So, as smart as I consider myself on a general basis, I did a really stupid thing 28 years ago – I started smoking. Yep, at the tender age of 13, I lit up my first cigarette in an attempt to look ‘cool’ in front of this guy that I really liked at the time. He was the typical ‘bad boy’ – leather jacket, drinker, smoker, bag of weed in his back pocket…..and me – the athletic geek who was captain of the school bus patrol team.
Then I did another stupid thing 16 years ago. I started smoking again after I had my daughter and finished breast-feeding her. I quit cold-turkey the day I found out I was pregnant and didn’t touch another cigarette until she was 2.
And then I did another stupid thing 5 years ago. I started smoking again after successfully quitting for 7 years.
Now I’m back to quitting again. Cold turkey.
Day 2 of zero nicotine going into my body is almost over, and let me tell you — it’s been horrible so far. I can totally understand why people can rarely break this habit. Not only is there the physical aspect of this (which feels like a combination between a super flu and getting hit by a truck), but there’s the psychological and emotional aspect of this. These are, in my opinion, far worse. I can handle the physical discomfort, but I’m seriously challenged by the fact that my brain continues to try to trick me into having a smoke. I mean, it’s a constant battle between the devil on one shoulder, and the angel on the other.
Devil whispers in my ear: Psst…look…you made it this far without tooooo much pain….just have a smoke and start again. Given you’ve done it this time, easy enough to do it again tomorrow.
Angel whispers: Don’t listen to that idiot. You’re a total wreck. You want to go through this crap again?
Devil: Wait….you’re going to let her call you a weakling like that? You’re going to sit back and let her manipulate you into thinking you can’t do this? What are you? An idiot?
Now, to a non-smoker, I can understand just how ridiculous that must appear. But I’m dead serious when I say, this exact argument happens in my head a hundred times a day and it’s very easy to believe that I can just light up.
As a whole, everything about smoking is ridiculous. I recognize this – and it’s what has infuriated me about myself and my habit for years. Every time I light up, I know I’m hurting myself. I know my dad died from lung cancer when he was 39 (2 years younger than I am now). I know I am an idiot and a weakling and all sorts of badness for lighting up. Hell, I reminded myself of it every single I did…to the point of beating myself to death over it. I have lit up cigarettes and then cried for doing it.
And yet I never stopped. And I know…. None of it makes sense.
The challenge is, everything with smoking is fear-based – at least for me it is. I started smoking because of fear. I continued smoking because of fear. Every time I lit up a cigarette, I scared myself. I avoided reading the book “The Easy Way to Quit Smoking” because of fear (yes, I was afraid of the book making sense and me quitting as a result). The idea of quitting smoking was plagued with fear. Smoking was a friend, and losing that friend was a horrible thought, even though I knew that friend wasn’t helping me one bit. It’s like being in an abusive relationship, but having a very real physical/psychological/emotional addiction to it. For me, everything related to the habit is fear-based, and let me tell you…if there’s one emotion that propels, it is fear.
And then there are the nightmares. Holy shit. Last night, I had about a thousand of these little 6” demons running rampant throughout my house. They were hiding everywhere, and they were out to kill me. They were the minions from that classic movie The Gate, and they were vicious little bastards.
Most people associate nightmares and quitting smoking with the assistance of a drug like Zyban. But really, it’s not. Many people who are quitting without the aid of a drug experience nightmares because of all the changes your brain is going through without nicotine.
Breaking the routine of smoking is, by far, the hardest thing to do. I mean, that after-dinner cigarette? There are no words to describe just how insanely fantastic it is. My morning cigarette with coffee? Perfect. The smoke I have when I leave the office? Wonderful! There is so much in my life I associate with smoking. It’s always been there, in some shape or form. Whether I’m sitting in the hot tub, or on my way to the grocery store, or out at the park with Ali & George or having a drink with Mark on his front porch. Everything = smoking, and breaking that association is nearly impossible (but doable).
So don’t take it personally if I say I’d punch your mom for a cigarette. I really wouldn’t…though the devil on my shoulder might try to convince me otherwise.
Hopefully this rollercoaster ride ends soon, or at the very least, slows down a bit.