Denial vs. Dreams
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.
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 suck 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