Seven years ago, or so, I formed a group called Relapse Traps (now it's part of a larger group called Relapse Prevention). I desperately wanted to understand WHY people went back to smoking after long periods of abstinence. Because with a year quit under my belt I didn’t want to be one of those people. And I thought if I could understand what causes relapse, I could prevent it for myself. So I encouraged members to share their relapse stories in the hopes that it would prevent others from going down that same path.
I’ve never been satisfied with the outcome. There doesn’t seem to be one definitive answer as to why people relapse. There are all sorts of reasons why people give it up.
But Dale’s blog (https://excommunity.becomeanex.org/blogs/jonescarp.aka.dale.Jan_2007-blog/2014/06/01/i-ask-myself-this-question-fairly-frequently) the other day turned my mind in another direction. Perhaps the question one needs to ask is not why people relapse, rather it’s HOW people keep their quits. In a way it’s the opposite side of the same coin.
As a quitter I must begin with the self examination of my own experience. Why have I kept my quit for over 8 years now? How have I managed it? What makes me and other 6 percenters different from the 94 percenters? Are we stronger? More stubborn? Able to withstand more discomfort than our companions on the journey who fall off the path? Did we desire our freedom more? Were we more disciplined? Have we a more positive mindset? What are the necessary ingredients to longevity?
I don’t think I’m psychologically stronger than anyone else. I knew I should, but certainly had no great desire to quit. I’m not a terribly disciplined person. I AM able to withstand a lot of discomfort. I don’t have a particularly positive mindset. But when I make a commitment to something, I stick with it. If I make a promise I will generally never forego it.
Looking around at the other 6 percenters here, I would say the number one ingredient of success is in making that total commitment. Even those who fail in their early attempts, if they’re committed to the goal of freedom, they come back until they achieve it.
Commitment often includes sacrifice. Those who are willing to commit aren’t afraid of sacrifice. I did what I needed to do in order to achieve my smoke free goal. And I put aside or gave up those things which hampered that success. I’m not alone in that.
Commitment is about sticking with it. No matter what. I think of long-term quitters as champions. Like all champions, whether in sports, the arts, science... it takes hard work and dedication to get to the top of your field. Sometimes champions are those who simply hung in long enough to get INTO the field and remain there.
I can in some ways liken my quitting experience to my career as an actress. It took me 10 years before I was able to make a living at it. I went through dark periods where I said, “the Hell with it, this hurts too much, this ‘wanting.’” And I gave up for a while. But that desire, that need to act would not let go of me. And finally I realized I had no choice. I had to act, I had to keep pursuing it - no matter what. And so I did. And I accepted the journey. I learned to release the “after audition hope” of the phone ringing with a job offer. I turned my focus elsewhere. I learned to accept the actor's Murphy’s Law, that often the most fabulous audition will come in when you’re unable to make it. I learned that sacrifice was part of the commitment - being away from home for months at a time doing a show, having to cancel things I wanted to do because of auditions......
It’s the same with quitting. It’s about commitment. And it’s about acceptance.
What’s your opinion? What do YOU think makes a successful long-term quitter?
(4/19/20 PS: I've come to the conclusion that I must add "continuing education" into the prescription along with commitment and acceptance. And by that I mean continued attention, staying connected to our quits. And we do that by reading. Reading of others' journeys, whether it be here on EX or reading of new scientific breakthroughs in the realm of cigarette/vaping addiction. Reading helps us stay connected. It is when we disconnect from our quits, when we put our quits at the bottom of our priorities that we are in most danger of relapse.)