There’s been a ton written about how you can eliminate vices from your life. Indeed, they’ve become industries: addiction treatment is a multi-billion dollar industry. Smoking, drinking, drugs, and more – for each there are expensive treatments that you can purchase that promise to help you quit.
But look again at each of the markets I just mentioned: they all define success in one way: total cessation of the targeted habit. No one tells you to simply “manage” your smoking, drinking, drugs, and more. It is an irony of all these markets designed with noble intentions that they end up with an incentive to define success in the least helpful way.
Here’s an unpopular claim: for most people, trying to quit entirely is the wrong approach. To be sure, these programs have all had their successes. And we don’t mean to undermine that in any way – for some, quitting entirely may be the best approach.
But all these programs only catch the extreme tail of the problem. People who literally can’t go a day without a bottle in hand will (hopefully) find their way to AA. But there’s an even larger portion of the population that does suffer from alcoholism in meaningful ways but won’t go to the extreme of a cessation program. These people are still endangering themselves – drinking too much, damaging their liver, and putting themselves at risk of drinking and driving.
But unless these folks want to quit entirely, it is tough for them to find a place to turn to. Hopefully they have friends or family who can help. But even then it is a tough question, no matter what the addiction is: alcohol, smoking, drugs, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. In any case, those with the addiction face low odds of quitting entirely due to a number of obstacles in the way.
Yet in the vast majority of these cases, a vice stands a much better chance of being managed rather than being vanquished entirely.
The beauty in managing a vice is that the first two steps are incredibly easy. Contrast that to quitting – the first step is the hardest. Importantly, it doesn’t even require the subject to convince themselves that “I need help.” Rather, managing a vice only requires the subject say “I should get ahold of this.” This lower barrier to the first step is critical, and immediately opens up doors for a huge number of people.
Secondly, vice management makes the reduction process more approachable to many. Instead of going from 25 beers in a week down to zero, it can start with going from 25 to 20. This kind of incremental progress is a proven strategy for anything else we try to build as humans, and it needs to be approachable for addiction management as well.
Also important – vice management doesn’t dictate that the end result be zero. Especially in the case of drinking, there’s a social layer to it that turns many people (rightly or wrongly) away from quitting entirely. We all limit our vices all the time – whether we think about it or not. Everyone mentally says no to that one last drink of the night, one less cigarette, et cetera at some point.
We believe a lot can be gained by making that process of adding one incremental “no” to your day or week a lot more systematized. With a process, it is quite manageable to make large strides in reducing vices. This may not work for the most extreme cases, but it will work well for a much larger population that still has a lot to gain from taking a few positive steps.
We'll reiterate: if you are really having a problem and can't stop yourself, then you should seek some professional help. And if you can't trust yourself to evaluate that then speak with someone close to you. But if you are just looking to get incrementally healthier and cut back on alcohol, junk food, or another pesky vice, then measuring it and managing it downward may be best for you.