I started smoking at 20 years old when I would hang out with friends who smoked and drank.
I remember the first cigarette puff I took at a bar.
It was disgusting. It tasted bad, smelled bad, and make me feel woozy.
Why in my right mind why would I smoke again and again and again, and become a smoker?
I seemed to have a talent for choosing to do things I knew I would eventually have to stop and it would be difficult.
I guess I could say I wasn’t in my right mind. It’s not like I did not know how bad it was for me. Smoking became a reason to take a break at work, something to focus on when I was stressed, a social que to hold as I talked with friends.
It became essentially what all addictions are, a habit. The brain is interesting. It doesn’t seem to differentiate between habits that are good for you or bad for you. Once a habit loop is created and addiction is ignited, cravings become natural. We must give in to them to make the thought or anxious feeling go away.
Well, we think we must give in to them, but ultimately everything is a choice within reason.
I realized I had an addiction when I tried to quit smoking, about 20 times in one year. I was 24 years old when I began my quitting ceremonies. I would get grossed out and sick of smelling like death. I was spending what little extra money I had on the cancer sticks and feeling guilty about it. I wasn’t so much concerned with the health problems at that age, but I did do a report in college on emphysema that freaked the crap out of me. I literally sat in the parking lot of the college and smoked a cigarette then walked in and did a report on emphysema and then went back to my car to smoke a cigarette. That’s addiction at its finest.
My quitting ceremonies consisted of me buying a pack of Marlboro lights at the gas station by my apartment. I would get back in the car and tell myself this would be the last pack I ever smoked. I would anxiously smoke my last one, throw out all my ashtrays and lighters and be done with it. Then a few hours later I would go buy another pack. Maybe I made it until the next day.
This was around the time in my life I started getting into Christianity. I went to a prayer retreat with a new church I was a part of. I had been praying for many weeks that God would help me quit smoking.
During one of the worship services I had a spiritual experience. I felt the love of God overpower me and the addiction lift off me. I no longer had the desire to smoke and went home smoke free. I wish I could find better words to describe this experience. It was like I was so sure of God’s love for me, I did not want to do anything I knew he would not approve of after that.
Fast forward 11 years. My oldest son was using heroin and I was stressed out to the max. I remember feeling out of control anxiety one day and had the thought to go and try an “organic” cigarette. I had been healed from IC for 3 years and I lived a healthy life. I never thought I would smoke again. Why I gave into this thought, I will never understand. I went and bought organic cigarettes and justified it was only nicotine and water so it was not unhealthy.
Smoking did calm me down that day and I thought to myself how maybe the problem with smoking was just that people were smoking the kind with all the chemicals. (Addiction talking again). Kind of like Marijuana, it was just a herb right? Wrong.
Within a month I was a half a pack a day closest smoker. I did not smoke around my kids or anyone important. I was ashamed. I was supposed to be the picture of health. I went through hell to get better from IC, and I spent 10 months in a wellness coach education and 4 years in psychology and coaching training. I was sure Jesus had healed my addiction forever at that prayer service. 11 years ago. Here I was smoking, again.
One of the worst parts of addiction is the control it seems to have over you.
Even though organic, I noticed the bad effects of smoking very quickly compared to when I was in my 20s. I am so in tune with my body now I am able to recognize changes.
Here is what the recent yearlong closet smoking taught me about nicotine and health.
I quit again on my own this time after just one year. It took 3 tries’. I went cold turkey and the experience was different then the last time. I did not feel a rush of love from God, and I didn’t feel anything lift off me.
What I did feel is major cravings and anxiety with tons of nervous energy. I felt this for about 72 hours.
I might have bit your head off it you were around me. I am sorry for that! I also eat a lot more sugary food and gained a few pounds. After about 5 days it was just the occasional thought I would have to fight.
I believe I learned more about addictions and habits after my 2nd most recent quit. I realized that although the physical withdrawal and anxiety sucked, that if I abstained the cravings and thoughts would go away. I would move on, smoke free. I also learned I do not have to do what my thoughts tell me to do. I already know this, but it’s even more true for me now. My thoughts would be screaming at me as I passed the gas station “buy cigarettes, you only need one, then you will throw them out” or “they are organic, only nicotine and water, they really aren’t bad for you!”
As the thoughts screamed, I kept driving. I got home and took a bath or read a book and within 45 minutes I was no longer thinking about it. Another craving would come but eventually go away again. I realized I am stronger than I think I am. If I can do this with cigarettes and resist the screaming thoughts, I can do this with anything I want to change. Now I am tackling sugar addiction once and for all.
I am stronger than I thought. That is the new mantra that pops up over and over again for me now. I believe we are all stronger than we think we are. I am learning how much power we really have over our lives when we don't give into our thoughts.
Melissa is the Author of Healing Through the Pain How I overcame Interstitial Cystitis. She writes about health (physical, emotional and spiritual) from a vulnerable place, after overcoming Interstitial Cystitis and still battling emotional illness. She is passionate about helping women realize their ability to make changes and move forward from difficult situations in their lives.
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