My name is Marion. I have been a lifelong smoker on and off. I’ve had years at a time of abstinence, but always, eventually, go back to smoking. Each time it gets harder to quit and easier to start again.
After 5 years of not smoking someone left an unlit cigarette on a table at my house. I looked at it for a couple of days and finally picked it up and lit it. Needless to say, it didn’t end with that one cigarette. I became hooked all over again for the next 20 years.
In January, 2020, I was asked by my primary care doctor if the facilitator from the quitting smoking program could call me. I said yes. The next day the facilitator called me and I said I wasn’t ready yet to go to a support group because, though I wanted to quit, I hadn’t made the decision to do so yet. The facilitator kindly rejected that answer, offering that it was possible that the group could support me through that decision-making process. So I agreed to go. This was pre-COVID, and the group met in-person. I went to my first meeting, and that was the day that changed my life.
At that first meeting, there was a woman in the group who had not been smoking for a few weeks. I mostly listened that day. Afterwards I thought that if that person could do it, so could I. I’ve always believed that mind-set is the most important component to quitting. Each time I’ve quit I developed a mind-set that I could do it, wanted to do it, and would do it, though the resolve didn’t happen until after I stopped. It wasn’t an advance, planned decision with a quit date, etc.
So I went home thinking about it. I got up the next morning, finished the 2 or three cigarettes I had left, and didn’t go out to buy more. I put on a patch. I felt I had to do something physical, so I started walking twice daily. It helped a lot. It was winter, cold and crisp; I took deep breaths in and out as I walked. I made it through a day. Then I noticed that I was having strong cravings even though I was wearing a patch. I decided that if that’s how it was wearing the patch, then I didn’t need the patch. I was craving anyway, so why wear it? I took it off and continued my new, though tenuous life of abstinence. I was not yet totally committed, but with each day that went by my resolve strengthened.
I haven’t smoked yet, and it’s been over 20 months. I’ve learned the following and these are some of the things that have helped me.
- Never say never. Never say I will never smoke again because that would indicate to me a level of complacency that I believe is dangerous to maintaining sobriety. I need to remain constantly vigilant.
- I used to say to myself that I would stop the next day (and never did). Now I say to myself, if I really want a cigarette, “I can do that tomorrow if I still want to”. To date I haven’t wanted to.
- I walk 3-4 miles per day. It clears my head, gives me a chance to breathe deeply, and reminds me of how good it feels to be smoke free.
- When cravings come, and they still do, though not as often, I just let them be there and forget about it. I just tell myself that that’s how life is now – no big deal.
- Stress urges, behavior triggers, etc. are not a reason for me to go back to smoking. Smoking doesn’t make stress go away, coffee is just as good without cigarettes, talking on the phone is not a reason to smoke, it’s a reason to tune into the conversation.
I don’t know if this time is the “forever” time, but it feels great and I’m going to enjoy it while it’s here and hope I don’t go back.
The group has been very helpful in that I didn’t have to do it alone. I realized that my circumstance was not unique
There are 8 million stories in the Naked City. This has been one of them.
Marion has done all the right things! She’s maintained a sense of humor (Naked City quote above) and positive attitude. She’s deepened her sense of acceptance – desires to smoke will come. So what?! That’s a big deal.
She also came to group before she felt like she was ready. By being open to the zero-pressure support there, Marion quickly became ready. She heard or felt something that got her started. That’s what I call the “power of we!”
I’m so glad she didn’t wait to join the crew! COVID was right around the corner and if she hadn’t quit when she did, the pandemic might have become a reason for her to postpone her attempt!
Right from the get go, she started being active. THAT’S “good medicine!” Even a short walk gives your body a boost and your brain a break – new sights, sounds, and smells can really help reboot our brains!
Marion has been our “fearless leader” and exemplar for quite a while. She attends a one hour meeting almost every week (unless she has Grammy duty!) That regular connection with others who understand the journey is really important. Marion serves as proof that quitting can happen. And maybe the “newby” quitters, just starting out, remind her that she doesn’t want to have to start over.
People like Marion who dare to try and then share their story can be like pebbles cast into a still pond. They will send forth ripples (of courage and hope) that will cause changes far beyond their awareness. Thank you for caring and daring and sharing!