28 Days of Abstinence - Day 15 - Some Thoughts About Addiction

"An addict is someone whose actions while (or after) doing FILL IN THE BLANK harm themselves or those around them." --Unknown

Now that we have a few days of abstinence under our belts, or at least attempts at abstinence, I want to spend a few days exploring the topic of addiction.

When I think of the word ADDICTION it is in all-caps and with a lot of baggage attached, which is why I really like the definition above - it covers all manner of addictions from the smallest unhealthy attachment to, for instance, hair twirling (guilty!) or gum chewing, up to full-blown drug and alcohol addiction.

In fact, the original version of this quote was: "An alcoholic is someone whose actions while (or after) drinking harm themselves or those around them," but I think it works well for pretty much anything (food, substance, or behavior) as long as the harm clause is met.

When I first heard this definition - in a conversation with someone and I am so sorry that I cannot remember who it was! - it made so much sense to me and it also made me realize that by this definition I was (or am) an alcoholic.

I quit drinking regularly a few years ago for just this reason: I realized that I wasn't a very good mom the day after drinking. Even if I had only one or two drinks, the next day I was less patient and understanding, more likely to yell and punish rather than discipline, and I didn't want to be that kind of a mom.

More recently I have given up drinking completely because I realized that being that kind of mom just "once in awhile" is still doing harm to my sons. As I think about it relative to my current abstinence challenge (wheat) I see that it also applies.

The Saturday before I began this challenge we took our boys and a friend of theirs snowboarding at a local mountain. The friends' mom sent a bag of snacks along, including a package of strawberry Pop Tarts.

I can't remember the last time I had a strawberry Pop Tart, but it's been a long time. They were one of those foods I was never allowed to have growing up so when I was finally out on my own and buying my own groceries they were a staple. Since I knew this twenty-eight day challenge was coming up I decided - What the heck! - I'll have a Pop Tart.

It was disappointing. More plastic-tasting and overtly sugary than I had remembered, but nonetheless I ate the whole thing and I enjoyed it. Kind of....Until later that night when I got physically ill.

About an hour after eating the Pop Tart I had a headache, a bloated stomach, I felt nauseated AND I had a rash all over my chest and torso. Yikes! It seemed The Universe was seconding my decision to abstain from wheat and sending a clear message about Pop Tarts: AVOID AT ALL COSTS.

If I were to continue eating Pop Tarts after they made me so sick I would have no problem calling that an addiction. Fortunately I have no desire to eat a Pop Tart ever again, but wheat in general is a different story. If I find, as I expect to, that my body feels better at the end of this twenty-eight days and yet I continue to eat wheat I think it will be fair to say that I am "addicted" and that I have more work to do.

I don't want to misuse or overuse the word "addiction," but I fear the opposite is true: that we have a tendency to underuse the term in modern society. I think we all have habits that may fall under the above definition of addiction and that we try and convince ourselves otherwise. Addiction in some respects has even become a badge of honor as in "I am so addicted to Facebook" or "I just have to have my morning coffee or I can't function." I would argue that these addictions in many cases are not as harmless as we would like to believe.

Today I would like to ask you to spend some time thinking about this definition of addiction in relationship to your own habits and behaviors. Where do you see addiction rearing its ugly head? What other foods/habits/behaviors are ripe for abstention?

Being a Spiritual Warrior, I believe, means being willing to look honestly at your own life and patterns, even if you can't do anything to change them right now. I also believe that even the tiniest bit of awareness can shift things in ways that may not be readily apparent in the moment.

So take some time today to shine a light on those dark and addicted parts of yourself and then stay tuned and see what happens next: Maybe you will notice an increase in those behaviors. Maybe you will see the harm that is done when you indulge in a certain food (do you feel sick or irritable? are you rashy or tired afterwards?) that you did not notice before. Maybe you will become aware of how certain behaviors harm others.

Whatever you notice will be a clue as to your next step, your next "abstain from," your next challenge as a Spiritual Warrior.



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