We all have a common denominator - addiction to cigarettes (or chaw or vaping) - although I suspect there will be web sites created just for the vapers of the world in the future and that’s a sad thought. And we often talk about the journey to Freedom. But I thought I’d just yammer a bit on what it’s like to be free of this addiction. Or at least FEEL free of it from my 12 year perspective.
It’s not thinking about a cigarette all day long. That’s the beginning part of this Freedom journey.
The craving and back-and-forth dialogue in our heads: “I want, I shouldn’t, I can, I can’t, I wish, I mustn’t, I need, I can overcome the need, it doesn’t matter, it does matter, I can’t make it, I can make it, I will make it, no I won’t”... yadda yadda yadda. That is without a doubt the worst part of this journey. Because we haven’t really yet made up our minds and agreed to actually do this quitting thing. Because when you make up your mind, the yadda yadda tends to shut up a whole lot! (Unless you’ve finally “gotten it” after that last relapse which is after the last relapse when you said emphatically to yourself once more - “I will never go through this again, this is my FOREVER QUIT” - and here you are again... what have you gotten?" What is different THIS time with your emphatic "this is my forever quit?" Seriously. God how many times in the past 10 years on this site have I heard that. It makes my heart ache. And let me tell you, those of us who have been there, seen it ALL, we KNOW the kind of attitude it takes to do this thing.)
But if you can survive that initial part of the journey, you move on to the next stage. Which is not thinking about a cigarette every day. Not constantly going through that back and forth dialogue in your head. It’s when you’ve agreed to the journey and settled into that agreement, that willingness. There’s still this “thing,” this awareness, this constant background psychological churning and noise in your head, but it’s in the background, not the foreground. It’s a discomfort, for sure, but not an all-encompassing one. It’s one you can swim through without feeling like you’re drowning.
Then the next part of the journey is not thinking about a cigarette every other day or every third day, but it IS being surprised by the thought of cigarette. Or more specifically a craving. “Wow, where did THAT come from after all this time?” It’s in the forgetting about thinking about cigarettes that we become surprised by the thought of a cigarette. And that surprise thought is a barometer of how far we’ve come. For in the beginning we tend to think about cigarettes more than less.
And then as the journey progresses even farther, we keep moving forward and those surprise cravings, thoughts about cigarettes, become a part of our smoke-free history. Though they may provoke a blip on our emotional craving radar screen, they are quickly moved into the past. We view them in a totally different way. They aren’t threatening. We understand them, we know they will pop up now and then in triggered or non triggered situations - they just will do that. And we know, through experience - how to deal with them. Our quit kit, which we've developed and altered and maintained, is something we keep close at hand. Because we are cigarette addicts. Ya know?!
To me at this stage I consider blips on my radar - Freedom. It’s not perfect in that I never have an urge to smoke. But I don’t want a cigarette 99.9% of the time. Once in a while I’ll experience a desire for one, but that’s ok. Why shouldn’t I? I smoked for over 35 years! Doesn’t mean I have to act on the desire.
Perhaps as an addict, my Freedom is not in never experiencing cravings, but in understanding that such a desire will come, and that it will ebb and flow. And it’s okay. But I don’t need to be it’s slave any more. An occasional want is not the same as a desperate everyday need as in the beginning of the journey. Thank God the journey changes as we continue to hold on, persevere and go through it.
What’s your experience of Freedom from this addiction? And if you haven’t yet overcome it - what’s your “concept” of freedom from this addiction? As a newbie? I think my “concept” was in never wanting a cigarette again. My reality of freedom is different. It’s in not thinking about smoking every day. And it’s, when that seeming “need” arises - knowing that that need will pass by the time I walk to the kitchen from the bathroom.