I needed 150 days to write a Hall of Fame speech. My 100th day fell on August 30th… which would have been my 16th wedding anniversary if I hadn’t left my marriage and moved out two weeks earlier. I wasn’t ready to write a speech 50 days ago.
To say I picked a stressful time to quit using nicotine is an understatement. There were many times I questioned the wisdom of my decision. After all, don’t many people actually START smoking while going through a divorce? The crutch would have been understandable. Except… I left my marriage for me. I wanted to be healthier. I wanted to be better. I wanted to live my life fully.
And there was no place for smoking in that.
I started smoking at 16 while I was drinking. I begged a friend for my first cigarette and loved it. I was a ninja smoker until I moved out 4 years later for the Air Force. It’s not easy hiding the smell of cigarette smoke from ex smoker parents but I managed to do it by wearing an outer layer of clothing when I smoked and gloves. I was sneaky and pathetic. Also, I didn’t smoke that much or everyday. That changed when I moved out and quickly started a pack a day habit. I hated being a smoker and it was years before I would buy a carton and admit to myself that I actually even was a smoker. I convinced myself that if I just bought a pack I could quit whenever I wanted. A carton was a commitment. The cost savings eventually won out.
I stopped several time, once even for five years. The first time I stopped wasn’t easy but after I had it kicked it was smooth sailing so it was easy to justify picking it up again for “just one”. I became a serial stopper. I don’t know how many times I stopped but it was probably around ten.
I’m writing this for anyone who might be like I was. I’m writing this for anyone who is scared and exhausted and isn’t sure it’s worth “trying again”. I’m writing this for the serial stopper who is feeling like if I could “attempt a quit” TEN times then what makes this time any different? And if I could quit for FIVE YEARS and start again, what hope is there for them? There is an answer to this question that I have come to see as tantamount to my quit and I would daresay yours as well. It is a simple fact that I have seen rejected over and over on this website… usually by “serial stoppers” such as myself. You may find yourself bristling at it and thinking “not me”! You might think yourself stronger than me. You might think yourself more resolved or convicted or even more upright than me. You might think yourself different but I can assure you with certainty… you are not different.
You are not stronger than me.
You do not have more resolve than I had.
You do not have a secret stash of conviction that I lacked.
You are not morally superior to me.
You are not special.
If you do not accept this, as I did, then you will likely fail. It might take five years, but the odds of you achieving a life without nicotine are incredibly low. Here is that simple truth:
You are an addict.
For many on this site, that is such a no-brainer. They KNEW they were addicts… it was obvious to them. But for me… a good mom who cooks healthy food for her family and has normal friends and drives a minivan and is intelligent and strong and self controlled and moral and none of those things that addicts are? The fact that I am an addict totally blew my mind! See, I knew I was addicted when I was smoking. But I thought I could get “unaddicted”. And if I was “unaddicted”, then I could have “just one”. I genuinely believed I could control it.
I thought if I only had a cigarette while I was drinking with friends I could remain unaddicted. This thought always led to me smoking a pack a day within a week.
I thought if I only had a cigarette when my brother was visiting I could remain unaddicted. And then I would be smoking a pack a day within a week.
I thought as long as I wasn’t smoking during times of high stress I could control it. This had me smoking a pack a day within a week. Every time.
I thought if I limited it to a couple cigarettes in the evening after work I would remain unaddicted. Guess what? Within a week I was smoking all day. Every day.
I thought (this one is good) if I just thought of nicotine as butter! Too much butter is bad, right?! Everything in moderation! When I stumbled upon this logic I was so proud of myself. I walked around in this fantasyland for a week when I found myself “moderating” a pack a day addiction again.
I went through ever single mental gymnastic a person could possibly concoct to figure out how to smoke without being addicted. None of them worked. It wasn’t until I started reading on Kill the Can that the light turned on. And it turned on bright and harsh.
148 days ago (after a relatively easy first two days) I sat on this website and said to myself, “Oh my God, Danielle. You are an addict. How did you miss this?” I knew what that meant. Addicts are addicts for life. It’s not about the act of smoking. It is what I am, whether I’m smoking or not. And recognizing this saved my life. And it freed me from the burden of figuring out how to feed my addiction without being its slave that has plagued me for 24 years. No longer did I have to try to figure out how to smoke without becoming a smoker. I could just get off that dizzying and exhausting and deadly merry-go-round of deadly “logic” and say this:
Never again. For ANY reason.
And you my friend… You can do this too. Post roll everyday. Promise yourself, your brothers (and sisters!) that TODAY… you won’t use nicotine. Keep your guard up.
Remember my failed marriage? After day 100 I was living in an apartment and dealing with stress and worry like I have never experienced before. I am surrounded by smokers and I have a lovely back porch where I can picture myself every single night unwinding slowly while exhaling cigarette smoke. I loved my first cigarette. I loved my last one too. I just happen to hate killing myself more. There are days… even at 150… where that daily promise is the only thing making it easy. There isn’t a decision to make once I’ve made that promise. It’s done. I know firsthand that in five years, a day may come where I will be thankful I made that promise for that day.
I will always be an addict, but I am no longer a slave. And freedom is so sweet. I invite you to come taste it with me.