The Thoughtful Year (A "golden" novelette)

Nyniane SparrowSong
Nyniane SparrowSong

10:54 AM - Feb 04, 2008 #1

I don't post here much, but this one I needed to share... the unbelievable has happened... it has been one whole year since I put out my last cigarette, poured beer over the rest of the pack, tossed the sopping mess into the trash can, and went to bed. I am sure that as I stumbled upstairs, I did not quite believe I'd see a one year anniversary. And if I had believed it, the notion would have scared the living snot out of me. It has been an interesting year. (Anyone ever hear the ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times"?)

I've come to the conclusion that this quitting thing is nothing so much as a learning process. And not simple rote memorization, either. You have to engage your whole mind. :-) The first thing I had to learn, the thing that took so many years to really understand, was that I do not need to smoke. Not for anything. That should be an easy concept; right along the lines of "I do not need to put my mouth on the tailpipe of this tractor-trailer and ****". Unfortunately, we all spent a lot of time and effort convincing our deep minds that we really do need to consume this poison. How many smokers would still be smoking if they didn't, deep down, believe they needed to?

A second important concept was, I didn't "love smoking" or even like it all that much. It may have made me feel good while it was relieving withdrawal, but mostly it was a stinky pain in the neck. I never want to go back to that life of slavery. And third, I know that smoking one is akin to sticking my wrists back in the manacles. I'd sooner stick my foot in a bear trap to see if it will snap shut.

Those were the big three, and they were difficult because they contradicted beliefs that kept me paying through the nose for over 30 years. But those first lessons, while vital to relapse prevention, are not what made this past year so interesting. The interesting thing was realizing what it is like to have to think all of the time. It's exhausting! I am not talking about working out calculations for the jump to hyperspace here; I'm talking about needing to think about what this tightness in my throat means (doh, you're thirsty, Beth!) or (and I swear this is true) needing to think about where to put my tongue - Will you turkeys get your minds out of the gutter! - apparently my mouth was so numbed by years of marinating in smoke that getting normal sensation back made it feel totally alien to me!

So many things that I'd always done on auto-pilot suddenly required mental effort. For the first few weeks, it was almost constant. I am done eating; what now? (I must be done eating, right? The food has reached the level of my tonsils.) / I'm angry; what do I do? /Okay, the key's turned, the car's in gear, reach for... whoops; what do I do with that spare hand now? With all of this background noise, is it any wonder that we all spend the first month of our quit totally zoned out? All of the mental space we used to use for daily activities is suddenly being spent figuring out how to not cut our tongues on our own teeth! And you can't take a break from it; that's what makes it so incredibly hard. It's not that any one thing is difficult, it's just that "relaxing" means "not thinking" which means falling back on old behavior patterns, which means... smoking. Foot, meet bear trap.

Eventually, I'm glad to report, the "new ways" become as mindless as the old ones used to be. I no longer have to think all the time. (Thank heavens. For a while I was afraid my brain would explode. Then, for another while, I was sure that it already had.) I think that this is what folks refer to as "The Peace". It's not that you live in bliss or euphoria, it's just that you don't have all that blasted background chatter playing in your head all of the time. You can turn your mind to important things, like which brand of kidney beans to buy.

You guys just starting; if you want to feel that you have accomplished something really great, stick with your quits... you have no idea how good you will feel about yourselves. And you can do it! Don't be scared by the magnitude - you do not need to relearn every single behavior that you ever learned in years of smoking; you only need to relearn the one that you are doing right now. It doesn't take extraordinary brilliance so much as dogged persistence. And if you've made it this far in this post, I figure you've got that persistence angle covered. :-)

Quitting has been an adventure. This trip has been ludicrous, stimulating, depressing, uplifting, frustrating, and joyful. Sometimes all at the same time. It has not been boring. I need to thank Joel; those video lessons rock, and so do all the articles that you have linked to them. I wouldn't have made a week without them. And thanks to John Polito for all of his great articles and to OBob (?) for that ship analogy post. I can't tell you how many evenings I got through by thinking "just hold onto the rope."

That last paragraph makes it sound like my quit is over. Oops. Don't get me wrong, I'm not being complacent. I know that I could stick my wrist back in the manacle... but why would I want to? That is where the first lesson comes in: there is no good reason to smoke, only rationalizations and excuses. That is the main thing I learned in this year of thought - no matter what the problem is, there is a better solution than smoking. And the reward for finding that solution? FREEEEEEEDOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!! (Sorry Mel. Royalty check's on the way.)
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katsrule8
katsrule8

11:14 AM - Feb 04, 2008 #2

WELCOME TO GOLD BETH
so glad to have you here
Freedom is not just a dream it is doable - baby steps and NTAP
Suzie - Free and Healing for One Year, Four Months, Eight Days, 14 Hours and 54 Minutes
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tnorma58
tnorma58

11:33 AM - Feb 04, 2008 #3

Congratulations On Making Gold!!

Loved your post, especially the part about -

"figuring out how to not cut our tongues on our own teeth "

I think for the first time in my life there are scabs on my tongue from biting it so frequently LOL. Nice to know I'm in Golden Company.

TTN

Nicotine Free for 1 Month, 11 Hours, 3 Minuts
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Jacqui672 Gold
Jacqui672 Gold

12:32 AM - Feb 05, 2008 #4

What a beautiful post. Congrats on going Gold!

One year, ten months, one week, 32 minutes and 17 seconds. 27120 cigarettes not smoked, saving $7,458.70. Life saved: 13 weeks, 3 days, 4 hours, 0 minutes.
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chbabee8
chbabee8

6:24 AM - Feb 05, 2008 #5

that truly was an unbelievably helpful, interesting, and encouraging post!! thank you for the wisdom!

Christine - Free and Healing for One Month, Eleven Days, 3 Hours and 53 Minutes, while extending my life expectancy 2 Days and 4 Hours, by avoiding the use of 632 nicotine delivery devices that would have cost me $237.57.
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Nyniane SparrowSong
Nyniane SparrowSong

10:37 AM - Feb 05, 2008 #6

Thank you Kats. I appreciate the welcome!
Beth
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Nyniane SparrowSong
Nyniane SparrowSong

10:38 AM - Feb 05, 2008 #7

TTN, do you have the same thing? I'm excited now... I never even told anyone until now because I felt so odd about it. :-) Thank you for telling me!!
Beth
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Nyniane SparrowSong
Nyniane SparrowSong

10:39 AM - Feb 05, 2008 #8

Thank you for the kind words, Christine. They mean more than you can know. ((hugs))
Beth
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SandyBob GOLD
SandyBob GOLD

7:31 AM - Feb 06, 2008 #9

Congratulations!

I really enjoyed your reflections (and can certainly remember and relate!)

Sandy-Bob
5years 7 months +
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TigerFan
TigerFan

10:19 AM - Feb 06, 2008 #10

I have to say Thank You for this post. I am just at 2 weeks and I love reading these posts from those farther along this journey. It truly helps to have other's experiences to see that it does get easier. Today is still hard, definitely not as hard as the first week, but not yet easy. When I get time at night to sit down to this board it always helps. Thanks again,
Laurie
---
2w 0:18 smoke-free, 280 cigs not smoked, $49.42 saved, 23:20 life saved
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Nyniane SparrowSong
Nyniane SparrowSong

1:33 PM - Feb 07, 2008 #11

More than welcome, Laurie. I remember craving that reassurance, too! Two weeks is awesome. Keep up the good work!
Beth
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