The Quit Journey

got_choiceI have quit smoking again. This is day 2 1/2…I quit at 11:00 Monday morning – February 17.  I’d like to remember that day as the day I finally quit once and for all, so I am making sure to take note of it.

Two and a half (now two and three quarters, but who’s counting?) may not be a big deal to you but lately, I havent been able to go two bours without a cigarette. It’s basically all I think about for the past three years – since my mother’s diagnosis with lung cancer.  Terror is immobilizing.

In my dreams last night, I found myself with cigarettes in my hands all the time.  I kept walking entering each new situation and inadvertently finding myself smoking when I didn’t want to be.  It was incredibly frustrating and I kept throwing them out, only to find a new one growing back between my reluctant fingers.  When I would tell others in my dream

“But I’m trying to quit!”

They would just shrug and say,

“Yeah right…”-  an obvious reflection of the doubt I have in myself.

So – fake it till ya make it…

I for one am not very good self focused care – but recent events are teaching me that I can’t give away what I don’t have and so, I am on a mission to fill my own cup…a strange newish behaviour that has serious benefits.  Mostly,   it just feels good to do something healthy for myself and it is having an immediate positive effect on the world around me. I wasn’t ready to admit how much influence I have on the people I love most in the world.   The house is basically smoke free right now. Although I didn’t ask anyone not to smoke because I knew if I waited for all of the conditions of th world and the people around me to meet my fickle requirements for quitting, I would smoke the rest of my incredibly shortened life. I had to just go ahead and do it.  And here we are…unbelievable.

I guess if you’re lucky like me you hit a bottom before something tragic happens. For me it was the day I was going to the doctor for a check up for yet another winter lung infection, and I forgot my cigarettes at home  which actually caused me to feel relieved.  I decided that moment seemed like a good enough time then to stop and I would talk to the doctor.   I had been considering setting a quit date now for three years…but kept putting the actual “event” of quitting off for very possible reason under the stars.  The irony is that my greatest “stress” which was causing me to smoke, was my mother dying of lung cancer in front of my eyes.  Yet, even until I came to a point of wanting to truly be more kind and loving towards myself, even the worst of all scenarios would not move me away from this stark addiction.

I’d like to tell you it feels “hard” or “easy” – but it’s neither of these on this my third day. It just feels like a process…up and down…intense and reflective even. Once and a while I have a horrendous craving that makes me want to smoke gross dead looking things out our of ashtrays (which I have emptied because I dont trust myself).

I became tired of something other than me (a tiny chemical filled highly toxic stick on fire…really?) governing my body and telling my mind what I wanted.  I have spent my whole life trying to be independent of the direction and opinion of others, and yet here I was allowing a substancenot even a human ! – to direct my choices.  And the choice wasn’t even a choice at the end anymore – it was more like a zombie-like mindless self-imploding action.

1- Extend arm

2- Retrieve cigarette

3- Apply fire

3- Ingest poison…

4- Inhale deeply

Hunh?

I was singing at a bar a couple of weeks ago, and someone that I don’t know very well but who knew my variety of activities made some annoying passing remark as I was going out for a cigarette in -40 degree weather with death defying winds in a cold deserted parking lot.

He said

“Well that doesn’t seem like it suits you very well. It’s bad for your voice and not very zen eh?” He smirked like he knew something I didn’t.

My first thought was

“Who the hell does he think he is?” the voice of my habitual hippie that rejects authority in a regularly knee jerk fashion.

A minute later I was standing outside in the “smoker’s area”  feeling an ice cream headache explode over my entire face. As the wind came barelling at me at 90km an hour, I felt pain tear into my uncovered ears and in an final indignity, my nostrils stuck together in a  very unsexy way when I was throw into a spasm of coughing from lungs shocked and turgid with inhumane cold.  At that very moment, I peered into the big windows of the bar, my sad little orphan nostril stuck face peeting sadly into the warm bar where that same nosey man was sitting quite happily, warm, contented and snug as a bug in a rug as he listened to music and drank his beer. I thought to myself;

“I am an idiot”.

O.K. –  Maybe this is not the most gentle or spiritual thought to begin a journey with, trying to be on a more loving and compassionate journey with myself, but it is what it is. It was a real moment of clarity for me…

In retrospect I think maybe my bad habit have been destroyed by becoming more involved with meditation and yoga I my life.  Over the past few months and since my mother’s death I have become especially interested in Tibettan Buddhism.  Such a gentle culture, entirely focused on increasing the level of compassion on the planet. After reading the Dalai Lama’s Book “My Spiritual Journey”, I became convinced that the only way to being happy as an individual in this life was the adopt some form of practice which required self-discipline – but smoking was an obvious sign that I was lacking both mindfulness and self discipline. And this is where I got stuck – utterly convinced that I would never be able to really meditate or really focus on these principles because they all focus on BREATH…and I smoked.  I also felt like there could never be a day when I wouldn’t smoke – even subconsciously, I couldn’t envision a “me” not smoking.  I admitted defeat. I believe they call this a moment of surrender, but I only can see this clearly in retrospect.

Over time, this defeat didn’t sit well with me.  I began loosing my voice when I sang.  A combination of smoking, and heating in a very cold winter with electric and fire, as well as alot of indoor time because of the incredibly cold weather, my voice was shot and I had very little chance of being able to sing powerfully two nights in a row.  This felt like death approaching for me.

Not to mention that I saw my mother die of cancer in a really terrible and painful way quite recently.  This was a terrifying episode fraught with grief and loss which each cigarette only made worse, chiselling away at my guilt. Although intellectually I KNEW that cancer in her lungs was the ultimate cause of her death (second only to the chemotherapy that was the actual cause), and I also knew that this same cancer had caused me to have this exact experience with my biological grandmother when she died when I was 15 – and yet I was smoking. Each cigarette gave me a vivid flashback to times best forgotten – it was like torture.

I think it’s important for me to write my story – it makes me more solid in my determination. I think if I was still smoking, I would not read an article like this one though- it would make me feel too guilty and really highlight my feelings of powerlessness.  I hope if you smoke you got this far.  It’s worth it just to fill your mind with all the possibilities…and then one day you’ll be ready.

Here’s what I have realized…

    1. Today is “one day”      – You’re ready.
    2. Don’t wait for the      circumstances in your life to change like other smokers to quit or even      life in general to get easier.       That’s just not reasonable and it’s not going to happen. If you      wait for this you will smoke you’re entire life…which will be shorter      because you are smoking.
    3. Focus on loving      yourself.  People who smoke have an      obvious absence of love for themselves. You may want to argue with this,      but you really can’t do that AND be honest at the same time.  Maybe it works backwards.  I began by trying to eat better, and      this seemed to snowball into doing many things more gently and healthfully      for myself.  I don’t know how it      will work for you – only you know that.
    4. Quitting smoking is not hard.      Everyone tells us it’s hard – the media, the tobacco companies (yeah no      kidding), psychologists, teachers, friends, family – Jeez!  If you say something is DIFFICULT enough      well then yes,..it will be DIFFICULT. This is what we call self-fulfilling      prophecy. Quitting smoking has moments of discomfort – of needing to be      present and aware.  Quitting smoking      requires being really gentle with yourself       taking everything literally one breath at a time.  Hard is dying of lung cancer.  That’s hard.
    5. When you have a craving –    tell it to fuck off. I know…not very zen of me again, but it seems to be      working.  I know that discipline is      very important now – maybe that took all of my 47 years, but the kind of      discipline I am talking about is not what they taught in school which      should actually have been called “conformity” more      appropriately.  Discipline is a      practice that brings about self love.       Quitting smoking is a great act of self love.  |sometimes the ACTION has to come      before the change of opinion, but who cares?  As long as the result is more happiness      and peacefulness in life,. Keep your eyes on the prize, and remind      yourself WHO is in charge?  Is your      body in charge of your mind?  Do you      enjoy being told what to do?  Do you      like taking direction – especially when it involves you inhaling 200      deadly chemicals 30 times a day? Hell no.       Who does?   Yes you’re      addicted – but that’s not the end of the world – and IT’S NOT BIGGER THAN      YOU.

Who’s in charge here – me or my body?

    1. Pray. I’m not concerned with      the religious aspects of the way you pray, but be grateful.  Prayer is a conscious moment of the      expression of gratitude.  Let’s face      it,  quitting an addiction like      cigarettes will have many effects on your life.  Staying willing to not smoke is the      challenge.  I get cocky – way too      fast. It’s how I have failed in the past.       I start feeling better and decide to have “just one”,      maybe a puff or sneak a whole cigarette. There is a kind of victorious      feeling in this because for the first little while I feel like I am      smoking without addiction – like I have somehow regained control of this      derailed train. I can “just choose” to have one, or not – like      three times.  Quickly this unravels      and I soon find that I am smoking more than before I quit.  Then I feel terrible about myself, and I      resign myself to a lifetime of smoking and eventual gasping horrific death      by lung cancer.  No wonder I woke up      every day in a bad mood. This is a terrible attitude! 🙂 and snapping me      out of it I believe happened only by an act of grace – in other words,      something bigger than me thinks that me staying alive longer is a good      idea, and the minute I became willing enough to work with this      “something bigger”, things became clearer.   The ticket is in keeping up this      willingness.

7- DO NOT QUIT SMOKING!!

I don’t think quitting ANYTHING works because the minute you quit – you are focusing on the negative aspect. So, instead just have an positive intention to treat yourself with more love and compassion – loving-kindness.  Smoking falls away naturally this way.  You don’t need to fight anything or really put much effort into it.  You only need to have a willingness to have an intention for self-care and love.  Let go of what happens once you make that choice, making each choice in your best interest with your knowledge of self in mind.  Be ready to do some work – letting go doesn’t nmean effortless, it means diligence.

8- TELL YOUR STORY

tell others  and keep the people in your world up to date on your progress.  people want to help and function as a community. I’d say that helping someone to live longer is a great community building incentive.  Keep your “tribe” up to date! Telling your story also reinforces to you what you re doing, the direction you are heading in and can make certain instances that have helped shape your direction more clear and useful.  Moreover, you can end up helping someone else in the process. Telling your story is way more effective than becoming a nagging and annoying “reformed smoker”. You can’t change anyone – but you can certainly inspire them.

My day three diatribe from my wobbly soapbox…let’s see how this goes…:)

Peace

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