Triggers: Reminders From Your Executive Assistant
"It's all in your head" has developed a really bad rap in our culture. What's up with that? The power of the brain is remarkable. We should marvel and be impressed.
- Has anyone
told you that since physical withdrawal is over... get a grip... or get over it... or something like that?
- What about
patience with yourself? You've been informed that it's psychological after day three. Do you think the impulse to smoke should stop now, now, now?
- Do you think impulses after you have quit for a while indicate you are weak?
Quite the contrary, actually. Your brain is working as designed.
Okay, listen up. Your brain is amazing. Every time you do anything, one function your brain performs is to try to save you time and prevent you from repeating past mistakes. So quickly and subconsciously, your brain scans the memory banks for similar circumstances whenever you do anything. When it finds comparable history, it compares that with what you are doing now and alerts you to differences, just like an efficient little assistant.
Yesterday I pulled on my day pack, went out the front door and turned left to walk up the street. Suddenly I am hit with a trigger. Why? Because I haven't turned left off my front stoop since before I quit. I quit in the winter and I have either gone out the back door to my car, or turned right to walk to the subway. Turning left means I am going to bother to walk to the grocery, which I haven't done since I quit.
The part of my brain that tries to save me time, let's call him the Executive Assistant (the EA), recalled past left turns from the stoop. He went down a checklist. What did she need / what did she use on previous excursions like this? Wallet? Check. Keys? Check. Bags? Check. Smokes? NOPE. "Ah, ah, ah, excuse me!" I could imagine him running up behind me yesterday as I set out and picked up pace. "You've forgotten your cigarettes! You're going to need your cigarettes when you get to the café!" (I treat myself to a special coffee when I bother to walk to the market.)
Remember all those times you forgot your cigarettes and kicked yourself? It was such an inconvenience when you were an active using addict. Back then, your reaction went something like this: "Memo to self. Don't forget the cigarettes!" What I'm calling the 'EA' function in your brain monitors these memos. He got the memos and he's acting on them. He got thousands of memos like that!
The poor guy is just trying to do his job. So I thanked my EA for trying to save me frustration, reminded him that I no longer smoke and that he should refer to the new Never Take Another Puff memo.
After my coffee up the street, I paused to listen to the Let's-Smoke trigger, a little different and a more uncomfortable than the Forgot-Your-Cigarettes trigger. There he was again, but this time trying to get me to actually smoke! What a guy! His reasoning? "You've eaten, walked and coffeed, you're about to shop... you are going to want a smoke before you know it and you'd always rather smoke here than while walking home. Always! Always!"
This guy is no dummy. I did in fact send him that memo many, many times. For heavens sake, I smoked for 25 years. The filing cabinets are full of those old memos.
How to teach an old dog new tricks? Well the EA in our brains can and does learn new routines all the time. We may learn slower as we age but we do still learn and adapt, especially if we do it consciously. We have to note new memos to ourselves, sometimes several times and we have to be kind to ourselves... or our 'EAs'. The kinder and calmer you are, the more chance you have of him 'getting it' each time. So what to do in the café?
I said to my EA, "Thanks! I appreciate the reminder but you have to look at the newer One = All memo again. I am not going to smoke today or ever. Please remember that coffee time is no longer smoke time."
He will get it; I know he will. It will just take a while and a walk through all my various scenarios. He is really very, very good. He learned so well the first time -- I have to give him time to learn the new mandate.
Thanks for reading my ramblings. You are doing it, Freedomites! It is doable! It does get better and it is worth it... wait! Make that, YOU are worth it. Yes, you are.
~ Kay ~
Celebrating 3 Months, 26 Days, 20 Hours and 23 Minutes of Freedom.
Forsaking 2357 doses of poison has liberated $757.90 and 8 Days and 4 Hours of my life.