200 days is just the beginning of it

Blog Post created by stefanotata1994 on Nov 7, 2017

Hello everyone, I'm new here. My name's Stefano, I was born and raised in Italy, I'm turning 23 in a few days and I'm on my 199th day of my quit. I'm going to retrace all of the phases that I've been through so far, attempting to help someone who's beginning the journey right now, just like me in some ways  

A little preamble: Smoking is not to be considered just a bad habit in Italy, it's a condition. 95% of people my age smoke (based on experience; statistics say between 35 and 40%) thinking it's normal. It's not really easy to overcome an addiction being surrounded by ignorance. Smoking a cigarette is easily compared to having a coffee where I live (very popular here), so there's nothing actually wrong with it, right?   People smoke at home, on sidewalks, at the station and even in parks where someone's trying to run or exercise. It's a really massive issue, but let's put that apart.

My story and my thoughts about addiction: I started smoking when I was 17. It was awesome at the time. I would always take the bus to my girlfriend's house, we would stay together and make love. I'll never forget the feelings of those moments: I would get out of her house and run for the bus: most of the times I wasn't running because I was missing it, I was running 'cause I couldn't afford getting on that bus without my smoke, my pleasurable moment of self-congratulation in which everything looked and felt wonderful. I had a spectacular life, I had just finished school, I was working as a lifeguard and I had a girlfriend. What more could I ask?

"Knowledge", I would answer today.

Man, if I only knew the way our brain worked, or what the reward pathway was. I didn't know any of these things, just like the rest of the people my age who got hooked. Lucky it was nicotine, rather than diamorphine. I consider them all the same under some circumstances, yes I do. 

I really liked it, that's why I wanted to make sure that cigarettes would cover every single part of my life, and so it went. I impersonated the perfect ignorant Italian without realizing it: I started smoking at home, on sidewalks, at the station and even in parks, until I realized, of course, that I was making the worst mistake of my life. I'm not going to describe precisely every quit attempt that I made, I would rather focus on the reasons why I relapsed so many times: let's say about fifteen (that's a lot considering my age, isn't it?). So, the first attempts (I'm calling them that for a reason) were upsetting, but very useful: 3 or 4 hours, and when I was feeling really motivated even 3 or 4 days smoke free! I was still trying not to smoke, and I mean "trying", with my only will power. I then made research on what addiction was about and BOOM, that was it, it got me frustrated! I'd heard something about addiction before but I would never imagine it would happen to me (sounds familiar?).

Everyone can make it through the day, the week, the month and even the year if they want: that's what I wanted when I stayed quit for 180 days in 2016, I said "well, that's it, I'm going to take it one day at a time and I will make it! I can beat addiction!" And I could actually beat it, but still, I didn't know that there were way more things rather than physical addiction, such as the psychological part, the occasional stress, the occasional arguments with the people I loved, and, in general, any unexpected event that triggered me in a way that I would never imagine could be possible. I would freak out every time those events occurred. 

One thing that surely played an important role in my relapse was memory. Yeah, our brain is incredibly good at making us think that that feeling was the best thing on earth. I had never come so far, nor had I ever experienced the feeling of lighting up after a long time. Or had I? Wasn't the crave of tasting those emotions again just as intense as the feeling that I first encountered when I lit my very first cigarette? Wasn't it stronger than it had ever been? I had the feeling that those emotions were irreplaceable, may it be with a glass of wine rather than anything that could alter my mind. It's as crazy as it sounds. It's addiction.

Guess what: I was damn wrong. It was 3 in the morning and I had just argued with my girlfriend (typical): even you know that the argument was, indeed, just a pretext to start smoking again. I WANTED it! Previously I had bought three or four packs of cigarettes and tossed them in the trash right afterwards. It tasted like paper anyways, and it didn't give me the slightest feeling of pleasure. It gave me my loved addiction back though!

Let me tell you something: I bless all the times that I've relapsed, that precise one in particular. I wouldn't be this happy now, I wouldn't be this free. I wouldn't have the same attitude towards addiction: I'm not only talking about nicotine, I'm referring to any kind of addiction that life puts us in front of. Relapse is not failure, but a gain of wisdom. Grow some exploitable knowledge out of it, not resentment towards yourself. Then quit and learn to live together with an illness whose days are numbered. 

It's not about how many days one has been quit. It's how boldly he has fought towards freedom. 

To me, 200 days represent the first step in a long journey.