It’s been one year today that I decided to become nicotine free. I quit cigarettes a good million times (unsuccessfully) before then. The difference: I didn’t quit cigarettes. I became nicotine free. Wording my friends, at least to a word junkie like me, is everything!
So much has happened since that courageous night I didn’t stop at the gas station on the way home and instead solemnly stared at my last 2 cigarettes as I crushed them and threw them away. I would need a book, or at least 20 more blog entries, to really tell the tale of the last year. For the sake of this entry however – and keeping a long-winded girl brief – I will focus on what helped me to not ruin everything and actually become one year nicotine free.
There were a few immediate things I did to get me in the right state of mind for change. As I stated in my past entry, It’s a New Day E’ry Day, “I didn’t need to quit smoking – I needed to quit how I lived my life.” This state of mind was the basis on how I confronted this change. I didn’t want to be a “quitter”. I didn’t want to stop something I enjoyed, because the truth is I did enjoy smoking. I just didn’t enjoy stinking, being poor, or quietly dying.
This is where the whole notion of “quitting” was thrown out the window for me. I looked at it as a set up for failure. Similar to dieting, if you focus on the cake you can’t eat, then all you want is cake! So wording was key. I didn’t want to be a quitter. I didn’t want to be square or a narc. I wanted to be free! Free from that bully of a voice in my head who kept telling me I needed another one. Free from the phlegmy cough I woke up to every morning. Free from the financial prison I put myself in so I could stop having to choose between buying cigarettes or buying breakfast. Nicotine controlled my life – and I wanted freedom.
Nicotine. Another word carefully chosen for this freedom process. It’s a trick of the mind. If you are free from cigarettes, than you could still vape, have a cigarillo, or have a small drag. No. I didn’t want to give my brain any excuses. I wanted to be free of nicotine.
In my past entry, It’s a New Day E’ry Day, I spoke about my different coping mechanisms and the tricks that truly worked for me at that point. Sine I wrote that entry in April, I added a new step to help me maintain my freedom. Like I mentioned in that last entry, this is a psychological and sociological game – becoming nicotine free. So even though, technically, the nicotine was out of my system I was coming across some new challenges.
In April I was feeling confident. This is really it! I’m never going back. That’s when your psyche wakes up and decides “WOAH WOAH no one asked me how I felt about this or how I’m coping. I miss cigarettes.” It was true. I didn’t miss nicotine, I missed cigarettes. My old companion. As the constant newness in my life kept evolving I noticed my anxiety getting higher and higher. I caught myself saying things like, “Ugh if I only had a cigarette.” I would always shake it off immediately and say “I mean I never would.” In my heart though, I knew I was in the danger zone.
It’s like a horrible ex. You leave them and everything about them behind you. Then when you are finally strong, confident, and over them you watch some dumb movie that reminds you of the “good times you had together” and all of a sudden, you miss them. There’s nothing wrong with that – we are human. Our emotions don’t stop loving just because our minds know it’s bad for us. But I was not going to give in. No, cigarettes were no ordinary ex. In fact, just knowing I had those feelings made me so scared that I knew it was time to step up my game.
I stopped how I lived my life – but I didn’t change it. I didn’t replace the comfort and calmness that cigarettes gave me. I just pushed through it. Now that I’ was no longer addicted, my psyche and emotions needed comfort. They needed a new way of expressing themselves. I had knitting to keep my hands and brain busy but nothing to satisfy my emotions.
Then I found Yoga.
This my friends is how I stopped myself from breaking down and asking someone – anyone – to pass me a cigarette. Now to help set the stage I am not a tall, skinny, privileged woman with an obsession of all things natural (well OK I am a little organic obsessed). My point is, Yoga was not something I thought I’d enjoy. I remember in my fittest of days I tried to conquer Tai Chi and failed miserably. I thought this had to be the same. Slow and a lot of breathing. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It all started on an emotionally pent up Saturday where my anxiety was through the roof and I realized I was way too out of shape to just start kick boxing (I actually put on Tae- Bo and never made it passed the warm up). Then I found Kanta Barrios on Amazon Prime. Here was this short, thick, brunette woman clearly from somewhere inBrazil who had the voice and accent of an angel.
I put on “Yoga for beginners” and figured I would just stream it and see what it was about. I instantly fell in love. I realized I’ve been breathing incorrectly my whole life – mostly because I breathed like I was smoking cigarette. Big inhale – suck in. Exhale – breathe out. Completely incorrect. No one can tackle anxiety without knowing how to breathe. The focus of the moves and releasing all the toxic buildup (I tend to give a good yell, grunt, or curse word with the harder moves – ahhh the freedom). It transformed me and pushed me to stay free. So fine, it was a lot of breathing – but it was also stretching and contorting your body and mind in ways it never did before.
When you want to take away something from a baby they say all you have to do is distract them with something else. Well friends, that’s what I did. If I can’t sleep – child pose. Big presentation in the morning – downward facing dog. It wasn’t easy. It was another new challenge. As I continue the practice the more relaxed, open, and flexible both my mind and body become. Resulting in fewer temper tantrums (making for stronger relationships with friends, family and pho-husband); longer REM sleep; and less aches and pains.
Three months later and I can proudly say that I moved on from Kanta Barrios- who I owe so many thanks and who I recommend for ALL Yoga beginners – and now have moved on to a more intermediate pace. I’m pushing my body and my mind to be free. This includes learning how to meditate. Which funny enough- is also all about distraction. Distracting that Monkey Mind that never stops and giving it a job: count numbers, count breadths, listen to waves. You give your Monkey Mind a job and then your psyche is free.
The changes and challenges have been non-stop. I can only smile and raise my head high because now I face these challenges free of mind, body and nicotine!
One day at a time.
I mean … Namaste.