The Cold Turkey Paradigm
All Or Nothing Usually Results In Nothing.
When the words ‘Cold Turkey’ come up in conversation, your first thought is drug addict.
That’s not what i’m here to talk about.
Instead, i’d like to discuss other addictions and the ineffectiveness of the ‘Cold Turkey’ approach in combatting them.
As a 22 year-old, middle-class, westernised citizen i traversed through my teenage years with unbridled access to the internet at a point when the dangers were unrealised.
At first, having access to the internet at such a young age only meant that i could gild my dragon armour on RuneScape or look my address up on Google Maps.
But soon — with the introduction of Social Media, YouTube + easily accessible porn — my internet experience manifested in to something much more malignant.
These malignancies are now ingrained habits that i’ve previously failed at eliminating.
Without beating around the bush, here’s my bad habits:
- YouTube Addiction
- Porn Addiction
- Productivity Addiction
Bear in mind that i’m using the term ‘addiction’ rather loosely here. I’m not talking excessive by any stretch. A better description would be a compulsion to a particular behaviour without the ability to indefinitely abstain.
Everyone and their dog’s aunty has a fucking YouTube addiction. For me, i’ve managed to cut it down to 1–2 hours a day — but that’s still far more than i’d like. Opening the app is almost involuntary at this point, and losing yourself in the sea of content has almost sedative effects — like a warm, all encompassing blanket being gently wrapped around your mind. The problem with YouTube is that really valuable, expert tutorials and content is packaged next to complete garbage. Unfortunately, our brains love complete garbage; therefore, we undoubtedly succumb.
I still find it wild that we didn’t receive any education on the potential harm of internet porn at a young age. Give a 14-year old boy hopped up on hormones access to the internet and of course the first thing he’s going to Google is “tits”, “sexy girls” or even “big boobz sexy lesbianz”. Unfortunately, for me and many other young men, porn has become that creepy friend that you’ve outgrown but still receives pity invites. Luckily, i’ve managed to cut it down to 2–3 times a month, and I plan to eliminate it completely for a plethora of reasons (Good evidence based research on the potential harm of internet porn).
The Failure Of Cold Turkey
Every couple months, for the past 5 years, i reach a point where i say to myself:
Enough is enough.
The hard work starts now.
This is the day i quit all my bad habits and become everything i’ve ever wanted to be.
And with conviction, i write out a detailed plan in my journal:
- Here’s how many hours i’m going to work on these days.
- I’m going to completely quit all my addictions from tomorrow onwards.
- In 6 months time i’ll be successful, rich and happy.
You can probably guess what happens next…
I stick to it for 3 days before resorting back to normal, and delving deeper in to the very bad habits I was trying to kick in the first place.
And here lies the essence of why the ‘Cold Turkey’ approach doesn’t work for me.
I always make the goals momentous and expect myself to achieve them immediately. Through sheer will-power alone, i fully believe that i’ll be able to completely reprogram my behaviour.
Then when I undoubtedly fail, due to the immensity of the challenge, I fall back in to the original programming. And it reinforces that negative belief that I can’t quit this habit, or can’t do this, or can’t do that.
And it’s because we try tackle such deep-rooted behaviours with a deft-hand. Simply quitting isn’t a sentiment your brain can comprehend. We need more sophisticated mechanisms to tackle behaviours that were instilled during puberty.
In almost all cases, quitting ‘Cold Turkey’ isn’t appropriate or effective.
- With regards to porn, Fight The New Drug says:
More often than not, therapists and psychologists see that pure willpower, quitting cold turkey, and just white-knuckling through your problems don’t really solve anything. This is because habits, compulsions, or in severe cases, addictions are made up of many different facets of the consumer’s life and often tied to deep-rooted issues.
2 . Internet/YouTube addiction and problems with going Cold Turkey, by Vice:
What’s Working For Me
It’s very easy to hate yourself because you’re not everything you want to be.
You’ve not kicked all your bad habits, you’ve no achieved all your dreams, you’re not peak you (yet).
You are flawed.
So am I.
We all are.
The trick with quitting bad habits, or at least reducing them is taking things step by step. Breaking down that massive goal in to bite size chunks. That’s what i’ve been doing, and it’s been working.
If your goal is to completely quit YouTube, then start by reducing your screen time by 15 minutes every week.
If you watch 4 hours every day and your goal is 0, then don’t expect your addiction to break over night. Take your time, work on it gradually.
As you achieve your goals, week on week, you start to build that sense of achievement. You begin to realise that you can achieve your goals, if only you make them achievable.
Rather that reinforcing the negative cycle through an ineffective Cold-Turkey approach, do a little everyday, and watch as your success and self-esteem grows.
Success doesn’t happen overnight.
I’m not perfect, and i doubt you are either.
But that doesn’t matter.
Because it’s not about where we are, it’s about where we’re going.
Make positive progress every day and soon your rewards will be exponential.
What’s your experience with addiction been like? What are you addicted to? How have you tackled addiction in the past? Let me know your experience and thoughts in the comments below.
P.S — Writing about addiction to technology and porn is a guttural and humbling experience for me. I’ve always been a public advocate of avoiding the aforementioned pitfalls, yet i still occasionally fall in to them myself. I’ve learned not to approach them with shame and fear, as it only makes the experience more lonely. Rather, i’ve found it best to be honest and authentic. By posting this online, it’s first time i’ve publicly spoke about it and i hope that it acts as a positive reminder that we’re all human and we all have our faults. Please don’t hesitate to message me directly with struggles of your own.