When I am stressed, my natural tendency is to turn to my addiction for comfort. If I am aware that I am stressed – or likely to become stressed – I can prepare myself so that I will be less likely to give in to temptation. But sometimes I don’t recognize the indicators that I am becoming stressed or the signs along the path warning me that I am likely to get stressed.
In Overeaters Anonymous and other 12 Step fellowships there is an acronym that can help keep in the forefront of my mind some of the types of situations that are likely to make me vulnerable to my addiction. The acronym is HALT, which stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. If I become too hungry, angry, lonely or tired I will be more likely to act out – to indulge in my addictive behaviors. Why would being hungry (or angry or lonely or tired) make me, as a compulsive eater, want to eat uncontrollably, or make any addict want to indulge in their addiction? I don’t know, but it does. Don’t believe it? Observe your own behavior. How do you behave when you find yourself in one of these states?
Years ago I observed that there is another mental state that can cause the same vulnerability: boredom. This sent me on a quest for a new acronym, one that would cover the HALT items, but also include a letter B. This is what I came up with: BENT, which stands for Bored, Emotional, Needy, Tired. When I am bored, emotional, needy or tired, I have a tendency to become vulnerable to my addictive behavior. So, I try not to let myself become BENT, and if I recognize that I am, I take steps to protect myself from that vulnerability by using one or more of the tools of the program. (See my posts on TOOLS).
- Do you become vulnerable when you are HALT or BENT?
- What can you do to protect yourself from becoming HALT or BENT?
- What can you do to keep from acting out if you find yourself HALT or BENT?
Mountain biking is a sport in which people ride special bikes designed to handle rough terrain—often in areas without roads. Sometimes they ride down steep hills littered with rocks and boulders.
I once heard a story about a man who wanted to learn to mountain bike. He had the good fortune to be invited to join a group of experienced bikers for a day. As he attempted to negotiate a steep field of boulders, he kept hitting the rocks—risking both his bike and his body—and creating a hazard for other riders. Finally the leader of the group took him aside and asked him what he was looking at as he rode down the hill.
“The boulders!” the man exclaimed. “What do you think?”
“Ah,” replied the leader. “That is your problem. You need to focus on the spaces between the rocks!”
- What are the boulders in your life right now?
- Are you focusing on the boulders or the spaces in your life?
- Write about the spaces. What do they look like?
- Are you willing to focus on the spaces?
- What can you do to keep yourself focused on the spaces and not the rocks?
My parents have just moved into a skilled nursing facility for long-term care near my brother’s home, in a city far from where I live. As I have been visiting with them I have found myself reflecting on what it means to be powerless. I have previously had the opportunity to experience and embrace powerlessness in other aspects of my life, both large and small, but this has presented a new, and in some ways deeper and more difficult experience with powerlessness.
My mother just turned 88 and she suffers from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. She was falling frequently while in their senior independent living apartment. She is doing better with her walker now that she is here, and hopefully she will not fall anymore. I praise God that she didn’t break anything. She is physically quite healthy, but gets confused sometimes, and struggles for words frequently. When she realizes that she has been confused she berates herself and feels guilty. It is very hard to see her suffer emotionally like this, and at times there is nothing I can do to comfort or console her.
My father is 92 and in perfect mental health, but his body is giving out on him. For a man who has lived his whole life with complete self-sufficiency, this is very challenging. He had been the primary caregiver to my mother until his body started giving out on him. It is very difficult for him to see her so confused. He feels badly for me and my brother that we have to see them both like this.
Neither of my parents have any belief in God or in an afterlife. It is hard to comfort someone who has no belief beyond this life and this world. I have been a member of the Church for many years and all of my words of comfort and my sources of peace are related to my faith. I know that the Lord is the source of any and all power that I have in my life, and that he has control over all things – including my parents, their health, and their future. They have lived a good life of laughter and service and accomplishment. He loves them. But they don’t know it, refuse to believe it and don’t want to hear about it.
So, I am powerless. I am powerless to share my hope of the resurrection and eternal life. I am powerless to ease their pain or restore their health.
On the other hand, there are some things over which I do have power. I can turn them over to the Lord and his tender mercy and care. I can serve them to the best of my ability without doing for them what they can do for themselves. I can talk to them, ask them questions, smooth the path before them, and advocate for them. Most importantly, I can love them.
- What situation in your life are you powerless over?
- What do you have power over in this situation?
- What are you willing to do?
- When will you do it?