I've been thinking lately about self-control, especially why it's so hard to say no to temptation as we move through our days. Did you know that self-control is a finite resource? And, that we need to practice self-control not only over what goes INTO our mouths, but what comes OUT of our mouths?
This means that the same self-control we exercise when we choose not to yell at our kids in the morning (NEVER happens in my house. I lie) may run out by the time we come home from work at the end of a long day. That's why it's so important to make our kitchens "nutritional havens," so we're not face-to-face with a giant cupcake when we're already exhausted and our self-control tank is empty.
I recently had to cut alcohol out of my diet. I LOVE wine-there's nothing like a good cab (or pinot noir, or malbec...) at the end of a long day. But it was messing with my sleep and making me sluggish. It's easy for a 6 ounce glass to become a 8 ounce glass, and then one glass becomes two....
My self-control was depleted, and if I'm being honest, I was also using alcohol to dull some negative emotions I was feeling. We all do it. If it's not alcohol, it's food, or drugs, or shopping, or sleeping, or exercise, or work.
The problem, as I'm learning from Brene Brown in her excellent book, The Gifts of Imperfection, is that when we use these addictions to numb ourselves from negative emotions like shame or insecurity, we also numb ourselves to positive emotions like joy.
Now, addiction counseling is beyond my scope of practice, but I can speak from experience when I say that giving up alcohol is one of the best decisions I've made. I still love it and I've allowed myself a glass here and there, but I've learned to substitute a nightly glass of wine with a nightly cup of tea. I've learned that walking through negative emotions instead of numbing them with alcohol has allowed me to feel so much more joy and connection with the people I love.
Ask yourself this the next time you find yourself reaching for food, alcohol, or some other unhealthy habit or addiction: what am I REALLY feeling right now? And, is that feeling so scary that I need to numb it? Can I call someone I trust to talk it through, or pick up a journal, or pray instead?
The writer and researcher Elisabeth Kubler-Ross writes, "People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." Let's not allow our lack of self-control or even addiction to dim our light!