In 2012, after so many vain resolutions to do so, I just woke up and decided to quit smoking. Of course I didn’t just wake up to a resolve, it had to include an unduly humiliating day in court as a law intern and many gasps for air upon waking up after a night with a pack of Marlboro Black Menthol (again, because of what happened in court and my supervising lawyer). I don’t think it was political will that won this for me (v. the many other failed attempts), I think it was the methodology.
Go cold turkey. Get a sense of how much you still crave for it; when it has somehow waned off, try a stick. If you still wanted it, throw it in the bin immediately; if not, good – you just quit. Reflect, then iterate.
In my Psych class in college, I encountered habituation as a way to overcome an addiction. My method in quitting was somehow anchored on that principle, except that I included intervals to reflect and desist from wanting it again. So there was still will power at play, but like in a good law school recit – conceptualising will power requires embracing every step necessary to concretise it.
So there, my method worked. I’ve been cigarette-free for more than five years now. Just like any success story, I sought to employ it in other iterations of addiction – ranging from food to bad habits to social interaction and relationships to other toxic activities. Some successful, some are still in the lab, in progress.
Life’s conundrums of course do not end at cutting bad behavior off. In between then and now, I’ve gone through many a permutation of harmful tendencies similar to my cigarette smoking – from my occasional procrastinations to my unrealistically high expectations toward others and myself to worrying too much to battling with my inner darkness(es). Like the classic overthinker and overfeeler that I’ve been, there’s a plethora of (complex) thoughts and feelings to deal with.
For some of us, unknowingly and unwittingly, pain and fear becomes a sort of addiction. Nobody likes these but subconsciously, we invite them in and sometimes, let them stay for more than what is beneficial to one’s mental health. It’s as if the dark side has an uncanny way of drawing you in – beginning with worry until it drowns you in paranoia; or a seemingly harmless memory that opens the Pandora’s box full of traumatic and terrorising past. I’d like to call it Mr. Hyde. Sometimes he just comes; but there would always be a trigger to his visit and once he’s in, it’s difficult to kick him out.
I’ve been dealing with my own Mr. Hyde for a while now and like any overstaying fellow, it has become irksome for the host. I’ve employed my methodology of quitting, but it seemed that I have difficulty progressing beyond identifying the cause of addiction. I always get sucked in meta-pain and meta-fear until I get distracted again and temporarily set Mr. Hyde aside. But then I woke up thinking of a variation to my method. Very recently, I decided to give it a shot in other scenarios with an addendum of action. Succumb to the addiction but maintain the mindset of perpetual progress (as in, change behaviour and/or perspective every time you expose yourself to the stimuli), observe, and then employ variations in behaviour, if needed of course. Again, iterate until successful. The key is not to do the same thing if it does not work (if you do, call it out as masochistic tendency).
I recently identified a low hanging fruit to test if this methodology works. I don’t expect to wake up to a changed world, but consistent with my principle of perpetual progress, any motion is good. Besides, at the end of the day, fear and pain are just manifestations of one’s inner demons. Most, if not all the time, what we need to do is to simply confront them, look them in the eye, and say f*ck off.
It’s a healthy mix of science, will power, and the persistent spirit of allowing the light in this world to shine brighter. Let’s see how this goes.
(*Note: Why is this flaneuring again? Wandering is inward as it explores the environment external to the agency. The human mind and heart is as labyrinthine as any cosmopolitan network of streets.)
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