Our habits make us happy. It’s why we take (great) pleasure in indulging in them, regardless of their moral status. It is also the pleasure we derive from them that makes it difficult for us to let go of them when our morality begins to take hold, or we come to the discovery of their injurious effect on us physically or otherwise.
We can therefore infer that habits can be addictive, such that the craving for them will come if and when we abstain from satisfying the urge after a while.
I will quickly at this juncture make a distinction between good and bad habits. And while the focus of this treatise will be mainly on the bad, I will like to state that even good habits when excessively played also have negative effects, much like getting drunk on water, hence the need for moderation even in doing good.
Instances have been given of how habits considered bad, negative or injurious help spur people to very productive heights. Not just of people in the arts but even in the corporate world and elsewhere. It will be therefore difficult to dissuade someone who has benefited greatly from the ‘inspiration’ the habit may have provided him to achieve tremendously in all (s)he had set out to do, to just give it up like that.
Even when these habits serve only the purpose of giving the indulger momentary pleasure, it will be difficult to wean such a person off it, when there’s no alternative to take him/her to levels formerly attained with the usual stimulant.
These ‘bad’ habits range from substance abuse to some activities (when they are excessively performed) we regularly engage in. They are bad because they eventually affect our general well being as humans as well as our relationships with others.
Long before the harmful effects of smoking was scientifically documented, it was almost considered to be as harmless as drinking water (even the researchers considered the possibility that lung cancer is associated more with inhalation of fumes from vehicle exhausts over cigarette smoke), so it is with a lot of habits today that though may not have been found to be contrary to our being, but is still considered good or at best ‘not bad’.
It is therefore pertinent that such habits be moderated or totally excised from our lifestyle if we are to make any sense of our existence. There should be no plausible reason to continue to condone or encourage such habits.
Habits, in relation to our gifts mustn’t be equated to the egg and chicken scenario (as to which came before the other), as no one singer for instance can claim his first sound or music was done after indulging in one habit or the other, even though it may not be spurious to claim that subsequent lines were made after some ‘puffings’ of the ‘good plant’, just as sexual addiction should be seen simply as what it is rather than be used as excuse to back an extraordinary talent.
The misconception that a particular habit brings out the best in us, must be weighed with the possibility of bringing out the worst in us when we are in a situation or condition where that habit cannot be immediately satisfied.
In my view, shedding a habit shouldn’t include replacing it with a milder alternative like methadone is being used to wean addicts off heroin, but should be as drastic as the path Malcolm X was forced to take in prison, when he couldn’t sustain his heroin addiction. The possibility of one returning to his vomit in this instance is certain to be low, or less compared to the former.
We shouldn’t be looking for an alternative to fill in the void that will be left behind in curbing a bad habit, afterall no one was born with a habit, not even the kid born with ‘Foetal Alcohol Syndrome’, FAS (associated with growth, mental and physical problems that may occur in babies of mothers who drank alcohol during pregnancy) can truly claim (s)he was born with the habit. We cultivated them and we should be strong willed enough to abandon them when they begin to cost us in other ways or have the potential to do so.
I know this may not be that simplistic but it can be done. Many have done it, even without support groups that are abundantly available in our day.
My point is that we are humans and are amenable to change. If we can change things around and about us routinely, why shouldn’t we apply same philosophy in giving up habits that we know are definitely not in our best and overall interest.
This is to giving up our bad habits!