How hard is it to change your life?
Not very. And extremely. Depending on the issue, my actions span the spectrum.
Add a chocolate bar and a gelato to my daily routine, not a problem. Stopping that practice, another matter.
I do not wrestle with heroin, cocaine or alcohol. Other issues put the brakes upon any tendency to judge those with other addictions. In fact, I get it, even while recognizing that not all addictions are the same, either in intensity or result.
The Consumer Heresy that another purchase will not only make my day brighter but my life significantly better often proves seductive.
My relation to food though provides the main empathetic connection with my son’s drug addiction. I particularly like all the things that are not good for my body. The top culprits include baked goods, fried foods, fast foods, hamburgers, caffeine, ice cream, salty nuts, Smarties, peanuts (preferably together with raisins), and diet soda. I acknowledge that Recreational Chocolate users exist, but I am not in that club.
Like the drugs Caleb uses each of these has a chemical component. I have no judgment for those who must have their “morning coffee,” since, at various points of the day, my body screams like a two-year-old child, “Hey, I want… (insert any or all of the above list) NOW”
Many resolutions have launched varying periods of abstinence, some as short as 20 minutes, others as long as two years. My most overused quip remains “It’s not hard to lose weight, I’ve done it dozens of times.”
Recovery programs like Weight Watchers and the Carbohydrates Addict Program, have proved helpful at various stages.
Emotions, like in Caleb’s case, form a significant component. I use chocolate when I’m depressed and when I want to celebrate. Any emotional fluctuation provides a good excuse. Food as a companion when I’m lonely. Food for comfort.
I remember talking with Caleb once after I had preached a sermon on peace and joy. He quipped, “Drugs will do all that and faster. Just one small problem - they can kill you.” Now, in this age of fentanyl and carfentanil, the declaration is devastatingly accurate. Same for a steady diet of my choices.
The process of change, aka recovery, can be complicated involving a forensic examination of early life - as Caleb is doing, present hopes, joys and challenges plus dreams for the future. One thing I know - Change is not merely a matter of willpower. Although there most certainly is a moral component. Choice and commitment are involved.
Change is not merely a matter of willpower. Choice and commitment are involved.
We have to choose to change. No one else can do that for us, no matter the carrots and sticks of love, duty, or projected consequences.
Timing is so much more vital than most suspect. At least in my case, a particular constellation of physical, emotional and spiritual factors have to be in alignment before the decision can be pursued. Then I have to ride that opening for as long and as hard as possible, using the time to establish new practices and patterns.
Short term gains and encouragement help. “I can see where losing that 6 ounces shows in your face.” Although perhaps slightly prone to exaggeration, I’m taking it.
A vision of what is possible is invaluable. Caleb and I often speak of what his life might be if the demon of drug addiction can be cast out. I remember once being inspired to drop 30 pounds by a friend who had done the same. My reasoning was not sophisticated, if they can do it so can I.
But surely, as Caleb writes, support is indispensable. No one else can do the spiritual, emotional and developmental work but others can certainly help or hinder.
And support does not include scolding, ridicule, mockery or derision under the guise of providing motivational support.
I fondly remember the feeling when I first sat in on a Weight Watchers meeting. At that point I knew what Caleb experiences when he goes to a 12-Step meeting or what the early Methodists experienced in their meetings. Being among those with similar struggles helps, not always but often.
The support of my wife makes a huge difference. Meal planning, adherence to the practices that we know make a difference, the removal of temptations, so life does not resemble that of an alcoholic locked in a liquor store and not caving at those times when I (and she) want “a treat” after a hard day. One Hallowe’en sized chocolate bar a day quickly leads to two, three, four and then what’s the point of counting anyway. Let’s finish them off and remove the temptation! An addict’s logic?