Empowerment

My father had once told me this story about my youth. He explained to me that I had once climbed up the shelves of the refrigerator to stand on the counter in order to reach the cookies that he had hidden above the refrigerator. Then he laughed and said that for some reason I took the eggs and put them in the butter compartment on the door and when he opened it they fell to the floor. I found humor in this as he told this story during his final days; I had been an adult for many years at this point and this lost event in my life created a smile and time for us to bond further before his days ended. I am quite certain that when this happened he found little humor in it at all, I may have been better off leaving the eggs alone. I don’t remember this event and I haven’t been able to recall what was going through my mind at the time. Nevertheless, I am certain I got more than my share of cookies out of it, and probably a few moments bent over a knee.

That effort I had once gone through to steal those treats was repeated several times throughout my life. I can’t remember climbing up the shelves of the fridge, but I can remember going out of my way to grasp something that created an uncontrollable desire for.  There were several events in my life where I spent so much more time thinking about why I did what I had done when I should have spent half as much time thinking about what the consequences would be if I did what I wanted to do. Take the cookie episode, I woke up in the middle of the night and impulsively climbed to the top of the fridge to eat some cookies. If I could remember I am sure that I knew I would be in trouble for doing so and would most certainly have to face fierce consequences; obviously, my parents would know immediately that some thief had eaten half or maybe even all the cookies. In fact, there have been so many times in my life where I had such impulses and it seemed that I only cared about the punishment after the fact.  These impulsive actions are so much stronger and faster than our ability to comprehend and resist, and a lot of the times it is over something that we really don’t even need or very likely could have just asked or paid for.

The childhood addiction involving chocolate chip cookies and candy carried on throughout my adulthood but they became minor compared to adult addictions. Those kid addictions were just selfish impulses over sugar and sweets, adult addictions involve strong poisons such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. For some, the poisons are much more deadly and so much more addictive. I remember my first cup of coffee, I was about 16 years old and I was so proud because I felt as if I made that transition from a teen age child to an adult. I admit the coffee didn’t taste as good as it did when I was actually an adult and addicted to having that so important cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Yeah, I was one of those “don’t even speak to me until I have finished my cup of coffee” and a cup is a cup but there are so many different size of coffee cups. I limited my mornings to one or two cups because my doctor had told me after drinking coffee for more than 25 years that I should cut back because of all the health problems associated with coffee. Yep! I did well and I listened to that doctor, which is a challenge in itself. I cut back on coffee from 6 to 8 cups down to 1 or 2. It was fairly easy actually, I just bought a bigger cup, a 16-ounce mug in fact.

I have walked away from coffee and haven’t had any since September. towards the end, I remember trying to avoid that so desired morning cup and feeling the pull toward it. I remember trying to ask myself why it is that I needed that coffee and not being able to reason with myself. I gave up alcohol around the same time and believe it or not that was easier to break away from than coffee was mainly because I was more able to justify how better my life would be without alcohol than I could about coffee. With alcohol, I could feel the uncontrollable consumption as it was happening and I knew I was losing my ability to say that I had enough and even the strength to stagger away. I knew I had progressed from being just a causal drinker to an emotional drunk. I went from just having a few to being able to know what kind of day I had by the size of my bar tab. I also knew one of those days my luck would run out and I would leave that bar and maybe get stopped for driving under the influence or worst wreck my truck and possibly kill some innocent soul who happened to be in the path I crossed into.

Both coffee and alcohol were so much different from when I quit smoking. I always said that you never really quit smoking until you die and cannot possibly light up another one. This is because it was such an ongoing process. I tried for more than ten years to quit smoking and I thought about quitting the most while I was puffing one up. I tried to quit “cold turkey” like so many people suggested, yeah! the only turkeys out there were those who were stupid enough to think that quitting in such a way was easy. I even had a friend who tried to quit with some pills but decide not to use them so they gave what was left for me to try. Well logic would point out that if they didn’t work for him they wouldn’t work for me, well at least not in the long run. They did seem to work, but that was all in my head because the very first time I found myself in a confrontation I had this uncontrollable desire to walk away and drive off down the road to the very first convenience store and buy a pack of cigarettes. I sat there in that parking lot fuming about how that conflict had made me smoke all over again. What an idiot, it was my weakness for those cigarettes that created the confrontation to begin with. Several years later they must have improved those pills because I spoke to my doctor and tried them again and by time I finished the very first prescription I was done with cigarettes, I also found dark chocolate much more bitter than it ever was and I began to dislike the soda I had been drinking for the better part of my adult life. Nevertheless, I was done with smoking and I had no desire to even think about smoking again, even still today.

It was interesting how some medicine can help you change the way you think about certain addictions. Those pills gave me the ability to overcome the urges and desires long enough to beat my long-standing addiction with cigarettes. Those pills were expensive and my insurance didn’t cover them. I had no choice but to quit after the first round because I couldn’t afford to complete all three rounds of prescriptions. I used to think that the tobacco companies had their hands in these quit smoking products so that they could pay for their tobacco lawsuit settlements. Regardless, the pills helped me quit smoking and gave me the ability to fight off that impulsive need to light up one of those cancer sticks. Now years later I found the same strength if not stronger to fight off two more of my impulsive addictions. So many years of asking myself why I did these things and trying to reason with myself and explain all the things that these addictions would lead to. So many times, I would think about quitting while ordering another glass or lighting up one more cigarette, or even both at the same time. Just one more we say just one more.

The interesting thing about giving up coffee and alcohol was that I didn’t need that expensive pill to do so. Keep in mind that with smoking long out of the way these two were my strongest weaknesses and something I had heavily relied on, sometimes daily. I am certain that they have some pills out there that will help you overcome these addictions but I found strength in other ways. It wasn’t yoga or meditation, not really that kind of flexible type of guy. I found my strength in the spirit of the Lord. Yep! that’s right. I have been in some major life changing events most recently and I have felt so beaten and bruised that I had nowhere else to turn to. The Lord found me left abandoned on the ground and reached out and helped me stand on my own once again. I didn’t attend any church addiction anonymous meetings or anything like that. No secluded retreats or dry camps just pure faith. The closer I came to Christ the more I realized that I really didn’t need any of that stuff in regard to coffee and alcohol. I began understanding that for years my doctor had been counseling me to quit both of those things because they would eventually kill me if I didn’t. I have already had several loved ones and friends who have died because they could not fight off their addictions and I had finally found the strength to battle my own without tricking my brain with some other chemical.

I feel so empowered when I am faced with one of those addictions and I can stand tall and tell myself that I don’t need that and walk way. I have even found that I have so much strength from the Spirit that I can stand alongside of those who may be smoking, drinking coffee or even alcohol and it does not even tempt me. In fact, when I think about how I don’t want what they have I feel this warm embrace and comfort deep inside me that lets me know that I am not alone. There is so much confidence in knowing that you have the ability to control those impulses that would lead you into the poisons of this world. Certainly, I don’t claim to have power over all things, nor am I a poster child of some self-help campaign, but I do know what it feels like not having the ability to stop falling victim to an uncontrollable addiction. We all have some type of ongoing addiction, even myself at this moment. Some of us are deeper in the darkness than others and some are battling poisons much more deadly than coffee, alcohol, cigarettes, and most certainty chocolate chip cookies. Some in fact must find the strength to realize that they can’t fight this on their own.

There is this uncontrollable urge that leads us into these addictions. We are deceived to believe that these poisons will help us and take away our pains or make our day better. We are tricked just long enough for the demons to embed the addiction deep within us and imprison us for years on end. Sometimes medication can help, but amazingly turning to Christ can give you the greatest strength that will most certainly help you fight off those demons and even give you comfort whether you just need to stand tall or ask for help from someone else. All these complicated scars left from these addictions started as a simple impulsive weakness. And although we are led to believe that the way out is more complicated than the addiction itself the beginning is simpler than you think. There is no need to go to great lengths to find help all you really need to do is step aside from all the chaos and find a moment of peace and just ask. Ask in your mind, ask in your heart, or even ask out loud … He is waiting to hear you

Just imagine … having the strength to endure.

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