The Best Way to Quit Bad Habits is to Not Try

From quitting smoking to quitting caffeine to bad relationships, Yoda said it all


Smoking cigarettes started for me when I was 14 and I smoked for 20 years. After 19 years of puffing a pack or more a day, I had never really ‘tried’ to quit smoking.

I never tried because I am not the type of person who decides to do something and doesn’t do it. And I didn’t see the use in doing the whole — saying I want to quit and not quitting song and dance. I decided that I wasn’t going to try to quit until I was going to actually quit.

As my children grew older and my cough in the morning grew rougher, I started to think more often about the health implications of my stinky and dirty habit. I could see how being a smoker was affecting the lives of my family and destroying my health.


Smoking became less socially acceptable in our lives.

We had moved to the Austin Texas area and way fewer people smoked than where we lived in Illinois. With fewer people smoking, the inconvenience posed by smoking was much more glaring. I knew I smelled to non-smokers. Then there is the whole ash issue. Ashes making things dirty, burning things, and staining things. I would be on my way to an important meeting and get a black spot on my shirt or go into the parent’s day at school, embarrassed that I might smell like smoke.

Then, the worst thing of all happened. My children came home one day and said the parents of the neighbor kids wouldn’t allow their kids to trade with our kids because our stuff smelled like smoke. We didn’t even smoke in the house except for one room — out the window.

I would say this made the top 3 list of my worst parent moments, ever. I was mortified. I felt like a failure.


Photo by Ray Reyes on Unsplash

The health implications began to haunt me.

I started to feel the damage smoking was doing to my body. All the health risks would flash through my mind. The thought of willingly shortening my life span, and therefore removing myself from certain life events of my children and potential grandchildren, haunted me.

How many years have I already lost? How late would be too late?

This was when realized I wanted to quit smoking—not because I thought I should, but because I truly wanted to. So I decided to ‘try’.

What I would soon find out is that the only way I would ever be successful in quitting was by not trying to quit. Weird, I know. More on that later.


I decided to try.

Quitting was not easy for me. I had been smoking my entire adult life. In the morning. After a meal. After sex. After basically anything. Before everything. When I was angry, nervous, or upset, and when I was happy and excited. Smoking was a huge part of bonding with humans and working through things. Every part of my life was touched by cigarettes.

I had never not smoked.

I thought vaping might work. There was a time in my past when I had cut down on smoking via vaping. I lived with a friend who did not smoke. Always having to go outside was not always convenient, so the convenience of being able to vape inside allowed me to naturally cut back on cigarettes.

The first time I decided to quit I watched dozens of YouTube videos about what smoking does to the body, how the body heals, and how long that takes. I thought this would give me the motivation to quit and I think, ultimately, it probably did help. But this time, I didn’t quit.

The mistake I made the first time I decided to quit was trying. Paradoxical, I know. In order to quit, you must not try to quit. Very confusing.

Photo by Jimmy Nguyen on Unsplash

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

— Yoda

I always appreciated this Yoda quote, but I did not truly understand it until the phenomenon of me simply not smoking anymore—without trying — became a thing. Not only was I successful when I did not try, but I was unsuccessful when I did.


The second time I decided to quit was the time I quit and the time I didn’t try to quit.

I did not declare to myself that I was done with cigarettes and I didn’t even smoke what I had or throw them away.

Screenshot by Author using Quit-It App

What I did do, was decide to stop at the vape shop and get the perfect set-up for me based on my needs. I had eight cigarettes in my pack and one pack in the freezer.

When I left the house that day, I did not even know I would quit smoking while I was out. But I had been thinking about vaping again and how that would be better for me.

On the way home from our errands, we passed the vape shop and I decided to stop.

I talked to the lovely owner for a good amount of time before we figured out what would be perfect for me, based on my needs. Then, I bought it.

Honestly, I don’t even think I knew when I walked out of that vape shop that I would not smoke again, but I didn’t.


Screenshot by Author using Quit-It App

I never even ‘smoked my last cigarette’.

After I got in the car, I thought about how nice just vaping would be and how nice it would be not to ‘have to’ smoke.

As I started using the vape, I would think about the 200 chemicals, tar, and co2 that I was not putting into my body at that moment.

Instead of thinking, “I can’t smoke.” I would think “I don’t have to smoke” or “I can vape”.

I would relish in the freedom vaping granted me. There was less commitment — no whole cigarette to smoke. It was clean and smelled fruity. I didn’t have to go out in the cold or heat as much to vape as I did to smoke.

My vape didn’t burn things and fill my life with ash.

Throughout the rest of the day and for the next few, I just kept doing that. Every time the automatic thought of lighting a cigarette came — instead of thinking about how I couldn’t or shouldn’t smoke, I would think about how I could vape and why I wanted to. Then I would vape and the craving would leave.

The eight cigarettes are still in my desk drawer and the pack sat in my freezer for 6 months before I gave it away. I never once had to talk myself out of smoking one of those cigarettes, because I didn’t try to quit smoking. I just didn’t smoke.

This same principle has worked for me in quitting caffeine, changing habits, and even healing relationships.


Takeaway:

Instead of thinking about not drinking that cup of coffee, think about drinking the tea. Instead of thinking about not being late and the consequences, think about being on time and the rewards. Instead of thinking about what you don’t want in your relationship, think about what you do want.

Carl Jung said it well with, “What you resist, persists.”

Eckhart Tolle nailed it with, “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.”

Whether you view this age old-wisdom through the lens of spirituality or psychology, the facts remain that what you focus on you intensify, and what you resist persists.


Written by Holly Kellums

Originally published on Medium.com

Featured image by Ramiz Dedaković on Unsplash


Disclaimer about vaping: The principles I have outlined above apply to anyone who wants to quit smoking (or anything), whether you choose vaping, Nicorette, peppermints or toothpicks as your focus. Someone who chooses vaping to quit smoking could obviously quit vaping too, eventually, as many have done. Some may continue vaping. This is a personal choice and the purpose of this piece is not to advocate for any specific answer to the controversial question of…

“Is vaping worse than smoking?”

Answers to this question are down a whole different rabbit hole, one that has absolutely nothing to do with the purpose of this story. It has nothing to do with the vape or the tea and everything to do with the power of our focus and how to use it consciously to make much needed changes in our lives.

I will most likely write a story about whether vaping is worse than smoking in the future. When I do, I will add the link here.




Published by hollykellums

Internationally Published Author * Influencer * Recovery Coach * Human Potential Activist

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