This is a guest post from Sheryl in Ontario, who is 40 years old with a grown daughter, and is trying to rebuild her retirement dream just 20 years too late for early retirement.
I’m still finalizing some things as a result of the answers I received in my last post. When the dust settles, I’ll write about how everything went.
I know this isn’t directly a personal finance subject per say, but I feel the idea is transferable to many areas of life.
I started smoking cigarettes when I was 12. Peer pressure, wanting to create an identity, there are a number of reasons. I knew smoking was bad, but it was still somewhat socially acceptable. Cigarettes in vending machines started disappearing about a year after I started. Everywhere had a non smoking section, but it was smaller than the smoking section. I can remember going to hide in “the smoking room” in the hospital one time when my father had to go in for a surgery that had a month’s recovery time in hospital. By the time I “grew up”, I didn’t know how to be an adult that didn’t smoke. I smoked about a pack a day of one of the strongest filtered cigarette you could buy.
I finally quit when I was 25. I went through a 6 week course and it was hell. So many times, I wanted to start again. I saw other people who went through the course start smoking again after a few weeks or months. They all said the same thing. “I wanted to try it again, I didn’t think the hold on me would be so strong.” The only thing that kept me from going back? Admitting to myself that cigarettes were stronger than I am. I accepted the belief that if I tried smoking again, I would be hooked again. I was “a puff away from a pack a day”.
I’ve known a few people that have had the same problem with alcohol. Some people in my life are alcoholics who no longer drink. They stay away from alcohol the same way I stay away from tobacco by realizing the life they have now is better than the life they had then, and they don’t want to go back to that. Standing outside in the rain when it’s cold because I’m a slave to a substance? No thank you!
I also have people in my life who struggle with their addictions. They figure they can control it, that one drink, or one drag of smoke isn’t a big deal. Once they have one, it’s too easy to have another. I have seen these people quit time and time again, go back to AA, stay sober for a few months, then start believing they have tamed the beast of their addiction, and start again, because “they can control it now”.
I also know someone who does this with money. Their marriage almost ended due to money problems. They almost lost their home. They ended up handing over the control of their finances to a 3rd party. Now, their bills are paid, they have an emergency fund, are paying down their debt. They receive a sum of money every week to buy groceries and other personal spending. Now, if they go out for a coffee, they split an extra large plain coffee instead of each getting a fancy beverage with whipped cream and caramel. Their marriage is stronger now than it has ever been.
I see nothing wrong with acknowledging and accepting I cannot control something. Sometimes it takes me a while to realize how strong something is, and it is a bitter pill to swallow, admitting something is more than I can handle. Once I recognize I can’t control something, I do my best to find a way for it not to be a challenge anymore. I know that I cannot control chocolate, so I don’t keep it in the house, but if I want some, I only buy however much I plan to eat, because I will eat all I buy. A bottle of wine, on the other hand, will usually turn to vinegar in the fridge before I can finish it.
Is there anything you know you cannot control? Have you found a way to control it?