A friend and I were comparing addictions Tuesday. He’s trying to quit smoking and I’m trying to give up sugar.
My friend started smoking when he was 13 years old — behind his parents’ back, of course — and he’s wanted to give it up for years. But now that he’s 60, he’s seeing serious medical consequences hit him. It’s suddenly become important to quit. He hasn’t had a cigarette for 11 days — and it’s the longest break his lungs have had since he was 13.
I’ve talked before about my ongoing struggle with poor eating. Sugar is my real problem, but it’s far worse because I use food like a drug to self-medicate when I’m feeling down. At some point in January, I suddenly realized I’d been eating well for a few days. It wasn’t a planned thing, but I seized the opportunity, because I know I’m going to kill myself if I don’t make a complete change
Over the last six or seven weeks, I’ve dropped all the sugar and most of the carbs. I’ve felt great and dropped 31 pounds, but I still have a long way to get where I want to go.
My friend and I both have great incentives to kick our habits. But neither of us could compare to the incentive that another friend of mine had. I knew that this friend used to smoke — years ago — and I asked her last week how she quit. It turned out her incentive was her daughter.
When I first met this friend, she smoked heavily. She was married and had two children. I wasn’t around her regularly for awhile, but I kept up with her on Facebook. I watched from afar as her son grew up. And I saw her pride in her daughter, who graduated from college with an engineering degree and has a successful career.
So I asked her last week how she quit smoking — and whether it had been difficult for her.
She said she had really wanted to stop smoking for a long time, but it had seemed too difficult. Her nicotine addiction seemed too strong. But then something happened to give her a reason — and the reason wasn’t about herself.
She and her husband were struggling financially at the time. They owned their own home and made ends meet, but there was nothing left over. Money was tight.
When her daughter was about 12 years old, she and her husband were presented with the reality that the girl needed braces for her teeth. My friend desperately wanted to provide what her daughter needed, but the family simply didn’t have the money.
Then she did some math. She figured up what she was spending on cigarettes — and she realized that she was spending enough every month on her habit that the same amount of money could pay the monthly price of the braces.
So she stopped smoking. Cold turkey. As soon as she made the decision — and had the right reason — she never smoked again.
We can do terrible things to our bodies with our bad decisions. And we can also make positive changes to turn our lives around — when we have the right incentives. When we have the right “why.”
My friend found her “why” and she then found quitting cigarettes to be simple and easy. She didn’t struggle. She wasn’t tempted to start smoking again. All because she could look at the daughter she loved — the one she was doing it for — and know it was worth it.
She said her daughter never knew she quit smoking to pay for her braces, so the daughter can’t appreciate what her mom did. But my friend knows and she doesn’t consider it a big deal. It was just the right thing to do for a little girl who she loved.
Addictions are tough to kick. But all of us are capable of making changes — if we simply have a strong enough reason. It’s great if we can make a change for ourselves, but if we can make a change because we love someone, that’s not so bad, either.
When you find the reason to make a change in your life — the person for whom you want to do it for — scary changes can turn out to be not so scary after all.