The Easy Way To Give Stuff Up
Have you ever tried to give something up? Like smoking — or drinking? What about drugs? Or sugar? Fat? Meat, Sex, Gluten, MSG, lemon popsicles, treating people badly, or even watching TV, or worst, scrolling Facebook, Instagram, and Tiktok for hours…
Well, I have good news for you because, after twenty years of successfully giving up lots of bad habits, I suddenly had an epiphany the other day that may help you in your quest to be perfect but remain perfectly happy.
Because that’s the hard part, right? We all think that willpower should carry us through the difficult times, but it never does. Then we get depressed because we can’t fight the urge to return to our normal bad habit. And feeling sad makes us justify giving up stopping the thing we’re giving up!
You know how it is. Everything is fine when you make the decision. “I will give up (insert habit here) forever, right now,” you might say to yourself, because being emphatic seems like the right way forward. Perhaps it is because, when you’re determined, you might last maybe three or four days but then, inevitably, the doubts set in. Your mind constantly mulls over the loss of your seemingly favorite activity and your resolve begins to falter. Before you know it, you’re back indulging — just a little bit because that won’t hurt, right? — and you get that wonderful dopamine rush that comes with succumbing to temptation.
It’s like our bodies are designed to never change and, as we get older, to find more and more bad habits to drag us down.
But it needn’t be that way. I’ve proved to myself that it is perfectly possible to give stuff up — the stuff that seemed impossible too — by simply looking at the issue in a completely different way.
The trick is to accept that your “addiction” or “obsession” is OVER.
It’s literally dead to you.
Personally, I think abstinence support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous don’t work, in fact they probably make things worse for most normal people. Sure, be a victim, relinquish control, be forever miserable about abstaining from your joy.
My feeling is that instead, you need to get over an addiction, physically and mentally, and that constantly reminding yourself of your weakness and inadequacy as a human being in daily meetings is cruel and unusual punishment for something that is, after all, often just a phase in your life or your development.
Better is a system that permits you to let go of your past behavior and allows you to move forward with confidence. That’s where my revelation comes in.
Because, you see, whenever I give something up, I see it as a death moment.
And with death comes the various stages of grief that can equally be applied to bad habits, even addictions. The thing about death is its finality. Therein lies its power.
Smoking is probably the most irksome of habits to give up. The physical and mental toll that giving up entails is literally Herculean. The worst part is that you never feel your addiction is over. Over time — and we’re talking two or three years here — the craving goes away. But not suddenly nor with any satisfactory step or signal. The craving simply reduces over time — a long time, in the same way as the gnawing grief for the death of, say, a friend or a family member. And it’s only when you accept that abstaining from a bad habit is exactly like grief that you start to understand the mechanism that is controlling your attitude towards the stuff you want to give up.
Once you realize that your craving is not going to magically disappear — and might never fully diminish — then you’re better equipped to deal with the ennui of giving up stuff.
We want to believe that giving something up is going to be momentous. We want to feel proud of our accomplishment. We want to feel energized and positive, be perhaps congratulated but the fact is, giving things up is boring. It takes time and worst of all, you only know you’ve succeeded when you feel a sense of anticlimax and, well, nothing much.
Just like the opposite of love is indifference, the opposite of addiction is torpor!
That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.
Dullness is good, empowering, normal, safe, decent and strong.
Only the weak can’t say no to pleasure. We all accept that. And there’s nothing wrong with saying it nowadays. Times have changed.
That’s the thing. The days when addicts are seen as victims are numbered.
For instance. The AA came out of the 1920s, almost a century ago, when we could offload the blame and claim over-drinking might be an illness. We know it’s not really, except in very extreme cases. It’s simply a habit, which we know deep down we can stop or change at any time. It’s just that we don’t want to stop because it’s no fun.
Let’s face it, we smoked because we enjoyed it. Same with illicit drugs.
TV is cool. Endless scrolling is fun. It’s stimulating and distracting at the same time. That’s the kind of thing our brains enjoy. But can we stop?
Sure we can. To say otherwise is to legitimize the absolving of responsibility for ourselves and our decisions. We’ve got to stop doing that. We must take back control and accept we’re always able to change our behaviors at any time. It might take months and years to achieve success but what’s the problem with that? Most of us have plenty of time to change. We just need to understand the change might not be quick, and it may well be boring and uneventful.
Like losing a friend, or like getting over the death of a beloved pet, grief can be palpable, painful and depressing but, let’s face it, the feelings always subside over time.
Yeah, giving things up can be hard but…
So what? Do it anyway and enjoy the (yawn) benefits for years to come.