In the last few weeks I posted Part 1 and Part 2 of my list of tools to use to help you stay abstinent. Here is Part 3, with three more tools. You can see all of the posts that have to do with tools by clicking on “Tools” in the list of categories in the right column on this page. These tools help me stay abstinent because they are productive behaviors or activities to do when I feel stressed or vulnerable and I would, in the past, have turned to my addiction for comfort. They keep me focused on the Lord so that I can access the power of the Atonement to overcome temptation and to make progress on my path to become the person God has given me the potential to be. Part 1 described the tools of Prayer and Meditation, Meetings, Service, Sponsorship and Telephone Calls. Part 2 covered Writing, Music, Program Literature, Scriptures and Talks.
Make A Plan to be Abstinent
Thinking ahead about what might happen in my day and what might make me vulnerable to my addiction can help me prepare for those circumstances. I can decide what I will do if I feel tempted, so that I will be able to use my tools to avoid giving in to my addiction. There are many different addictions, but they basically fall into two groups when it comes to abstinence: addictions to substances or behaviors which can be totally eliminated from my life (such as alcohol or use of pornography) and addictions to substances or activities which I must engage in, but which should not be done compulsively (such as eating, or spending). I call the first kind “Total Abstinence” and the second kind “Planned Abstinence.” In either case, having a plan will be helpful.
In the case of planned abstinence addictions, I will need to decide in advance how to abstinently do the things I need to do to get through my day. For example, I can plan my food for the day, the night before, in the morning, or a week in advance so that I will not be trying to figure out what to eat when I am starving, or when nothing sounds good, or when I am tired. In the case of spending, a budget will allow me to know what I can afford, so that I can spend what I have planned without feeling guilty, and without getting into debt by spending money I don’t have.
I found that when I started writing down my food, I started losing weight! I wasn’t even on a diet, nor had I made a decision to change the way I was eating. I just became mindful of every bite I was eating because I had decided to write it all down. And magically, I started losing weight! Once I had done some research and made a food plan to take care of my body, I lost even more, and I have been able to maintain that loss. Making a decision ahead of time about what I will eat and/or how much I will eat makes me much more likely to enjoy meals and not feel guilty about them.
I came later to budgeting. Since I started working with a budget I have more peace of mind, I am out of debt, and I have more in savings. I know if I have money for something, and if I don’t, I don’t buy it! We have no contention about money in our marriage. It is awesome! For more information on how to do this I recommend taking Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University® class.
Many years ago a friend taught me a breathing exercise that is quick and easy and which can dramatically reduce the tension and stress I am feeling in a difficult moment. This is how it is done:
- Close your eyes.
- Breathe in and out through your nose, slowly and rhythmically.
- Focus your attention on the point at which the air is entering and leaving your body.
- Choose a phrase or word to say in your mind with each breath. You can choose whatever you want but this is what works for me: on the in-breath I think “I am a child,” and on the out-breath I think “of God.”
- Repeat steps 2-4 three or four times with your eyes closed.
When I do this exercise I can feel the tension leaving my body in a very physical and tangible way. If I had thoughts of indulging in my addiction, they are often gone, or at least significantly reduced, in the few minutes it takes me to do this. This is big help to me in trying to stay abstinent.
Go to Bed
When I am tired I simply do not make good decisions. It is almost as if I have a certain amount of “good decision” energy in a day. Sometime in the late afternoon or early evening my supply begins to run out and I start to mindlessly do things that I would never have done earlier in the day. Once I get to this point, I am vulnerable to acting out, especially if anything happens to upset my apple cart. When I first realized this, I tried to come up with various coping mechanisms to help me stay abstinent late in the evening. Some things did help – a little. But nothing works as well as just going to bed! Whatever I was trying to get done is generally not worth the price of breaking my abstinence! I am much more productive in the morning anyway.
To Be Continued
Well, I have a few more tools to write about, and I try to keep these posts relatively short so you won’t put off reading them for “when you have more time” and never get back to it. So, look for Part 4 soon.