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Loss or Gain -Are you quitting or recovering? Do you feel loss or gain. I do hope your reading here is bringing you to the realization that the real "quitting" took place on the day that our reason for starting to smoke became irrelevant - the day we lost the freedom and autonomy to simply turn and walk away.
standing dread on its head
For many it happened far quicker than then appreciated. Our brain's defenses attempted to desensitized the mind to one of earth's most potent toxins that by happenstance so closely resembled the body's acetylcholine molecule that it fit a host of neurochemical locks (receptors). Pumping out vastly more dopamine than normal the brain grew or activated millions of extra nicotinic type acetylcholine receptors in at least eleven different brain regions.
But, now any attempt to stop using nicotine would temporarily leave us with far more acetylcholine receptors than needed. We would briefly find ourselves de-sensitized to the flow of a host of our own neuro-chemicals. Upon beginning to sense and notice this numbed and de-sensitized state, wouldn't it be normal and logical to believe that we were leaving a big big part of us behind, that nicotine defined who we were, that without it we would not be us, and forever lost?
Depressed and reward-less anxiety. An explosion of tension sparked anger following the shortest fuse we may have ever known. Recovery? When happening inside the mind, how could this not be seen as "quitting"?
Understanding the recovery process and removing self-induced anxieties associated with needless fright about leaving "us" behind can make the mind's period of neuronal re-sensitization vastly less challenging. Throw in an appreciation of the importance of stable blood sugar and not skipping meals -- in learning to again feed ourselves now that nicotine is no longer our spoon -- and you might see transition as "recovery" even as it happens.
But recovery isn't just developing the patience to allow time for receptor counts to return to normal. It's about reclaiming numerous aspects of a life once drenched in nicotine, about picking up the pieces. It's about rediscovering that everything we once did while high on nicotine (our dopamine/adrenaline intoxication) can be done just as well or better without nicotine.
Our dependency feeding patterns conditioned our subconscious mind to expect nicotine at specific times or places, during certain events or activities, when with particular people or when encountering certain emotions. Some of us had more aspects of life consumed by our addiction than others but all making this journey home share a common thread, we're taking back our life.
We can dread or even avoid encountering our nicotine triggers. We know that each is capable of generating a mini anxiety panic attack lasting less than three minutes but, due to time distortion, feeling vastly longer (be sure and look at a clock). But following each crave episode we are rewarded with the return of another aspect of life.
There may be subtle distinctions between similar triggers that are nearly impossible to discern but the subconscious mind does not argue or debate. If it does not receive the expected result - nicotine - it quickly moves on. Our reward is that now another person, place, thing, time or emotion has been reclaimed.
Whether easy, hard or somewhere in-between, in order to keep the recovery process moving forward requires following just one guiding principle, no nicotine today, Never Take Another Puff, Dip or Chew!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
John (Gold x7)
Early recovery can be a frightening time. A fear of failure, fear of success, fear that we're somehow different, that nicotine defines our very being or gives us our edge, that it goes with the job, that we're leaving a big big part of us behind or that a dependent friend or loved one continue to will indulge in a "joy" of which we will now be deprived. If you are still experiencing such thoughts what you are about to discover, if you'll permit it, is that such thoughts are the very essence of true chemical dependency.
Yes, I am a recovered nicotine addict. I say recovered not because the risk of relapse is gone but because struggling ended and calmness arrived long, long ago. But there were many prior quit attempts, including this one, where I was absolutely, totally, convinced that life without smoking just wouldn't be as good.
I started this journey on May 15, 1999 and by May 30 I'd extinguished the vast majority of my normal daily nicotine feeding triggers. It was then, to my astonishment I started to realize that I'd been living a big big lie. It was as if at the end of each challenge I was being handed another aspect of life - a place, activity, emotion, person or time that I'd just witnessed could in fact be navigated without nicotine.
But the realizations didn't arrive during or after challenge. It was the next time, or maybe the time after, when I encountered nearly identical circumstances and for one brief split second my heart smiled and my mind rejoiced as I realized that this time challenge was absent. I wish I could say I noticed all such occasions or even most, as conscious awareness was a natural dopamine "aaah" accomplishment moment, but the beauty of recovery is that, like a well nourished and unfolding rose bud, it's hard to see happening.
Digging out from under the influence of "pay attention" brain pathway circuitry that was long nicotine's slave can be one of the most eye opening adventures in self discovery that we'll ever make. Restoring full control of the more than 200 natural neuro-chemicals that nicotine, through cascading, had taken hostage will allow you to re-discover a part of you that, sadly, many still in bondage will never come to know.
Have you ever wondered why when we were still smoking ex-smokers always seemed so obnoxious? I'm convinced that although few know how to accurately express it, they simply cannot believe how horribly wrong they'd been about quitting. They've discovered that everything they did while captive can be done as well as or better while free.
Don't be afraid. Your ticket home is guaranteed so long as you remain committed to three simple words .... no nicotine today! We're each with you in spirit.
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
John (Gold x7)
|From: John (Gold)||Sent: 9/17/2002 7:36 PM|
| Limbo-Land - Let's face it, it can at times be challenging being patient and allowing our healing to continue when WANT fills your mind and our recovery seems to have slowed to a snails pace. A couple of weeks either side of six weeks can sometimes be like no-man's-land, half way between being a smoker and being totally free. You realize that there is nothing to go back to, yet still you can't see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that Oldbies call "comfort." Although a far different form of challenge than those first few week, it's not uncommon. |
In my mind it's sort of like sitting in front of a flower that has formed a bud and watching it day by day, hour by hour and sometimes minute by minute as you wait for the bloom. It's very normal to grow a bit discouraged. It doesn't hurt but then it doesn't feel good either.
In this no-man's-land we can still at times find ourselves thinking about the perfect cigarette but then we've also learned that after 10 days to two weeks that it's an illusion. Our body has chemically adjusted to living without nicotine and we quickly realize that we don't need nicotine any more than someone who has never smoked a day in their life. We know that if we did smoke our junky mind's "perfect cigarette" that our immediate reaction would be no different than someone who had never smoked at all. We'd taste hot nasty smoke with 4,000+ chemicals entering our mouth and lungs, we would probably cough and we might get dizzy. But that sense of relief that we were expecting would not come as their was nothing to relieve. We were clean and physically adjusted.
We still have tons of memories of what it felt like to have our falling nicotine level replenished but those are just memories of the way things used to be and they were created by an active addict fullfilling a need. They are the illusion that grows a bit more distant with each passing day, but not fast enough for a mind used to receiving the "ahhhhhh" feeling within 8 to 10 seconds of that next puff. Be patient with your healing! Your first day of total comfort is just around the corner!
Have you physically pushed your healing body to its endurance limits lately. If not, take five minutes and accept a new challenge. You'll feel the healing within! The flower continues to grow, the broken bone mends, the earth is turning at a tremendous rate, and nothing can stop the powerful healing inside your body and mind except one puff! Go the distance! You won't be disappointed! Breathe deep, hug hard, live long, John