I smoked for over 18 years, longer than that if you factor in my mom smoked my whole life, way back when you could smoke with the kids in the car. There wasn’t a year that passed where I didn’t say at least once, “I should/need/want to quit” or my “New Year’s Resolution is to quit”. I was even successful a couple times, but every smoker knows the trap of “I can handle just one”. After a few drinks, sure I could handle being a social smoker. Or perhaps after starting a new job, feeling a little stressed and looking for the inside scoop, asking a fellow smoker if you can bum just one.
That’s the trouble with addiction, it’s never just one. Ask any smoker, alcoholic or drug user. But every one of them will say that’s “not me”, “I’m not that bad”, “I’d never do that”. So I ask you to stop and truly evaluate your addictions and own it, the same as you own the fact that your eyes are green or your natural colour is dishwater blonde. Own every aspect of your addiction, make a list of everything that comes of it – pros and cons. If you can, ask for the support of your family and friends when you make this list to get additional input that you haven’t considered.
Ask any smoker and they’ll say at least I’m not an alcoholic. Ask an alcoholic and they’ll say at least it’s not drugs. Ask any drug user and they say the don’t need it all the time, like a smoker does.
When I truly, finally, completely embraced the fact that I was ready to and wanted to quit smoking for the rest of my life I spent hours journaling the idea. Which just cemented the idea further in my mind. I was extremely nervous about quitting, figured I would fail as I had always done in the past, that my smoking was incurable as late stage cancer. How would I cope? Would I be able to leave the couch? How to handle the few social situations that I would now be giving up if I was a non-smoker? Would I still be able to have a few drinks without lighting up? Oh God, did I make the right decision here?
Yup I was a mess, but I headed in for treatment with my head held high and a huge anxious ball in my gut. That journaling though, it helped me identify all the reasons why I was finally ready to quit. The top Five of all smokers:
- My health (the morning cough, running out of breath after a brisk walk, cold hands and feet);
- Money spent on cigarettes ($45 – $90 /month);
- The stigma of being a smoker;
- Being there long term to enjoy life with family and friends; and
- Cancer, or other diseases caused by smoking claiming the lives of those I love.
Let’s face it though, those reasons are all the ones they package on the nicotine replacement crap out there to convince you that this method or that method is best… and each of those reasons comes from a place of guilt. Reread that bit if you need, and take a minute to let it sink in. Sure all of those reasons are legitimate, health is beyond paramount and wasting money on smoking, while you might as well just roll the bills and light them up! But they honestly try to make you feel guilty for having an addiction that has had you in its power since your very first cigarette.
So how do you change the reasons, how do you make this one stick? Well my mind shifted from ‘my health is important’ to ‘my life matters, I have value’. I realized the effect that smoking had on my life, and my personal self-value. My mind shifted from a place of guilt, ‘I should quit’ to a place of value and control of my life ‘I am in control, I don’t want to smoke, I am done harming myself, I will overcome this and move forward’.
When that lightbulb finally went off in my head all the real reasons, the positive thoughts started to flow! Pick any social event that involved a meal or a few drinks, after both I needed a smoke. Not all of my friends/family are smokers, so that meant chopping the flow of good conversation and fun so I could leave. Sure my friends/family all said they didn’t mind, but really how rude and how stupid was I? Clearly this wasn’t something I realized before, the whole idea of the gathering being spending time with others which is a HUGE part of living with depression, and I was cutting that social experience off at the knees for years!
Being single and a smoker? Talk about a double edged sword. I’ve turned a head or two over the years, and watched them snap right back the second the smokes came out. I can’t blame them, I get why smoking is a turn-off, always have. Following the train of thought of meeting with friends, try meeting strangers. If they’re not comfortable with dating a smoker, you are ending any potential relationship with a possibly awesome person by stopping that interaction to light up.
But you can meet fellow smokers you say. True, but please take a minute to think about what all those wonderfully social smokers do when the gather collectively. I’ll take ‘What is bitch, moan, whine and complain’ for $200 please Alex. Please understand I’m not trying to hate on smokers, I myself was a proud smoker for numerous years, which is why I speak from a place of knowledge and not hate.
Smokers are a wonderfully social group, you immediately have something in common with those around you. What you don’t realize is that you have more in common than just the cigarette in your hands and a lighter in your pocket. Firstly you both have an addiction that you clearly have no control over, or you wouldn’t be there. Secondly smokers are triggered by something, some stress, which sends their brain reeling and out they go to smoke, to take a beat, to process.
When you find someone else out there, just remember they’ve come for the same reasons. So being the social creatures we are, we vent, we discuss, we chat, we one up each other, compare notes and complain together over and over. The interactions are all very negative, generally speaking. They’re a grumpy bunch. It’s not intentional, just a side effect of the addiction.
Smokers have a luxury most wouldn’t understand. They commune. It is easy for us to get together and bullshit. Something all non-smokers will never understand, and all previous smokers miss. I can tell you post smoking that I miss the community, but not the habit. A life without cigarettes is something I thrill about. Something I recognize came at the right time in my life, for the right reasons.
Best of luck on your journey, its a hard road to follow, but sooner rather than later it becomes paved in gold.
This was written April 26, 2016.