July 2, 2020.
On the first day of this year I woke up feeling sick. Sick of having drank too much the night before, but also sick of the unhealthy, unemployed, depressed, burned-out husk of myself I had become.
Yet, I felt incapable of changing. I felt trapped in my unhealthy body and mind. Trapped by my repeated inability to fix the glaring problems in my life due to my, I believed, incurable pattern of procrastination and self-sabotage.
But, that day something happened. I reached a point where I was no longer willing to tolerate the state of my life. I couldn’t instantly cure my depression or recover from burnout, but I made the one small change I could:
I quit smoking.
That same month, a serendipitous idea entered my head via the release of Mac Miller’s posthumous album Circles, whose title track starts with:
This is what it looks like right before you fall
Stumblin’ around, you been guessing your direction, next step, you can’t see at all
And I don’t have a name, I don’t have a name, no
Who am I to blame? Who am I to blame though?
I cannot be changed, I cannot be changed, no
Trust me I’ve tried
I just end up right at the start of the line
— Mac Miller, Circles
Mac was right, he couldn’t change. It’s not that he couldn’t have, he just ran out of time, losing his battle with depression and drug addiction by accidentally overdosing on opiates and alcohol.
As someone, at the time depressed, drinking too much and battling the withdrawal pains of my addiction, this hit hard, and I started to reflect on the importance of change.
Yes, I was afraid I would end up like Mac, but death is such an extreme, distant idea that it doesn’t really even connect with us.
Addictions have another, more immediate, extremely harmful side effect: When you struggle to control your addictions, you may begin to believe that you are not in control of your life. Repeatedly failing to change one very difficult thing makes you lose your self-esteem, self-respect, and the belief that you can change at all.
I came to realise two things at once:
Not only is the ability to change necessary to rid you from the habits that will kill you. You need to be able to change so you don’t stick to beliefs and circumstances that may have previously been useful, but are no longer serving you. It could be a habit, a job, a relationship, a hobby that no longer makes you happy, or a deep-seated belief or fear that’s limiting your personal growth.
Truly believing that you are capable of change is a necessary ingredient to improving your life. Once you believe in it, you don’t need to forge change with willpower and hard work. You can just allow change wash over you, and accept it.
Personally, despite COVID-19 throwing all my well-laid plans into disarray, the last six months have been the most transformative period of my life. This may be an overshare, but I feel like writing it, so…
In short, my life has changed both measurably and immeasurably for the better, and it all started from simply changing one thing, and believing that I could.
So, have I discovered the secret to happiness? Probably not. Discovering the significance and ease of allowing yourself to change has been my personal journey, and probably helped along by improvement in my brain chemical balance as much as any philosophical insight.
But, times like these, I felt it’s important to share positive news, and remind you, the reader, that things get better. The world might be fucked up on many different axes, but you are in control of your own life.
If you struggle with addictions, whether to substances, social media, or other bad habits, remember that changing them is hard, and not having been successful in ridding yourself of them does not make you incapable of change.
If you’re suffering from depression, remember, it will get better. It will get better faster if you seek help.
If you feel trapped in your life, do something to change it.
In six months, you could be flourishing.
You just have to believe in it.