Have you ever made a commitment to give up sugar? The first day or two of the commitment goes smoothly. You avoid the office party where cakes, cookies and soft drinks are served. You go straight home from work and munch on a fresh salad or other non-sweet food. But, then day three arrives and the sugar craving starts to threaten your sanity. Everywhere you look there is sugar in one form or another: soft drinks, candy, cookies, cake, chewing gum, ice cream. It's like sugar is oozing out of every nook and cranny, intent on destroying your resolve to not partake of the sweet goodness of sugary delicacies. Sugar is almost inescapable.
On January 13, 2010, I made such a resolve: I would give up sugar in honor of my son's addiction. I chose sugar because it is readily available, is relatively cheap, and extremely tempting; like the drugs hell-bent on destroying our family.
The first few days weren't too painful; I graciously passed on offers of sweet treats at work parties, and, since I frequently diet, my friends thought it was another diet phase. Then the Lent season came and most people thought I was observing Lent by giving up sugar. I don't observe Lent. I didn't want to make a big deal of my commitment since it was between me and God and my son.
I made this commitment so that in some small way I would understand the temptation my son faces each time the urge to take painkillers strikes him. I wanted to somehow feel what he feels when confronted with the choice to use or not use. I didn't want to literally "walk a mile in his shoes" to experience the temptations, so giving up sugar was an acceptable substitute.
As a non-addict (as far as substances go) it is easy to cast stones of judgment at those who are. It is easy to say, "Well, why doesn't he or she just quit? If they would "just say NO" all their problems would go away. It's not that easy or simple. Addiction is a complex matter and overused cliches and euphisms won't cure an addict. My simple commitment to avoid sugar is a daily choice, much like the choice to use or not use a drug or drink is a choice. But even my commitment isn't so simple because I am faced with sugar everywhere I go, much like an addict is faced with drugs or alcohol.
One day, I confronted, head-on, some of what he, and others like him, must face. I had an extremely stressful day and wanted to reward myself in the afternoon with a soda. I saw the can sitting in the refrigerator and thought, "I'm so stressed and exhausted, I deserve to relax with a Coke. No one is here and it's only one drink. Josh will never know that I drank it. No one will ever know." I argued with myself for over an hour. I pushed through the temptation and had a glass of water. I won that battle, that day. To some it may sound silly, arguing with oneself over drinking a can of soda, but the battle was with my commitment: I committed to no sugar until my son is clean and sober, but in that moment, I felt justified in having something sweet "just this one time."
In similar fashion, an addict vows to never use again, but the vow is tested often and with much fervor. A friend has some pills or weed or other drug and an offer is made. Or, maybe there isn't an overt offer. Just knowing that something is available is enough to get the mental argument raging. The battle of the mind kicks in...full force. "It's just one pill. No one will ever know."
As you go about your daily life, stop and consider the behavior that so easily throws you off track: The unkind thoughts, the un-Christlike attitudes, the overeating affecting your health, the excessive shopping ruining your finances and remember there is a stereotypical addict making a decision to live "one day at a time." As you confront your "normal, acceptable" behaviors, say a prayer for an addict. Ask God to bless them with the serenity to accept the things they cannot change, the courage to change the things they can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Pray that God will grant them courage to continue doing the next right thing--one day at a time.
Proverbs 22:4 says, "Humility and the fear of the Lord bring wealth and honor and life." This is a worthy saying for both the addict and non-addict.