My mom says she will not drink alcohol, not for religious conviction, but because we have an addictive tendency in our family line. She did smoke, for a very brief season, long before I was born. Over 50 years later, the smell of second-hand smoke can still give her a craving for another cigarette. And she hates the smell - it leaves her coughing and her eyes watering, but that nicotine draw is so powerful. If mom took a drink of anything hard, she fears she won't be able to quit.
In a very real sense, all being human, all being born with a sin nature, specific sin tendencies flow through all of us. Where the Bible speaks of the sins of the parents being revisited to the third and forth generation, I believe it is referencing familial tendencies (in today's science terminology, "genetics") toward specific weaknesses and temptations, so addiction fits right into this idea! Maybe it is smoking, maybe it is overeating (a particularly hard one since we can't cut food out of our lives and must regularly consume moderate amounts of food in order to live), maybe it's drugs (illegal or the abuse of prescriptions), maybe your addiction is sexual. maybe it's porn or fantasy reading, gambling, foul language, television. Anything that controls us, that we cannot stop (or in the case of food, dramatically moderate), is an addiction.
For me it is shopping!
The tendency to impulse shop and overspend has always been a struggle. As a child, God well provided for my needs through my parents. The "extras" were few though, except for twice a year. For my birthday and Christmas, I always received checks in the mail (living on a different continent from grandparents and other relatives make checks the logical gift), then my mom and I would make a day of it, out shopping, just the two of us. The feeling of wealth with all that money in my purse, the surge of adrenaline at being able to buy pretty much anything I wanted, the thrill of finding sales and bargains to stretch our money even farther, the hours of quality time alone with my mom including a lunch out together, all added up to strong, joyful memories. This was also the recipe to tell my brain that spending money was a very pleasant and exciting experience, a way to erase negative feelings.
Our early years of marriage were also very tight financially. In our 2nd or 3rd year of marriage, I can remember buying a square of oilcloth on sale at the fabric store to serve as a tablecloth, then putting it on the table and hoping my husband wouldn't notice! Rick was more than willing to supply the needs of our home and family, but I knew how tight our budget was and felt guilty at my frivolous expenditure of $8 for something that was practical and beautified our home, but wasn't a true need. (I thought I got away with that one until my parents came for a visit and my mom complimented the new tablecloth at her first meal there.! LOL)
Fast forward to my strokes, where a great big eraser was liberally applied to six large areas of my brain. Areas of decision making, common sense, emotions, impulse control, and logic were among the countless areas of cognition impacted.
We joked (sort of, there was a good measure of reality to the statements though) that it was a really good thing I didn't have access to a credit card in the rehab hospital. Like a baby, may days and night were really mixed up. My typical sleep pattern meant falling asleep at two or three in the afternoon (I think a lot of this had to do with the fact that Rick could work afternoons remotely from my hospital room, so just knowing he was there made me relax enough to sleep soundly), Rick waking me to wheel me down to dinner in the cafeteria around 5, falling back into bed for the night an hour later, then sleeping until 2-3 in the morning, then being wide awake for another day. I was always ready when I heard the squeaky wheels of the blood draw cart come down the hall for my 5am draw.
Though I was blind, I could make out colors (with one eye), some basic shapes, and movement. I had no room mate, so didn't need to worry about sound volume and could crank up sound as loud as I needed. I would swing a free-armed television set about two inches from my face and "watch" tv for hours, trying to make out the letters of the closed captioning to both help compensate for my lack of hearing and to try to challenge my eyesight, while also improving reading speed and cognition. After my blood draw, I would call Rick and we would talk for a bit before he had to get ready for work.
What's consistently on t.v. between 2-5 each morning? Infomercials. LOTS of infomercials.
Every morning, Rick would receive a full report on what we needed to buy now, and why. I can't even recall many of the things we so NEEDED, but we indeed did truly need them in my mind. The morning I tried to convince Rick we really couldn't live without a specific style of baby food maker and he reminded me that our youngest baby was already five years old, I realized I might have a problem.
After I came home, I did not have the skill to use a credit card for some months. The month I finally figured it out again, Rick had a bill for over $500 worth of small "needed" items I had ordered off the internet. If you have been following me story long, you likely remember my $500 impulsive door-to-door meat purchase last summer!
|With short term memory loss, this is especially true.|
I usually have no idea what I ordered by the time my package comes!
After wrestling with my shopping compulsion for a while, seeking professional counseling, considering options from not having a credit card at all (not something Rick felt was wise, in case of emergencies) to having to be policed and reporting every single cent to my husband as it was spent, Rick graciously agreed on what has become a workable compromise.
Every quarter I receive a few hundred dollars in royalties from the publication of my first book. When I stroked I had over $1,000 saved up in book royalties. I would use this money for special projects, to buy things for the house that were not in the regular budget, ship free books to folks, buy gifts, take friend out to lunch, then any professional and writing expenses came out of this account too. The compromise was to get me a debit card tied directly and only to this account. I can spend at will, as long as there is money there.
It didn't take me long to drain that account dry. But at least I stopped burning through the family account, the one that pays our mortgage, puts food on the table, cares for medical co-pays.
Is it a perfect solution? Nope. Would it be better if I stopped overspending? Ideally!
Reality is, God has helped me so much in regaining control in my food choices, that, along with a very messed up metabolism from the strokes, were really making me gain and retain weight at an alarming rate!
Someone in my shoes can easily become substance addicted to anything from prescriptions to alcohol, and graciously I have avoided this snare. I don't even drink coffee. Sugar has controlled me at times, but as of right this moment, it really isn't even an issue for me. Finding out wheat is directly and consistently responsible for the vast majority of my migraine has given me the incentive to fully eradicate it from my diet. The ongoing negative reactions (along with now hiving from iodine contrast) has gotten my attention to remove greatly beloved shellfish from my fare as well. And though I am not thrilled with all these diet choices (though the reasons for them are rather persuasive!), God is giving me the strength to implement the needed changes demanded by my health.
I often make good choices in what I'm spending, such as a couple of large household purchases I have saved up for, like to replace our vaccuum (Rick would have, I was just excited that I could) or put a privacy blind in our front door. I planned, purchased and paid for my whole 3rd re-birthday bash. I paid the $250 difference between the cell phone Rick budgeted to buy for me and the one I needed for stroke limitations that would allow me to communicate through text, even with my hand and sight limitations. I've been able to help out a few people in tough circumstances. I've bought fitness programs, some of my exercise/therapy equipment, and speciality foods that are expensive, but helped me get a handle on my food addiction. On the less noble front, I've bought myself a whole lot of butterflies (about half have been given to me as gifts, but I've bought plenty for myself too) and clothes (some have been needed since I've gone from sizes 14/16 down to 10/12, but Rick would have gladly provided for my needs here -often clothes, and hats, and shoes, are one in the same with my butterfly quest when I could have truly gotten something less extravagant to meet that same need). I still get a rush out of every order I place, especially if I found it at a discount!
I would rather not be controlled by anything. However, as I learn and strive to commit this area of my life more fully to Jesus (she says, just a month after royalty payment, with a nearly empty bank account yet again, that will not be replenished for two more months), I am ever-so-thankful for a husband who worked so hard to make our lives functional within context of my compulsions that have yet to be fully reigned in! I'm also thankful, that while I will readily admit to being highly frivolous in this area, God has enabled me to stay out of family funds, to keep that emergency family credit card in check! Stroke recovery is expensive enough without me, because of my post-stroke processing skills, taking funds that are not available to be taken!
Because I do have two different GoFundMe accounts, one for general family needs, especially those directly related to my medical costs, and one that I can immediately pay toward Mt. Hermon Christian Writer's Conference tuition, I wanted to explain that these are set so they don't access "my play money" and actually get spent for exactly what they are earmarked for. My poor spending compulsion is not allowed access to these funds! I am really working on better spending habits, and as book royalties dry up (a real likelihood with a 12-year-old title!), as they are already dwindling these past three checks from prior amounts, I'm either going to have to be far more self-controlled, or our family is going to really struggle with this issue again!