I was recently blessed to have a conversation with a fellow DA member about cravings/obsession. It really hit home for me. I have to admit that I have not yet been freed from obsession. However, I’m grateful that I’m able to distance myself from it more quickly and often find it humorous (when not writhing in pain from it).
Yes, one can be abstinent and in obsession. For me, the key is not to make a purchase when I am obsessed. I use those feelings as an opportunity to practice delayed gratification and patience.
I know I’ve written a number of posts on craving and obsession, but it’s still a core issue for me, so I hope that you will forgive me if I write about it once again.
Feelings aren’t Facts
I feel that I will die, actually die, when I don’t get what I want the moment I want it. It used to be a horrifying feeling. Now, it’s unpleasant, but I have learned to recognize it for what it is a lot sooner – my disease trying to coerce me into addiction.
That feeling of obsession blankets me. It convinces me that whatever the object of the obsession, I MUST have it in order to live. No joke. It’s an outrageously extreme feeling for me.
If I don’t give in to it, eventually, hours, days, weeks, maybe months later, it passes. And by not giving into it, I also get to see it morph.
My Achilles Heel
I actually go through this monthly with my discretionary money. I get $101 for discretionary, which I usually use for some kind of craft or art hobby. So, the first week of the month, I drain it all. And there is relief.
By the second or third week of the month, there is a new hobby/craft I HAVE to learn because THAT hobby or craft will be the ultimate AHHHHHHH for me and fully satisfy my artistic and creative craving.
But I cannot buy it when I want it because I’ve already used up my stash. So I have to learn to accept where I am and use the supplies I already have to pass the time until the next first of the month. And I work hard to stay present in my day, knowing that I can easily zoom through them without actually living them. I try to find joy in moments that are not about my obsession and that is a step toward unshackling myself.
New Month, New Urges
The first of the month comes. By then, thankfully, the obsession has usually died down and often has shifted into one or more other “urgent” desires masquerading as needs. It’s laughable to watch, when I don’t give in, how what I HAD TO HAVE on the 10th of the month is often nowhere in sight by the 29th of the month, having been replaced by four other items I HAVE TO HAVE.
But let’s say I do still want what I wanted. Guess what? By the 10th of the new month, I’m ready to move on. You see, HAVING the item is never as satisfying as WANTING the item. Anticipation is a real high. But as an addict, getting high in any way can be deadly.
I am so grateful for the forced waiting period between purchases. I have a lot of experience with this because I wait for 24 hours or more as a matter of spiritual practice anyway when I am overcome with obsession, even if I do have the money available to spend.
Pouring Gasoline on a Fire
Here’s the thing – if I give into obsession when I am in the throes of it, EVEN IN ABSTINENCE, I am essentially pouring gasoline on a fire and making my staying in recovery with money much harder.
Let’s play this out. Let’s say I’m obsessed with buying crochet supplies. If I don’t buy them when I’m obsessed, I will watch my addict mind wander in and out of obsession until it finally dies down, the crochet fixation possibly replaced by something else. Or maybe, if I’m really spiritually fit, it’s replaced by peace, and no craving or grasping or new obsession.
But if I DO give in, even if I have the money for it, I have now set the craving in motion, and have shown my disease that it can control me. Now, when the next obsession hits, it will be far more difficult for me to say no, not now. How do I know this? Because I have tested it within my DA HOW recovery.
A Grateful Heart
It’s not a pleasant state of affairs for me. I have come to see that I have to choose between two challenging options. If I don’t give in, I have to face the discomfort of changing my old way of being, and feeling a wide variety of emotional states, from dying to tantrum to “it’s not fair,” and finally, coming through it to acceptance and peace. For me, I find that meditation as suggested in Step 11 is a wonderful way to learn to face discomfort.
I can also help myself through this process by focusing on gratitude. When I live in gratitude and in the present moment, it is much easier to release obsession. They say a grateful heart doesn’t binge. I think that is because we open ourselves to feel the true, pure joy that no money can buy.
Giving In, Giving Up
If I do give in to the obsession, I get to feel a short-lived “ahhhhh,” or worse, disappointment in the purchase, followed almost immediately by another obsession hitting me even harder than the last, and less willingness to stay sober with money around it.
I then become severely restless, irritable, and discontented. I rationalize spending even if I don’t have the money available. At that point, I try to convince my PRG team and sponsor that I must take the money from other categories instead of saving for the item. Next, might come all out rebellion if I don’t get my way.
When I begin to act out like that, the fire that began as a simmering flame, now blazes out of control as I become less and less spiritually fit.
Willing to be Willing
In the past, it was only by the Grace of my Higher Power that I was able to stay willing to be willing to live by my spending plan when I started down that path myself. Because once I don’t live by my spending plan, I am most assuredly going to debt again.
So, which is the better choice for me? Temporary discomfort, followed by sanity and peace? Or temporary comfort, followed by hellfire and brimstone?
For today, there’s no choice for me.