Why is it hard to kick a habit that we know is hurting us?

Making coffee a weekend treat kicked my crazies to the curb.
Making coffee a weekend treat kicked my crazies to the curb.

When I hit 30 my PMS began to become an out of body experience. I would hear myself muttering discontents and wonder who was this person who had taken over my body for 12 hours? I started to wonder: Why can’t this happen while I am sleeping?

PMS is certainly not an excuse for behaving badly. But dang, is it ever a challenge to keep my words and behaviour under control. I find the most important thing is to be aware of it. If I feel myself becoming irritable, I say to Dave “Apparently taking the garbage out of this can is making me way more angry than it should. It’s possible that I am going to say something that I do not really mean between now and bedtime.” In others words, please cut me some slack where required.

I know this sounds so cheesy, but this primes Dave for what’s coming and let’s him know that no matter what I say I am trying my best to control my behaviour but that the challenge has been upped considerably.

About 2 months ago, the crazies hit an all time high. I felt like I was on a wild roller coaster ride, strapped in and not allowed to get off. I was talking myself down and out of different situations that would normally roll off my back all day. It was exhausting.

What was different that day? I had had 3 cups of coffee, which was unusual for me. Apparently, it was an unwelcome collision of molecules in my body. I decided that I needed to make sure it would not happen again.

I know that – for me – it’s way easier to quit cold turkey than to have something in between*. I respond to rules. But I just could not imagine never having the delicious brown elixir of the gods again. And, coffee is not just a beverage, it’s a ritual. How could I ever replace it? Plus, I was sure my receptors were addicted to it and there would be headaches in revolt, which I have little tolerance for.

Instead of going cold turkey, I decided to come up with some rules*. I would only drink coffee on weekends, if I really “needed” a coffee on a weekday I would allow it and I would replace my coffee in the morning with a cup of orange pekoe tea, which still has caffeine (weaning) and also has a small place in my heart as a ritual.

I was completely skeptical that this would work but I have stuck to the rules for 10 weeks now, with one blip. One morning, I felt like I really needed a coffee. I was expecting it to be a magical. It fell flat, of course. Poor coffee. It was unfair to put so much pressure on you.

As a result, I developed a key question to ask as I walk up to the Starbucks Barista – what is going to make you feel better in a Real way: drinking the coffee or choosing an alternative? Hands down, when I use choose an alternative I know I will feel better about myself.

Oh and by the way, the crazies have all but disappeared, which I also find astonishing. Those molecules mixing together. We are just like one big chemistry set.

What’s your strategy for kicking a habit? 

*A shout out to my sister-in-law because when I mentioned this to her she came up with the brilliant idea of changing ”not having any” rule to another rule that I would have to follow.

*update – Gretchen Rubin’s 4 personality types describes abstainers vs. moderators … can you move through the spectrum or do you find one works better for you?

2 thoughts on “Why is it hard to kick a habit that we know is hurting us?

  1. There are lots of reasons to drink coffee! I am a big fan of everything in moderation. So true that habits can put us in a rut and it’s important to try new things to keep things fresh and alive. Habits can be good for us too depending on what they are … if your habit is to go to the gym, then rut be had 🙂 Anyhoodle, glad you found a nugget in the post even though it was a bit of a female-oriented one!


  2. As I sit here with the magic elixir in hand, I suddenly feel guilty 😉 Seriously though, regardless of whether it is a physical or mental stimuli that gets us to think about our values and priorities, it should be viewed as a good thing, Yes, it may make us feel uncomfortable at times, but it is better than getting stuck in the proverbial rut. I tend to become a creature of habit doing the same things day in and day out. When you challenge your daily actions and make sure that they align with what matters most to you, you stay vigilant, fresh, and alive. You tend to become much more aware of your surroundings and live life with more energy.

    I can’t relate to the title of the article, but I can certainly relate to my own unique situations where the same types of choices are presented to me. Sometimes the worst enemy of the best course of action is the “good enough” action. When we can choose the “best” action for ourselves, it goes a long way towards making us feel empowered to live the life we are meant to live.

    Thanks for my morning caffeine fix of the personal growth variety 🙂 It was way better than that magic elixir liquid in my cup that is now gone 😉


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