Are you a smoker or a non-smoker? Me too! My last cigarette was more than a fortnight ago, and aside from feeling bad ass for saying fortnight, I feel inspired. Quitting smoking has been the single most freeing experience I have ever had. It’s an experience I hope every smoker will embark on, and one I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, a non-smoking, hypothetical enemy, that is.
Being a smoker these days is exhausting. Society barely tolerates you, your friends and family scold you, and the daily cocktail of internal conflict and guilt you give yourself is probably the most wearing. I knew I wouldn’t always be a smoker. I would sooner give up sweets, Netflix, and my adorable Boston Terrier, than smoke in front of my (future) children. Why then, did I ever pick it up in the first place? Probably a combination of messed up priorities at the time, hyperactive tendencies, and, of course, the “wrong crowd”. To be clear, the “wrong crowd” aren’t bad people. Really, they have given me insight, good times, and some of the most sincere heart-to-hearts the west coast has even seen. They aren’t blameworthy for my smoking, but I suppose they did play a role by exposing me.
Society is constantly reminding us smokers that we should quit. It’s bad for our health, it costs us money, blah blah blah. Yes, those reasons are valid. However, when a friend or family member regurgitates them to us they become impersonal. Many times I was forced into the position to explain myself, and usually in front of an audience. “It’s so bad for you! Why don’t you quit?” Wow. Did you have to take a special class for that or something? How did you acquire this epiphany inducing information? That’s it, I am now a non-smoker. Thank you, I feel warm and fuzzy already.
Nope. It doesn’t happen like that, at least not for me.
I know these preachy rants do come from a good place. However, they don’t feel sincere and they lack privacy. If you want to make an impact on a smoker and direct them down the path of quitting you have to do it with respect. Don’t give them a cliche one liner. Don’t belittle them. Please, don’t decide to have this conversation at the family reunion/mutual friends birthday party. Talk to them one-on-one. A single conversation with substance will make a deep impact compared to shallow constant reminders. They need compassion, patience, and reinforcement. The best thing you can do is be supportive, educated, and prepared for when the smoker in your life does make the decision to quit.
That’s exactly what it was too; a decision, a shift, a click, an exercise of will. That wonderful self-loving act could only take place after I prepared myself mentally. Prior to deciding to quit, one must decide, to think about deciding, to quit smoking. I flirted with the idea of quitting smoking for about a year. I began to monitor myself and smoking. I was having single cigarette regret at an increasing rate. Why did I even smoke that one? I didn’t enjoy it; I didn’t need it. Sometimes, my anxiety about wanting to quit made me smoke more. During this contemplation stage I was filled with fear and dread. It was an important process. I was subconsciously rearranging my priorities.
It was a talk with my grandfather that gave me the strength, the perspective, the final nudge, I needed to make quitting a reality. I finally saw a version of myself that was a non-smoker. It seemed, tangible, achievable. I wanted my last cigarette to be…uncomfortable. So, I made it so. It was stale, wetted and dried. I had been anal about always having a beverage with my cigarettes. I was beverage-less. I smoked it in my car on a very hot day. The window was barely cracked. My fate was sealed in that nauseating heat. It was my last cigarette. My fear was replaced with trust in myself. I didn’t see smoking as an option anymore. Yes, there were physical craving. Routines had to be broken. I avoided my triggers and drank lots of water. I made it a whole day! Two! Three! I stopped focusing on the challenges of quitting and started focusing on the benefits. I do have more energy. I have saved money. The best part is not feeling like a hypocrite. I knew smoking could have everlasting negative effects on my health, and I did it anyway. The internal conflict was painful, and dealing with it used more energy than I would have admitted.
I’m not yet to the point where (not) smoking doesn’t occupy my mind. Yet, I am already enjoying the benefits and confidence that quitting has given me. Smoking once accounted for a portion of my brain, time, and energy. Having more space for thoughts, more time, and more energy means more possibilities, and that’s no drag!
So, this is Shauna and she is beautiful.
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