A thought spurred on by a discussion in Relapse Traps earlier today promoted me to write this blog.
What exactly is the value of your quit? And what will you do, what ARE you doing to protect yourself from relapse?
One of the things I’ve often suggested is buying a “reality” object for yourself - let’s say a week after you’ve quit. But first a bit of history on the concept of the “reality” object. It stems from a suggestion by a friend long, LONG ago during the late 60s, early 70s, when people were taking LSD, acid, hallucinogens on a regular basis. The “reality object” was something very common and familiar to you that you kept with you (for this one friend it was a coin) and if things got a little out of control and wacky in your brain (which of course they WOULD if you’re taking those kinds of drugs) you could (supposedly) pull it out and hold it, feel it touch it, look at it, and it was supposed to bring you back, or at least maintain the thread of your blown mind to some sense of the reality that you were familiar with before you went tripping off into lala land.
And after I quit I thought, what a wonderful old idea that “reality object” is. Our addiction and it’s attendant thought processes can be related to people who are hallucinating. We lose all sense of the reality to the dangers of smoking when we’re beside ourselves with cravings, and we enter some other zone. A zone where we seem to lose our minds. Certainly we lose the sense of commitment that we had. We stop thinking rationally about our quits and we are in “GOTTA HAVE” romancing-the-cigarette mode. Or EXCUSE MODE. Or...whatever you want to term it, we are not thinking realistically nor rationally. We are functioning purely emotionally out of extreme duress, stress, fear, anxiety, want, need.... at that point.
So maybe a “reality object” might help to bring someone back from the relapse cliff edge. The following are some ideas I have as to what those objects might be. This object is something to keep in your Quit Kit.
After you’ve quit for as little as a week, buy yourself something with all the money you saved from that week of not smoking. At a minimum of $6 a pack - that’s a decent sum after a week. If you’re a long-term quitter - do it after a year, or - YOU specify the time. One month, six, the first hundred days, quad squad... This object should be small enough to carry with you at all times. It might be a locket on which your quit date is inscribed, or a ring with an inscription, a beautiful small stone, a new wallet, a silver dollar, a shell, a medallion, a feather from a rare bird.... It needs to be something that you have paid some money for. Or, as Jim suggested - a $100 bill on which you write your quit pledge and date.
Now, here’s the deal - you blow your quit, you have to give up the object. So I suggest you spend a lot of money on this object. Because money tends to have value to our reality brains. It speaks VERY LOUDLY. And I’m trying to equate the worth of our quits with monetary worth because our brains at least DO "get" that. Even under the hallucinatory EXCUSES of cravings.
You slip, you relapse, you give up the object. Give it away. Or throw it in the trash. You’ve given away your quit, after all... If your quit isn’t precious to you, then the object (with which your quit is equated) also becomes worthless. I would suggest that you never have the opportunity to get it back, but that would be unfair to relapsers who come back to reclaim their freedom. So if you intend to get back on the horse immediately after relapsing, give it to a friend to keep (until you’ve got your quit back for the same number of days you had before you relapsed)
Personally I think burning the hundred dollar bill would be in order (rather than giving it away). So I’ll say, that’s the deal with the bill, if you choose that as your quit equivalency object. You’ve relapsed and you’re gonna spend that much on the next X number of packs of cigarettes anyway. What’s the difference? It’s all going up in smoke. Right? Whether it’s smoke going into your mouth and lungs, or just rising up from the bill your burning. You're still throwing it away.
But, ah, yes, the DIFFERENCE is you don’t want to burn that $100 bill. Right? You don’t want to give away that locket you’ve inscribed with the sweat and blood of your struggle for freedom, do you? But don’t you see, it is the embodiment of your quit. You have no right to it any more if you’ve given away the thing for which it stands. It’s an emblem. And you are no longer deserving of the honor of owning it.
Another emblem of your quit could be something that you don’t buy, but something that is very dear to you. A one-of-a-kind piece. Perhaps a gift from a friend, a lock of your child’s baby hair, an irreplaceable photo of your grandparents. You can choose that as your “reality object” and the moment you give up your quit, you give up that thing that is so precious to you. Destroy the photo under the kitchen tap, shatter the friend’s gift with a hammer, flush the baby hair down the toilet.
Do this. In some way, in whatever fashion you choose, but do it. And be true to it. Truly give it away if you blow your quit. Toss it painfully in the trash and don’t fetch it back. Or burn that bill. It is an important lesson to teach you the value of your quit. It’s not just a thought exercise. Because the value of your life, which is why you quit, is beyond measure.
How precious is YOUR quit? What will you do to protect it? How much is it worth to you?