I smoked my last cigarette one year ago today. For 365 days, I have not been a slave to nicotine. It wasn't always easy and it wasn't my first attempt. I'm not boasting, but offering hope to anyone who is considering kicking the habit for the first time or the twenty first time - don't give up, it can be done.
More later -
In the past four or five years, I have seemingly overcome a lifetime of adversity. Although I take a great deal of responsibility for the direction my life has taken - both good and bad - it has not always been the case. And it’s not as though I set out to encounter failure, disappointment and dead-ends, indeed, I don’t believe anyone does. However, due in large part to my own decisions, the first half of my life, more or less, was without direction.
A number of factors contribute to my success today. Although, ultimately, it comes down to me doing the work, it was that very work that I was unwilling, incapable or too stubborn to perform in the past. Before any wheels could start turning, before any plan could be executed or and positive and lasting change could occur, I had to somehow change the way I saw the world. This would turn out to be no easy task.
And I can’t say I have “the answer.” Oh sure, I have a pretty good idea of what it took for me (I don’t recommend it), but I’m pretty sure those who face any number of obstacles in life can find a way through it. I’m absolutely sure that anyone who seeks answers and applies the effort necessary can turn the corner - in fact, I guarantee it. So why then was it so hard for me to stop self-destructing? Why do so many seem to be stuck in a rut with no relief in sight?
I can’t answer that. I’m not sure anyone can. If they could, all self-destructive “conditions” from addiction to obesity to adultery would be cured overnight. I’ve said it before and I still believe it: There are no magic words. I spent a great deal of time searching for that one “thing” that would get me motivated for a period of time that would support sustained success. There’s no there there. For a very long time I wanted to do what I knew I had to do to succeed and I just didn’t seem to have it in me. I’m convinced I was smart enough, but I was equally convinced that I was somehow not enough.
Due to a traumatic accident and other things that went terribly wrong in my life in my late 30s, combined with a penchant for frequent albeit less violent self-destruction, I was provided with the gift of desperation. It’s perceptional - perhaps an exceedingly high tolerance for pain prevented me from receiving this gift earlier. No matter, it was the beginning of a new outlook for me. This perceptional shift, a little luck and a lot of help from family, friends and even some strangers were the basic elements of a completely new outlook on life. I did it… I am doing it… anyone can.
Yet I couldn’t for a very long time. I wanted to; I knew how; I just didn’t know why I couldn’t keep it up. Terminal laziness? I don’t believe that. At any rate, I have it together today and furthermore, I know it’s sustainable. I know of many others (many of them personally) who have beaten their demons as well. My recent milestone of one year without smoking is evidence that I can apply this new “ability” in other areas. Again, anyone can.
It is important for me to remember, however, how very difficult it was at first. And I’m not just talking about smoking. I had to unlearn many of my old habits and ways of thinking. I wasn’t always successful the first time. This is where the support comes in; I needed that help to try yet again. I never would have gotten back up and dusted myself off time and time again without the support of others.
It’s all too easy to look down on those who are not able turn the corner in their life or some aspect of it. Whether it’s a battle with addiction or alcoholism, poverty, homelessness, over eating and, yes, smoking, I have to remember that knowledge, will power and desire are not enough. I can’t forget that no one would choose to live that way. Although I am proud that I have succeeded and will acknowledge my own significant contribution toward that end, I will not hold myself above another who can’t.
I am happy as can be that I haven’t smoked in a year. It was not easy at first and sometimes it still isn’t. I applaud any one who has even tried to quit. If you didn’t make it - try again. And again. I didn’t quit because cigarettes were going to kill me - I can’t say for sure that they will, although the evidence is pretty damning. I quit because I was tired of them controlling my life. I was tired of being a slave to them. I was done with them - but they were not done with me. I took five tries over a period of 18 months before I finally held on.
If I can do it, so can you. If you can’t do it, I couldn’t either - keep trying!