Mercury Retrogrades & Addiction Rears Its Head

by Rebecca A. Watson on February 13, 2014

in habits, health, Recovery

Last week I started getting a serious craving for a cigarette. Now I haven’t smoked in years, and it took a hell of an effort for me to quit, so really cravings don’t bother me so much. I just notice them and move on. Except this time I didn’t move on.

I was in German class, where almost every guy in the class smokes. And after I finished my A2 test (basically a final) I sat on the couch in the common area and watched them through the window. A serious thought entered my brain. I could have a cigarette right now. I could do it. It wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Gah! I shook the thought out of my head with admonitions and reminders of how incredibly hard it was to quit and how incredibly stupid it would be to have even one drag. I’m pretty sure my brain hasn’t forgotten my pack-a-day habit. It wouldn’t take long to go from one to 20. No, I wouldn’t smoke.

ashtray filled with cig butts

No thank you.

I don’t know about you, but lately my old habits and addictions have been lining up, like itches that need to be scratched. And once they were scratched … well, let me just tell you that I’ve been drinking 4+ cups of coffee a day lately. What?!? Yes. And checking my email and Facebook like I’m waiting to hear if I won the Nobel Prize. Have I learned nothing from my media fast?

Surprisingly, the newest one I’d kicked, the drinking, has been the only one that’s been pretty quiet. That’s not to say I haven’t walked outside on a nice day and thought how good it might be to sit in the sun with a beer. But like the smoking thoughts of the past, it meanders away with a wave of the hand.

What exactly is going on? Well, Mercury just turned retrograde last week and I think he might have something to do with it. I’ve written about this astrological phenomenon before, what with traveling and writing being two of my favorite hobbies and all. (You can read more about it here.) But I’d never considered the affects it might have on our addictions.

Oh Mercury. Always causing trouble!

Oh Mercury. Always causing trouble!

One of things I’ve read and heard is that this is the perfect time to do things that begin with the prefix re-: review, renew, recheck, reclaim, redefine. It makes me wonder. Is relapse one of those re- words?

I mean, not purposefully of course, but Mercury Retrograde does bring the past back into our present life, like ex-boyfriends and girlfriends. I’ve heard alcohol compared to a bad boyfriend before, so naturally I think this time is one where we’ve got to be mindful of our addictions and the old habits we’ve kicked.

As if the binging on Netflix wasn’t enough to remind me I’ve some work to do, Rob Brezsny told me this last week:

“You know it’s Saturday when you are wiping off vodka stains from your face with a marshmallow,” testifies the woman who writes the Tumblr blog “French Fries Absinthe Milkshakes.” I really hope you don’t even come close to having an experience like that this week, Aries. But I’m worried that you will. I sense that you’re becoming allergic to caution. You may be subconsciously wishing to shed all decorum and renounce self-control. To be clear, there’s nothing inherently wrong with relaxing your guard. I hope you will indeed give up some of your high-stress vigilance and surrender a bit to life’s sweet chaos. Just please try to find a playful and safe and not-too-insane way to do so.

So, while I’m working on surrendering (taking walks in the woods, knitting randomly, petting the neighbor cat instead of heading directly to the grocery store), there are a few things I’m doing during this retrograde to help me with my addictions. You’ll notice a lot of re- words in here.

1. Look back to your old ways with a critical eye. Review journal entries, blog posts, pictures, text messages, anything to remind you of the mindset you were in at the time. When I read journal entries, I hear a tired woman afraid of everything. Pictures show me with two beers in hand, looking much older than I should at 25. I see me standing alone on a balcony, finishing a smoke while others wait inside. None of that appeals to me. Find these stories in your past.

2. Write down the reasons you quit or cut back. For me, the drinking and smoking were easy. I have them written down in a journal because I used to refer to them so often. The coffee and media? They’re a little bit trickier and easier for me to forget. Writing down that I get jittery, can’t sleep and tend to be less productive help me remember to stop checking my Facebook. Oh and the fact that I tend to have more energy when I’m not drinking coffee is something I forget about too. It seems counter-intuitive.

As my friend Nicole says, "Forget crack cocaine. Crack coffee!"

As my friend Nicole says, “Forget crack cocaine. Crack coffee!”

3. Write down the positive things that have happened because you quit or cut back. Less obsessive email checking means more blog posts and knitting. No smoking means I can hike up a mountain with relative ease. Not drinking helps me race 10ks, sleep better and handle expat depression after fulfilling a life-long dream to move across the globe. Sure I may have done this stuff without quitting, but I doubt it. And even if I did, I’m not sure it would’ve been really easy or fun. Reminding yourself of the good things, big and small.

4. Write down what you gave up in order to quit. If you’re having romantic fantasies about how things used to be, let me tell you something my hubby says: There is green grass everywhere. Take a closer look at what you’re missing. Chances are they aren’t all that awesome. For me, I loved the tuning out and numbing of drinking. Dealing with emotions isn’t always fun. And with smoking? I always loved cigarettes most while I was drinking (ha!) and after a meal.

5. Do the math. Would you give up all the stuff you have in #3 for the stuff you miss in #4? For me, that’s a laughable question. Refer to this equation whenever you start to get all starry-eyed over your old habits.

6. Renew your commitment. If it all still makes sense to you (and it probably will), congratulate yourself on the great choice you’ve made and decide again that you’ll continue on your journey. For me that means I’ll say no when my classmate offers me a smoke and maybe I’ll even write about it in my journal. I’ll re-pledge my love to myself by choosing again the healthier road for me. It’sΒ already working. Yesterday I slept better after spending less time with my email, drinking only 3 cups of coffee and watching just two episodes of Sons of Anarchy.Β 

(Sidenote: If you read this and are considering relapsing into a serious addiction, I recommend readingΒ this blog post. There’s lots of good resources and Christy is a seriously awesome writer too.)

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Olivia February 14, 2014 at 3:04 am

Four cups of coffee… man I’d be bouncing off the walls! My goal is one a day, but sometimes I’ll have two if I’m having a rough “witching hour” (4pm).

Addiction is a crazy thing. I sucked my thumb until I was 10, and if I put my thumb in my mouth… all those same comforts come rushing back. And it’s not even a cigarette that has a chemical that makes you want to smoke more. Our minds are a tricky thing.

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Rebecca A. Watson February 14, 2014 at 4:16 pm

To be fair, most of those cups of coffee are decaf or halfcaf, but still, I am hugely affected by it! Minds are tricky…best to go with the heart and body more often πŸ™‚

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carrythemessage February 14, 2014 at 5:44 am

Great list, Rebecca! Very gratitude-ish, if I may say. That sometimes saves my bacon. I can relate to the coffee thing. When I stopped drinking, the first six months saw me having 10-12 coffees a day. Gives me the shakes just thinking about it, actually. But that slowly came down when I realized I was doing it because I wanted, not because I needed. And started to see the difference between the two. Sure, I overdo it with sugar at times, but I have learned a lot in seeing when a nice little sweet would be nice and when I think I need a ton of sweets. Gradually getting there.

I love that line about grass being green everywhere. I am stealing that one πŸ™‚ And it’s true…we tend to romanticize things when really they were terrible at the end, or at least for a while. And as for the social media…yeah, no Nobel for me, so I submit to my fun of Twitter and let it be what it is. I enjoy it, but I don’t do any of the other things…good thing, I would probably be looking non-stop…ha ha.

Thanks for this wonderful post…got a lot out of it πŸ™‚

Paul

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Rebecca A. Watson February 14, 2014 at 4:20 pm

Yeah gratitude saves my bacon too πŸ™‚ Ha! Love that phrase. Es spart mein Speck. Gotta say it in German because of how much these folks love their pigs.

Don’t get me started on the sugar thing. My man is off it for the month and I couldn’t make it 12 hours. I think part of it is not drinking and feeling like I deserve it. It has been my treat for awhile now and I just couldn’t give it up. And glad you’re on Twitter. It’s the best of the social media in my opinion.

Thanks so much for dropping by πŸ™‚

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justin February 24, 2014 at 11:33 pm

this is kind of crazy.. i too stopped drinking – until recently. when i guess you could say i relapsed. maybe this has some validity to it.

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Rebecca A. Watson February 25, 2014 at 9:33 am

Hey Justin…yeah, it’s interesting isn’t it? Sorry to hear you’ve relapsed. The best part is you can always start again πŸ™‚ Hugs and light to you!

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Louise Edington March 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Hmmm I didn’t get any cravings for cigs or alter my new healthy eating habits and I haven’t given up alcohol completely just cut back drastically and that didn’t increase during the retrograde. However, I did fall off the exercise wagon. I had been religiously going to the gym 3 mornings a week and have now not been for two weeks. You might be onto something there!

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Rebecca A. Watson March 3, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Interesting to hear you fell off the wagon there. Yeah, I’m not an expert like you, but it was something I noticed. Thanks for the comment and I really hope you get back to the gym soon. Exercise feels so nice … especially once you’re done πŸ˜‰

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