That's the big question most of us had when we were on the cusp of quitting. Smoking DEFINED us.
The world was divided into two categories: Smokers and Non-smokers. And we were about to jump the fence to the other side... We didn't know who we would BE without cigarettes in our lives. It's who we ARE, right?
Smoking was something we did every day, every few hours, sometimes every hour. Heck, sometimes we just sat and chainsmoked mindlessly, without really even thinking about it...other than to worry about the dwindling number of cigarettes in our pack.
Smoking was something we planned our schedule around: When is my break? How long is this meeting going to last? Do I have enough cigarettes to last me until I get out of work? Do I have enough time to step out in back to smoke before the pasta is done? I'll light up as soon as I drop off the kids. Sound familiar?
And when we tried to imagine a life without cigarettes, we really couldn't. Life would be empty. Life wouldn't have any breaks to relax. Life would require our attention every single minute of the day with no respite. Life wouldn't have any "rewards" for handling the hard parts of our lives... It sounded to us like life without smoke breaks would just suck.... I'll ask again: Sound familiar?
Honestly, we could not envision WHO we would be if we didn't smoke anymore. We felt a sense of loss and emptiness. We thought, "But who AM I if I don't smoke" and "I can't imagine myself as a non-smoker".
And then we QUIT.
Those first three days completely sucked as our bodies became free of the chemical nicotine. And those first couple of weeks we thought about cigarettes a lot (okay, ALL THE TIME). Life during those days was about making it through another minute, another hour, another day, another night without smoking. We spent all our time using the tools in that Toolbox. I know I bit a lot of lemons during those days.
Here's how it happened for ME:
Everyone kept telling me it would get easier every day. I didn't feel like it was getting easier. But it WAS getting easier, despite my perceptions. Slowly, I realized that I wasn't pacing around my hotel rooms like a caged animal. I wasn't asking the front desk people where the smoking area was. I was able to go a few hours without thinking about a cigarette. I could drive without missing a cigarette between my fingers and tapping that ash out the cracked window.
I counted each and every day like they were pearls on a necklace. I came here to EX every single day to say how many days I had under my belt. I blogged every single day about how I felt; if it was a bad day, a not-so-bad-day, a bad day, a pull-my-hair-out day. And I got feedback. Other Quitters commented and messaged me. I received encouragement and suggestions to help. I made friends. I gave encouragement to others. I persevered.
And, lo and behold, it DID get easier. And I found out who I was without cigarettes. I found my NEW NORMAL. It took a while, but I wear my new normal with joy now. It's comfortable now. In fact, non-smoking IS my normal now. I LIKE who I am without cigarettes. And I wonder how I EVER thought that I "needed" cigarettes in my life. I could NOT imagine that I would ever feel that way.
And it will get easier for YOU, too. Hang in there. You will also find your own NEW NORMAL. It will take a while before you feel like your new normal fits you comfortably. But you will find out who you are without cigarettes in your mouth all the time.
And you will LOVE that person. We promise.