This is a long blog. I hope that, when you are done reading it, you will believe that you CAN quit smoking. (Because you CAN, and if you don't believe that---please post a simple blog here on this site. And we'll talk about how you feel.
Look at the picture I've posted as the banner on this blog... It's a key. Sitting on a keyboard.
Can the key to quitting smoking actually be found through a KEYBOARD?
Yes, it can. Set your skepticism aside and please listen to me for a minute. Or two.
You may have come seriously looking for an online stop-smoking site.
You may have stumbled into this site randomly while thinking you want to quit at some time in the foreseeable future.
You might just be a smoker who went down a rabbit hole without any real commitment to the idea of quitting.
Or...you might just want to see what kind of sheep think that following other sheep actually makes anyone stop smoking.
I am not a sheep. I have never thought of myself as being someone who puts their trust in "programs", whether it be to eat healthier, feel more positive, exercise more regularly, read books, raise better children, find a more rewarding job, learn to forgive, be more assertive...oh, sheesh, I could go on forever because there is ALWAYS a group for SOMETHING to help you improve your life, right?
But when I found EX, I found something I NEVER expected. I completely realize that I'm starting to sound like an infomercial... So please hang in here with me!
I did go looking for an online way to quit smoking. I just wanted to see what was out there. I clicked on a site called becomeanex.org. It's easier to call it "EX" so that is what I (and many others) call it now.
I came to EX because I wanted to see what I would feel if I thought seriously about quitting smoking. Not for just a while. FOREVER. I wasn't sure I was ready. I wasn't sure I had what it would take... I wasn't even sure that I did WANT to quit.
Being a smoker was part of my identity. It was who I WAS. My life was arranged around when I could smoke, where I could smoke, how many cigarettes I had left, where I could buy another pack...(I KNOW this sounds familiar to many of you!). I didn't WANT to admit it to myself, but it was true. My life revolved around smoking. I made choices about how and where I would spend my time based on my smoking.
But I came to EX and I read blogs. I introduced myself to the EX community as someone who wasn't really sure they wanted to be on this website...because I didn't know for sure that I wanted to quit. I thought I really loved smoking and that I got benefits from smoking; calmness, relaxation, stress-relief, comfort. Yup, I really thought that smoking helped me cope with the stuff in my life. So I completely get you if you feel that way now as you are reading this.
BUT...and here was the game-changer (for me AND for anyone new who is just reading this):
I opened my mind... I LISTENED. I did not judge (which was hard because, as smokers, we really think that we are smarter and cooler than everyone else). I made an effort to read what was recommended by successful Quitters, even if I thought it sounded stupid and elementary. I got involved with the people on EX. I blogged here on EX and I made connections with other members; the Newbies like me, the halfway-to-success Quitters, the "Woohoo, I feel successful now!" Quitters and the longtime solid Quitters. There was something to learn from every single person I met here on EX. And when I disagreed, it was completely okay to say that. Because one of the most important things that we say here is "Take what you need and leave the rest". There is no perfect, magic, absolute way to quit that works for everyone. Each person's journey to Freedom from nicotine is made up of the various things they find here on EX that work for them.
I accepted the possibility that I COULD quit smoking and eventually be really happy about it and not miss my cigarettes. I connected with people whose blogs resonated with me. And I figured out MY key for success. And I was never alone here.
And here is the most important thing about quitting smoking that I never understood or accepted before...
NICOTINE IS A DRUG ADDICTION. It is a drug that takes over, and physically changes, the neural pathways and dopamine receptors in your brain. It's an addiction as strong as heroin. And that's PROVEN by science. Go to a website called "whyquit.com" and look for a link to an article called "Nicotine Addiction 101". It's on the left side of the homepage and has a little twirling yellow cube next to it. It's not a quick easy read, but if you put the time into reading it, you will be astounded at the way nicotine can take over the way your brain thinks.
It's not a "bad habit". It's an addiction. But you can beat it, like so many of us EXers here on this site did.
In short, here's how I won my battle with nicotine:
I recognized that many of the people here on EX had already achieved the exact thing that I wanted to achieve. My desire was to happily livie a life without nicotine.
So I read what they told me to read. I read Allen Carr's book ("The Easy Way to Stop Smoking"). It's not "easy" to quit...but this short book will teach you how to stop looking at quitting as "losing" something, "giving up" something, "sacrificing" something, "doing without" something. It will help you turn your thinking around so that you see quitting as FREEDOM from smoking.
I did the Tracking and the Delaying exercises. I went to the other sites that were recommended. I was seriously skeptical and unsure about it, but I DID all the things that all these successful EXers told me to do.
And I set a date. A Quit Date. A day that I would do whatever it took to start living my life without being a slave to my nicotine addiction.
I was a STUDENT and I learned how I could stop being a nicotine addict. I spent a LOT of time here on EX and got to know people and accepted the support and friendship they were so happy to give to me.
It was like a lightbulb went on in my head on the day that I GOT it. Poof!
I understood COMMITMENT instead of "trying", "attempting", "hoping".
I understood taking PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY instead of wishing for "luck", and blaming "stress", "weakness" or "being around smokers".
I understood seeing quitting as FREEDOM instead of seeing it as "sacrifice", "giving up", "suffering through" or "losing" something.
I understood that the feeling of so-called "enjoyment" and "need" was no more than my physical addiction calling out to me...and that I didn't have to listen to it!
When I quit, it wasn't "EASY". Sorry, Allen Carr, it wasn't. But I had a whole new way of thinking about it and that made it easiER.
I've been here for a while now. I have almost five years of freedom from nicotine. I still can't belive it's been that long when I see it in writing. But, to all the new people who have just found this site, don't you think, for ONE minute, that I have forgotten what it feels like to be addicted and to find my way out of that addiction with the help of other EXers who helped me to educate myself about addiction and who supported me through ALL ups and downs and doubts and anger and fear about what life would be like without nicotine. No successful Quitter ever forgets. That's why we stay here to help other people who come to EX.
Yes, I have freedom from cigarettes now. But I have more than that. I have the knowledge, the understanding, the thinking, the confidence and the TOOLS to know that I will never ever smoke again.
And I have all that because I LISTENED to the people here and I FOLLOWED their advice.
So, to all the new folks here, know this: Your addiction to nicotine is no stronger nor harder to beat than our addiction was. You CAN quit. If we could do it, so can YOU.
Leave all your assumptions at the door. Be a student here on EX. You won't ever regret it. We promise.
XXXOOO, Sky. (Sorry for any typos; feeling sleep-deprived after flying for three days...)