help
you discover it.
The point of the 12 Steps is two-fold:
1) to break the chronic physical and mental rut that can trap
you and waste months or years with no change in condition and
2) to remove those activities that keep your vibrations at a
low level, for example, watching TV. I sort of fell into this
state of bliss accidentally through long periods of stillness
and quiet. The more quiet and peaceful I became, the more I was
able to access the healing power of my spirit.
I also had a lot of help from the non-physical. We all have guides
and helpers. When I began asking the right questions, the guides
answered them. At one point I almost had a running dialogue with
them. Before I would go to sleep I would pose a question and invariably
I would have a dream that would answer it. It's totally amazing
how much information is at our disposal. Some of it is not what
we want to hear. It's not all good news, but it is helpful, if you
listen to it.