Subconscious use cue extinguishment
The Monster Under the Bed
One of the things we face as quitters is the transition from being smokers to ex-smokers. Early in your quit, you're a smoker in withdrawal. Eventually, you're a smoker who's not using. At some point, you do actually become an EX-smoker.
The Monster Under the Bed
It's a scary transition for anyone to undergo mentally. Years upon years of memories are associated with smoking. A mountain of stressful situations that we dulled (and in doing so, partially avoided dealing with) by administering nicotine. The belief that we NEED that drug to get through these situations in the future.
In a sense, we're newborns, facing a new world, and not sure what to expect. We're children, and children are often frightened by the unknown. As our conscious decision to reach out to this new world and embrace it becomes more and more real and tangible, the fear within us makes us want to run back, grab the security blanket, and hide under the covers. It's like the monster under the bed.
And, like the monster under the bed when we're small, the best way to deal with the unknown is to face it, to understand it. As long as we hide under the blankets, the monster under the bed grows bigger, scarier, more menacing. Once we finally get the courage to lean over the mattress, and stare under the box-spring... only then do we understand there's nothing to be frightened of. If we avoid looking under the bed, seeing the "monster" for what it is, we risk letting that "monster" dominate our conscience, and drive our actions.
Right now, you're dealing with your monster. There's the fear of failure (you've been down this road before). There's the fear of success (oh my God, what am I going to do now that I won't have cigarettes to help me?). And there is the voice in your ear telling you things: You want a cigarette, you can handle JUST one, you NEED just this one, this crave is going to last forever, this crave is unbearable, quitting is just TOO HARD, I wasn't meant to quit, I'm not strong enough.
It's time to look the monster in the eye. It's time to confront the voice. There are non-scary answers to the things it's telling you.
Fear of failure: Yes, I've been down this road before, but I didn't understand that I'm an addict, and that for the addict, one puff is the same as a million. I will never be able to take another puff without recommitting to a life of dependency. I've learned this the hard way in the past, even though I might not have understood the lesson at the time. Now that I know, I know that I won't take that puff.
Fear of success: Millions of people have moved from smoking to a life without smoking. Some have had more difficult situations to deal with than I have. All have discovered that the nicotine fix doesn't really help; it just masks. I belong to a group of hundreds of people who have travelled this road, and the fact that they're making it through family tragedy, poor health, good health, work stress, celebrations, raising kids, divorces, day-to-day life of all sorts, good times and bad times, without nicotine tells me that I can too. I'm an individual, and as such, I'm not 100% like anybody else, but I share little bits in common with many of these people, and from these similarities comes my understanding that I too can live my life in the absence of nicotine.
You want a cigarette: Do I? What do I want? Specifically? What about the cigarette do I crave? Okay, fine. Maybe I want the "ahhh" feeling. But, wait, I'm through withdrawal. The first cigarette won't even give me the "ahhh" feeling anymore, because the "ahhh" feeling came from nicotine's ability to stave off the early withdrawal I felt after not smoking for 30 minutes or an hour. Now that I'm no longer in withdrawal, I'll only get dizzy and sickly from the first one, and that first one will be followed by the next one and the next one as I search for the "ahhh" feeling, and long before I ever get the "ahh" feeling, I'll realize I'm hooked again. Heck, I'll realize it after the first one.
You can handle just one: Can I? Why is it that in the past when I said that to myself, it didn't work out like I planned? If I could get by on just one, why didn't I smoke just one every now and again when I smoked, instead of smoking all of those other ones I didn't want? No. There is no such thing as just one for me, or the other greater than 90% of the smokers out there who smoke whenever their addiction demands that they smoke.
You NEED just this one: Do I really believe that I NEED to inhale hundreds of toxic chemicals into my lungs to get through this given situation? Do I really believe that I need to recommit to my addiction so that I can dull the feelings associated with this situation.
This crave is going to last forever, this crave is unbearable, quitting is just TOO HARD: Okay, what does this crave really feel like? How long is it lasting? Is it really lasting all day long? Or, is my fear of the crave, and my fear of failure, or my fear of success, making me THINK about it all day long? For how many seconds have I actually WANTED to put a cigarette in my mouth, light it and inhale, as opposed to just being anxious about my lifestyle change, and all of the things associated with it. Am I feeling anxiety? Or am I really wanting a cigarette? Will smoking a cigarette make me feel better or worse than I do? Furthermore, I KNOW from talking to all the former smokers around me that this isn't what being an ex-smoker feels like! I'm in the latter stages of withdrawal, and the early stages of reconditioning my life to NOT revolve around my addiction. Soon, I will be feeling a lot better, and I'll have a hard time remembering how hard this has been. It's only hard for a while.
You weren't meant to quit, You're not strong enough: I wasn't meant to SMOKE. Smoking is not a natural thing. Ingesting deadly chemicals to satisfy a never-ending cycle of withdrawal and replenishing of nicotine supplies is NOT the way I was meant to live. I was MEANT to breathe freely. I was meant to taste my food. I was meant to have good breath. I was meant to be free. And I'm strong enough to realize that nicotine is stronger than me; that if I try just one, nicotine will win, and I'll be trapped. I'm strong enough to make it through this temporary difficulty, in order to live the life I was meant to live on the other side.
Confront the fear, and confront the voice. Our junky side doesn't fight fair, and uses confusing logic. It plays upon the parts of us that feel most vulnerable. The parts of us that want to hide and wish things away. You can eliminate the fear, and silence the voice by always looking it in the eye, seeing it for what it is, and never letting it get away without shedding the light of truth upon it.
Keep taking it one day at a time. One minute at a time if you need.... You'll get there. This is eminently doable.
Last edited by OBob Gold on August 28th, 2017, 12:03 am, edited 3 times in total.
I wrote this for a friend earlier. I thought other people might benefit as well.
Thank you for posting that, OBob. Definitely helps keep things in perspective.
3 Months 2 Weeks 5 Days 21 Hours 27 Minutes 4 Seconds. Cigarettes not smoked: 2527. Money saved: $631.89.
Thank you --how did you know exactly what I needed to hear?. It is very scary out here--not every minute but enough that I have to stay alert and do a lot of positive self-talk. When does a person quit being a person in withdrawal and become a non-smoker and conquer the monster under the bed? Thank you for your words of wisdom today and everyday since I have joined.
3 weeks, 4 days (almost green and totally amazed at that fact)
Good insite Bob, I can relate to a few theings there for sure.
Good post Bob! I still have moments when I have this thought that I'd like a cigarette - by no means a 'crave', just a thought. The triggers are still there....but I'm gradually working my way through them - trouble is I smoked around 50 (sometimes 60) a day and so there wasn't a lot I did without a smoke in one hand! At one stage absolutely everything I did was a trigger - not so anymore thank goodness
Once I truly understood that I could never again have 'just one' it became a whole lot easier - I no longer have to WORK at convincing myself that just one won't equal all the others. I'm getting better at dealing with my own monster!
Last edited by murphying (Gold) on March 18th, 2009, 1:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Brilliant, Bob, just a great, great post
Should be required reading for everybody from Day 4 onward . That's as good an anti-relapse summary as I've seen. Your "fear of success" chapter is an interesting new slant which maybe doesn't get the attention it should.
Bob your widom give me more perspective.
2 Weeks 10 Hours 28 Minutes 40 Seconds. Cigarettes not smoked: 288. Money saved: $54.86.
Thanks Bob- that was a wonderful post. Just what I needed to hear first thing in the morning to keep me strong throughout the day.
I have chosen not to smoke for 3 Weeks 3 Days 16 Hours 2 Minutes 29 Seconds. Cigarettes not smoked: 493. Money saved: $53.04.
Very good post. You actually bring up points I talk about my very first thing in clinics that I don't think I ever wrote about in the letters-the fear of success in quitting. I've always felt that this fear keeps more people from starting a quit than the fear of failure.
I explain it to my clinic participants like this. They are working with a false perception of what life will be without smoking. But no matter what I say or no matter what anyone says, that perception is going to persist until the person quits smoking and sees for him or herself that life really does go on without smoking. Since I am working on a set time frame in the clinic setting, I explain the real purpose of the clinic is to help the person get off for two weeks. Two weeks-that's it. In two weeks he or she will start to get a true sense of what it is like not to smoke. If the person decides that he or she hates not smoking, that life is unbearable, that he or she can no longer work, no longer carry on normal rational thoughts, no longer maintain a normal family existence, no longer have any fun or no longer able to meet life's ongoing demands-he or she will be fully capable of just going back to smoking. A person should never be afraid to quit because of the feeling that if he or she quits, he or she will not be able to get him or herself back to smoking again if the so chooses. The choice should always be based on whether the person wants to go back to full-fledged smoking or smoke nothing-but the choice for full fledged smoking exists for all ex-smokers.
On the other hand, if in the two weeks the person decides that he or she likes not smoking-maybe not smoking isn't perfect-but he or she is starting to get a flavor of where life is heading, how he or she is starting to face up to life demands and handling them reasonably well, maybe even a little better than he or she was just a few weeks earlier while still an active smoker, he or she has the choice of staying smoke free for another day.
People giving themselves the opportunity to see what not smoking is really like will overcome all these fears and generally truly appreciate the gift that they give themselves by being nicotine free. There are very few people who have ever left a clinic graduation went out and bought a carton or a case because they gave it the two weeks and decide that they really now want to become a full-fledged smoker again. Yes some people will throw away their quits days or weeks later, but it is not because they choose to relapse and are making a conscious decision to smoke until it kills them-it is because they get complacent and start to believe that they can somehow now control their quantity or duration of smoking. They almost inevitably regret this mistake and many will end up paying for it with their lives.
For as scary as quitting may be up front, the reality of what smoking can lead if understood is terrifying. A drag on a cigarette can end up costing a person tens of thousands of dollars, his or her independence, health and life. The reality of smoking does not improve with time, the fears intensify as symptoms develop and life gets a little more limited and the control nicotine exerts gets stronger and stronger.
You must quit smoking to see what life is really like as an ex-smoker and to some degree really recognize what life was like as a smoker. The longer you go without smoking and the more you understand the less scary life will be and the more resolute you will continue to be to never take another puff!
Great post, I can relate to fear of the unknown, I am going to a friend's in Scotland on Saturday, and I have nearly cancelled a few times because I know I wont smoke, I have just never crossed this bridge before, it is a round trip of about 350 miles and as I say although I know without doubt I won't smoke, I am not looking forward to it.
Thanks though that post came at a good time for me to prepare.
Love Naymor xxxx
2 weeks 16 hours 47 minutes.
Thanks Bob, a great help for newbies and us olddies too
I don't have much to add. I just wanted to say thank you for your very important post.
Rosemary--Nicotine free for 2 Months 6 Days 10 Hours 29 Minutes. Cigarettes not smoked: 1308. Money saved: $327.18. Life reclaimed: 1 Wk 2 Days 2 Hrs 7 Mins 15 Secs.
THANKS for the amazing post!!
Your friend Sarah
Once again thank you for a great post. I always new that I was afraid of failure - I even thought is was stupid of me to feel that way - especially when I would hear myself say it out loud to a non-smoker. Boy, they must have thought I was a little nuts! But, what really hit home in your post was the "fear of success". This one I never admitted to myself or anyone else until now. That just goes to show you how powerful a drug nicotine is to create that kind of junkie thinking. Daily I am amazed at how great I feel and how I am enjoying adjusting to a life free from nicotine. I know that there may be tough times ahead but I also know that I can face them!!
Bob, I got an awesome ahhh feeling just reading this piece!
The mind's blend of fear of the unknown, fear of failure and fear of success can be a major force in keeping us hiding inside our turtle's shell for many many years.
One thing that always strikes me as odd is when a smoker says that they "like" smoking. Our addiction compelled us to invent reasons for not coming out of our shell, a psychological security blanket of sorts. I know mine did. When you quiz them, most admit that they can't quit and that they have almost zero memory or recall of what it was like to live inside their mind before nicotine became their master. To "like" something you must have something else to compare it to. What most are really comparing and really saying is they don't like what happens when they don't smoke - full blown nicotine withdrawal.
I don't recall which member it was, maybe you Bob, but not long ago one of us said, "If you'd told me on the second day of my quit that someday soon I'd begin experiencing entire days, then weeks, and then months where I never once THOUGHT about wanting to smoke nicotine, I would have called you a liar. Wonderful post Bob!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
Last edited by John (Gold) on March 18th, 2009, 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
...And you've accused ME of considerable introspection and philosophy! What courage it has taken you to sit and contemplate your words with such unblemished honesty. Only someone who has shuddered through the seemingly insurmountable terror of the demoralizing monster and cringed in the darkness of this horrid addiction could compile such words and command such a complete understanding. This is the thing that shreds our perception of ourselves, our esteem... the grand generator of the lies we tell... the lengths we will go to in protecting our secrets, fears, flaws, the wounds...our pain... our addiction.
I also believe that anyone who as recently fought to the point of considering a quit, or who has recently pulled up a new quit should see your post as "required reading."
As with life itself, there is light in direct proportion to the monster. ...There is freedom to be had and found for a very small cost. The payment of choice in deciding whether or NOT having that Puff TODAY will create an opportunity for truth, happiness, awareness, availability, ease, confidence...the list goes on.
This has made me realize that I've been living on the dark side of the moon for a couple of decades and have now come 'round to the sunny side of life. I will not trade my life today for one puff or a million (which is what that one puff would lead me to...) I cannot find a good reason to smoke today, given the gifts of being an ex-smoker. This is nothing short of incredible-- as is your post.
Last edited by TooKan25 (green) on March 18th, 2009, 1:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Bob, thanks for this incredible post. At 5 months quit I am running into the "oh, that wasn't so hard, now I can have just one" monster under the bed whispering to me. Since this is the first time I am going to succeed with my quit, I'm pulling out all the stops. Your post was a very timely and valuable reminder. Especially the "Just One" warning. In the past I've always fooled myself into thinking I wasn't an addict and that I could smoke socially. I'm grateful I know better now. I'm grateful I'll never have to go through another **** week. And I'm grateful to you and all of the Freedom family for your selfless sharing and wisdom.
Huge hugs to you,
yqs *Candy* 5months1week2days
Hi Bob, Great post! My sister-in-law passed her one year quit mark one month ago. I was visiting with her tonight, and asked her what every smoker's ideal is? She didn't guess the answer so I told her, "To be a social smoker." Next question: Why do so many people lose their quits? "Thought they could be social smokers." LOL
The "meet, greet, defeat" philosophy has got me to where I am today....
to understand our addiction is halfway to beating it...
Great post Bob!
Eight months, three weeks, two days, 4003 cigarettes not smoked,
saving $1,307.77 Aussie dollars. Life saved: 1 week, 6 days, 21 hours, 35 minutes.
Melissa made the below post in another thread by Guy. When I first read about the concept of conscious incompetence it immediately reminded me of Bob's Monster Under the Bed. I hope you guys don't mind me posting it here too. John
From: Toast (GOLD!) Sent: 8/20/2002 7:23 PM
I've got a couple cents to throw in this discussion!
We're talking about facing an addiction, but also that we are rewiring our awareness about long-standing habits around that addiction. We are learning! Anytime we endeavor to change - leave a relationship, start a new job, take up or give up a hobby, habit or addiction - we enter into a broad process that has been identified as four stages of learning: 1) unconscious incompetence; 2) conscious incompetence; 3) conscious competence; and 4) unconscious competence. At first, we are unaware of what our decision to move forward will mean in the details of life. As we begin, we learn and learn and often quickly become aware of all there is yet to learn! With determination, practice and patience, we are rewarded with doing well - and knowing it! Finally, we are so adept, so incorporated, our new state becomes easily taken for granted. Think of learning to drive a car. Do you still climb behind the wheel with the heightened awareness of a 16 year old and desire to do well, with a keen eagerness to use the turn signals and clutch as tho it were effortless?
So, in a very real sense, "learning" to quit smoking successfully fits into this pattern of learning. What is described here as a No-Man's Land could be compared easily to the conscious incompetence state described above. The rush of the newness is diminishing. We know enough to feel pretty content with this new state of things, and yet we are keenly aware of the experience only time and practice and continued desire will manifest. We long of competence. Everyone else appears to be confident and competent in their current place, while we can feel odd & out. It is that longing that can keep us moving forward!
I'd like to say as well that I don't think that educated thinking about your quit counts as obsessing about smoking. Obsessing is fixed, often unwanted, circular, unreasonable, loopy thinking that doesn't let up. I think lurking, reading, posting, thinking about your quit, trying on other people's ideas and successes and failures in your head, these things can really help sort out your thoughts, your triggers, your psychology behind why you smoked. Now, if we were all posting all day about those "Ahhhhhh" cigarette moments or the times we felt like a smoke was just the ticket ... that'd be another thing. That'd be obsessing and it's be nothing near the entire truth. Instead, we are focused here on the greater reality of cigarettes, smoking and nicotine addiction: quitting active nicotine addiction can add years and health to your life.
Last edited by John (Gold) on June 28th, 2011, 3:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.
For years WhyQuit's visitor statistics have indicated that Monday is Freedom's busiest day of the week. Not only is it the day when we have the most members returning for reinforcement but also the busiest day for new visitors arriving for the first time. The above article by Bob is a wonderful summary of the fears associated with this temporary journey of adjustment called quitting.
If you're just embarking upon Freedom's Road keep in mind that the fears and realities associated with today's challenges (if any) should not be blamed on where you're going (back home to meet the real you and once again reside inside a comfortable mind) but upon where you've been (years of active chemical dependency upon nicotine and an endless cycle of feeding a never-ending need).
If you are experience challenging moments today please remind yourself that this isn't what it feels like to again be the "real" you, a comfortable ex-smoker. It's what it feels like on this particular day, for you, of that temporary adjustment period called "quitting." Patience, slow deep breaths, plenty of cool water for flushing, while knowing with every fiber of your being that the next few minutes are entirely doable!
John - Freedom's Gold Club
Thank you for posting this thread. It is so true. I actually managed to get my stats on here. I wonder what happened to my first post???? Jess
I have been quit for 3 Weeks, 2 Days, 17 minutes and 15 seconds (23 days). I have saved $69.03 by not smoking 345 cigarettes. I have saved 1 Day, 4 hours and 45 minutes of my life.
I am glad I took some time on my lunchbreak to get some reinforcement. This posting is so good. Today is Day 6 for me. I feel worse than ever. I am at work and I can't seem to stop thing about smoking. I have never been able to smoke at work so there are not many triggers here. My chest is tight and I am feeling light headed again. Last nigh I kept waking up and worrying about not being strong enough to keep going. I love that I have chosen to quit but today I am tired and feel ucky.. Any words from the wise
Do you have any remaining memory of the comfort that was you, before nicotine's two hour chemical half-life became the clock governing your brain's neurochemical flow? Why fear coming home to a calm and quiet mind that goes days and then weeks without once thinking about wanting to use nicotine? You're leaving no part of you behind. The more than 200 neurochemicals that nicotine commanded already belonged to you.
If still feeling challenged, this isn't what it feels like to be a comfortable ex-user. This is what it felt like on this particular day of this amazing temporary journey of adjustment that most call quitting but a growing number of us call recovery. You see, the real quitting took place on the day that nicotine took control of our lives. What we're doing here is taking them back!
Use your intelligence and honesty to calm and quiet those deep inner false fears. Going days and weeks without thinking about using nicotine is a good thing not bad. Everything you did while nicotine's slave can be done as well as or better as you! Embrace coming home, don't fight it! The next few minutes are all you can control and each will be doable. There was always only one rule ... no nicotine just one challenge and day at a time! Yes you can, yes you have, yes you are!!
Breathe deep, hug hard, live long,
Last edited by John (Gold) on March 18th, 2009, 2:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.