I left things off in February of 2014, when things started to change, slowly, but drastically. It was such a whirlwind and I’m not very good at remembering the timeline of everything, so I’m going to do this as a list. However, I just realized that there’s so much I want to say about every item on this list that I’m going to break them into separate blog posts. That way
I’ll balance out the very depressing posts I have so far (depressing, but necessarily so), and
you won’t read in one sitting what in Microsoft Word will be a ten-page document. Single fucking spaced.
Here is one of the great things I did during My Happy Years (henceforth MHYs):
I quit smoking after smoking on and off for eight years.
Smoking had always been mostly appealing for its ability to reduce my stress. And boy howdy did I have a lot of stress. Smoking was a crutch, something to enforce a break within whatever emotional time-suck I found myself. I never pictured myself smoking long-term, but I had done a bad job of nailing down when I would actually stop.
At first, I told myself, when I turn 25 I will quit smoking for good, but then 25 came and went and I kept lighting up. I wasn’t ready to let it go; I didn’t WANT to let it go. Fast forward to a few months into MHYs and I realized: I don’t need to smoke anymore. Not only do I not need to, I don’t want to. I’m ready to quit, and to quit for good.
I had more reasons for quitting. I typed them up in a list and printed it out, so I could have it on me to refer to if I ever got tempted to smoke. Here is that list:
Reasons Why I Want to Quit Smoking
- It greatly reduces myriad health risks and will prolong my life.
- My hair and clothes will smell aMAZing.
- I’ll be more kissable!
- Colds won’t last as long.
- It will improve my lung capacity, which will make it easier for me to exercise.
- I won’t have to be outside when I don’t want to be outside.
- I will save about $840 a year.
- It will help with my indigestion problems.
- My teeth will be whiter and in better condition.
- It will enhance my sense of taste. Foods that are already delicious will be even MORE delicious!
- I won’t be putting harmful second-hand smoke into the atmosphere.
- I won’t ever need to litter again.
- My car won’t get any more burns on/in it.
- I can drive in the rain with my windows rolled up—ALL the time!
- I won’t feel guilty about smoking cuz I won’t be doing it anymore! WHAT’S UP?!
- I won’t be nagged to quit smoking.
- Everyone who has at some point nagged me will be really proud.
- There won’t be an automatic deal-breaker for future boyfriends.
- To prove I’m stronger than my habit!
- Because I don’t need it anymore.
As you can see, I had a ton of good reasons in my arsenal, but I didn’t yet have a plan. I wanted to do this right—I wanted to quit and stay quit, but to do that, I needed to prepare. Here’s what I did to get ready:
I had the inside of my car meticulously detailed (a gift from my parents to encourage my quitting).
I cleaned all of my clothing, towels, and bedding. Really, ALL of it.
I searched out all of my stashed cigarette lighters and threw them away.
I stocked up on mouthwash, gum, breath mints, toothpicks, and straws.
I created a schedule to wean myself off of the nicotine. I worked my way down from five or six cigarettes a day to two, spacing it out over two weeks. The last three days I smoked only 1 cigarette.
I brainstormed what scenarios I might find tempting to smoke in and wrote an “Attack Plan” to conquer the cravings. Here it is:
ATTACK PLAN: Scenarios for Cravings and How to Avoid Smoking
- In the morning when I drink my coffee while sitting on the porch—STAY INSIDE WHILE DRINKING COFFEE AND COMPLETE A WORDSEARCH.
- After every meal—AFTER LUNCH, POP A PIECE OF GUM OR A BREATH MINT OR EAT A CARROT. AFTER DINNER, BRUSH MY TEETH. WRITE SOMEONE A POSTCARD.
- When I have 10 minutes to kill—KEEP MY JOURNAL WITH ME, WRITE ABOUT WHATEVER. DO SOME TOUCH-UP CLEANING IN MY ROOM OR AROUND THE HOUSE. READ.
- When I am crying—CALL/TEXT SOMEONE. TRY DBT SKILL OF SOME KIND.
- When I am hanging out with certain friends—BE RECLUSIVE UNTIL I’M ON MY FEET, THEN ASK THEM TO BE RESPECTFUL AND NOT SMOKE AROUND ME.
- When I’m tipsy—STOP DRINKING FOR A PERIOD OF TIME (COUPLE OF MONTHS?). SLOWLY START DRINKING AGAIN AND WHEN DRINKING, HAVE A STRAW TO CHEW ON. STAY INDOORS.
At this point I was feeling well prepared. I was also terrified that I would end up a total failure, disappointing myself, and all my loved ones who were rooting for me. So very, very nervously, I picked a quit date: April 1st. (When I posted it on Facebook I made it very clear I wasn’t joking.)
April 1st was an interesting day. I felt dizzy and light-headed and super cranky. I went to Trader Joe’s to get something for lunch. On the way out, a Greenpeace representative with a clipboard and a huge smile called out to me, “You look like you care about the environment! I can see it on your face!” Now, I know I’m glaring daggers at her because like I said, I was a crankypants, so I do something COMPLETELY out of character: I whip my grocery bag around so I can lift my arm up to jab my finger at my face and yell, “THIS face? Really? I DON’T THINK SO.” Then I storm off to my car.
I’m feeling so hungry that I decide to eat right there in my car. I eat a Thai pasta salad I’ve always loved and something amazing happens: it tastes better than it ever has before. It is ridiculously good. The flavors are so INTENSE. I won’t say it was orgasmic or anything, but it was definitely a powerful, very delicious moment, and an excellent nudge to keep it up.
That first day really sucked. The next day sucked a lot less. And then the nicotine was entirely out of my system. Now the psychological battle was going to have to be won.
To my complete surprise (and envy of other friends who had trouble quitting) it was easy. Really easy. I hardly used any of my coping mechanisms. I just didn’t need them. And I think it was because I really wanted to quit. I didn’t want to smoke anymore. I didn’t want to smoke ever again.
There was one night, just one, where I received some news that made me feel very depressed and I longed for a cigarette. I wanted to stay strong, so I confided in my family. I told them I was feeling tempted and asked if I could stay with them and talk until the craving went away. It went away.
I haven’t had any real craving since.
I am telling you this great glut of this information because maybe you want to quit, too, and maybe you’ll get some ideas here that might help.
I’m also telling you because the experience was monumental to me.
I feel, to this day, that it was only possible to quit when I did because I was in MHYs. I found a new kind of strength I’d never had before. A strength rooted in confidence: I knew I could do it. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve told myself I was worthless or damaged, and how much that completely fucked my self-confidence, my sense of competency. And now, here was something that took guts to do and I did it. I did it and excelled at it. I won that battle and it boosted my self-confidence extremely. I think you can imagine how good that felt. How good that felt. And that confidence would only continue to grow.
Stay tuned for the continuation, My Happy Years, Part Two: Running