There is a scene in the West Wing when Leo, the President’s Chief of Staff who is an alcoholic, is offered a drink. When he refuses he is encouraged again, “just one.” His answer was profound, “I don’t understand one.” I understood immediately. Drink is not my temptation. For me it is chocolate biscuits. Many times my wife has opened the biscuit cupboard for visitors and the packet she bought the day before is gone. I don’t understand one. Well I didn’t anyway. In the last two years as I have lost a few stone in weight I have learned to deal with just one.
When my dieting began I had to keep myself away from any chocolate biscuit temptation. As it happened a good friend, Fr Martin Magill, was losing weight too. At meetings we were both attending we sat as far from the biscuit plate as we could. Then one afternoon Martin asked if I was going to move seat as the plate was right in front of me. I realised that I had dealt with it. He hadn’t and sat at the other end of the room but I had conquered my temptation. Over time I had rewired my habits. I had smashed the default that didn’t understand just one.
I had transformed my lifestyle. It can be done. Jesus asked his disciples to pray “Lead us not into temptation...” For my dealing with my chocolate biscuit fetish that prayer helped for sure. However, getting up off my knees and not sitting at the table where most temptation lay was acting on the wisdom that God gave me in the prayer. As we head towards Lent it is good to ask where temptation lies? Where should we sit at the table? How can we be led away from where we are weakest? Conquering my addiction has given me confidence to believe that I can lead myself away from temptation and over time re programme my behaviour in other ways too.