It is now one week since I had my last dose of nicotine. In another two hours it will be one week and one day to be precise and I feel sort of disorientated! It’s like I am living in a dream. I thought I would have to be at deaths door before I’d be able to quit smoking so finding myself a non-smoker now is really doing my head in. I keep wondering when I’m going to wake up!
All these years I believed quitting smoking would be a major event filled with struggle, self-sacrifice, and trauma and I was so afraid of all that I wouldn’t even try. I was convinced I never would try – and nobody would ever be able to make me try either! I was so afraid, so sure I couldn’t do it, I even told God if I had to choose between salvation and smoking I would have to choose smoking!
I can’t believe I actually told God I valued a smoking addiction more than my eternal life with Him in heaven!
I told Him I wanted to please Him but I didn’t want to quit smoking. All I could do was “be willing to be made willing” to do His will. In other words, all I could offer God was permission to work His will in me and in my life to bring me to a point where I would be willing to quit. That might seem like a pathetic little trade but it was quite big in it’s own way. It meant I was willing to accept God breaking me, breaking my health, putting me in a wheel chair and on oxygen if that was what it took to force me to quit!
I smoked for 42 years and NEVER tried to quit. Never! Not even after being forced to quit for three days when I landed in hospital with a broken ankle. The second they released me from the hospital bed I grabbed a walking frame and hopped to the smoking area! I persisted with that first smoke despite it making me feel dizzy and sick and I persevered with additional smokes until I could smoke, once again, without it making me cough, get dizzy, feel overheated and sick. I persisted because I was sure three days wouldn’t be the end of the misery I would have to go through if I quit.
I’ve heard all the stories smokers tell about how much they suffered and how the urges can go on for many years and even overpower you decades after quitting. I’ve spoken to people who said they gave up for weeks, months, even years but went through one incident, one party, one drunken night, one crisis or simply let their guard down for one moment and ended up back in the prison of nicotine addiction.
It’s like society was telling me nicotine will kill me but withdrawal will make me wish I was dead. There was the sense of having only two choices – future unbearable pain if I don’t quit – or immediate unbearable pain if I do quit. Like many I wanted to put the pain off as long as possible.
For most of my smoking years I really thought I had no choice but God stripped that self-delusion away from me when I broke my ankle and, more and more, I was feeling Him ask me to choose Him and discard nicotine. One morning I woke up feeling that strong urge to choose God over nicotine so I decided to give it a go and see if I could. For 12 hours it was easy and even when I caved in and “rewarded” myself for quitting for 12 hours I had a sense of having the choice to keep going if I wanted to and it motivated me to take the next step of planning for a specific quit point.
My first step was to vow never to BUY another cigarette. I had a good supply of them on hand so making this vow to myself wasn’t too hard but it set the stage for knowing I was going to have to quit smoking very soon.
At first the quit date was vague. It was “when I have smoked the last of my supply of cigarettes”. I had 251 cigarettes on me as I had just bought a new carton. At a consumption rate of 45 to 50 smokes a day I should have been setting the quit date for five days away but I didn’t want to be quitting during the days I work so I decided to cut my smoking down and make the cigarettes last until after my next lot of work shifts. That meant making the smokes last 11 days if I could.
I thought about buying enough to get me through the 11 days but I had already vowed not to buy another smoke and I didn’t want to let myself down so fast so I decided to make them last.
I was able to cut my smoking in half simply by thinking “do I really need, or want, this smoke” before lighting up each time and by not chain smoking more than one at a time. Even with all that I still ran out of smokes 11 minutes before I began my last shift for the week.
I knew the smokes wouldn’t last to the end of that shift and I was so tempted to buy “just one more packet” to get me through but, again, I didn’t want to break my vow to never buy another smoke so I sucked in a deep breath, smoked my last smoke and went in to start my shift knowing if I could go without for 12 hours I could go without for an 8 hour shift.
I spent the 11 days prior to quitting researching reasons to quit. I signed up for quit smoking coaching from the Australian governments quit smoking site. I read a quit smoking book and did quit smoking “homework” such as making lists of my reasons for quitting and so on. I worked really hard to prepare my mind, my heart, and my soul to succeed at quitting.
I was determined, if all else failed, I would hunker down, grit my teeth, and stoically endure the horror and the misery and the pain of quitting for as long as it took to pass.
Day one passed quickly and with nothing worse than the occasional thoughts. “I’d like a smoke right now” would come into my mind and I would respond with anger at the very idea of going back to prison voluntarily and tell myself “Hell no! I’m never taking another puff and that’s final.” It was easy to turn my back on those thoughts.
Day two passed the same way and so did days three, four, five, six and seven! I couldn’t believe it. It was so easy I was ashamed of myself for not trying sooner. I started to get angry about being lied to all these years and I started writing this entry to tell you all there is nothing to it.. quitting smoking is easy.. all you need is a genuine desire to be done with it and the rest is a walk in the park!
As I was writing, however, I coughed. Then I coughed harder and almost vomited. I raced to the bathroom where I heaved and heaved and heaved until I thought I was going to vomit my lungs up next.
It’s been tough ever since then but still not as tough as I expected it to be. I will continue this in the next entry – Week Two.