Today I put a gold star on my calendar and noticed that it was All Saints’ Day. Not being especially religious, I had to look up the significance of the day and discovered thanks to Wikipedia that today Western Christianity commemorates those that have attained beatific vision. Wow. Let me just say, I’m not there. However, the placing of the star on the calendar for me today has taken on something akin to communing between the individual and the universal. Today marks the 1 year anniversary of me quitting smoking.
This is a deeply personal day and entry in my life. First, I should just say to all of you non-smokers out there that you may want to suspend judgement or stop reading. I, more than you, do understand that smoking is by and large a self-inflected torture and slow suicide. So, if your impulse is to say “well you shouldn’t have been dumb enough to smoke in the first place” you are correct. Bravo. Good for you. Now shut it. Talk to me about addictions that you may have (chocolate, work, sex, cocaine, heroine, anger, exercise, coffee, TV, food, etc.) And if truly you have lived your life without a crutch or addiction, then I still ask you now to just be quiet. Because this isn’t about you.
This is about everyone else.
Addiction, especially in the case of tobacco, lives in the psyche and the body. On many levels, the psyche is the hardest place to scrub. The body will eventually forget. But the psyche will cling to the crutch and I wonder, even a year later, when it will stop seeking the soothing beast of nicotine. Just last night I had a dream that I was lighting More’s for a friend of mine (a friend that in reality doesn’t smoke). The guilt and shame of that act lingered even upon waking. Smoking is still that powerful.
So, today, a year out, I am celebrating the long road I have ahead of me of learning how to live without a crutch. And one way I’m going to do it is to provide a little bit of advice on how to quit for anyone out there that may stumble upon this post.
Quit everything at once. Go online and find what is usually called the elimination diet. It is a diet that was created mainly to find out what food allergies you may have. The goal of the diet is to eat 3 main foods (chicken, turkey, rice with a few acceptable greens) and that’s all you eat for about 3 to 4 weeks and then you slowly add food back in and see if you react to it. (I tried to find my doctor’s version of this, but all of the ones online allowed more than I could eat. Seriously, ground turkey, rice, baked chicken, water, lemon and spinach are the only foods I could eat.) I had to do this last year and decided to go ahead and make it a pure test and to quit smoking. I can’t emphasize this enough — quitting is tough. I tried it several times and several different ways. But quitting everything (even pepper!) is brutal. And so, I think that’s one way it worked for me. The nicotine demon was competing with a whole lot of other demons. The simple fact of the matter was that after 2 weeks of that lifestyle, the thing I wanted more than ANYTHING in my life was pepper and spice and flavor. Easy? Absolutely not. Effective? Well, I wouldn’t be writing this entry if it weren’t.
My other advice is to surround yourself with compassionate and supportive people. As hard as it was, I avoided my few friends that still smoked. I had to. And, when I did see them, I made it very very clear that not only was I not going to, but I wasn’t going to be around them smoking. Quitting all foods and flavors takes care of the physical addiction, but what really got me through the inner struggle was having 1 or 2 close friends that I could talk to and they would cheer me on. Yes, cheerleaders do help.
And that’s it. Will it work for everyone? Probably not; you have to really be ready to let go and that is something no diet or advocate can do for you. That’s all you. But, just so you know, as someone on the other side, I have replaced one deadly habit with being more active, smelling like the perfume I put on, having more money, walking up hills or stairs, not hiding, having no shame, feeling clean. Being happy. Most of all, being free.
Happy All Saints’ Day! Go out and quit something you should. Let me know if I can help.