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.)
How I Quit Smoking
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
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,
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
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!
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