Believing in The Cigarette
I used to believe that quitting smoking was the hardest thing that I have ever tried to do. I used to believe that I was a hopeless addict that would die a smoker.
I have tried to quit smoking so many times that I have lost count and every single failed attempt only added validity to what I already knew.... that quitting smoking was impossible.
It wasn't until I learned about nicotine addiction, that I realized something. It wasn't necassarily quitting smoking that was so hard to do. It was quitting believing in cigarettes that was hard to do.
See, I used to believe in the cigarette.
I used to believe that cigarettes kept me calm. The truth though, is that nicotine is a stimulant. Everytime I smoked a cigarette, it raised my hearbeat by about 20 beats more a minute. Smoking constricted my arteries and not only that, but the carbon monoxide from the cigarette was basically poisoning my blood's ability to carry oxygen. Creating an even greater strain on my heart. How could I be calm, when I was putting this kind of strain on my body over 40 times a day, everyday?
I used to believe that cigarettes relieved my stress. Little did I know that smoking created a lot of stress. The whole business of smoking is relieving an anxiety that the previous cigarette created.
After each cigarette that I smoked and the nicotine metabolized. Nicotine being able to fit my adrenaline locks, pumped adrenaline though my bloodstream leaving me with a slight fight or flight feeling. I was left with a heightened anxiety, an antsy feeling that I didn't like. My mind and body were being fooled into thinking that something was wrong, like I was in danger when in reality there was nothing wrong. My subconscious figured something out though. Smoking a cigarette would relieve that anxiety. Not knowing that it was being tricked and also looking out for my best interest. It would say " Smoke a cigarette and you'll feel better." So I would smoke a cigarette, relieve that anxiety and start the whole viscious cycle over again. The only stress I was relieving, was the stress that the previous cigarette created.
Not only that, but whenever I was under stress. It caused a physiological reaction that caused nicotine to get pulled from my bloodstream. So now was I not only under stress, I had a compounded problem of being in drug withdrawal. So I would smoke a cigarette, "feel better" and think "Oh, smoking helped me relieve some of my stress." The reality is though, it did nothing but relieve drug withdrawal. A compounded anxiety, that should have never been there in the first place. Nothing changed after smoking that cigarette. What ever caused my initial stress was still there. The only difference was that I had temporarily pacified the monkey on my back.
I used to believe that smoking made me happy. Sadly, smoking causes a form of depression. Sure, I can say that smoking releases dopamine, BUT that is only part of the story. Being the amazing machine that it is. My brain needed to regulate how much dopamine was being released. It couldn't regulate nicotine as it was a foreign substance(poison). So it had no other choice, but to turn down it's own sensitivity to releasing dopamine. My own natural neurotransmitters were being hijacked, forcing me to rely a lot more on the cigarette just to "feel good" or more accurately, feel nicotine normal. The truth was, I was happy DESPITE SMOKING and not because of it.
I used to believe that smoking was social. This makes me laugh now, because how can smoking be social? Was it social when I had to put my life on hold to put a stop to drug withdrawal? Was it social when I had to wash my hands, because I was embarassed about stinking like a cigarette? The only time that smoking was even remotely social was when I smoked around other smokers and that was because misery loves company.
I used to believe that cigarettes were the perfect companion to alcohol. Besides stress, this one was a doozy for me. Oh how I used to think, " If I only smoked when I drank. I would be a happy smoker." Even though this illusion was much craftier than a lot of the other ones. It was still an illusion.
The truth is that much like stress, alcohol created a physiological reaction that pulled nicotine out of my bloodstream at an accelerated rate. Unlike like stress though, whatever anxiety I was feeling from drug withdrawal was being masked by the intoxication from the alcohol. So even though I was relieving an accelerated drug withdrawal, I wasn't aware of it, because I wasn't feeling the anxiety that stress causes. I still love my beer and it sure tastes a lot better now that I don't have to chase it with a cigarette.
Whenever I quit smoking and saw people smoking. I used to believe that they got to smoke and I didn't. The truth is, Smokers HAVE to smoke to "feel normal". They HAVE to smoke to keep the anxieties of not smoking at bay. They HAVE to smoke keep the compounded problem of drug withdrawal from happening 20, 30,40 time plus a day. They do not GET to smoke. Thankfully I no longer HAVE to do that.
I no longer believe in the cigarettte. I used to. I used to belive that cigarettes did something for me. I know better now. They only DO TO ME.
Probably a quitter's biggest obstacle is fear and a lot of times that fear has a double edge sword. The fear of failure and the fear of success. We don't want to fail, because we want to finally rid ourselves of this addiction, BUT at the same time, if we succeed, that means that we will never "get" to smoke again.
Don't be afraid to quit smoking. Don't fear relapse. You can never relapse if you don't smoke and smoking again is aways YOUR choice, not some "Nicodemon's".
Don't be afraid to succeed either. Being successful doesn't mean that you'll never GET to smoke anymore. It means that you'll never HAVE to smoke again.
I read a quote in a book a while back that really stuck with me.
It said " Fear is only misguided faith."
Quit putting faith in cigarettes and you might be surprised how much easier quitting smoking can be.
Quitting smoking is a temporary adjustment, but it just that....TEMPORARY. FREEDOM IS FOREVER!!!
Be patient with yourself. This really is the greatest gift that you are giving yourself. Sometimes it just takes a little time to unwrap it.
I Freed myself on 7/7/04