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

Sheep Thief or Saint?

Sheep

I once heard a story about two brothers who lived in a small town in the country. The story goes that both of these brothers were caught stealing sheep. For their punishment they were branded on the forehead with the letters “ST,” for “Sheep Thief.”

One brother was so ashamed that he left the community. Everywhere he went he had to constantly explain the letters on his forehead. He remained bitter about the whole thing and always felt he had been treated unfairly. He eventually died a lonely man and was buried in an unknown grave.

His brother, on the other hand, stayed in the community and tried to win back his neighbors’ trust. He did everything he could to show the people of the town that he was a changed man. He volunteered for community service projects, helped his neighbors when he saw the need, and did all he could to become the kind of man that he knew he ought to be.

Many years later a visitor came to town. He asked a local resident about the strange letters on the old man’s forehead. The resident replied that he had forgotten exactly why the letters were there, but that he thought “ST” most likely was an abbreviation for the word “Saint.”

Like the brothers in this story, each of us makes mistakes in our lives – sometimes big ones and sometimes little ones. And like the brothers in this story we can choose what we do about the mistakes we make. We are the ones that decide how our mistakes are going to affect us.

May each of us choose the good path and become the person we know we ought to be so that perhaps someday we may be known as a “Saint” and not a “Sheep Thief.” Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Do What You Know

farmer I once heard a story about a farmer who had been farming for many years. He had a son who went off to college and after a few years came home with a degree in hand, and a head full of knowledge. He told his father, “You know, Dad, this farm would be much more productive if you would use the new methods of farming. These days everyone is using hybrid strains of seeds. There are better methods of crop rotation and contour plowing. Plus you really should be using up-to-date insecticides and fertilizers. And did you know most farmers are milking their cows three times a day instead of two.” He went on and on expounding the virtues of all the modern methods of farming. Finally his father said, “Now just hold on there son! I’m not farming half as well as I know how already!”

Isn’t that the way we are? We seldom perform as well as we know how. I’ve heard people say that “knowledge is power.” To a certain degree it can be. But in my own personal experience I find that I know a lot of things that I should be doing but I don’t. Just having knowledge about something doesn’t necessarily translate to the ability or power to do it.

Many times over the years I would tell my children to do their homework. Invariably they would answer back, “I know dad!” and I would say back to them, “Then do what you know!” It’s kind of a joke around my house because I have said that phrase so many times to my children: Do what you know.

How many self-improvement books have you read over your life time? I have hundreds of them! We probably learn ten-times more than what we ever put into action in our lives. Yet we keep buying books and wanting to learn more.

At some point it’s time to stop learning and start doing. We need to put our knowledge to use. I’m not suggesting we completely stop learning but what good is learning if we never use it?

Here is my suggestion: How about making a list of all the things you know you should do but aren’t. Then from your list choose two or three things and start doing them! You can read books, read blogs and listen to tapes and CDs till the cows come home but until you actually do something you are going nowhere. It’s time to take real action! At the end of the day, knowing the answer means nothing if you don’t do anything about it.

Snap Decisions

Power Line TowerIt was a sad day in my community. Several years ago a funeral was being held for a young man who was well known and loved by many people. His name was Scott. He was 15 years old. He was electrocuted after he climbed a power line tower. This hits close to home for me because that power line tower was within sight of a trail that I hiked every morning. I didn’t know him personally but many teenagers that I knew also knew him. This tragedy affected many people.

My message is simple. Be careful of Snap Decisions.

What is a snap decision? It is simply one of those quick decisions we make without thinking. We make them all the time and for the most part things turn out okay. But I’m sure you can think of some snap decisions you have made in your life that you wish you hadn’t. I can think of several in my life that if I could go back in time I would certainly do things differently.

Because of a snap decision made by Scott, he is no longer with us. Now his family and friends grieve for his loss and struggle with trying to understand why these things happen.

It was almost exactly one year earlier that another snap decision was made that affected our community. It was made by the girl next door. Her name is Julia. She is my daughter Kimberly’s best friend.

Julia’s Accident Scene

Julia and her friend Holly were crossing the highway that is directly behind our home. They were going to a volleyball game at the local church. The two crossed the southbound lanes safely and stopped on the raised median, waiting for traffic to clear. They saw a minivan coming and thought it was going to make a left turn. It wasn’t. As Julia stepped out onto the highway she was struck by the minivan. A simple snap decision and her life hung by a thread.

At the hospital with Julia

She suffered head injuries, two broken legs and a torn heart valve. She was rushed to the hospital and into emergency surgery to repair her heart. It has been a long road of recovery for her and I’m glad to report she is doing remarkably well today. Again, a snap decision with major consequences.

As we go about our lives, let us be aware of and be careful of the Snap Decisions we sometimes make. Stop and think it through. Think twice about what you are doing. What may seem like a small decision could have lifelong consequences for you or even cut your life short.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

The Art of Learning from Our Mistakes

weallmakemistakes.jpgMaking mistakes – yeah, I’ve got it down to an art form. Now if I can make learning from my mistakes an art form that would be something. No promises here but some simple observations about mistakes and how we can learn from them.

Last week I had made the plan to attend an important event early on Friday morning. When I mean early I mean 6 a.m. early! In order for me to be there I would need to get up by 4:30 in the morning, get ready and leave my home by 5:30 to be to the event by 6:00. I’ve done it before and knew what I needed to do to be there.

Well, guess what, I blew it! I didn’t make it and was deeply disappointed in myself. I did what any normal person would do and beat myself up mentally. That’s fine but if I’m going to learn anything from this I’ve got to do more than just mentally beat myself up. I’ve got to analyze the situation, see what I did wrong and then change my ways.

So what went wrong? My big mistake was that I didn’t think or plan ahead. The mistake that I made was deciding to go to a movie the night before. My wife and son pressured me into it. (Placing blame here!) It was a 7:30 p.m. movie that was nearly 3 hours long. When all was said and done I didn’t get to bed until 11:30 p.m. I knew when I went to bed that I was never going make it up by 4:30 a.m. I had already blown it.

My point isn’t necessarily the missing of the event. The point is that we learn from our mistakes. When something goes wrong or something goes haywire and things don’t turn out the way that you planned, look at the situation and figure out why. Analyze it and see what you could have done differently. Why did you mess up? In my particular situation, what happened was that I didn’t think ahead. I went ahead and said, “Yeah, let’s go to a movie.” I should have thought it through and realized that going to a movie at 7:30 in the evening was going to put me to bed too late at night to be able to get up as early as I needed to. So the next time I plan on being somewhere very early in the morning I’ve got to make sure that whatever I do the night before I do early enough that I will get home on time so I can get to bed on time.

There is a great little story I read years ago that fits perfectly here:

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters
By Portia Nelson

Chapter One
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I fall in.
I am lost…I am helpless.
It isn’t my fault.
It takes forever to find a way out.

Chapter Two
I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend that I don’t see it.
I fall in again.
I can’t believe I am in this same place.
But, it isn’t my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.

Chapter Three
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep whole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in…it’s a habit…but,
My eyes are open
I know where I am
It is my fault.
I get out immediately,

Chapter Four
I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.

Chapter Five
I walk down another street.

The point is that when something goes wrong in our lives, when we mess up, when we falter, that we look at the situation and analyze it and then make a change. If we are not learning from our mistakes we will keep falling in the same hole.

Thank you.

The Power of Decisions

Decisions

I want to talk today about the power of decisions. When you think about any change that you’ve ever made in your life, didn’t it really happen the moment you made a decision? Sometimes we say, “Oh it’s hard to change, it took me forever to change.” Usually what takes forever is getting yourself to the point of deciding. It’s the “getting ready to get ready to change” that’s takes so long. You really didn’t make any changes until you decided to change.

So you can say today, “That’s it! I’m done. I’m never going to do that again” or “this is the way I’m going to be from now on.” It’s the power of a decision. No change was ever made in anybody’s life without first deciding. Once you make a decision then you can move forward. A lot of times you say, “Oh it’s so hard to change, it’s so hard to do this, it’s so hard to do that” but really it’s not hard because you’re really not doing it yet, you’re really not making any effort until you decide.

The decision – when things begin to happen

Once you have made that decision, things start to happen in your life. Making that one single decision, saying from this point on, from this time, this minute, this second, I am going in a new direction. I am no longer going in the direction I was going. I have turned my life. I am headed in a new direction and everything I do and everything I say and everything I feel is different. This gets you on the road. You won’t totally change your life in a day but you will be amazed at how quickly you move in that direction.

Think for a moment about the story that Charles Dickens wrote, A Christmas Carol. Think about Scrooge. Think about what happened to him, how in an instant his life changed. After he was shown all the pain and misery of his past and the mistakes that he had made, and the person that he had become, and then as he looked into the future and was shown what his future would be if he continued on that path, if he continued in that direction – he made a decision, in an instant. He changed his direction. He changed his glasses, his lenses that he sees his life through. Suddenly everything changed.

Can you change in an instant?

Is it possible for a person to change in an instant? I believe it is. Think about Scrooge and how he changed in an instant. He totally changed his direction. He became a different person. Now, did everything change in his life all at once? No! But his direction changed and the lens through which he looked at life changed. The lens through which he made decisions, his feelings, his actions changed by changing that lens that he looked through. He changed the direction that he was headed in his life. Everything changed and he was now on the road in a different direction to a different life, to becoming a different person. You can do the same. You can make that change.

Now you don’t have to have spirits come to you in the night to show you the mistakes you have made in the past. You can do that on your own. Review your past. Review the pain that you’ve had in your life by going the direction you’re going right now. Think about all the pain you’ve suffered through. Think of all the opportunities that you’ve missed because of the actions and direction you’ve taken in your life. Think about where you could have been now.

Ponder your future

Think about your future. If you continue on the road that you are on now where will you be one year from now? Will you be any better of a person? Will you continue down hill? What about five years from now? Where will you be if you continue on this road that you’re headed without changing? What will your life be like? Is that where you want to be? Is that where you want to go? Experience the pain of this. Think about it. What kind of a life do you want? What kind of person do you want to be? Do you want to continue heading in the direction that you’re heading right now? Is that what you want? No!

As you experience this pain of your past mistakes and what it will mean to you in the future if you don’t make any changes – let it sink deep down into your heart, into your mind, into your emotions. Feel this pain and make a decision now, at this moment, that you will not put up with this any more, that you will not live another second in this world headed in that direction, that you are tired of tripping up, falling down, making mistakes, following the easy path and suffering the misery from this. You want better things in life.

You know deep down inside of you is a different person, a better person, a great person, a person with potential. The real you is deep down inside you. You know who the real you is and it’s trying to get out. Why not let him out now? Defeat the old “you” and let the new “you” out. You can do all this with the power of decisions.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson