“Every aspect of your life will improve,” – How I Killed My Ultimate Bad Habit

We all love before and afters, right?

I wish I had a before and after of a picture of my lungs, but that might actually be too scary, so here’s a cute picture of me of when I was smoking and out of shape and then once I had ascended to swoledom, with the adorable benefit of Snapchat stickers:

 

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Sadz to radz, my friends

Honestly, there wasn’t a single quick fix that got me to quit smoking for good, so much as it was gradual buildup of positives currents that were pushing me toward a certain outcome, so that when I got the final push, it was like just cutting the anchor loose and letting the waves push me where I was already trying to go. But in looking back on the process of getting healthy and and kicking my smoking habit, I realize that the worst habits I had were  often manifestations of the negatives beliefs I had about myself, and smoking was a clear example of this.

In 2010 I was depressed, unhealthy, and nursed a serious Marlboro habit. I don’t have a ton of regrets, but smoking is definitely one of the big ones. I don’t know if it would have worked, but I wish more of my friends had gotten in my face about it,  but a lot of them were smokers too – they were in no position to look out for my health and well-being. But I am deeply grateful for the ones that did.

When I was almost ready to quit, the push that was the most effective was when my roommate and good friend/creative partner Jack Payne  of Lonely Cow Productions,  looked at me while I was climbing out onto our fire escape to light up and said, “You know if you quit, every aspect of your life will change.”

And I knew he was right.

“You know if you quit,

every aspect of your life will improve.”

– My roommate not letting me off the hook. Thank you, Jack!

And Danny, for all the subtle “you shouldn’t smoke,” shade.

Now, I was already well into my current self-betterment process – I was eating well, drinking less, and lifting consistently. I was even personal training (trainers: we’re people with problems too!).

Not only was I physically healthier, I had started to really  identify with my ability to set habit-based goals and reach them. I was attracted to the archetype of the warrior monk – someone who had achieved an active balance of mental/spiritual acuity and physical mastery and control. My pursuit of embodying this archetype would be characterized by an intimate understanding of what my body needed to be healthy and happy. Clearly a smoking habit was not in alignment with this desire.

“It was a product of my hesitancy to change and my fear of owning my desires to change. It was a ghost of my insecurities.”

I was not blind to the hypocrisy of my smoking habit of course, I was just a) chemically addicted and b)psychologically addicted. Earlier I mentioned that my worst habits were often direct manifestations of my worst ideas or beliefs about myself. Smoking was like the Super Villain of these beliefs. The ultimate Big Bad standing in-between me and the realization that I could be whole and happy and healthy.

So then you take a second, breath, and then get that shit. #strongwoman #deadliftordie

A post shared by Cara Brennan (@captainstarbuck) on

It was a product of my hesitancy to change and my fear of owning my desires to change. It was a ghost of my insecurities – it was haunting my attempts to reclaim myself and create a happier reality. It was a representation of a belief existing within me still, the belief that no matter how hard I tried, I would not be able to change.

That I would not ever truly own myself.

This idea had to die.

You can see the entanglement of this. I was harboring a potentially life-threatening addiction while trying earnestly to become healthy. This is a common trap for many, I’m sure. We desperately want one thing, while blindly clinging to things that keep us from that thing. Self-sabotage, whoohoo! So how do you get rid of something that you may aren’t even aware of? Or are aware of, but are so afraid of that you can’t look directly at it?

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Doing dope things I couldn’t have done just a few years ago. Photo: Spotted Owl Photography

In my case, I made the habit as hard to continue as I could. I recommitted to the part of my job that holds me up as an example to my clients. I avoided hanging out with people who I knew would offer me a cigarette. I limited my involvement in activities that I knew would tempt me to smoke. I worked out even more. I did more cardio. I gave myself lots of areas to succeed in, and lots of small ways to prove to myself that I could change.  I put my focus on the things I felt confident doing, and that built more confidence.

That positive feedback loop gave me power; power to make the final big change I needed to.

I didn’t focus on the thing I couldn’t do (quitting smoking) but focused on all the things I could do that made me not want to smoke. 

This attitude can apply to a lot of different types of challenges and goals. So often, the things we want appear unattainable and terrifying and seem insurmountable. We see the mountain, not the tiny next step in front of us that is totally doable.

You want to eat better? Just commit to adding one fibrous vegetable to your next meal. That’s it. Then do it again.

You want to be in better shape? Lay out your gym clothes before you go to bed, or go for a walk right now. Then do it again.

You want to stop staying out late at the bar? Make a an early appointment with a friend to go to breakfast or a workout before work at 7 am. You probably won’t be out til 2 am.

Changing big habits is incredibly difficult. Many who try, fail. Many more don’t try. Do not let this discourage you. I have managed to come back from and change many destructive and unproductive habits, and I did it by surrounding myself with supportive, loving people, and by taking teeny tiny steps toward the things I wanted to do and be.

It’s not easy. But it can be simple. Start now.

-Cara

 

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