Manufacturing Discontent: The slippery slope of familiar habits

28 Jan

I’m fresh out of church (code for my weekly group therapy) and my mind is racing with thoughts on the last week or so. Allow me to recap:

1) Last week I set an important goal for myself, to complete my first job application in months. It was an achievable goal and important more for completing the process than the actual job itself.

2) First I became distracted, then increasingly anxious as my focus drifted to what I call a manufactured obstacle, in this case the far less important task of updating my LinkedIn profile. Still, I think I caught this one early enough to keep it from derailing the job application.

3) Bolstered by my renewed focus (if not action) on the more important goal, I was caught by a surprise, but also manufactured crisis. For reasons I’ll get to another time, I am long overdue in reaching out and apologizing to a few old friends and colleagues (making amends, if you will). This week those apologies suddenly became urgent, in my mind so urgent that the job application might have to wait.

In the end what did me in was neither the job application nor the manufactured obstacles to its completion. It was a dance along the slippery slope of familiar, self-sabotaging habits: TV, Netflix, napping, Xbox, pot (marijuana) and an extra clonezepam for kicks, triggering harsh feelings of shame and self-loathing.

At first it was just one morning I took off to relax; no drugs, just some time to reflect and (ideally) reaffirm my priorities and plan for the day. The plan itself materialized…sort of, but carrying it out quickly moved to tomorrow’s plate.

Within three days, I was already dangerously close to mirroring the same (essentially stagnant) daily routine I lived right up to the end of 2014.

The lesson: Like a single cigarette to an ex-smoker, even a brief retreat to old, bad habits can quickly turn into a long term affair.

The other lesson: Again the ex-smoker knows the retreat is reversible, if you catch it in time. I sure hope I have, and I’ve already got one functioning day back under my belt (that’s today!).

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