Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Learning How to Breathe Again

So, I quit smoking.

I try not to say things like, "I'm trying to quit smoking," because this leaves space for retreat, room for failure.  If I'm trying to do something, there is a possibility that I'll fail, and the implication is that it wouldn't be my fault if I did. I tried, after all.  No, I quit smoking.  My last one was Sunday, May 5th, at 10:50pm.  It has been 29 days and 12 hours.  I have saved $82.58, and not smoked 235.95 cigarettes.

Not that anybody's counting.

I actually feel okay at this point.  A big part of the battle is psychological, of course.  According to my stop smoking app of choice (Cessation Nation), I am 100% of the way to the health milestones: "Your dependence on nicotine has been eliminated," and "Withdrawal symptoms have subsided."  Therefore, any continuing urges I have to smoke must be psychological. The physical part of this journey has been conquered.  The rest is in my head.

This is probably true, though I would argue that there is no separating the physical from the psychological (Is not my brain part of my body?? Aren't my thought processes at least partly a product of electrical signals and hormonal/chemical activity?  But I digress.).  Even so, this isn't necessarily a comforting thought.  Sure, I may not be physically uncomfortable from the lack of nicotine in my body, but that doesn't mean I'm not thinking about smoking every few moments.  Really.  Sometimes I still even "forget" that I don't smoke anymore, and I'll think, "Hmm, after this I think I'll go have a smoke real quick," and then a split second later: "Oh right... nevermind."  And that recurring mini-disappointment still gives me a twinge of anger.  It turns it into something I CAN"T do, not something I've CHOSEN to do.  It makes me feel like I am depriving myself of something.  It's an unrequited desire. And it doesn't feel fair.

I'm pretty sure it's hanging on to this mentality that makes some people feel like quitting smoking NEVER gets easier... they may abstain for years or decades or even forever, but always wish they COULD have a cigarette.  It's every smoker's worst fear that after they quit, they will be miserable indefinitely.  And some people are, so no WONDER they start up again!  What is the point of being physically healthier by quitting smoking, if you're never going to be happy again?  What kind of life is that?

So, it could never get easier, but if that's the case, it's due to my psychological addiction to cigarettes, and nothing else.  And guess what?  I have control over that.  I get to decide how I'm going to think about this. My thought process is not something that happens to me.  It comes from me, rooted in old habits and experiences, but it can be changed.

Okay, then.  I don't smoke anymore, period.  I forget sometimes, but that's okay.  Twenty years of doing something so regularly is going to take more than a month to undo.  In the meantime, I'm trying to pay attention to how it feels when I breathe fresh air.  I'm practicing sitting still, and just being, and being content with right now.  There is no future date when everything will be easier.  I've already succeeded, and the time to enjoy it is now.

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