I know that quitting smoking can be a touchy subject for some because there are a lot of recovering addicts and alcoholics out there who continue to smoke.
That’s OK. My intent is not to harp on anyone to quit (although there are tremendous benefits to doing so). Instead, just consider the idea that overcoming a smoking addiction is an act of creation – just as overcoming any addiction requires creation.
Networking doesn’t help much
I struggled for so long to quit smoking during my recovery and failed. For years I would try different tactics to overcome my cigarette addiction, but nothing seemed to work.
One of my typical strategies was to acquire a “quitting buddy.” This sounds like a great theory–to simply find someone else who wants to quit and support each other–but it’s actually a terrible strategy. The reason for this is because the odds of success for any individual in quitting are fairly low, so instead of supporting one another, the more likely scenario is that one will relapse and thus “give permission” to the other to do so. The odds of 2 people both succeeding in quitting smoking at the same time are very, very slim – so this “sabotage effect” is very common if you try to use support like this.
When you quit smoking, you do it alone. If you try to reach out for support then you risk sabotaging your own efforts. This sounds like a hard fact and a dismal truth but you should instead let it empower you. Accept that you are on this journey by yourself and own it as your own path. If others see you trying to quit and are inspired to do the same, let them try along side of you. But don’t rely on them for inspiration or support because that is a failed strategy when it comes to quitting smoking. Quit for yourself, by yourself. This is the strongest path, and it speaks to the idea of creation.
More than elimination
Quitting smoking is a creative act. How so? Because you have to learn how to deal and cope with each micro-situation in your life without a cigarette.
For example, driving to work. Most smokers had certain times that they would always light up, like when driving to work or after finishing a meal and so on. In order to quit successfully you have to make it through each one of those micro-situations without a cigarette a couple of times over. You will naturally crave a cigarette during those situations. As you go through them, however, your cravings will subside as your brain starts figuring out that you can do it without smoking. This takes a bit of time and some repetition. You have to make it through these micro-situations as a non-smoker a few times in order to move past the psychological cravings.
See what is happening there? You are creating a new life for yourself as a non-smoker, right at the level of your thoughts and behaviors. This takes time and repetition but it is still an act of creation. You make the decision not to smoke in each micro-situation, over and over again.
The idea of the replacement strategy comes into play here as well. Instead of lighting up, you can try to replace your habit with all sorts of things – such as chewing on toothpicks, sucking on candy, or fiddling with a pen in your hands. If you put these ideas into practice they can become quite powerful for you as they are also acts of creation – you’re deliberately taking some action in order to avoid smoking. I have also advocated the idea of taking a vacation to help you quit smoking because it can be such a powerful distraction. Again, this is replacement in action. More than just elimination – you are actively creating something in place of your old addiction.
If you just quit smoking cigarettes without any creative efforts involved you’re going to have a very tough road ahead of you. Part of this is due to the enormous emotional connection most of us have with smoking. We see it as our “friend” and our comforter in many cases. Emotional loss is very real for most people when they give up cigarettes.
My own path to quitting
When I finally managed to quit smoking and make it work for myself, I had definitely shifted towards a creative approach instead of an elimination approach. Here is how I used the creative theory to make it work for me:
1) I started exercising before I quit as a means of replacement – theorizing that the endorphin rush from running would help replace some of the dopamine rush from smoking. So I had built this habit of running on a regular basis before I even quit.
2) I used replacement strategies such as toothpicks, candy, chewing gum, and so on.
3) I did not seek any “quitting buddies” or try to draw support from my peers (most of which were still smoking).
When we see “quitting smoking” as an act of elimination we limit ourselves and our own strength in the ability to achieve a smoke-free life. Approach quitting as a creative act and start creating a healthy new life for yourself without smoking. This subtle shift in perspective can lead to more powerful strategies for quitting.