How do you mentally or physically handle being around smokers? A pack bulging from a shirt pocket, a lit cigarette in a hand or burning in an ash tray, an open pack within your reach, an offer of a smoke and it just happens to be your old brand of your hand, or the smell of a lingering smoke that fills your nose and begs you to come home? How do you cope? What do you do?
Each of us will find ourselves surrounded by or experiencing circumstances similar to those above. If we share our experiences and ways that each of us have handled these situations, we each might learn from the other. As we explore this topic be mindful of your distinctions between: (1) "thinking" about the subject of smoking while being around smokers; (2) "wanting" a cigarette while being around smokers, or (3) experiencing a full blown "crave" when being around smokers. Let me start us off:
I intentionally avoided being around smokers when I first quit. I just didn't think I could handle it and because of prior relapses, I just didn't want to take the risk. I'd read about triggers and I knew that being around other smokers was one of the times that I actively smoked. Finally, after a couple of weeks into my quit I grew brave enough to confront my fear.
I'd stayed away from my smoking friends at our after work pub, as the air was always filled with smoke and it seemed to me that the pub was the highest risk relapse environment that could possibly exist. I knew that my longest prior quit was lost with a beer in hand when I broke the golden rule and thought that I was strong enough to take a few little puffs.
When I walked in the door the smoke hit me like a brick wall. It was bad and I immediately thought about my healing lungs and what I was forcing them to endure so that I could be with friends. Standing there at the bar, surrounded by laughing and story telling men, it seemed that EVERYONE except me either a cigarette in hand, at their lips, in an ashtray, or they had an open pack beside them. It was the first time in my life that I'd ever noticed that they were almost ALL smokers.
Ashtrays were everywhere. I knew those who smoked my old brand, Vantage, and I allowed myself to intentionally stand beside them. This was my test. My initial inner strength surprised even me. I grew bold but was still thinking about my lungs. It seemed like I was smoking just by being there and I wanted out. But where was my big crave? It wasn't there. I'd worried about it for so long and it never arrived. Had I worried so much about it that I'd worried it dead? And then it happened ....
I made the mistake of telling a Vantage smoking friend (whom I'd bummed from on many prior occasions) that I'd quit smoking. It was almost like he had a bullhorn in his hand as he announced it to the entire pub as he made it sound like I'd just gotten married or something (but more like divorced). The laughs and smiles seemed to say, "Oh sure, and I'm the Pope." Knowing that I was possibly one of the heaviest smokers in the "after work smoking club," their laughter somehow seemed appropriate.
It didn't take long before the offer of a cigarette was thrust into my face. "Take it," I was told. "No thanks," was the reply. This time it was different. I no longer saw my friends as simply social smokers sharing the aroma of fine tobacco while debating the world's problems. For the first time in my life I saw them as nicotine addicts who had yet to go through withdrawal. I saw them as ignoring what they were doing to their bodies. I wondered why I hadn't SERIOUSLY thought about the health, long before now.
This day I had intentionally tested my resolve and victory was mine! It was so so sweet. I looked up at the grey cloud above me being struck by sun-light creeping through the blinds and I decided that my lungs had had enough. About 30 minutes had passed before saying my goodbyes and walking out the door. The fresh air welcome me home, like a mother's loving arms.
From that day forward I've never once stood beside a smoker and WANTED, nor did I any longer fear being around them. After a few more similar encounters I decided that I wouldn't go back. I miss those friends that I no longer see or hear from, but I won't ask these healing lungs, that I punished so long, to again endure such insult. The choice was mine.
Oh I know that I could someday find myself experiencing a high stress period of life with relapse opportunities surrounding me, but in my mind I'm preparing NOW for the day that it WILL happen by being here with you and watching all our newbies seek freedom, while being constantly reminded of what it took to get here. Thanks for feeding my resolve! Yes, I'm using you. Breathe deep, hug hard, live long, Your quit bro, Zep : )