Self reflection · Writing

Breaking habits, forming new ones

Habits are funny things.

There was a lot of research I got into about our habits several years ago that still sticks with me to this day.

Back then, someone on NPR talked about the “power of three.” That the three-day “hump” of habit-kicking is often the hardest few days to power through, and then it cycles down in difficulty to three weeks, three months, and three years. The behavioral scientist said that after three years, you can pretty much consider a habit broken if there hasn’t been any backsliding. Additionally, there was a trick mentioned that I’ve used many times afterward to great success—when you’re trying to remember someone’s name, a series of numbers or any other small fact, repeat it three times in quick succession. It’ll help cement the fact. It works for me.

Now, I don’t know if the three days, weeks, months, and years thing is still a valid idea, but I’ve been reminded of it as I go on several new journeys.

I’m trying to write every day for two hours. So far today, the first day, I’ve managed two blog posts and this one on the way, with forty-two minutes left to go. Finding time to do the same thing tomorrow, and the next day is already making me break into a little nervous giggle. What if I run out of ideas? What if I’m churning out crap? I know I just need to power through it, but it makes me uncomfortable.

The other habit I’m trying to form is that of cultivating new relationships or reinforcing current ones. I’m not the most social person, but I’ve been making an effort to comment on friends posts, reach for the phone, personally text or messenger people, and make plans to meet up soon. It’s not something that is within my old comfort zone, but I’m finding that by pushing into places that have made me uncomfortable, I’m growing as a person.

Other habits that are in their budding, newly-formed stages at the moment. Artwork, minimalist techniques, finding new recipes, etc., but there hasn’t been enough movement on that front to talk about just yet because I am still unpacking and settling into my home. Everything doesn’t have to happen all at once.

And then there is the habit I know I need to break. For a multitude of reasons—financial and health being chief amongst them.

I need to break the smoking habit.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was fifteen. I immediately vomited and passed out when I got home from school that day at 3:30. This should have been my sign.

But I persisted. A year and a half later, I was smoking ¾ of a pack a day, or more. Sometimes, for brief periods, I was up to almost two packs a day—at sixteen and seventeen.

I smoked regular cigarettes on and off until I was twenty-one. At that point, I hadn’t smoked a cigarette in two years. But then I heard about e-cigarettes, and I thought they were a bloody miracle. I did some research and ordered a set, and was immediately hooked again.

It has been seven years, and I have never once been able to quit the e-cigarette. The only exception was when I made a backpacking trip in Yosemite and knew that I would be without access to electricity to charge the battery for more than four days. Instead of schlepping that equipment with me only for it to be useless after the first day, I left everything in the car and went about my merry—okay, somewhat cranky—way.

That is, literally, the only exception.

Four days out of seven years.

And now I’m looking at quitting cold turkey.

I have four 30-ml bottles of juice, eight replacement atomizers, eight replacement glass tubes, one extra cartridge, and five batteries. That’s outside of the rig itself.

I’ve decided to run through what I have. I’m still in transition, and I’m still uncomfortable with the idea of quitting. I know that’s the addiction talking, and I know the litany of excuses that the addiction whispers to me. If I quit, I’ll get bitchy. If I quit, I might gain weight. If I quit, I won’t have anything to do when I’m bored/stuck on writing/need a moment to collect my thoughts.

Nicotine has her talons sunk deep into me.

I am her bitch.

And why would I allow myself to be anyone’s bitch?

The first three days might be the hardest, and then the first three weeks, months, and years.

But I’ve finally surrounded myself with people who truly have my best interest at heart. I know I’ll have the support system I’ll need to keep me away from my mistress of an addiction. It’ll be hard, I’m not going to lie to myself and pretend it won’t be, but I have to do it. Smoking costs too much financially, and it costs too much to my health.

I have this one life to live, and I refuse to end it in an iron lung.

One thought on “Breaking habits, forming new ones

  1. Kudos to you for looking at your habits and making plans. I quit cold turkey after 15 years of smoking. My incentive was watching my dad die of a particular cancer, usually seen in people who drink and smoke on combination. I watched him go from a strong, stubborn, ex-boxer to a shrunken, sad human existing merely of skin and bone. I had quit a few times before that, but always went back. The difference? I just decided. I knew this time was it. I could feel it. I never looked back. The addiction was deep. It called to me but I refused to be controlled by anything. I craved the nicotine for 4 years at different times – when stressed, while drinking, when bored, when angry. But I challenged myself to see if I was strong. I thought… do I let things or people control me? Am I weak? I wanted to show myself how strong we were, and I did. This cold turkey blew people away – my friends and family. I applaud your determination. I enjoy reading about your journey.

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