At this time in the New Year, a few people have set the intention to stop smoking cigarettes. Hurray for those who have made it through the first month smoke free! Hurray for those who intend to try again!
If you put out the last butt and have had a relapse, perhaps I can help you plan for the bumps in the road some may encounter. This may be one of the hardest resolutions to honor. But, with a little preparation, this can be done. If your goal is to do this alone, these steps may be of help. If you are a person who needs the support of a community, I highly recommend the American Lung Association Freedom from Smoking Program. As a person who completed the program 20+ years ago and benefited from their support, with sincerity I say give it a go.
Habit – Do not underestimate that smoking has become a daily habit in your life. The body likes routines and a cigarette with coffee is part of the daily ritual. Prepare for the change by beginning to recognize habits in your day to day life. A simple way to perceive ingrained habits is to notice how you eat. When you take a bite, on which side of the mouth do you chew: on the left or right. Do you chew certain foods on one side more than another? On the next bite, shift the food to the other side and notice how awkward it may be to continue eating. This is a habit you may never have noticed. To reorganize your body to accommodate a change takes a bit of effort. Smoking is that common to your body. As you go through the stages of becoming a non-smoker, you may become hyper sensitive to your body and its messages. Prepare yourself to be uncomfortable. Accept that change can happen consciously.
Learning to Let Go
Also, start to learn to let go of things. Look around your home or personal possessions and notice the condition of personal and household objects. Notice if the lunch bag that you use every day is clean, or is it stained and well used. Is the bathroom mirror and cabinet chipped or perpetually rickety, overflowing with no longer needed items? Have your socks been washed and worn too long and look shabby? Start to let go of things. Consider that it may not be necessary to replace things, it’s just these things are comfortably familiar to you but they no longer serve a purpose. Every week, become aware of things and see them through the eyes of a stranger, what do they look, feel or smell like. If it’s causing the nose to wrinkle, it’s time to part with it. Dispose of the item responsibly. If it’s furniture, consider if it truly does need to be replaced. The goal is to learn to let it go without regret.
Take a moment to clearly articulate the intention to quit. There doesn’t have to necessarily be a reason, take a walk and talk it out in the simplest language. To yourself say, I intend to go about my day now without smoking cigarettes. Nothing more needs to be said. If you are a visual person, you may write this down at the top of your to-do list for today. If you wish to reinforce this in a meditative moment, practice a little loving-kindness mediation. Sit comfortably and quietly for a few minutes. Say to yourself ~ May I be well. May I be at peace. May I be free of smoking.~ May smokers be well. May smokers be at peace. May smokers be free. ~ May others be well. May others be at peace. May all others be free of smoking. ~ You can expand this as far as you wish to the tobacco pickers, manufacturers and distributors. The goal of this meditation is to neutralize the emotional characteristics of the relationship. This technique practiced daily may help to prepare for the encounters in the day that will cause vexation. Unfortunately, the tobacco marketing agents know how to stimulate your habit and will sabotage your progress. But, if you approach them as an equal and in balance, the influence will be less antagonistic.
Be aware that people around you may or may not be helpful. The best approach may be to quietly go about this change. If you are the last smoker in your household, family may be a source of support. If there is a smoker in the household and they are not prepared to quit, this will be a complex problem for both of you. I would refer back to the American Lung Association for how to proceed given this reality. Co-workers and friends may help but be aware of the competitive nature of people, be aware of the one around you who enjoys telling the story of how their uncle failed every year and died of emphysema at 50 years old. This will not help you. Be aware that in the grip of the urge to smoke, a smoker may look at you and say, maybe you shouldn’t quit. Be aware that this is a vulnerable time in life and there are those around you who will take advantage of the situation. This may be a marketing company for cigarettes, insurance or medication, think twice before trying something untested or unknown. Above all else, do not quit for anyone’s benefit except yourself. This is the time to be utterly selfish and take care of you first.
Remember, the words of Lewis Carroll, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” I can guarantee that if you take the approach of preparation and thoughtful reflection on what you want to do and where you want to be, it will happen. Take your time, be gentle with yourself and watch where you are going. I have faith in you.
Ora per oggi, basta cosi. This is enough for today. The next article will talk about nutrition, sleep and exercise.