I Quit Every Addiction. What Happened Next Shocked Me

Published by Paul Harrison on

Two weeks have past since I started quitting all addictions.

It was on the 9th of August that my journey into madness began. That day, a brilliantly bright and hot Tuesday.

That day was the day I:

It was the painful beginning of my addition-free life.

It’s been hard. But I’ve gotten through. I’m damn proud.

Here is how I did it.

How I Quit All Addictions At The Same Time

First I quit my sugar addiction

It all began with the sugar addiction (unnatural sugar—I still eat fruit). Let me tell you, it was not easy to beat sugar addiction.

Sugar delights your tongue but damages your brain.

Dr Sally Norton says that sugar is as addictive as cocaine [1].  Scientists tested this by taking a poor, unsuspecting little mouse, putting it in a cage, stuffing it full of cocaine until it was addicted, and then stuffing it full of sugar until it was hooked on that too. Then, the scientists gave the mouse a choice of cocaine or sugar, and the mouse chose sugar.

What does this story prove—other than that we need to started treating mice better? It proves that sugar addiction is worse than cocaine addiction.

So naturally, giving up sugar addiction is not easy.

But I have stopped having sugar. Here’s how (follow these tips to give up sugar for yourself)

I quit sugar addiction by:

It’s basically a 5 step process that uses meditation to stop cravings. 

  1. Get rid of all sugary treat in the house (go do it now)
  2. Pour sugary drinks down the sink (yes, Coke too, go do it)
  3. Meditating to stop craving sugar (take a look at the front-page of this site for all the meditations you will ever need)
  4. Cooking for myself (this is huge, because even healthy foods that are pre-made are usually full of junk)
  5. Eating more healthy treats (basically fruit)

That was my Tuesday.

Obviously, quitting addictions like sugar gives you withdrawal symptoms

Come Wednesday I was already experiencing the fun, Merry-Go-Round of sugar withdrawal symptoms.

By Wednesday lunchtime I was twitching like a severed limb. I hadn’t had any sugar in my tea and the porridge for breakfast was woefully lacking in refined sugars. My stomach grumbled at me. “Burrrrr. Bloody porridge? Supposed to have brown sugar on porridge, not just milk.”

Soon, the grumbling of my stomach was joined by the grumbling of my head, which started to ache.

Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of sugar withdrawal, and apparently this is one sugar-withdrawal symptom that sets in very quickly. I decided not to take paracetamol.

Instead I told myself, “This headache was caused by years of unhealthy eating. Because my body gets thrown out of whack when it doesn’t get the unhealthy substances it’s accustomed to.”

Funny thing is, even though I had a headache and my stomach was trying to trick me into believing I was hungry, I felt great. I’d done something excellent for my health. And even through that headache and food cravings, I felt optimistic and ready for a new challenge. Giving up one thing had made me feel great. Time to give up something else. Yes, I was going to quit all addictions at the same time. So what would come next?

I had my choices. I could have quit coffee, smoking, adult videos, shopping or alcohol (actually, the alcohol and shopping would be easy as I barely drink anyway and I hate shopping).

The logical choice is to quit smoking, right?

Smoking cigarettes is the worst thing for your health. Quitting smoking would be the best thing I could do for myself.

I didn’t choose to quit smoking. I wasn’t quite ready. Before I could quit smoking, I’d quit coffee because coffee and smoking go together like tea and biscuits.


Next I Chose To Quit Coffee (quitting smoking would come next)

Obviously we need high levels of motivation to quit anything. 

Quitting sugar had given me the motivation I needed to quit smoking and coffee. The coffee came first. 

I chose to prioritise quitting coffee instead of quitting smoking because I knew that quitting smoking was the ultimate goal. I knew that if I failed to quit anything else, it would seriously mess-up my motivation.

To quit addictions anything we need high levels of motivation, and especially when we quit multiple addictions at the same time.

Motivation works in streaks. Start successfully quitting multiple things and you will carry on the streak.

I wanted to make sure I had the motivation to quit smoking. Coffee addiction would be a great test. Plus, I knew a dirty little secret: Drinking coffee makes you want a cigarette.

Most people, including your run-of-the-mill doctor, will tell you that coffee and smoking go together so well because you associate the two together. You’ve grown accustomed to having a coffee and a cigarette together, so whenever you have one your brain habitually wants the other (actually this is one reason why quitting multiple addictions at the same time is a good idea) 

Why do coffee and smoking go together like Mork & Mindy? Actually, the truth about that is pretty deep. 

Drinking a cup of coffee actually makes your brain significantly more receptive to dopamine [2].

When you have a coffee and then a cigarette, you get many times the dopamine you get from a cigarette alone. In other words, coffee makes your smoking high that much higher. We’re talking the Everest of highs (at least for people who don’t do harder drugs, which I’ve personally never done).

Plus, caffeine makes nicotine leave your system faster than usual. This is why lots of people smoke more in the morning, because the caffeine depletes the nicotine so they need another fix. That nicotine depletion also makes you feel more anxious, again making you want to smoke more.

By the way this isn’t just cigarettes. Coffee will make your cravings stronger for all dopamine-related addictions.

All this put together meant that if I wanted to quit smoking, quitting coffee was an essential first-step.

Wednesday morning I threw my coffee cup at the wall as hard as I could. It smashed into a million pieces. A waste of a cup. But it sent a clear message to my brain telling me I wouldn’t drink coffee again.

How I Quit Coffee Addiction

  1. Threw my coffee cup at the wall like a boss
  2. Drank green tea instead (it still has some caffeine but it’s infinitely healthier)
  3. Constantly reminded myself that feeling like I had no energy is part of quitting addictions. This is huge. Just accept the fact that you feel bad when quitting addictions and stop trying to feel good. Seriously, just be okay feeling groggy for a while. It’s not a big deal. You will soon get over it.
  4. Without my morning coffee I felt groggy, so I made more effort to start the day positively.

The coffee withdrawal symptoms made me feel like garbage but I could handle that

I already had a headache from giving up sugar. Now I had a headache, stomach ache, couldn’t take a dump (because constipation is one of the most common withdrawal symptoms of caffeine withdrawal), was very, very tired, and sleepy… basically felt like trash.

Again I told myself that I was feeling bad not because I had quit coffee and sugar at the same time, but because I had started doing them in the first place. Quitting would soon make me healthier.

Good news is, having given up sugar and coffee I wasn’t experiencing the depression that many people talk about. I was in a good mood. A little irritable, yes. And when David called from India to tell me that my computer had a virus, I did tell him to go to hell. Sorry David. I was ratty. But I was not depressed. Actually, I felt even more motivation to give up all addictions at the same time. But I needed a break, or so I thought.

After quitting coffee, I quit smoking by accident

Thursday I told myself I wouldn’t give up anything new.

Giving up coffee and sugar at the same time was enough for now.

But Thursday morning I was so damned tired from sugar and caffeine withdrawal that I actually couldn’t be bothered to step outside to light up a cigarette.

Let me repeat that: I actually could not be bothered to step outside to have a cigarette.

And perhaps some part of my brain was waiting for the coffee before smoking. Having give up drinking coffee, my brain would be waiting forever. I’d basically unearthed my subconscious habits. So as long as my brain was waiting for the coffee that would never come, I’d delay my morning cigarette. 

Four hours into Thursday it suddenly dawned on me that I didn’t want a cigarette. I’d put so much effort into being healthier that the idea of smoking at this point seemed bloody ridiculous. So I didn’t. I actually didn’t do anything. I sat on the couch literally all day watching the Olympics.

Obviously at times my brain said “Wow, I would love a cigarette right now”, but then some other part of my brain said, “I’m too lazy to go outside and have one.”

I’d love to tell you that it was my Herculean willpower that stopped me smoking that day, but it wasn’t. It was the fact that I straight up could not be bothered to go out for a smoke.  Quitting smoking was literally a matter of being lazy.

I sat on the couch all day. I was barely conscious, after all the withdrawal symptoms, but that actually made it easier to quit smoke because my brain felt numb and every time I craved a cigarette I would just think, “What’s the point?”

This was when I realised that quitting all addictions at the same time was a genius idea, because I know that I would not have quit smoking if I had not quit coffee.

And the Olympics were so awesome on Thursday that I didn’t want to miss a second of it, so I stayed right there on the couch like a potato.

So by Friday morning I had given up sugar, coffee, and smoking.

Now here is the insane thing:

Some part of my brain was now getting addicted to giving up addictions (oh, the irony). Sounds crazy. But actually, your brain releases dopamine when you continue a streak. For instance, if you gamble and you win, you go on a winning-streak that is a mini-addiction, and that’s why you end up losing. 

I was addicted to quitting addictions.

So the dopamine I would get from a cigarette I was now getting from continuing my streak of quitting multiple addictions at the same time. And that meant that my brain now wanted to find more addictions to quit. What would come next?

While I’m quitting multiple addictions, I might as well quit alcohol, right?

So next I decided to give up alcohol.

It was Friday, and my Facebook Messenger was blowing up with friends messaging me to ask me out that weekend for a drink. Most of the invites were to watch The Tragically Hip’s final show.

One problem: If I started drinking alcohol I would smoke.

I knew that because it happened the last time I gave up smoking.

Drinking alcohol makes it oh so easy to give in to all sorts of temptations. If you go out drinking within a few months of quitting smoking, you’ll probably start up again. More than half of all smoking relapses occur after drinking.

I’d been successful in quitting smoking.  And quitting drinking felt like it would be easy in comparison. 

Okay, at this point I had only quitting smoking, coffee and sugar for a day, but the first day of quitting is the hardest. I’d succeeded for one day. I wanted to protect my success. That meant giving up alcohol.

Thankfully, giving up alcohol really is not that big of a problem for me. I’ve never drunk alcohol much. My father was an alcoholic. It killed him. And it put our family through hell and made my childhood painful. I knew I never wanted to develop an alcohol addiction. So I’ve always drank just a few socially, and never any more than that (well, except for one time when I was sixteen when I passed out in a club and somehow ended up vomiting uphill, with gravity moving back toward my face—I’ll allow you to finish that mental image).

Smoking and drinking go hand in hand.

If you want to give up smoking, give up drinking too.

You might think that’s only true when quitting smoking. Alcohol gets you intoxicated, you’re less conscious of what you’re doing, you end up having a smoke. But recent scientific research [3] shows that most alcohol relapses occur when smoking, too. If you want to give up alcohol, give up smoking as well. Given that 80-95% of alcoholics smoke [4], there’s a lot to mull-over there.

And this is yet another reason to give up multiple addictions at once, because they feed off of each other. 

One addiction affects another. And that’s not just the case with cigarettes and alcohol. It’s the case with coffee and smoking, coffee and drinking, alcohol and smoking… it’s even the case with adult videos. Watching adult videos makes you want cigarettes and alcohol.

Why Giving Up All Addictions At The Same Time Make Things Easier

I had thought I would be impossible to quit all addictions at the same time. But it began to dawn on me that it is easier to give up all addictions than to give up just one. 

Why?

Because one addiction affects another. Because they are all the same addition. 

Whether you’re addicted to smoking, drinking, adult videos, coffee, or most other addictions, you are in truth addicted to dopamine, the pleasure-reward neurochemical that gets you hooked.

The reason alcohol, coffee and cigarettes are addictive is because they make your brain release dopamine, the pleasure chemical. So in fact, all these “different” addictions are actually the exact same thing: dopamine addiction.

Adult videos also release dopamine. Watch some steamy sex scenes and your brain will start releasing dopamine. Continue to do this and you’ll get addicted. And because this one addiction releases dopamine—which is the root cause of all your addictions—watching one video will just as easily lead to having a cigarette as smoking a cigarette will.

That’s the real benefit of giving up all addictions at the same time. They’re the same thing.

If you give up just one addiction you’re still allowing yourself to get your unhealthy dopamine fix from elsewhere. That’s why people who quit smoking eat more—they’re not getting dopamine from smoking so they get it from sugar instead. And it’s also why you’re best off quitting all addictions at the same time (even if you have to gradually cut down to get there). Because once you overcome the real addiction, the dopamine addiction, you’re free for life. You’re not substituting one vice for another, you’re done, forever.

There are so many benefits of quitting all addictions at the same time

So now I’ve quit all my addictions, I am starting to feel much better.

  • I’m breathing properly.
  • I’m losing weight.
  • My energy levels are becoming balanced.
  • And I’m starting to feel happier (slowly. I’m still going through withdrawal right now).
  • And I feel damn proud and am not ashamed to say so.

But of course, I do miss my addictions.  i won’t lie to you. I could have a coffee and a cigarette right now. I could go for a pint. I could just completely cave in and have a bottle of Irish Coffee while smoking while watching adult videos. And if I did that I’d feel as high as a kite—

For a second.

And then I would feel like trash two seconds later.

So I will keep walking forward in health, even if I sometimes have to go through hell. 

And if you’re thinking that quitting all addictions at once leaves feeling like I’m missing out… you’re right

I do miss my addictions. I do miss smoking and coffee and alcohol.  

TI miss them all equally, and somehow because I want all of them, I wont cave in to any of them.

Because every time I crave a smoke I think “Ooooh, I could have candy instead”.

And every time I want candy I think, “Would I rather have a beer?”

And my brain is so tired from these withdrawal symptoms that I can’t actually be bothered to decide which one of these addictions I want most. So I just don’t have any of them.

I will live an addiction free life.

Maybe you will join me?

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Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a meditation teacher, author and journalist based in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Paul has helped thousands of people to discover their true potential. Don’t miss Paul’s inspirational and enlightening book: Your Best Meditation