One's destination is never a place, but a journey
A friend who just got on the smoke-free road, said that she’d wished that I shared more about my quitting, so I have disclosed more about my experience... for my friends who are going through or anticipating withdrawal.
First, I didn't want to quit. My mind and my habits were mired in it. But the decision to quit began first in my mind over the course of one year and had everything to do with the decision to live, to make positive changes, even if they were small changes.
One payoff to smoking, beyond the kick of lighting and flicking, was that smoking created social opportunities. I spoke with kids outside the mall, or nervous, first-day associates who I never otherwise would have met. We had laughs, shared a struggle here or there. I made friends at weddings. It became a venue for connection.
When I wasn’t Miss Smoking Social Butterfly, conscience-pricking feelings arose, but I quickly shoved those feelings right back to where they came from. But here's the truth about what they were.
My smoking wasn't always special quality time. I also often felt like Goleb, the cringed creature in Lord of the Rings, subject to basements and cold corners, withstanding rain, snow, separated from loved ones, always at measured distances from entrances. And in many ways, I was getting further and further from what was important to me, from myself. I was hurting myself.
Besides that, I stunk up my car, my clothes.
One day I walked into B&N and saw a book placed prominent on a shelf. It was a stop-smoking book. I’m not sure it matters which book it was. I'm pretty sure any stop smoking book has a few pointers. And that's what I needed... comeraderie, seeds of hoping knowing others succeeded. One aspect of the particular book that I appreciated is that it didn't use scary thoughts and photographs to frighten the pajeebies out of its readers. The author said scaring people makes them smoke. And for that reason, I will disclose that the name of the book:
The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, by Allen Carr
Mr. Carr wrote about his daughter's wedding day, when he was a four-pack a day smoker. All of us one-packers don't say Uggh, how gross. We know better. We lost our heads down car seats, burned stuff, yellowed our smile. We missed moments. But we don't look at that now. We don't judge him or ourselves. We look instead for the present moments of opportunity. We say kind things to ourselves.
We've been through enough.
One year later after reading it, I walked to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes. The guy behind the counter knew me. I always asked for matches whether I needed them or not. For ten bucks a pack, I thought somebody ought to follow me around and light my cigarettes. It was only fair I got a pileup of matches.
He had my matches and my cigarettes waiting. However, the debit card machine did not work, and I did not have my bag. He apologized, asked if I'd return with cash. I said sure.
But I never did. I felt pretty okay for a few weeks.
Then I had one of those super duper crappy days. I decided that I was going all out. I was going to smoke.
I drove to a gas station, got out. Then I got back in. I drove to a second gas station, a brand-new Hess. I studied the cigarettes behind the counter, choosing my weapon.
“Can I help you?” the attendant asked. He’d been chatting with other workers, who mulled around.
“No, well, uh…” He waited. I sighed. “I quit smoking a month ago. But it’s been a real bad day, so I am throwing a tantrum right now. So it’s important to get the brand right.”
He smiled. Like........… who cared?
The choices were endless: menthol or not, long or regular. Light, extra light, regular. Could I handle regular? My mind overlapped with possibilities until I needed a nap.
Just somebody make the frigging choice, please!
"What did you smoke before you quit?"
That added a new collision of thoughts. I'd smoked Newport before I "got healthy" and started smoking lights, which, drawing on it could explode every vein in my head.
To confuse matters, add more voices to the discussion, my conscience kicked in.
“You don’t need to do this.”
“Shut up. I am doing it.”
The attendant waited as I scanned the packages. Maybe if I walked away for a minute, I'd make a decision about hte right brand. I picked up a pack of gum and returned.
Tongue click, eye roll, sigh.
“Uhhh, I am not going to do it.”
The guy smiled.
“You’re my hero,” he said. His fellow attendants stepped aside and let me pass, smiling, somebody clapped.
So that's one way that I quit smoking... one temptation at a time.