The Best Time to Quit

By | October 9, 2011

I once thought the odds of kicking a habit would be in my favor if I just waited until everything was right—a supportive relationship, low stress, and a fulfilling activity to replace my habit. There was only one problem: it didn’t work. Instead of a supportive situation, I actually set myself up to fail. How long can one reasonably expect an idyllic situation to last? And what better excuse is there to give up than that inevitable turn for the worse?

Besides, I didn’t have any real motivation to quit when things are going well. My resolve was by far the strongest when I was struggling the most with my addiction—when its fallout was being rubbed in my face and I was so disgusted with myself that I didn’t see any hope. I had nothing more to lose and everything to gain. I could no longer fool myself into thinking that if only I waited until my life was on a smooth track, I’ll be able to conquer my demon. Yet the strongest argument was that if I could start when I was at my lowest, I knew it could only get better.

Still, I had no motivation—when I was depressed, I just wanted to crawl into a hole and be left alone. The driving force came when those who cared decided to quit enabling me and instead join with me. They told me they knew I couldn’t do it alone—nobody could. They said they were going to do it with me, and starting right now. They each had their demons they wanted to purge also, and we would help and support each other.

It worked. And it works for most of people I pass the approach on to. As long as they have the clear and unwavering involvement—not support, but involvement—of the people closest to them.


Rose on October 14, 2011 at 10:42 am.

I’m wondering what you mean when you say “joining” someone in addiction recovery. Can you give some concrete examples? Is this something as nebulous as saying “I’m with you,” or is this more literal? What I think you mean is the latter, based on our recent circumstances. I’d like to share a little more specifically what’s happening in our clan.

For instance, recently one of our clanmates has dedicated herself to quitting smoking, and we were all looking at how we could join her so she wouldn’t be doing it alone. I had some niggling thoughts that I could join her with my relationship to comfort foods, especially ones that aren’t healthy for me. It took about a week, and a very clear example of how I use comfort food in the exact same way some people use alcohol and tobacco before I was ready to join her in healing from addiction. She’s not smoking cigarettes, and I’m not buying comfort food. We tell each other when we get cravings, listen, support, and offer each other options. We ask each other questions about what is the real need behind the addictive behavior, and how we can meet it in a way that actually enriches us.


Tamarack on November 19, 2011 at 10:16 am.

Hi Joshua,

I think you’ve got what meditation is all about when you see the value in meditative space and not just in formal practice.

The shamanic approach to healing is quite individualistic, though it is often portrayed in more standard form by many contemporary authors and workshop presenters. In traditional cultures, those called to the shamanic way usually receive training and guidance from elder shamans. Yet the focus is on preparing individuals to find their own power and personal healing methods. It sounds like you’re quite comfortable exploring what works for you, and I encourage you to continue doing more of the same, as that is our intrinsic way.

Hope to see you this winter sometime,



Tamarack on November 19, 2011 at 10:17 am.


By joining I mean forgetting the “I’m with you” platitudes, admitting that I too have something to work on, then getting down-and-dirty with my friend so we can support each other and do together. Laying your comfort food craving on the table with your friend’s cigarette smoking is an excellent example of what I’m talking about. With each other’s support, your both bound to fare much better than had each of you tried to go it alone. I wish you both well—but don’t ask me to join you.



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