Steps to Quitting or How I Came to Understand What I Needed

The beginnings of quitting. A list in need of collective growth.

Benny LeMaster

I can hardly believe that I am standing tall on day 21 (yup, 3 freakin weeks smoke-free!) and holding stronger than ever. There have been a number of reasons that have ensured my success to this point. I am so happy to see so many of you dropping your own cigarettes and moving your lives forward as well. I know that it is a tough decision/road to take and many of you have asked me for help in your own quits. I am more than happy to assist you–but we must understand that this cannot be a one-person road–your quit it your own and mine is mine. We can only be responsible for our own quit. However, in line with my own queer feminist pedagogy I feel compelled to share my experience(s) and to help whenever and however I can based on my own trials and tribulations—to use an effective cliche.

Below is a list of some initial things that I realized I needed in order to stay focused and to quit. Things that you might find useful. Items that might be considered a checklist for getting ready to quit. This list is intended to grow and shrink as my quit develops. Should any of YOU (in your own journeys) come across a point that I miss, please let me know. Let’s grow this list together and offer it to a world of future quitters. (quitting is sooo the new in thing). In doing so, I aim at a collective quit with an organic group encouraged by all of us—each of us. This includes those who have dropped their other vices behind. What helped you, how did you do it?

Part I: So you wanna quit smoking.

1. BE READY TO QUIT SMOKING. I find it rare that anyone is ever really ready to quit his or her vice(s).

However, there is a fine line between what you are communicating to yourself as a desire for help from your vice and your vice controlling your communicative ability to articulate this help. It is quite literally an ongoing battle between your mind and your vice to gain control of your consciousness. On one end you have a level mind that does not want nor need a vice. On the other end of the spectrum resides the toxins of your vice blocking your mind’s desire to think for itself leading your consciousness to rely on a foreign drug for its thinking ability.

This can manifest in a number of ways where you ‘think’ that you are not ready to quit smoking, perhaps you are afraid of failing at quitting, or that you’re not in a mental place where you can quit smoking. Whatever the case, you must be in a place where you are finally able to see through all of these mental fogs and notice that they ARE symptoms of addiction—nothing more, nothing less. Addiction is peculiar in that operates in a way that seems normal thrusting a sense of anxiety over ones psyche if you flirt with the idea of quitting. Once you are able to see that you have been duped by your vice and been falsely led to believe that you “need” your vice then you are ready to quit. I know that this is no easy feat. Here are some signs that you are in that place:

  • If you ever hated that your favorite clothing article smelled of stale smoke
  • If you ever found yourself out of breath walking up a couple of steps
  • If you ever found yourself avoiding face-to-face interactions because of your breath
  • If you ever said to yourself in secret, ‘I am done with smoking’
  • If you ever thought, if just for a split second, what life would be like without cigarettes
  • If you ever walked into a room full of people and were embarrassed to be the only one that smelled like cigarettes
  • If you were ever embarrassed to smoke around children
  • If you find yourself irritated at yourself for purchasing cigarettes when you cannot really afford them
  • If just for a moment you realized that those warnings were real
  • If you can right this second say out loud, “I don’t want to be a smoker” and mean it, even if for just a second

If you are able to say yes to any of these (or any other like reasons) then you are well on your way to be able to quit smoking.

2. ADMIT YOUR WEAKNESS. This might be one of the toughest obstacles that I encountered and it shows up in a number of ways—here are two that I have been able to pinpoint as of this writing.

First, you must admit that you are weak to the power of addiction. You must admit and understand that your addiction is controlling you and that you have no control over your addiction at this moment. It is not an inevitable truth and it can be combated. But admitting your weakness is much like admitting that you are an addict. This weakness is what keeps most of us vice-ridden people stuck in an ongoing cycle of false beliefs in ourselves as choice driven individuals able to make quit whenever we want.

Second, you must admit that you cannot do this alone. This weakness is unique for those of us who decide to quit. As I mentioned, the responsibility of quitting belongs only to YOU. Your quit is not mine, it is yours. When you decide to quit, you must do whatever is necessary to quit your vice. More often than not this means finding, developing and maintaining an active community of support. This community should invigorate as many facets of your life as possible and this community is comprised of new and old people in your life. The old people in your life (family, friends, etc.) should remain open and supportive in your endeavors. This is a time when you do not need negative energies sent your way—you need support and love for each and every day that you have successfully refrained from going back to your vice (withdrawals are a bitch!). The new people in your life should be those who remain positive but also those who have been in your shoes and have knowledge from experience to share with you and that can guide you in your own quit. New or old, your community must become an active and constant part of your life. If you are reading this now, then you have become a part of my quitting community. You are my help and you are what help buttress my weakness and make me a stronger person.

When you are able to admit your various weaknesses, then you are able to move forward in so many other ways. Admitting weakness is NOT the same as admitting defeat. Admitting weakness helps you to understand that you need help in your journey. There is no defeat in being able to look to your friends and family and to ask for help, for support, for unconditional love in your time of need.

Connected to this point of weakness is the acknowledgement that you are (in reality) not too cool to need help. I know it is hard to admit, but you must admit that you need help, that you need the support of others. Once you are able to acknowledge this, then you will have a much easier time getting through the first week of hell that quitting brings to you.

3. BE OPEN TO NEW ROUTES. Quitting smoking will change your life in dramatic ways. No need to lie—it depresses me to think how dependent I was on smoking cigarettes, and in turn, how many facets of life were tailored to ensure that my addiction was able to manifest when it wanted to (yes, think of your addiction as a demon using your body to manifest itself—you have become a catalyst for its insemination). Getting to the point where you are able to admit that you want to quit and that you need help in doing so are important but being able to pinpoint your trigger times are just as important.

When you decide to quit it will become a wild struggle finding ways to spend your time without a cigarette in hand. You must be open to changing your life an dramatic ways. If you desire a cigarette first thing in the morning, then you need to find new things to do in the morning—walking a dog (yours or a neighbors), washing dishes, singing along to your favorite musical, reading the paper, reading a book, volunteering at an early morning homeless shelter. If your desire to smoke after eating is strong, then try taking a walk after your meal(s), change your diet to reflect your bodily needs that will trigger your desire to smoke (e.g. if coffee = smoke, then you gotta put down the coffee for a little while or at least cut back), if your friends are a trigger for your addiction then you need to (at least temporarily) find new friends to hang out with.

On the matter of friends. This may sound like a harsh point but think of it this way. Your quit is YOUR quit, not theres. This is not a matter of you hating them or anything along those lines—this is a matter of you needing to do what you need to do in order to ensure a successful quit. If your friends are smokers, then so be it. They will need to get to the same place that you are (hopefully in this lifetime for their own health) before they understand this themselves. In the meantime, you must understand that your friends and habits with them have become a part of your collective weakness as an addict. It is not meant to offend you or your friends, it is a real part of quitting. Not to mention names, but in my own experience I have a handful of friends who remain smokers—I simply cannot hang out with them as often any longer. It isn’t because I resent them it is because I AM NOT IN A PLACE WHERE I CAN TRUST MYSELF TO BE AROUND THEM AND CIGARETTES AT THE SAME TIME. While I can hang with them for a little bit of time, any extended period of time (or when I become restless or when the smoke bothers me) will lead to my immediate self dismissal. I have been blessed to have friends who remain loyal and supportive. When I have to excuse myself on the whim because I feel that I have fallen to a weak place or to where the smoke is irritating my lungs and throat, they don’t question me or my abrupt dismissal—they just get it (or at least they say so, but I believe them because they are a part of my quitting community).

The main point in this section is that you must be open and be prepared to make any changes that are necessary to ensure YOUR successful quit.

4. FORGET ABOUT PAST ATTEMPTS. This is now. Rarely do people quit on the first try, or the second or even the third. On average it takes 7 attempts before a person quits and stays quit. Any quit attempts that you have endured in the past are part of your current attempt—each try gets you closer to your goal and full mental ability to think without the vice. I think of each quit attempt as clearing the fog a bit more so that you are able to think and see and be a little better. That said, it is important to know and acknowledge that no matter how many times you try to quit smoking you are susceptible to going off path—that’s okay. Quitting is difficult and it takes constant vigilance over the self. You must always watch yourself and strive to remain conscious over your choices and actions lest you end up with a pack of smokes in your pocket magically.

Again, this is now. Don’t be preoccupied with thinking about how your friends/family will react when you don’t stay quit, think of how happy your friends will be if you do stay quit and how supportive they can be even if you do fall of the quit train. Getting your friends and family (community) involved in your quit is important for this matter because they must understand that their actions and words deeply affect your ability to stay quit. Most people don’t understand that when they say, “I thought you quit” when you fall off the quit train, how damaging that can be. You must look past these words and know that these are people that don’t understand addiction and that these are your friends and family (community) who are in as much need of addiction education as you are. Invite them in as your ally.

5. BUILD A COMMUNITY. Because I have touched on this a lot in prior posts and on and off above, this one is no. 5 on the list but probably the single most important point to make. You must build a community for yourself. There are many communities out there that offer help and advice, but you must be the one willing to extend your hand and ask for that help. This is your quit. In your quit, you will need a community of support and help. My community consists of friends, family and a beautiful online community of gay quitters through quitnet.com. It is important to find a group and community that communicates the way that you do and a group/community that does not preach hate or espouse negative energy. Your community is in place as a foundation to fall back on. Your community are people that will be there when you are frustrated with your quit, when you could kill for a smoke, when you just need to cry, when you need to yell. They are there for you.

Remember how you would go through any hoop in order to get a smoke, including picking up a lit cigarette from a dirty gutter, asking strangers for one, paying with change in order to get that pack? Now switch that around to the mentality of a quitter—that same energy must by used in this new way. You must be willing to do whatever it takes to quit. The list above, I hope, can be a starting point for you and your friends to gaining a successful quit. Pass it on. If your experience warrants additions, let me know.

LET’S GROW THIS LIST! LET’S HELP OTHERS GET TO WHERE WE ARE! LET’S MAKE A HEALTHY COMMUNITY!

I end with this quote from a really good friend of mine: “No one ever congratulated me for finishing a pack of cigarettes, but you congratulate me on every day that I successfully complete as a smoke-free person. That’s cool!”

 

Up next: Part II: So you’ve decided to quit smoking, what now?

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About Benny

My name is Benny LeMaster. I am an academic, activist, and artist. I research questions of identity, culture, and representation. I am interested in exploring ways to relate to one another in critically affirming ways. In terms of identity, I identify as queer, trans, mixed-race Asian/white, fat, and, frankly, fabulous. Let's talk!
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