By Richard Kent Matthews
Happy anniversary to me! Twenty-seven years ago, I took the cigarette out of my mouth, and never put it there again...
Addictions can be tough--REALLY tough--to overcome. But people are doing it every day. I did. So can you.
You get pressure from your high school crowd to 'follow along' and do what they do. Smoking was one of those things. But I didn't follow along. Until later.
How pot got me started
When I was 22, in 1967, my two younger brothers got me high on pot for the first time. Loved it, smoked it a lot for the next 10 years.
One night, at a bar in Los Angeles,
a friend told me that by sucking hard on a menthol cigarette, I could come close to a grass high. I tried it. Sure enough, I got quite a buzz. (It's all about the buzz, right?)
I kept sucking on cigarettes for the next 22 years.
Rocky Mountain high
I moved to Colorado in 1978. At one time, during my drinking days in Denver (Yeah, I was a bit of drunk as well), I was up to more than three packs a day. And if I was on a long drinking binge, four, even five packs in a 24-hour period.(You and I both know even a pack a day is a lot of cigs.)
In 1988, I moved to Portland, Oregon. And in June of 1989, 27 years ago this month, I took the cig out of my mouth and have not put it back since. It wasn't easy; addictions are mean. For a couple of months after that major action, I found myself sucking on ball point pens, coffee stirrers, pencils--anything that would replace the feel of the cig in my mouth. (You probably think that sounds silly, but it helped more than you know.)
The habit of sticking one of those beasts into my face was the first habit I had to break before I could overcome the addiction. How did I do it?
- Decision. I knew I had to choose to stop sucking smoke. I thought I had made that decision several times in the past. Turns out, I was only joking.
- Commitment. Once the decision was made, I had to make a commitment. I think maybe this step was the hardest. How could I convince myself I really meant it? I had two full cartons of cigs in the house. I went to them, took them off the shelf, emptied the sticks into the sink...and soaked them. Did it hurt? Emotionally, like nothing I've ever experienced, before or since.
- Support. I told everyone in my group of relationships what I was doing and got them to support me. Not preach to me, or tell me stuff I already knew. Just support. If I had to cry a little, they understood.
- Distraction. I up'd the exercise, volunteer work, and hanging out in smoke free environments. I drank a lot more water, ate better, and kept a journal (which I maintain to this day).
- Milestones. Each week, I gave myself a treat of some kind to mark my progress. Sometimes I'd have a scone or take a ride out of town, or have a special lunch with a good friend.
- Choices. I had made the commitment and knew I might suffer a bit (Understatement!). So I gave myself permission to just feel the pain, the discomfort, and even a sense of abandonment. Yes. Cigarettes were my buddies. They were always there, even when I was alone.
- Success. It took me about three months to start calling myself a non smoker instead of a smoker who was trying to quit. And when I made that pronouncement, I listened to myself carefully. Did I mean it? Or was I kidding myself?
- Long Term. One morning, in October, 1989, I woke up, started my day, had coffee, went to work, stopped at the store on the way home later, and as I was sitting down to dinner with a friend, I suddenly realized I had not thought about having a smoke all day. I knew it was over. I had won.
Some say the smoking addiction is the toughest one to overcome. I don't know about that. But I do know it's a tough one. I also stopped drinking and doing speed in 1988. Neither was as rough as breaking the smoking habit. Not even close. I have friends and clients who say getting off crack was not as hard as quitting smoking. (Opioid addiction may be tougher; I don't know anyone whose had to deal with them. If you have, leave a comment. Thanks.)
I know this. No matter the addiction, or the bad habit, it takes the decision and determination to end it. It also takes support.
You're not in it alone. Even if you have no one around you, there are groups and organizations that are willing to help you, some at no cost. Here's a good place to start. Click on:
You want a long and healthy life
I know it's difficult. But you can do it. If you want, connect with me by email and I will be one more who will be part of your support team.
And I won't preach.
PS: If you have a story about your own challenges with smoking, let me know. I'll be posting some of the stories in upcoming posts, here and on my other blog, www.JoyJamboree.com.