Let’s pretend that when you were younger, just for fun, and to have an adventure, you picked up a hitchhiker– the smoker identity. You were a brave, fun-loving soul! Ahh, youth!
Naturally, when the hitchhiker first hopped in you asked, “where you going?”
“No where special,” the hitchhiker replied. “Where you going?”
“I’m just going to school,” you said, or to work or to the party, or wherever you happened to be going at the time.
“That’s fine. I’ll just tag along,” the hitchhiker said with a shrug, “Don’t worry about me. I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
So the hitchhiker tagged along, and actually fit in quite well with you and your friends, maybe even with your family. Whether you were being serious or having fun, were stressed out or relaxing, the hitchhiker made no complaints, hung in there with you. You became great friends. Over the next weeks and months, the hitchhiker quietly, unobtrusively moved in with you.
“We’re going out to dinner,” someone would say. “Or on vacation, or off to work, or to the store. “
“That’s fine,” the hitchhiker says, no matter where it is you’re going. “I’ll go with you.”
“But I’m going to church,” you say, or to the synagogue, or to grandpa and grandmas, where such hitchhikers are not invited.
“That’s okay,” the hitchhiker says. “Don’t worry about me. I’ll wait outside.”
So it’s been a number of years now. A lot of years, that the hitchhiker has been tagging along, no matter where you go. Even just staying home, the hitchhiker is there. And lately you start to realize that the hitchhiker has been steadily, quietly, borrowing money from you. A little bit at a time but it adds up. Five bucks or so a day. Every day. And even though you yourself don’t need to go to the store, the hitchhiker wants to go to the store, to spend your five bucks. So you go.
And not only has the hitchhiker been borrowing money every day, the hitchhiker has been quietly, almost unobtrusively borrowing other things from you. At first, it was little things, like a shirt or blouse that came back with a burn hole in it. And little bits of time– five minutes here and five minutes there. And you see that the hitchhiker has borrowed some of your reputation, which also comes back somewhat soiled.
Lately, though, you realize that the hitchhiker— your old pal, your friend—has also been quietly stealing from you. You hadn’t noticed the theft at first. But now you realize the hitchhiker has been stealing your sense of smell. And your sense of taste. And even more dramatically, the hitchhiker has been stealing little bits of your attention. Whenever you are doing something, even late at night, the hitchhiker calls, demands a bit of your attention. And when the hitchhiker demands your attention, you go.
And worst of all, lately, just lately, you realize the hitchhiker has actually been stealing your very breath! What you use to live with! What you need to live with!
“Give it back!” you shout. The hitchhiker shrugs, and turns away. You’re not getting it back, at least not from this hitchhiker. It appears as though this hitchhiker has no qualms about borrowing more of your breath, even if you don’t have any to spare!
Enough’s enough. The question now is how to evict this hitchhiker. How to get this hitchhiker out of your life.
The answer is really quite simple: start living your own life again, doing what you want to do, when you want to do it. And next time you see the hitchhiker, with thumb upraised, don’t stop. Don’t pick up the hitchhiker.
Take back the room—even if it’s just the garage, or the porch– that the hitchhiker has been using. Don’t loan the hitchhiker any more money. You don’t need to fight the hitchhiker. Just don’t feed the freeloader. Don’t answer the bum’s call. Get your life back. When the hitchhiker calls, don’t answer.