I recently watched a movie about a family struggling with a grown son who is hooked on hard drugs. The son goes missing, and the frantic mother confronts one of her son's addicted friends. The young man is obviously in the grips of a painful withdrawal episode, and begs the woman for help. She scoffs, and says, "You just want to get high." The young man cries out, "There...is...no...more...high! I just don't wanna be sick."
That really struck me.
Think of all the reasons why we started smoking: our parent(s) smoked; our friends dared us to try it; we wanted to grow up faster; we wanted to "get away with a secret"; we wanted to rebel; we wanted to hang with the cool kids; we wanted to be hip; we wanted to look rugged, or sexy; we wanted to relax and de-stress; we wanted a pick-me-up and a boost.
Okay, fine. Maybe all that was true, and maybe cigarettes accomplished everything we wanted. But, that was in our teens and 20s, right? Well, we're not 16 now. We're not 20, either. Or 26. Or even 32. Those days of experimenting and exploring and "testing the fences" are lllllllong gone for most of us here.
There are no more scapegoats to blame now; it's all on us. There's no longer such a thing as growing up faster, just growing old quicker. There's no more getting away with secrets when the ashes and the butts and the stink all point to our dirty truth. There's nothing left to rebel against except common sense and public courtesy. There's nothing cool or hip about playing Russian Roulette with the inevitable gang of diseases we're inviting into our bodies. There's a difference between looking rugged and looking haggard. Seductive? Cigarettes may have given us a raspy voice, but that hacking cough ain't sexy.
Smoking isn't cute anymore. We can't keep clinging to those youthful indiscretions after we're too old and too hooked and too tired to pull them off.
So, why did we still smoke after all the original reasons and fun influences were used up and worn-out...and no longer valid? Well, we still did it because we were hooked on nicotine, of course, and the repetitive ritual of smoking. I believe, though, that after years and years and years, we're not even hooked on the nicotine high anymore. There...is...no...more...high! No, we continue to smoke simply because we just don't wanna be sick from withdrawals. And I think we fear our quits and surrender to urges to smoke because we just don't wanna be sick.
We're scared of withdrawals, so we smoke our brains out chasing relief from that discomfort. The nervousness. The jitters. The sweats. The hunger pangs. Headaches. Sadness. Loss. Irritability. Insomnia. Weight gain. Gut troubles. We smoke out of fear and panic when we realize we're going to have to cope with real life without smoking cigarettes, and we relapse back into smoking out of the doubt and anxiety that we'll never be able to live a happy life without lighting up every day.
All of these become our new justifications to keep on smoking. One list of reasons get swapped out for another list.
At some critical tipping point in our lives, though, there is no more list. I believe that smoking becomes nothing more than not wanting to feel sick. Smoking is nothing more than running away from withdrawals. Cigarettes become the pills that medicate this self-inflicted predicament, and the crutches that prop up the fallout from our misguided efforts to be "cool" or comfortable.
Look, we Elders get it: You just don't wanna be sick throughout your quit, and you don't want to suffer for months and months and months. But, I'm going to tell you something, and you need to wrap your fist around it and clutch it to your heart: If staying quit was nothing but an agonizing struggle to just make it through day after day after day of nerve-burning craves and anxious despair, then how is it possible I'm writing to you today about my liberated life after 5 years without cigarettes? Do you think all of us Elders still suffer?! After 1 year? After 3? After 5? 8? 10? No, we do not struggle...and that is your proof that it's possible to quit; it's possible to work through all the adjustments from smoking into not smoking; and that it's possible to thrive.
You can do this!
You can make it through anything!
It gets better!