(I’m putting this blog out a couple of days early, as I’ll be away and computerless on my 7th year anniversary March 1st.)
I want to tell you of my journey. Not about how I quit, but what I’ve learned during this process. How I quit is no different essentially than any one else who has had success at this. The same ingredients are necessary: study, hard work, commitment, perseverance, and a willingness to be open minded enough to learn, change, grow and alter the comfort zone with which we’re familiar. And for me, the most important ingredient - support. Not only during the first frightening steps of a quit, but during it’s continued maintenance. Maintenance takes awareness and attention, and keeping a toe-hold in a support group abets that. Support is what made the difference for me. It is what took me over the bridge not only to freedom but to lasting freedom.
What I’ve learned during the many years I’ve been on this site watching and participating in the comings and goings here is that the failures and successes are a combination of things. I believe I’ve learned what it takes to become a successful quitter as well as what it takes to become a successful supporter.
There are those who are adherents to the ‘whyquit’ mentality I guess I’d call it. (I’m not intimately familiar with the site but they take no prisoners. And what I mean by that is - no slips allowed. If you blow your quit - you’re OUT. Period. Can’t post on the site any more. Correct me if I’m wrong anybody.) These are the no nonsense, “tough love” supporters that allow no excuses.
There are those who are the petters. Generally they’re the ones who have less than a year smoke free under their belts and usually a lot less than that. And often don’t make it too far down the smoke-free path themselves. The ones who say “it’s okay, you tried, don’t beat yourself up, just try again....” The ones who may help certain newbies who need all those gentle strokings, but in my experience that kind of support doesn’t secure a quit in the long run. For ultimately a relapser must be held accountable for their lapse.
What makes it in the long run is - the truth. The TRUTH is what’s necessary for those who are serious about quitting, who want to do the homework, who are willing to make quitting the priority of their lives. Those who are willing to sacrifice immediate gratification for long-term gain. For if you look at the long-term quitters on here (and by that I mean anyone with over a year smoke free), the truth is quite obvious. And it’s the same truth for all of us long-term quitters. We adhere to the Not One Puff Ever doctrine. By whatever means necessary. And sometimes those “necessary means” are not a whole lot of fun. Like denying yourself your cup of morning coffee for a while or not hanging out with smoking friends, staying away from that party, beer joint or casino until your quit is secure. Not doing all the fun things you normally do that might jeopardize your quit. It’s the simplest yet most potent tenet for quit preservation and longevity - Not One Puff Ever. And if you fail in your adherence to that, you need to be called on it. We do a disservice in our support if we don’t.
I’ve learned in my seven years of this journey that support is a tricky and delicate balance. I recently listened to a radio interview with someone from Legacy, the creator of this site. And what this person said was that often it takes several attempts to become free of this addiction. And that BecomeAnEx allows for failure. And that kinda made me balk. Because I feel that if you allow the possibility of failure in someone’s mind, then that enables that failure. It makes that failure possible. It gives it permission to BE. Whereas if your standards are set higher and you “take no prisoners,” you are more likely to prevent such failure.
I have, over the years, tried both methods in my support on here. The kick in the pants tough love, and the cooing, it’s okay pat on the head. My real self wants to say - stop whining, get over it, commit and just DO IT!!! Good GRIEF already. (Simply because in my own experience, once I committed to it - that was it. There was no slipping, I didn’t allow it.) And yet the gentler side of me says just keep trying, get back on the horse, learn from your mistake, don’t give up. Because I have seen that there are those who actually come back and DO keep trying. And SUCCEED. And they need encouragement, not just a kick in the pants. As someone on the site recently pointed out to me: not everybody is like ME!!! lol. True So I have to allow for the failures, those who quit their quits.
We ALL know that smoking is not good for us. That’s a given. But I’ve come to believe some people simply ARE stronger in their ability to accept discomfort in their lives at certain times. Some people have so much discomfort and so much on their plates that adding on another bit of misery is just ... can’t be done. And the fact that they’re even TRYING to beat this addiction during that period of time in their lives is - well my hat’s off to them. Many are coming from places of fighting and winning over multiple addictions. So I can’t simply say “suck it up, get on with it” to them. I simply can’t. Support must be tempered by the knowledge of whom you’re supporting. One size does not fit all.
And lastly in the truth of my journey:
If I could smoke without penalty - I would. I like the smell of it - yes, even after all these years. A freshly lit cigarette, to my nose, is as good as the scent of fall leaves being burned. And I truly believe I like the taste of them. No, of course not the 35th cigarette at the end of the day, but perhaps that ONE after dinner. I’ve never been one of those who quit and then had an aversion to smoking, though I recognize and relish all the benefits of being smoke free. It might make it a wee bit harder for me, but it also causes me to keep my guard up. And this is a good thing. But I don’t crave cigarettes any more and most importantly - I don’t NEED them.
That need was so all-consuming. That’s true slavery. It’s not desire, it’s choiceless need. How many times did I have a terrible cold and still smoke, clogging my nose and lungs even further by doing so. I knew I was stupid to smoke with a cold, but I did it anyway. Because I NEEDED to smoke. I NEEDED my hit, my cigarette and all its attendant chemical concoctions that kept feeding the happy-pot receptors of my brain. That’s addiction. That has nothing to do with enjoyment. I am so grateful those days are over. And so thankful to the many supporters whose examples guided me through, shone the light and helped make it possible. But I must also acknowledge my own part in this seven year success. For I worked damn hard at it.
For those of you who are beginning this journey - keep your eyes focused ahead. Trust that there will come a day when you no longer NEED, no longer CRAVE. But you will only get there if you adhere to the Not One Puff Ever doctrine until you cross the bridge of freedom. You MUST hold on and hang in for as long as that takes in your particular journey. You will never regret it. I promise.