Addiction, NA, Narcotics Anonymous, Recovery, Spiritual Principles, Twelve Steps

Self-Discipline and Impulsiveness

Years ago, a group of friends was traveling from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to Colorado to go skiing. The group was traveling by caravan, one vehicle after the next. The caravan consisted of over a dozen vehicles of various shapes and sizes.

As they passed through New Mexico, one of the vehicles in the group began experiencing mechanical problems. So, all those vehicles proceeded to pull into a new car dealership so that my friend Ed could have the service department take care of the problem. After a brief analysis of the issue, Ed was told that it would be a couple of days before the part would arrive and repairs could be made. Bad news for Ed and his family, and their plans to be on the ski slopes the next morning.

Then Ed made a quick, decisive, perhaps even impulsive decision. He walked from the service department to the showroom floor and picked out a new mini-van for his family. Problem solved! Before they knew it, Ed, his family, and the rest of the caravan were back on the road. Their plans to ski were not interrupted. All was well.

At first blush, Ed’s quick decision might seem irresponsible. It might seem like a lapse in self-discipline. After all, how could someone spend so much money with such little concern? How could he jump into a new car purchase, along with all the issues that accompany such a purchase, with so little consideration?

I know that in my case, a decision like that would be one that would require extensive planning and saving. It’s one thing to buy a new pair of socks on impulse, but a car? Seems a bit extreme.

Well, for most people, present company included, it would be extreme. Not for Ed. In Ed’s thirties, he founded a sports network. It was the eighties, and cable television was booming. Soon, his single regional network had become six networks. By the time 1990 rolled around, Ed sat atop a virtual television empire, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars.

So, for him, that purchase, relatively speaking, was about the same as the cost of a new pair of socks to me. Of greater value to Ed was the vacation time. Time set aside for his wife and children. Time for them all to spend with friends.

Time, that’s the one thing that all the money in the world cannot buy more of. It marches on relentlessly, easily vanishing before our eyes if we are not careful with it. Just ask any parent of grown children, they will attest to how precious time is.

So yes, Ed’s new car purchase that day, for him and his family, represented a responsible impulse purchase. No lack of self-discipline in the decision. On the contrary, it could be argued that it was a highly disciplined purchase for this man who was generally known for living a modest lifestyle.

For an addict like me, acting on impulse can be a very dangerous thing. Self-discipline has become a vital part of my recovery. Today and yesterday are providing a great example of my need to practice self-discipline in all my affairs.

A last-minute business trip has me in Jonesboro, Arkansas this morning. The drive here took my whole day yesterday. I was passing through Fort Smith, Arkansas around lunchtime, and attended an NA meeting there. Then, after arriving in Jonesboro, I attended two more meetings.

Seems like overkill, I will admit. However, I realize my need to vigilance in my recovery right now. This is a big week for our family, as we once again are headed to court to discuss Shaun’s future. For the past year, Amanda and I have been working through the process of ending the guardianship that has had Shaun separated Amanda for almost three years, bringing that chapter in our lives to a close.

It has been a difficult year, and right now we are both feeling the weight of the process. My plan had been to be home, surrounded by reminders of my recovery, and how valuable it is to me. Instead, I find myself hours from home, dealing with emotions alone on the road.

The last thing I need right now is to act on impulse. After all, I am an addict. My impulse is to try and avoid the feelings I’m experiencing. To find something outside of myself to calm my nerves. Something to avoid experiencing my emotions.

Instead of following that impulse, I went to meetings. I visited with other recovering addicts at each one. I experienced recovery, as I listened to others, and as I shared. Self-discipline kept me from acting on impulse. It kept me on track. It allowed me to continue this life I have come to love so much.

There are impulsive acts that I can afford, and those that I cannot. Like Ed and his new mini-van, some impulsive actions have no serious consequences. However, there are many impulsive actions that could spell disaster for me and my loved ones. Practicing self-discipline helps me to avoid disaster. It keeps me on track, enjoying recovery, and allowing me to…

Have a remarkable day!

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