Whether it’s alcohol, cigarettes, gambling, drugs, calories, temper tantrums or finger-nail biting, I suspect that resolutions about addictions are the single most frequent source of New Year’s resolutions.
The addiction to which I am prone is sugar, especially if it is cuddled up with chocolate and nuts. I don’t have a weight problem as such, but the only reason I still wear the same size jeans today as when I was 18 is that Lands End size 8 is a good deal more generous than it was 4 decades ago. And every Christmas I demonstrate to myself just how easily I could slip on another ten pounds a year. I know my potential to lose control of my sugar intake is very much like that of the alcoholic in relation to alcohol.
The challenge for the addict or potential addict is that additions have the power to overcome almost any resolution by narrowing our consciousness to that single obsession. I think sometimes that the reasons an addict can find for indulging “just this once” are among the most creative and ingenious known to man. I knew a man once who actually chained himself to his sofa to make it impossible for him to leave the house to buy cigarettes. George Best dressed up in his wife’s clothes and posed as a woman in order to get the barman to serve him a drink — or two — or ten. If you or anyone you love is struggling with an uncontrolled addition, you know the routine.
A long time ago, though, I learned a small trick from a monk who finally managed to lose weight. The only rule he had was that when he was going to break his diet, he would brush his teeth first.
I never tried that particular distraction, but I have found what works for me is my “five-minute delay.” You can have that second cookie/candy/piece of cake, I say to myself, if you still want it in five minutes. In the meantime, get on with what you were doing.
I am still amazed at how often this works for me. That mad irresistible irrational impulse needs the breath of attention to survive. And five-minutes is its starvation point for me. On the rare occasion when it doesn’t work, I give myself the promised forbidden fruit. But then I apply the 5-minute delay rule to the inevitable impulse to grab a third bite of that tree of the Knowledge of Failure.
I am sure my need to control my sugar intake will remain with me for the rest of my conscious life. So just to add a little diversification to my annual resolutions, I am also resolving this year to set aside an hour each day for concentrated reading. Reading is so intrinsically rewarding that you’d think no intelligent person would need to resolve to read. But I’ve been watching myself develop an eerie preference for playing Free Cell or Solitaire. It doesn’t give me any satisfaction whatsoever – it’s just a compulsive excuse to waste time.
So I’m simply going to try to crowd it out by doing something I enjoy more.
Whether additional concentrated reading will be evident in a display of brilliant posts is in doubt. But I rather think it will be one of my more enjoyable resolutions.