Good morning to us Nopers, Quitters and teetolers everywhere ...I’ve posted this on QuitNet and NOPE, but since December 1st was a full 19 months of hard-won, authentic smobriety I felt inspired enough to offer this to my QuitMates.
580 days is the longest I’ve ever walked this often steep and difficult tobacco-less trail. Yet, compared to the number of days I spent smoking (i can’t bear to do the math) 500 days is a miserly sum. Despite the fact that I spent 40 years warring with this STUPID behavior, I’m not a stupid person (just not too bright), I believe in science and revel in the parts of my life, and life in general that "add up" and make sense, but smoking didn’t add up and it sure as hell didn’t make sense.
I knew a lot about what could happen if I kept on smoking - I spent 50 damn years of my life in medicine, 25 of them working night shift, and saw (and treated) the effects of what looked to some like "willful" self-destruction - yet for all my belief in evidence based reality, tobacco (and alcohol) literally beat me senseless.
Tobacco, also like alcohol, turned me into a science denier and "forced" me to disavow the black and diseased lungs I helped remove when I was a surgical tech almost 50 years ago, and later as a Respiratory Therapist. Denial, I bet, is the single greatest cause of blindness the world has ever seen!
Addiction became my nexus of connection with things that were not necessarily explained by science. Don’t get me wrong, I love science, and a "clean" pile of data is a beautiful sight, but through the pain, loneliness and abject misery of leading an addict’s life for 20 years, I connected with something that mattered even more than science or technology, Heart.
I started this journey when I got sober 27 years ago. After a few months of sobriety I thought I was done. I remember thinking, "that’s it, I quit drinking and now I can get on like it never happened". How naive! Trouble was, drinking and drugging were "normal" for me, just like waking up on the floor with a roaring hangover was normal; so I had to hunker down early on in recovery to really appreciate "normal”.
19 months ago smoking was normal and part 2 (or 3 or 4?) of this journey began. I still crave tobacco, but craving means something different today than it did when I was a newbie and the craving was an insistent; "Must Smoke NOW". You know how it is; "through you, over you, around you". I discovered that mindlessly answering each craving with a cigarette is like answering each hunger pang with a twinkie. I don’t know about you, but I could easily eat a pack of twinkies a day!
Whenever I think a cigarette would be the "cat's meow" I wonder what I really want. If I start craving a lot, I sit down somewhere quiet, place the palm of my right hand over my heart and gently ask my craver, "what do you want from me" ? and then I listen.
So even after 500+ days of good quality smobriety, I don’t expect my craving to ever entirely vanish, and I have to ask if I would really want it to? Alcoholics are sometimes asked if there was a "cure" that would allow them to drink "normally", would they take it? While I won’t speak for anyone else, as much as I might have wanted to deny it, chemical addiction has always defined me. At 68 I don’t know who I would be if not for addiction.
Sometimes I think that’s sad and sometimes I am filled with regret over stupid choices made so innocently. In this I am not that different than anyone here. Probably there are better ways to know oneself, but without the challenges that addiction created, and processes like the 12-step work etc, where self-study is an absolute prerequisite to long term sobriety and survival, I can’t imagine how I could still be alive. much less have learned anything.