One of the aspects of quitting smoking that was the most difficult for me to deal with was the emotional attachment that I had developed to the habit.
Smoking was what I turned to when I was stressed, unhappy, or angry; it was my companion when I was celebrating or enjoying coffee or a conversation with a friend; it was something to break up the day and to divert me from boredom. It was woven into literally every aspect of my life.
Cigarettes had become such an intrinsic part of my emotional being that dealing with the physical withdrawal seemed secondary – I had to figure out how to excise it from my daily routines and find replacements for the feelings of comfort that I had come to associate with smoking.
It felt as though I was quitting an old friend – or that an old friend was quitting me! Smoking had become my steady buddy during both good times and bad. In fact, because I had started smoking as a teenager, I had grown into adulthood knowing no other way of life. My very sense of identity had come to be defined by my smoking.
I found that talking about these feelings with others who were trying to quit smoking helped to validate my feelings. I learned that this sense of loss was not at all uncommon. Most people who start smoking begin to do so as teenagers – just when we are defining our sense of self and deciding what we will become when we grow up. And some of us end up discovering that addiction has become part of our self-definition.
The good news is that we can redefine ourselves. Once we get past the physical withdrawal, we can focus on our inner voice – the one that can tell us whether we will be successful or not. This inner voice can become populated with positive messages, which will help us get through the emotional issues associated with smoking cessation.
Now, I’m not suggesting that we can simply talk ourselves into becoming non-smokers, but we can definitely undermine our efforts if we aren’t careful with the messages we give to ourselves.
If we say to ourselves “I am free of cigarettes and I’m loving this feeling,” that message will take us farther from our last smoke than if we let the little voice say, “I’ve failed before and I’ll probably fail again.” We need to banish the negative self-talk and practice the positive.
As you grow stronger and gain in your sense of pride at becoming a non-smoker, you will slowly find that the emotional addiction has lost its hold. It did for me, and even though it was a long and painful journey I found that I could “reprogram” my inner voice to speak words of encouragement.
I found myself emotionally stronger and able to weather the inevitable temptations that life threw my way. Eventually I realized that I could get past pretty much anything and not feel drawn back to my old ways. I had found my independence.