One Year Bite-Free #notd
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been one year since I kicked the nail biting habit.
I bit my nails for decades and decided last January that it was time to stop. So I did. I didn’t use any gimmicks, no soap under the nails or bitter apple or anything like that. I just decided to recognize it for what it is: a compulsive behavior.
The challenge wasn’t really to stop biting my nails. It was to understand why I was biting and redirect the urge to something less harmful. I recognized that biting was a response to stress, and that I actually felt a decrease in stress when I would let myself bite. It’s a dopamine thing. And my brain loves dopamine. I respond to behavior-reward systems with great goopy gobs of sweet sweet dopamine. It makes me a prime candidate for addictive behavior (one of the reasons I’m a teetotaler) and things like nail biting.
The ideal way to deal with it would be to eliminate the stress, right? Remove the trigger. Oh haha that’s rich. Full time job and 4-year-old-twins? Stress isn’t going anywhere. So that’s going to have to be a separate path of self improvement. But I recognized that I could at least divert the biting behavior.
I will always be a nail biter. My brain will always retain a recollection of the stress release I experience when gnawing on my fingers. I will always have the capacity to start again. But I can divert the behavior and not give myself the opportunity to start again. One bite opens the door, so not even one bite is okay.
I’ve always loved nail polish but when I graduated from college and went into the professional world I decided painted bitten nails didn’t cut it. So last year I decided to reclaim my love and instead of eliminating nail polish I would eliminate the biting. The fear of looking unprofessional was a good motivator. I didn’t want to go to work with gnawed blue nails.
Additionally I set up a reward criteria. As long as I didn’t bite my nails, I could buy any nail polish I wanted, regardless of cost. Basically I gave myself an open door to polish. No more hemming and hawing over a $3 drugstore polish. I considered it an investment to give myself an unlimited budget.
Turns out that sort of backfired on me. In one year I went from 5 nail polishes to more than 325 polishes. I had to buy a Helmer to hold them all. But I’ve made my peace with that since I paid for many of them with the money I made off of crocheting and I never busted the budget.
So it’s one year later and I feel like I’ve done pretty damn well. I’m still caring for them and keeping them pretty, still using diversion to deal with stress. When I have the urge to bite I press my nails into the palm of my hand to make little indentations. Or I run the pad of my thumb across the free edge of my nails to give myself a non-harmful tactile release.
And here’s hoping that in January 2014 I’m writing a 2-year-clean post.