Waiting to quit

When I quit smoking pot, that very morning a patron verbally attacked me. It was a real test of whether I had really grown up and decided to quit. It was a very vicious verbal attack and I was emotionally scarred. I went in the break room and I sat down and cried for a little bit. And I prayed as well.

I said “God, if you really want me to quit then why would you test me by giving me this evil woman who says that she “is a Christian and she treats people in a Christian way’?” Of all the ways I could have been attacked, that was the most difficult – for a “Christian” to yell at me because she broke the rules and I had to call her on it.

If I have been stoned I wouldn’t have even noticed how hateful she was. It wouldn’t have affected me at all.

I briefly considered going back to smoking and then I realized if I did then I was letting her win. At the time I was smoking not only pot but clove cigarettes to escape my feelings. I realized that I could not continue smoking pot because I wanted to buy a house. There was way too much paperwork and too much preparing to do to be stoned.

In the past, every time someone would upset me I would look forward to having a smoke. Every time I would smoke I would forget how much they upset me. But the problem was that I was polluting my lungs and fogging my mind. I wasn’t harming them at all. I wasn’t getting back at them. I was harming myself. It became important to me to stand strong.

There are many people who say “Oh, I can’t quit smoking cigarettes right now because I’ve got too much stress going on.” You will always have too much stress going on.

Here’s the crazy part. Smoking is what causes the stress. Or, better said, smoking is just putting off dealing with the stress.

We all have stress. Smoking just delays it, and then the problems multiply. Smoking doesn’t make them go away. Then, you have the worry over the fact that you are smoking to add to it. And your lungs don’t work as well, so that it stressful.

Smoking becomes the reason for your stress. It is a stupid cycle but it’s a very human one. We all do it.

If you wait until life is simple and easy, then what are you going to do when times get difficult again? You gave up your pacifier, your teddy bear, your security blanket. So what are you going to reach for when things get difficult again?

You have to learn how to take care of yourself when times are hard. You can’t wait until life gets easy.

I know a guy who is not taking care of himself after his wife died. He is doing all the wrong things and he knows it. He is eating badly and not sleeping well and he says he can’t take care of himself now. This is the time he must take care of himself. If he doesn’t do it then it’s just going to get harder.

The time to
learn how to fly
is when
you’ve been kicked
out of the nest,
not when you’re safe in it.

It is absolutely insane that our human bodies are designed to crave all the wrong things when we are under stress. The things we desire – extra salt, extra fat, extra sugar – are all things that make us feel worse in the long run. These things keep us drowning.

Rather than
dragging us
to the shore
they drag us
under.

But maybe that is our animal nature. Our human nature is to know better and to learn from our mistakes. Our human nature is to rise above and use our minds. Perhaps that’s the difference – our animal nature hurts us but our human nature helps us.

When we are under stress, we are said to have a fight or flight reflex. All our lizard brain wants to do is run away. And certainly run away is a great answer to pain. Who wants to be in the middle of pain? But running away sometimes only causes more pain. Often we run away with drugs, alcohol, smoking, and food.

Interestingly, the stuff that we humans take into ourselves that harms us was made by humans. It isn’t natural. We crave caffeine and processed sugar and excess fat. We crave things that come in packages and have labels. The more we go for healthy things the healthier we are not only physically but mentally.

Ideally people would never ever experience processed food. The moment a child eats a candy bar instead of an apple all he is going to want is the candy bar. And because it makes him happy and excited that’s going to be what he reaches for when he is under stress.

Smoke

How’s that New Year’s Resolution going for you?

I know a guy who wants to quit smoking. Well, he says he wants to quit, but then he goes and smokes another cigarette. He says you have to “You have to wait until you are ready to quit.” He says you have to have a motivation to change. I’d think the fact that he’s already had a heart attack and is sick all the time would be a good motivation, but it isn’t enough for him yet.

He’s waiting for a kick in the butt. The only problem is that sometimes the thing that is big enough for the kick in the butt is so big that it, itself, cannot be easily kicked. Or emphysema. Or cancer. Or just plain old death.

He’s using this as an excuse. He’s using it as a cop-out. If he really wanted to quit, he’d quit.

I’m not being mean. I quit smoking when I went to the emergency at three a.m. with heart problems. My heart was racing. I felt terrible. Fortunately it was a fluke, but then I started thinking. What about the next time, when it is something serious? Then it’s going to be harder. Sure, I dodged the bullet this time, but what about then? If I keep playing Russian roulette with cigarettes, I’m going to lose one day. This isn’t a good game to play.

Nobody makes you smoke. Nobody holds a gun to your head and makes you light up. Nothing is weirder than watching someone say “I just can’t quit smoking” and see them light up another cigarette. It’s like seeing someone possessed.

This same guy walked away from an abusive family when he was 15. One cold night he saw his stepfather beating his mother yet again and he jumped in to help her. His stepfather started to beat him viciously, stomping on his back in an effort to kill him. He managed to get away, and that night resolved to leave. He put on everything he owned because it was freezing outside and walked several miles to town. He walked away from certain death.

He could use that same energy now. Cigarettes are killing him, just as surely as his stepfather was going to. The bad part is that nobody is forcing him to stay in this abusive situation. He’s doing this to himself, over and over. Every cigarette is stealing his life, minute by minute, year by year. Every time he smokes he is killing himself as surely as his stepfather was going to kill him that cold night.

When he says “You have to wait until you are ready to quit” he’s just lying to himself. He’s ready, he’s just afraid. He’s smoked so long he doesn’t know what to do with himself if he isn’t smoking. Just thinking about quitting smoking causes anxiety, and he’s spent so long dealing with his anxieties by smoking that he goes and has another smoke.

It’s an ugly circle.

It’s easier to stay in an abusive relationship than to leave it, right? Better to stay with the devil you know.

He says that he’s done so much damage to his lungs that there’s no turning back now. This is just like saying that you’ve already ruined your diet by eating a piece of pie – so you might as well eat the entire pie.

I’ve suggested that he go have a ten minute walk instead of having a smoke. He says he can’t go walk every time. He’s at work. Yet he doesn’t get that he takes time to smoke. I’m not saying to double up on breaks. I’m saying to replace smoking with walking. I’m saying to take a walk break instead of a smoke break. It clears your head and reduces anxiety. It does all the stuff that smoking does but without the bad side effects. It worked for me.

He brushes all of this aside. He says he’s not ready to quit. Actually, he is. He knows he should. He talks about quitting, but he’s waiting for a sign. He’s waiting for proof that he has to quit. The fact that he has kept on living is proof to him that he’s tougher than cigarettes. He’s dodged the bullet. He’s survived.

Soon that will change. It always does. Nobody wins with cigarettes.

On quitting smoking.

Many people stop doing something bad or start doing something good for their New Year’s resolution. Why not combine the two? If you are going to stop smoking, I suggest you start walking.

Take the time you were going to use on your smoke break and go for a walk instead. Many people take a 15 minute smoke break. 15 minutes is a great amount of time for a walk – but even 10 or 5 minutes is good.

Walking does for you what smoking does, but better. It is calming. It is a mental break. It takes you away from your problems, both literally and figuratively. But while smoking takes away from your health, walking adds to it.

Walking clears out your head like nothing else.

You can walk anywhere. You don’t have to have a walking path around your workplace. You can go for a walk inside your building. While it is better to go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine, it is important just to walk. Walk up and down some stairs. Walk around the hallways. Get outside and walk around the building. But just walk. If you limit yourself to walking outside, 90% of the time it will be too hot or too cold or too wet. Rarely will it be just right. Savor those days when it is nice outside, but don’t just walk on those days. Walk every day.

You don’t have to walk fast. Just walk. Ambling is fine. A stroll is good.

Think you are too out of shape to walk? All the more reason to walk. Just get going. Do what you can. You’ll get stronger. People don’t walk because they are in shape. They walk to get in shape.

Some people use this as an excuse – “I’ll walk a mile and then I have to walk a mile to get back where I started.” Walk in a circle. Find a path and loop around.

You may be self-conscious at the start when you are walking. That is normal. You are doing something different. You are taking care of yourself. The shame you felt from sneaking away to smoke will be replaced with pride that you are doing something to help yourself. Try to recruit others to go walking with you instead of smoking. That way you have a group. You can cheer each other on.

Realize that every excuse you come up with is your unhealthy self trying to stay that way. Your healthy self is really weak right now and you can’t hear its voice very well. See those excuses as a sign that you have to stick up for your healthy self. Just go ahead and do it. The more you put it off, the longer it will be before you start feeling better. Every little bit you do towards the good will give you energy and momentum to do a little bit more.

Go walk instead of smoking. Your life will thank you for it.