Breaking up with a bad habit is hard to do


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I think the universe sends me a sign when I need it most. Or perhaps I’m the kind of person who likes to look for signs and meaning in ordinary situations.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 07/02/2022 (182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I think the universe sends me a sign when I need it most. Or perhaps I’m the kind of person who likes to look for signs and meaning in ordinary situations.

Last weekend, I broke a bracket on my braces. It was on my snaggletooth — the tooth that has been the bane of my smile for as long as I can remember because it was out of place and made me insecure. The reason I bit the bullet and opted for adult braces. (The left lateral incisor, for anyone who is curious.)

The bracket popped off the tooth as I was brushing, and it was no big deal. My teeth have straightened out so much since I got the braces in the summer. I’ve questioned (with an admitted lack of orthodontic experience) why I have to wear them for another 18 months. My teeth are nearly straight.

Within hours of the bracket popping off, my incisor and the tooth beside it started to ache. If you’ve had braces, you know this ache. It’s the feeling of teeth shifting. The pain is not a like a regular toothache that hurts deep in the nerves and is unbearable. It’s less than that, but still painful. The feeling is usually isolated to one spot in your mouth — a tooth, maybe two, and it feels like the tooth is sore.

I was surprised at this. While affixed to the bracket, my tooth felt fine. After a few hours free, it was hurting, and it was like when I get my braces tightened — that feeling of shifting and pain. When I made it to the orthodontist a few days later, she confirmed the tooth had shifted, and it wasn’t as straight as it was at my last appointment. Damn. That was fast. But why?

On the surface, before the bracket broke, my teeth had changed and were changing so drastically. But, as soon as the tooth was without the support of the bracket, it was trying to migrate back to its old, comfy, crooked spot.

I have been trying my hardest to break out of old habits that don’t serve me anymore and create new ones that will make my life and self better. Like my old snaggletooth, my default is to migrate back to my old, comfy, crooked place in life, because it is familiar and comfortable, and because change is hard.

A big change for me lately, and one of my most uncomfortable habits to break, is my relationship with my nightly glass or glasses of wine. It was a harder habit to break than I would like to admit.

I know the last two years have heightened alcohol use significantly for many folks. I am no exception. My habit is often triggered by dusk, or that empty evening slot in my routine of watching a show, or doing a chore or some writing, or playing a board game with the kids.

I’d usually only drink enough to feel the warm numbness — a place where I was coherent and sober, but where the edge of the day and all of its stressors had been softened. It felt like medicine in the moment and poison afterwards.

The habit became more noticeable to me, especially in the mornings when I woke up feeling gross, and in the evenings when wine o’clock became a real time frame in my home. I don’t know where my alcohol use rates on any sort of scale. I am also in no way equating my situation to anyone else’s or trying to make light of what is a really serious issue for many people. The only thing I truly know for myself is that this daily habit is far too easy for me to keep up and getting harder for me to break.

It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve switched out the wine for tea. The trigger of dusk usually no longer gives me the automatic response to overpour myself a glass of wine. I’ve got Holly Whitaker’s book Quit Like A Woman on hold on my library app. I’ve heard good things about it. On the nights I crave a glass of wine, I try really hard not to break my habit of breaking my habit. I’ll let you know how it goes.


Shelley Cook

Shelley Cook
Columnist, Manager of Reader Bridge project

Shelley is a born and raised Winnipegger. She is a proud Indigenous woman with family ties to Brokenhead Ojibway Nation.

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