Most of us have at least one habit we’re not proud of. We would like to quit it, but can’t. In my language there’s an idiom similar to “old habits die hard” and trying to translate it literally, it goes something like “a habit is an iron shirt”.
Today’s Solution Focused story is about quitting smoking. My friend says it’s easy – she’s done it about a hundred times already. Although this sounds like an amazing achievement, all of you who’ve been smokers know it’s not really a compliment. Quitting once would do 🙂
In one of the past posts I told you I used to be a professional ballet dancer. Which correlates to smoking and coffee as two main nutrition courses. No kidding. So I’d say I used to be a smoker. Maybe not a regular one, but I’d smoke 10 cigarettes/day or more if there was a coffee meeting or a party (and I used to be quite outgoing when I was younger). For ummm maybe 10 years. Started in high school because one particular character in one particular novel that I really liked, smoked. So did I, in order to be a little bit like her (I hope I’ll remember this when my yet to be born kids are teenagers and will come up with nonsense like that!).
I never tried to quit because I liked smoking. Liked the company, the tiny pretty smoking tools, etc. Now I don’t really remember what it was, but it must have been something to keep me in the dusty arms. Cigarettes were a means to clear my head. That was the excuse at least, but in fact it was more of a “let’s just forget about the crap” and my head and thoughts were even more vague after one stick. After a while, the general public attitudes towards smokers have changed. We were not welcomed or allowed to smoke inside coffee shops. Or public places. Even the smokers eventually sensed the bad smell that comes from smoking in a non-smoking place. That’s when I first thought that what I do is somewhat humiliating. But it was not enough to be willing to quit.
Then my husband got ill. He had tumour cancer and things were very serious. Looking back now, he took the news way better than I did. I was a nervous wreck and as he was admitted to the hospital and I was not allowed to be with him, I remember sitting on our balcony for hours, thinking all sorts of thoughts, drinking water and smoking. A lot. I was so worried about him that couldn’t do anything but sitting in the balcony or watching some stupid TV series. Then one day, as I was still alone at home, I felt sick. It was a bit too much. Went to bed, felt asleep and as I woke up, I went out for a cigarette again. Then asked myself: “Why are you doing this to you, why do you torture yourself so much? You need to be fit and strong, so you could be useful and helpful to your husband when he returns. You need your body to rely on it when times will be rough. And there will be such times, you know that!”
I slowly took another inhale. Then turned off the cigarette. Then went in. Turned on the computer. Looked in google about the benefits of quitting smoking. There were many! It caught my interest, so I’d keep browsing. I found out my smell would improve. So would my skin. And teeth. And physical condition. So I really felt for the benefits and also explored the expected time it would take for them to occur. Then I read about how to quit smoking. It was all big words about a strong will, about how it is an addiction and how much struggle it causes, people get fat and stressed … it was not very appealing so I knew this wasn’t something that would work for me.
So then I said to myself: “Let’s not smoke today anymore, shall we? And let’s see what happens.” And I had a picture of my body and what will happen in it with nicotine withdrawal. First three hours, a day, a week and so on. What will the benefits be? The first day turned into a second one. So I repeated: “How about not smoking the second day and see what happens.” Again, looking for benefits and literally starting to feel them. And the second day was then a week. A second week. A third one. A month. Then I read somewhere that the first month was the hardest and from then it goes way easier. I was so happy I didn’t see this one before, because it would change my focus on the difficulties. But instead, I was only focusing on one day. Not in terms “DON’T SMOKE DON’T SMOKE” but more in terms of “let’s see what happens”. Gently. Calmly. And though it may seem my entire focus was on smoking, it was actually not. The main focus was on what I could do with saved time (and money) that my new experiment will bring along. And how to use that to prepare myself for the return of my husband.
As he returned, I gained two things: him back and myself back. As the days passed, I was more and more happy that I started this little experiment. And proud too. But still, it was just an experiment, it was no big plan, big deal and also I didn’t talk to anybody about that in terms of big announcement how I decided to stop smoking. As my friends began to notice, I said I’m not doing it anymore. For now. So they didn’t ask. I thought I’ll tell when I’m sure I can do it. It’s now more than 2 years since that last cigarette and I haven’t been tempted to smoke again. And still I didn’t tell anybody about that, but now I don’t feel the need to do so.
So eventually I stopped counting the days. I knew I didn’t have to. I stopped looking for benefits, because I had them and was happy. Some might be wondering what would happen if a crisis came. It is often the case that you return to your old habits if something terrible happens to you. I’m not excluding the option. It’s just that I don’t see smoking as an only option now. And the other options sound much better 🙂
To sum up: a plausible and manageable timeframe, focusing on benefits, doing what works and do more of it (like when I felt pekish, I’d drink lots and lots of water), imagining what would my life look like when smoking is not on stage anymore … worked for me. I’m looking forward to hear about your experience!