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Storm.3.1.14 Blog

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Storm.3.1.14

Frankenstein's Monsters

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Apr 12, 2019

One morning this week, I wasn't able to eat breakfast. By 10:00, I was famished, and mentioned this to a coworker. She opened her desk drawer, and handed me one of those meal replacement drinks. As I was twisting the cap on the bottle, I noticed the list of ingredients. The long, long, lllllllllong list of ingredients...

 

 

The first two ingredients are milk and water. That's natural enough. But then, they added canola oil? To drink?! Hmm. Now, fructose I recognize as "fruit sugar". Cool. And then, there's yummy cocoa...but it's been processed with alkali?! After that, the list of ingredients looks more like the Christmas wish list of a chemical engineer.

 

And I'm supposed to drink this factory-made "food product". Noooooo, thanks!

 

Okay, sure...these are probably just the tongue-twisting chemical names of nutrients and minerals and vitamins, riiiiight? (And preservatives and emulsifiers and colorings and flavors?) And this concoction passed some sort of safety test, riiiiiiight? I mean, "they" wouldn't sell something that was laced with harmful compounds, riiiight?

 

Hey, you know what? In my opinion, the development of that meal replacement drink sure sounds an awful lot like the development of cigarettes.

 

By the time the tobacco leaf in a cigarette reaches your lips, it's been: engineered, farmed, sprayed, processed, modified, enhanced, preserved, and manufactured. And all this is done in a factory somewhere, using a list of chemicals you'd expect to see in a HAZMAT manual.

 

Why?! Why, why, why, why is all this even necessary to "just roll a tobacco leaf for smoking"?

 

Cigarette additives:

  • can dilate the airways, allowing the smoker to inhale more deeply. This increases nicotine exposure and can deposit higher levels of tar in the lungs. Cocoa is an additive known to do this.
  • slow the metabolism of nicotine, thereby increasing the smoker's exposure to it.
  • have anesthetic properties that decrease the harshness of tobacco smoke on the throat.
  • mask the smell, visibility, and irritation of environmental tobacco smoke.
  • may disguise warning symptoms of illnesses associated with cigarette smoking.
  • may react with nicotine in a process call free-basing. Ammonia and bleach can liberate more nicotine molecules from tobacco, producing a bigger nicotine kick for the smoker.

 

 

 

Cigarettes are "Frankenstein Monsters", okay? By the time the laboratory and the factory get through with it, that tobacco plant isn't "natural" or "organic". So, please, don't be in such a rush to glorify or glamorize, or justify and defend such a toxic dump of nightmare poisons, okay?
Storm
5 Years free!

I recently watched a movie about a family struggling with a grown son who is hooked on hard drugs. The son goes missing, and the frantic mother confronts one of her son's addicted friends. The young man is obviously in the grips of a painful withdrawal episode, and begs the woman for help. She scoffs, and says, "You just want to get high." The young man cries out, "There...is...no...more...high! I just don't wanna be sick."

 

That really struck me.

 

Think of all the reasons why we started smoking: our parent(s) smoked; our friends dared us to try it; we wanted to grow up faster; we wanted to "get away with a secret"; we wanted to rebel; we wanted to hang with the cool kids; we wanted to be hip; we wanted to look rugged, or sexy; we wanted to relax and de-stress; we wanted a pick-me-up and a boost.

 

Okay, fine. Maybe all that was true, and maybe cigarettes accomplished everything we wanted. But, that was in our teens and 20s, right? Well, we're not 16 now. We're not 20, either. Or 26. Or even 32. Those days of experimenting and exploring and "testing the fences" are lllllllong gone for most of us here.

 

There are no more scapegoats to blame now; it's all on us. There's no longer such a thing as growing up faster, just growing old quicker. There's no more getting away with secrets when the ashes and the butts and the stink all point to our dirty truth. There's nothing left to rebel against except common sense and public courtesy. There's nothing cool or hip about playing Russian Roulette with the inevitable gang of diseases we're inviting into our bodies. There's a difference between looking rugged and looking haggard. Seductive? Cigarettes may have given us a raspy voice, but that hacking cough ain't sexy.

 

Smoking isn't cute anymore. We can't keep clinging to those youthful indiscretions after we're too old and too hooked and too tired to pull them off.

 

So, why did we still smoke after all the original reasons and fun influences were used up and worn-out...and no longer valid? Well, we still did it because we were hooked on nicotine, of course, and the repetitive ritual of smoking. I believe, though, that after years and years and years, we're not even hooked on the nicotine high anymore. There...is...no...more...high! No, we continue to smoke simply because we just don't wanna be sick from withdrawals. And I think we fear our quits and surrender to urges to smoke because we just don't wanna be sick.

 

We're scared of withdrawals, so we smoke our brains out chasing relief from that discomfort. The nervousness. The jitters. The sweats. The hunger pangs. Headaches. Sadness. Loss. Irritability. Insomnia. Weight gain. Gut troubles. We smoke out of fear and panic when we realize we're going to have to cope with real life without smoking cigarettes, and we relapse back into smoking out of the doubt and anxiety that we'll never be able to live a happy life without lighting up every day.

 

All of these become our new justifications to keep on smoking. One list of reasons get swapped out for another list.

 

At some critical tipping point in our lives, though, there is no more list. I believe that smoking becomes nothing more than not wanting to feel sick. Smoking is nothing more than running away from withdrawals. Cigarettes become the pills that medicate this self-inflicted predicament, and the crutches that prop up the fallout from our misguided efforts to be "cool" or comfortable.

 

Look, we Elders get it: You just don't wanna be sick throughout your quit, and you don't want to suffer for months and months and months. But, I'm going to tell you something, and you need to wrap your fist around it and clutch it to your heart: If staying quit was nothing but an agonizing struggle to just make it through day after day after day of nerve-burning craves and anxious despair, then how is it possible I'm writing to you today about my liberated life after 5 years without cigarettes? Do you think all of us Elders still suffer?! After 1 year? After 3? After 5? 8? 10? No, we do not struggle...and that is your proof that it's possible to quit; it's possible to work through all the adjustments from smoking into not smoking; and that it's possible to thrive.

 

You can do this!

You can make it through anything!

It gets better!

 

Promise!

 

 

Storm

5 years

      

" I always get to where I'm going

      by walking away from

        where I've been."

 

 

 

Quite often, the highest truths

              come from

    the humblest characters.

I had eight failed quits under my belt by the time I signed up at EX. Eight. I didn't know how in the world I was going to win against smoking this time around, but I sure knew how I was going to fail. After all, I was already an expert at sabotaging myself. I was a master at caving in.

 

But, wait...what if knowing how you're your own worst enemy is actually a valuable asset? On our way to learning how to win, what if we also simply refused to lose - yet again?!

 

I could win by refusing to lose!

 

If I first refused to take a single puff ever again, then I could focus on learning how to work my way through anything and everything else that happened - by any means necessary!

 

"Whoa, wait. Anything? Everything? Come on, now."

 

Yes. Anything.

 

Think about these potent triggers we face: isolation, anger, loneliness, disappointment, fatigue, stress, anxiety, boredom, sadness, sickness, depression. Guilt trips, peer pressure. Arguments, break-ups. Tough-talking bullies, crazy drivers, misfit coworkers, pushy friends, unsupportive family members. No matter how nerve-wracking the situation, no matter how obnoxious the antagonist, everything can be handled and managed - in so many smart ways! - if you also just dig in your heels, use your head and heart, and refuse to lose!

 

So, from this day on, I'm asking you to refuse to lose. I'm asking you to let this program and community train you how to refuse to repeat every heartbreaking failure that brought you here in the first place.

 

You...can...win...this...thing!

 

You just have to refuse to lose.

 

 

Storm

5 Years

Storm.3.1.14

"Finding Yourself"

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Feb 27, 2019

I came across this yesterday, and I knew I had to share it with all of you...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pay special attention to this particular thought...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, I've given it an intentional twist, suited to our community here...

 

 

 

 

 

Next time you're feeling lost without cigarettes, and unsure about who you're going to be without smoking, remind yourself that you're on a journey of "spiritual archeaology" that will ask you to reach back in time, to discover who you were supposed to be all along - before cigarettes buried you.

 

The you you were meant to be is waiting! Stay true, my friends, and keep on "finding yourself"!

 

 

Storm

Storm.3.1.14

The Purpose is...

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Feb 8, 2019

 

   That's a photo I snapped last night of the paper tag dangling from the little string attached to a bag of herbal tea. Naturally, I thought of my EXmates here.

 

   Know yourself: I was a morning smoker. Each day I woke up, I stretched, yawned, grumbled...and then realized it was time to get out of bed and go enjoy my mentholicious cigarettes. And I wasn't a cup-of-coffee-with-two-cigarettes kind of "casual" morning smoker. No, I was a chain-smoke-three-cigarettes-before-the-coffeemaker-was-even-finished-brewing kind of smoking monster. Then, once the coffeemaker beeped, it was two cups of coffee and another three cigarettes - per cup!

 

   Why do you smoke? How do you smoke? When do you smoke most? What kind of smoker are you? Where's your weakness? Please, know yourself. Only then can you focus your quit energy on your targets.

 

   Love yourself: Care about your time here. Do the work - as prescribed. Learn (because if you knew every answer already, you wouldn't have signed up here, right?) Then, share. Contribute. And, when you're not sharing, listen. (Not everyone here will speak in ways that you understand or appreciate, but that only makes room for others who do. It's okay.) Love yourself enough to be present and involved - here and now. Because this quit attempt could be the quit attempt you've been praying for. You'll never know if you don't love yourself enough to see it through.

 

   Trust yourself: When an Elder assures you that "it gets better", they speak from a place of personal experience that's far ahead of where you are now. Trust that we aren't broadcasting false hope. We know that quitting is not only possible, but it's doable over the long run. We've proven that! And we know that an ongoing recovery isn't a daily heartache. Trust yourself enough to believe that your moment will come, too. Your breakthrough will happen. You have absolutely no way of knowing exactly when that will happen, but trust yourself enough to stay the course so you can find out.

 

   By the way, in case you're wondering, my breakthrough happened on Day 120. After mastering a vicious sweat-and-tears-inducing urge that lasted a full 20 minutes, I knew that nothing could cause me to smoke again. So, when will your "magic moment" happen? No one knows; therefore, no one can tell you when "it gets better" for you. Trust yourself enough to find out.

 

   Be yourself: You have no idea (yet) who you're supposed to be. Seriously. The smoker that you were when you signed up? Yeah, that's not the real you you were destined to be. That's a suppressed version of you, and you're here to say goodbye to that. And the person you are now? Grieving over the loss of cigarettes, struggling to keep the strength to overcome he urges to medicate with nicotine, wondering how in the world you'll ever be normal again without the repetitive rituals of smoking? Yeah, that person is working through a transformation, the purpose of which is not to get stuck in a cycle of challenge and trial. The transformation is leading you to be reborn as someone who looks like you, but doesn't feel like you do now. 

 

   Dear EXmate, you have no idea yet who you're going to be! You really don't! But, I promise you, you ain't gonna be a suffering smoker. And you ain't gonna be an exhausted quitter. You're gonna be someone who has evolved beyond both of those. You're gonna be the you you were supposed to be before cigarettes took you away on a ____ year detour from your original path.

 

   That person is waiting for you. And - oooooh! - what a reunion that's gonna be when you get there to meet...you!

 

 

Storm

Day 1,800-something

Storm.3.1.14

"Don't buy 'em!"

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Jan 29, 2019

I signed up for EX in early February of 2014. I showed up as a smoker, of course, and had only just started to work through all the new exercises and scientific lessons and reading materials that would train me how to quit. On the second day of my studies, someone chimed in: "You can't smoke 'em if you don't buy 'em."

 

Wow. Really? As if the entire EX program for beating nicotine addiction and cigarette dependence could actually be summed up on a one-sheet flyer: "You can't smoke 'em if you don't buy 'em."

 

But, listen, let's move on. The point of my blog today is to share how every smoker here (still studying to quit) can transform such a reductive statement into an expansive proclamation of power.

 

"Don't buy 'em.": Grab your calculator and enter the dollar amount of a pack of your smokes. Multiply that by 30. Jot down that number, and you'll see the portion of your monthly budget you dedicate solely to smoking cigarettes. Now, take that monthly dollar amount and multiply it by 12. That's the amount of cash you spend on smoking each year. So, looking at these astonishing dollar amounts, you can plainly see that: "You'd have more money if you don't buy 'em!"

 

"Don't buy 'em.": Think again of that extra cash you just calculated. I'm willing to bet you could apply those savings toward necessities. Maybe throw extra cash at a credit card or car loan? Climb out of debt faster? Apply cash to a college fund or 401k? Afford renters insurance? When you think about the benefits of investing that extra money in life's necessities, you can see that: "You'd be more stable and secure if you don't buy 'em!"

 

"Don't buy 'em."But, what about life's comforts? Well, sure! Look again at your monthly savings, after you quit smoking. Imagine what fun you could have with that extra loot in your pocket! A new dress every month? A monthly date night at the trendiest bistros? Finally getting a subscription to a streaming service for movies and music? A monthly road-trip getaway on the motorcycle? More time fishing up at that rental cabin? Oh, so many pleasures and treats you could reward yourself with! And that's not even mentioning the incredible things you could do once a year with the thousands of dollars you'll squirrel away for your yearly milestones! "You'd have much more fun if you don't buy 'em!"

 

"Don't buy 'em.": This next one is easy: "You'll actually be paying yourself to quit smoking if you don't buy 'em!"

 

"Don't buy 'em."Take a moment to imagine a richly-appointed executive office: lush green carpet and Persian rugs; walls paneled in teak; bookcases crowded with art pieces from around the globe; a mahogany desk the size of a VW Beetle. And, sitting at the chair behind this desk, gawking at a photo of his family on vacation in Italy, is the chairman of Big Tobacco. And, he's chuckling. Why? Because his pockets and vaults and Swiss bank accounts are bursting with billions of $10 bills...and hundreds of thousands of those are yours. But, rather than you keeping that cash for all the necessities and comforts we mentioned above, you forked over that cash to a factory that designs toxic poison, and to the Fat Cats (I bet you they don't smoke!) who know they're profiting off of addiction and suffering...but don't really seem to mind. So, yeah: "You can boycott a crooked conglomerate if you don't buy 'em."

 

"Don't buy 'em": Speaking of suffering, I'm sure I don't have to remind you that buying cigarettes, and smoking them, is like playing some backward Bizarro Lottery: Instead of risking a few bucks every day to possibly hit a jackpot, you're purposely investing a few bucks every day to insure you'll weaken and decline and fall ill and suffer. I mean, seriously, it's messed up how we willfully invest thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars into a scheme that has absolutely no positive payout! Just think: "You could stop investing in your own suffering if you don't buy 'em!"

 

So, yes, please, by all means, don't buy 'em! Not as a magical cure-all to quitting cigarettes (abracadabra!), but as a financial strategy to de-fund the cycle of self-abuse, and to bankroll a new self-awakening that will strengthen self-respect and self-determination!

 

 

 

Storm

(about 30 days shy of 5 years)

Storm.3.1.14

"...one day at a time."

Posted by Storm.3.1.14 Dec 3, 2018

I just came across this quote from Abraham Lincoln: "The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a time."

 

When I joined this community in 2014, I was so immediately eager to be a part of all the special "clubs" here: The Double Digit Club (days 10-99), The Triple Digit Club (Days 100-999), The 6% (one year), and The Quad Squad (Day 1,000-9,999) and whatever "club" is reserved for Day 10,000...and beyond!

 

I saw the celebrations. I saw the milestones. I saw The Elders hitting 3 years and 5 years and 9. I wanted that, too! I felt I would go crazy to get 'em!

 

A fellow 2014 classmate sent me a private message, cautioning me that I was (perhaps?) burning too hot. Coming on strong. Pushing too fast. This trusted classmate had already seen too many eager newbies flash across the screen as bright and fiery as a meteorite...only to fizzle out and fade away.

 

I totally got where she was coming from.

 

Yes, I was on fire in the early days. I was burning hot. I was a fireball in the sky. I was just so elated to have found a place to learn and share and listen. I knew I had found a community that would be a special turning point in my life, and I was ferociously motivated by the thrill of earning every milestone to be had.

 

And that's okay! It's okay to be enthralled and fired up! Keep that energy going, even if it scares a few folks!

 

However, dear electrified newcomer, never lose sight of the inescapable fact that even the hottest enthusiasm has no choice put to fit into a 24-hour mold: a day. One. Just one. Just this one. Today.

 

You know that Double Digit Club that starts at Day 10? Well, it "costs" a week and three days of enthusiastic work to get through the door. Ten days in a row that you didn't smoke. One day of getting it right, then linking it up to one more day of getting it right...and then eight more.

 

You have to fight for all 10. That takes fire.

 

Triple Digit Club? Yeah, that's taking those first 10 days, and repeating it 9 more times. 100 days...one day at a time.

 

You have to cherish and respect all 100. That takes heart.

 

(And The 6%? Those first 365 days? Um, yeah, that's not any of your business right now. Snap out of it! Hahaha!)

 

So, that's your task. That's the unavoidable reality of your process. "One day at a time" is the key to your early recovery, and no amount of fire can speed up the process, so please don't try. Please, don't look for shortcuts and magic fixes. There aren't any. But, my dear Exmate, I have a thrilling secret to share: It's possible to fall in love with the process! You can embrace the blessing of waking up each morning knowing that all you really have to do is NOT smoke today. You can rejoice in having friends here to share your journey. You can feel empowered by learning something new each and every time you come to the community. That is when the fire burns hottest - in the moment! On this one day! 

 

And that's the best thing about your future without cigarettes: Your recovery from smoking won't overwhelm you with a impossible demand to be "done with it" all at once; no, it will hand you one task at a time, one day after another. Easy. Paced. Doable. Possible.

 

So, set this day on fire, my friends! It's your right to shine, so get it! Respect it!

 

And tomorrow? Do it again!

 

One day at a time.

 

Storm

(something like 60-ish days away from 5 years)

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!