Breaking an addiction

Disclaimer:  I have no knowledge or expertise in the area of addictions.  If you have a true addiction, especially one of a chemical nature, please seek professional help such as a therapist.

I talked in a previous post about my addictions.  Lately there’s just too much drama, so at the urging of #2, who is continually baffled at hearing me whine, even if it results in entertaining blog posts (and lots of hits!), I’ve been attempting to wean off the latest forum.

Usually in these cases the best thing to do is to just quit cold turkey, to cancel my account so I can’t log in even if I wanted to.  Then I might be able to read the forum, but without actually being able to participate it’s not as addicting.  In this specific case I really don’t want to do that because I can’t read this forum unless I have a login and on a few occasions it has been much more efficient to ask a question or search the forum than to ask the internet.  I have a general idea about who has good information and who is a crackpot.  There’s also a few threads with very useful information that I don’t want to lose access to if I need to look something up on those particular topics.

So the next thing to do is to make it more difficult for me to access the forums.  I did this with the Chronicle back in the day, blocking access completely from my work computer.  I’d go to the page and it would say I wasn’t allowed to access the page.  Disabling that was a PITA.  Sadly Windows has upgraded and I can’t use the same method to do that.  I can block from IE or Firefox, but that block is WAY too easy to disable.

In this case, I logged out, deleted my cookies, cleared the cache, and forced myself not to type the URL on my work computer.  On my home computer, I only allowed myself to type it on IE and I deleted all traces of having been there after visiting the page, so I couldn’t just go back in with the click of a button or two.

It was really hard not accessing it at first and I sometimes bypassed my controls to get in.

I allowed myself to check it every few days, then longer periods of time.

And the sad secret to these forums is, no matter how long I spend on them when I’m active, nothing interesting happens on forums when I’m not there to participate.  This was always a sad discovery when I’d been on vacation without internet for a few days, and it’s just as sad when I try to break an addiction.  What have I been spending all that time on?  Nothing.  Sigh.

Of course, immediately I try to find substitute addictions.  Our blog queue is bustling.  Get rich slowly got a few extra arguments in that it would have escaped had I still had a forum to “spread my wisdom” at.  Blogs have been commented on.  I’ve been checking out another forum, much to #2’s consternation, that I will not and have not signed up for.  I can already tell that one guy on there is a sexist bastard with major issues (just like on the Chronicle forums, joyeaux!) and a woman on there seriously needs to get therapy for herself no matter what she thinks is wrong with her daughter (just like on regular mothering forums!).

On the plus side, I’ve read a lot more novels than I usually do and reading novels is more fun than getting into online arguments.  The house is also a bit cleaner than usual, though a lot of that was Spring break.

#2 supports you through this arduous process, and deeply encourages use of novels.

#2 is also becoming a fan of changing habits using behavioral techniques that don’t rely on willpower.  Willpower is hard. An example of such a technique: making it physically impossible (or at least hard) to do that thing you want to do but shouldn’t.  That lessens the strain on your willpower, and #1 did that admirably.  Even logging one’s behavior can often lead to change, which is why food diaries are a component of so many successful healthy eating plans.

Getting social support for change (hello, accountability web page!) and distancing yourself from temptation can also work too.  Finally, course, you could distract yourself by replacing one habit with another (oops?).

Commitment devices are also awesome.  NaNoWriMo recommends making a bet with a friend: whoever doesn’t meet their goal has to do something awful, such as doing the dishes for a month or shaving one’s head.  Having a consequence already in place that you have to work to stave off — now that’s motivating!  My favorite idea for big, hard, important goals is another one I stole from the NaNoWriMo book (#1 notes, and THEY stole from Dean Karlan… that he stole from Boice…): Write a check for a large-ish amount of money to an organization you hate.  If you are a republican, write it to the democratic national party, or vice versa.  If you are pro-life, write it to NARAL.  Etc.  Sign this check, put it in an envelope, address and stamp it.  Give the envelope to someone trustworthy.  If you meet your goal, the person gives it back to you and you tear it up.  If you don’t meet your goal, they mail it.  Aiee!

Do you have any legal addictions?  How do you break them?  What do you do with your time once you’ve broken them?

39 Responses to “Breaking an addiction”

  1. Molly On Money Says:

    Like David Sedaris did to quit smoking I went to Japan to get off sugar. I wasn’t intending to but it happened. The first few months after I returned home were easy but once the holidays hit I found myself going back to my old sugar addiction.
    I agree with #2 on willpower. Going up against it is similar to being at war with yourself every minute of every day.

  2. Linda Says:

    Um, I’d like to point out that your language was a bit…off…in that sentence with NARAL in it. I mean, although I support a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body I wouldn’t characterize that position as *anti-life.* I’m all for life! Live it! Enjoy it! I’d say that makes me pro-life, right? Even though I am not anti-choice.

    As for addictions, I had a legal addiction at one time: cigarettes. Yeah, I smoked for many years. I quit several times, and have stayed off the smokes for nearly seven years now. I used nicotine patches, but I’ve stayed quit because I never allow myself to think that I can have so much as a single cigarette. Ever. I know that a single one would lead me to consuming a pack a day in no time flat, so there is absolutely no backsliding allowed. It also helps that it is so incovenient to smoke anywhere these days. Yes, smoking is gross and smelly, but there are still times when I catch a whiff of smoke and I want one.

  3. Everyday Tips Says:


    I sat and thought about what would be hardest for me to give up. Fortunately, I am not a smoker, drinker or gambler since all of those seem like they would be hard to give up.

    Chocolate would probably be my biggest addiction, but I think I could kick it if necessary. I did drop the Coke, but I do know that I could end up picking that up again at some point.

    I think for me, I tend to have obsessions more than addictions if that makes any sense. My brain will get on an idea and I can’t stop until it is fully researched and thought out. That is probably why my employer has sought me out after I quit. People know that once I get an assignment, I will work on it obsessively until it is done. (If the deadline is tight especially.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Maybe you don’t have an addictive personality! And you’ve got willpower. :)

      • Everyday Tips Says:

        Sorry, I think I hit ‘reply’ on the previous comment instead of your post.

        My dad had a very addictive personality, and I think that kind of scared me away from anything that was addicting.

        Willpower? If there was a plate of cookies in front of me, I would eat them all and drink a gallon of milk along with it. :)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I get mine from my mom, but she is very good at cold-turkey quitting and commitment devices. The reason she never played board games with us growing up (don’t worry, my dad made up for it) is precisely because of that addictive personality.

  4. frugalscholar Says:

    Slightly OT–but I wish you’d post more personal financial wisdom here on your very own blog. Every now and again, I read Get Rich Slowly and get sucked into the comments. I saw some of yours recently–they were great! It would be easier to find them here–rather than buried in another blog.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Thanks for the compliment!

      We do personal finance every Monday (except next week when we have a fantastic post about housing, and who can take away your house, on May 1st, which is a Sunday, so I didn’t want to detract by having 2 in a row).

      Too much personal finance begins to feel like work. We have a bunch of posts that are mostly finished but require a bit of actual research to complete, and we get those out about once a week.

      The month of July should be AWESOME for our personal finance lovers though– we’re both going to try to fix up all those odds and ends of our financial lives that have been left dangling for whatever reason. Maybe I’ll finally get that Ing account moved over to Fidelity. Maybe I’ll finally sell off those remaining single stocks and open a Vanguard account to house everything. (Check out the Monthly challenges tab up top for #2’s plans).

  5. Comrade PhysioProf Says:

    I am addicted to teasing the two of you on your blogge!

  6. julier Says:

    Gretchen Ruben, author of the Happiness Project, wrote an interesting essay on breaking/reducing addictive behavior that can be found either on her blog or in her book (I don’t remember which). Her thought is that there are some people who can have things in moderation and some people who have to give things up entirely. Personally, I have to give things up entirely. I can’t have a bag of cookies or donuts in the house, because I will hoover the whole thing in a matter of hours.

    I am currently in denial about my facebook addiction. I would like to think that I can use fb in moderation only in the evenings. But I fear that it will remain a problem for me until I give it up entirely.

  7. MutantSupermodel Says:

    I totally have an addictive personality and it sucks. No willpower. I have to go cold turkey or it’s a hell of a battle. Even shopping. The best way I curb my spending is by not going to stores even though I love being in them. And when I have to go to a store I force myself to only go to the things I went there for. I used to love to go to the stores just to browse and relax but I almost always could justify a purchase which made me feel lousy and if I couldn’t buy something, I’d feel bad about the reason: too expensive (why can’t I afford awesome stuff), not the right size, not the right style, etc. Lose-lose situation.

  8. Lindy Mint Says:

    I actually like the habit replacement method. Though ideally I will be replacing a bad habit with a better one. And it has to be one that works. I’ve tried replacing my candy addiction with tea. That does not work.

    Maybe you could pick up knitting :)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I know how to knit… but it isn’t the same. Knitting also requires video watching.

      And, no offense to our gentle readership, but I have zero (negative even) desire to become a yarn addict. Besides, that would probably lead to joining a knitting forum and getting involved in all that drama. (What drama, I don’t know, but it’s a forum so they must have some!)

  9. Rumpus Says:

    I am addicted to food, in specific and general. Coffee currently. I am completely sure I could break the coffee addiction, but I don’t have any intention of doing so. Cheeses and breads regularly, though that waxes and wanes on its own. If I go somewhere new, my favorite thing is to find a good place to go eat and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. You know those people that exercise so they can eat? I make money so I can eat whatever I want. Recently I discovered that Amazon will ship me cookies I’ve never heard of from other countries.

    I also can easily get addicted to games (yay board games) and computer programming, but again those addictions come and go and are currently gone. I get addicted to books, and sometimes series of books, but they always end.

  10. First Gen American Says:

    I tend to stay away from addictive things knowing that addiction runs in our family. The hardest thing to manage is food because just about everything else you can quit cold turkey, but there are so many opportunities to eat and it’s a necessity after all.

    I love food. I had a boyfriend in college that would tell me “eat to live, don’t live to eat”. He was so annoying. If you have to do something at least 3x/day then why not get enjoyment out of it?

  11. Funny about Money Says:

    Hm. This subject, or something like it, is being bounced around this very weekend among members of my bloggers’ group. A couple of us are beginning to feel very much like we’re living in the comic that you linked to in your November post. I absolutely feel that I’m spending way too much time online and am beginning to realize that for my health’s sake, I’ve got to cut back, even if it means killing the blog altogether. A friend whose site has also been online since before the Memory of Humankind began is thinking the same thing.

  12. Here and There around the Web | Funny about Money Says:

    […] At Grumpy Rumblings of the Untenured, NicoleandMaggie get a great string of comments going about breaking our addictions. […]

  13. Frugal Forties Says:

    My RSS feed for some reason stopped working. It took me a few days to realize that my favorite blogs weren’t feeding and then I panicked. Freaked out. What if I have to delete all my blogs and start over. I’ll never find all of them again. I don’t remember all the names. I just know I read them … ohgoddon’tmakemehavetodeletethem!!!

    And then I realized that yes, I am addicted to blog reading. I used to be addicted to forums – got in some serious flame wars that wound up impacting me in real life in a pretty bad way (including gaining a psycho-stalker-chick). So I left forums for blog reading. I have blogs I read and comment on under my real name, ones I comment on under my anonymous name, ones I read and know I’d better not comment on or there will be trouble.

    So this morning I deleted *ALL* of my blogs – the ones that were feeding properly and the ones that weren’t. I added back only those whose names I could remember and who I knew I wanted to read. I think I might be going through withdrawal, but it’s all for the best. I keep telling myself that.

  14. Crabby Is As Crabby Does… | Molly On Money Says:

    […] so much joint pain) with some positive reinforcement.  I keep telling her I respond much better to  negative consequences.  Last time we had a challenge to do face exercises for 30 days.  If I did it I got a free […]

  15. Crabby UPDATE! « Molly On Money Says:

    […] so much joint pain) with some positive reinforcement.  I keep telling her I respond much better to  negative consequences.  Last time we had a challenge to do face exercises for 30 days.  If I did it I got a free […]

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