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.