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Make Quitting a Priority

Posted by Giulia Champion Mar 3, 2018

Many people know they SHOULD quit but make only a half-assed attempt at it.  Nobody WANTS to quit.  They WANT to be free of the addiction, the desire to smoke, but that's different from wanting to quit.  I didn't want to have to "give up" smoking, I just wanted to be free of the NEED to smoke.  I wanted to be in control of it, not the reverse.  When one does the reading on here you learn that you simply CAN'T be in control of it.  It owns you.  There is no such things as a “now and then” smoker.  It’s all or nothing with us.


The casual half-assed attempter is never gonna make it.  As we long-term quitters keep saying over and over: this takes commitment. Total commitment.  A “no matter what” agreement to abstain.  It must become a priority in your life. Focused attention on the goal is a DAILY necessity.  Most of us with quit longevity spent time every day on a support site during the initial stages of our quits.  You can't be casual about it.  You may want to quit or you may not, I didn't, but that doesn't matter (though it helps).  If you set a goal and if you expend the necessary energy and time, study and perseverance, you WILL achieve it.


As an actress I have studied sense memory.  It can enable you to feel an emotion from the past.  So I really "get" that part of the addiction. I’ve occasionally used sense memory to re-connect to strong emotions in my life in order to replay them for a character I’m portraying.  There are many things that can trigger sense memory.  Perhaps one of the strongest is scent.  You’ll smell the perfume your mother wore and she comes alive again.  (Or a cigarette.)   Music is another strong one - a song will bring back incredible memories.  For those who reach for a cigarette during stressful times - stress has become a sense memory.


One of Uta Hagen's acting exercises was to take an object and spend time with it, give it an imaginary history, imbue it with a connection.  Could be something as simple as a glass.  When you sit there with that glass and imagine that it came from your great great grandmother (let say), or you won it at a carnival with your boyfriend the day you broke up, or it was the last glass your mother had in her hand.... Spend just 10 minutes making up a story about that glass, and every time you see it, it will now have a new value to you, a new meaning.  It's no longer just a glass.  It’s become important.  And the way you hold and touch it will be different. Same is true with smoking and the same is true with your quit.


The casual, the spur-of-the-moment quitter needs to understand that they must spend time with their quits. The more time one spends educating themselves - discovering, reading, learning -   not only about the addiction but about themselves in relation to it, the more precious and important the goal becomes. And the more important the goal becomes, the more likely one is to push through those nasty cravings.


So make quitting a priority and spend time with it.  You’ll truly understand it’s value when you do.  And when you have it, nourish it, cherish it like it's the most precious gift of your life.  Because without it, your quality of life will eventually be compromised.


(some of this is a re-working of previous material)

First we crawled. Then we learned to walk. We learned how to read and write. We learned how to ride a bike and sometimes fell off. And we learned from that falling off. Some of us learned how to drive, and swim, be good at a sport, or learned how to play an instrument. All those activities were acquired skills. To my mind quitting is no different.


What are the steps necessary in becoming a Champion Quitter?  First of all it takes making quitting a priority in your life.  It can't take second place.  It has to consume the majority of your focus.  Casual quitting creates casual quits with endless relapses and re-do's.  Just think about the steps necessary for learning any skill.


Step 1: Education

If you’re thrown into a pool without knowing how to swim, you may manage to hysterically flail your way to the edge, but you’re likely never to go near water again. So it’s wise to start out in the shallow end and learn how to paddle first.

Same is true with quitting. The first thing prescribed is the necessity for education. We need to educate ourselves about the addiction - understand what happens to our brains when we smoke. We need to learn about our particular relationship to the addiction - study when, where and why we smoke - determine our triggers.   Look at the behaviors we engage in when we smoke.  And we need to come to a healthy understanding of our excuses. When we learn that putting "just one" cigarette in our mouth will inevitably lead to relapse, for example, we’ve learned that we need to adhere to the NOPE (Not One Puff Ever) tenet.  

Step 2: Attitude.

Attitude plays an enormous role in the quitting process. It can help us or hurt us and the right mindset can make the difference between success and failure. One doesn’t even have to WANT to quit smoking. (Though it helps!)  But “right thinking” (i.e. positive thinking) carries us longer and further down that smoke-free track and helps to ease the discomfort.  So does humor. We need to find the right hooks to keep us motivated, positive and excited.  That’s some of our required homework.  

Step 3: Preparation and Planning

Part of our education centers around planning for the journey ahead. You don’t tromp off into the wilderness without a map, a water bottle and a good pair of shoes.  Same is true for quitting.  We must prepare for the pitfalls and triggers to come.  We need to understand our patterns and our emotional connection to cigarettes.  We have conditioned ourselves to be their slave, and we need to learn to de-condition by modifying our behaviors  - for a while - and altering our thoughts and closely held beliefs.  Quitting requires an open mind and a willingness to change.  It also requires a well-stocked quit kit of things to do instead, techniques for re-focusing, and items of positive reinforcement.


Step 4: Commitment and Perseverance

Without a 100% commitment, a “no-matter-what!” commitment, most successes achieved will be short lived. Quitting takes a great deal of energy.  And when the energy flags, which it will, commitment will keep us on the track. Commitment is the parent of perseverance.  If one is committed, one will persevere.  Acceptance is an offspring.  When one commits fully to the journey, one accepts all that the journey encompasses. The good, the bad, the nasty, the sad, the ugly.  We will become very vulnerable.  But through acceptance we will learn that it’s ok to love ourselves, despite ourselves.  For what are we really doing but listening to that Best part of us.  It takes a great deal of self-honesty.


Step 4: Maintenance

Many is the quitter who returns to the slavery of this addiction because they didn’t maintain their quit.  They stopped paying attention and forgot the things they’d learned.   Didn't remember that “just one” means a hundred and one. Didn’t remember what Day One feels like. They forgot their vulnerability to the addiction, and forgot that any reason to light up is simply an excuse born of the addicted mind.


If you have a car you change it’s oil. Top off it’s fluids. If you don’t, your car won’t last too long. Same is true with a quit. It doesn’t take a great deal of maintenance. Come back to this web site once a month or every other month. Six times a year isn’t too demanding. Read some blogs, rummage around Best of EX, offer a bit of support. It reconnects your brain to your quit. Reminds you of what you’ve been through, and reinforces the reasons you took the journey to begin with.

Today is my 12th year quit anniversary. I believe it is so because I studied hard, committed fully, accepted my choice to remain smoke free and I continue to perform necessary maintenance by staying connected to this wonderful site with all you beautiful, loving amazing supporters. I know without a doubt that support is what made this quit stick.


Thank you, family, for taking the journey with me. It just gets better and better.  


, Giulia

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