As one of the About.com Smoking Cessation Forum moderators, Dee has helped scores of people find their footing with smoking cessation over the years.
When Dee reached 5 years smoke-free, she shared the things she learned about smoking cessation with the hope that it will help others find the strength and determination to put smoking behind them permanently.
Her tips and insights ring true for those of us who have battled nicotine addiction, and her practical advice sheds bright light on the path that leads us toward the freedom from smoking we all desire.
Thanks for sharing your words, Dee, and thanks for all that you continue to give to our forum community.
In the world of early smoking cessation, five years can seem to be light years away; an eternity, especially when you’re a stressed out newbie trying to make it through another day smoke-free, one hour, or even one minute at a time.
The past five years for me has meant five years of freedom. Five years of gratitude. Five years of living the abundant smoke-free life that I was meant to live. Five years of walking shoulder-to-shoulder, hand-in-hand with my fellow travelers seeking freedom from nicotine addiction. Five years with the awesome privilege of sharing life experiences with open-minded, non-judgmental people from the world community. Five years of enjoying the diversity of our various cultures, nationalities, ethnicities and the often amazing wit and wickedness of our sense of humor.
Did you know that we are the lucky ones? We are lucky because, through our struggle to quit smoking, we are empowered to make a difference; empowered to save lives, including our own; empowered to find joy in working our special magic each day in this special place, one post at a time. What a marvelous journey this has been and continues to be.
My First and Only Quit Attempt...
Sadly, I was too much of a coward and too fearful to try quitting sooner. I found this forum two weeks after I'd quit smoking. As a naïve newbie, I reasoned that if I could keep from smoking for five years, I’d probably be cured, free to live life without cigarettes and smoking. Little did I know then that my freedom would arrive so much sooner. I believe that subconsciously it has continued to be my personal litmus test even after realizing going into my second year, I’d never smoke again. This five-year achievement is my final affirmation.
I quit smoking cold turkey after 32 years of smoking close to two packs a day. I was angry, and sick and tired of smoking. I absolutely hated it. This anger fueled my desire to quit.
Good fortune shone on me during my early weeks of smoking cessation. A little sunshine managed to seep through, just enough to lift the severe brain fog a bit for me to really get it -- "it" being to never look back, never fantasize about the "good cigarette" and to never, ever entertain the junkie mind game of believing I could smoke just one cigarette. This is not to say that this revelation made quitting tobacco easy. No, it didn't by any stretch of the imagination, but it did give me a solid foundation from which to build my quit program.
With the help of this forum, build on it I did! One day at a time turned into months, and then years. My resolve was cemented with each milestone, opening a whole new world of peace and freedom to me, for which I am eternally grateful.
Keeping my memory green and not falling into complacency is easy to do, even after 5 years. The brain fog was intense and the mental cravings were relentless for the first 3 to 5 weeks -- not something you just forget about.
After whining a bit about "When will it end..." and, "I’d like to go just three days without thinking about quitting cigarettes every waking moment", one of the oldies, who shall remain forever nameless, advised me to try and relax into my quit. She said to visualize the cravings rolling over me in waves and to understand that these cravings are an indication of my body re-adjusting and healing itself. This was a true light bulb moment for me and directly led to my salvation.
Education about nicotine addiction became a powerful tool for me. I read everything on this forum that was available to me. I learned that cravings and urges would only last a few minutes.
I know this part may sound a little weird and unbelievable to those of you just starting out, but I found that I started to embrace the challenge of the process of recovery from nicotine addiction. The real fun began when I made a game of it. I analyzed my triggers and devised strategies to deal with them. The joy of seeing my strategies work was powerful reinforcement for me and lifted my self-esteem tremendously. It was also during this time that I developed my personal mantra...
- "I don't care what happens today, nothing and no one can make me smoke.”
Friends: Five years later, my blessed reality is that smoking is just something I used to do and will never do again. I don’t have any special insight other than what I consider my personal perspectives, my version of the truth that I am happy to share with you.
These personal truths helped keep me focused on a daily basis, thereby allowing me to maintain my quit comfortably these last 5 years. These personal truths have enabled me to continue to find joy, fulfillment, and excitement as a supporting member of our forum family.
My version of the truths about smoking cessation:
- We deserve to be smoke-free. It's attainable. We must believe this in our hearts and be willing to do the work it takes to convince our minds.
- There is definitely a time and place to whine, rant and rave. You're entitled. It's your rite of passage, and it's your obligation to periodically let us witness you fall apart. *smile*.
- There is no fast track, no quick fix. Time invested in the process of recovery from nicotine addiction is the only way to long-term freedom.
- Most of us smoked for a very long time, and if we're honest with ourselves, we can't expect to "get over it or through it" unaffected. Smoking cessation changes us - for the better.
- Education about nicotine addiction is a major key to success. In this process, knowledge truly is power. What you don't know can hurt you.
- Sorry to say, but there's no quit smoking fairy godmother flitting around waving her magic wand intent on making it all go away. You have to dig your heels in and go the distance.
- Understanding early on that no one can possibly take your quit program as seriously as you do and should not be expected to is crucial. You alone own it, and are responsible for it.
- Smoking cessation is truly an awesome gift. We are not guaranteed more than one chance. Protect your quit as if your life depends on it. It does.
- Love yourself enough to be kind, patient, and gentle with yourself as you go through the ups and downs of the cessation process. Reward yourself for your special milestones.
- Friends and family may be supportive, but will soon tire of martyrdom. If they've never smoked, they don't have a clue about what you're going through. And those friends who are still smoking don't want the reminder that they need to quit. For the most part, they just want you to go away; and quietly if you can!
- Quitting smoking is easy. Staying quit requires real passion and mental toughness.
- Why deliberately place yourself in harms way (by being overconfident, for example), to prove a point, what point? That you can lose your quit with the best of them. Quitting tobacco is tough enough. Programming yourself for failure is a waste of time and energy.
- A positive attitude is half the battle. What your mind believes, you can achieve.
- Quitting tobacco is emotionally and mentally stressful, but having a bad day with your quit program does not give you permission to be unkind to others. On the other hand, developing a thicker skin is a must. No one wants to constantly walk on egg shells trying to support you.
- Recognize a smoking slip or relapse for what it is: It is a serious misstep that should not be taken lightly. That said, it's definitely not a reason to beat yourself up. Instead, view it as a learning experience and an opportunity for growth.
- Give back. Pay it forward. Share your successes and challenges. Give support and encourage someone else who is just beginning the journey to quit smoking. This will help reinforce your own resolve to remain smoke-free.
- Give yourself permission to step away from the forum, to take a break for a bit if you feel the need to. Don't guilt yourself about it either. Our beloved forum, as wonderful and empowering as it is, cannot and should not take the place of your real life. In my opinion, an indication of a successful new smoke-free life is learning to live your "new normal" life with as much balance as possible.
Friends, I am grateful, honored and thankful for the support, love, and good wishes received from all of you along this five year journey. I’m grateful for the life long friends I’ve made at the About.com Smoking Cessation forum. I'm grateful to have had the privilege of seeing first-hand the majesty of the unselfish goodness and fair play that we as human beings can choose to embody. The experience of that alone makes this journey worthwhile.
And finally, I am thankful and grateful to be free.