Early cessation is uncomfortable on a variety of levels, especially the first few months. However, with education about what to expect when we quit smoking, along with a good support network, we all have what it takes to weather this temporary phase in the recovery process.
I'd like to introduce Kay, a member of our smoking cessation forum here at About.com. Kay recently celebrated three months smoke free and has been good enough to share her perspectives on early smoking cessation with readers. While her quit program is still relatively new, I can hear solid resolve in her words. Her attitude is where it needs to be and with time, I have no doubt Kay will find the freedom from nicotine addiction that she's working so hard to achieve.
I remember my first post at the smoking cessation forum. In it, I claimed to have had several prior quits of respectable duration, ranging from three months to one year or even longer. The truth is that this present quit is the first genuine three-month quit I have ever owned.
I cheated on all of my prior quits. The most recent quit that lasted more than a few days was from September 6 to October 31, 2006 - not quite two months.
I would begin my cheating by having just one or two per week. After that, I tended to become a weekend smoker, having all I wanted on weekends and going back to none Monday through Thursday. Before long, I would be back to my typical daily quota or even more.
One thing I have learned here is that all it takes is a single puff to break a quit. By reaching for a smoking buddy's pack after not smoking for a few days or weeks, I actually lost all my previous quits well before the three-month anniversary.
I can honestly say that, today, my quit meter is rightfully ticking along, and at present it reads: Three months, 920 cigarettes not smoked, nearly $300 saved.
I have been very upset this weekend. I thought about smoking, but, upon entering the thoughts and inspecting them like rental rooms I might or might not take, I found that I did not experience an actual craving. The thoughts were there and permission was granted. I could have smoked had I wanted to. Quitting does not forbid me to ever smoke again. I can have a stinking puke stick if I really want it.
I don't want it. I do not want my smoker's cough to return. My memory is forever marked by the vivid and hideous pictures I have seen of lung cancer, facial and neck tumors, people with no lower jaw, people with permanent tracheostomies and no vocal cords, some of them so addicted that, even after laryngectomy, they continue to smoke through the surgical stoma in their throats. Last night, I heard one of my favorite songs on the radio and sang along:
"This is the air I breathe.
This is the air I breathe -
Your Holy presence
living in me ..."
The voice - MY voice - is too nice to ruin by resuming smoking. No, I do not want a sickorette. I do not want to take a puff.
The aforementioned are a few of the things that smoking does to addicts like me. I do not want to embrace Nicodemon's chains again. I do not want my nicobinky. It is no pacifier. It is a ball and chain.
During these three months, I have been wondering why I ever took up smoking. I know why now. I began to smoke because I am highly sensitive and, therefore, easily angered or upset. For me, a puke stick was analogous to a binky, a baby's pacifier. Up until I quit smoking, I would always say, "Please pass me a pacifier" when cadging a cig from someone else.
So, here I am, actually marking three months for the first time ever. I have not had even a single puff since June 26. This is the longest-lived quit I have ever had.
Since I have been upset lately, I have been feeling vulnerable. It would be easy to relapse. Three months is a sticky milestone. I have learned here that one is either a smoker or a non-smoker, that there is no in-between, that sneaking one cigarette on Friday evenings will make me a smoker again. Thus far, I have avoided that pitfall and hope to continue to avoid it. If I can make it to four, five or six months without even one puff, I believe that my final peace will come.
It has not yet come. Whenever I am angry or hurt, I experience the full-blown emotions of my childhood, the emotional experience I ran away from when I started to smoke and from which I successfully shielded myself by putting up a continual smokescreen.
Without nicobinky, I feel every synapse tearing when I become upset. I hear the ripping sound, as if fine silk were being torn, and I feel every one of my nerve endings sizzle. I am hot all over. I hear the pitiful cries of all the starving children of this world. This is what one of my emotional meltdowns feels like and looks like. It is not a pleasant experience. The only thing I dislike about quitting thus far is that this experience has been renewed. I thought I had put it behind me, but it was only wrapped in a curtain of smoke, ready to manifest itself again if ever I put my nicobinkies down.
What I must do in order to reach the fourth month is find another way to shield myself from the exaggerated way in which I experience unpleasant emotions. I prefer the natural, holistic approach. Therefore, I shall be looking into herbal remedies, changes in diet and a stepped-up exercise program, in order to release the dopamine I need.
There is nothing more for me to say at this point. I value this quit enough to find my way out of the Icky Three Woods and into the peaceful light.