When It’s Good To Give Up

I started smoking when I was 14. I used to say things like, “I’ll quit when I’m pregnant,” as though that was an actual plan, as though I could count on my addiction floundering just because there happened to be two of me growing instead of one. I made similar excuses over the course of my ten-year love affair with nicotine, none of which made logical sense but all of which allowed me to poison myself on an hourly basis without remorse. I wanted to poison myself.

But then, much to the shock of just about everyone who knows me, I quit. I didn’t chew gum or feed nicotine through my pores, I just abandoned the one constant in my life, the one companion I’d had for the past decade. The one-year anniversary of my quit date was this week. I don’t think I’ll go back.

It’s true that nicotine is addictive, it affects your mood, it changes the way you make decisions. It’s easy to point out that cigarettes are ‘the bad guy,’ the way they empty your wallet and yellow your fingertips. This is a negative habit that most people will commend you for giving up.

But we could stand to give up more often. Maybe there are no instructional pamphlets or illustrative posters to point out each and every one of the things we need to rid ourselves of, but there they are – lurking in the shadows of our subconscious. They are the people who make us feel like our lungs are in a vice whenever we see them. The humanization of our bad habits, walking and breathing and telling bad jokes.

Some people just make you feel bad. The way you can wake up smelling like some half-rate casino and think to yourself I don’t want to do this anymore, you can feel that way about people, and the worst part is that you can’t extinguish them, you can’t smother their head into an ashtray or make them someone else’s problem.

It’s in our nature to not want to give up, especially not on people; fragile, harmless people – we all just mean well, don’t we? Don’t we all just want to be happy? Don’t the things we do to achieve that happiness, the things that tear us apart from one another – aren’t those the things that make us similar? Aren’t people inherently good? Maybe. But what does it matter if that goodness is not reserved for you? What if all you extract from a person is negativity? How do we justify allowing ourselves to feel badly because someone may or may not be redeemable?

We don’t always recognize when someone is bad for us, but sometimes we do. Sometimes we become all-consumed by the disgust that’s bred from this idea that we allow hate to affect us so deeply. People create art because of it. It can drive us; it can turn us into something we’re not. And even though it’s ugly, it’s addictive. We become addicted to toxicity.

And in that case, it’s good to give up. It’s good to fight against the cancer growing inside of us by neglecting to feed it. We have to starve it into submission, forgo the efforts that help it grow. The brooding and the anguish, bury it. Extinguish whatever it is that’s making us feel badly and worry about ourselves. We need to quit allowing something that’s decidedly negative to drive our actions, our moods. We need to quit poisoning ourselves with vitriol.

The thing is, there are people who don’t make us feel terrible. There are people who listen to us and care for us and make us smile. They loosen the vice around our lungs and help us breathe. They are the fresh air. They alight us in ways a carcinogens never will. Whatever energy we devote to a toxic situation, we take away from the people who deserve it – the people whose goodness doesn’t have to be assumed; their goodness is just there, in plain sight. They are worth quitting for. TC mark

image – Mikhail Estevez

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  • Anonymous Hippo

    I was a smoker for 12 years. I quit cold turkey 6 months ago. I can’t stand cigarette smoke now.

    • bee

      this article has nothing to do with cigarettes 

      • Imb

        Why can’t she just share her story/success?

        Congrats on 6 months.

  • Michelle

    “The way you can wake up smelling like some half-rate casino and think to yourself ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’.”Perfect way to put it.

  • http://www.nosexcity.com NoSexCity

    I quit cold turkey for almost three years before starting back up again. I’m on day five of non-smoking now… it’s so easy to say you’ll never start that up again; be it with toxic people or just toxic habits. 

  • Claire

    When you finally walk away from toxic people it’s hard to understand how you could breath them in in the first place.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    This is awesome. I will translate this into Korean and give it to my dad who needs to quit.

  • Shi

    This is exactly what I needed to read today. And I love the way you’ve written about it. Thank you so much.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000991747209 Heather Khan

      Exactly what my comment was going to say!! I needed this and from the looks of things, will be needing this in my immediate future.

  • Finefiddle

     The cycle of every addiction ever:

    1. This is great
    2. Everyone who thinks this isn’t great is a pussy
    3. Self doubt
    4. This is bad
    5. Everyone who thinks this is great is an idiot.

    • Failed

      Relapse: Repeat steps 1-4 + step 4.5 How did I ever stop? Can I ever stop (again)?

      :/

  • http://twitter.com/tannnyaya Tanya Salyers

    I needed this today.

  • http://lostcount.tumblr.com Lost Count

    try dipping them in ranch first. people won’t make you feel so bad if you smoke ranch cigarettes

  • Anonymous

    I quit someone extremely toxic and addictive cold turkey
    this Wednesday.  My addiction lasted for about a year, with him getting
    increasingly carcinogenic and me getting increasingly addicted to it. Just like
    nicotine, he would affect my mood and decision making abilities. In fact, at
    some point I started to recognize myself less and less, as well as
    catching myself being unfair to those “fresh air” people. 
    Actually, unfair is not really descriptive of my behavior – moody, miserable
    bitch is more fitting.  When we ended things, I felt a rush of fresh air
    in my lungs. As painful as it was (somehow it was!), it was also extremely
    liberating. Sorry for such long response; what I want to say is thank you for
    your great article and perfect timing. Somehow quitting is always easier with
    an understanding support group.

  • nicole

    ever since i was young, i always felt i had at least one toxic person in my life that i had to quit. some have been close friends or boyfriends and most of them have been around for a long time.  it really is hard giving up and realizing you have to. and i think i was just so used to having these types of people in my life, that it became a cycle for me so i always had these people around. but since the beginning of this year and for the first time in my life, i’m finally happy at where i am and i’m finally free from having toxic people in my life. thank you so much for this article.

  • thwart

    Uhh Steph I dunno if that was creative usage but..shouldn’t it be carcinogen not carcinogenic? Just saying! Ok don’t shoot me :P

    More Importantly I wish I could make it to the Anchor bar on Thursday!

    Oh and TC is. Awesome.

  • Katie

    This was great

  • Katie

    This was great

  • Katie

    This was great

  • Katie

    This was great

  • Katie

    This was great

  • Katie

    This was great

  • Katie

    This was great

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