Started writing this 4/1/12: ( a week ago and if I don’t post it now, I’ll keep putting it off…) This makes me realize how ashamed I am of this habit and how I haven’t been able to kick it to the curb for good in other attempts…
I’ve smoked cigarettes since I was 16 years old. Wow, I just realized – for 45 years now, it’s been the most enduring “relationship” I’ve ever had. I’ve quit several times starting when I was in my 20’s and since then at different times quit for several years at a time, but I always found my way back to the habit during times of stress or depression, or when I just didn’t care about anything else at the moment except having the “comfort” I believed cigarettes gave to me.
How many times have I tried to quit? Well, let’s see… I really don’t know that number (or my mind’s so screwed up right now, I can’t count that high). I quit keeping track a while back because it’s just been too many times and I’m so embarrassed to say I’ve failed every time I’ve tried. How many cigarettes have I stubbed out and swore would be my last? Countless. How many days has it been this time? 20!
My last cigarette was on March 12 at around 2 p.m. According to my QuitNet gadget that computes these things based on how much I smoked and how much they cost, I’ve not smoked 299 cigarettes, saved $90 and 2 days/6 hours of my life.
That sounds puny and impressive at the same time. Certainly a non-smoker can’t relate to how hard it is to go 20 whole days without inhaling toxic smoke into your lungs. I figure I’ve smoked a cigarette every 20 minutes of each waking hour for the vast majority of my life. I know I can’t expect that physical craving and psychological habit will disappear overnight.
Despite the number of times I’ve tried, and all the things I know about how harmful (and ridiculously expensive) cigarettes are – no matter that sometimes I’ve quit for years at a time – I’ve always ended up “romancing the smoke” and gone back to it.
A non smoker would probably say it’s ridiculous to make a statement like “quitting smoking was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Lord knows I’ve had some tragic, unbelievably sad and stressful things happen in my life – how can I say that “simply” quitting smoking was the hardest thing???
I think because it is relentless – it’s not just an event that happens once and you can then start healing and getting over it. Oh no, for me, this merry-go-round of having nicotine fits and fixes has gone on and on with no seeming end in sight.
Last big quit began September 2010. I can’t say I didn’t “cheat” some since then, but the major relapse started a couple of months ago. Strangely enough, I used an assignment in a therapy group for anxiety I started going to this past January to justify picking up the habit again.
The assignment one night was to write a statement about something good that you had accomplished that year. At the top of my list I wrote “I quit smoking and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” I remember being so proud of myself for that accomplishment. I was a non-smoker!
Within a week, I had bought a pack of cigarettes. Why? Because the next session was about what tools we could use to “self-soothe” ourselves when we get anxious or depressed. When it came to my turn to say what I did or could do, I swear my mind just went completely blank and I could not think of one thing – except a cigarette!
I bought a pack immediately after walking out of therapy that night. “Self-soothe??? I’ll show you how I self-soothe!!!” Who exactly was I punishing? Myself? My therapist? Who knows? I just know I associated cigarettes with being soothed and I needed some serious soothing!
I smoked that pack over the weekend and when Monday and therapy came again, I reported what I had done but that I didn’t really want to start smoking again, so I was out again and wasn’t buying another pack. Therapist said, “Good, now how about finding a way to sooth yourself without hurting yourself at the same time?” That made total sense to me, but ever since that 2nd week in January, I haven’t been able to stay totally smoke free.
Now I think back on how I rode the slippery slope slide this time (because let me tell you, this was not my first (or even 10th) quit-smoking rodeo).
So this is the start of my last quit. I tell myself I’ve told myself that before. But this time it’s different. That’s all I can say right now. I’ve basically made quitting smoking my fulltime job. I’m spending countless hours on a quit-smoking support site, QuitNet.com.
Even as I write this, and affirm all this good stuff, and try desperately to find just the right words and resources to help to stay quit – I feel the fear of failure deep in the pit of my stomach.
Can I hate this addiction enough – can I find the strength within myself to keep saying N.O.P.E. (Not One Puff Ever)? I’m judging myself so harshly for everything and that includes writing skills and making any sense right now, but I’m on the path and that just has to be enough for now.
I intend to keep writing here and sharing websites, insights and posts from other people who have successfully quit. Those that have said they never really wanted to quit, but finally had to due to health reasons, those that wanted desperately to quit but “couldn’t” find the strength, and those like me – that say in all seriously, “If I can do it, anyone can!”
Maybe if I start writing and compiling material here in categories that I can go back to when I have a crave, when I start “romancing the smoke” again, when I tell myself I just like to smoke and that’s all there is to it… maybe this will help me keep this quit!