Monthly Archives: April 2014

Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 3

Tools for Staying AbstinentIn 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.

Breathing Exercise

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:

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Breathe in and out through your nose, slowly and rhythmically.
  3. Focus your attention on the point at which the air is entering and leaving your body.
  4. 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.”
  5. 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.

Love: The Economy of God

Our economy works because people trade goods and services for pieces of paper that have numbers and pictures on them. We call these pieces of paper “money”. When an employer pays a worker, the dollar the worker receives passes through many hands. The worker buys food at the grocery store. The grocery store pays the wholesaler. The wholesaler pays their employee. That person makes their mortgage payment. You get the idea.

When people are afraid to spend their money, the economy begins to go into a recession. The worker spends less at the grocery store; the grocer buys less from the wholesaler. The wholesaler is selling less so he doesn’t pay as much out in wages, and so forth. If the fear and the cycle get bad enough, the economy comes to a screeching halt, and the recession becomes a depression.

God also has an economy, but the currency isn’t money; it is love, often expressed in service. When people in a community need help and allow others to serve them, God’s economy of love grows. People feel an abundance of love, both from serving and from being served, and they desire to serve others. Sarah’s lawn needs to be mowed, and her neighbor Alan does it while doing his own. Alan loses his job, and Beatrice tells him about an opportunity where she works. Beatrice has a wayward son, and Roger, who has walked that path before and knows where it leads extends a hand of friendship to him. Roger has health problems, and Sarah prays for him. Love “goes around and comes around.”

On the other hand, when fear causes people to refuse help, they don’t give anyone else an opportunity to serve. This can happen because they are embarrassed or they “don’t want to be beholden” to anyone, or they think that it is a sign of failure or weakness if they are not completely self-sufficient.  This situation can bring the economy of God to a screeching halt. When no one is willing to receive service, no one can give it which leads to a different kind of depression.

  • What kinds of service are you able to give?
  • Do you take the opportunity to do so?
  • What kinds of service are you willing to receive?
  • Is there something you would like the Lord to help you with?
  • Most of the time he provides help through others, rather than directly. Are you willing to receive the help you need through the people around you?


Staying Abstinent: Using the Tools – Part 2

Tools of the ProgramMy last post was Part 1 of a list of tools to use to help you stay abstinent by turning to the Lord instead of your addiction, or other inappropriate behavior in stressful situations.  Part 1 described the tools of Prayer and Meditation, Meetings, Service, Sponsorship and Telephone Calls.  Here is Part 2, which covers Writing, Music, Program Literature, Scriptures and Talks. There will be a part 3, but it may not be the next post, because I have some other things I want to write about, so watch for it.


love writing. I find that when I have a pen in my hand I use a different part of my brain than when I am just thinking or talking.  If I just start writing about something that I am struggling with, I often find that in the very act of writing, my mind has become clear and I can see and understand things that were hidden from or confusing me. When this happens it becomes much easier for me to stay abstinent. For more on writing see my post on written prayer.


Music can change my mood in an instant in a way that few other things can.  Identify music that lifts your mood and music that helps you connect with the Savior.  Keep a written list, and/or a playlist on your electronic device.  Create or find a Pandora station that plays what you need to hear.  Memorize a hymn or other song and sing it to yourself when you need a pick-me-up. Listening to the right music can help me become willing to be abstinent!

I had an amazing spiritual experience with music that was an answer to prayer once.  It was a particularly difficult and stressful time in my life and I woke up one morning with a melody going around in my mind.  It was not familiar to me, but it sounded like a hymn tune.  I got out my hymn book and started turning the pages, one at a time, looking for a melody like the one I was hearing in my head. When I got to page 114 it jumped off the page at me.  I didn’t recall ever having sung or heard Come Unto Me before, but the words – and melody – brought such peace to my heart and solace to my soul! I have memorized and used it for comfort in difficult times ever since. 

Program Literature

Have you ever escaped from dealing with the reality of life by reading a novel or watching TV? Then you know how media can serve the purpose of distracting you from whatever is causing stress in your life.  The problem with using those things to escape the moment is that when you stop reading or watching nothing has changed.  I have found that turning to my program literature, such as the ARP manual, The Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions of Alcoholics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, Al-Anon, or another 12-Step program, or He Did Deliver Me from Bondage by Colleen Harrison can distract me for the moment, and also remind me of the progress I am making and why I WANT to be abstinent.  Additionally I can find specific thoughts or principles in this literature that can help me turn to the Lord for the power to address the challenges I am facing, instead of my addiction or some other behavior that will not bring me peace or serenity.


The scriptures can also provide great insight and help when we struggle with life.  Use your Topical Guide in the back of Bible to search the scriptures by topic.  Use the footnotes to lead you to other scriptures that might be relevant.  Memorize scriptures that seem particularly helpful.  The scriptures contain direct counsel from the Lord.  If you are looking for guidance from the Lord to help you deal with a situation you can often find it in the scriptures. See my Resources page for some of my favorite program-related scriptures.


There is an awesome additional resource for obtaining counsel from the Lord: the writing and talks given by the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  They are contained in the monthly Ensign magazine, and can be accessed  on the Church website.  The General Conference Addresses can be watched, listened to, printed or downloaded here. There are additional wonderful Devotionals and other talks given by Church leaders and BYU personnel which can be accessed at the BYUtv website or at BYU Speeches. Since the Church has created its own channel on Youtube, lots of great talks and videos are available there. Finally, checkout, another great site with lots of uplifting content where you may be able to find the guidance you need.

I have links to some of my favorites talks and links to sites where you can order the books I mentioned on my Resources page.