The last 18 days were excruciating. I’ve been locked and loaded, standing on the edge of a cliff. I had no idea the days leading up to my 1st year anniversary would be so challenging. I was barely able to handle it. I knew that I’d reach for a lifeline before I’d do anything I’d regret.
My mom spent the night for the first time since I quit. She doesn’t know it. I never smoked around or in front of my parents. I always had a cigarette prior to their arrival and I prayed I would remain civil until they left so I could light up. My smoking wasn’t a secret. I had frank discussions with my Dad about drinking and smoking. When mom came by, the absence of my smoking wasn’t new. It was the absence of the dance. Absent was the ritual of preparation and watching the clock. It was the absence of the ritual that triggered me. It took a couple of days for it to kick in. More accurately, it took a couple days after my mom left for me to recognize I was triggered. Boy oh boy was I triggered. It went beyond a mental fixation. I started experiencing an oral desire. I returned to using straws.
I frightened myself one day at work. Work is a place I freely and openly smoked. I took a walk down memory lane. I looked in the flower pot to see if there were any butts. I had a vivid flashback that was disorienting. I was grateful the pot was empty because I honestly don’t know what I would’ve done. In that moment, I understood how quits are lost. I also recognized just how deeply I was affected by my mom’s visit. I was closer to the edge. I was hanging ten.
As the days went by, things didn’t improve. I started bugging about my upcoming birthday. I’m about to start a new decade. The apparent reality of my life overwhelmed me. I entered a dark mental place. I fixated on all of the things I believe my life lacks. Dark emotions soon followed. I wallowed in self-pity. I tried throwing myself a lifeline. Whenever I fixate on what I believe is missing, I force myself to list what I have. A friend asked me to list 5 things I like about where I am in my life right now. I couldn’t think of anything. It took a while for me to even think about not smoking. I saw how entrenched I’ve been in looking at the glass as half empty. I gave birth to that pattern of observation early in my childhood. One of the first things I recognized was what I didn’t have: I didn’t have a sister. I began to feel isolated and I realized how much I miss interacting with others. It’s coming up on 8 years since I worked in a corporate office. For the first time, in a long time, I see the downside of the free and single life. I have a small network of friends, family and no children. I could see the affects of a childhood trauma and how the resulting fear had been in my driver’s seat. I hadn’t been in control. I was being controlled. I felt like I was spiraling out of control. I’ve been fighting with the fear. Fear is like water, it looks for the gaps in our armor and it influences what we believe to be true about ourselves and the world. Fear shapes us and can make us who we are. I’ve been determined to loosen the grip fear has had on me. I no longer want to be controlled by my past. I want to be free to express my authentic self.
I know my inner struggle isn’t because I’m no longer smoking. It seems to be a phase I’m going through. Through it all, I've maintained my quit. Yes, there have been times I’ve said I want a cigarette but I haven’t had one. No puffs. I have inhaled deeply a couple of times as I've passed other smokers. I’ve probably sucked on as many straws in these last weeks as I did when I first stopped. I’m glad and proud that I haven’t gone back to smoking believing that somehow it would make me feel better. I knew if I picked up a cigarette, I would only feel worse. I would have jumped all over myself and I’m battling with myself enough. I haven’t completely gotten out of the storm. It’s not as bad. The dark thoughts aren’t coming as often. I’m not crying as often. Right now, I keep trying to focus on the prize. I look forward to being able to say, “I made it 1 year as an ex-smoker.”