After five months and eight days, I have finally finished Fran the Afghan. She was a present to myself for my two-year non-smoker anniversary. Initially I was going to give myself a massage, but decided I would spend the money on something that would have a more lasting benefit in my life and home.
I didn’t know it, but knitting this blanket would be a metaphor for my journey of breaking a very strong addiction.
I struggled to start this afghan; I started over four times. I knit this project almost every day, and sometimes I felt like it would never end. I made mistakes. I had to rip out rows and re-do them. But when I finally finished, it felt so good, and I can’t help but admire it often, even if it is just a giant scarf.
Addiction has been presenting itself in my life a lot lately. Or maybe I shouldn’t say addiction: My need to deal with addiction has become omnipresent. It’s as if my body and mind can no longer tolerate it.
For my 30 Day challenge in March, I decided to stop using Facebook. The following week, my hubby decided to quit drinking to train for a race, so I opted to stop too.
Both of these are big changes from my normal routine. I work in social media, so not using Facebook meant I might not keep up on all the changes. I quickly realized that all the marketing blogs I read keep me updated just fine. I stay signed in as my clients’ companies so I’m not tempted to check my notifications.
And the drinking? Anyone that knows me knows that drinking has been a big part of my life since I turned 21. I worked at a brewery for years. I love beer… And wine… And Jagermeister.
After a rude awakening in my late twenties, I cut back, but I’ve always enjoyed a beer or two with dinner. When I sat down and thought about it, I realized I hadn’t gone more than a few weeks without drinking since I was legal. My body could use a break, I reasoned.
I’ve been keeping track of the experiences: stopping smoking, leaving Facebook, quitting drinking. In making observations, I’ve noticed some striking similarities, some of which easily translate into advice and some that just made me wonder, “Hmmm.”
- Accept all substitutes. When I finally quit smoking, it was because I used a nicotine patch. My first week off of Facebook, I’d stare at my Twitter feed and check my email compulsively. And the first week of cooking without sipping on a glass of wine meant there was plenty of pomegranate lemonade, chai tea and sparking juice in my fridge. Quitting anything in your life leaves a void that must be filled, even if it’s only temporarily.
- Some habits are poisonous. I can only drink so much pomegranate lemonade before I just feel sick from all the sugar. After a few weeks without using the nicotine patch, I had a really strong craving. I grabbed a patch, slapped it on and a few minutes later ended up in the bathroom vomiting. On Friday I spent a few minutes on LinkedIn; after I closed the computer, I felt legitimately depressed. Had I been conditioning my body to tolerate all of this? The short answer: yes.
- Losing an addiction is like losing a friend. In October, during my first week as a non-smoker, I thought about Thanksgiving without smoking a cigarette after my meal, and I cried. Literally. The thought of not having a cocktail on my birthday in April makes me wonder what I will do, as if somehow it wouldn’t be a celebration without a beer. When I get on the computer or my phone to kill some time, my fingers twitch to type a phantom “Facebook” into the browser.
- Ignorance is bliss. In order to help me feel better about not drinking, I decided to learn more about what alcohol does to my body. I’m pretty sure I’m never going to be able to drink again without feeling slightly guilty. I know damn well I’ll never be able to inhale a cigarette again because I never had this level of fitness as a smoker. And after the amount of energy I had after one week of reading deprivation, I’ve never been able to lose myself online or in a book the same way.
- Peer pressure doesn’t go away after adolescence. Why did I smoke? Why do I drink? Why am I spending time on Facebook? There is a certain amount of pressure socially to do these things. I’m as guilty as the next person. I’ve given people a hard time for not having an online persona. I ask “Why?” when someone says they aren’t drinking, as if they need an excuse. It takes a bit of backbone to stand against the current.
- Self-image creates strong impulses. My sister and I used to say we were “natural born smokers.” It’s true. It was very hard to envision myself as a non-smoker because I put that label on myself. And as a self-described beer enthusiast, it makes it difficult to imagine life without a beer in my hand. I also happen to be exceptionally good at social media marketing, which means I should be immersed in social media, right? I don’t know. Does it? Questioning your perceptions of yourself can pull you back into reality.
- Everything in moderation, including moderation. I’ve always loved this phrase, mostly because I could use it to justify the occasional candy binge, drunken evening or weekend of red meat on the grill. But I’m starting to see the other side of it.There is no way I could be a social smoker. For me, it’s a slippery slope. So really, I can’t enjoy cigarettes in moderation. And that’s OK. Maybe that’s how it’s going to be with Facebook or with drinking. I really don’t know, and I don’t have to know. It’s just good to remind myself that moderation isn’t the only option.
My 30 Day Challenge for March is almost over, and the race Sante is training for is the second weekend in April, so these experiments will come to a close soon.
I’ll try to keep you posted on my perspective if I can get myself online. Being in the physical world has just been so rewarding, it’s hard to come back to the computer. However, writing is one addiction I don’t have any intention of kicking, so you can be sure to see a post sooner or later.