I can do this! Do it for the clothes—the skinny jeans, the juniors section of Kohls, shopping on the right side of the Dress Barn. Do it for the concerned people in my life—my husband, my mother, my kids…think of the kids. Then there’s my doctor. I could do it for him, for my heart, my knees, my family history of heart attacks and diabetes. Now that’s motivation! Do it so I’ll look great for my daughter’s wedding, my son’s homecoming, for my class reunion. Do it in time for the holidays, the 4th year hike, and the four day cruise. I know!—I’ll show Heavenly Father I can do it. He’ll be so proud of me! Do it to show them—myself, the world, my skinny little neighbor. I’ll show them it can be done and that I’m the one who can do it. Buy a new planner. Turn over a new leaf. This time it’s going to happen. Yes!
As I sit at my computer this wintery morning I remember how many of my New Year’s Day entries in my brand-new journal start out with this kind of bravado—literally decades of bold fresh starts–and tears come to my eyes. It wasn’t that I lacked motivation before recovery. What I didn’t have was the right motivation.
Then, one day while studying the scriptures I learned something important. In the Book of Mormon I came to a verse which explained why the repentant, living-in-recovery, Sons of Mosiah adopted the religions practice of fasting.
Alma 17:9 says, “And it came to pass that they journeyed many days in the wilderness, and they fasted much…
“Fasted much!” That got my attention. I had recently discovered the 12 steps of recovery and had been introduced to the concept of abstinence. Having practiced “first Sunday” and “when in great need” fasting since my childhood, I had already seen some correlation between abstinence and fasting. As a compulsive eater with many years of practice grazing my way through the day I was becoming keenly aware that recovery was going to require some measure of fasting between meals.
I read a little more, hoping to learn something from people who seemed to know how to abstain. I read on but didn’t get too far:
“…and they fasted much and prayed much that…”
The next word to get my attention was the little inconspicuous word “that.” “…and they fasted much and prayed much that…” This verse was about to help me understand why these folks fasted—and perhaps why I should abstain! I was quite sure that none of the possible reasons mentioned in my first paragraph were going to appear in this scripture. I read on:
“…and they fasted much and prayed much that the Lord would grant unto them a portion of his Spirit to go with them, and abide with them,…”
These former rebellious fellows were motivated by their desire to have the Spirit with them on the trail—abiding with them—living with them twenty-four seven. Wow! That’s quite the lofty motivation. The verse continues with one more reason to go without:
“…that they might be an instrument in the hands of God to bring, if it were possible, their brethren, the Lamanites, to the knowledge of the truth…”
So, they also fasted because they wanted to help other people understand the true gospel the way they had come to understand it, and they knew they would need help from the Lord.
This verse was their answer to anyone who might ask them why they fasted so much. Can you imagine giving this same answer to someone who asks you why you aren’t going to go to this or that award winning R rated movie; why you cut up all your credit cards; why you don’t snack between meals; why you refused to leave the doctor’s office with a prescription for pain meds; why there are so many channels blocked on your TV; or if you’re really going to eat that whole salad; or going to refuse just one drink, one cookie, one look?
Imagine saying, “I live this way because I am seeking the abiding presence and communication with the Holy Spirit and the power and direction to help others find and understand the truth.”
Now that’s motivation! It’s the kind of desire that invites the enabling power of God to bless our fast, our abstinence. Whether others question why or not, and whether I ever answer aloud or not, today I know in my heart that the desire of these young men must become my desire. Continual or what we call “back to back abstinence” is “much fasting.” The power to fast requires powerful motivation. Powerful motivation brings us to the One with the power.
Even knowing this, I sometimes lose sight of my reason for abstaining from harmful addictive substances and behaviors. I frankly forget. I know I’m not the only one with a broken “rememberer.” Over the years I have heard many people in relapse share that in the moment just before they “picked up,” they couldn’t think of one good reason to stay clean.
Lesser motivations seem to always be waiting in the wings. It’s so easy to slip back into being motivated by good people and pretty good things—even inspiring things—things however that are never powerful enough to inspire me toward steady day-in and day-out sober thinking and sober eating. My experience is that lesser motivations bring temporary results.
Addiction is a powerful force. There is not an event important enough, a new outfit darling enough, the smiling approval from family members encouraging enough, or a pat on the back from my doctor affirming enough to empower me to fight off tremendous cravings, unyielding social pressure, and the temptations of the devil.
When I dedicate my abstinence, my sacrifice, to my desire to live in company with the Lord and my need for His powerful assistance, He truly does do for me what I have never been able to do for myself. He blesses me with the ability to “fast much.” When my motives are right, my Savior responds.
So did you make some resolutions this year? Are you struggling on this midwinter day? Is your commitment to abstinence wavering? Don’t abandon your resolution. Check your motivation.
By Nannette W.
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2013
Copyright 2011 by Nannette W. All right reserved. Making or sending copies is permitted if the page is not changed in any way and the material is not used for profit. This notice must be included on each copy made or sent.