Cold turkey… or not?

My boss is on a mission to quit smoking. It all started when he went on vacation with his family during the last school break and wasn’t able to smoke, and when he came back he decided that since he’d managed a week of not smoking he might as well go on without it. It’s been a little over a month, and he’s held up very well, considering the two managers he used to smoke with have been trying — and failing — to tempt him back to smoking.

“The strangest thing of all is that this time around, I’m not suffering any withdrawal symptoms or feeling the need to smoke,” he said. “It bothers me a little that I don’t feel that way, but at the same time it’s a good feeling. I think it’s because I didn’t say I would stop cold turkey forever and ever and amen, but I said that I’m just not going to do it because I’ve already come this far.”

When we’re trying to stop doing something or break a habit, which is the better way: to gradually cut down, or drastically cut off? We can say we’ll cut down, but wouldn’t that just drag everything on and make it more difficult to stop altogether, because deep down we know we really don’t want to stop? But if we try to cut off completely, we would still feel the need or want to do it, and at some point our resolve could break and we’ll be back in the habit.

Why is it so difficult to stop? To stop smoking, stop gambling, stop speaking to someone, stop anything at all that hurts us? Is it because we know that if we stop completely that part of our lives will be gone forever, and we could regret it because in a strange, twisted way it had always been something we could turn to? Or is it because we actually don’t want to stop, thinking that we can control ourselves and we would know when and how to stop?

I think my boss is doing very well. But I know exactly how he feels every time I see him eyeing the other two when they light up.

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