As I have mentioned before I haven’t always been the kind of person that I am now. You know the kind of type A who does push-ups, while solving math equations, and simultaneously eating vegetables. Okay maybe I’m still not that person, but I do run a lot, I definitely eat a lot of vegetables and I even do a fair bit of push-ups. The thing is I didn’t always have the passion and drive for healthy living and well being. It was something I had to choose and cultivate. The truth is a few years ago I did everything wrong. Bad diet, no exercise, to much drinking, you name it. I was even a cigarette smoker. Yes it’s true, our hero was once addicted to the awful, horrible, death trap known as smoking. In fact there have been very few things I have ever encountered that have made me feel so consistently awful, not to mention being a constant financial drain, and a constant inconvenience. In spite of all this however, I’ve also never encountered anything so hard to give up either. In spite of the lethal possibilities that come with smoking, quitting is notoriously difficult. But I did it. It’s been about 2 years and I can confidently say I am free of the curse. How did I finally manage to slay that dragon you might ask, or maybe you don’t care I don’t know. Anyway I was able to find the answer to that riddle the same way I found so many of my answers, and it’s one of the best things that ever happened to me!!!
Of course it wasn’t just simple and easy. The truth is that the smoking addiction is complex and deep. It’s a complete mind game, and it’s actually spiritual in a sense also. The smoker needs to kind of brainwash themselves to get addicted in the first place, and then has to constantly fool themselves to keep smoking. The reason for this, is that in truth smoking makes you feel awful. Obviously. So you kind of have to push yourself to keep doing it in the beginning, as it’s a fairly unnatural thing to do in the first place. Everybody has different reasons for this. For me it was a simple matter of thinking it made me seem tough and cool, and for a 12 or 13 year old kid that’s a good enough reason for anything. After a little while though you get hooked. Especially if you’re young and have yet to develop the full range of adult psychological tools. Once you get hooked that’s when the real self deception begins, and this is why a very necessary part of stopping is learning how to get really honest with yourself about what you’re doing.
If somebody is going to stop smoking, or get free any addiction for that matter, they have to understand that there is a physical and psychological component to be dealt with. It’s actually the mental, emotional even spiritual aspect that is the more problematic, and the one that needs to be mastered if any type of lasting abstinence is to be achieved. I don’t think this is any big secret. We all know people who have given up a destructive habit, for a substantial length of time, only to pick it back up again later. I mean if addiction were a simple matter of overcoming withdraw and physical symptoms, we could end all addiction in a few months just by keeping people away from whatever they are having a problem with for a little while. Withdrawal is not the real problem though, its really just the beginning.
Once I had been smoking for a bit I very naturally began to experience withdrawal. At this point the deception of addiction has to kick into high gear. This is where the smoker needs to start to convince themselves that they have good reasons for smoking, rather than just trying to get over the withdrawal brought on by their last smoke. An individual will start to tell themselves things like smoking is a pleasure, it feels good, or things like it is a good stress relief, or a nice break form the day. The narrative and belief systems for a lifetime of addiction are being constructed. I was to tell myself various versions of the I love smoking, I need to smoke and the I can’t quit smoking story for 20 or more years, until I stopped.
The truth is that once I started to look at how I thought about smoking, and started to change the the way I thought about it, I began to realize I needed and wanted to quit. Through taking an honest look at what it was, and what it was doing to me, I found the tools to stop. As always the more I was willing to open my mind spiritually I was able to find a source of power that I hadn’t always suspected. Spiritual practice and spiritual thinking can always aid us in getting into positive and healthy frames of mind, and can even bring about real shifts in consciousness. I have no idea what that means for anybody else but we should never be afraid to tap into our own sense of spirituality for internal wellness. The more honest and clear I got about the fact that smoking wasn’t some wonderful pleasure, but was just being a slave to the withdrawal from my last cig, the less of a hold it started to have on me.
I started to pay very close attention to how I felt when I was smoking, and just after I had a cigarette. What I started to realize was that, rather than being one of life’s satisfactions, it really just made me feel sick and toxic. I tried to stay honest about this, and stopped trying to justify it. I realized that smoking, and being a smoker, had become an important part of my self-identity. I started to let go of these ideas, and replace them with new, healthier, saner ones. Ideas like I was somebody who respected themselves and wanted good things for themselves. I also had some sense of spirituality to help me change how I thought of myself, as I feel life’s tendency in the universe is to grow and thrive, not to handicap itself. Once I started to see smoking for what it really was, the toxic, sickening, tumor causing, money draining menace, rather than some little pleasure that I was convincing myself it was. And once I started to see myself as someone who wanted, deserved, was meant for and able to give myself better, I started to form the narrative and belief systems that were going to help me stop and stay stopped. Once I got clear about the fact that what I was doing was standing out in the cold every hour doing something that made me feel ill, and that I was somebody capable and desiring of better, it made it harder and harder to keep telling myself all my little lies about why I really smoked.
However even though I was developing some better tools for quitting it still wasn’t easy. There is still the withdrawal to deal with, and you really have to put all ideas into practice over and over in order to get good at them. This is why I had to try, try, try. It’s not very romantic or insightful, but I had to put in some good old fashioned hard work. I had to have unsuccessful attempt after unsuccessful attempt. Keeping in mind that these attempts are not failures but rather a necessary part of the process. I had to keep in mind that my drive to smoke was really just withdrawal from my last cigarette, and would dissipate fairly quickly. It gets much easier after a few days, and even more so after a few weeks. It just gets easier with time, especially if we use that time to work on the mental and spiritual aspects of the problem. Even when I wasn’t actively trying to quit I still held on to the idea, and tried to stay honest about the horrors of smoking, and who I wanted to be. Eventually truth, goodness and effort win out. Even if it takes time. Eventually the contradiction would be to much and to foolish to live with. When I would only have one smoke in the day, or even get a few days in without puffing, and my body and mind would start to feel better and proud, in spite of the experience of wanting to smoke, it was wonderful. On the other had when I would break after a couple of days and smoke to satisfy my carving, the sickness and guilt would set in and I would just feel awful. I would build it up in my mind that a smoke would be wonderful and head out to have one. But when I stayed present and honest about the reality of it, I found myself wanting more and more the feeling of smoke free health over smoking’s low energy, dizziness and lethargy. I leaned how to let the impulse for well being take over the impulse to smoke.
Through this ongoing process, and persistent effort, the cycle of addiction started to grind to a halt, and eventually lost all power. By consistently trying to apply these ideas, and ones like it, I was able to make the change from smoker to non-smoker. I was able to get healthy in the body and mind, and truly break the thinking patterns that breed stuff like smoking and other various foolishness. I was able to let the constant craving for cigarettes fade and die. I did it by not just changing my identity as a smoker, but changing my identity as a person, by respecting myself and my life, not to mention those who care about me. I learned something about making the changeover from a unhealthy person to a healthy, happy one. I learned it’s all in how you see and talk to yourself. Its all in how you love yourself. Not in an ego, look at how great I am way, but in an I’m alive and want to be okay in the present moment way. It’s all about remembering that your a good person, who is meant to do good things like run distance running races and write blog posts about quitting smoking.
Ultimately quitting smoking was one of the best things I’ve ever done, and a gigantic step forward on the path to wellness. I don’t know if this is interesting to anybody, or if anybody even made it to the end of this long post, or article, or whatcha call it. If you did hi and by the way thanks! But my hope is that it can help somebody. I didn’t invent any of this stuff, I just encountered it myself, and picked it up and ran with it. It worked for me because it works for people generally. So if you’re struggling with smoking, or anything really, maybe some of this can help some. Stick with it, keep applying and working with healthy sane ideas. Keep putting in the actions, you will love the results. Remember you have vast resources at your disposal so keep an open mind and stay at it, you deserve it!!!