I have quit several times and each time I made that “List of Reasons” chart. “My reasons for Smoking” vs “List of Benefits From Quitting.” You can tell right from the titles why that approach for me never worked. One was subjective, the other objective. And I had to really fight to come up with all the benefits vs the desires (reasons/excuses) to smoke.
The obvious benefits:
To live longer
To be around for those who love us (our spouses, our grandchildren, our friends, etc.)
To not have lung cancer
To not have emphysema
To not smell like an ashtray
To not have to miss moments because we have to go out to smoke
To have whiter teeth, sweeter breath... Etc., etc
(Of course the only thing that need be on the list is to live longer in a healthier manner. The rest is really padding.)
But the List of Reasons to smoke is as long as the excuses to do so. And that seems to be infinite. And because those excuses are in part physical and connected so strongly to our emotions, they o’erweigh the logical, intellectual side of the internal bargaining we go through. The List of Benefits is flat and dull and has no oomph behind it. It’s conceptual rather than felt. And the desire to smoke is stronger.
Of course we want to live longer, but that, like all the other items on the list, is rather removed from immediacy. When we’re suddenly slapped in the face with a disease and a diagnosis that proclaims “You now have a finite amount of time left and that time is SHORT!” then we’re immediately emotionally connected. It’s no longer just an intellectual, objective thought - it’s a visceral, in-your-cells experience. It’s only when our heath is compromised that we finally “get” it. And some don’t even “get it” then.
That’s why I find the Reasons to Quit list generally so ineffective, ultimately. Because the sane, rational mind can’t compete with the addicted, emotional one. It inevitably always loses. The desire to smoke, that NEED, is powerful and simply stronger.
So how do we finally “get it?” In our cells, in our viscera? What is it that transforms a smoker into a permanent non-smoker? How do we create an emotional drive, a desire stronger than the addition?
I think that happens in several ways. And it all begins with education.
When I quit I didn’t really want to. (Does anyone?!!) I had no motivation, felt fine, had no ill affects. I just knew I “should” and my husband kept pressuring me to do so. I found a support group and asked them how to become motivated. And I listened and I communicated and I learned.
Once I quit, the driving force that ensured adherence was to never go through another day one. I wanted THAT more than anything. I wanted that more than I wanted to smoke. I knew if I smoked, I’d have to go through it all over again. And I just couldn’t bear it. But I still had desires to smoke.
As I remained actively connected to support sites and began offering support myself, the reality of what smoking does began to clarify and become more visceral. Education involves knowledge in all areas, not just book learning. Understanding the nature of this addiction encompasses far more than the discovery of brain receptors and triggers. It’s, I think, the human connection that impacts our emotional beings and creates the driving force necessary to overcome this monster. It’s reading day in and day out the struggles to quit, sharing the trials and tribulations of those who are suffering from the direct effects of smoking. That’s when I finally “got it.” When it became very real.
What smoking does to us moved from the objective to the subjective point of view. Not just what smoking does to us physically, but mentally. The slavery of it. I learned that Education + Communication = Motivation.
I am still driven to continued success by the thought of Never Another Day One! But now I also “get it.” And that’s when the slavery really ended. Emotional Acceptance
May all you new quitters find your motivation. May you “get it!” And may all those with long-term quits never lose it.
PS: another blog on the topic of "getting it" finally getting it