When You Quit Something Cold Turkey


Sometimes you just have to stop.

You just stop, and that’s it. You’ve had enough.

Some may call it stopping; some may call it quitting. Either way, you’re ending a relationship you’ve had with someone or something.

Things people have quit? A bad relationship. A bad habit, such as smoking, drinking, or gambling. Loaning money. Maybe even gossiping. These are just examples of a few.

When you quit something cold turkey, it means, the following:

To “go cold turkey” is to withdraw suddenly and completely from an addictive substance or some other form of dependency.

Have you ever quit something “cold turkey” in your life?

For me, one example was smoking. I smoked a little in high school, a little in college, and a little afterwards during a tough time in my life. (Honestly, I should have known better). When I quit full stop, I never had one again. It’s so darn bad for you, your health and lungs, and the smell of it — the after-effects smell of the tobacco on my skin and in my hair — was horrible. I hated the way my fingers smelled after holding a lit cigarette.

I’ve also quit a few bad friendships cold turkey. Never looked back.

Another thing I stopped doing cold turkey was to quit beating myself up over the past. About mistakes I’ve made or people I’ve hurt. I’ve been sorry, apologized, and humbly moved on. Asked for forgiveness. You can’t keep making yourself feel bad about past mistakes or misjudgements. Learn from them and move on from them, certainly, but you can’t keep punishing yourself for things that happened in your way-long-ago past.

Speaking of pasts, I’ve quit a couple of boyfriends cold turkey. It takes a certain amount of gumption to do that. My daughter just did it as well with someone she was seeing. You just kind of say to yourself, “That’s it. I’m worth more. I deserve better.” If you believe it, the act of divorcing yourself from that negativity comes much easier, and you feel healthier for having done so.

You make the decision to go cold turkey because in your heart of hearts, you know it’s the best option. You’ve heard the expression that it’s best to cut the cord. Sometimes you know it’s the healthiest way to move on, recover, or protect yourself from making one bad decision after another.

In the end, it’s really about moving on—from leaving one bad “thing” behind to starting fresh without that bad “thing” in your life.

I’m always interested to learn how these expressions originated. When doing a quick Google search on the phrase, I discovered that the origin “cold turkey” could come from the meaning “suddenly or without preparation,” as noted in the example that a dish of cold turkey doesn’t require much preparation. There’s thought it also comes from the American expression “talk turkey,” which means to speak bluntly with little to no preparation.

Quitting something cold turkey is not always easy, but it’s often best. If you’re struggling with a decision to leave a bad situation, habit, or relationship behind, going cold turkey just may save your sanity—and your life.



Stephanie Verni is Professor of Business Communication at Stevenson University and is the author of Inn Significant, Baseball Girl, and Beneath the Mimosa Tree. Along with her colleagues Leeanne Bell McManus and Chip Rouse, she is a co-author of Event Planning: Communicating Theory and Practice, published by Kendall-Hunt.

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