Wednesday, March 30, 2016

28 Days of Abstinence - Day 10 - The Seven Stages of Abstinence


"Control is the enemy; grief is our friend." --John Eldredge 

When I first choose this quote for today I was thinking about the need to grieve whatever it is we are letting go. Even our bad habits have some positive benefits otherwise they would not have become habits. They may also bring to mind happy memories: great times with friends when we were drunk out of our minds, our favorite co-worker who was always willing to join us for a smoke break or a certain time we had a certain food with a certain special person. I could go on (and on and on). Our habits are intertwined with our memories and must be grieved.

That led me to consider the Five Stages of Grief as they are commonly understood: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I think I have moved through each of these stages at least once every time I realized that I needed to abstain from something I had previously enjoyed.

That got me wondering if perhaps there might also be five stages of abstinence and I discovered that, for me at least, there are actually Seven Stages of Abstinence. I have identified them as: Resolve, Questioning, Rationalization, Cheating, Regret, Re-resolve.

Here's how they generally go for me:

Resolve. I am determined to give up the thing that is no longer good for me. I know I can do it. I have complete confidence that it is going to be easy and that I will master my desires in a short time and with little struggle.

Questioning. I am tempted - usually this happens at a party or the grocery store or sometimes at home if my husband and/or the kids is/are having what I am abstaining from - and it starts to get real. The questions mount: "Do I really need to give this up?" "Could I just 'cut back' instead?" "Maybe I could have a little bit today and then start again tomorrow?"

Rationalization. The devil on my shoulder starts to make the case for NOT abstaining. "I'll just have a little bit." "Just this once." "It's a party/my birthday/a special occasion." "I don't want to offend the host/hostess."

Cheating. I indulge. Sometimes, as rationalized above, only "a little bit;" often quite a bit more than that because once the floodgates are open I remember just how much I love this particular thing and I let go of all resolve.

Regret. Sometimes it happens immediately, more often the next day, when I am suffering the consequences of whatever I indulged in (hangover, lack of sleep, increased desire for the thing itself). I beat myself up and feel defeated and weak, which leads me to....

Re-Resolve. I take a stronger stance with myself and re-resolve to abstain, perhaps with a bit more humility and a more realistic view.

Acceptance. After one or two (or three or four or more) rounds of the first six I eventually break the habit and accept that this food/habit/behavior is no longer a part of my life. I feel a sense of accomplishment and no longer question my decision, rationalize my way out of abstaining, or cheat. This final stage may not always last forever and I may at some point down the line question, rationalize, or cheat, but usually only in a small way and regret sends me quickly back to re-resolve and acceptance.

Today I find myself moving into Stage Two, Questioning.

I tried to make a wheat-free quiche crust with uneven results and that has left me wondering: "Can I really do this? Do I really want to?" I will let you know after tasting the final product.

What about you? Do these stages ring true for you? If not, what are your stages of abstinence? How many of them are there? Where are you at today?

UPDATE: Once the crust was cooked it improved significantly in taste and texture. It's still not "as good" as the wheat crust I remember, but I am pleased with it and it has, for now, staved off my questioning. FOR NOW.

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