What’s Your Crutch?

Crutches aren't always bad, but they're a sign that you're escaping an uncomfortable situation. The goal is to be self-aware and learn how to deal with situations in a healthy way.

I used to smoke for several years.

I think it’s rare to find someone entering recovery who doesn’t also smoke cigarettes and drink coffee like it’s going out of style. If they didn’t when they got there, chances are high that they’ll soon start as a way to cope with their drugs or alcohol no longer being an option.

Anyway, Neil also used to smoke, but he quit about year or so before I did. As we started off as friends, got closer, and eventually started dating, my smoking started to be a minor point of contention. It wasn’t that he was grossed out or didn’t understand why I did it, but as a former smoker himself, he told me that being exposed to it on a daily basis would most likely cause him to start smoking again at some point in the future.

I thought about the relationship — ours and the one I had with cigarettes — and figured that now was as good a time as any to stop the habit.

Another thing he said stuck out as we were having the conversation and that was that he didn’t like that I had a crutch to use when things got hard or uncomfortable and he didn’t. His feelings were his and that didn’t mean I had to change my behavior, but it brought attention to the fact that I wasn’t really looking at myself.

Every time we would have a fight I would go outside to smoke. Every time I was bored I would go outside to smoke. Every time I had FEELINGS I would smoke. Smoking allowed me to shift the focus onto something completely unrelated to what was going on in my life at the time.

When I quit smoking, I could no longer run away from things that made me uncomfortable. I had to find healthy ways to deal with discomfort and it taught me a lot about growing up and how to handle life on life’s terms.

Here’s the thing I’ve learned about crutches, however — they’re not always bad.

To assume that we could perfectly handle everything that life throws at us is unrealistic. Life is hard guys. Sometimes it gets super hard.

Crutches don’t have to be physically destructive things like smoking and drinking; they can be any action that we take to escape and hide when we hit those hard times in life. Netflix, reading, eating, exercise, and the list goes on. Last year, when Neil and I had our issues, I spent an ungodly amount of time reading books to escape what was actually going on.

What you’ll notice about that last list is that those are normal things people do every day. They can become a problem when you start spending a disproportionate amount of time doing them or using them to avoid an uncomfortable situation. I’ve abused every thing on that list and I’ve also been able to find balance in those normal life activities, which is something I think helps me realize when I start doing them destructively.

For a long time, smoking was my crutch. It helped me when I didn’t have the skills to deal with things the way I should have. When I was ready, I was able to let it go. I don’t regret doing it and there are still times when I wish I could do it again.

The way to move on from your crutches is just to be self-aware. Ask yourself what you’re feeling at any given moment. If you find yourself rushing to find an escape when you get uncomfortable, ask yourself why. It can be a challenge to push yourself into that space of discomfort, but it’s often a great space for personal growth if you’re willing to walk through.

Don’t beat yourself up if you eat too much as an emotional reaction. Life isn’t over if you put off a tough conversation and watch Netflix for longer than you meant to. Ask yourself why and realize what you can learn from that experience.

When you’re ready, you’ll change, but you have to be aware of things that actually need to change to do so.

Thanks to Amanda for letting me think out loud.

Questions:

  • Do you have a crutch?
  • What do you do to escape tough times? Or do you face them head on?
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18 Comments

  1. December 1, 2016 / 5:06 am

    Same with food! My clients use it as a crutch to not deal with some sort of emotion. Often that crutch becomes a behavior habit which is hard to change until that self awarness kicks in.
    Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious recently posted…How To Get Answers To Your HealthMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:45 pm

      I know – it’s tough!!

  2. December 1, 2016 / 5:46 am

    I dunno if this is in response (like, on your mind and that got you thinking about it) but this reminds me of my recent social anxiety post. I think my crutch is being alone and doing “things” that mean I’m not doing anything. Running is my crutch. Certain foods are my crutches. Anything that projects a sense of control but gets me nowhere. Like treading water.
    Susie @ SuzLyfe recently posted…Getting Ready for The Roller Coaster (December Goals)My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:45 pm

      Haha no just remembered the story while talking w Neil

  3. December 1, 2016 / 7:03 am

    Very interesting read! I think my crutch is kind of going inward and getting silent and wanting to be alone. Avoiding social situations when I feel anxious or nervous about something is pretty normal for me during a more anxious time!
    Heather @ Polyglot Jot recently posted…Thoughts on a ThursdayMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:46 pm

      I can definitely relate to that. I used to do that ALL THE TIME and it wasn’t until I started medication that it got better (not implying that you need to be medicated haha).

  4. December 1, 2016 / 8:18 am

    Yes and yes. “Crutch,” or how I often term it – “how do I like to run (away) ?” For me it is exercise and planning food. I can see it so clearly now (after years of work) that as soon as I’m feeling uncomfortable/sad/angry/embarassed etc. my mind goes to planning out food, counting calories or I must go work out. It is so clearly my way of taking my mind off of negative feelings. Like you said though, I think the absolutely most important aspect is our awareness of it. It is when we don’t let ourselves be aware of why or what we are doing that it truly take control over us and can dishevel our lives.
    Thank you for, as usual, giving clarity to these notions and reminding us that we are not broken for having these feelings.. and that it is still okay.
    Cora recently posted…Life is Messy: Food Ruts, Food Guilt and Where is My Time?My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:47 pm

      Thanks so much for sharing Cora! It’s definitely easier to run to those things that give us comfort instead of taking the tougher route. And it’s not always bad – just important to check in w yourself about it now and then. Thanks for reading 🙂

  5. December 1, 2016 / 8:30 am

    I didn’t know you used to smoke! (Why would i, i guess?), but I think it’s really commendable that you have quit and are now the epitome of fitness and good health. I’m trying to think what my crutch would be, and I want to say something like “exercise” but that’s lame because I exercise all the time anyway haha. Usually whenever things get frustrating or tough I always call my mom and vent to her for ages.
    Beverley @ Born to Sweat recently posted…15 Min EMOM Workout That Will Burn Fat All Day LongMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:48 pm

      That doesn’t sound too bad haha. Mine would be playing w Winston and putting him in boxes

  6. December 1, 2016 / 9:20 am

    This is a really good question. I think I realized when I went to Uganda that my family was my crutch, and for a time they weren’t there. I really learned to pray more and look to the Lord Jesus because my family wasn’t there.

    Now I still struggle with leaning too much on exercise or eating baked goodies as a crutch.
    Emily recently posted…The Best Gluten Free Holiday Treats (That Don’t Taste Gluten Free)My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:49 pm

      It’s always a balance – you got this!

  7. December 1, 2016 / 10:46 am

    Ohhhhhhhh, interesting. I think it can be a fine line between needed for self care, or crutch. Like, needing to stay in because of I’ve had a rough day versus staying in all the time because letting my anxiety rule my life.
    Ange // Cowgirl Runs recently posted…Currently: December 2016My Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:49 pm

      Right. That’s why checking in w yourself is always so important to see if it’s helping or harming. Man I love hanging out in bed haha

  8. December 1, 2016 / 12:37 pm

    I would say my kids and my coffee is my crutch. I use my kids as an excuse not to be social and I know it. In social situations where I am uncomfortable, I find myself running off to tend to my kids or talking to them instead of the adults lol. Kids are much less complicated 🙂 and coffee always gives me the energy to deal with life when I’m just not feeling it.
    Ivanna recently posted…BE SURE TO ENJOY THE JOURNEYMy Profile

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 4, 2016 / 2:50 pm

      Totally get it. And sometimes that’s totally cool!

  9. Lindsay
    December 18, 2016 / 2:37 pm

    My crutch … reading (while on the elliptical) and drinking large amounts of coffee! I know that my coping skills aren’t the best but I do enjoy them both.

    • erinsinsidejob
      December 19, 2016 / 9:43 pm

      I feel like as long as I don’t avoid things indefinitely then it’s fine. You need those coping mechanisms sometimes!

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