Quitting nicotine for good: A conversation with a former smoker
"What was I thinking?" Wendy opined. She was reflecting and reacting to many past years of smoking cigarettes - sometimes for 5 years, quitting for 5 years, then smoking again, then quitting again for other periods - until she said "quitting for good" happened about 10 years ago.
"Amy and Donna agreed with me when we discussed our past addictions to cigarettes just last week," she continued. I said that I didn't know Amy or Donna had been smokers.
"I only knew that you had been a smoker when you told me a couple of months earlier," I said.
[Wendy had previously shared this with me in a conversation we had concerning addictions in general and is familiar with my work in addiction recovery. Wendy has never experienced addiction to alcohol or drugs; the same goes for Amy and Donna. Amy is expecting her first child in May.]
Wendy proceeded, "We all have new personas, I guess. Some people have only known us as non-smokers but when we had talked about this recently we all agreed that we take it very seriously and our lives are far better because we don't smoke anymore."
Wendy, Amy, Donna and I all have our offices in the same building in Hollywood where I'll be hosting the first annual "Festival of Recovery" on April 26. I had asked Wendy if she'd participate in a component of the forthcoming event: The 9th Annual "Funeral for the Unknown Smoker." She'd agreed to do so. The festival will feature exciting options in recovery from alcohol, drugs and, of course, nicotine addiction as well as help in recovery concerning mental health issues.
Wendy is a native of California and is in a twenty year relationship with a good guy who, incidentally, also stopped smoking about 7 years ago. Wendy started smoking when she was 14 years old. She stopped for good in 1998. It happened like this: "I had the flu, a really, really bad flu and couldn't smoke for a week. When I felt better, I went out to my patio with the intention of ‘rewarding' myself with a cigarette and then I thought, I've already gone a week without smoking so it'll be easier to use this as a start to stop smoking for good. "I've had it! That's enough!"
Wendy never smoked again and relayed to me that she's confident that nicotine is no longer part of her life or her persona. She's done with that. Wendy said that these two strategies worked for her back in the early days of '98 until she no longer needed them. Strategy one: "When I momentarily felt like lighting up, I said to myself, ‘The urge to smoke a cigarette will come and go - whether I smoke a cigarette or not.'" Strategy two: Wendy said that in those early days she'd also mime smoking, lifting an imaginary cigarette to her lips, taking a deep drag and then exhaling, and that this worked for her, providing her with relief from her nicotine danger moment. Wendy, by the way, is one of the most compassionate and caring individuals I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. She's great at her job in public relations work and in her volunteerism. When she enters a room she puts people at ease and brings strangers together as friends, all without a cigarette.
I hope you'll stop smoking now or continue to stay nicotine-free if you've already stopped. Visit me at quitnicotinenow.net and I look forward to being with you again next week.