Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Life without Cigarettes

Last July when things turned upside down in my life, I started smoking.  I was dealing with an avalanche of emotions, confusion, and life changes. I recall sitting on my patio thinking “what now?” and I realized I could openly smoke a cigarette on my patio. I was reclaiming my patio and my autonomy and exerting my new found life. That was very empowering for me. Tony hates smoking and yes, I was exerting my independence. Sounds a bit juvenile and spiteful, but I am looking at things as honestly as I can, so let’s just call it like it is. I don’t consider this my display of healthy decisions.  However, I think handling things as I did then doesn't need complete scrutiny. I made some very adult decisions as well. I sought out help in the form of a good therapist and began attending a support group, among other things. I gave myself permission to handle Tony’s departure and the subsequent events with a vice. I also decided at the time that I was giving myself a time limit to this smoking binge. It just doesn't fit in the Healing Lane.

I've known that I picked up my smoking habit as a replacement for the sugar and starch addiction that is a much greater issue with me. My addictive behaviors are all interwoven, and whether it is compulsive eating or smoking, I’m tired of not dealing with the underlying issues. It just seems the right time to put some added energy into facing whatever is it that I’m avoiding. The Healing Lane calls for it. So I quit smoking this week. Yesterday, actually.

I’m learning the importance of doing things in my best interest and to not seek acceptance through doing for others. Frankly, it would have been easier to make the choice to give up smoking for someone else, though. I’m working through those issues (Can I get an “amen” from my fellow codependents?). So I note that I quit smoking for myself. However, I chose to quit at this time in honor of my friend’s birthday. I knew that it would bring her happiness, as she is in the medical field and has been very concerned for my well-being. She has been a great encouragement to me for over 25 years, often much more concerned for my health than I was for myself. These are the kinds of friends that are precious gifts that we cherish close to our hearts. It was very timely to make the no smoking commitment now.

I know smoking is really a disgusting habit and there isn't anything positive to say about its worth. So let me be clear: I am not defending smoking. Now I want to confess how much I enjoy it. I miss my morning smokes, my afternoon smokes, and my last night smokes. I miss the escape that it brings. There is a comfort in some weird way. I need to unzip here to be completely vulnerable about how long and deep this attraction to smoking has been in my life. I was 13 the first time I started smoking cigarettes. My friend and I were both dealing with family issues; her parents had just divorced and mine were considering it. I guess it is no surprise that we started looking for ways to appease the turmoil around and within each of us. I continued my smoking through high school. I didn't carry cigarettes on me, but if I was drinking alcohol, I smoked.  The social smoking pull has continued for most of my life in fact.There was a relatively short time when I smoked regularly. I just decided to quit one day. Like that. I stopped.

I would manage to pick up and drop the habit without much struggle throughout my marriage, though. I was very unhappy in my marriage and when I especially wanted to act out my anger at Tony I would go away privately to smoke. In addition, I have usually smoked while I am away at a work conference each fall. There have been a few times that stopping was more challenging, and I realize these occasions coincide with other aspects of my life being in turmoil. As an addiction, it has served me well in not addressing my problems. The problem is that is the problem: I avoided the problem. Hmm, sounds rather unhealthy.

Today, I struggle. This smoking for seven months has been soothing in lots of ways, but with it came bondage. I’m working at overcoming the desire to medicate, soothe, escape, and numb the feelings and thoughts of my life. The struggle is not caving into a compulsive act in avoidance of those feelings. Whether the addictive behavior is with a substance or a compulsive act, those of us caught in those addictions should have compassion for each other. I am learning that we can relate to one another by showing some understanding. If a friend is working sobriety by giving up alcohol, then I can work sobriety without sugar (or cigarettes or whatever). It is a mutual struggle. Her beer is my pastry; his gambling is my smoking.  We each have a journey and some parts of it require more effort.  It is what it is, and so we press on. 

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