Wednesday, February 3, 2010

DD#21: Habits

Wow! I'm at the 3 week mark. Blogging is on its way to becoming a habit. Speaking of habits, I was wondering whether it takes longer to make a habit or break a habit. My thinking is that it probably depends upon how long I've been living with the habit and how much of my life is impacted by the habit. Sometimes habit is another word for addiction. Breaking a habit or an addiction used to give me the opportunity to do some swappin'. What will I get if I give up that? I was pretty short sighted, seeking immediate gratification - something tangible. My short sightedness translated into a reluctance to be motivated by intrinsic reward - I tended to fall into the extrinsic, quick trade-off. I was looking at the bird in the hand vs two in the bush and grabbing for the one I could see and feel right now. Never mind the promises of what I'd get if I just trust...

A perfect example is when I decided to quit smoking. I'd been totally dependent on cigarettes for years. The only time I refrained from smoking during my adult life was from the day I found out I was pregnant until my daughter was 9 months old. I returned to university to finish my bachelor's. A person can't study without a constant stream of snacks and cigarettes, can they? I subjected my daughter to second hand smoke until she was 6 years old. My husband and I both smoked at home, in the car - everywhere. The only time she was free of the smoke was while at school or visiting her grandparents (both reformed smokers). 

The summer she was 6 my ex and I decided to quit smoking. It was his idea and I joined him to be supportive. After a week, he 'sacrificed' himself and lit up again while encouraging me to continue my no smoking campaign. He promised not to smoke around me or my daughter, so I agreed. Now I was in this completely alone because at work 3 of the 4 people in my office smoked at their desks. I used to be one of them, but now I was a traitorous non-smoker that had to suffer in silence. 

In order to stay the course I gave myself permission to actively pursue another bad habit to calm my nerves long enough to make it through the rough first few months on my journey to become a non-smoker. I salved my craving for a cigarette by saying "OK" to as much food as I wanted. I could have anything, anytime, as much as I could cram down to satisfy that huge gaping hole left in my life when I gave up smoking. I told myself that I could gain weight because I knew how to diet and take it off as soon as I got past the desire to smoke. Cigarettes were a much worse habit than eating, weren't they? 

As soon as I justified my swap, I ate my way up an additional 20 pounds in the first month of my newly designated status as a non-smoker. I quit smoking! I was phenomenal! I could do anything! Ha! Watch me now! I couldn't fit into most of my clothes (I still had some of my "big" clothes left over from the last time I'd dieted my way down a couple of sizes.) and I was miserable, but I wasn't smoking so that meant I made a healthy choice. 

Within a couple of months the rubber met the road - I was a non-smoker who was now about 30 pounds heavier added to the already 20 pounds overweight I'd been when I started. See what I mean? It's a trade-off - I let go of the cigarettes and grabbed hold of food in a big way. I'd never done anything with moderation - all on or all off, no middle ground for Toni. There were so many times I agreed to let go of one bad habit only by allowing myself to indulge in another bad habit. 

So for today, I'm grateful that I've learned how to let go of a bad habit and not always replace it with one just as harmful. I'm learning to fill those gaping holes left by releasing an addiction - the big, empty spaces where the roots of it twist and wind through my entire life. I'm filling the holes with things that get me in touch with my connection to the Divine Light and that spark of Divinity in each of us. 

Is there a bad habit you'd like to release without trading for another? Take a look and see how much of your life would be affected if you let go of one bad habit - just one...

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