So, I celebrated my 3 year milestone at some point around 5 am this morning. For starters, that totally rocks! HooRAY!
So, I start reminiscing a bit about the early days of my quit. I remember members popping in to post their celebration threads. Green, Bronze, Silver, Gold and beyond. It felt downright intimidating. Here was I, with my seemingly tiny little insignificant sum of 3 days, 4 days, 5 days and so on... clinging to my quit like a man clinging to a life line thrown over the side of a ship to a man overboard in a turbulent sea. More comfortable ex-smokers would roll past on their skiff, yachts and cruiseliners, each with the same advice. Keep climbing that rope. Don't let go of it. It'll get easier. We promise.
To me, those people seemed like heroes. From my perspective, they were superhuman, with this gift of comfort I couldn't hardly imagine at that point. I dreamed of being like them some day, but it seemed hard to fathom that this splintery rope would really get me there. It was hard, and I was tired. But, I really wanted to be like those amazing people, and everyone of them told me the same thing… keep climbing, don't let go. Simple. A real slog, but simple.
So, I took their advice, kept climbing and didn't let go. Lo and behold, it was true. It did, in fact, get easier, and easier. There was the odd bit of rope burn, and occasionally a seagull would take aim at my dome with an unwelcome gift (nobody takes a metaphor to the extremes I will), but all-in-all, it got more and more doable, less and less of a chore, and at some point, almost without noticing it, I found myself reclining on the Lido Deck with the others. That was years ago now. I've been kicking back up here for a good long time now, and I can tell you it's very nice.
So, what's my point? My point is to you, the newcomer. Down there on the rope. Yeah, you. You're looking up at me (and the others who have so much time under their belts), and thinking, "man, that guy's almost surreal. Maybe he's got something I don't. How in the world did he get up there? Surely, he didn't take this blasted rope?! He must have some secret that I don't. He's gotta have supernatural powers to have such comfort."
My point to you is this: Every one of us up here got here the same way. We took the rope. We climbed it. We didn't let go. And, just like we were told, it got easier. You will also get here that way.
Three years ago, I was where you are. Everyone here has been there at one time. We understand what you're going through. Nobody here is a superhero. We're just addicts like you who found the rope earlier. And, we can each promise you… the rope is climbable, it does get easier, and there IS a place for you up here.
There's one other way in which we're similar. Neither of us have wings. We let go the rope, or step off the side, we all plummet to the abyss the same way. One puff and it's all history. I learned that on my way up too. People who'd seemed almost unreal they were so comfortable, for no reason that I could understand, suddenly got up from their comfortable seats, walked to the side of the deck, and threw themselves off.
Breaking the metaphor, so that it's perfectly clear, they took a puff and lost their freedom. Some of these were members who had been very active in supporting others, and had experienced months and even years of sustained comfort. One day, for their own reasons, they decided to chance it, and lo and behold their comfort was gone. They returned to their old levels of smoking, often more. I know this is true from email, and from the time when Freedom's policies were different and relapsed members were allowed to rejoin. All it took was one puff, and it was over.
So, while it may be tempting to look at some of the longer term quitters with awe, consider that we are, and always will be subject to the same rules you are. One puff = all puffs. If I were to slip down to the pub right now, walk up to a friend, and take a drag off of his cigarette, I know full well that I would be out on my deck tomorrow night with a pack and an ash tray putting memories of Freedom and this post and everything I've given myself over the past 3 years in a deep hidden locker that my junky side would work overtime to prevent me from opening.
Why is it important to point out that, with respect to nicotine addiction, you and I are the same, just separated by a bit of time? I guess because it's tempting for a new quitter to allow himself or herself to believe that all of these people dispensing education and encouragement here, couldn't possibly understand what they're going through. It may be tempting to listen to your own junky mind telling you, "You're different. These people aren't like you. They don't understand what you're experiencing. You know that you'll never be able to be like them. It's impossible for you."
My long-winded, metaphorically-extreme point is to tell you that that's bunk. While you are different from me in many ways, our addiction to nicotine is the same. You will find comfort (emphasis on WILL) just as I and every other long-term member of Freedom did (by never taking another puff), and you WILL maintain that comfort the same way we all must (by never taking another puff).
Bob (3 years free)
Oh, and by the way, my wife hit 1000 days of freedom today! Double celebration!