I have tried quiting cigarettes countless times and always picked up again. I was quick with the justifications- afterall I wasn’t drinking alcohol or doing illegal drugs, shouldn’t I be allowed the comfort of a cigarette?
The most time I have ever had, before this run, was 60 days last year and that was with the help of ecigarettes. Tapering nicotine levels and vaping worked great until a lithium ion battery exploded in my pocket and left me with 3rd degree burns and a disfiguring scar on my leg. I haven’t vaped since and bought a pack of cigarettes the day it happened. Since then it was a pack a day (although I was actually smoking a pack and a half, I just didn’t cop to it).
I have made it through what I have been told was the toughest part of stopping, only to find a trivial excuse to light up again and again. Physically there may be a toughest time, but mentally the obsession can sneak up quick, strong and without warning. The vicious cycle was always the same- once I started, I couldn’t stop and I craved cigarettes even when I wasn’t smoking them. Eventually, could no longer tell any of my friends, family or fellow smokers of my plans to quit out of embarrassment of my continued failures. I felt self conscious and weak. I stopped fighting and just accepted that I would die a smoker. I wore the badge with false pride and spoke of cigarettes as symbol of independence, individuality and freedom. I buried my desire to quit and professed a lie I knew wasn’t true. The truth was I was beaten by nicotine and smoking was my crutch, my dirty little secret, my release, and my last guilty pleasure. I was terrified to stop. The fear of quitting kept me from even trying.
I began to think- how does one get to a place where they “hit bottom” with cigarettes? Nothing short of lung cancer seems sufficient to really get a smoker’s attention; and for many smokers even cancer is not a viable deterrent. Plus, once one has lung cancer its already too late. I remember, more than once, my father forgetting to turn off his oxygen machine and lighting his face on fire while he smoked through the last days of emphysema. He taught me that us smokers often smoke until the bitter end.
It stood to reason the answer for stopping might lay in raising one’s “smoking bottom,” if hitting bottom is what it takes to stop. I started to look at what was acceptable and unacceptable behavior for me. I asked myself if could I live up to those ideals while smoking. Could I be the human I wanted to be and smoke?
I didn’t need to make a pros and cons list to know that smoking was rapidly losing its appeal. It had become a chore. It was mindless and routine. It put me places where I didn’t want to be. It separated me from my family and others. It was expensive. It was dirty. It was harder and harder to breathe. My teeth and gums were suffering. I could honestly come up with at least a hundred valid reasons why I had to stop. The pros side of the list was short and when I honestly dissected the excuses to smoke, they were just lies I had repeated so many times I took them for granted to be true. I believed smoking was giving me something I didn’t have; and that smoking made, whatever it is I lack, less significant and glaring.
Honesty and continued attempts at quitting would become the basis for my desire to finally stop. Realistically, this desire has taken years to grow to a point where I was willing to actually do something about my nicotine dependence and addiction. Desire begat willingness that give rise to action.
What has worked for me, so far, has been a hodgepodge of 12 step recovery tools, rational self-help resources, books, videos, podcasts, new age practices, folk medicine, meditation, spirituality, self awareness, affirmations, dietary changes, nicotine replacement and support from my friends (even ones who currently smoke). One approach was never sufficient dor me to stop so I have been using practically anything that anyone suggests within reason. The shift has left me willing to use whatever tools I have at my disposal to overcome nicotine addiction.
I truly believe I have smoked my last cigarette. Help me stay on this new path. 123 days and counting.