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  • Northside East

You don't have to hit rock bottom before giving up your vices

Monday, 10th June, 2019 12:38pm
You don't have to hit rock bottom before giving up your vices

Is it time to quit the booze? PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

You don't have to hit rock bottom before giving up your vices

Is it time to quit the booze? PHOTO: BIGSTOCK

Recently I decided to make a few changes in my life, first quitting the booze, then taking up running and finally giving up my vaping habit.
I hadn’t reached rock bottom – far from it – but felt that, in my late 40s, these vices were no longer worth the payback. Of course, I did what everyone does and googled it. I found hardly any information on giving up vices when they’re not considered a serious problem - but I didn’t want to wait until that happened.

So I decided to write the article I wish I’d found. I’m no expert but I am a quitter.

Maybe you are in the same boat: those hangovers that lasted a few hours in your twenties now taking days to shift; wine o’clock getting earlier; the lungs not managing the nicotine as well. Maybe you just feel you deserve better. It seems crazy that we have to wait to hit rock bottom to take action.  

But please, please see your doctor if you are in crisis. Just drop everything and make an appointment right now.  

However, if you just want to change something that no longer works - and if you feel a plan makes it more real, more anchored - then these 10 tips might help.  

1. The first question I asked myself was: “Do I have a problem?” We are so confused about this question. I found that using deduction made it  so easy to answer. Let’s suppose you have a work colleague and a school-gate acquantance. Let’s call them Bill and Betty. They are overbearing, make it hard for you to work, are tiring and interfere with your concentration. They make you feel bad about yourself. Life would be easier if they weren’t there. You would say that you have a problem with Bill and Betty, wouldn’t you?  

So by using this logic, I looked at my drinking. I only drank socially but when I did I partied hard, leaving me moody and drained for days, with palpitations and anxiety. I had a problem with alcohol.

Then vaping. As a secret vaper, I was totally nicotine dependent, freaking out if my battery died, I ran out of juice or - God forbid - I forgot it. I constantly thought about where I could have a vape where no one could see me. It took me out of the moment and made me wheezy when exercising. I hated that I was so dependent. I had a problem with nicotine.

So, do you have a problem? I’ll let you into a secret -  a lot of us do. We just live in a country where it’s become accepted, the norm. But maybe you want to get rid of Bill and Betty.
2. Write the advantages and disadvantages of quitting on paper. List everything you can think of, no matter how small it may be. Keep it on you at all times. You might find your disadvantage column sounds an awful lot like Betty.  Mine included: “Because it’s my thing and I deserve some enjoyment in life.” The problem was, that when I thought about it, it wasn’t giving me enjoyment, but rather taking me out of the moment and limiting my enjoyment and leaving me feeling guilty. I had a chat with Betty, scribbled it out and replaced it with “Because I am addicted” and moved it to the advantages of quitting column.

3. You might be thinking now about quiting but are struck down by paralysing fear and panic.  This is just Bill talking. Bill needs you, you don’t need Bill.  I encourage you to shout out loud “SHUT UP BILL!” when the doubting thoughts enter your head.

4. Imagine life without the problem. For me, it was not feeling guilty, running 5km under 30 minutes with no wheeze and not spending three days recovering from alcohol that 10 years ago wouldn’t have even taken a day. In other words, freedom.  Imagine it. I’ll let you into a secret - this is the most real thought you’ve had so far. It’s not only possible, it’s very doable.

5. You might be afraid that big, gaping, scary holes will appear in your life. What will I do with my hands if I’m not smoking? How will I manage nights out? How can I relax without my wine? Will I lose friends? I found the holes scary for the first few days, but then they quickly filled up. Remember, just because a day/moment is difficult doesn’t mean the next one will be. On the subject of losing friends: honey, if you aren’t enough clean then how the hell can you be enough with your vice? It can be a good time to seek out extra support through positive company, literature and online forums. You are doing a good thing and your future self will thank you.  

6. When you conquer one major challenge in you life, you might find that you become a superhero of sorts. You’ve opened Pandora’s box and realised your power. “But I don’t want to be one of those attention-grabbing juice-drinking, marathon-running pain-in-the-ass people” you might think (or rather, Betty is telling you). Betty wants you to stay an anxious, unconfident, dependent person because then you need her, don’t you?  At this point you have one thing to say: “SHUT UP BETTY, I’M AWESOME!”
7. Look at people who don’t have your problem. Are the non-smokers anxiously biting their fingernails when they don’t have access to nicotine? Are the non-drinkers crying at the bar for alcohol and wishing they had something witty to say?  These are only problems BECAUSE of the problem! Once the problem is dealt with, these will dissappear.

8. Wait for the right moment. “But the moment is never right,” says Bill. Actually, the right moment comes around many times a day, you just have to be open to noticing it. When the moment presents itself,  be like Braveheart and commence battle.

9. Set out a timeframe and promise yourself that you will quit in this time. Do dry January in August, stop smoking for seven days… whatever feels right for you. Write the timeframe down on the same page as your reasons for quitting. See how you feel after the timeframe.  Was it easy? Was it hard? Will you continue? This could  change everything, or at least answer a lot of questions.

10. It’s a few weeks on. Bill and Betty have moved on. You are feeling free. In fact, most days you don’t even think of them. You wonder why they bothered you in the first place. Then something terrible happens in your life. You are in turmoil. You find Bill and Betty standing there with open arms waiting to give you a hug, saying that they have changed, really care and are there for you. You now realise Bill and Betty are a couple. They ask you to let them back into your life, just for today. What they don’t tell you is that their bags are packed ready to move in with you to bring your problem to a whole new level. Just one hug....

If any of the above rings true, if you want the problem to be gone, then please know you can do it. It’s not selfish, it’s not boring, it’s not overreacting. It’s 100 percent brilliant. You may need to crack a few eggs to make an omelette, bore a few people (including yourself) and feel selfish but on the other side is a life free of worry, guilt, habit, illness and anxiety related to your problem. Instead a life full of energy, mindfulness, health, happiness, adventure, calm and real, genuine joy awaits. I believe in you.

Now go be AWESOME! 

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