Kicking caffeine is his Habit Change Challenge

WHITE ROCK – Some people reach for a bottle, but George Passmore is trying to quit reaching for a mug of coffee for a week.

Passmore works as the manager of counselling and addiction at Sources Community Resource Centre in White Rock. As part of the City of Surrey’s Substance Use Awareness Week, he suggested a new habit-kicking challenge.

The awareness week runs from May 25 to 31, and residents can participate in the Habit Change Challenge by switching out a habit that negatively impacts their health, finances or time, in an attempt to put into perspective, on a small-scale, what it’s like for addicts to quit their vices.

Passmore chose caffeine. Up until the birth of his second child, Passmore had never touched a cup. But he admits, with an embarrassed laugh, he would verge on sleep during meetings with his clients after being kept up at night by a baby and waking up early to care for a toddler.

“During meetings I would think, ‘I’m interested, I’m engaged but my eyes are going to close soon’ what am I supposed to do?” Passmore said with a laugh.

Now, Passmore says that he usually drinks only two cups a day, but “feels a little desperate” if he knows he has to start a morning without it.

To help people stick with the challenge, Passmore recommends being more aware of your relationship with the habit you’re trying to kick.

“For me,” Passmore says, “I understand (that), at first, (coffee) was just for alertness and then it became a ritual and now it’s an, ‘I need a double-double every morning’ thing.”

He added: “I think that the biggest threat to success is falling into autopilot. We get pulled into that automatic mode and you need to be mindful and have that gentle

ongoing awareness of what your mind is up to, noticing your cravings and being aware of them.”

To do just that, Passmore will be set up a blog to document his habit-kicking journey.

Looking ahead, he foresees a lot of headaches and withdrawal symptoms coming his way, but that the purpose behind the challenge – to raise awareness on substance use and reduce stigma for those going through it – is worth it.

“This is a community where the judgment and the stigma around addiction still lives,” said Passmore, his voice slow and careful. “Somehow, people tend to apply a moral model to it and fail to see the human aspect.”

His brow furrows and he counts off his fingers, listing frequent statements he hears about those dealing with substance use problems, including lack of willpower, good values or intelligence.

Passmore hopes participation in the challenge will help people see the difficulty in changing habits – even simple ones.

“The hope is that they’ll have that humble awareness of the difficulty of changing any well-worn path in our lives. Then it becomes harder to say why don’t ‘those’ people just stop using?” he said.

Since a young age, Passmore said, he has always felt very attuned and sympathetic to the feelings of others.

“I want the world to be a slightly better place because I’m in it,” he said, without a hint of ego.

For the past decade, Passmore has been a counsellor on relationship issues, trauma recovery, stress-reduction, anger management and has also worked with male survivors of sexual abuse.

At Sources, he seriously considers the centre’s tag line “social wellness for our community” and takes a pro-active approach to his counselling duties.

“I don’t believe we should sit in an office and wait for people who are in trouble to come forward to us,” said Passmore. “We need to go out and really bring as much of what we have to offer to the community.”

For more information and tips on the Habit Change Challenge, visit www.surrey.ca/habitchange. On Twitter, people are encouraged to use the hashtag #SryHabitChange to share their progress.