Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Impulse Control

    Let me tell you something about me that many people find irksome. I have an apparently unusual ability to control my impulses, especially when it comes to food. It annoys my wife to no end.
    When Jane Ellen gets up in the morning, she has to have a cup (or five) of coffee before she can start functioning. I have several co-workers who, even after their morning cups at home, arrive at the office and fix a pot of coffee so they can get through the morning. They're surprised that I don't drink coffee. It's not that I don't like the taste. It's just that it doesn't really help me become more awake than I already am.
     I once interviewed a drug counselor who said something like, "If you try meth one time, you'll be addicted." And I'm sure he was correct about the effect of that particularly vile concoction on the majority of the population.  And yet my first thought was, "Not me. I could try meth once and then never use it again."  (Of course, I've never tested this particular hypothesis because I know what's in meth, and I don't want those ingredients in my body.)
     I find it hard to imagince ingesting any substance that I don't make a conscious choice about.  I may have a craving for one thing or another, (pepperoni comes to mind), but if I choose not to act on that craving, it goes away. It's difficult for me to understand how people who are alcoholics, drug addicts, or nicotine fiends don't just stop -- if that's what they want to do.
     Apparently, according to the drug counselor, it's all about brain chemistry, and I got lucky. My brain doesn't react to drugs or food or other addictive things in the same way that an addict's brain would.  My wife isn't a drug addict, but would probably admit to being a food addict.  I've noticed that she gets far more pleasure from food than I do, so she has a much more difficult time passing up a delicious  treat than I do. Just thinking about food causes her to salivate.  If there's a bag of potato chips in the house, she can snarf them down in a matter of minutes.
     Me? I can eat a few. Or not. They don't call my name when I walk past the cupboard.
     Some years ago, I drank two or three Mountain Dews every day. Then my wife had baratric surgery, so -- to help her out -- I stopped drinking soda. Cold turkey. No big deal. At least, not for me.
     Jane was grateful, but still amazed that I didn't go through some sort of withdrawal symptoms. But I didn't. I had random cravings, but my innately stubborn nature refused to give in to those cravings. I had decided NOT to drink sodas, and I would decide when to start drinking them again. In fact, I could have kept sodas in the house and ignored them, but I didn't because it would've been an unnecessary temptation for Jane.
     Are you aggravated yet? Then understand that I don't bring up these examples to brag about my incredible ability to resist temptation.  As I say, I just got lucky with my brain chemistry. I know many people who struggle with addictions every day. But I also know that you can do whatever it is that you decide you want to do.  If you know that having a cookie will lead to having a bag of cookies and turn you into a Junk Food Junkie, then DON'T HAVE THE COOKIE. It's really that simple.
    Ok. I'll shut up now.