I was a heavy smoker smoking 2 packs of cigarettes a day for 6 years. I was an alcoholic for 8 years and a drug addict for 3 years. If there is something, I have a good understanding of, it is addictions and what it takes to overcome them.
I used to think that people keep indulging in negative habits because they are addicted to substances physically. In other words, I thought that the major problem, as well as the main reason for failure, was sustaining physical symptoms that come with the withdrawal. For many years I used this belief as an excuse for not quitting myself. Today, I know that it is not true. People do not smoke and drink because they are addicted.
They do so because they have no purpose in life.
A man with a clear and strong purpose is unstoppable as he dedicates himself to the elimination of everything that doesn’t move him toward it. Negative habits are shed off like dead skin under the pressure of his resolve. The first and foremost thing to do for the person who decided to weed out a negative habit is to identify the purpose.
Find your “Why?”.
- Why do you want to quit?
- What is the ultimate reason?
- “For the sake of what” have you decided to quit?
- What will keep you resisting at the moment when the desire to indulge will be the strongest?
Finding the answer to each of these questions is the most crucial step of all. You will find yourself returning to the path of self-destruction if you do not discover your higher purpose.
Do not keep your purpose in your head.
Write it down by hand on the paper. Writing your intentions on the paper is a physical manifestation of your decisiveness and will. Post it on the wall so that it always remains before your eyes.
Eradicating a self-destructive behavior is not an easy task. Even strong-willed people fail to quit a habit and end up giving up trying. Some people quit smoking for a year or two and then start smoking again. Some people can be abstinent from booze for many months and then fall into a week-long alcohol delirium after a single moment of weakness. Purposelessness is a fertile ground for a relapse.
Remember why you started.
You will fail and that’s ok.
Failure is a part of your healing. You need to face the truth that you are not strong enough to quit once and for all. Understand that taking a step back doesn’t imply defeat. Keep moving forward.
If you have done the first step right, if you know why you started and where you are going, come back on track. You will get there. Continue the mission.
You have your thoughts. Do not let them have you.
Thoughts to give up will come. Those are just thoughts. Let them appear. The sole fact of the presence of such thoughts doesn’t indicate that they are true. Practice self-observation. Do not feed the thoughts about your negative habits with the energy of your attention. Instead, concentrate on creating your new identity — the “I” free from addictions.
Every moment of a “clean” life improves your willpower.
As we will learn in the section about willpower, willpower is a muscle. It gets stronger when you exercise it by withstanding the internal resistance. It is in the moment of maximum discomfort and temptation to give in when you gain the most benefits. It might not feel that way at the start but over time you will see how the voice tempting you to indulge gets weaker and thinner inside you. It will inevitably happen. Believe in it and you already made it half-way to success.
Change your environment.
Willpower is good but there are better ways to stay abstinent. Why do people addicted to alcohol join organizations like Alcoholics Anonymous? They do it because it works. The deficit of willpower can be augmented by the functionality of the environment. The sense of community, the promises we give to people who we love and respect and the consequent sense of accountability keep us on track when the willpower reserves get exhausted.
If you want to change in a certain way you need to place yourself in the medium of people who have already undergone the transformation you desire, have acquired the qualities you want to possess, or simply those who live a healthy lifestyle. Do not be afraid to ask for help on the way to your goals. If you dare to ask the whole world will come to support you.
If you have an addiction, your mind is sick. That might not be the most pleasant way to put it but you have to face the truth. You have to admit it. I can freely talk about this because I know what it feels like to suffer from a sickness of the mind.
The poison that enters your body messes up your hormone levels and sleeping patterns. It increases your predilection toward depressive states and anxiety. As a result, you eventually end up dealing with neurotic behavior and adverse consequences of it.
The fastest and most effective way to fix your mind is to fix your body. The way you see the world will undergo a massive positive shift when your body is athletic, functions robustly, and follows healthy biorhythms.
When you overcome physical pain during the workout your body produces endorphins — the hormones whose primary function is to serve as painkillers. Roughly speaking, you are making drugs right inside your body. This is the reason why people feel “high” after the workout and that is also why getting addicted to exercise is so easy. Let’s be honest, fitness is a way better thing to be addicted to.
The main idea of sublimation is to develop new habits on top of the old ones. New rhythms should keep your mind busy so it doesn’t have an aperture for thought about your addiction to sneak in.
If you are quitting smoking, as twisted as it may sound, you have to keep your mouth and hands busy. I used gum and tangerines for the former and push-ups for the latter. Try. It worked for me.
While others are taking smoking breaks you can literally take a breather and do some breathing exercises, some of which you will learn later in this chapter.
When “friends” call you to drink, find an excuse and hit the gym. You need to find a way to escape from your old self — the identity that is still vulnerable to the risks of falling into self-destructing behavior. For every activity that undermines your peace of mind and health of body, you need to find a productive substitute.
Monitor all positive changes
Notice and appreciate all positive changes that come along as attributes of the clean life:
- You decrease the risk of getting cancer
- You decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases
- Your cognition and your memory improve dramatically
- You sleep better
- Your hormone regulation and emotional state come into balance
- You tap into the energy potential within you that you never suspected to exist
- You feel better and look better once you stop poisoning yourself
Envision the final result.
We do not know what will be the change that will happen to us when we make our first steps. At the beginning of the journey, healing is not a step-by-step blueprint for success. It is a leap of faith.
No worries. You will be there. Visualize where you are going and all the positive changes you will have in your lifestyle, health, and relationships. Your vision may be blurry, it may seem impossible and disarming at times, but you will be there. Never doubt that.
I can tell you from my personal experience that the day when you will look back at your past-self and see a stranger will come. You cannot even imagine how dramatic will the difference be. The results will exceed all your expectations. At some point, your negative habits will no longer make any sense. You will not be able to comprehend the logic of your past self who was indulging in negative habits as well as the logic of other people who still have them.
Commit to the routine that forwards you in the right direction. Implement small daily changes and don’t stress out about the result.
A relapse happens when you yield your present moment to your addiction. Every second stay intact with your Why. Do not give in. A healthy mind is a reward for preserving a healthy body. Remember something important about living — you only do it once. Make it count.