Note: 10 March 2010: I’ve noticed a lot of visitors to this post recently, coming from a quit smoking forum. I recently updated/wrote about the joys of quitting. You can find that here if you’d like to read it. Good luck and best wishes to you on your journey to become an ex-smoker.
And now back to the post you came here to read…
On January 19th I will celebrate six years of being smoke-free. It took a lot of tries, hundreds, maybe thousands if you count the half-hearted “I think I’ll quit today” quits that didn’t last more than a few hours or minutes, but I finally did it. I quit.
I know there are some who won’t pat me on the back for that accomplishment. The general consensus among those who won’t is that I shouldn’t have taken up smoking in the first place and, that having done so, I shouldn’t be rewarded for doing the right thing and quitting. Harsh stance, and I’ve heard it a few times.
No matter what others may think, I consider it a major accomplishment. I started smoking as a young teenager. I smoked for about 27 years. By the time I quit, I was very heavily into my nicotine addiction, smoking up to three or more packs a day. Everything I did in life, everything, was associated with smoking. That’s what made quitting so difficult. Everytime I did something that was formerly associated with smoking, I’d want to smoke. Since everything was formerly associated with smoking, that need/want/desire to smoke was pretty much a constant in my life for a while. Needless to say, that led to some very long days in the first few months. It wasn’t until I hit my one year smoberversary (smober = nicotine free, a play on the word sober and being alcohol or drug free) that I truly felt as though I’d quit and might be able to stay quit.
I’ve been having a lot of smoking dreams lately. Smoking dreams are pretty common in the early phases of quitting. They range from being enjoyable (might as well enjoy the cigarettes I’m smoking in my dreams) to nightmarish (smoking through a hole in my throat or the panic of having lost a good quit).
The recent versions of smoking dreams have been somewhat enjoyable, but mostly weird. In one I’m trying to buy two cartons of cigarettes at a discount tobacco store. I can’t remember the name of the brand of cigarettes I used to smoke. I keep thinking it begins with the letter E and comes in a green and white packet, but the lady behind the counter keeps telling me there is no such brand. I’m quite insistent that there is. This goes on for a while until I finally settle for some other brand, one I never liked.
The strange thing was that when I woke up, I couldn’t for the life of me remember what brand I used to smoke. It took me a couple of hours to recall that in the end, I smoked Nows. I’d been through several brands throughout the course of my smoking career, usually changing because they didn’t make the brand anymore or they’d change it into something I didn’t like.
I’ve been craving a cigarette, perhaps because of the dreams, but I think it’s the place where we’re living (and inhaling all that smoke in the bar on Friday night). It’s a lot like living in a hotel, not remarkable when you consider that the building was once a hotel that has been renovated into apartments. Most of the folks on our floor smoke. I know this because I can smell their smoke when I walk down the hallways. Our neighbor’s smoke creeps into our apartment, under the doorway, so that some mornings I wake up thinking someone is smoking in our kitchen.
I gave up the first-thing-in-the-morning cigarette a few years before I quit. It was one of the beginning moves in a long process of change that finally enabled me to be a successful quitter. But the smell of smoke in the morning has reminded me of sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea in one hand and a cigarette in the other, and the satisfaction of that first inhale and the lightheadedness that comes with it.
I can’t honestly say I wouldn’t enjoy sucking on a cigarette, having just one. That’s what this is: the addiction sneaking in and whispering that it would be okay to have just one. It wouldn’t be just one, of course. Just one would lead to another because, after all, I already had one so why not have another since I’ve already screwed up. And, well, next thing you know I’d be smoking three packs a day again.
One of the reasons I haven’t cheated at all, not one puff, is the fear that I don’t have another quit in me. That’s not the sort of attitude that would serve me well if I did relapse, but it’s worked as a deterrent. Just one isn’t in my future. That’s all there is to it.
I don’t really want to smoke. Quitting was one of the best things I’ve done for myself and I’m not willing to give that up. It’s the addiction that wants to smoke. And if I learned one thing well it was this: Don’t feed the addiction. Next thing you know, it’s feeding on you.