How I Quit Smoking

When I was in my mid-thirties I found myself heartbroken yet again, and the most disappointed I'd ever felt. I had been making similar choices for a few years, and I could see the pattern of unavailable men stretching endlessly before me, if I didn't make some sort of serious change in my patterns. (My past is not entirely littered with unavailable men -- I also had a penchant for running away when faced with intimacy.) 

I had heard of Al-Anon (a program for people who feel they've been affected by someone else's drinking) and somehow I found my way to a meeting. I was desperate to change. In those rooms, I came to understand the aphorism, you can't love anyone else until you love yourself, in a new way. I had always thought self-love was about feeling good about me. Pride in my assets or accomplishments. It never occurred to me that it was about treating myself well. I started to think of love as a verb, not a noun. I asked myself, How would I treat me if I were my own child? 

Iíd provide a clean, safe home, neat clothes, and healthy food. Iíd make sure I took time to learn things and to play and get plenty of exercise. Iíd encourage intellectual growth and discipline and relaxation. Iíd try to avoid toxic relationships and I wouldnít put poisons in my body. I wouldnít give a child a cigarette, why would I give me one? 

As I came to experience the presence of a higher power in my life, I asked for god's will and one of the first messages I got was: it's not god's will for me that I smoke. I had smoked for 23 years, 2 - 2 1/2 packs a day! I had tried to quit over the years -- sometimes stayed quit for 6 months at a time, but it was always a bitch to quit. 

I started talking to other people who had used the program to quit smoking and I began to make affirmations to myself -- well, negative affirmations. When I'd pick up a cigarette, I'd say to myself, "I don't really enjoy this," or "This is disgusting, I hate this," and other similar remarks. It didn't feel true, but I knew that affirmations work, even against underlying beliefs, so I just kept saying it. 

Months passed. I'd been in the program for 9 months, I guess, and I was halfway through my year alone. When I first joined Al-Anon, I was told it would be very helpful to me to spend a year by myself, outside relationships, no dating, no sex, just me and my higher power! Time to get to know me and time to establish a relationship with the god of my understanding.

It made sense to me to stop smoking before I was available for a relationship again, so I began to think seriously about quitting. It was May of Ď91. I was about to take off on a month long driving trip up the east coast, and it didn't make any sense to me to try to quit then, so I set a deadline of summerís end. 

When I got home in June, I was full of readiness to quit Ė though I had just bought two tax free cartons in South Carolina on the way home! Who knew? 

I had met Karen in Al-Anon who was also a member of NA (Narcotics Anonymous) and she had gone to NA to quit smoking cigarettes some 8 years before -- and she had stuck around to see how alcohol and drugs had been addictions for her. I had asked if she would sponsor me for smoking when I was ready to quit, and she agreed. 

I called Karen soon after I got back and told I was ready. I told her I was thinking: should I get a patch, or a staple in my ear, or nicotine gum, or what? She listened to me and then said, use such and such a workbook and start writing your steps on smoking. I didn't want to hear that, I wanted to hear "how" I was going to quit and she told me to call her when I was ready! Rather pissed me off! 

A couple of days later, I was with a friend, and as we sat in the car in front of my house at the end of an evening, I told him I was going to quit, and the possible methods. "Well," I said, "when I finish that other carton of cigarettes I got in South Carolina Ö." I broke out laughing! If I was ready to quit, I thought, then that carton didn't matter a bit. And suddenly I realized what I had been doing wrong. I wasn't praying right. 

Oh, I had been walking around, praying on my feet, asking god to make me willing to quit. But I hadn't seriously asked. That was it! I said goodnight, got out of the car, went into the house and got ready for bed. Then I got down on my knees. "Please make me willing to quit smoking," I prayed. Immediately I felt a rush of willingness! It was as though god had spoken aloud and said, "you are willing." And a course of energy ran through me which I can only describe as something akin to Kundalini energy. I was full of readiness and self love and gratitude! 

I got into bed in tears. I was awe struck! All I did was ask, and god delivered! I lay there thinking, I won't smoke again, I really wonít smoke again and feeling the marvel of it! Suddenly I started to laugh; I mean how hard is it to quit smoking when you're off to sleep? 

The next morning, as it happened, I had to be up early for a Sierra Club beach clean up. I awakened, miraculously with no desire to smoke. Instead, I was full of excitement and love! I knew god had removed the desire to smoke. I drove to Miami Beach early, and did an hour of yoga on the beach before the clean-up. As I started out down the beach picking up litter and trash, I realized there were cigarette butts everywhere. I decided to pick them up and for two hours, that's what I did. And I didn't even have gloves. Yuck! A little aversion therapy, perhaps? 

Prizes were awarded for the most trash, based on weight, and, surprisingly, I won second prize! I did, of course, find some other stuff along in the ashtray. 

By the time I got home I didn't know what to do with myself. I didnít want a cigarette, but I felt physically nervous. I went to bed and slept until 5 or so. Then I called Karen to find out when and where there'd be an NA meeting that night. She was too busy to talk and she didn't get back to me, so I went to my regular Al-Anon meeting where I shared about what had happened to me. 

Afterwards, a woman I liked approached me and told me how she had used the steps to quit smoking. She had used affirmations when she quit and she shared them with me. I asked her to write them down and then I created my own. After that, whenever I thought about smoking, I repeated, "I'm a permanent non-smoker. I love myself. I deserve to be smoke free!" Sometimes I added: "It's a gift I give myself, it's a gift I give to god." And I repeated those lines until any urge passed. 

I did more yoga and exercise over the next few weeks, but other than that I didnít change any other habits. 

That was June 8, 1991. 

I canít say that I never have an urge to smoke. I do sometimes when I get upset, but itís not a painful desire that I must squash. Itís there, and I certainly donít want to honor it. 

God gave me a reprieve. One of the things that makes me clear I donít want to smoke again is that I know I would just have to quit again, and I donít think god necessarily hands out such grace every time! In any case, Iím not taking that chance! 

I love being smoke free! I love me! I deserve it! 

~~M.-J. Taylor 

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