Addictions – Fighting the Fire Within

FIREMillions of people all over the world struggle with addictions every day. There are many kinds of addictions such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography, or food. In this article I share a simple concept that can help in dealing with addictions.

Fire Analogy

When I was a kid I liked to play with matches. It was fun. I loved to watch things burn. But as you know, playing with matches can be very dangerous. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that my family had two homes burn down during my growing up years. (I have solid alibis!)

I like to compare addictions to fire. Think about a match. You can strike a match and how hard is it to put out a match? One little puff of your breath and you can blow it out. No problem. Another match lights, puff, blow it out. No problem. However, when you let a fire go, it can quickly rage out of control where there is nothing you can do about it. At that point you’re basically lost, it’s out of control, and it’s beyond anything you can do about it.

I know about this concept personally. Let me share with you two stories from my life.

Out of Control Campfire Number 1

The first story took place when I was probably in kindergarten. My older brother Kurt and I built a campfire in our back yard. We had planned to melt some lead in a tin can over the fire. Our back yard was fairly large and there was a big lawn. But on the side of the yard there was a garden area that was full of dry weeds and grass. This is where we chose to build our fire. Well my brother made the mistake of leaving me alone by the fire.

We had some newspapers there that we used to start the fire with and I decided to take a page from the newspaper and lay it over our little campfire. The first thing it did was burst into flames. Then because heat rises, this flaming newspaper floated up into the air and drifted right over into the dry weeds and grass which immediately burst into flames.

Now I must have been around six years old or something and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to put it out by stamping on it but that didn’t work. I could not get it out and it was beyond my control. The fire grew bigger and bigger and was racing toward the fence, the new fence that my dad built, and proceeded to catch the fence on fire.

The fire department was called and they came and put out the fire. Luckily I didn’t get into too much trouble but my brother Kurt did.

Out of Control Campfire Number 2

The second story happened when I was older, probably about eleven years old. Across the highway from our house, about a mile away, there was a thickly wooded area that surrounded several ponds where turtles and carp lived. I loved to go over there and catch them and play around. There was thick brush and trees all around the ponds and in the hot Arizona climate a lot of those trees had dried out and died.

My older brothers and I decided to go camping there one summer afternoon. We each had our own little camping spots, as I recall, and my older brother Russell even built a little campfire.

Well, he began to play with his little fire. He took a stick and would poke the end of it into his campfire and catch it on fire. Then he would take the flaming stick and use it to light some dry brush nearby and watch it burn. Then he would quickly put it out. He did this several times, letting the flames get larger each time. (Can you see here where I’m going with this!)

Well, one time he let it go too far and when he tried to put it out he couldn’t. He started screaming at the rest of us to come help him. We all ran over to his campsite and started stamping and throwing dirt on the fire but it was too late. In moments the fire roared into a huge inferno.

We snatched our sleeping bags and got the heck out of there. We ran back across the highway and hid on the other side. From there we watched that whole place go up in gigantic, fifty-foot flames. Farmers from all around drove up in their pickup trucks to see what was going on and to try and put the fire out but they couldn’t do it. The whole place went up in smoke and flames all because my brother was playing around with fire.

Don’t Play With Fire

Now sometimes we want to play figuratively with fire, to look at that image on the internet, to take just one puff of the cigarette, to eat just one more donut. We think, “I’m stressed out today and I just don’t feel so good. I’ll do it just this once and that’s it. Then I’ll stop.” Well that’s kind of like lighting a match, but instead of blowing the match out when that first thought comes into our mind we touch it to some dry grass and say, “I’ll let it go for a little bit and then I’ll put it out.” So we watch it grow and it gets bigger and bigger and before we know it, it’s gotten so large that we try stamping it out but it’s going in all directions and try as we might we cannot put it out and it rages out of control until it consumes us.

This is the way addictions work. They are very similar to these examples in that if you play around with it and you don’t put it out right away when that flame first starts it becomes so much harder. It grows out of control to the point where you’re had, you’re done, you’re ashes, you’re toast.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when the flame is tiny, put it out. When the match strikes, put it out. Don’t dwell on it, don’t play with it or you’ll get burned. It’s so much easier to control these desires, appetites and cravings when they are but a tiny spark than when we let them grow into a huge inferno. So, that’s my simple lesson for today.

Thank you.
Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Kill the Monster When It’s a Baby

Kill the monster when it's a baby.

I’m going to teach you about killing babies – monster babies that is. Let me explain. I was thinking about the idea that we don’t perform any act or do anything without thinking about it first. A thought has to enter our mind before we ever do anything. Sometimes we purposely think thoughts and other times we could be minding our own business and a thought will just pop into our head without our invitation. But the point being that you don’t act without first thinking about it. So if we can eliminate the thought in the first place then we will never perform the action.

Our negative or bad thoughts are like monsters. They begin small but tend to grow until they can nearly destroy us. It’s much easier to kill these monsters when they are babies than when they are fully grown.

The Plan

So here’s the plan. Think about the negative action or habit you want to get rid of. Then determine what negative thought or thoughts precede that action or habit. Then you take some money, say $50 or $100 and you go to the bank and you exchange it for one-dollar bills. Every day that you go the entire day without dwelling upon the negative thought – meaning every time the thought comes to you, and you immediately get rid of it, you take one dollar and put it into a jar or a bank or envelope. So, you have a stack of $1 bills and every day that you are successful you take one dollar and put it in your jar. The idea is that after five days of not dwelling on the chosen negative or bad thought then you should have five one-dollar bills in your jar.

Now, if you mess up one day and actually dwell upon the thought then you must give the money away. I’m not even talking about performing the negative act itself. I’m just talking about dwelling upon the thought. If you do that then you have failed for that day and then all the money you have in the jar you have to give away – either to charity or the beggar on the street or anybody – you must give it away.

Set a Goal

So you set yourself a goal, a small goal at first, say thirty days. You want to go thirty days and every time that you complete a day without dwelling on the negative thought then you add a dollar to your jar. Then after thirty days you can take that money and reward yourself and splurge and buy yourself anything you want. Now that’s not a lot of money but then the next goal will be sixty days. So you keep increasing your goal like that. The idea is to train your mind so that whenever the bad thoughts come into your mind, from whatever source, you immediately remove it, get rid of it.

The beauty of all of this is this: most people decide to stop a certain negative behavior or action when they’re almost in the middle of it and at that point it’s usually too late. It’s like you’ve slid down a slippery slope and your are sliding so fast and the slope is getting steeper that it’s almost impossible to stop and turn and climb back up. The idea is to stop yourself before you even get close to the edge of that slope – to deal with the problem when it’s easy. So the beauty of all this is that you never have to deal with this great and terrible temptation because you never even get to that point. I have seen this work with myself and it’s almost like magic.

You might say to yourself, “This could cost me a lot of money!” Yes, it could. But its much cheaper than going to counseling. Ask yourself how much its worth to you to be rid of this habit. I guarantee that if you put this plan in place you will be amazed at the results. It really does train your brain. So, go out and kill some babies – monster babies.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson