I am susceptible to "seasonal triggers", specifically those that come along with the early signs of autumn: slightly cooler mornings, the first blushes of earth tones in the treetops, a few crunchy leaves on the jogging path, cozy mugs of herbal tea, holiday coffees, and pumpkin spiced - everything!
I have always known that Autumn has a way of "romancing" the ghosts of my addiction to smoking.
And, Nicodemon knows this, too.
That dastardly devil knows when Autumn is on the horizon, so he comes prowling around again to rake his stinky claws on my combination lock. Twisting this combination (peppermint coffee + new sweater + cold morning) and turning that combination (raking leaves + smell of wood smoke + Canadian geese honking). That pathetic junkie likes trying to line up the perfect series of echoes that might crack open a trigger and tease me to smoke.
Well, last Tuesday, Ol' Nico paid me his first visit of the season.
I was getting breakfast at New Moon Cafe when I noticed they had an enticing new coffee drink: cinnamon & curry latte. Right up my alley! I took a thirsty gulp of the spicy goodness as I pushed open the door of the cafe. A cool breeze brushed my face. I stopped to inhale this first tease of Autumn...but I also sniffed a big cloud of cigarette smoke! Someone was smoking a cigarette - a menthol cigarette, dang it! - a bit too close to the cafe's door, and the breeze wafted it right into my face! Without even turning my head in that direction, I heard that exhale. That breathy sigh of satisfaction from having taken a deeeeep and hearty drag off a cigarette. That sensual "aaaah" sound from satiating that hungry urge for nicotine.
Presto! As if a magical spell has been chanted, there was Ol' Nicodemon, scratching at my back, twisting the combination lock.
[ Coffee + cinnamon + curry + cool morning breeze + menthol smoke + "aaaah" ]
What a hateful rascal!
So, there I was, standing on a sidewalk, with Nicodemon twisting my dial.
Time to react!
First, I crossed the street, and put an entire city block between me and the smoker. (No, I did not confront the smoker. I did not engage. At that moment, my priority was...me!)
Second, I refused to take another sip of the cinnamon & curry latte. (Why would I gulp a mouthful of trigger?!)
Third, I sat down on a bench, and I..."surfed". I sat down, I sat still, and I allowed myself to just go ahead and feel whatever it was I needed to feel. Anger? Frustration? Nostalgia? Loss? Romantic pining? Disgust? A cold splash of hard truth? Several chants of "Nope!"? An internal recitation of my lessons? All of it!
Within about 4 minutes, all that uninvited static was - poof! - gone. I got up off the bench, got in my truck, drove away, and got...on...with...my...life!
(Can I share something that you Newbies and NMLers will find astonishingly bright and hopeful? By the time I pulled my truck up to my office, I had absolutely and completely forgotten about the whole incident! I'm not kidding! It was gone! Forgotten!)
When we Elders tell you that "it will pass", we also mean that it is possible for the echoes of craves to be pushed through your mind so quickly and skillfully that it won't even leave a trace! It's true! And, you'll get to that point in your recovery, too, we promise!
Listen to me carefully: It's okay to have a flashback of your addiction (after all, it's one of the most insidiously persistent addictions known to man!) It's okay to remember cigarettes and smoking (it's going to happen, anyway, no matter what you do!) It's okay to admit that you have specific triggers that might need to be acknowledged and dealt with.
It is, however, not okay to fixate on a flashback. It's not okay to obsess over a flashback. Blindsides will happen when you least expect it. It's not okay to linger too long on a blindside. Fixations can deceive you. Cause you to doubt yourself. Fixations can feel so nostalgic, so romantic, that you can get seduced and enticed.
When we Elders say you must learn to manage your Quit, this is exactly what we mean! (Of course it is! Without recurring triggers, there'd be nothing to manage! We'd all just stop using cigarettes...and be totally unbothered for the next 20 years. Hahaha!)
I wasn't in danger, I was simply managing an unexpected puzzle.
Learn to think of unexpected combinations of triggers as the pop quiz you've been studying for this entire time. Trust in your truth. Apply your knowledge. Use your skills.
4-and-a-half-years of managing...and winning!