It’s been 3 years now since I chose the right path, and stopped getting lost. 3 years! Oh, what a life-affirming journey this has been! The trail that lead to this moment today was flat and easy, yet steep and hard. It was both, and it was doable. All of it. And, it was especially doable because I didn‘t do it by myself. I had pathfinders beside me, and trailblazers ahead of me. With a team like that on my side, it was a joy to walk away from smoking, and to stay true to the right direction.
I’m so grateful to have had this adventure. Truly. Today, though, the time has come to pass along my compass to some other explorer; hopefully, one who will also strive to be the eloquent “warrior poet” I wanted to be for any traveler here who needed one.
Now, this is a day of celebration, my friends! And, I have some bright news to share: I’m going to be a Quit Coach! Working through two local agencies, I’ll soon be teaching quit-smoking classes in the community, and providing outreach at health fairs and civic functions. I’ve made it clear that I want to focus on our rural areas and under-served neighborhoods, because these folks don’t have the kinds of access to resources that many take for granted. They need someone to come to where they are, and to sit down with them. Someone to talk with them about the truths (and myths) of cigarettes and nicotine. Someone to assure them that quitting is possible.
I’ve decided that that someone can be me.
This is the start of a next-phase journey that I never guessed was waiting for me. So, while I may be leaving EX, I am not leaving the mission that began here.
Now, before I go, it’s customary for a departing Elder to share a Final Thought. Here’s mine: “There’s nothing behind you that you don’t already know.” When you showed up here at EX, you brought with you the stinking baggage of your smoky past: shame, embarrassment, regret, “slips”, relapses, excuses, doubt, anxiety, fear, guilt. Now that you’ve quit disrespecting yourself, and have stepped through the gate, don’t ever look backwards over your shoulder - as if there’s a magic answer you somehow overlooked in the ashtray, or an easier way out at the bottom of “just one more” pack of smokes. There’s nothing new back there in the luggage you leave behind. No, this new life that you want - more than anything else - is not to be found behind you, and that’s a promise you already know. Everything new that will save your life now is ahead of you, and that’s a promise you need to believe. Swear to yourself that you won’t repeat the same old mistakes yet again, and then honor that promise. No…matter…what.
Finally, now, to my Mentors, my Elders, my 2014 Classmates, my friends: Please know, in your heart, that I’ll carry you with me, always. No one can come this far, learn this much, bond this strongly, transform this profoundly without being deeply and humbly blessed at having shared the honor with others who truly understand. Thank you, so very much, for helping me save my life.
Goodbye, and go live forward, my friends! Live forward!
With sincerest gratitude…
STORM: 3 Years of freedom...and a lifetime yet to go!