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Filling The Gaps

For many years I was a part of organizations that had alcohol and drug (A&D) treatment programs. The programs were mostly for people who were homeless. Many had mental health diagnoses also. A&D recovery is tough. People who are addicted face temptations that destroy them. Those temptations are strong beyond belief. I have known many addicts who knew that if they used, they would die, and they still chose to use. I have known addicts who destroyed relationships with people they love so they could embrace their addiction. I have known people who chose to feed their addiction rather than feed their children. The temptations of an addict are beyond what those of us who are not addicted can possibly understand.

Many of those years I worked with groups in our programs, often spiritual discussion groups. We would talk about the power of temptation and how one overcomes it. There was an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) saying that often came up in the group discussion on temptation. It went like this, “ there is always a gap between temptation and response.” The saying no doubt originated from Behavioral Psychology and their talk about stimulus and response. But it was a helpful concept to many addicts. There is always a gap, sometimes infinitesimally small but still there when the temptation to use springs up. The advice of AA for addicts was to focus on the gap when temptation comes. Focus on building a bigger gap. When temptation comes, broaden the gap by calling a friend/fellow addict and talking through the temptation with them, read the Big Book of AA, read the bible or other material with spiritual uplift, pray, talk a walk or meditate. Find the best way for you to make the gap between temptation and response larger, and do it. That was the advice given.

I have been thinking about this saying a lot lately. I see lots of opportunities to apply the advice arising from the saying into the everyday world we live in. I see people who are tempted to react with angry words to a policy or safety protocol they do not care for. I see people who are in conversation with someone they disagree with and listen to or read about their vitriolic behavior. I see people who are afraid and, instead of facing the fear, strike out at others. Our ReStore staff face people at work who seem to want to take out frustrations on them. Our family services are hearing from families who are willing to strike out at them when things don’t go their way. Volunteers seem to express their feelings more freely, sometimes loudly, to our volunteer and construction staff. The world seems so much more angry and volatile than I have ever seen it.

I want to say to folks that there is always a gap between temptation and response. Focus on the gap. Build your gaps. Our grandparents might say, “Count to ten”. Talk to friends and family, exercise, pray, listen to inspiring messages. Do what works for you to enable you to not respond quickly or angrily to moments of frustration.. It’s important that we build our gaps. It’s much harder to build that gap in the moment of temptation. Build the gap when you are not facing down temptation. Build your inner person, build your relationships, feed your soul so that when temptation comes the gap is wide enough for you to respond in appropriate ways.

One of the ways I build my gap is to get out into nature. Going for a hike or going trout fishing in a mountain stream are my favorite outdoor adventures.