I hear that fairly often. Typically it’s a health concern that brings a person to a place where they accept that they should quit smoking (vaping, drinking excessively, or using other substances.) But they really don’t want to quit because they “like it!”
I’m not sure that anyone actually likes sucking toxic soot into their lungs. But I absolutely believe that we can like something that smoking does for us. It serves a purpose, fills a void, helps us avoid, creates a break, or temporarily satisfies some other want. Remember, I used to huff 60 of those sneaky little cusses every day. I was obviously liking something that smoking was doing for me – maybe just appeasing my nicotine cravings. And the value of those things smoking did for me outweighed what I knew smoking was doing to me, at that time.
When the Smoke Clears
At some point we get to a point when the seesaw slides toward a greater concern for our health. Sometimes this change of heart comes suddenly as a result of some revelation – positive or negative. Maybe a scary medical test result has served as a wake up call and we realize that it’s time to get serious about quitting. Fear can be a highly effective motivator, it just isn’t much fun. I think that’s part of why we may so adamantly resist if people ever lecture or scold us about the dangers of smoking. If we listen to and accept what they’re saying, we’re going to be scared. Being scared is only fun on a rollercoaster. But positive epiphanies occur too.
In my struggle with tobacco, I estimate that I attempted between 25 and 30 times before I found “the quit that I could live with.” All of the prior attempts had been pretty uncomfortable, especially for the first week or so. But this last quit was oddly comfortable and so easy that years later I felt a little guilty as I watched others bravely suffering to make the change. I guess my brave suffering happened in those previous, ill-fated attempts.
While traveling out of state, house-sitting for some friends with my new Bride, I almost accidentally quit smoking! Yes, I didn’t even realize what was happening until it had kinda happened! Each day I smoked fewer cigarettes than the previous day – not intentionally, it just happened as a result of…
1. what I was doing (behavioral triggers)
2. where I was and who I was with (social triggers)
3. when my last dose of nicotine was (chemical cravings)
4. how I was feeling about the circumstances around me (emotional urges.)
I was doing different things, drinking out of a different coffee cup, sitting on a different porch, wearing different clothes, waking at a different time, enjoying a vacation-like atmosphere, with the person I love more than any other. Subsequently, because smoking was inconvenient, I had smoked fewer cigarettes each day than the day before, for about a week. Lots of things had changed, and some of you will recognize four of the heads of the five-headed dragon in the items above. But I had not observed the dragon way back then. I didn’t realize how well the stage was set for my final quit – my real heal!
The most important change that happened actually a few days before we went on the trip. My partner had announced that they were pregnant. Suddenly, I was able to see myself differently. Circumstances required that I change my identity in some way – or at least my perception of myself. Holy cow! Some little being is going to call me “Daddy!?” Yikes! Yay! Yowza! I better get serious about taking care of me. It turns out that if we can see ourselves with more compassion, we will treat ourselves with more compassion.
Who Do You Think You Are?
In hindsight, I understand that this was the last head of the dragon (psychological compulsion.) This was the most important and the most difficult of the five distinct aspects of our complicated relationships with tobacco and other substances. And I’m obviously not suggesting that having a baby is the best way to quit smoking. But for me, the revelation of a new life being trusted into my care was sufficient motivation to take care of me for that child’s sake.
Our relationship with ourselves is really very much part of our relationship with tobacco. Our relationship with ourselves is really what that last head of the dragon is all about. I’m either willing to allow harm to come to me, or I’m unwilling to protect myself from harm. Either way, the outcome is the same. We need to learn how to change how we see ourselves. Seeking the help of a qualified therapist or counselor can help us deal with underlying psychological issues which degrade our self-image. Most of us can access behavioral health specialists through our medical providers.
This is obviously way more complicated than choosing the correct nicotine patch dose. And I trust that you can see that a five-headed dragon will never succumb to just a few weeks of “clean nicotine.” Quit medications can definitely some of us to manage the chemical withdrawal symptoms, but they aren’t a “cure,” they’re a part of a quit plan that needs to be comprehensive – a plan that addresses all five aspects. You can listen to an overview of the five-headed dragon right here: BESOCHEMPS 101
Please stay in touch. It will help you stay on track. Please get all the support you need (and deserve.) Let’s build a quit plan that’s really suited to you.
As always, thank you for taking good care of you!