How many of us have made New Years resolutions that ultimately went nowhere? Why were some of us successful and others not so?
I think the answer lies in a variety of reasons. But this isn’t just about New Year’s resolutions. It’s about the quitting resolution itself.
If you’re a New Years quitter and haven’t really given much thought to what the journey is going to entail - you’re likely to not make much headway. If you’re going for a trip in the wilderness first you need to understand what the trip is all about and where it will take you. You need a map. (We can give it to you.) Then you need to learn how to stay safe during the journey.
With the education you’ve gotten and the map in hand, you then need to understand what’s necessary for a safe trip. So you read about the terrain (relapse traps), the temperature variances for the clothing you might need (i.e. mood swings); how to protect yourself against wild animals if necessary (what you’ll do in the case of cravings); where to find your water sources (support) and you make sure you carry enough water with you, etc. You don’t just park your car and walk into the forest for a camping trip without a map and the camping equipment necessary. At least I hope you don’t. (I’m talking about camping in the wild, here, not just camping in some safe designated campground. The quitting campground is definitely not safe.)
If you have a fear of quitting because you’ve tried in the past and you know how difficult and unpleasant the trip is, get over it. If you want to take the journey into the brush to capture that one incredible sunrise with that magnificent animal drinking from the pool - you simply have to go there. The sunrise is worth the unpleasantness. Those photographers that head out for National Geographic to capture the amazing unique splendor of God’s creations - they sit there in incredible discomfort for hours and days and months just to get that one shot. There is no time limit for them on the commitment they make for the joy of achieving that. You don’t know the joy yet. Trust that the freedom we speak of will be worth taking the time for the photo op and that there will be joy at the end of the journey. But also understand that without that kind of commitment, you are not likely to achieve that photo of yourself smoke free.
4. Acceptance and the Agreement
If you think there’s going to be some magic potion (NRT) or mind trick (hypnosis) or substitute (e-cig) that will make all cravings go away - think again. NRTs lessen cravings. They don’t remove them. The Allen Carr book is a tool that helps us think in a different way. But it won’t, ultimately, take away that next craving. What that book does is simply give us a new way of looking at and thinking about our addiction. It’s especially useful in the beginning of our quits when everything is new and exciting. When we get past that stage, then we move into the next and most difficult phase,
which is quit maintenance. And this is the time we need to truly accept and agree with the choice we made.
This is the time to remember why we chose the journey to begin with. The time to reflect on the benefits we’ve gained. The time to truly accept but most importantly - agree to the choice we made to quit. Agreeing to the choice is easy in the beginning. Much harder after months of struggle. And quitting for the long term takes a different playbook.
5. Stamina & Maintenance
In order to free ourselves from this addiction for the long run - that “Forever” quit that people refer to here - we must have stamina and perseverance, but most importantly we must practice maintenance. Quitting is a large investment emotionally and behaviorally. To go through the slings and arrows of cravings, to finally get to the other side and not maintain vigilance is - well stupid. You invest in a car, you get oil changes, right?
There will come a time in your quit (if you hang in long enough) when you really don’t think about smoking much any more. And so you drift away from the site and the continuing education and the support, and you forget all about where you came from and the cost of your quit. And the day or the odd occasion arises when a friend offers a cigarette, and that thought of “just one” occurs, and you have that “just one,” (because you’ve forgotten you simply can’t have just one) and then you’re back to smoking as much as you always have until you return for another day one. And it could be YEARS of smoking before that happens.
I truly believe that relapse for a long-term quitter would not happen if quitters maintained their quits. Obviously this is not always the case. But oft enough it is.
How do you maintain a quit? It’s oh so easy. Just stay connected to your smoking roots by continuing education. It could be just staying connected here on BecomeAnEx. By reading the struggles of those going through the initial stages and being reminded of what you went through. Or by offering support here or in your community. Or discovering new methods of lessening cravings or overcoming this addiction by new scientific learning. It all comes down to staying connected.
Stay aware. Stay mindful of your journey to freedom. Otherwise you might forget the cost and preciousness of it all and take it for granted. And that just might be your ticket back to another day one.