Tomorrow marks 15 years since I quit smoking. I am so grateful that I was able to do it, since I'd tried and failed a few times before my actual quit date.
I quit drinking over 22 years ago and it's a testament to the power of nicotine addiction that I was unable to stop smoking in conjunction with getting sober. My older brother, Tony, a recovering alcoholic for ten years longer than I, hasn't been able to quit cigarettes. I worry about him. He has been a faithful participant in AA meetings for decades; those meetings usually have blue air. There are some smoke-free AA meetings out there but the majority are not. I attended AA meetings every day for my first six weeks after leaving treatment, per agreement with that facility. I haven't been to an AA meeting since, and, for me, that has worked best. I realize that it's not for everyone, however. I just couldn't handle the smoke (and I was a heavy smoker in those days). I also rejected living my new life in flogging reference to the one I was blessed to leave behind, which is how the meetings felt to me.
One December day in 1984 I was having a smoke break with a co-worker out back of the building where we worked. One of the assistant directors, returning from lunch, breezed past me and said, Stop by my office on your way back to your desk. At his desk he turned his 18-month planner around to face me and barked, Pick the date you'll quit smoking and write it here on my calendar! I needed the night to think about a commitment that heavy but the next morning I returned to his office with my decision to quit the following March 19. It happened to be the birthday of my high school best friend, Bob, a non-smoking, non-drinking, sex-addicted Mormon. It seemed as good as any day and it gave me about three months to defer the misery.
Another work contact told me that he had been successful in quitting smoking through hypnosis. He had already lost part of his tongue and his taste buds to mouth cancer so he had a big incentive. His story added strength to my own incentive. I tucked away the name of his psychologist/hypnotist in Portland, Oregon, and that is who I called for an appointment when March rolled around.
I took a day of vacation from work and asked my mother (a heavy smoker until some years later when she went cold turkey) to come along for the drive and lunch after my appointment. The hypnotist's office overlooked the Willamette River and his suite was professional and relaxing. I swear that I was awake the entire time and I remember what he was saying as my arms felt heavier and heavier. It wasn't creepy as some might suspect. I was feeling extremely relaxed when I heard my own voice in my right ear chirp in a demanding way, I want a cigarette! What a strange thing that was. I internally shouted NO. And the main struggle was over. The $150 I paid that day was so worth the cost, and whatever inflation has increased similar treatment to these days would still be worth the cost for anyone seriously ready to quit.
There were absolutely some difficult times after the hypnosis when the craving was strong. I have found that, all these years later, there are moments of high excitability when I have a sense that things are all wrong -- then I realize it's that old craving. I find it remarkable, the hold of addiction. But I never cheated, not even one puff, since the day I quit. I knew I didn't dare because that was my one best chance. (As they say in AA, There's only one first kiss.)
If anyone reads this who is thinking about quitting smoking (or drinking/drugs) you must know that you have a right to good health. You can do it.
For those who don't smoke, the dying plea from actor Yul Brenner should be enough to convince you (or someone you care about) never to start. Paste this link into your browser -- http://youtube.com/watch?v=JNjunlWUJJI
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