Willingness and Delayed Gratification

What is willingness? Is it just going along when things are ok? Or is it staying in program when the decision is tough and your inner voice is screaming, “I WANT IT” and you are just determined to take action no matter what?

I have seen numerous people lose their abstinence in this program when they were convinced that their Higher Power was telling them to spend money they didn’t have on a seemingly righteous expenditure.

Willingness is also doing the daily tasks involved with staying abstinent, but in this post, I want to discuss the kind of willingness it takes to withstand temptation.

A good rule of thumb is that when you feel an impulse purchase coming on, wait 24-48 hours before buying.

You can start small by stopping when a sudden thought of spending comes to you, and asking yourself, “Do I need this today or can it wait until tomorrow?” In DA HOW, we don’t spend any money before committing it. But let’s say you are out and suddenly realize you need gas that you hadn’t committed in the morning. That is a case where you just let someone know and go ahead and buy the gas.

But, let’s say you committed buying your son a jacket, and while you are in the store, you pass these FABULOUS shoes that are on sale for $75.

What do you do? First, do you have money for shoes in that category? If no, then this is an easy decision. That is why having a well-developed spending plan is essential.

Let’s say you do have the money in your clothing or shoes category. The next question is whether you need to buy the shoes today. Before you make the call to purchase them, ask yourself these questions:

1. Do I need shoes today?
2. (If you work DA HOW) Can this wait until tomorrow morning when I can commit this?

Do not mistake the desperate feeling that you HAVE TO HAVE the shoes with your Higher Power guiding you to purchasing them.

Maybe you are someone who owns dozens of shoes but only wears one or two pairs. Maybe you have enough shoes. Maybe you are triggered by the sale. So what if the shoes aren’t there tomorrow … it’s not the end of the world.

Remember this: You won’t die if you don’t buy the shoes.

However, if you end up doing so anyway, and call it in to a sponsor (if you work a DA HOW program) and it is abstinent spending, it still may be worth examining whether this was a missed opportunity for practicing delayed gratification. But please don’t use this as an excuse to beat yourself up.


I have learned to pause before buying big things and sometimes ended up realizing I don’t need them at all, by practicing waiting on the small things. I routinely wait at least a day for all kinds of small things, such as when I get a sudden urge to buy a book I read about. Often, the next day, I no longer want it.

Here is a story about waiting.

I felt called to become certified for a new career that would cost at least $1,500 to start. I felt divinely guided to this. Oh my, the pain of not having it was horrible! I yearned for it, dreamed of it, fantasized about my new life.

For four months, I waited. Yes, four months! I pondered daily and asked my Higher Power whether this was the right path, and day after day, I was more sure. I was going to take the money out of savings to do it. But I was willing to keep waiting for my next PRG (Pressure Relief Group) before I went ahead.

And while I was waiting, I even figured out a way to pull money from categories to pay for it so I wouldn’t have to use my savings.

And then, two weeks before the PRG, I suddenly realized this wasn’t the right course at all! Not because I didn’t WANT it, but because my health situation wouldn’t allow it. It was a realization that I was living in fantasy about whether I could actually do the work.

Just like that, it was over. I finally let go of trying to impose my will instead of being willing to live in reality.

And in the end, at the PRG, I realized that I needed to save money for taxes and the other money I was pulling from categories was unrealistic and would lead me to deprivation. It is amazing how cunning, baffling, and powerful this disease is.

Waiting showed me that sometimes, what I think is my Higher Power’s voice is really my own. And it is dangerous for me to try to figure this out on my own. I had to be willing to take it or leave it. Not to be attached to one outcome only.

For me, this was a profound lesson that if I have to manipulate or justify or pull from my savings for a discretionary item, it is probably not my Higher Power’s will for me.

Because I didn’t proceed, I had the time and energy to create this blog, which I love. I am able to work on creating art daily, which is so healing to my soul. I will have enough money for my taxes and other needs without feeling derived. And my life maintains an unpressured calm that is essential for my health.

So, the next time you are struck with a sudden urge to buy something you didn’t plan on, just take a day or two to pause before doing so. It will build character and strengthen your recovery.

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One thought on “Willingness and Delayed Gratification

  1. Linda, thanks for a great post. I too use the tool of delayed gratification a lot in my DA- HOW program. It has worked miracles for me, saved me lots of money, and also has kept me from going off in directions that were not my Higher Power’s will. Before DA HOW I used to do all of those things to get what I wanted in the moment including: taking from other categories, obsessing about the purchase, and making grand plans to get what I wanted that I just could not afford. I am so grateful for the tools that we have in DA HOW to point the way of sober spending one day to time!

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