Today marks six years since I put out my last cigarette! My, how time flies and sometimes in an incredibly wonderful way. I still remember the moment I put out that last cigarette and there’s a reason for this. You see, remembering that moment in a positive way just helps to keep the resolve for year after year after year.
It’s not so much the moment that’s important but how I got there. The fighting with myself and the endless doubt that addiction can create within a person. The longing to be free while fearing the very freedom that I longed for. The days of wondering if I really had it in me to beat a monster that in itself lived within me.
In the end I realized that the monster within me was of my own creation. That the beast was given strength by the very mind that wanted to be ridded of it. So to find my own strength to beat myself, I had to find my heart. I had to find my love for life and for all that might be in the future of that life if I could just get past my own stupid mind.
I looked inward and felt fear. I looked at what would be my changing in my life and found fear. I looked to my current life of smoking and somehow found peace. It was crazy! How could I be my own worst enemy? And how could I beat something that lived totally within myself. Something that without realizing it, I had spent so many sad years creating? My God! How could I beat myself?
I was angry with the things I’d already done. I couldn’t believe that so long ago I’d started building what would surely be a future of misery, where my health would steadily fade as I continued to believe in my own invincibility. When I convinced myself that bad things only happened to others and that somehow I was immune from the risks of the life I had enslaved myself with.
Soon I actually lost my resolve. Soon I surrendered to a life of a misery of my own creation and I ignored the realities of what I was doing, somehow finding sanctuary in what would surely be the death of me. I was totally convinced of a lie that could not be!
So long as I didn’t think about quitting, I was calm. So long as I never thought about my future, and lit another cigarette, I was calm.
But then one day, a crack appeared within the almost impenetrable wall that I had created for myself. I have to admit, it was a very small crack at first but for the first time, I embraced it. For the first time, I took a moment to see how things could be different. For the first time I allowed myself to see things as they could be, rather than how they are.
I thought about the future of the ones I loved and the way my life of addiction was going, that future didn’t look good. Then I took a moment and saw that same future in a new light. One where I’d beaten myself. One where I could look back at the decisions I’d made and be content that though I’d lived in fear of freedom for so long, that if I could win the war within my own mind that the future would be smiles instead of sadness. That I still had a chance to enjoy those that I loved and not bring them misery.
The crack began opening, very slowly at first until one day I believed that I could beat the enemy within. The addict within that I had created. Still, there was so much fear. But I took a step to make myself accountable to myself. A step where I could almost believe that yes, I could win this!
I picked up the phone and called the Colorado Quitline. I remember a voice that sounded like it was smiling on the other end and guess what? I hung up! I was shaking and sweating. My mind was reeling! How could I even have entertained the idea that I wanted freedom more than I wanted the peace that my addiction fed me with each new cigarette.
I lit a cigarette and walked into the other room, convinced that I’d thrown this insane thought away. I mean after all, smoking was a part of me. But then the light came through the crack in my wall again, and for some reason, this time I grabbed hold of that light. It suddenly seemed like the light of a lighthouse stabbing through on a dark and foggy night, showing me that if I could just reach that shore, then I would see the greater light.
I lit a cigarette and it slid through my sweaty fingers, falling to the floor. I looked at it for a moment and realized that this was where that cigarette belonged. Far, far away from me. I picked up the phone again and called that quitline. Again, a friendly voice answered and asked if they could help me. This time I said “yes!”
We talked for awhile, my voice trembling and when I was done with that phone call, I had ordered nicotine patches and agreed to do something to actually start the quit. I wouldn’t smoke a cigarette for the first half hour after I woke up. The thought terrified me, but that next morning, I did it!
And then with a renewed confidence, I waited an hour the next day and the next. I was feeding the crack in the wall of my addiction. I was feeding the light of my future. And you know what? I was starting to feel really good about it!
I found becomeanex.org on the quitline website and went there, introducing myself and getting set up. Turns out, that was one of the best moves I’d ever made. To find others just as scared as I was and yet still doing it. Still choosing every day to continue the fight! There was understanding for all the thoughts that I thought were so alien to me. There were others that felt just like me but more importantly, there were others who were grabbing that light of the future! A place where people really understood what I was going through.
I came here daily, preparing myself for the final day of freedom. I did a lot of prep work, until one day I believed in myself and my heart enough that I knew I could do it. That I could bring myself from the darkness and into the light of the day that suddenly seemed so attainable.
And six years ago today, I put out that last cigarette. I found the light that was calling to me for so long. I dreamed of climbing a mountain that I named Mt. Freedom. In my mind I carried what I called the addict within up that mountain with me, understanding that if I could keep my enemy close, then not only could I fight it but in the end, I could understand it. That I could see it for what it really was. The old ball and chain.
It’s always good to remember where it all started, I think. Always good to remember the battles that were fought so long ago. To see that we really can take our futures into our own hands. And now, six years later, to feel the fruits of labor that started so long ago.
There is peace in that future my friends. There’s so much peace and you know what? That peace comes from the light of freedom. That peace comes from knowing that though once enslaved, I know longer am.
There’s so much waiting for all of you no matter what stage of your quit you’re in. There’s a future that is as bright as you can imagine it now.
I hope that all of you keep climbing the slopes of Mt. Freedom as I did and so many others have as well. It’s a beautiful summit filled with peace and there’s a banner up there waiting for you. The banner of freedom! I hope to see all of you up there, waving that banner high over your head as I did, confident in the fact that now the future’s looking brighter.
That the peace and freedom really is there. We all deserve it. All we have to do is take that first step, just as I did seemingly so long ago. Your future awaits you!! Go for it!!!
ONWARD TO FREEDOM!!!!!