I have had various habits over my lifetime which at the time of indulgence seemed like things I would never give up.
None of them are with me anymore which I find kind of remarkable.
They all gave themselves up, by causing a reaction that repulsed me enough to never touch the thing again.
Let’s begin with my finger nails and cuticles. I was the most intense nail biter as a kid.
Tearing my nails off their sweet little beds, and peeling the cuticles to bits — can’t actually remember what age the intensity of that began but once it did it was awful.
My mother was constantly at me,
“Jill, take your fingers out of your mouth!”
Don’t think that helped much.
As I got older, into my teen years, I used to let them grow and wear polish.
Then I developed such a bad habit of peeling off the polish that I once had a job where the boss told the manager to give me a warning about it or else they were going to have to let me go.
I guess I was doing it all over the check-out counter without realizing it.
In those days of long colored nails, I was still picking at my cuticles.
Then, I would attack just one nail to make up for the missed practice of mutilating them all.
I would start at its edge and keep digging until a whole chunk would come off. It would hurt so bad and then I’d be so pissed at myself.
I would devour that one finger and then have to deal with its oddball status compared to its neighbors who were still looking glorious in red, pink, or blackberry.
This went on for years up and down.
Until, one day, I realized I never did it anymore.
Once in a blue moon I will begin nudging the weak side of this one nail — which was probably the scapegoat in the past — and get a warning sign in my head to stop because I will not be able to handle the pain if I keep going.
I refuse to go back in time with that monstrosity of a habit.
Then there were the cigarettes I smoked from early twenties until I had my first child at the age of thirty-four.
I only ever smoked about two cigarettes a day, but it went on for years, pretty consistently.
Since it was only a mild habit, I never cared much about stopping. Except for the few times I went up to about five a day and that was mostly when I was living overseas. Cigarettes were so commonplace and I had a boyfriend who was a heavy smoker.
When I met my husband he also smoked a few a day, which didn’t help either of us but made it kind of fun — and oddly romantic.
Soon after giving birth to my daughter — after withdrawing during the pregnancy — I had a few until one day it gave me a sinus headache and I immediately thought,
“I’m done with this.”
And that was that.
I believe it was because the irritant was more uncomfortable than the pleasure of inhaling those dirty sticks any longer.
Then there was my dear sugar habit.
That one I never imagined departing with because it didn’t bother me that I ate a lot of sugar — or junk food.
I’d never had a weight problem or an obvious reaction to the sweet particles themselves.
But toward the end of perimenopause, I was not reacting well to it. I would get shaky and a buzzy head until one day I lost my tolerance to feeling that way and just stopped eating sugar.
I am dead serious.
If someone had told me that is how it would go down for me I would have never believed them since I was a massive junk-food eater.
I kid you not though.
And, it went hand-in-hand with some other food sensitivities such as gluten.
That one left me tired and spacey and when I experimented with giving it up I felt so much better.
I’ve never looked back.
Also, shocking because I loved me my pasta, bread, cookies, and cake.
Years before that, caffeine and alcohol also dropped by the wayside, despite the fact I’d always enjoyed my moderate intake of them.
Caffeine started giving me terrible shakes and alcohol — especially wine — put me to sleep.
Along the way I have also parted with dairy. It did not cause any obvious reactions, though I know it isn’t great for our immune system and causes mucous build-up.
I threw it out with the others in the last four years and found substitutes.
Although once in a while I will eat some cheese.
I have never had to give anything up that did not somehow let go of me first. I am fortunate that way, I am aware.
I have a low threshold I guess for feeling like shit from stimulants.
I cannot say I miss any of these habits because it wasn’t a matter of willpower to say no.
Sugar and gluten would be the only ones that tempt me, although when I am around people eating them I get a sudden reminder of what it felt like to be shaking, buzzing, or hit with crashing fatigue that I immediately get turned off.
I also no longer eat chocolate — of which I was a massive consumer.
I am figuring it must have gone out the window with sugar since those two went together for me.
And, chocolate does contain some caffeine which in my head is just a no-no.
I even gave up decaffeinated coffee (and I never have any kind of tea other than herbal) because of the bits of caffeine I could still detect.
I don’t write this up to brag about my ability to break habits.
Rather share the fact that if there is something you imagine you could never let go of, you may be surprised down the road.
Don’t give up the faith if it is something you truly wish to abandon.
Sometimes our chemistry or mindset shifts in a way we could never predict.
Although I miss how much I loved those goodies during their heydays, I don’t long for the repercussions that eventually became how my system responded.
And I never forget what those were.
Aging is a fascinating thing in this regard.
And it can take time to realize something we ingest regularly is the culprit of certain symptomology.
Often we never even know.
Especially as we get older, if we’ve been eating something — for example — our whole lives, and it never bothered us before.
For me, at least, once the connection was made with any of these products, it was no longer worth it.
The yuck outweighed the thrill.