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Addictions – Is It Time to Give Up?

January 2020 by Mairin Best

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“An over-indulgence of anything, even something as pure as water, can intoxicate.” – Criss Jami

At what point does your morning coffee, your evening wine, or your lunchtime hot chips change from an enjoyment to a ritual or habit, to an addiction?

At what point does an addiction become a problem? Does it depend on what you are addicted to, or is having any addiction an issue?

These are questions that have been running through my mind for the past couple of months. Did I fall into the cliché of #NewYearNewMe yet?

I started writing this to explore how my addictions affect me at work. Classic addict self-talk ensued. They don’t affect my work; they don’t affect me at all. I am what you would call a functioning addict. I still complete all my daily tasks, maintain my job and relationships. It wasn’t until I broke an addiction that I realised it did actually affect me.

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Hi, my name is Mairin and I am addicted to caffeine and nicotine.

My caffeine hit comes in the form of energy drinks. I drink one sugar-free Red Bull every day. I do not drink coffee; in fact, I don’t drink any hot drinks. However, I start work at 6.30am (5:00am wake up) and have become reliant on caffeine to wake me up and get me through the busy first few hours of my day. Sugar-free, because in 2020 I am also trying to be more health-conscious and shift some extra kilos.
                                                 

The real story here though is in my nicotine addiction:

  • 1st March 2011 – I quit smoking. It lasted 2.5 years.
  • 29th May 2016 – I tried to quit smoking again. It lasted 9 days.
  • 6th November 2019 – I quit smoking again. To date – 2.5 months smoke-free.

Isn’t it interesting how I made a note of the quit days and not the start days?

Quitting smoking, or becoming smoke-free as I like to call it, has been one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. When I first started smoking at the age of 16, I never thought, “I want to be a smoker.” I just had a cigarette, and then another, and then another. Before I even realised it – I was hooked. Back then, smoking was cool. I know that sounds ridiculous to say, but it really was seen as a thing that only “cool” people did. Starting smoking is the single biggest regret of my life.

I sought help from my doctor. I joined two support groups on Facebook. I downloaded a smoke-free app to track my progress. I told everybody I knew that I was stopping and told them my quit date. I posted it on my social media pages – I figured this was the best way to remain accountable. I even convinced my friend and colleague to stop with me. If you know me at all, you will know how competitive I am, and this was a huge motivator for me. There was no way I was going to fail while he was successful.

I am now through the tricky part of the process. The physical addiction is gone (it only takes three days for nicotine to leave your body), and I've been working through the mental side of the addiction. Did you know that while it only takes 21 days to form a new habit, it can take up to 90 days to break an addiction? 90 days is what it takes to give your brain time to reset itself, which allows you to then master the skills of recovery, and allows time for those new patterns to become habits.

So – the benefits! How did my addiction affect me? I am only writing here about the work-related benefits I have noticed. I couldn’t possibly list all the reasons why it is the best thing I have ever done; we would be here all day!

  • Since I became smoke-free, I feel I have become so much more productive in everything I do, but particularly in my work. No longer am I going for a cigarette break every two hours, which has resulted in my productivity soaring!
  • I no longer wake up feeling sluggish, snoozing my alarm three times before rising. I wake up feeling fresh and ready to take on the day.
  • My colleagues no longer have to put up with that yuck smell on me all the time.
  • My walk to work no longer leaves me breathless, I even had to run to catch the train the other day and made it without being a sweaty mess.

So, what’s next? I don’t think I am quite ready to quit my Red Bulls, however, I am 16 days into forming a new habit – exercise and eating right. Watch out 2020, here I come.