How to break an addiction

When we are stuck in a bad habit, we have to replace it with a good one in order to get away from it. Just stopping the bad thing isn’t enough. It creates a void, an emptiness, in us. There is a hole in your day that used to be filled with that thing you did that wasn’t great for you. If you don’t fill it with a good habit, then not only will the bad habit come back, but it will come back stronger and worse.

Jesus says in Luke 11:24-26 (ASV)
24 The unclean spirit when he is gone out of the man, passeth through waterless places, seeking rest, and finding none, he saith, I will turn back unto my house whence I came out. 25 And when he is come, he findeth it swept and garnished. 26 Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more evil than himself; and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man becometh worse than the first.

Lao Tzu said that “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” I like the translation that says “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath your feet.” You have to walk away from your bad habits, and often actually walking is the best thing you can do. Know that just wanting to get away from your bad habit can be the first step. Knowing that can help you get over your inertia.

Bad habits can range from additions to simply undesired behaviors. Drinking too much, gambling, overeating, overspending, wasting time on TV or the computer – the list is endless. Whatever you do that you feel takes you away from actually living life is an undesired behavior. When you identify it, then you have to find something else you can put in its place.

Exercise, reading an educational book, volunteering, or working towards a life goal are all good substitutes. Find something to fill that hole with or it will get filled on its own.

Poem – path

The path that leads away, also leads to me.
It isn’t just for me to walk to the unknown.
The unknown now knows how to find me.

We are on the same path, it and I.

It, like the father of the prodigal son, is coming to me.

That which I am seeking is seeking me as well.

It is no longer a one day, someday goal.
It is already here, on this path, with me.

The journey of a thousand miles.

I have a tattoo that wraps around my left ankle that is a quote from Lao Tzu. I was inspired by a book I read called “Body Type” by Ina Saltz. The entire book features tattoos that are words, and often they are in meaningful fonts.

Like any self-respecting tattooed person, I was on the quest to get another tattoo after reading that. But what? What words would be worthwhile to get permanently marked on my body? What do I need to remember that much? What would be helpful to others?

I found something that answered those questions in the quote “The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.” I’d always heard it as “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” but when you are going to get something permanent, you might as well make sure of the exact wording. When I looked it up, I found this alternate translation. I like “… beneath ones’ feet” much better.

Both quotes help to remind us to not look at the goal. Just get started. There is another Chinese saying that is like this. “The best time to plant a tree is a hundred years ago. The second best time is today.” Both refer to starting. You have to dream, but then you have to make those dreams real. And making dreams real is composed of a lot of tiny steps. When you first start it feels impossible, that you will never get there. Just keep going. Just keep taking tiny steps. The quote also reminds us to break up a big, difficult project up into manageable parts. Do a little here, and a little there, and you’ll get there.

But we all know that just starting is the hardest part. This is why I like the alternate translation so much better. The start is right now, right where you are. Here’s the secret – just thinking about it, you have already begun.

That is worth savoring. You want to write? Many people would say then just write. That is easier to say than do, because you want to make it perfect. You won’t. It won’t be perfect. It will be really ugly and clunky and dull at the beginning. But then you write more, and it gets easier, and clearer, and better. This applies to anything creative, not just writing.

But you still have to start.

I had a problem getting started. Sometimes the problem was stopping a bad habit and starting a better one. I know I’m not alone in this. Sometimes the inertia was too great. Sometimes I couldn’t achieve enough escape velocity to get going.

These words inspire me, and I hope they do the same to you. Just thinking about it, you’ve already started. You’ve already taken the first step.