“Leap of Faith” Quitting

Many of my unsuccessful attempts at abstinence have started with what I call “leap of faith” quitting. While under the influence of a substance, I decide it’s finally time to give it up and confront that which I avoid. 

In a dramatic gesture of self-assertion, I’ll pour the liquor or beer down the drain and throw out the weed in a public trash can, maybe crush or empty the prescription pills and mix the powder with used coffee grounds to ceremoniously nullify their capacity to alter my mind. 

The issue with this line of thinking is that I’m high or drunk when I make the decision. That is, I’m already in an elevated and artificially inspired state. That’s what gives the gesture its outsized magnitude, not my powerful inner drive towards self-improvement. This is problematic, of course, because I will inevitably come down, lose my grandiose feelings, and return to that empty place of craving. Abstinence isn’t as appealing when you’re in a fundamentally low mood. 

This process resembles that of a motorcyclist hoping to jump the vast width of a canyon and land safely on the other side. All’s well when they’re cruising high speed on the ground, but what happens when they launch, when they make that leap of faith? The brief moment where the cyclist is at their highest is wonderful. Everything is possible. But soon they must contend with gravity, and the uncertainty over whether or not they’ll stick the landing. 

I’ve experienced this more times than I can count: taking one last swig for good measure before emptying the bottle, popping a farewell pill before tossing the rest. It always ends the same, with an inevitable comedown and reckoning with the challenge of getting through the day without that bankrupt coping mechanism. 

This insight sank in for me, and I hope it will for you, too. If you know you need to stop in the first place, there is zero justification for stealing a final morsel of pleasure. It will only set you back. But, of course, you know that. The best time to stop was yesterday.

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