I smoked for 20 years. (But this is the only picture I can find.) I first started stealing cigarettes from my dad when I was 11. I used to hate so much that he smoked. Then all of a sudden, one day, it just switched over and I smoked. I knew he would hate it and I was happy about it.
Sometimes when he was feeling especially lazy, he would send me down the street to 7-11 to pick up a pack for him. They knew they “weren’t for me,” so they gave them to me. I got them for a lot of other kids. I feel bad about that now.
Anyways… I quit smoking at least 3 times over that 20 year period. Once while I was living in nyc. I moved in with my partner who was a non smoker, so I had to step outside to smoke. Winter came. It got really cold. We were all happy and snuggled up. Stepping outside just, sort of, lost its appeal.
I started again when we broke up. It was like returning to the stale, stinky arms of an old accomplice, comforting in its predictability, in the solidarity it instills between fellow smokers. “This is what I missed,” I told myself. I didn’t have to be lonely. Outside every building, I was surrounded by friends.
I quit again when I got pregnant with Vivian. That part was easy. It’s actually how I realized I was pregnant. Suddenly, smoking a cigarette made me violently ill!
But I started up again a few months after she was born. I got a restaurant job. You could still smoke inside at that point in time. Since I was already inhaling everyone else’s smoke, I just figured, “What the heck?”
The third time I quit, it finally stuck. I read the book, “The Easy Way to Quit,” by Alan Car. A friend of mine gave it to me. She had always been the most die hard smoker, then suddenly with the help of this book, she quit. I was annoyed by it. Unlike her, I had quit before. I knew I could do it, whenever I actually felt like it. It took me three months to pick up the book and start to read it.
The book talks a lot about big business and marketing. How cigarette and beer companies seduce the “rebels” into subduing themselves. There’s nothing radical or rebellious about smoking or drinking, we’re paying them to kill ourselves.
But mostly, it was just an exercise in mindfulness. The book suggests that you chain smoke the whole time while reading it. Just chain smoke and observe how it actually makes you feel. While you’re doing? at the end of the day? How bout first thing in the morning? Just keep checking in.
By the time I finally quit, I was feeling like shit! My throat hurt. I would loose my voice all the time. My lungs would literally wheeze and squeak! And I just kept observing: was it really helping my anxiety or was it actually making it worse? So much of the anxiety was about not being able to smoke in certain places and spaces… Was I really missing out on anything? Or is that just what smokers say to comfort themselves?
Ive fallen into that trap more than once. “I just miss it. I’ll just have one cigarette (or a whole pack) while I’m drinking?” Alan Car makes it a point to emphasize that there’s no such thing as just one cigarette. That excuse is always a slippery slope that leads back to smoking. That was me for years after Vivian was born.
But I say, “It’s all good!” Did smoking that whole pack of cigarettes in one night make you feel really great? How many more times do you want to try that out?
Maybe, like me, you’re observations will lead you to renew your efforts? Maybe you can replace the idea that you’re “missing out” on something special, with the idea that not smoking is really fucking awesome and it actualky makes you feel really good.
That was a game changer for me. Instead of pining for a cigarette, like I’m missing something so great. I now stand right next to people smoking and think about how wonderful it actually is to just not!
Again, this is how we make changes. By tuning into our bodies and paying attention to our breath, observing the effects of our actions and making adjustments. If you need more guidance and motivation, I highly suggest the book, despite my initial resistance. And remember, mindfulness is a practice that gathers strength and works on everything.
If you’d like to begin a long term mindfulness practice to access deep changes on all layers and levels of your being, join me for Teaching to Transform, an 8 month, 350 hr Yoga teacher training that starts, Monday January 7, 2019 @ 6pm. More info on my website http://www.mariposayoganola.com under trainings.