Smoking changes us, and those changes happen gradually, over a long period of time. In fact, the personality shifts we experience due to nicotine addiction are so subtle; most of us don't realize our cigarettes are responsible for them.
Anxiety is a common problem among smokers. I had my fair share of it throughout the last few years I smoked. I thought my tension was the result of my increased pressures and responsibilities. I thought it was a "natural" part of aging, in fact. It wasn't until I quit smoking that I began to understand just how much addiction had influenced my belief in myself and self-esteem.
Nicotine addiction taught me a lot of things, none of them good. It taught me to avoid dealing with life by hiding behind a smoke screen. When something stressful happened, what did I do? I lit a cigarette so I could think it over, of course. By the end of the cigarette, I often decided to let go of whatever it was, which sometimes was not a good choice. Smoking taught me to avoid, and avoidance breeds tension. I was teaching myself to settle for less by not dealing with life head on.
Smoking taught me that I was weak. I felt powerless to quit. As much as I hated smoking, I thought I couldn't live without my cigarettes. And there was that nagging worry in the back of my mind that I was killing myself, one cigarette at a time. I was in a constant state of subtle turmoil. It was such an awful way to live, but I settled for it for a long time. Nicotine addiction does that to a person.
The blinders finally came off and I quit smoking. Why? The tension in my life created by smoking had become unbearable. That's what it took for me to quit and to stick with the recovery process until I was free. And so I began my journey to freedom.
That journey has taught me a boatload of lessons, some of them hard, but worthwhile nonetheless. One that stands out at the top of the list sounds simple, but the impact on our lives if we take it to heart is profound. It is this:
Don't settle for less in your life.
Smoking is a way of settling for so much less than you deserve. It's self-destructive behavior that tends to trickle to other areas of your life. Once you quit smoking, positive changes start to happen.
When I smoked, it didn't seem to make much difference whether I was exercising and eating a healthy diet or not. I knew I was poisoning myself 20 times a day. Now, making the most of what I have by living healthfully has become a positive focus in my life. I won't settle for less.
Relationships have shifted somewhat as well...some have been let go and others I nurture more. As a smoker, I tolerated more than was good for me at times, but not anymore. Life is too short, and I just won't settle for less.
Quit meters show us the amount of life saved, but they can't properly indicate the quality of life saved. You have to read between the lines of your quit meter to see that one, but it is there, and it's one of the best benefits of quitting. It's proof of a new way of living...of not settling for less.
Smoking cessation brings the value of our lives into sharp focus. It has given me the tools and the belief in myself to make changes successfully in any area of my life that I choose.
One day at a time...it works. Persistence and patience and time -- they're your path to a smoke free future and a better way of life.