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?
My 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.
I 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.
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 MormonChannel.org, 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.
When I am stressed, I have a tendency to engage in behaviors that will relieve my stress. Duh! I wrote recently about how turning to those behaviors instead of the Lord can be like putting other gods before Him. So what can I do to help relieve my stress while staying abstinent from my addiction? What does it look like to turn to the Lord instead of those other “gods?” I have a number of tools that I have learned about from various 12-Step fellowships over the years, and some that I have found on my own. I am planning to write individual posts on some of the tools, but here is a partial list of the ones I have found most useful. My next post will have the second half of the list.
Prayer and Meditation
The first and most obvious tool is prayer and meditation. If my boss is chewing me out or someone is being rude to me I can, in that moment, say a little prayer in my heart and ask the Lord to take away my anger or frustration and tell me how to proceed. I can ask Him to help me see the other person through His eyes. If someone in my family has pushed me to the breaking point and I know that I am about to do or say something that I will regret, I can go to my room, get on my knees and ask the Lord to take my burden, strengthen me to be able to bear it, or give me guidance. Sometimes when I do this, I tell Him that I am going to remain there, on my knees, until the feeling, craving, etc. is lifted. It is scary to put my faith on the line like that, but the Lord has always come through for me, although on occasion my knees start to hurt while I am waiting.
Going to a 12-Step meeting is an awesome way to remove myself from temptation and recharge my spiritual batteries. In meetings I can sometimes hear the Lord’s guidance to me through the voice of another person when my own spiritual ears are too clogged with the wax of hopelessness or pride to be able to receive personal revelation. I can serve others by what I say, or just by giving someone a hug or a smile. I can receive the same kind of service myself. I always feel closer to the Lord when I go to a meeting. If there is no meeting available, I can go to the ARP website and listen to a podcast of a meeting.
Attending a meeting is one form of service. I won’t even attempt to list all the other opportunities to serve, but here are some ideas. Reach out to someone who might need it, donate time, do family history work, do temple work, take a new mom’s toddler to the park for an hour, mow someone’s lawn. Any kind of service that is given in Christ-like love can get me outside of myself and my own problems and bring me blessings and a new attitude. But I need to be careful that there are no strings attached to my service; that I am not shaming, throwing guilt, trying to control someone, or attempting to take someone’s agency as I serve.
Sponsoring someone, or being a support person to someone within the ARP program, is an awesome form of service. As I sponsor I find myself prompted to say things which are just as important for me to be reminded of as they are for my sponsee to hear. A sponsor is a guide; someone who can hold up a mirror so that another person can see themselves and their behavior more honestly and can learn how the Steps can help them find serenity and recovery.
Sometimes, when I am tempted to use my drug of choice and I cannot seem to find the strength to just turn away, I will make a phone call to someone and tell myself that I won’t act out until after I get off the phone. Most of the time I call someone else who is working the steps and by the time we are done talking, I don’t feel the craving any more. If I still have it, I can make another phone call, or try one of the other tools. Sometimes staying abstinent has to be done one hour or even one minute at a time.
To Be Continued
In the next post I will share more of my favorite tools for staying abstinent and close to the Lord instead of giving in to my addiction for comfort when I am stressed.
Have you tried any of these tools? Please feel free to share your positive experiences for other readers. I hope you will find some more ideas in this post, or the next one, that will help you stay abstinent.
Please share your thoughts about this post by commenting below.
When is my addiction like another god which I am putting before the Lord? When I turn to my addiction for comfort at times of stress instead of turning to Him.
When I am stressed, what happens in my brain goes something like this:
I feel uncomfortable/stressed/anxious, etc.
I don’t like feeling this way. I just want the feeling to stop!
What will make me feel better? I know!
My old friend #$%&# (in my case, food, but you can substitute any behavior or substance).
At this point in the process, I begin to obsess about how to use my addiction to make myself feel better. Unless I do something to break the pattern, I will probably act out, sooner or later.
The Lord tells us not to put any other gods before him, and what will happen if we do (2 Chronicles 7:19-22). We will lose the blessings and privileges he has given us. I will lose the progress and recovery that I have gained if I turn to my addiction instead of the Lord.
So what can I do to break the pattern? How can I turn to the Lord when I am stressed or anxious or experiencing any other feeling I don’t want to feel?
I stop what I am doing, take a deep breath and literally turn to my right (Isaiah 41:10,13), where I imagine that the Lord is standing by my side. I ask Him to take this from me; to help me to bear this burden by giving me the strength I need to get through this situation without giving in to my addiction. I remember that he has promised that he will give me the power to do all things which are expedient unto Him (Moroni 7:33), and I make a decision to trust Him and let His power flow into me. I may have to do it more than once until the feeling subsides completely, but eventually, it will be gone and I will be grateful that I chose abstinence instead of letting my addiction win.
What do you turn to for comfort when you are stressed?
Are you “putting other gods before Him?”
What could you do differently that would help you more than what you do now?