I intially wrote this in response to a question if there were people that had tried to quit numerous times, so it sounds almost like coming into the middle of a conversation, but the response became so long and so general, I thought I'd just post it as a post.
Question: Is there anyone who have failed after like 5 attempts but eventually succeeded?
I think this is one of the reasons I stuck around for years and maybe why others do the same. It is the hope that maybe someone can learn from my mistakes so that hopefully they don't continue making their own and have multiple failed quit attempts in the process.
I had tried to quit so many times and so many different ways that I lost count. Some of those quits lasted days and some lasted less than that. But each time I quit and relapsed, I only validated what I already knew. That quitting smoking was too hard and I was too weak. I often times resigned that I was a hopeless addict.
Besides, I had all of these things happening in my life that always caused me to relapse. There was the stress at my job, stress in my relationships, the girlfriend breaking up with me, being in a bad mood, the bad weather bumming me out, hanging out and relaxing in the fantastic weather, the cable going out, hanging out with my smoking friends who still got to smoke, etc. If it wasn't one thing, it was another.
It wasn't until I started educating myself about this addiction that I began to realize that nothing outside myself caused me to relapse. Nothing. Not the stress, the job, the relationships, the ex-girlfriend, the moods, the weather, the cable, the friends, etc. Nothing. All the responsibility/accountability fell square in my lap. I think often times us addicts don't want to hear this. “No, no, no!”, we may say. “If only this didn't happen or that didn't happen, or if this happened or that happened, I wouldn't have smoked.” Yet the truth is, every time I relapsed, I made the decision to smoke.
The funny thing about decisions like this though, is that often times we think that they are something that happens in a split second. Yet, upon an honest closer examination, we can see how often times we start to build up these thoughts/fantasies about just having that cigarette. And as these thoughts/fantasies start to build, the mind starts making justifications, rationalizations, and/or maybe even compromises. The mind then starts to look for people, places, situations, etc. that will fit into these justifications and rationalizations and as soon as they arise, the addict takes advantage of the person, place or situation, all the while blaming that this was the reason that “caused” them to smoke. It is like the addict's version of the self fulfilling prophecy. Looking back, telling myself I was a hopeless addict was kind of a way out. After all, it's not my fault if I'm hopeless.
Yet, when that responsibility shifts over and we see that it is ourselves and only ourselves that is responsible, we might not fully embrace this idea at first, because no longer can we blame anyone or anything for “causing” us to smoke. We realize that to justify or rationalize one reason is to open the door to justify and rationalizing any reason. But that is actually the good news when it is embraced!
This is why I think that educating oneself about this addiction is so key to not only freeing oneself from the prison of the physical addiction, but also the prison of the psychological addiction. It is my philosophy that through the years of ingesting nicotine causing a physical addiction, created deeply rooted psychological beliefs in the cigarette based on fallacies. Since nicotine addiction is based on the negative reinforcement principle (meaning continuing to do something to keep the negative effects of not doing it at bay), quitting smoking seems to reinforce these fallacies that the smoker believes.
This again is why I think education is so important. It helps to remove these beliefs that until brought to light we might not even recognize we had. Yes, quitting smoking and stopping that behavior is good, but without a change of mind the person can go from one prison (being in the grip of addiction) to another prison (being free from the addiction, while still holding cherished beliefs that causes the person to feel they are giving the addiction up). The truth is, we are giving up nothing! We are getting rid of an absolutely absurd and useless addiction!
But the thing with education is the applying of it. Information without application will not get one very far, for this is where the rubber meets the road. Education doesn't mean that a person will no longer have withdrawal symptoms, or craves, or thoughts when first quitting. The value lies in that we will have the knowledge and tools to be able to respond to these rather than merely becoming a reaction to them.
It is so important to understand that quitting is temporary, the key word being TEMPORARY. Freedom is forever! It can seem scary to think that quitting smoking we'll just have to deal with these craves forever, but the truth is, the only people that will have craves forever are people that don't quit smoking! Yes, when we quit we go through withdrawal. Withdrawal then turns into craves, that turn into thoughts, that eventually turn into memories. Memories that we hold onto to remember how smoking really was and not what we want it to be.
To you newer quitters going through the transitional period or withdrawal and craves. I can tell you, this is not what it is like to be an ex-smoker, for it were, I wouldn't be here telling you this. I would be smoking myself. There are many things I have done in my life that I regret, but quitting smoking is not one of them! It is absolutely the best thing I have done for myself and it is the best thing that you can do for yourself!
This addiction is absurd and it is absolutely useless. And to show you just how absurd and useless it is, I want you to imagine this. Since I have quit smoking I have not smoked 143,686 cigarettes. I have also not wasted almost $36,000.00 on cigarettes since I quit smoking.
Now imagine this. If I had not quit smoking, I would have smoked 143,686 cigarettes! For what? To keep relieving the anxiety that the previous cigarette created! An anxiety that shouldn't have even been there in the first place! And I would have spent almost $36,000.00 (not counting inflation which would be much more these days) to do so! And where would I be? I would be getting ready to smoke my 143, 687th cigarette to relieve the withdrawal anxiety from my 143,686th cigarette, and on and on, on the hamster wheel it would have went. Is that not absurd?!
And how useful is that to smoke all of those cigarettes and spend all that money to relieve withdrawal anxieties from smoking that smoking itself created in the first place?! It's insane really. Smoking gets you no where. It always ends up at the same point no matter how many cigarettes are smoked....it is always smoking the present cigarette to relieve the withdrawal anxieties of the previous cigarette.
You will never find peace within the addiction, because addiction can never be satisfied, and what cannot be satisfied will never bring peace. It is a beast with a voracious appetite that will keep taking and taking. This is not a pleasure, but a prison, but it is a prison in which you hold the key to escape!
I urge you to read, read, and read some more. Be patient with yourselves. This is truly a wonderful gift, sometimes it just takes a little time to unwrap it.
And above all,
NEVER TAKE ANOTHER PUFF!!