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> Listen to your rational well reasoned dreams while laughing at those deep inner emotions that are were so conditioned by years of chemical dependency that they are now afraid of "you" returning to the real "you!" Embrace recovery as it's nothing more again becoming comfortable engaging life as "you!"
Only one rule - no nicotine today! John
Denial is the unconscious defensive filtering system of the addict's conscious mind. It's characterized by refusal to acknowledge the painful realities of true chemical dependency, gradual self-destruction and the process needed for recovery. It's objective is simple - protect the addict's chemical world of "nicotine normal" while preserving as much human dignity as possible. Over time it can grow into a thick insulating wall that is almost impenetrable by the world around us.
Denial vs. Dreams
Our wall was built of dependency ignorance, fabrications, distortions, rationalizations, half-truths, minimizations, intellectualizations, blame transference and avoidance. Protective during active dependency, years of denial can quickly become the primary adversary following the early challenges of chemical withdrawal and trigger reconditioning, as it conflicts with and chips away at our dreams fueling cessation.
When quitting, it is normal to picture leaving our smoking history behind us as we step into that fresh clean world of ex-smoker-hood but in reality the wall is deeply embedded in our consciousness and comes with us. It can easily result in anxiety filled smoking-fixation tug-o-wars between dreams and denial that, if allowed, have the potential to gradually **** the juice from freedom's dreams.
Addressing denial is a matter of using intelligence, new understanding, insights and honesty to take the wall apart piece by piece. Although the dreams and motivations of many are powerful enough to permit them to reach acceptance and begin tasting the fruits of full recovery, not addressing denial is like intentionally holding on to the seeds of relapse.
Be careful not to allow a conscious understanding of denial to become yet another brick in your wall of denial. Use it as a tool to contrast concepts such as "like" and "love" with addiction. What's love got to do with it? Addicted to love? No, you were addicted to nicotine!
Is it a love of having life constantly interrupted to feed sagging blood-serum nicotine levels as the real clock in your life is nicotine's two-hour chemical half-life? Is it that you love having your brain's dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline pathways, and roughly 200 other neurochemicals, controlled by nicotine?
Reflect upon the smell and taste of over 4,000 hot burning chemicals. "Like"? "Love"? How did the smell strike you before becoming addicted and how does it smell now? Again, does it really matter how they smell or taste if the autonomy and freedom to not have them touch your senses no longer exists?
Impose honesty upon the concept of just one puff. A basic premise of law of addiction is that "one is too many and a thousand isn't enough."
Can we really take a big puff of nicotine and not immediately revive thousands upon thousands of smoking memories, re-establish at least one feeding cue that will likely be met again, and somehow will or command the nicotine that just entered our bloodstream to not travel up to our brain and release dopamine, adrenaline and serotonin?
When it comes to statistics it was easy for the addict to turn them into yet another brick. For example, take the 50/50 chance of smoking costing you roughly 5,000 days of life. The addict plucks salvation from the jaws of death by declaring that there is a 50% chance that smoking won't kill them while ignoring the equally as great odds that it will. They also ignore the fact that it isn't just death they need to be concerned about as for each smoker robbed of life each year twenty others are battling to recover from or survive with tobacco related strokes, heart attacks, cancers, or COPD.
As normal thoughts and yearnings to smoke nicotine enter your mind they will often be followed by denial thoughts that attempt to justify relapse. Although the yearnings are normal and become less frequent with the passing of time, the denial justifications that often accompany them are a golden opportunity to set the record straight. An open recovering mind that's willing to tear down its wall can accelerate the arrival of acceptance.
Turn the tide. Allow full acceptance of a permanent chemical dependency that can be arrested but never killed, to minimize the nonsense employed to justify continuining captivity. Allow acceptance that each and every puff destroyed a bit more of your body's capacity to receive and transport life giving oxygen to intellectualize the importance of preserving and improving the performance of all capacities that remain. Allow acceptance that recovery leads to new expectations that don't include nicotine - by simply not allowing any nicotine back into your bloodstream just one day at a time - to bring a smile to your face each time a thought or urge crosses your mind.
When it comes to denial's blame game don't blame what you're feeling on where you're going but if you must cast blame, blame it on where you've been. We blamed life's stresses for not being able to quit, blamed zealots and fanatics for not tolerating our smoke, blamed our family and loves ones for not knowing what we were going through, what it was like to endure recovery and not supporting us during it, and even blamed smokers around us for our relapse - "I wish you hadn't of given me that one cigarette as I ended up buying an entire pack."
The intelligent and educated quitter leaves little room for competition between their current dreams and former denial. Some competition is probably inevitable but keeping the memories fueling our dreams robust and alive (our years of endless feedings, our chemical bondage, a 30% diminished lung capacity, escalating circulatory damage, increasing costs, generally declining health, a diminished life expectancy, increasing social stigma, and the mountains of ash, ashtrays, butts, the smoke, stink and the yellow film that covered our world) while directly confronting denial vastly increases the odds of continuing to choose freedom over feed-em.
To continue healing and keep the risks headed in the other direction is a matter of not allowing nicotine into our body today. The next few minutes are all that really matter and each is entirely doable. Just one day at a time Never Take Another Puff!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long, Freedom! John
Reach for Being You Again!Nicotine is the tobacco plant's natural protection from being eaten by insects. Drop for drop it's more lethal than strychnine and three times deadlier than arsenic. Yet, amazingly, by chance, this natural insecticide's chemical structure is so similar to the neurotransmitter acetylcholine that once inside the brain it fits a host of chemical locks permitting it direct and indirect control over the flow of more than 200 neurochemicals.
Within eight seconds of that first-ever inhaled puff, nicotine arrived at the brain's reward pathways where it generated a flood of dopamine resulting in an immediate "aaahhh" satisfaction sensation. Sensing it would cause most first-time inhalers to soon return for more. Nicotine also fit the adrenaline locks releasing a host of fight or flight neurochemicals and select serotonin locks impacting mood.
A toxic poison, the brain's defenses fought back but in doing so they had no choice but to also turn down the mind's sensitivity to acetylcholine, the body's conductor of an entire orchestra of neurochemicals.
In some neuro-circuits the brain diminished the number of receptors available to receive nicotine, in others it diminished the number of available transporters and in still other regions it grew millions and millions of extra neurons, almost as if trying to protect itself by more widely disbursing the arriving pesticide.
There was only one problem. All the physical changes engineered a new tailored neurochemical sense of normal built entirely upon the presence of nicotine. Now, any attempt to stop using it would come with a risk of intermittent temporary hurtful anxieties and powerful mood shifts. A true chemical addiction was born. Returning home to the "real you" now had a price. Gradually the calmness and comfort associated with being the "real you" faded into distant or even forgotten memory.The brain's protective adjustments insured that any attempt to stop would leave you temporarily desensitized. Your dopamine reward system would briefly offer-up few rewards, your nervous system would see altering the status quo as danger and sound an emotional anxiety alarm throughout your body, and mood circuitry might briefly find it difficult to climb beyond depression.
Successful nicotine dependency recovery is developing the patience to allow the mind the time needed to readjust to functioning normally, and the recovering nicotine addict time to both readjust to their brain's adjustments and to become 100% comfortable engaging life without wanting for nicotine.
The body's nicotine reserves decline by about half every two hours. It's not only the basic chemical half-life clock which determines mandatory nicotine feeding times, when quitting, it's also the clock that determines how long it takes before the brain begins bathing in nicotine free blood-serum, the moment that real healing begins.It can take up to 72 hours for the blood-serum to become nicotine-free and 90% of nicotine's metabolites to exit the body via your urine. It's then that the anxieties associated with readjustment normally peak in intensity and begin to gradually decline.
But just one powerful puff of nicotine and you'll again face another 72 hours of detox anxieties. It's why the one puff survival rate is almost zero. None of us are stronger than nicotine but then we don't need to be as it is just a chemical with an I.Q. of zero. It does not plot nor conspire and is not some demon within you. It's a chemical.The key to nicotine dependency recovery isn't dragging out 72 hours of detox by toying for months with gradual weaning or creative means for delivering nicotine. You need to know that the over-the-counter patch and gum generated an average 93% six-month smoking relapse rate in the seven studies conducted to date (Tobacco Control, March 2003). The key is education and understanding.The next few minutes are entirely doable and there's only one rule - no nicotine today!John
" I have no trouble visualising lung cancer and other horrific examples, but my smoke cravings are intolerable. I have been quit for 10 days, and I almost feel like the life is not worth living if I can't smoke. Please tell me that I can have fun eventually, without cigarettes. No scary lung cancer examples, please, this just insults my intelligence lately."
"Also my throat biopsy came back all clear - the removed "thing" turned out to be completely non-malignant ulceration. This was my main reason for quitting smoking as I was afraid that I was getting some throat cancer and I am only 32, well, 33 tomorrow. I am no longer excited that "I did it" like I was after the first 72 hours. Help"In response Joel posted as follows ...
Recast Fear into HopeAlthough fear is an important initial motivator it is not an enduring or sustaining motivation as your body is likely undergoing its most widespread healing ever. What will happen to your fear as your senses recover, the cough or wheeze disappear and all of the sudden you find an extra 30% functional lung capacity?
If your list of reasons contain lots of fear factors do not fret but instead gradually recast each of them into sustainable positive motives that build instead of decay. Instead of fearing the worst, dream about being all you can be and reaching for your best. Turn a fear of failing health into a dream of improving your health. By doing so, each time you notice your healing it will not deprive you of a bit more of your core motivation but will bring a smile to your face and add purpose to this wonderful temporary journey of adjustment!
Keep your conscious rational mind's dreams louder than your subconscious irrational fears that fear the unfolding amazing glory of again comfortably engaging life as you! The key to staying on this side of the bars and keeping our arrested dependency on the other is as simple as no nicotine! The next few minutes are doable! John
Cost as a Motive
How we look at and define the motivations we choose to elevate to the top of our list is important. Take the cost of smoking for example. If it only takes one powerful puff of nicotine to induce the onset of full and complete relapse what's the actual cost to relapse, one bummed cigarette? In fact it's far far more including a 50% risk of costing yourself about 14 years of life but as fixation anxieties begin to mount looking into the future and imaging smoking yourself to death can seem a bit hard to do. If cost is on your list below is the beginning of a relapse cost list that I invite you to build upon and keep close at hand in case the challenge should ever seem bigger than you.
- The actual cost of buying enough nicotine for the balance of life so that you can attempt to die a comfortable nicotine addict with your blood serum nicotine level not to high and not to low.
- The actual costs associated with obtaining your supply of nicotine (time, gas, vehicle wear and tear).
- The cost in memories of interrupting life's finest events, gathering and moments so that you can go find an acceptable location to feed a never ending mandatory chemical need.
- The cost in terms of daily tim devoted to planning and maintaining your addiction.
- The cost in diminished quality of life as pulmonary or circulatory disease begins to substanitially impair breathing and/or bloodflow.
- The medical costs.
- Your emotional cost in self-esteem and self-worth in remaining nicotine's slave every hour of every day.
- The neurochemical cost that defines "you" and "normal" as nicotine controls the direct and indirect flow of more than 200 of your body's neurochemicals including serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine.
- The cost in years of life expectancy after choosing nicotine over life itself.
- The emotional cost to your loved ones after having watched you smoke yourself to death knowing that you chose nicotine over them.
If you find yourself at or near the top of withdrawal's mountain and the challenge at times seems bigger than you, reach for your dreams. This temporary journey of adjustment is likely one of the best present you've ever given you. Embrace recovering "you" don't fear it. Slow deep breaths into the bottom of each lung, a nice cool glass of water and a tiny smile for the victory that today was yours! Baby steps! The next few minutes are all that matter and each is entirely doable. We're with you in spirit! John
The final phase of nicotine dependency recovery is in either allowing sufficient time to pass so that thoughts of wanting to smoke -- reflecting the mountain of denial garbage we constantly fed ourselves over the years -- gradually fade away and stop haunting and replaying over and over in the mind, or accelerating the process by seeing the arrival of each as a golden opportunity to set the record straight.
Imagine residing inside a mind chemically dependent upon a substance that addiction experts contend may possibly be the most captivating of all. Although it isn't likely that any of us then knew or realized that our brain had physically grown millions upon millions of extra acetylcholine receptors, that it had de-sensitized select critical brain pathways from an endless onslaught of nicotine, or that nicotine was in command and control over the flow of more than 200 of our body's neurochemicals, we didn't't need to know the details.
We'd each already felt the punishing anxieties of waiting too long between nicotine feedings. We knew we'd lost the autonomy to simply turn and walk away. Even though we'd tried to tune it out, we also couldn't't help but hear the dull roar of the endless stream of new study findings telling us that each and every puff not only destroyed more of our body's ability to receive and transport life-giving oxygen, but that with it came a greater accumulation of the 43 carcinogens present in each burning cigarette. We knew that a time-bomb was building in each of us.
Although clinging to the security blanket that all we suffered from was some "nasty little habit," deep down we knew we were hooked solid. So how did our conscious thinking mind cope with the sobering reality that our brain was a slave to its own senseless self-destruction?
How did we look in the mirror each morning and maintain any sense of dignity, self-worth or self-respect while constantly being reminded that we were prisoners to dependency, decay, disease, and that today we'd move closer to completing the act of committing our own chemical suicide? It was easy - we learned to lie.
We each called upon our intelligence and conscious mind to help build a thick protective wall of denial that not only insulated us from the hard cold realities of daily dependency but behind which we could hide when those on the outside felt the need to remind us of who we really were and what we were doing. Our basic tools for building the wall were conscious rationalizations, minimizations and blame transference.
As soon as nicotine's urge commands began telling us that smoking was no longer an optional activity we each found ourselves forced to explain our involuntary obedience to them. Although nicotine's two-hour half-life inside our bloodstream was now the basic clock governing mandatory feeding times, we each became very creative in providing alternative justifications and explanations.
In our pre-dependency days we may have found honest pleasure in experiencing an unearned flood of dopamine accompanied by a nicotine induced rush of adrenaline but once the feedings became mandatory it didn't matter how we felt about them. Choice was no longer an issue. Even if we didn't fully appreciate our new state of permanent chemical captivity, many of us rationalized the situation based upon what we found ourselves doing.
"I don't do things that I don't like to do," we reminded ourselves. "I smoke lots and lots and lots of cigarettes, therefore I must really love smoking," instead of "therefore, I must really be addicted to smoking nicotine." Not only were our "like" and "love" rationalizations easier to swallow, they provided a conscious defense against those encouraging us to stop. Yes, the first bricks in our wall of denial were now being cemented into place, and made thicker with each empty pack.
Some of us hid from our dependency by blaming our chronic tobacco use on what we described as tobacco smoke's wonderful smell or taste. This rationalization brick not only ignored the over 600 flavor additives that the tobacco industry uses to engineer an amazing spectrum of smells and tastes, it ignored the fact that hundreds of other plants, products and people smell good too but we have never once found the need to light any of them on fire and **** them into our lungs in order to complete the experience. But if man ever decides to soak any in nicotine, stand back, as the nicotine addict will likely be burning them soon too.
One brick was our sense that we were each somehow able to control the uncontrollable. Some of us purchased just one pack at a time, playing the endless mind game that tomorrow would always be our last. Some intentionally never made a serious attempt so as to avoid having to admit dependency. Others rationalized that since they only smoked a little more than 5 mg. of nicotine daily (about 5 cigarettes) they were either less addicted than others, somehow better than other smokers, or not addicted at all. And then there are our closest smokers - like my grandmother - who constantly tried to convince us that the cloud of smoke rolling out of the bathroom behind her really wasn't there.
The most fatal control rationalization of all is the fraud of "just one," "just one little puff!" Although a primary maxim of addiction is that "one is always too many and a thousand never enough," instead of picturing all of them and the return of our entire dependency and the endless destructive chain of feeding linked to it, we rationalized countless relapses by lying to ourselves that we were stronger than nicotine and that we could smoke "just one." Why waste time entertaining the repeating thought reflected by this brick when we now know it be a lie?
Each time our wall was pierced we simply added another brick. There was our "you have to die of something" brick, our "there's still plenty of time" brick, and even the rationalization that went as far as to counter tobacco's 50% kill rate by asserting that it really meant that "there is a 50% chance that smoking won't kill me."
We also have all of our "why we smoked" rationalizations. We told ourselves that it made the coffee taste better when in fact it deadened our sense of smell and drowned coffee's flavors in the 4,000 chemicals present in each burning cigarette. There was our "best friend" brick which asserted that a chemical with an I.Q. of zero was most loyal companion we'd ever had, even when smoking it had long ago deprived us of up to one-third of our functional lung capacity.
There was our boredom brick, our appetizer before every meal brick, our after each meal dessert brick, and the brick proclaiming the first cigarette of the day to be one of the best of all. Each such rationalization totally ignored the real clock driving the situation - nicotine's two-hour chemical half-life.
They ignored the fact that the average pack-a-day smoker will receive a command to smoke (an urge) about every thirty minutes regardless of which activity their denial wishes to credit. It ignores the fact that after sleeping through three to four nicotine half-lives we were left with nicotine blood-serum reserve levels that were somewhere down around our socks. Those first daily smokes should have been memorable.
Then there was our alcohol and stress bricks. Living in a world of dependency ignorance, very few of us knew that nicotine is an alkaloid and that both stress and alcohol are acid producing events. Instead of understanding how stress and alcohol can neutralize the body's nicotine reserves we rationalized that smoking reduced our stress and that we liked smoking more when drinking.
Let's not forget our romantic fixation bricks proclaiming that some of our best memories ever were based upon the presence of nicotine, and that somehow the moment or underlying memory would have been less significant if nicotine had not added dopamine and adrenaline to it. Wouldn't honest reflection have us asking how many of life's perfect moments were interrupted by a mandatory need to leave and feed, or by a mind pre-occupied with the need to do so?
And what about our quitting bricks? Pretending that we'd be quitting soon or going so far as to actually set a date would always make today's nicotine fixes far more bearable. When we failed to follow through or relapsed we could always reach for our blame bricks and lay the cause for our defeat upon family members that just couldn't handle the temporary anxieties associated with recovery. We could blame friends, a lack of support, a relationship, stressful times, financial hardship, other smokers, alcohol or even our job.
Natural Erosion or Conscious Intervention?
The only limit upon the bricks within our wall was our imagination. Have you ever noticed just how challenging it really is to coax a smoker out from behind their wall? After years of construction it tends to be a secure and comforting place to hide from those seeking to impose their will upon us.
It is not necessary that any of us set out to consciously dismantle our wall of denial in order to successfully keep our dependency arrested. But what it may help to realize is that the bulk of our "thoughts" of wanting to smoke nicotine are likely a reflection of the very wall that we ourselves created.
As each thought arrives, will spending a bit of time reflecting upon its origin and validity help shorten this temporary period of adjustment called quitting, and diminish the number of excuses available to justify future relapse?
The day and moment is approaching when you'll awaken to an expectation of going your entire day without once wanting to smoke nicotine. Oh, you'll still have thoughts now and then but with decreasing frequency, shorter duration and declining intensity. They'll become the exception, not the rule. It may even get to the point where you'll greet them with a smile as they'll be your only reminder of the amazing journey you've made.
They say that "truth shall set us free" but here at WhyQuit we have an even better guarantee. It is impossible to lose our freedom so long as we refuse to allow nicotine back into our bloodstream. The next few minutes are all that matter and each is entirely doable. There was always only one rule ... no nicotine today ... Never Take Another Puff!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long! John (Gold x5)
Data from a recent study tends to suggest that the importance of our initial motivations as a sustaining factor during recovery likely tends to decline as we move closer to and begin to embrace the calm and mental quit that gradually emerges over time. It seems to make sense too. Why would quitting reasons carry the same significance once the challenges begin subsiding?
You're going home and there's still only one rule that guarantees success for all if followed, no nicotine today ... Never Take Another Puff!
Out on the town, you watch as your good friend Bill lights-up and **** down a deliciously deep puff, and then lays the pack on the table between you. Cindy, your talkative co-worker, blows smoke your way while gloriously waving her cigarette like a conductor's baton. Arthur and Denise, two smoking strangers, gravitate toward one and other and engage in lite-hearted conversation while guarding a store's entrance. While stopped at a light, a deep relaxing puff is inhaled by Ellen in the car beside you. "Oh but to again share in the joys of smoking," you think to yourself, "to puff, to taste, to blow, then relax." The joys of smoking? Joy? Joy?
Yesterday, Bill stepped in a pile of dog dung but failed to notice until he turned around and was puzzled by the strange brown tracks across his sky blue carpet that seemed to lead to his right shoe. Bill's sniffer has been almost useless for over 20 years. A pack and a half a day smoker, he has experienced two cases of pneumonia over the past 3 winters, with the last one putting him in bed for 6 days. Struggling for each breath, Bill still managed to smoke a couple each day. His doctor has pleaded with him to quit but after a half dozen failed attempts, discouragement fills his mind.
Cindy's two teenage sons are onto her almost daily about her smoking. They can't walk anywhere as a family without her cigarette smoke finding the boys. When it does, they make her want to crawl into a hole as they both start coughing and gaging as if dying. When smoking, they never walk together, it's either ahead or behind for lonely mom. She dreads the seven hour drive to her parent's house next week, but she can no longer make excuses for visiting only once in 3 years. Cindy knows that they'll pass three rest areas along the interstate but it will be difficult to fib about having to go to the bathroom at all three. Two will have to do.
The date for the trip arrives. She skips making breakfast to ensure that the boys will demand that they stop to eat along the way. Cindy shakes her head after coming back in from loading up the car. Not only does she have a cigarette in her hand, the ashtray on the table is smoking one too. Before leaving town she stops to fill up with gas while managing three quick puffs, as she feels far more secure after stuffing two new packs into her purse.
Arthur, a 54 year old two pack a day smoker, has large cell lung cancer in the right lobe. The slow growing tumor is now almost five months old and a little bigger than an orange. As he sits rolling coins to purchase his next 46 mg. of mandatory daily nicotine needed to stay inside the comfort zone, he does not yet know he has cancer. Although he has twice coughed up a small bit of bloody mucus, he quickly dismissed it both times. Frankly, he just doesn't want to know. There is a bit of chest pain but that's nothing new, as chest tightness has occurred on and off for the past couple of years. Additional thick bloody mucus will soon scare Arthur into a doctor visit and a chest x-ray. The delay will cost him a lung. Over the next two years he will battle hard to save his life. In the end Arthur will lose. His fate is the same as what half of all smokers will experience - nicotine induced death.
A workaholic, Ellen has done very well financially. Her life seems to have everything except for companionship. A three pack-a-day smoker, she constantly smells like a walking tobacco factory and often turns heads and noses when walking into a room. A serious chain-smoker, she tells those around her that she enjoys her cigarettes. Deep down, she knows that she is a drug addict and believes that she just can't quit. Her car windows, house blinds and forehead continually share a common guest - a thin oily film of tar and other chemicals. Ellen has a date next Friday, a two pack-a-day smoker named Ed. They'll find comfort in sharing their addictions.
Denise started smoking at age 13 while her lungs were still developing. Constantly clearing her throat, month by month her breathing capacity continues to slowly deteriorate. Smoking lines and wrinkles above and below her lips have aged a once attractive face far quicker than its 32 years. Considered "cool" when she became hooked, the government recently banned smoking in all public buildings, her boss just posted a new non-smoking policy at work, and the headline in the local paper she is holding is about the city proposing a ban on smoking in the park across the street. Feeling like a hopelessly addicted social outcast, a single tear begins working its way down her cheek.
Fifteen pounds over weight to begin with, a year ago Denise successfully quit for almost 2 months by exchanging cigarettes for a new crutch called food. She threw in the towel when she had outgrown her entire wardrobe. Three months following relapse, and still depressed over her defeat, all the new weight remains with her. Already on high-blood pressure medication, she is about to become a regular user of anti-depressants.
The joy of smoking? Joy?
Fortunately for Denise, a caring friend will tell her about a free online nicotine cessation education and support forum called Freedom. There, Denise will dedicate herself toward understanding the core principles underlying her almost two decades of chemical dependency upon nicotine. She will successfully arrest her addiction, develop the patience and outlook needed to navigate her temporary period of adjustment called "quitting," reclaim her self-confidence, and develop the mental skills and healthy body needed to successfully tackle all of her unwanted pounds, just one pound at a time.
All that matter are the next few minutes and each is entirely doable. There will always be only one rule that 100% guarantees success for each of us - no nicotine today, Never Take Another Puff!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long! John (Gold x5)