Habits and Head Games

Three years ago today I did something I never thought I would do.  I quit smoking.  I broke a twenty-plus year habit that controlled my life.  I celebrate the victory every year like a new birthday, or a rebirth if you will.  I breathe deep and savor the feeling of clean air in my lungs.

I could use the word addiction.  It was a dependence that took hold in my early teen years and kept a firm grip I was unable to break free from until my fortieth year.  If you are a current or former smoker you know that I do not exaggerate the level of power smoking has over you.  It dictates your actions, your plans, and your schedule.

My experience may be unique to me, but it was relatively easy for me to break the addiction part.  Nicotine leaves your body within three days, and if you make it through those first days you are pretty much past the physical addiction.  This is why I chose to quit without the use of patches, gums, or electronic cigarettes that would continue to pump nicotine into my bloodstream.  I know people who have had success with them, but I know many more who have used them as a temporary crutch before returning to smoking.  If they help one person reach the endpoint of quitting, though, then I am all in favor of their use.

The hard part was in breaking the habit and ritual that those many years of smoking instilled deep within me.  Phone ringing?  Grab the smokes, and then answer it.  Jumping in the car?  Light up before you put it in drive.  Finished a great meal?  Find the nearest exit to head outside for a post-meal cigarette.  Work stressing you out?  Smoke break, smoke break, smoke break!

I am not going to name the book that finally helped me put down cigarettes for good.  This is not an endorsement post, and it is not a review.  It is also not a call for anyone to quit.  I promised myself when I quit that I would never turn into that hypocritical, obnoxiously preachy ex-smoker.  The book only helped because I had reached the point of being ready to quit.  If you are interested in knowing more please feel free to contact me privately.

I read the book six or seven years ago at the suggestion of a family member who quit after reading it.  I smoked my heart (and lungs) out while reading, as instructed, and continued on smoking for another three or four years.  I picked it up three years ago and reread it, again smoking my way through the pages.  I hit the final page on April 30, 2012 at around 11:00 PM.  I smoked the last cigarette in my pack as I read that last page.  I threw away the empty pack, my lighter, and the one ashtray I kept in the house. (My husband did not take me seriously until he found out I pitched that ashtray, the one with the “K” etched into the glass.)  I went to bed, slept through the night, and I woke up on May 1st as a nonsmoker.

My apologies to a great man for my abusive paraphrasing of his beautiful words...

My apologies to a great man for my abusive paraphrasing of his beautiful words…

So what changed from the first reading to the second?  I knew that in order to have success I needed to learn to control the “trigger moments” that had in the past led me to smoke.  I achieved this by allowing myself to be brainwashed.  I opened my previously closed mind to let the subliminal messaging slide in and take up residence.

I invited the author to play head games with me, and it worked.  I took in the subconscious, repetitive mantra telling me that I was not “giving up” cigarettes.  I was not depriving myself of anything.  Instead, I was gaining health, money, and freedom.  I was freeing my body and my mind from the figurative prison that smoking had enclosed me in.

In retrospect it seems simplistic, but by being open to changing a few phrases from negatives to positives I was able to succeed.  I have taken that lesson to heart, and I use it at times to motivate myself or to adjust my attitude.  I play the good kind of mental games to trick my own mind into believing it can accomplish what I want it to accomplish.  It turns out there is good and bad in just about everything, including habits and head games.

Tell me about your success in giving up a bad habit, or in forming a good one.  Do you believe in the power of your mind to make or break habits?  As always, I encourage and welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Note:  Please accept my apology if I am not as prompt as usual in responding to comments as we are in the midst of dealing with a family medical emergency.  Keep love in your heart, always.  Karen

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56 thoughts on “Habits and Head Games

  1. Happy anniversary on this May 1st for making a very important and life-altering decision! I can imagine it was tough to quit smoking and escape from your “figurative prison” as you so aptly wrote…But you did it…The mind is a strong ally when needing to make change…for me, a mantra helps as well as visualization of my final goal!
    I hope all is ok with your family emergency? No problem at all about replying…
    Please take care and all my very best,
    *Lia

    Like

  2. Prayers to you on the medical emergency, and CONGRATULATIONS on kicking the habit. I’ve fought it for years. I thought I had it whipped then a nasty event in my life called divorce happened and I jumped right back on the nicotine train. Your portrayal of the habit is so true!

    Like

  3. I hope that your medical emergency gets sorted out soon, and I send my best wishes for that to happen.
    Congratulations on your 3 year anniversary of quitting smoking. I know how hard it is to stop, and I really admire you for doing it ‘cold turkey’ so to speak. I am glad you feel so much better, but more than that I am glad you have your life back! It does take control over everything and it so wonderful to be free! Well done! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations on giving up.
    Hubby and I did in 1991, and started married life as non smokers. Never regretted it, never wanted to start again and never saw a penny of all that money we saved on ciggies as it went somewhere else! 😉
    Best thing we ever did (apart from getting hitched of course!)

    Liked by 2 people

    • My husband has never smoked, so you can imagine how thrilled he was when I quit! The first year I quit I was happy to donate the money that I would have spent on cigarettes to various charities. Now we split it between donations and vacations- a happy outcome! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Congratulations. Like most things in life, looking at it the right way makes it easier. I loved your approach of I’m not losing smoking, I’m gaining a whole list of other advantages.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I quit in my fortieth year too! I agree that most of the work was put in before I quit. After I quit, I merely had to let withdrawal do its thing. No regrets and it is because I practiced not being jealous before I quit.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That is fantastic and so encouraging. I’ve never smoked but I understand the subtle ways that habits are linked to events. When I watch a movie, I crave popcorn. After a meal, I crave chocolate. These aren’t going to wreck my health like smoking, unless I eat pounds of candy. Congratulations on your success and sharing it with others. I will pray for your family’s health crisis.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Happy three year anniversary, Karen. That really is quite an accomplishment. I think we all have addictions of some form or another and yes, mind games are sometimes a way of getting us on the right path until it becomes a way of life. I pray your family medical emergency is not serious and everyone is well. Best regards.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, George. I so appreciate the prayers and encouragement, and I am happy to say we have seen a turn for the better today.

      I think I traded a smoking addiction for a snacking addiction, but it’s a trade off I can live with. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Congratulations and thanks for sharing, Karen.
    I’ve never smoked, but recurring thought spirals of my angry ego are just as bad as smoking. They are very similar to addiction in that they come up during a certain time at trigger moments. In fact, I thought, I should maybe look at the AA twelve step program in order to find out how they succeed in dealing with addiction. Have yet to do that.
    Observing the trigger moments is a good point.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Congratulations on your 3 Year smoke free anniversary! I quit over 20 years ago & have never looked back. Unlike some who quit, I have no desire to ever have a cigarette again, if fact, I can’t stand the smell of it. Hope your family emergency has resolved itself & that it is nothing too serious.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I read such a book and quit easily for almost a month. Unbeknownst to me, The Mister, away at training, two years smoke-free, took it up again.
    I did well.
    For about a week after he came home. I wanted to beat him senseless at first, lol.
    Then it was “I’ll just have this one at night” for a few weeks. And then “Maybe one after sex…” and “Maybe just one while we wait…” And before you know it, I was back up to halfa pack a day.
    One of my friends started vaping about this time last year, and it worked well for her, so The Mister and I went to the vape shop on June 9 and quit promptly. I am nicotine free, but I am still vaping. He is on 6mg, but he vapes less than I do. It’s been helpful. I don’t miss smoking, and I’m not tied to my vape like I was tied to cigarettes AT ALL. I don’t feel that angst, or that need, driving, on the phone, after a meal, when I drink. But it’s nice to sit and vape 🙂 I think my favorite thing is that there’s no fire. It’s just there, no time concerns, no commitment to finishing.
    I didn’t start smoking until I started teaching. I was 22, and remained a recreational smoker for…3 years. As soon as I started, my mother quit. She used patches and gum for years. I hope to heaven my kids never even try.
    Congratulations to you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think the Vape thing really caught on until after I had quit. I did not realize you could do it with no nicotine- that is awesome! Congrats to you as well!

      I had a few cravings early on, but I know myself well enough to know that just one would send me right back to the habit. I am too stubborn to start over at day one- that’s what keeps me from having one.

      I hope that smoking becomes so “uncool” that by the time my nephew is old enough it won’t be even remotely interesting…

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Good for you for giving it up. I like the idea of reframing something to show what you’re gaining instead of losing or giving up. That could definitely apply in a lot of situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. First Karen, sorry to hear about your family crisis. I hope all turns out well.

    And good for you for quitting cigarettes. I never had to go through such a withdrawal but know people who struggle with it everyday. They say nicotine is harder to quit than heroin so you should be proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you should say that- I have a cousin who is married to an addiction recovery counselor, and he said that he’s seen people wean off of hard drugs easier than off of cigarettes. That is a sad statement that makes you wonder why they continue to be a legal drug…

      We are making progress on the family issue. My father-in-law had a subdural hematoma that led to emergency surgery. He is doing well thus far, and we are hopeful for a full recovery. Thank you for the kind thoughts. 🙂

      Like

  14. Great going! I am trying to get my dad to quit. I will show this to him. My last resort is to threaten him that I will start smoking if he doesn’t quit – will it work? I am not sure

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    • My father quit after nearly 40 years of smoking. I would have bet every penny I had that he would never stop, so I believe there is hope for everyone! I hope for your sake and his that he finds his way there. I’m guessing he knows, though, that you wouldn’t really start… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I quit for good the day i left to fly out when my mom was on life support. She had copd. I already had enough health issues going on. None of my sisters smoked . I quit and now wish my husband would i love not smoking.

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    • That was actually the fear that led me to finally quit- I was terrified I would end up with COPD/ emphysema. I did not want to be hooked up to an oxygen tank. I am glad you found your way to quitting, too. My husband never smoked a day in his life, so you can imagine how happy he was that I quit. I hope your husband finds his way there when the time is right for him.

      Thank you for reading, and for the kind words. We have had good news with the medical emergency, and we are optimistic. Best, Karen

      Like

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