Today is my 11th anniversary of being smoke free, of quitting smoking. I had smoked for over 25 years and had tried many times, unsucessfully, to quit. The last time, of course worked, and I did it with the support of an online yahoo group called, NoSmoke. It was a wonderful group of people struggling with the demon 'Nic' and we all encouraged each other in our individual journies to be smoke free. They sent me my post from my first anniversary, and I thought I would share it here.
Jenny wrote in February, 2001....
Barely four hours have past since completing my 365th day smoke free.....yup....I made it....I vividly, vividly remember the day I quit last year. I was so mournful and scared. I was worried that this quit wasn't going to be any different than the other dozen or so I had attempted over my smoking career. I was worried that the only thing I was about to be successful in was my ability to beat myself up, (yet again), over the fact that I failed this time too.
The afternoon was grey and overcast...typical February weather in Toronto....and as I worked towards completing the pack that would be my last, I tried to reach deep inside and find the place where I knew, if I really tried hard this time, I could draw on my inner strength and beat this devil once and for all. I was so scared. I warned my husband that this was not going to be pretty, and that I would probably drag him through the pits of emotional upheaval with me. "Are you sure you can handle it?" I truly warned him, maybe as a way to find an "out" of my quit. But he was prepared and was willing to take anything I would do or say, in an effort to help me quit. Who was really the brave one?
Man those early days were so hard. I can easily look back at all the different stages of my quit and remember those moments. There were moments of absolute stark raving lunacy....where I would scream my head off in anger and frustration at an unfair world that made my beloved cigarettes such a health hazard. "Why, why, why do they have to be so bad for me....?" I was despondent because "someone" took away my best friend, and now I had to face the world on my own. But fortunately this time I took on a Jekel and Hyde personna, and was able to talk myself back from the edge (so to speak) and stay on track. My husband, bless his soul, often times stood there and waited for the right moment when he could step in and hold me...(he quickly figured out to wait it out a little). He saw a part of me that I would never show anyone....and he never left my side.
But too, there are those absolutely wonderful times when I would be overwhelmed with feelings of success and achievement. Just making it through another day was the beginning, but later it was the ability to go out into the public and manage without a craving....or without whinning.....those first times I was able to say, "Wow, I never even thought about a cig," or, "Gee, that guy really stinks from smoke...I'm glad I don't smell like that anymore."
As time passed, the episodes of sadness and madness were more and more infrequent. With every aniversary, daily, weekly, monthly, my focus was more often on my success. Was I really doing this? Me? Jenny who used to hide out from the world because she was such a failure (smoker). So I took ownership of my success and used it to prove to myself that I could do this.
I started to see a new person developing right before my eyes. And as one watches a child grow and learn the multitude of lessons necessary to move into adulthood, I allowed myself the space to learn about how Jenny was going to manage, and grow into that woman she knew she could be. I put a little note in my dessing room..."Give Jenny a break, she's going through a difficult time". I gave myself the compassion I would never deny anyone else. And it worked. That dreaded stick that I always used to measure myself against was set aside. This was the new Jenny, and she was to be judged favourably.
I know, I know, alot of psycho babble. But I am so certain that it was this ability to look inside myself, to recognize the signs and symptoms of my addction in order to learn the ways to heal myself. I read anything I could on the psychological aspects of smoking and it's links to depression and self destructive behaviors. I wanted to be prepared, to know what might happen to me. This year has been a year of personal growth because of this.
Not only am I smoke free, but I've learned to understand some of the things that make me who I am. I've learned that I am a wonderfully complex, helpful, empathetic, important, successful, loving wife, mother, daughter, and friend. Smoking masked who I really was (am). Most important to me.....now I am free. I am free from the chains that cigarette smoking wrapped around my life.
This list has also been an integral part of the support system that I have used to become successful. It certainly would have been so much more difficult doing it without this place where I could come and wouldn't be judged, no matter what I did or said. This group is such a safe and accepting place. I thank you all so much for your "ears". Sometimes this list was the ONLY place I could go to and find someone who really understood what I was feeling. So many of my friends know about this group and ask about you often. Sometimes it's almost like a soap opera.....we can be dramatic, can't we.
So now the first year is behind me, and I am so thankful. It used to be that when I was contemplating a painful situation I would compare it to child birth and I would think to myself, "nothing could ever be as painful as giving birth, so (this) can't be so bad". Now, guess what I say. This quit has been analogous to the birth of a new person. As I take the steps into this next year, I will do so as I once did a long time ago. With the strong hands of my friends and family to guide me along and teach me the balance I will need in order to continue to be successful in this quit....and my new life.
Thank you all.
PS - I would like to add that next most difficult thing was my First Marathon!