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Storm.3.1.14

Bottle-Cap Wisdom

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Sep 20, 2018

Tuesday, at lunch, I twisted open a bottle of Honest Tea (green tea and Moroccan mint, if you were curious). Here's what I found under the cap...

 

 

Early in your quit, when you're having to work the hardest, please think of each minute as a blessing - even if it feels like a curse at that moment! No matter what you have to work through, work through it! Each minute that you do not use tobacco or nicotine is another minute that you don't have to go back and repeat. 

 

Powerful Elders here will gladly exclaim: "Better another Day Won than another Day One."

 

Truth. Right there. You just gotta believe it's possible for you.

 

And every minute, every day, every week, every month and year that you protect your Quit - it's a miracle! Not a miracle in the sense that you're flabbergasted you had the gumption to survive it. Not a miracle that required Divine Intervention or a Cosmic Planetary Alignment. No, I'm talking about a miracle as a rare gift! As a blessing! As a wish come true - because you willed it to be true...and real! You worked harder (and smarter, right?) to get to the smoke-free place you are right now - and it's a miracle that you created for yourself!

 

Respect your Quits, dear Newbies! It's precious. It's treasure. It's a gift. And for those of us who have unshakable faith in our Quits, it's a sacred devotion.

 

It's an unrepeatable, once-in-a-lifetime miracle!

 

So, stay true out there, my friends!

 

Believe it's possible!

 

 

Storm

(by the way, that's not me underneath the bottle cap...)

Storm.3.1.14

Combinations

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Sep 10, 2018

I am susceptible to "seasonal triggers", specifically those that come along with the early signs of autumn: slightly cooler mornings, the first blushes of earth tones in the treetops, a few crunchy leaves on the jogging path, cozy mugs of herbal tea, holiday coffees, and pumpkin spiced - everything!

 

I have always known that Autumn has a way of "romancing" the ghosts of my addiction to smoking.

 

And, Nicodemon knows this, too. 

 

That dastardly devil knows when Autumn is on the horizon, so he comes prowling around again to rake his stinky claws on my combination lock. Twisting this combination (peppermint coffee + new sweater + cold morning) and turning that combination (raking leaves + smell of wood smoke + Canadian geese honking). That pathetic junkie likes trying to line up the perfect series of echoes that might crack open a trigger and tease me to smoke.

 

Well, last Tuesday, Ol' Nico paid me his first visit of the season.

 

I was getting breakfast at New Moon Cafe when I noticed they had an enticing new coffee drink: cinnamon & curry latte. Right up my alley! I took a thirsty gulp of the spicy goodness as I pushed open the door of the cafe. A cool breeze brushed my face. I stopped to inhale this first tease of Autumn...but I also sniffed a big cloud of cigarette smoke! Someone was smoking a cigarette - a menthol cigarette, dang it! - a bit too close to the cafe's door, and the breeze wafted it right into my face! Without even turning my head in that direction, I heard that exhale. That breathy sigh of satisfaction from having taken a deeeeep and hearty drag off a cigarette. That sensual "aaaah" sound from satiating that hungry urge for nicotine.

 

Presto! As if a magical spell has been chanted, there was Ol' Nicodemon, scratching at my back, twisting the combination lock.

 

[ Coffee + cinnamon + curry + cool morning breeze + menthol smoke + "aaaah" ]

 

What a hateful rascal!

 

So, there I was, standing on a sidewalk, with Nicodemon twisting my dial.

 

Time to react!

 

First, I crossed the street, and put an entire city block between me and the smoker. (No, I did not confront the smoker. I did not engage. At that moment, my priority was...me!)

 

Second, I refused to take another sip of the cinnamon & curry latte. (Why would I gulp a mouthful of trigger?!)

 

Third, I sat down on a bench, and I..."surfed". I sat down, I sat still, and I allowed myself to just go ahead and feel whatever it was I needed to feel. Anger? Frustration? Nostalgia? Loss? Romantic pining? Disgust? A cold splash of hard truth? Several chants of "Nope!"? An internal recitation of my lessons? All of it!

 

Within about 4 minutes, all that uninvited static was - poof! - gone. I got up off the bench, got in my truck, drove away, and got...on...with...my...life!

 

(Can I share something that you Newbies and NMLers will find astonishingly bright and hopeful? By the time I pulled my truck up to my office, I had absolutely and completely forgotten about the whole incident! I'm not kidding! It was gone! Forgotten!)

 

When we Elders tell you that "it will pass", we also mean that it is possible for the echoes of craves to be pushed through your mind so quickly and skillfully that it won't even leave a trace! It's true! And, you'll get to that point in your recovery, too, we promise! 

 

Listen to me carefully: It's okay to have a flashback of your addiction (after all, it's one of the most insidiously persistent addictions known to man!) It's okay to remember cigarettes and smoking (it's going to happen, anyway, no matter what you do!) It's okay to admit that you have specific triggers that might need to be acknowledged and dealt with.

 

It is, however, not okay to fixate on a flashback. It's not okay to obsess over a flashback. Blindsides will happen when you least expect it. It's not okay to linger too long on a blindside. Fixations can deceive you. Cause you to doubt yourself. Fixations can feel so nostalgic, so romantic, that you can get seduced and enticed. 

 

When we Elders say you must learn to manage your Quit, this is exactly what we mean! (Of course it is! Without recurring triggers, there'd be nothing to manage! We'd all just stop using cigarettes...and be totally unbothered for the next 20 years. Hahaha!)

 

I wasn't in danger, I was simply managing an unexpected puzzle.

 

Learn to think of unexpected combinations of triggers as the pop quiz you've been studying for this entire time. Trust in your truth. Apply your knowledge. Use your skills.

 

And, surf...surf...surf!!!!

 

 

Storm

4-and-a-half-years of managing...and winning!

Storm.3.1.14

Roller Coaster!

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Jul 24, 2018

There's an amusement park about 2 hours from my home. Dominating the skyline are the steel coils of Fury 325, one of the biggest and baddest roller coasters on the Atlantic Seaboard. Being an unrepentant daredevil, I had to go ride this monstrosity.

 

Upon passing through the gates of the park, Fury is the very first attraction you reach. So, feeling all sassy and bold, I marched right up to the most colossal behemoth on the property, and queued up to ride. From below, looking up at what I had volunteered to endure, my heart started pounding. Then, as a trainload of screaming passengers roared by overhead (in excess of 80 miles an hour!), I began to feel queasy with excitement - and dread!

 

Let's face it: Riding roller coasters isn't something most of us do on a weekly basis, and I hadn't been on such a gut-churning thrill ride since I quit smoking over 4 years ago. This was new territory, my friends! (And it proves that your quit will always face new tests, no matter how many years it's been.) Anyway, what I noticed before the ride was that I didn't feel the urge to "medicate my nerves" with a quick cigarette. My skin-tingling anticipation of the ride wasn't something that I felt I needed to "soothe" with nicotine. I felt no desire to "postpone the inevitable" by "lighting up". Four years now of discipline with (and acceptance of) my quit has me no longer even considering "doping" with nicotine in order to deal with situations I choose, or can see coming from a mile away - especially this situation, where I purposely paid cash to get scared out of my wits!

 

Okay, so once you're seated inside the car, they lower this harness contraption onto your lap, and you can hear the clank as they lock you down. Things just got real!

 

 

Then, the train leaves the station, and starts climbing.

And climbing.

And climbing and climbing and climbing. 

Higher and higher.

So high that it seems utterly impossible!

 

 

You finally crest that hill, and the stark-raving madness of the inevitable plunge hits your brain like a bullet made of ice. The first plummet down is so tremendous that you cannot scream!

 

 

After you pull out of the dive, though, the rest of the ride is nothing but a blur of screaming and cussing, and hanging on for dear life!

 

 

 

Once I got off that roller coaster, I numbly staggered out into the crowds milling about, and made my way over to a group of benches under a shady tree.

 

For the first time since I quit in 2014, I experienced a phenomenon that I don't even think has a name. I'll do my best to describe it. Here goes...

 

In the past, I would have smoked three menthols in a row after such a heart-pounding experience. This day, though, I didn't feel as if I wanted to smoke a cigarette to calm my rattled nerves. Why? Well, in a way, I didn't need to smoke a cigarette...because my old addictive reflexes had already put a "phantom smoke" sensation in my mouth! I could - literally! - taste the tobacco in my throat! I stood there, gagging, over a cigarette I did...not...smoke! Weird! All that adrenaline had flipped the switch on a very deep psychological (and chemical?) reaction in a forgotten corner of my brain, and it triggered a "phantom smoke", which is the vivid recollection of a permanent memory of using cigarettes. So vivid, you can taste tobacco and smell smoke!

 

I think the intensity of the adrenaline rush must have been so chemically potent that it mimicked the old sensation of inhaling nicotine. So, perhaps the roller coaster ride produced such a massive squirt of dopamine and adrenaline that it acted as a "shot of drugs" on my old nicotine receptors?! Then, when I got off the ride, I was "coming down off the high", much as if a cigarette was just finished. And what was left was the taste and smell of smoke and tobacco and menthol and ash - as if I had already smoked a cigarette...that didn't exist!

 

Gosh, I hope this is making sense.

 

So, what did I do? I just sat down on a bench...and started chuckling. Like, mirthful chuckling. Only after that bone-shaking ride was I able to bask in the delicious frenzy of the thrill. (Yeah, we daredevils are kinda warped.) After the ride was over, I was able to embrace what I had experienced.

 

The same is true of our craves: When you're in the throes of a particularly vicious urge to smoke, just sit down. Go find yourself a cool spot that's quiet, and...just...sit...down. Everything you're feeling will swirl and surge through your brain...and then it will chill down and fade. That's a promise. You just have to sit down and cool it. Lean into the urge, and "surf" the wave. It will pass!

 

Being blindsided by a "phantom smoke" sensation can be a weird experience. Please, just remind yourself that it isn't real. That it's just a temporary short circuit in the wiring of the segment of your brain where those old smoking memories are buried. 

 

Listen, I know it's not fair that these sensations can still be conjured up. It's not fair that some hardwired reflexes will never be fully erased. I know. It's not fair. But, this is why we say that you must always protect your quit. Why you must always guard against these hidden ghosts left over from our biggest mistake. Keeping your quit safe means understanding that some things aren't erasable, but that all things are manageable. That's what I did. I couldn't have anticipated the "phantom reaction" I had that day, but you know what? I accepted it. Gladly. Managing my quit means saying, "Thank you for the lesson! Didn't know I was going to learn something new today, but I'm grateful for the knowledge. Thanks!"

 

Oh, by the way, as I was sitting there catching my breath for several minutes, I used the break to whip out my phone and sent a few "OMG! GUESS WHAT?!" text messages to some close friends. One of those people was elvan She and I met here at EX, and we've become texting buddies for the past year or so. She is one of only 3 EXmates who has direct access to me. Because I've met her in person, I know her, and trust her. Had I actually been in any serious trouble after that roller coaster ride, I could have "pushed the panic button", and talked to a trusted Elder.

 

You have that option, too, you know? No one here ever has to let a chain reaction of mistakes get out of control, and lead to smoking a cigarette. Every person here can call a 1-800 support line, or call a quit buddy, or call a family/friend. Every person here can just...sit...down, hit their preferred access method for EX, and type HELP. Reaching out in a crisis is the first line of defense here, and some form of a lifeline is available to everyone here. Use it! 

 

So, yeah, that's the story I wanted to share with the village today. Your quit will always be learning new lessons, no matter how many years it has matured. Be open to the lesson when it arises, okay? At the time it hits, it might feel more like a grenade going off between your ears, but it's really just another very sharp opportunity to get...it...right.

 

Stay strong and true out there!

 

STORM: 1,600+

Storm.3.1.14

The Other 19

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Apr 9, 2018

Hello, my fellow EXmates! Here's one last repost of a blog from my personal library. This concept was revolutionary for me, and it's one of the cornerstones that got me through No Man's Land. Before I ease on back into my cozy semi-retirement, I wanted to share this with anyone out there who is struggling with any thoughts of "just one cigarette"...

 

 

 

Dear Newcomer -

 

Maybe that nagging voice in your head is trying to sweet-talk you into having “just one” cigarette. And, in moments of hungry boredom or tired grumpiness, maybe you think that “just a few puffs” will be okay. To get you "over the hump". It’s ”just one“, after all. Just one little cigarette.

 

But, it’s not just one. And, it never was "only one", was it?

 

No, cigarettes travel in packs. There are 20 of them at a time. Yes, you might “only want one“, but you have to buy 20 to get that single smoke. That’s 19 more cigarettes in your hand. 19 other temptations on your mind. 19 extra mistakes that you are going to wonder if you’re willing to regret.

 

Many mantras guided me during my early quit, and one of the most truthful was this: “I do not want the other 19.”

 

One cigarette was never enough for me; it was always 20. Always. Every day. I had to stop tricking myself into thinking I could “beat the system". Stop believing I was exceptional enough to customize my addiction. Stop fantasizing I could “go social” and be perfectly fine with “just one” now and then.

 

Delusion!

 

One, then the other 19. Then 20 more, then 40, 60, 80, 800, 8000...then more! For me, there’s no limit to what "just one" could lead to. This is my truth, and I own it.

 

So, I choose ZERO. Because one would be too many, and one million wouldn’t be enough.

 

Zero today, zero tomorrow, zero for the rest of my life.

 

Zero is liberating! Zero means never having to deal with that 1 again. Or the other 19.

 

You can choose it, too! Every day, one day at a time.

 

 

Storm

1,500 Days of Freedom

Stacking up one zero after another!

Storm.3.1.14

Quitting Isn't A Burden

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Mar 26, 2018

Hello, EXmates! I'm reposting one of my previous blogs here today, specifically because the moment that inspired this blog was a pivotal breakthrough for me. It truly helped me integrate my quit into my life (acceptance!), and I'm hoping maybe it will resonate with someone else out there.

 

 

Last night, while at a quiet tapas bistro, I overheard an amazing comment from a nearby table. It was so moving that I knew I had to share it…

 

Four women were seated near me, enjoying a “ladies’ night” out. Three of them ordered wine, but one did not. The three ladies who ended up with vino quietly remarked that their non-drinking companion was so strong and brave to be alcohol-free. “How long have you gone without?” and “Isn‘t it tempting?” and “I’m not sure I could give up wine.“ You know, well-meaning comments of that type.

 

That’s when the lady with the glass of iced water said something that swelled my heart with warmth. She smiled with genuine affection, and said, “Oh, I’m perfectly fine. My sobriety isn’t a burden.”

 

My…sobriety…isn’t…a…burden.

 

A part of me wanted to scootch over there, to talk to this woman, to hear her story. But, as it turned out, her declaration sparked plenty of self-talk inside my own head. I sat there thinking about our choices and options as ex-smokers, our responsibilities and obligations as EXmates, our promises and pledges to ourselves and our loved ones and our support group.

 

Our “smobriety” musn’t be thought of as a burden to bear, even on a “gloomy” day, or a “hard“ day, or a “stressed-the-freak-out“ day. It is not an insufferable curse from out of nowhere, nor a woeful punishment for having done the right thing. It is not a cross to carry. Freedom is not an affliction, nor a deprivation.

 

It is an honor. A liberation.

 

Quitting is the ongoing recovery process that we asked for, and it’s a privilege to protect it. Always remember that you chose this better path for yourself, and that it is an honor - not a burden - to follow through with your own commitments and promises.

Storm.3.1.14

Smoking Man wants...

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Mar 19, 2018

He steps out onto the sidewalk, into the morning sunrise, and lights yet another cigarette. The cloud around his head smells of butane and ash and burning paper, as do his clothes and hair and beard. As he walks along the sidewalk towards the rising sun, he passes me. I am smelling of soap and shaving gel, dryer sheets and spray starch. He catches a whiff of Lacroix Noir cologne and extra-dark, French-pressed espresso.

 

And he wants what I have.

  

 

On a humid and scorching summer afternoon, he sits alone at a café table that is baking on a tile patio, in the sunlight. His shirt is gummy and damp against his sweaty torso, and the nape of his neck is stinging in the heat. But, smoking is not allowed inside the café. And, as another bead of perspiration drips off the tip of his nose, and the waitress frowns at the ashes on his ketchup-smeared plate, he spots me inside the café: cool and peaceful, dry and fresh, enjoying lunch.

 

And he wants what I have.

 

  

As evening comes to the streets of town, he is driving home from work. At a stop light, he smokes with his windows down. He puffs cigarette smoke out the window, but it only mixes with noxious car exhaust and acrid diesel fumes, creating an even more toxic plume that wafts right back into the vehicle. I am stopped in the lane beside him, drumming on my steering wheel and joyously lip-synching to ABBA. My windows are rolled up, and my air conditioning is puffing out frosty-fresh breezes. And, when the light turns green and I drive away, he fumbles with the cigarette, drops it onto his seat, and burns another lesion into the sooty upholstery.

 

And he wants what I have.

 

 

It’s another morning at home, alone, and he lights the 8th menthol from the new pack. He inhales, and is worried. The cough was a bit worse after breakfast, and the little stabbing chest pain under his left shoulder blade was there all night. His feet never seem to get warm now, and the cigarette feels weird in his fingers because the tips don’t “feel right”. They feel numb. His eyes are heavy, brows furrowed with concern. The tip of his tongue pokes at the yellowed and aching tooth in the back of his mouth, and he begins to wonder if maybe - just maybe - something is finally going wrong inside him.

 

And he desperately wants to do what I have done.

 

 

Were you not there? At some time in the past, were you not ashamed of smelling of smoke? Of lighting up in public? Of freezing or sweating outside? Of being frowned upon? Of standing in an alley to get your fix? Of worrying, in those quiet moments - alone, inside yourself - that maybe it was too late already?

 

But, my friends, are you not here now? Finally? At last? In this new place that’s free of cigarettes, but full of promise? Are you not here?

 

Thousands of smokers want what you have right now - even if it's just a week smoke-free! And, not long ago, you wanted it, too…and you came here and got it. (See? Even you wanted to be the you you are right now!) So, hold your ground. Stay strong. Protect what you already have. Because this is where you wanted to be back in the days when you wanted to be someplace better. 

Storm.3.1.14

4 YEARS!!!!

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Mar 1, 2018

Smoking is an addiction. It's a compulsion. It's a habit. It's a behavior.

 

It's also a priorities disorder.

 

When I came across that term here at EX, it revolutionized my entire quit! This was the handle I was looking for! This was the working concept that gave me a mental and emotional grip on what I was doing!

 

Once you take a hard - and honest! - look at how cigarettes and smoking are screwing-up your priorities, you can formulate a new Top 5 Life List...then swear to live by it and protect it.

 

That's what I did. I got my priorities back in line with my health and my future, and I swore to never dishonor them again.

 

For me, quitting isn't something that I just let happen to me. No, it was a methodical process and a deliberate decision, and both helped me to stop behaving as if I didn't know the horrible truth.

 

I got my priorities un-screwed, and that made focusing on my truth all the easier.

 

A very special thanks to the select Mentors who got me started, all the Elders who kept me going, the newcomers that found strength in something I shared, and the good friends who still walk beside me to this day.

 

STORM

1,461 Days

 

 

 

A SIDE NOTE P.S.

 

 

So, I have a really exciting announcement: I'm going to Hawaii for nine days to celebrate my 50th birthday!

 

Not only is Hawaii our 50th State, but it's also my 50th State. That's right - all 50 States & my 50th birthday! 

 

I'm rewarding myself with a 7-day cruise, and I'm gonna kick back and let the crew handle everything.

 

There will be a snorkeling expedition to Molokini...

 

An all-day hike through Volcanoes National Park...

 

A high-tech luau extravaganza...

 

A visit to Pearl Harbor...

 

And a bike ride up the (dormant) Diamond Head volcanic crater!

 

This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime dream come true, and I can hardly wait!

 

My flight leaves at the crack of dawn tomorrow, so I'll be in and out, and in and out all day today before dropping off the radar for over a week. So, until we get to gather again, I wish all of you a journey you'll always cherish!

Nearly every new member at EX eventually gets around to asking the same two questions: "How long does it take to get over smoking?" and "When will I stop thinking about cigarettes?"

 

Every Elder here will automatically tell you the same thing: "It takes as long as it takes."

 

I know, I know...it seems like a vague answer, but because every EXmate is different, the answer is gonna vary from person to person. That's just the way it is. But, here's the core truth that applies to all of us, when you dig down to the root: It does get better, and it will get better...and it will take as long as it takes for you.

 

You still want a number, though, right? A specific day? Something to strive for? Well, that's the truly amazing thing about your quit: You get to discover what your number is! Somewhere, someday, at some milestone in your journey, you're going to realize that you've crossed a critical balance, the one that separates "working my quit" to "living my truth". It's a point of no turning back, and you do have one waiting for you...but only you can stay strong enough, long enough, to discover your own number. And, you have to.

 

So, you wanna know what my number is? Okay, I have two...

 

The first one was Day 60. That's the day I used my last nicotine lozenge. My NRT had run its course, and the prescribed treatment was over. No more self-medicating. I confess, letting go of the crutch felt scary, but when you decide to use an NRT, then you also decide to have this second "quit within a quit". I knew this, and I accepted it. So, yeah, I was kinda edgy on Days 60 and 61...but I never lost sight of the faith that I was doing the right thing to save my life. I knew the drug was finally out of my body...and I was so proud!

 

The truly critical moment for me, though, came on Day 120. For whatever reason (or, more likely, combination of reasons), the "Nicodemon" ambushed me with a scorching-hot crave. The chemical/emotional surge inside my head forced me to stop in my tracks, and to weep just a bit (yeah, I admit it) as I "surfed the urge" for nearly an hour. Yep, you heard me right - a whole hour. I remember clinching my fists and snarling, "All day, baby! I can push back all...day...long!" And, I wouldn't trade that victory for anything else in the world.

 

In many ways, that episode was my "point of no turning back". I didn't see the fight coming, but I was ready to beat it back when it showed up. Since that day, I've had the faith and conviction that the balance of power was forever tipped in my favor.

 

You wanna know why I didn't smoke that day? On Day 120? Because, at the beginning of my quit, I vowed to myself, to my Mentors, to my Quit Buddy, and to this entire community that I would openly accept anything I needed to go through in order to save my life. I swore it. For the first time ever in a new quit, I pledged to embrace the worst days, in order to cherish the best days.

 

And here I am at Day 1,459.

 

Finally, you wanna know if I still think about cigarettes. The answer is, "Yes, how could I not? I smoked for 28 years; I can't permanently forget them."

 

But, here's my deeper truth: I don't glorify them, I don't fixate on them.

 

Here, you'll get a kick out of this next paragraph...

 

Cigarettes are like that incredibly intense and fiery - yet utterly stupid! - relationship I got tangled up in in the early 2000s: The thrills were spicy, for sure, but the drama was...yikes! This dragged on for nearly two years until I threw that sexy obnoxiousness out my house! Hahaha! I don't miss that cray-cray, and I'd never want it back. Ooooh, to this day, I do sometimes remember all the va-va-voom, of course...but I'm thankful all the whack-a-doodle nonsense is over and gone.

 

So, please, dear Newbies, know this: There may be flashbacks and particular urges that seem romantic, and intoxicating, and ravenous, and downright lusty...but, ultimately it's all just toxic brain junk. It really is. All of it. Cigarettes never solved anything. They never were worth it, and smoking won't ever be worth it again. So, feel anything that you need to feel in order to work through your quit. Feel the joy! Acknowledge any discomfort! Accept both! You're entitled to remember and reflect...but you're not ever entitled to smoke over it.

 

Stay strong! Keep the faith! And, keep workin' your quit until you find your own truth for yourself!

 

Storm

Storm.3.1.14

Personal Update

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Feb 23, 2018

Last year, after seeing how the new JIVE platform changed the way I felt about visiting EX on a regular basis, I decided to start the process of becoming a quit-smoking coach, out in the real world. (This was an idea that had been percolating since about the time of my 2-year anniversary.)

 

Frustratingly, the local chapter of the organization I wanted to train with proved to be...um..."unpredictable". From their rudimentary website, to their totally empty calendar of events, to their unaccommodating office hours, to their inability to return phone calls and emails...I began to sour on this particular chapter.

 

To give them the benefit of the doubt, though, I will say that I drove by their office in our capital city (to push for some face-to-face results), and the outside of the office appeared to have been a bit neglected. Possibly, they were tied up with a relocation? Or maybe they went defunct?

 

Anyway, having hit a snag, I decided to let the holidays come and go, to give them time to get reorganized, perhaps.

 

Now, the new year is well under way, so I'll be reaching out to them one last time.

 

If contacting them still seems an improbable (or impossible) task in the coming weeks, then I will gladly consider visiting one of our neighboring states, to undergo the same training program, but with a much stronger (and more active and responsive) chapter.

 

Basically, it was a false start for me. I feel like I tried to chase after shadows, but I won't do it again. Besides, the training opportunities are rock solid elsewhere, so I'll probably be taking a day or two off to travel to a "training retreat".

 

So, that's the update many of you asked for. It wasn't what I had hoped to share when I returned for a visit to EX, but at least I was able to report that I still have options...and this ain't done yet!

 

Have a really good weekend out there!

 

Storm

DAY 1,400+

(I really need to go dust off my clock...)

Storm.3.1.14

Water, water everywhere!

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Feb 20, 2018

By the time EX trained me to rethink smoking (I followed the program and studied for 21 days before I quit), I was so revved up for a lifestyle makeover that I stacked 2 more goals on top of my mission to quit cigarettes. I was so psyched and so pumped! Why not tackle a complete overhaul of my life while I was at it?!

 

So, on my quit day, I put a big ol' 52-ounce bottle of water in the fridge. My aim was to hydrate more, by drinking that entire bottle over the course of the day. I mean, how hard can that be, right?

 

Wrong!

 

Somehow, draining that bottle by the end of the day was a frustrating challenge. And it shouldn't have been, right? All I had to do was drink. Duh. But, there it was every night: a half-empty bottle of water in the fridge, next to the pickles.

 

I gave up. Well, more accurately, I let go. My #1 mission had to be eradicating smoking from my day, so I let go of trying to replace that with a new hydration routine. Instead, I simply just drank as much water as was needed during my day, and I let all those other extra ounces go.

 

My other "project" was to nudge myself even closer to being a vegetarian. (When I started EX in 2014, I was at about 60% vegetarian.) So, I split my focus between quitting smoking and revamping my nutrition and my system of eating.

 

Whoa!

 

All that did was diminish the emotional focus I was supposed to be investing into Priority #1: my quit!

 

I bet many of you out there are resonating with what I'm saying. It's so admirable to lean into the energy of your quit so much so that you feel like tackling a few other changes you want to make. But, take it from me and a vast majority of The Elders: Your quit comes first, and everything else either has to go or has to wait.

 

Period.

 

Now, to prove that last point about letting go and waiting, let me update you on what happened with those other 2 changes I attempted to juggle along with my newborn quit...

 

It was 3 years into my quit - 3 years! - that I discovered I had a much easier time drinking 24 ounces of room-temperature water, in a plastic cup with a straw that I kept on my desk. For whatever reasons, drinking those 52 ounces of ice-cold water was a task for me, but drinking 24 ounces of lukewarm water was a breeze. And, I quite often drink 2 of those cups, which is 48 ounces of water a day. Success!

 

You see, it was only after my quit was firmly rooted did I even remotely stand a chance of succeeding at "the water thing".

 

The same goes for my attempt at boosting my veggie intake. Only this year did I finally - easily and effortlessly! - leap from being 60% vegetarian to 85%.

 

My quit is a Living Quit. It grows and learns. It speaks and listens. And it thrives in part because it's confident enough to let certain things go. To postpone lesser priorities. To revisit certain new ideas once the timing is more opportune.

 

Your quit comes first! Let no one or nothing sway you from that truth. There will be a time and a place and a reason for new things yet to be, but your...quit...comes...first.

 

Keep focused on the prize, my friends! Stick to the proven path!

 

Storm

Storm.3.1.14

Bananas In The Forest

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Feb 16, 2018

I'm an avid outdoorsman. (Like, seriously, I'm always in a forest somewhere. Look up "woodland creatures" online, and you'll find my mugshot right next to a raccoon's.)

 

For years, I would tuck a banana or two in my backpack. That's a healthy snack, right? It's natural, it's unprocessed, and it can even be certified organic. Packed with vitamins and minerals, bananas make for a smart snack. A good choice. A safe bet.

 

For years, I also tossed away the banana peel into the bushes. After all, it's natural, right? Biodegradable.

 

Not so fast!

 

Bananas are not native to my region. They do not grow in the wild here, so are not a part of the natural ecosystem. Woodland creatures have never encountered bananas; therefore, they are unnatural to them. A discarded banana peel might be edible matter that will decompose, but it's mostly a foreign object that could be a poisonous choking hazard for a deer or possum.

 

When I read that, I was, like, "Duh! Why didn't I think of that before?!"

 

Now, I tuck my banana peels into a zippy bag, and trash it properly.

 

So, tobacco is a natural plant, right? But, is it natural for you? And, by the time it is processed into a manufactured cigarette, exactly how much "natural" is left?

 

Makes you think, eh?

 

Also, when you're thinking of the tools in your quit plan, or when you're experimenting with cravebusters and alternatives to smoking, ask yourself: "Does this feel natural for me? Will this nourish my quit? Is this tool a sustainable resource for years to come? Or is this new thing actually a risky stumbling block? Should I even put this in my mouth? If there are other options easily available to me, which ones could be healthiest and safest for my emotional ecosystem?"

 

Just wanted to pass along a little something to think about this weekend.

 

Make it a good one out there! (And if you need me, I'll be slogging through a swamp somewhere...)

 

Storm

Greetings, fellow EXmates! It's been months and months since I've been here! If you don't mind, I'll compose this blog first, then write a personal message at the bottom.

 

 

Quite some time ago, I saw a television news story about parents struggling with picky eaters. One mother was in tears as she described her frustration with trying to get her daughter to eat breakfast. For the first few years, morning after morning, Mom tried to serve oatmeal or cereal, ham or bacon or sausage, scrambled eggs or hash browns - any and all of the typical breakfast foods. Her daughter was having none of it! She squirmed and fidgeted, Mom begged and cajoled, a tantrum would erupt, and both would end up crying and exasperated.

 

At her wits end, Mom finally pleaded, "You have to eat breakfast, but you won't eat anything I serve. Please, tell me, what will you eat? You have to eat something!"

 

The daughter sheepishly answered, "Why can't I have ravioli, Mom? I like ravioli. And hot dogs, too."

 

It was a light-bulb breakthrough for both of them! If Suzette had no problems eating typical lunchtime foods, and enjoyed typical dinnertime entrees, then why not just serve all of these familiar foods for breakfast?!

 

The next morning, Mom threw some ravioli in a pot of boiling water, drained them, put them in a bowl, dolloped on some marinara, and - voila! The daughter happily ate breakfast! She ate food!

 

Building on this success, Mom started experimenting with whole grain pastas, organic sauces, kosher hot dogs, turkey burger patties...all sorts of healthy alternatives to traditional breakfast foods.

 

It worked like a charm!

 

Mom had to let go. She had to let go of her own childhood memories. Her own upbringing. Her own expectations. Mom was locked into the patterns of the past, and needed to unlearn and rethink the typical normal.

 

This story really hit home with me, because I don't much care for a traditional breakfast foods, either. First thing in the morning, I'm not all that eager to chow down on salt, or fat and grease and butter, or pork, or breads. And sugary oatmeals and cereals don't strike me as having any nutritional worth at all. So, for many years, I simply skipped breakfast.

 

Well, after seeing that story, I had my own "ah-ha moment". What if I deconstructed the age-old breakfast rituals, and created something new that harmonized with my likes and preferences? What if I let go of expectations and patterns, and just played to the proven strengths I already had?

 

So, that's what I did. My breakfasts stopped looking like "breakfast", and that's been a good thing! In the morning, I now choose a hearty soup, or vegan hummus, or veggie dogs rolled up in a whole grain wrap, or a bowl of brown rice and pinto beans. I've even had a salad for breakfast!

 

Here at EX, I had to learn to unlearn. To rethink. To deconstruct. To undo. To let go of the addictive patterns that kept me smoking. I had to smash up my old morning routines, and rearrange the pieces into a new lifestyle that not only didn't involve cigarettes, but also didn't agitate any of the triggers and trapdoors that would make me hunger for the act of smoking. As I was flirting with new ideas and new coping strategies, I was mindful to play to my strengths. What things did I already like? What new steps called to me? What new ideas sounded too foreign and odd? 

 

I replaced all my smoky morning rituals with a brisk, meditative walk - no matter the weather! And after dinner at home, it was a double-feature movie night of free DVDs I checked out from the library. (These are just two of the most effective changes I made. Jigsaw puzzles and bubble baths and yoga in the living room would not have appealed to me, so I never bothered with them. I played to my strengths: outdoors, walking, fresh air, and movies.)

 

In my experience (very nearly 4 years worth now, by the way), one cannot give up cigarettes by simply giving up cigarettes. No, you have to give up smoking, and the lifestyle choices that enabled smoking. All the daily patterns that made smoking so easy, and all the excuses that made smoking so automatic and acceptable. And a newbie can do this by playing to the strengths they already have.

 

Need help doing this? Lucky you! There's a village of successful quitters here who can help you with that, every step of the way!

 

Sincerely ---

 

Storm

 

**** One quick note before I get on with my day: When I joined EX way back in 2014, I noticed that certain Elders would only make an appearance on the anniversary of their Quits. My newbie mind had newbie opinions about this, of course, and I never thought I'd become one of "those". Ummm, well, here I am, back again, at the lead-up to my 4-year anniversary! Never thought that this would end up being my "comfort zone", but...well, there it is. (And, to all the "anniversary visitors": I totally get it now! I apologize!) So, over the next couple of weeks, I'll post a few more blogs, track down my cherished Mentors and Elders, and I'll definitely respond to all the individual messages I've received since I walked away from JIVE. Until next time, NOT ONE PUFF EVER!

It’s been 3 years now since I chose the right path, and stopped getting lost. 3 years! Oh, what a life-affirming journey this has been! The trail that lead to this moment today was flat and easy, yet steep and hard. It was both, and it was doable. All of it. And, it was especially doable because I didn‘t do it by myself. I had pathfinders beside me, and trailblazers ahead of me. With a team like that on my side, it was a joy to walk away from smoking, and to stay true to the right direction.

 

I’m so grateful to have had this adventure. Truly. Today, though, the time has come to pass along my compass to some other explorer; hopefully, one who will also strive to be the eloquent “warrior poet” I wanted to be for any traveler here who needed one.

 

Now, this is a day of celebration, my friends! And, I have some bright news to share: I’m going to be a Quit Coach! Working through two local agencies, I’ll soon be teaching quit-smoking classes in the community, and providing outreach at health fairs and civic functions. I’ve made it clear that I want to focus on our rural areas and under-served neighborhoods, because these folks don’t have the kinds of access to resources that many take for granted. They need someone to come to where they are, and to sit down with them. Someone to talk with them about the truths (and myths) of cigarettes and nicotine. Someone to assure them that quitting is possible.

 

I’ve decided that that someone can be me.

 

This is the start of a next-phase journey that I never guessed was waiting for me. So, while I may be leaving EX, I am not leaving the mission that began here.

 

Now, before I go, it’s customary for a departing Elder to share a Final Thought. Here’s mine: “There’s nothing behind you that you don’t already know.” When you showed up here at EX, you brought with you the stinking baggage of your smoky past: shame, embarrassment, regret, “slips”, relapses, excuses, doubt, anxiety, fear, guilt. Now that you’ve quit disrespecting yourself, and have stepped through the gate, don’t ever look backwards over your shoulder - as if there’s a magic answer you somehow overlooked in the ashtray, or an easier way out at the bottom of “just one more” pack of smokes. There’s nothing new back there in the luggage you leave behind. No, this new life that you want - more than anything else - is not to be found behind you, and that’s a promise you already know. Everything new that will save your life now is ahead of you, and that’s a promise you need to believe. Swear to yourself that you won’t repeat the same old mistakes yet again, and then honor that promise. No…matter…what.

 

Finally, now, to my Mentors, my Elders, my 2014 Classmates, my friends: Please know, in your heart, that I’ll carry you with me, always. No one can come this far, learn this much, bond this strongly, transform this profoundly without being deeply and humbly blessed at having shared the honor with others who truly understand. Thank you, so very much, for helping me save my life.

 

Goodbye, and go live forward, my friends! Live forward!

 

With sincerest gratitude…

 

STORM: 3 Years of freedom...and a lifetime yet to go!

Description

 

 

February 19, 2014

I have smoked for nearly 28 years, and have tried to quit 8 times. I always seemed to fail on Day 4. I am a "secret smoker", so I have been smoking and quitting all alone. No one to encourage me, to listen, or to offer advice. And I have been unable to listen to others and offer encouragement. I genuinely feel that if I were more connected to an interactive community, I would feel more connected to my quit. And that's why I'm here.

I've gifted myself with 10 days to complete the program here, to read and study the material, to practice my quit ahead of time, and to gather up my supplies. No shortcuts, no skipping ahead, no rushing. This is my Quit and my Life we're talking about here, so skimping is not allowed.

 

MARCH 1, 2014

QUIT DAY!!!!

 

 

March 7 - 9, 2014

"Hell Week" is over, and I turned 46. Celebrated with a weekend in the wilderness of The Blue Ridge Mountains. Wild, untamed, natural and free!

 

March 21, 2014

Made it through "Heck Week" and progressed into "Hero Week", which is what I call passing the 3-week milestone and entering into that 9-day period of prepartion before No Man's Land.

 

April 1, 2014

Officially transitioned into No Man's Land, and will journey there for 100 days.

 

May 1, 2014 (May Day!)

Ended my Nicotine Replacement Therapy (lozenges) after 62 days. I will be forever grateful that I chose to medicate myself while I focused on breaking free of the poisons, pollutants, and incessant cigarette rituals. I chose to use NRT, but not abuse it. And it saved my life.

 

 

June 8, 2014

100 days and membership into The Triple Digit Club.

 

July 8, 2014

130 days, and I exit out of No Man's Land.

 

August 29, 2014

Day 182 & halfway to One Year.

 

September 16, 2014

Day 200

 

December 25, 2014

Day 300 on Christmas Day (what a special gift!)

 

MARCH 1, 2015

ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!

 

August 13, 2015

After 531 days, I'm taking an extended break from the blogs. Gonna give other voices a chance to be heard.

 

MARCH 1, 2016

TWO-YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!!

 

November 24th, 2016 (Thanksgiving Day)

1,000 Days!!!! I earned "The Comma" and entered The Quad Squad.


Brief Description

No brief description in profile.


Website

No website in profile.


Location

south carolina


Interests

adventure travel, openwater kayaking, action movies, and exploring foreign cuisine


Skills

 


Storm.3.1.14

The Jukebox In Your Mind

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Jan 17, 2017
  Last week, while digging through one of the storage trunks in my attic, I came across a shoebox full of compact discs. These had not seen the light of day in almost 7 years! Tingling with nostalgia, I dusted off the box and secured it on the passenger seat of my truck. I pulled a plastic jewel case from atop the stack, and I instantly recognized the artwork to the last-ever album by one of my favorite artists, who stopped making music in the 1990s. I cranked up the engine, headed out to find a long and winding country road, and I slipped the music disc into the smile-like slot-thingy in the dash.
   
  Now, I hadn’t actually heard the songs on this disc in about 7 years, but when the music started,   I instantly remembered the essence of the entire album! As the songs played, one after the other, I was automatically able to call forth every word of the lyrics to each song. Notes, melodies, guitar riffs, background vocals, lyrics…every second of the album was reborn in my head. What had once been hibernating was instantly waking up in my mind, and coming alive for me…vivid and bright, as if by magic!
   
  The human memory is a remarkable thing, huh?
   
  I got to wondering about how our brains can memorize entire albums full of poems (song lyrics), and can recall every single word of all that text, even after years and years and years. Well, it turns out that the musical notes of a song stimulate a select set of neural pathways that are totally different from the other pathways that store other types of memories, such as places and faces. The notes and melodies and lyrics of a song get “bundled together“ in our minds as a specialized unit of memory, and are strongly “encoded” to one another. This is why, when you hear lyrics being spoken, you can instantly hear the music that your brain expects to hear accompany it. And, when you hear an instrumental version of a song, your brain automatically supplies the missing words (and you start singing to yourself in the elevator).
   
  Because they are encoded in our brains in this unique and specific way,   it’s highly unlikely that any of us can   ever truly forget a familiar song, even after not hearing it for a decade. 
   
  Funny how cigarettes work in much the same way. 
   
  So, we smoked for 10 years, right? For 20 years? For 30 years? For 40 or 50? 20 times a day. 30 times. 60 times. Over the course of so much incessant repetition, cigarette-smoking got memorized. How? Well, the nicotine in those cigarettes stimulated very specific “more, more, more” nerves in our brains, and the more and more and more we smoked, all that nicotine hijacked more and more of these nerves. Nicotine “recorded” our smoking cycle onto our receptor nerves, and our years of addiction got “pressed” onto our brains, like the grooves that get stamped onto a vinyl record. Smoking got repeated a looping tape. Lasered onto a spinning disc. Craves and urges, and flashbacks, “phantom smoke” smells, and seasonal cues all live within these grooves inside us, and can be fully recalled by any number of things from our daily lives  : the smell of coffee, a rainy day, driving a car, tasting beer, a long phone call, an argument, seeing someone smoke on TV…just like every stanza of a song’s lyrics gets recalled in your memory, by just hearing the first set of notes from the piano.
   
  Now, I’m not a neuroscientist, but I do comprehend that nicotine commandeers specific nerves in the brain, and I believe that the encoded smoking memories inside us will never be fully forgotten. Never be wiped out completely. 
   
  Never be   cured.
   
  So, we’re doomed, right? Doomed to feel hungry in our heads, for the rest of our lives? Because we’re hardwired to crave a puff? Because we’re permanently programmed to smoke?
   
   NO WAY! That’s absolutely  not what recovery is about! 
   
  See, once we stop habitually using cigarettes every waking hour of the day, the neural pathways that cigarettes and nicotine burned through our brains…well…they get “cold”. As they go unused, they shrivel and fade, they droop and get weaker, and get sluggish, and go dormant. These addicted pathways will not always be sizzling and crackling, like a red-hot wire shooting sparks into the meat of our brains. No, my friends  : The hope - and the truth! - for us is that all of it really does get better with time! The triggers get toothless, the urges get dull, the flashbacks get foggy, the compulsive voices turn to feeble echoes. As our healing strengthens, it intensifies enough to U-turn our lives back to a state of normal living that’s more closely like that of someone who was never hooked on smoking at all.
   
  You just have to hold on long enough to reverse it for yourself.
   
  (And, to not sing and dance to the broken record in your head, every time you hear that ol’ familiar tune.)
   
   
   STORM: 1,000+