Saturday, March 24, 2007

Smoke-Free!

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 -

Mike

***Addendum***

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!

29 comments:

Shephard said...

I've heard over and over again that's one of the hardest things to kick. Good for you, and good that you're sharing so others can believe too.

Michele says hello,
~S

Layla said...

Mike....I stand and applaud you. As an ex-smoker I can testify that it was frigging hard to quit! GOOD FOR YOU!!!!

kenju said...

I applaud you too, Mike. Quitting smoking was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life (and I birthed children and had a root canal while pregnant, without anesthesia). I quit when I was 38, so now I have been a non-smoker longer than I was a smoker. YAY!!! for us both.

WebKittyn said...

I'm on day fifty one or two, it really feels like an accomplishment. I look forward to when I can say it's been a year.

You've inspired me and helped me stay on the patch, I want to thank you again for being a part of my success story and congratulate you on your own.

carli said...

Kudos.
I'm sure if I could have figured out how to inhale without choking, I'd have been a slave to nicotine as well. Congrats. You've probably saved a ton of money.

kate said...

you SHOULD be boasting!!! Thats wonderful! My Mom died of Lung Cancer after smoking for sooooooo many years! Whenever I hear of people quitting it warms my heart! =]]]

Hey and I actually came here to gloat a bit... I am going to see Aaron Lewis of Staind next week in concert!!!!!!!!! =]]]]

I am so totally stoked!!!

Anna said...

On August 10th of this year, it will be 14 years since I smoked....that is just crazy I think...

You should be so proud of quitting. Congrats Mike!

Wordnerd said...

A VERY happy anniversary to you!!!

Veda said...

Congrats, Mike! One day, I tell ya... Longest I stayed quit was two years. The next time I quit will absolutely be the last! (It's coming...slowly)

Go! Celebrate!! :D

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Congratulations to you Mike! I know of what you speal. And I have said, if I could give up smoking, anyone can! It has been 37 years! And believe me, I was a very heaby smoker!
I wish you only the best, and contiued success in your Smoke Free life, my dear!
Micheles sent me tonight.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

Well done on kicking the habit! It will do you so much good.

Michele sent me.

JR's Thumbprints said...

Congratulations on your one year of being smoke-free! I could've used your motivational piece for the graduation we just had at our work place. Some real positive writing here.

mckay said...

YAY!!!
this post hits on some great concepts - things i've thought but am not able to express nearly as eloquently as you have. that' why i love reading your blog (when i have the time to let your thoughts sink in).

LADY LUXIE said...

It's late here..gotta' read this over again tomorrow...One thing strikes me right now though..."the gift of desperation"...

ahhhh'..yes...desperation...how familiar...yes..it is indeed a gift...Everything you write is familiar..like an old road I used to walk...

just a while ago..I was thinking about a puff...how calming it might feels...haven't had one in..five...five years..

LADY LUXIE said...

ow' shucks..."feel"..NOT..."feels"...grrr to me!

Carmi said...

Nicotine is the most addictive substance known to humankind, bar none. Anyone who can kick the habit is, in my book, infinitely stronger than I ever could be.

...which explains why I never started smoking in the first place. Because I knew I wouldn't have the backbone to get myself unhooked.

Nicely done, Mike. May you have many more happy milestones like this.

kenju said...

Your addendum says a lot, Mike, about you and about life in general. In church today, our sermon was about our images of God, and how they might differ from what God really is/does. I think sometimes we have to hit rock bottom before we can begin to look upward and realize what we have to do; to realize that our image of ourselves cannot change until our image of God does. It was a powerful message and whether or not you are religious, you underscored that today.

Michele sent me back.

kenju said...

P.S. A guy that mr. kenju met in a men's group told him that it is easier to kick heroin than it is to quit smoking. We, and all former smokers, should be exceptionally proud of ourselves!

Ann said...

Oh My God, you are my hero. I have been trying to quit for months now, without success. Good for you and for anyone else that beat the monster!! Thanks for visiting my site

The Mistress of the Dark said...

Congrats on a year of being smoke-free!

Michele told me to say hi :)

Bob-kat said...

Blogger just ate my comment so here goes again!

Congratulations of the smoke-free year and on the other life changes you have accomplished. I applaud the fact that you don't look down on others that haven't been able to attain that inner quality to do this yet.

Michele sent me to wish you well for continued success.

michelle said...

I have "quit" several times since I started smoking when I was 18. On January 1st this year I quit for good! It has actually been quite easy this time, but I think, I was like you - tired of being a slave and I really wanted to quit this time. I have eaten everything in sight, so now i'm setting my sights on weight loss! Pat yourself on the back, cause it's a hard, long road and you are doing awesome!

Anna said...

I loved reading the words you added...

Thanks for sharing. I can really relate to all that you said about adversity. I had to find my own way....I had to hit bottom before I could get out...once that happened, I feel like I started to change from the inside out...

I feel like now I am actually a much more compassionate person than I used to be because of how hard it was for me to overcome where I was...does any oof this make sense? Anyhow, I am so glad that you shared more with us all...

I love your last line here too! It is so important to be able to put yourself in other peoples shoes....always!

Have a great week Mike!

panthergirl said...

Mike! I think you know from reading my blog what an important subject this is for me and my son... Congratulations for quitting and staying smoke free for a year! If you have people in your life who love you, and I know you do, it's important to stay smoke free for them.

Sorry that you had to go through a lot of hard times to get to a place of change, but at least you learned and did it. So many people don't.

Here via michele today!

scrappintwinmom said...

Congratulations on staying smoke-free! Here via Michele.

The Zombieslayer said...

Congrads on kicking the smoking habit. I never started, but occasionally have a smoke with a friend if they're smoking. The thing is, I smoke about a cigarette a month, so not addicted at all. Never bought one in my life.

Glad you seem to be pulling your life together. I think smoking your last cigarette was more symbolism of the bigger picture.

Snaggle Tooth said...

I'm glad you accomplished that major goal for your well-being, n made it to a mile-stone point!
My count is 4 years n 3 entire months now, until forever...

Michael K. Willis said...

Very inspiring post. Congratulations on your non-smoking anniversary.

And yes, Michele sent me :-)

WooleyBugger said...

Congrats Mike on the anniversary. I can't say how many times I've tried. Again, not long ago in fact with the patch. It didn't have any effect. One thing that I did try was that Smoke away two years ago. Now that stuff was really working and the only time I'd want a smoke was after a meal. My wife had bought it for herself and didn't finish it so she gave me what was left. Can't get the stuff anymore, except on-line, and I've heard of people who order it and it never came so that's out. Funny, my wife got it at a health store now they won't carry it. Bummer to find something that was working and not be able to get it again.