This week, drunk on past success, I’m tackling a 36 year habit. Woof! (Literally)

Well, it’s a new Thursday and time to quit something else! I can’t wait but first a bit of an update on stuff I’ve already said aloha to.

Quite honestly I had forgotten what I started out quitting just a month ago with this project. That tells you something about how much our habits are just that, habits. They have no physical hold on us they’re merely what we do. Still, that’s a lot. To quote an old friend of mine: “There’s some things I do well and some things I just do. Those are things I just do”. I’m making those things “just did” and let me tell you it feels great. My assessment on my quittings:

* Not checking e-mail? Haven’t missed it one iota, talk about being emancipated.

* Not skipping writing any days? Why would I find it hard to do something I love to do? There’s probably something to be learned there about exchanging a habit for doing something that’s good for you.

* Kicking pop? The biggest surprise of all so far. I thought I would really miss this but come to find out water and tea (yeah it’s a substitute caffeine-wise, I know. That’s a future Thursday) fill the activity part of this habit and don’t give me the sugar crash later on in the day.

* Clutter? Who would miss that?

So, quitting has been very interesting thus far, but enough of that, on to more quitting!

Back in high school I started a habit that’s stuck around for a variety of reasons going on for over 35 years now; eating late at night. As a 16 year old guy I might typically come home from a date all amped up on testosterone and polish off half a package of cookies and a couple glasses of milk. The food, I think, sort of calmed my jacked up adrenaline and made me full and sleepy. I didn’t realize the reason behind what I was doing I just knew I liked it. Had I known the consequences of what I was starting I would have set my hair on fire and run like hell.

Over the years, I’ve continued the practice. In college I ate cereal in the kitchen at the fraternity at the end of a long study session. Again, same nerve calming reason, same effect, with a slightly different impetus. When my wife and I were first married and through today (a span of 25 plus years) I’ve made this a habit somewhere around 80% of my nights. In the early years of our marriage the trigger was frustration or an uncertainty about how life was going to work out for me. I was newly married, 25, and had no idea what I wanted to be when I grew up with no clear path. At that point I had ten years of this habit under my belt (which was literally beginning to become an issue) with still the same goal, settle my nerves and make me sleepy so I could get some rest to start another day with no defined purpose. (See how I worked the whole despairing about my life thing in there? Pretty tricky huh?) I’m probably being a bit dramatic but my anxiety on most of these nights really didn’t give a rip.

As I gained weight and developed the related gastrointestinal maladies (acid stomach, ulcer-like symptoms and reflux) I began to see what a mess I’d created for myself. Unfortunately the anxiety monster ruled. Many were the nights I stared, bleary-eyed into the refrigerator wondering what I could eat to put me out of my misery and get some sleep. By this time it wasn’t milk and cookies (although those were still good and I’m partial to Oreos) but scrumptious things like cold spaghetti, pizza and mashed potatoes. I scavenged like a stray dog many nights until one or two in the morning. It was pathetic really, I mean who makes pudding at three a.m.? I have the answer for you, freaks like me, that’s who. This Thursday, today, it all stops. I’d be lying if I said I was confident I could do it.

This is a huge one, far and away the biggest in this project to date. Still, the success I’ve had with the previous quittings gives me hope. The fact that I literally had to look back to remember what I had given up tells me that once a decision is made and committed to, the power of the mind is immense. Here’s to the victory of my decision over my anxiety. I’m anticipating a real struggle with this one. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised but more than likely I will have to become really creative to substitute some good things (or some just not-so-bad things as was the case with quitting pop) for this really, really bad thing. Wish me luck. I will likely need all of that I can get to quit eating after nine p.m. (I know that’s not terribly early but for me it’s a pretty big deal)

I’ll bet you have some things you’ve been doing for a long time that have become that 300 pound gorilla in your life. I’d sure like to know what they are, or were if you finally kicked them and how you did it. If you have been able to put a stop to them your story would sure be encouraging to me and others if you would share it below. Thanks!


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