If you're into Southern Gospel Music, there's a song by the Gaither Vocal Band called "Let Freedom Ring". It was performed at Carnegie Hall right after 9-11, and one line of the song goes something like this: "Let Freedom echo through the lonely streets where prisons have no keys".
Well, it's been three years since I was in prison, and I'm here to tell you that my prison did have a key. And that key was education. I've been around here so long that nearly all of you have heard my story and are likely sick of hearing it, but I quit on my 50th birthday, with no real intention of "making it". Then I found this forum and some Yankee named Spitzer (preaching cold turkey of all things) and some shyster lawyer from back east putting out the same message and the rest is history. I got my education and it took and I haven't had a puff since. To say that my life has changed is a huge understatement and to say thank you to John and Joel and Grumps and Joanne is just not enough.
I've been thinking lately about the various stages we all go through here at Freedom. The first few days/weeks are a tremendous challenge for most of us. It's a day-to-day struggle, sometimes even minute-to-minute. But as we "read and read and read some more" things begin to calm down a little. We absorb a lot of what we read and our education begins to kick in as we defeat trigger after trigger.
Then later, maybe at Bronze or so, we begin to give advice to those newbies behind us. This "teaching stage" is a critical part of the process for many of us, because we help others through those first few days and weeks, we reinforce our own quits and we really get as much out of helping others as they do.
The final stage that most of us go through would probably be considered maintenance. I've been in that stage for a long time now. There are very few days that I don't check in and read at Freedom, but I seldom post. I'm not sure why that is, but a lot of it is I want to let the newer "teachers" take care of dispensing advice, thereby helping both themselves and those they're advising.
At this point in my life, my quit is not on my mind very much. Nicotine, or the lack thereof, plays absolutely no part in the living of my life, either physically, logistically, financially, or emotionally. It's just not a deal any more. Quitting, however, is one of the high points in my life that I am most proud of. I tell you all this to give you hope, you who are at three days or three weeks, or even three months. There is life after quitting and it can be a good life.
Well, as most of you also know, today is also my wedding anniversary. I've been married to the same woman for 29 years. Later I think I'll take her out for a nice dinner again and we'll celebrate three milestones in our lives.
I figure taking her out once a year won't spoil her too much--after all, nothing's too good for the wife of a quitter.
Three years today.