This Is Super Personal to Me
By Molly Patrick
Dec 20, 2016,
When I decided to finally quit drinking and smoking for good, I knew I needed to do something aside from just abstaining from alcohol and cigarettes.
There was no way I could continue life exactly as I’d been living it up until that point, minus the booze and cigs. I needed a different routine and mindset.
So I got to work, and I started plotting and planning my sobriety and my path to glowing, radiant health that I KNEW I had in me.
The first month without my best friends (red wine and yellow American Spirits) sucked A LOT. But it got me to the second month, which was easier than the first. And that got me to my third month, which was a bit easier yet.
By my fourth month sober, smoke-free, and eating super healthy (and feeling better than I ever had), I knew this was going to be my life. Update: listen to my podcast where I celebrate my seven-year soberversary!
Here are six things I’ve learned by going through the process of quitting drinking and establishing a new routine.
1. All our struggles are similar
Whether you’re trying to quit sugar, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, or processed foods, the struggle is similar.
This is because junk food and sugar affect the brain in the same way that drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes do. They all trigger a significant release of dopamine, a neurochemical responsible for feelings of pleasure. This is one of our built-in survival mechanisms. When we eat and have sex, a bit of dopamine is released from the pleasure center of the brain because this is the body’s way of telling us that these functions are important for survival and should be repeated.
A small release of dopamine is an awesome thing. This is our natural high, and without it, the world would be dull and melancholy. The problem occurs when the pleasure center of the brain gets hijacked by overstimulating substances like junk food, cheese, sugar, alcohol, and cigarettes, and in turn, large quantities of dopamine are released over and over again.
Large surges of dopamine make us feel really fucking happy at first, but it doesn’t last. Plus, repetitive large amounts of dopamine make it nearly impossible to find pleasure in things that release normal amounts of dopamine.
So whether it’s junk food, alcohol, sugar, or drugs, you must go at least 21 days without the substance before you adjust and find pleasure again in normal dopamine levels. After about 21 days, the cycle is generally broken.
2. The emotional connection you have with your substance of choice must be examined
Successfully quitting a habit that is no longer serving you has just as much to do with your thoughts as it does with avoiding whatever substance you’re trying to quit. Your thoughts about this process will determine if you add suffering on top of pain (pain is guaranteed, suffering is optional).
3. Embrace the suck
One of the most important things that kept me on track that first month was accepting that life is not always peachy fucking keen. And that’s okay. We’re so used to doing whatever it takes to feel good ALL THE TIME that we forget that it’s normal and natural and helpful to have a bad day or a really hard couple of hours.
When you stop trying to soothe and make it easy all the time and accept that sometimes life is just hard, it makes it easier to feel ALL the feels. And only when you feel everything (positive and negative) can you process the vibrations in your body (AKA your feelings).
Understanding that no feeling lasts forever and embracing the suck makes it possible to ease into discomfort instead of running away from it by soothing with food or booze or sugar or FILL IN THE BLANK.
4. Even people who have their shit together benefit from a good clean-out.
If you don’t have an addiction or a habit that isn’t helping you live your best life, a month of nothing but whole plant foods without alcohol, sugar, processed food, or coffee (gulp) is still wildly eye-opening and expansive.
5. Getting rid of cravings is easier than working around your cravings.
We’ve all white-knuckled it through cravings. It’s uncomfortable. It’s distracting. It sucks. And it usually ends in caving in and repeating the cycle. But if you remove your cravings for unhealthy substances altogether, there’s nothing to white knuckle through.
6. Fear isn’t going any damn where.
Fear is built into us. It’s another one of our survival mechanisms.
The goal of life, from a biological perspective, is to survive. When we’re in our comfy routine, fear doesn’t pop up because consistency is safe. As soon as we move out of our routine and comfort zone, even if it will benefit us, fear wakes up and is like: “Wait – hold on. What is happening? We’re good here. You don’t need to do that. That’s probably not going to work anyway. YOU MIGHT DIE. You can work on this later. There’s always tomorrow or, you know, next year.”
We often listen to fear because as soon as we back down and stay in the comfort of our routine, we magically feel better because fear goes back to sleep.
Here’s the thing.
Fear can’t tell the difference between a possibly life-threatening situation and breaking the coffee habit.
Any time we get out of our routine, fear wakes up and says hi. So if fear comes up, know it’s a normal part of change, and keep going.
I always had a little nudge telling me that when and if I ever got my shit together, I could have whatever I wanted, and my life would be incredibly abundant and overflowing with joy. For me, getting my shit together meant quitting drinking, quitting smoking, and eating a healthy whole food plant based diet.
I ignored that nudge for a long time, but when I finally woke up and made massive changes to get my shit together, it began an abundant life that overflows with joy. It’s not a perfect life, or one without challenges – that would be impossible, but it has made the good parts so much better and the hard parts easier.
If you have that nudge and want to change your lifestyle, I welcome you with open arms.
Wishing you a happy week. May it be filled with saying yes to that nudge.
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