Go Cold Turkey

You have habits that serve you well and helped you create the amazing life you have. Undoubtedly, you have habits that don’t serve you and hold you back from having more of an amazing life than you do. Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have habits that held you back? I think so, too. The solution? Stop them. Quit.You have habits that serve you well and helped you create the amazing life you have. Undoubtedly, you have habits that don’t serve you and hold you back from having more of an amazing life than you do. Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t have habits that held you back? I think so, too. The solution? Stop them. Quit.

You may wonder how to do that. The approach may seem daunting to you. Go cold turkey. Yeah, I know: easier said than done. But let me show you how.

Have you ever wondered where the phrase “go cold turkey” came from? Historically, it’s generally been associated with abruptly stopping an addictive substance like alcohol or drugs. More recently it’s been expanded to also reference a sudden withdrawal from any form of dependency.

Let’s consider various possible dependency categories: news; technology like social media, TV, and electronic games; foods that make you unhealthy; behaviors that are “wrong”; and of course addictive substances and behaviors. Do you have an addiction that’s negatively impacting your life? Is it obvious to you and others, or still merely a gnawing feeling?

Let’s look at quitting and not quitting habits.

Why wouldn’t you quit a habit? What would some of your reasons for keeping the habit in your life? You might feel deprived if you let it go and then rebel if you out-and-out quit. You like the habit so much you don’t want to quit. Maybe you subscribe to the “everything in moderation” theory of life. The addiction/habit is OK in your life. You feel it would be too hard to quit.

Can you maintain a pattern of “a little” in your habits? Do you define “a little” the way your friends and family would for you? Sometimes, your deciding that “a little” bit of habit is OK is a cop out and keeps you from taking control of your life; you want to follow the path of least resistance. Are you willing you take a hard look at yourself to check what the truth is for you? Here’s a pointed question: are you in control of your life?

How about just slowing down or easing off the habit(s)? Maybe you are afraid of the social or physical ramifications of outright quitting and feel that by reducing (or slowing) the habit you would alleviate that fear. That feels like denial or self-delusion to me.
Some other possible reasons include friends and family might tease you, you don’t want to miss out on the fun, or you might wonder who you will be without that habit. You have to have your head wrapped around the issue before you can choose your action. Though often, such habits are far from “fun” and still hard to shake. It’s a good time to really think about your motivations.

So, now let’s consider why would you quit a habit? Because the habit hurts you somehow. Maybe it depresses you. It makes you feel ill. It’s illegal. The presence of the addiction/habit is hurting relationships in your life. The habit could detract from or even wreck your life in any number of ways. Those are all good reasons to quit. So, just do it!

Hold on, there. It’s not that easy for some people, maybe even most people, to “just quit” something they love or even have a love/hate relationship with. If it were that easy, we wouldn’t have the health and social issues we do today.

First, you have to want to quit the substance or behavior. You have to want to quit with all your heart, mind, and soul. I have found that it takes the desire in all three levels to be able to make that change and have it stick. If you don’t get the three aligned for this change, at least one of the levels is going to tug at you until the change is undone.

Your language must support the alignment of the three levels in your decision to quit any habit. Using language like “I don’t eat that.” helps to keep your levels aligned. “I wish I could do that.”, or similarly wishy-washy language allows for one or more of the levels to slip out of alignment and for you to slip or fall back into your habit.

Second, do you know your style? Can you go cold turkey, or are you better with slow, step-by-step changes? That style will make a big difference to your success — or failure. You’ve heard the joke (or is that a brain lie?) from smokers and drinkers alike; “I can quit anytime I want.” Yeah? Prove it. Quitting doesn’t mean for an hour or day, quitting means forever.

ADDers generally make changes better by taking baby steps. Sometimes, that’s not feasible because it’s an all or nothing habit. If it “has you by the throat”, baby steps don’t work to help you loosen that grip so you can stop. I have found that it makes it a more uncomfortable time because I feel guilty for continuing the habit and feel that my integrity is not intact. When that’s the case for you, it’s time to go cold turkey with the habit.

Consider these scenarios for reasons you may want/need to quit a habit:

  • Maybe the severity of the substance or behavior determines the suddenness of your change.
  • If one more drink or puff is going to kill you, maybe cold turkey is the best approach to changing your habit
  • Maybe the desired change has an unknown urgency so is a bit more challenging to get behind a decision to outright quit.
  • Maybe you have decided, because of information you’ve learned or an experience you’ve had, to quit.

Do any of these scenarios make it easier to quit? Do any of these scenarios make it easier to ease off the habit?

Why go cold turkey? To preserve a relationship. Because you can’t successfully cut back slowly on the habit — it’s all or nothing for you. To save your life, job, or freedom. There’s something about the habit that won’t let go of you and you find it’s an all-or-nothing habit. If you have an ADD brain, you may not be wired to ease off the habit or substance. Lay’s potato chips may have had it right with their “Bet you can’t eat just one” ad campaign.

An often overlooked tool to help you quit something is social support. That’s what makes gyms and classes effective — the social support. Weight Watchers is effective because of the social support. AA is effective because of the social support. Not only do you get support from these groups but you also give support. Giving is a powerful source of strength and increased self-esteem. Also, there’s peer pressure to stay on track; that’s powerful in those weak moments. An accountability partner or coach can be your source of social support. Whether you choose to create your own support group with friends, family, and associates, join an established group, or hire a coach, seriously consider the value of surrounding yourself with social support when you are quitting a habit.

On the other hand, baby steps do work in this realm in that you probably have more than one bad habit you’d like to break. Trying to break them all at once may doom you to failure — the classic New Year’s Resolution syndrome, which “never” seems to work. Instead, start with one or two habits, and concentrate on ending what feels “easy” or most important to accomplish first. The feeling of success from that will help give you the motivation to tackle another one, and then another.

Maybe it’s just me and my style. Slowing down on a habit that I’ve deemed unhealthy doesn’t work. This is one change that taking baby steps doesn’t work for me. I have to go cold turkey. As I watch others quit — or try to quit — I see that some are able to ease off their habit. Generally, though, I see that approach lead to failure.

Check this list of topics that I have heard people mention as problems in their lives to see if any of the topics are problems for you too. And if they are problems, what are you going to do about them?

  • News
  • texting
  • TV
  • sugar
  • tobacco
  • alcohol
  • extreme sports
  • candy
  • desserts
  • gambling
  • porn
  • drugs
  • being a couch potato
  • stealing
  • gossiping
  • complaining
  • eating junk food
  • lying
  • electronic games
  • Facebook/Pinterest/Instagram/… making excuses

One final idea to help with your success at making changes. Keep the joy and pride of your success with the result in mind so that the actions you are taking to make the change become a win and recognized as the path to success.

I subscribe to the attitude that if you are going to do something, do it. Don’t dilly dally or beat around the bush.  Do it. Get serious and take action. Get down to business with integrity. Go cold turkey.

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