Oct 19, 2009

How I Beat Addiction

Every time I see the price of cigarettes going up and wonder, "Who can afford to smoke?" I remember how I was when I smoked. Almost no one quits smoking because the price goes up. Addicts will go without food. They arrange their budgets and their lives around their addiction.

The title of this post is not "How TO Beat Addiction." It's "How I..." because this is what worked for me.

I had several addictions, but let's talk about smoking. I smoked for about 17 years. This is something you usually don't just wake up one day and say, "Well, I guess I won't do that any more." Much more to it than that. I had decided that I wanted to be done with the slavery, the smell, the expense.

The first step in quitting is wanting to quit. When you want to quit more than you want to smoke, you will quit. So I prayed for the desire to quit. That's right - I asked God to help me want to, because I knew if I wanted something badly enough, I would make it happen.

Then I asked for the means, or ability. He gave me that as well. He directed me to knowledge about the process and an online support community. My nonsmoking family members could not support me. Only an addict in withdrawal knows what it's like to be an addict in withdrawal.

Smoking is really two things: a nicotine addiction and a smoking habit. By using "divide and conquer" I was able to compartmentalize the factors and work on one at a time. I used the nicotine patch to fight the addiction part while I worked on the habit in my head. I ate Chex Mix and Cheezits to crunch out my frustration (I'd deal with the weight later - I was busy saving my life at that time...) My doctor gave me something for anxiety - "Don't kill anyone," she said with a laugh. She was at one time a smoker. She knew. With the support of my "Quit buddies" I laughed, I cried, I encouraged others, and in so doing I encouraged myself. I pretty much brainwashed myself by using positive affirmations all day, every day. I love being smoke-free. I enjoy having clean-smelling hair. I am proud to be smober!

Change is sustained by accountability.

More than anything, I did not want to have to go back to my friends and admit failure. They were cheering every milestone: one day, one week, one month... How could I let them down?

We shared and compared, much the same way mothers compare their babies. By talking to those who were a week ahead of me, I knew what to expect next week. By talking to those who were a month ahead, I knew what to expect next month. By talking to those who just finished their first year, I just kept thinking, man, I want to be mellow like them!

It's been a dozen years. I am free from the slavery of addiction. I do not have to plan my outings around smoking. I do not have to get nervous if I'm in a meeting or seminar all day in a nonsmoking facility. I don't have to worry about offending people with my breath. I don't have to give up food to pay for my addiction. Best of all, I'm mellow. Haha, as mellow as someone with a high-strung personality can be, anyway.

You can't make anyone quit. And you can't quit for anyone else. It's personal. Intensely personal. When you want to quit more than you want to smoke, it will happen. I promise. Find some (cyber or F2F) friends to share your journey. We're better together.

What good decisions will you make today?

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