Sam Holstein

Why Quitting Addictive Substances and Bad Habits is Great Self-Help Advice

Why Quitting Addictive Substances and Bad Habits is Great Self-Help Advice

Some self-help writers and authors think that quitting stuff is not good self-help advice to give. They stay that instead of worrying about quitting alcohol and sugar foods, you should be focusing on other, more internal matters.

That kind of thinking sounds sophisticated. It’s not a black and white view, it’s got shades of gray. It allows for many different kinds of life experiences. Because of all of that, it sounds true.

The book I’m reading right now is about quitting marijuana. In the last chapter, the author writes “Stop approaching [quitting weed] as if quitting weed, or not quitting weed, is even going to make the difference. Trust me, focusing on what kind of life you want to live before you die is what makes the difference.”

But I have to ask myself, is it really true? Is all this business of quitting stuff a mere distraction from the harder work of self-improvement?

I don’t think it is. When I look back over the course of my life, it is very clear access is only possible because I decided to quit stuff.

Quitting Social Media:

Quitting social media has unquestionably been one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. In the three years since I’ve quit social media, I’ve re-claimed roughly 5 hours a day, 35 hours a week, 150 hours a month, 1,800 hours a year.

It feels like it, too. One of the biggest differences in my life before and after social media is the pace of my life. Life before social media was hectic and there was never enough time. Life after social media is slow and soothing.

Most of those reclaimed hours I have used for playing video games, smoking marijuana, and hanging out with friends and family. But a small portion of them —roughly 30%, if I had to guess — has gone toward pursuing my writing dreams. Even a measly 600 hours a year spent writing has helped me earn over $50,000 in royalties on my blogging.

I theoretically could have spent 600 hours a year writing and 1,200 hours a year with friends and family without quitting social media. But I know I would not have, because that’s not what I did. Despite repeated emotional commitments and re-commitments to myself, I was simply not able to give my health in my dreams the time they deserved while also actively using social media.

In conclusion, quitting social media had a massive positive impact on my life.

Quitting Alcohol

Quitting alcohol was not as profoundly good as quitting social media. But it was still really good. In the 193 days since making my initial commitment not to drink, I have skipped countless hangovers and probably saved hundreds of dollars on alcohol.

The most pronounced benefit of living a life without alcohol is the improvement in my sleep quality. I go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning, and as all those health gurus say, it has been amazing for my energy levels. Do you know those mornings we all have, the ones where we’d rather stay in bed a few hours more? Now that I’ve quit alcohol, I don’t have those anymore.

There are other benefits as well. I’m sick to my stomach far less often and don’t find myself getting dehydrated as much. My quality of life is good on a day-to-day basis in a way that it is not when I am in the habit of drinking.

Quitting alcohol is another instance in which quitting something has made a substantial difference for me.

Quitting Video Games

Video games are a subject that gives me some pause.

On the one hand, video games have demonstrated their potential to be just as addictive and dangerous as any other intoxicating substance. Countless people, including my high school sweetheart, find themselves losing years or decades of their lives to video game habits.

On the other hand, when I am not in the practice are playing video games, I feel more stressed out. There’s something soothing about spending a few hours playing Civilization VI, Fortnite, or Splatoon 2. Sometimes I even force myself to play video games when I’m not in the mood because I know I will feel better about life after having played video games for a few hours.

In my teenage years, I was one of those people that had a video game problem. The month Skyrim came out, I logged 160 hours in 30 days. I’d beaten every mission of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 on every difficulty.

The fallout from my video game problem was limited. I was clever enough to get good grades without studying and had a close-knit group of male friends who would play video games with me, so I didn’t end up a loner. As I got older and started to form long-term life goals, playing video games naturally fell by the wayside.

I think I could quit video games for good right now, but I’m not sure if that would be a healthy decision for me. The idea of spending more time playing video games comes up again and again in my therapy as a way I can practice self-care.

Suffice to say, quitting video games — or not quitting video games — has not made a key difference in the outcome of my life.

Quitting TV

I have not made an explicit commitment to quit watching television. I’ve de-emphasized television by getting rid of my own, but I have not actually quit. I watch historical documentaries with my partner once every few months, and watch other kinds of documentaries on my own once every few weeks. I watched Squid Game because everyone said it was criticism of capitalism.

That being said, most people who watch TV watch a lot more TV than me. Most people watch a few times a week or every day, not once every few weeks or months. A few years ago, I was the kind of person who put my favorite TV shows on as background noise every single day.

Now, TV does not affect my quality of life. But back when I was watching every day, it certainly did. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but it was seriously eating into my ability to focus and produce valuable work.

All this is to say that quitting stuff has made a huge difference in my life. It sounds intellectually sophisticated to say “It’s not about quitting stuff, it’s about getting into the core of who you are and what you want,” but my lived experience — and all the data I’ve ever read — indicates otherwise. Quitting bad habits makes a huge difference in your quality of life.

If you’re feeling stuck in life and are not sure what you should be doing next, my recommendation is to identify a bad habit you have and quit. The very process of quitting is sure to teach you about who you are and what you care about. At the beginning of your quitting process, you might not know what your purpose is, but you damn sure will by the end.