January 13, 2010, I made a vow. It wasn’t a New Year’s Resolution to begin a diet or to read my Bible every day for the next year. I made those resolutions before and failed miserably.
This one was different; it was about redemption.
My thirty-one year old son picked up a white chip, the symbol of surrender to recovery. I promised not to eat sugar until he achieves his first drug-free year. The pledge honors him as he lives without drugs and helps me understand an addict’s hard, daily choices.
I chose to abstain from sugar for several reasons. I like sugar. It wouldn’t mean much to give up liver and onions. In addition, sugar’s availability makes it harder to resist the temptation. The enticement should fit the test.
The sugar-free resolution challenges me daily. I can choose sugar or I can “just say no.” It seems easy —but it isn’t.
Valentine’s Day came shortly after I made my decision. Chocolate defines this special day. I remained firm and didn’t have any. My resolve left me a little cranky, but sugar free.
My daughters bought a sinful cheesecake for my birthday dessert. I watched as they ate my birthday cheesecake. They showed surprise when I declined because, after all, it was my birthday. I wondered why they bought such a tempting dessert in light of my decision. Special occasions provide reasons to set aside resolve—right?
After working in my garage one afternoon, I felt hot and tired. Home alone, I went into the kitchen to get a drink. A solitary can of soda stood chilling in the refrigerator.
I wanted that soda.
I deserved that soda. No one would know. After all, it was just one soda. I fought with myself for about an hour, justifying all the reasons to drink it. In the end, I drank a glass of water. Soda was
not the issue. The issue was my commitment.
Addicts choose every day to stay sober or to use. They wake up knowing that a new battle just began. “Will I use today? Will I be strong? It’s only one drink, one pill. I’ll stop after watching one video. I can look through one more magazine; my secret is safe. It’ll be okay this time. I can handle it.”
The internal dialogue repeats itself again and again and rips at the gut. My son’s words replay in my head, “I was sober yesterday. If I do today what I did yesterday, I will be sober today. If I do tomorrow what I did today, I will be sober tomorrow.” Consider the addict’s mantra: “One day at a time.”
My sugar struggle pales in comparison to his war with drugs. I will never feel the intensity of the desires wreaking havoc in his mind and body. I might never comprehend the assault of recurring reminders of poor choices. I intentionally seek to understand the inner struggle. I want to feel the tension, the pull, and the craving that drives him to do what he doesn’t want to do. Holy Spirit, please strengthen him when he is weak.
I’ve learned that the farther away I am from my original commitment, the harder it is to consider it. I planted the flag in the sand six months ago, but some days my resolve seems shaky. For an addict, a Twelve Step meeting reminds them of the struggle that brought them to their knees; there is encouragement in remembrance.
I must confess: I slipped up. The taste testing appointment for my daughter’s wedding cake brought a sweet failing. Individual trays of mini-cakes sat before my daughter and me. Dobs of different icings were added to the tray. She had various fillings for our tongues to tango with. The sights and smells from the tray tantalized me for thirty minutes. I succumbed. Sounds like accessibility. Sounds like trouble. A phone call was in order.
“Josh, I have some bad news,” I said.
“What, Mom?” he asked.
“I ate two little cakes tonight with the cake designer. Now I will have to pick up a white chip and start over.”
He chuckled and said, “I’m proud of you Mom, at least you’re trying to understand.”
I know that avoiding sugar won’t change my son into an overnight drug-free miracle. But, he will see his mother cared enough to try and understand his cravings and choices. He will know his mother loved enough to walk a day--or a year—in his shoes. That bit of encouragement and concern may help him realize there is someone fighting for his life almost as much as he is.
We recently discussed his recovery, and I expressed impatience with his progress. He turned to
me and said, “Time takes time, Mom.”
And it does. The pledge is made; it starts as a moment in time, watered over many days, months, and years; often with a mother’s tears, but it evolves into a miracle for all to see.
The next time you see a sugary temptation, think of my son and me. Then think of the addict in your life. What can you do to show your support and encouragement? How will you demonstrate God’s grace and mercy to them “one day at a time?”
Can you say no to your craving?