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Creatures of Habit.
We are creatures of habit living in a world of expectation and obligation. The habits that consume us vary from person to person and vary also in degrees of positivity and negativity. However, it’s the habits we form in adolescence and carry into early adulthood that are often the ones that form a common ground for most of us.
Common Habits We Form.
Typically, as teenagers we take that first sip of alcohol as a result of peer pressure, curiosity, or most often a marriage of both. It can be tough to clearly explain the science at work behind the solid forming of this habit collectively, but in my experience, it was the personality transformation
I wasn’t far into this new way of living when the cigarette joined the party. I became a smoker the same way 99.9% of smokers become smokers. My drunken mind letting me know it is OK to have one, based on NOTHING. One became two, and so on, resulting in my progression to the status of ‘Social Smoker’ for a few weeks and eventually forming a full addiction and becoming a typical pack-a-day smoker. The science behind the forming of this habit is easier to explain. Beyond being a habit, smoking is a drug addiction and the quick acting nature of nicotine means it will hook you in no time. In my case it was less than 8 weeks after lighting my first cigarette when I was firmly established as a smoker. Most people will report that they don’t remember transitioning from a social smoker to a full-time smoker. I can remember going for a drink only so I could justify having a cigarette and hold my own as a social smoker. This didn’t last long and I began full-time smoking at a lunch break in my first year of college.
Living These Habits.
I lived both the drinking and smoking habits for 11 years. Every weekend there was a drinking session to participate in and every day spent smoking cigarettes at different intervals. I’d like to let it be known that I was never at the point where alcohol was in the way of my day-to-day activities, at least not to any point that I was aware of. I was the typical weekender, Friday and Saturday nights drunk and Sunday recovering (a lot of Saturday too). In the thick of living these habits, I was blind to any sight of it ending. Not that I wanted it to end. I was happy and confident, just turning the blind eye to the fact that it was only the chemical intoxication that made me feel this ‘happiness’. However, the dreamer in us never goes away, whether we dream pipe dreams or realistically we all want something more. Taking an active interest in pursuit of a dream will surprise you very quickly.
Quitting The Habits.
The decision to quit these habits first struck me after taking up running to resume some level of fitness.
The first of the habits I addressed was smoking. I believed this to be the main offender in the obstacles to resuming any basic level of fitness. After countless failed attempts at quitting smoking I was led to believe that I couldn’t suceed without quitting alcohol since I would always end up smoking while drinking or even ahead of going out drinking. This was the first moment I had genuinely thought of quitting drinking. It was followed very closely by the final decision to do so!
It has been over one month since I’ve quit both of these habits. I’m 100% sure of my success. The powerful expectations were the driving force behind my remaining a drinker, the final decision to stop for good has blown these expectations apart in my head. The sense of obligation I used to feel toward these expectations has now disappeared. Through removing this sense of obligation I truly believe I’ve cleared the way to successfully quitting both habits.
Though the sense of obligation to expectation has been removed. A large hole now looms where the drinking habit used to be. Correctly filling this newly gifted time was the next step in cementing my new way of living. Time to chase my dream. This means I am focusing heavily on fitness, mainly running marathons and 1/2 marathons, in training for my ultimate running goal – the 2018 Boston Marathon.
After announcing the changes, I’ve received nothing but positive feedback from friends and family. I had expected some negativity, perhaps people saying I’d given up having fun and was missing out. This was not the case and the positivity I’ve experienced has overwhelmed me and ensured that this new mind frame and attitude I have to what I’m doing is maintained.
How habits are formed and broken depends entirely on the individual. There are endless factors that play a part in the shaping of each of us as a person, the habits we have and our personalities. I believe that a negative habit has to truly be analyzed, evaluated and questioned pertinent to an individual’s environment and by the individual themselves before it can be broken. This sounds difficult, but no one knows you better than you know yourself.
Know your opponent.
Once you see negative habits for what they really are, defeating them is easy!
If you are trying to create or break a habit and want to share your experience as part of this series please get in contact science @ headstuff.org. You can track Dermot’s progress in breaking and making these habits on his blog and on Facebook.