I am an incredibly anxious person. My first cigarette I stole out of a friend's mom's car, sat in my room, inhaled, felt the sheer rush of nicotine, experienced more relaxation and calm and pleasure than I had ever felt in my entire life, and thought -- at 13 years of age -- whatever happens because of smoking, THIS IS WORTH IT.
I love love love to smoke cigarettes.
I love how debauch and reckless and exhilarating it feels. I love the guilty pleasure of doing exactly what you're not supposed to be doing. I love a cigarette when something good has happened. I love a cigarette when something bad has happened.
I'm 17 here. Hilariously, this is actually posed for my Sassiest Girl in America entry.
I love how dirty sexy smoking is. I love someone holding a cigarette up for you, lighting it and then your lips overlapping ever so slightly on someone else's hand so there is intimate touching of flesh. The implied potential blowjob.
I love a cigarette in a limo. I love a cigarette in the gutter. I love a cigarette after a drink. I love a cigarette after an AA meeting. (Yes, it basically is an AA meeting up in this piece.)
And see, yeah...That -- yes, that, right there, is exactly where my problem lies. Since I quit drinking a few years ago, smoking is the one thing I've "allowed" myself to do occasionally if I get really stressed out.
Sadly, the problem with my addict brain is that it's never just one. It always falls into regular buying of packs, and regular apologies to myself for the fact that I know I need to stop and I will, it's just "I'm really stressed out right now."
And I hate the idea of cigarettes controlling me. I hate the bullshit stupid romantic lies I tell myself about how poetic and mystical and transcendent and completely necessary at times cigarettes are. I hate my reptilian brain veering me around like I'm some kind of pleasure-heat-seeking-missile.
In desperation this last time I fell into smoking, up to a pack a day for a few days there a month ago, I frantically searched around until I finally found a "quit smoking" program with high marks because I needed it to work. Like really work. Like not just temporarily work.
Guess what? I found it: the holy grail of quitting cigarettes forever. The book is called "How to Quit Smoking and Stay Stopped Forever" by Gillian Riley.
And look, I have nothing against people who choose to smoke (see above: I love it!), but I am so sensitive. I have one of those bodies that bruise easily and take forever to heal. I'm six-feet-freaking-two for crying out loud. It takes a long time for my circulation to go around my body, and as every doctor has told me, there is nothing worse than cigarettes for your body, circulation-wise.
So for me, being pro-active about choosing not to smoke is very wise. It's a choice I've made. And here's how I finally did it. Over a month now!
1. Don't tell anyone you are quitting.
So now you can see why my post is in total violation of that policy. The main reason: You are setting yourself up for failure and pressure. So don't do that. Seriously. This is a choice you are making for YOURSELF, damn it. You are doing this selfishly! It is selfish (and wonderful) to take care of your health. Yeah, girl!
2. Recognize that the most important thing you have to do is learn to be okay with the desire to smoke.
I realize this sounds kind of simplistic. Like, "Obviously, dude." But, no, check it out. THIS IS HUGE. Most people think that one day they just won't want to smoke anymore. That maybe they have a weak will or something. Like, if they were really "strong" then the desire would be gone.
Nope. Never ever. If you are a smoker, you will always be a smoker. You will always be someone who has a desire for cigarettes and is tempted by them. Forever and ever and ever. A non-smoker doesn't feel that.
So really important: You have to learn how to accept The Desire to Smoke. You just have to tell yourself, "Okay now I'm having this desire so I'm going to just sit with that desire and tolerate it. Hi, desire, what's up. I see you, desire. It's okay. Hush, hush, sweet desire, there, there."
Don't fear it. Identify it.
3. Know that you can smoke. Whenever you want to.
Some of these things may seem simple, but oh my God I can't tell you how profound they are. This is a big part of this program for quitting. When I'm telling people about how to do it, I like to say, by way of very exaggerated example to illustrate my point: "Even if I was half in the grave and dying of every kind of cancer there was and hooked up to every kind of oxygen machine imaginable, theoretically I could still smoke. I completely have that choice, right and ability. There is no one stopping me."
Because here's the thing. WE WANT WHAT WE CAN'T HAVE. God knows why. But just know: SMOKING IS NOT OFF LIMITS. You are just making a little choice now. And then later. And then again. Before you know it, it gets super easy to keep doing.
When someone says, "Want a smoke?" Say, "Not now. Maybe later."
4. How to tolerate the desire? Get an outline! Here's how.
You develop an "outline." Keep it in your purse if you need to. I haven't written mine down but I can tell you what it is.
It's basically, "I want the long-term goals of not falling into doing this all the time, feeing gross in the morning, not looking as good and healthy as I could, getting wrinkly, getting sick easier, spending a ton of money and potentially dying of an awful disease. To achieve those long-term goals -- just for right now - I'm going to resist the short-term pleasure of having a cigarette. Maybe I'll do it later. I know that I always can make that choice. It's up to me. No one is preventing me. This is my choice."
5. Practice inducing the desire to smoke.
I know this sounds crazy, but here's why it is important. Know when I fall off the wagon? When I'm incredibly stressed -- or if I've just had earth-shattering sex and am feeling very super-hero-ish and want to punctuate the moment.
When those two things are in play and the urge overtakes me, all the outlines in the world get thrown out the window. BUT. Not if I've practiced inducing the desire to smoke, and I'm prepared to resist.
An example: The book actually recommends carrying around a pack with you. Put one up to your lips on occasion if you want. Really feel how much you want it. And then sit with that desire. Practice sitting with the desire. Really strengthen this muscle.
You might have to do it a few times, but by building up your resistance, this is what will prevent you from slipping when the really tempting times come up and the desire seems overwhelming and all consuming.
6. This isn't in the book, but: Get some alternate ways to relax.
I know this sounds really obvious, but it's critical. Techniques I have employed to release stress when I really need the feeling of a "rush" of something: Masturbate. Scream into a pillow. Run around the block. Hug a dog. Do a mantra. Do a cool guided meditation thingy (you can download a bunch from Audible.com).
7. Also not in the book, but I love this trick: See the "desire" as like a video game.
"Oh you crafty little desire, look at you trying to get me to do what you want!" This also helps to separate the "desire" from being "you." You can be a Jedi if you can do this. Observe the desire. It's not you. It's just a feeling. Suddenly, you've deactivated its power just through the power of sheer recognition. Pretty neat, right?
8. Also: It's going to be about 48 hours to get the cigs out of your system, withdrawal wise. So go easy on yourself.
After that time period, it's mostly just mental. But the first two days, take extra nice care of yourself.
And that's it. Cool, right? I'm curious: What works for you not to smoke? Or to resist in general bad-for-you type things? Also: Know what else I love as a smoking substitute? Those flavored toothpicks that you can buy at Whole Foods. The cinnamon kind and the tea-tree flavored. It gives you an oral fix.
I also love to burn sage and incense (myrrh is particularly awesome for having some of the same "energy clearing" properties of sage, if you believe in that shizz) so I can just totally enjoy the pure pleasure of setting shit on fire -- without the cancer.
Happy not smoking, XO-ers!
PS What was your first time ever smoking a cigarette? Did you like it as much as I did? How old were you? Are you one of those people who can just do it occasionally when you drink? Who's your favorite smoker? Mine is Lindsay Lohan.
Find Mandy long-form at http://tinyurl.com/stadtmiller.