Kicking the Habit

Remember the first time you couldn’t get enough of being around someone?  When being with them imbues you with a sense of exploration, wonder, excitement and emotion?  For some of us, it takes everything we have not to burst out and yell, “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me!”  Others of us go ahead and let that sentiment flow freely, and in either case we are just consumed by our feelings, whatever they might be.  It could be that we truly love this person, think we love this person, feel intimately connected to this person, enjoy this person’s company; there are a myriad of feelings and even more combinations of feelings that overwhelm us, alter our brain chemistry, and change our decision making capabilities.

Yup, you get high.  On love.

It’s one of the purest feeling highs possible; no synthetic or even grown-from-the-earth drug can compare to the high one feels when embarking on a journey with a new companion.  No drug can even fathom keeping you continually high for as long as the journey does.  Every step you take while under the influence of drugs is one step away from being under the influence – the opposite seems to take hold for the journey, as each step you take is one that keeps you further under the influence, increasing your intoxication and your dependence on it.  If there’s one thing people love about being high, it’s getting high-er the next time around and continually chasing that magic feeling of their first (or best) high.

But the magic fades away after awhile.  The appeal of being intoxicated daily loses its luster after a bad trip or a day frittered away being unproductive during peak production season.  But we remember the first high, and we remember it so fondly and our drug is still nearby…surely we can reach that high once again, right?  All it takes is another hit, right?  Just one more hit and I’ll be back in Shangri-La.  By now, we’ve got rituals and customs surrounding our journey drug, and as long as I follow the established rituals and abide by our established norms, then maybe I can just get a piece of that high back.  Getting the whole high might be, admittedly, impossible to get back.  And yet, we yearn for it so badly.  We’ll just take a piece of that high, if only to be able to have just some miniscule access to the whole high we know we can’t get back.  We yearn for it because we depend on that high to keep our day afloat; without it we feel like we’re drowning and flailing away, worsening our situation.  We chase after it because we can’t imagine life without it.  But the whole time, we’re chasing an ideal, a fantasy, a one-time moment that cannot be recreated because that was an experience to enjoy and remember, not chase after forever.

We struggle to reconcile these competing forces – our desire to keep being high (while receiving diminishing returns on one’s highs) versus the knowledge that we should stop chasing that high.  And here I stand, staring at one of many crossroads in life, knowing that walking between them would kill me and choosing one scares me to death.

Drugs do change and have gotten different compounds added to them to increase their potency over time.  The same can certainly be said of people, though increased potency over time can be to your benefit or detriment depending on your tolerance level.  Maybe the relationship between you and your drug of choice (person) can change, much as the drugs themselves change.  But at some point, you have to know when it’s time to kick the habit.  When it’s time to put a halt on everything and re-dress your life in better fitting clothing.  Habits form both to our benefit and detriment – when they work, they keep us on task and on schedule.  When we keep habits too long without examining them or keep ones that aren’t useful to our current situation, those beloved habits become the things we begin to resent in our lives.  But if kicking the habit was so easy, NA and AA wouldn’t have the membership they do across the globe.  Sometimes you need help to kick the habit.

All resources are not valued equally, and that unfortunate truth means some methods will work for some people and the same methods will offend other people.  When it’s time to kick one habit, oftentimes we’ll substitute a new, healthier habit in place of the “harmful habit.”  Some people would argue that cold turkey is the best method, as you go from habit to no habit and release some dependency.  But sometimes it’s good for a new habit to form, as it can remind you of what you ought to be doing with your day rather than reminding you of what you haven’t accomplished with your day.  It’s a helpful means of re-valuing the things in your day that give you the ability to be successful with your day.  Cold turkey, while more difficult, yields the same benefit – your day gets re-valued such that you’re able to adjust and succeed.

Harmful habits can curtail our own flourishing, and nobody in good conscience should prevent their own flourishing.  There is no reason to keep yourself down in order to support or maintain a harmful habit, much like there is no reason not to flourish to the best of your ability.  But I understand the difficulties – I once kept feeling bad every time I had to get off of the phone with one of my drugs because the drug would sound saddened like I was leaving her every time we talked.  Feeling remorseful as though I’d committed harm to the drug influenced how I then dealt with the drug, giving it more time (rather than finding an alternative or holding firm to the line) and as a result, I didn’t flourish how I would have wanted to with her.  I was under the influence and was influenced by the same thing that had me under the influence to begin with, which keeps you even more intoxicated.  She would ask me if I was unhappy but I never felt unhappy, just undersatisfied.  The high wore off and the moment arrived where I wasn’t sure about taking another hit because the last one just didn’t do it for me, for whatever reason.  But it’s difficult to deny a drug when it’s sitting right in front of you.  Especially when you know how high you once got and how great it once felt.  But that’s how you know you’re chasing a high…and that it might be time to kick the habit.