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.
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.