It has been a long time since I posted here. I hope all are doing well, newcomers and old-timers.
Some how, some way, I have been smoke-free for 1 year!
I quit on 3/5/19, but because of leap year have an extra day in there. It's been quite a journey. Those of you who have been here for a while may remember I quit right after a divorce and huge life changes, financial losses, etc. It's been a time of total change for me. It's been so challenging, so much grief and loss. Everything is different. During this time, the draw to smoke has stayed consistently present. There's a way I used to feel when I used tobacco like that - grounded, clear, centered, connected somehow. But I knew it was killing me, too. And despite it all, I've come this far...
Last night I felt a little short of breath and remembered the days of lying down to sleep and hearing my lungs whistle as I tried to cough enough clearing into the pipes so I could catch my breath and rest. That was so often followed by a commitment to not smoke the next day only to find me rolling one up with my morning coffee and starting the cycle of madness all over again.
I can't remember what exactly it was that got me to stop that day a year ago. My experience with trying to quit has be an unpredictable combination of desire and grace. I would want to, I knew I should, and in my thoughts and even prayers I would try to create the willingness to go for it, to become courageous enough to do what it takes to not put one in my mouth for 5 mins, an hour, a day, a week...
And every once in a while, a window of grace would open up - I would sense that today could be a day when I might be able to do it. It was like I had a little head start or got somewhere a little early, I could feel it. And most times when that happened I would make it to 10AM or noon, or sometimes 5PM, or sometimes even a day or two or three, but then the resolve would fail and I would rationalized that "just one" and that would be that - I was smoking again.
But on this day a year ago, that grace came, and I guess the courage too, and I made it through an hour, then a day, and then more, and now a year. Like my wise friend Ellen taught me, you make it through one feeling at a time. While it's great to celebrate calendar achievements, it's really more one feeling at a time, one memory, experience, sadness, anger, hunger, fear, loneliness at a time. Learning to have and hold these feelings without the support of tobacco and smoking is a kind of late-stage growing up that is both beautiful and sucks at the same time. You can be proud of yourself for learning to handle things better and not using to cope, but it's hard work and takes commitment and compassion for self.
For my quit (and this is important to say for me so as to give permission to others as needed), I used NRT in the form of nicotine lozenges for a few months. That gave me the chance to start getting used to changing habits and learning how to do familiar things without smoking while also being a reduction in nicotine. I titrated down over that time period. and then one day, just like the quit day, there was grace - this sense that today could be the day where I stop using the lozenges. It was. And the next few weeks were another kind of withdrawal that was less intense than the first one because I had done some of the psychological work already by getting used to not smoking.
The desire is still there, but it's wistful. It's a longing to have those magic moments back - cup o' coffee and a perfect smoke watching the sun rise, or after a great meal or around the campfire, and so forth. But I have learned and earned something over this past year - the ability to see and recognize those desires and then not act on them. I just breathe in and out, allow the desire to present itself and acknowledge it, and then remember that smoking now won't bring me back to those magical times, and it won't fix any of my problems or improve any of my blessings.
I have become something and someone else; unbraiding my psyche and neurology, behavior and action from the dark slavery of tobacco addiction has been a transformation way beyond just putting a bad habit down. It's still new, and I continue to learn how to feel feelings and have experiences without smoking. That may continue for a while.
I'm so grateful to have made it this far, to be free enough of the obsession to not have to act on it, to be doing quite literally the best possible thing I can for my overall health, and to reclaim the promise of a longer and healthy life.
You and this site have been incredibly supportive in my journey. It's a lonely path to quit. People cheer you on when you mention it but it's really a solo journey. Having this forum, the wisdom, encouragement and kindness of others who truly understand the process is priceless and powerful. Thank you for being here and helping me. I hope you are all doing amazing today!