How To Kick A Bad Habit
This is embarrassing. A lot of people don’t know this about me. I’ve been smoking cigarettes on-and-off since I was 18.
After a recent trip to Italy, I became a daily smoker.
I was never too worried about it. Frankly cigarettes are something I enjoyed and I didn’t do it too often. But recently that changed. I crossed the line where cigarettes had power over me. That was an awful feeling.
7 years of on-and-off toeing the line finally caught up with me. I lost control.
Week after week I’d commit to myself that this was the last cigarette, this was the week I quit. And week after week a single moment of weakness would come up and I was back to square one.
It affected my self-esteem and energy. In the midst of the one of the best times of my life, I was in a rut. Everything in life was going objectively great, but I felt like a piece of shit, because I wasn’t being congruous with a principal of health and vitality I hold deeply.
So I decided to talk to a mentor about it. It was hard to talk about it. This was someone I respect and whom I want to respect me, and fundamentally I was admitting weakness. That something trivial and external and dirty had power over me.
But I’m grateful I brought it up, because an insight came out of that conversation that finally, after too many failed attempts, enabled me to quit cold turkey.
Today, Sep 21, 2016 marks 30 days of no smoking. It feels fan-fucking-tastic.
So what was the insight?
Don’t try to subtract something bad from your life. Add something good.
Subtracting something from your life sucks. We all hate feeling like we’re losing something. That’s what makes quitting or removing something so hard. Especially if you associate pleasure with it, which I did with cigarettes. Adding something healthy and fulfilling to your life is amazing, and easy. It doesn’t require any willpower, because it comes with its own energy, and naturally builds momentum as you do it more over time.
So instead of trying to remove cigarettes, I resolved to try adding something better.
And what better thing to add than running. Instead of trashing my lungs and body, I’d do something to cherish and strengthen them. That was my resolution. Every time I felt the need to smoke a cigarette, I would go on a run instead.
The car was where I’d most often smoke so that was where I had to bring the battle. I grabbed my running shoes and shorts and put them in car, right below the pack of cigarettes in the glovebox. That was my Normandy.
I could have thrown the pack away, but that wasn’t the point this time around. I was adding, not removing. The pack stayed there. And on every drive where I felt the urge to reach over and take out a cigarette, I’d have to look over and see my shoes and running shorts.
This situation was inconvenient to say the least. I’d be on my way to work, but end up being 30 or 45 minutes late because I’d start to reach for a cigarette and have to pull off, drive down to the Seattle waterfront, strap on my running shoes and hit the pavement. It also meant signing up for a 2nd shower when I got to work.
But each time I did that, the momentum built. At the end of my run, I’d stand by the water and just appreciate how great my body felt. And reflect on how much better that was than the shitty feeling in your body after you finish a cigarette.
A month later, I don’t feel the need to smoke at all. I do have a renewed energy for running, and gratitude for the advice of my mentor.
Fuck you, cigarettes.
The transitive property
Personally I feel I’ve discovered a truth in this, that we only have room for so many things in our lives. And if you add something good, the bad things you wish you did less will naturally fall out.
That’s a cool truth to know.
And the thing about truths is that they are universal, and thereby transitive. So what worked in one area of life should work in another.
So I’ve decided to find something else in life I want to do less of and squeeze it out by adding something good.
This next thing is going to be staying out late partying too much.
I’m lucky to have a large, amazing group of friends from college that have remained close and spend most weekends together. But we party and go out drinking a lot. And that has some negative consequences in my life that aren’t congruous with where I want to go. It sucks to spend a Sunday in bed hungover, especially at a time in my life when I’m so full of energy and looking to accelerate my career ahead.
I want to cut partying/going out drinking in half. So on half of the weekend nights when I’d normally meet up with friends to go out drinking, I’m going to add hiking in the mountains. Hiking is something I love and that fills me with gratitude, and we have so many incredible, awe-inspiring places within a few hours drive of Seattle (one of my favorites featured in the image above).
I’m not going to subtract those friends from my life. They’re great people and I enjoy spending time with them. I’m just going to add hiking, and invite those friends to come with me.
A few weeks into this now, it’s going great.
Friends and family
I’m scared to press publish on this. It’s embarrassing. I’m scared to admit that I’ve been weak, and that people I care about will judge me for developing a stupid habit like smoking.
But that fear is exactly why I should publish it.
We’re all in this human existence thing together, and it isn’t always easy.
On social media we so often show only a rose-tinted version of our lives. A positive filter that shows not the whole, real human we are, but more who we aspire to be. Which is great. There’s a lot of value in sharing what inspires us and who we aspire to be, and seeing to the same from others that we care about.
But sometimes deep down what we need is to be raw, to connect with the people in our lives about the shit that’s hard and embarrassing and sucks to talk about. That’s what friends and family are for. That’s where the other half of human connection is built. So thank you for being there and for listening. I’m grateful to have you crazy beautiful animals in my life. You guys rock ♡
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