Storm's journey wisdom on how to remain free.
I’m writing this with No Man’s Land travelers in mind, but it’s here for anyone who is currently receiving love letters from Nicodemon. And it’s my way of recording and sharing my experience in the venerable NML. (Believe it or not, I edited it down to make it shorter. Ha!)
Early in my quit, Nicodemon’s demands to smoke came in brutish grunts: “Smoke! Yes!” So, my responses only needed to be as equally blunt: “No! We not do that.”
Then, somewhere between Day 30 and Day 42, Nic started to get…sophisticated.
The first attempt at bargaining was asking for “just one cigarette” to “get over the hump“. The other 19 could be crushed up and tossed. Easy! And it sounded like a really good deal…until I reminded myself that, in nearly 28 years of smoking, “just one” was never enough. It was always 20 at a time. A whole pack. It’s foolish to think it could ever be “just one” now.
Our past smoking habits, I believe, tell us how our relapses will play out.
Then, as Day 60 approached, Nic tapped me on the shoulder and said, “You know, if you just bum a cigarette, you would avoid having a whole pack of temptation in your hand. Bumming a smoke is a surefire way to only have ‘just one‘”. Well, that made sense…until I reminded myself that smoking “just one” today would spark a hot desire to bum one again the next day. And the next. Until I bought a whole pack for myself in order to stop begging for a smoke on the street.
The Law of Addiction says any nicotine will create hunger for more nicotine.
Just before Day 100, Nicodemon tested out another twisted tactic: Smoking to celebrate milestones. “100 days! The Triple Digit Club! Phenomenal! You should march right through the doors, take the seat of honor in the club’s lounge, raise a glass of bubbly champagne, and chain smoke a pack of menthols!” And, yeah, 100 days really is an occasion to celebrate…until that quit clock screams louder than a train whistle as it resets to ZERO, and the golden doors of The TDC open to vomit me back out onto the sidewalk while everyone here who helped me and supported me watches me hit the dirt. No, thank you!
Celebrating quitting by using the drug we are so eager to quit is…illogical. On an emotional level, support groups work - this support group works! - if you participate and open yourself to it.
On Day 130, that incredible day when I stood at the gate at the end of No Man’s Land, Nicodemon was there with yet another convoluted concoction. He said, “You can become an ‘NML smoker’! Here’s how it’ll work: You quit smoking for 130 days, just to show the world how gutsy you are. Then, at the end of the trail through No Man’s Land, you reward yourself with a pack of menthol smokes. Then, as penance, and to atone, reset your quit clock, go without cigarettes for another 130 days, and then smoke again. Come on now…3 packs of cigarettes a year is nothing!” Okay…whoa, whoa, whoa! This has got to stop! There’s no way this sort of madness would be tolerated at EX. I would have to leave, and drop all my new friends. No way! And am I supposed to live a lonely life of cyclical addiction, for the rest of my days?! Am I supposed to relapse, quit, and relapse again, 3 times a year? How is that any way to live?! My entire life would be reduced to yearning for Day 130 and Day 260 and Day 390, with all the other days in between being empty and hollow and tortured.
There is either a free life without this addiction, or there is an unsettled life consumed with bargaining for loopholes and exceptions and special conditions. Or full-on, all-out smoking.
I’m posting this today as a way to tell our newcomers and NML-ers that the time may come when you’ll be faced with a need to reason your way backwards out of a scheme that sounds like the perfect loophole. “N.O.P.E.” is incredibly powerful to be so simple, and it works, especially in the early days. But, there may come a time when you’ll have to get philosophical and say, “I will not take one puff again, ever, and here’s why I believe I will live happily with this choice.”