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.
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