KNOWING it was bad for me did not stop me in the slightest. My dad was a heavy smoker and died at 49 of a heart attack + cardiac arrest. Armed with that knowledge, I started smoking and kept smoking anyway.
I was addicted to smoking. This meant I had no control over it. Once I smoked, I had to have another. I tried to control it but it never worked.
My addicted brain made up all kinds of stories about what life would be like without my drug. I would have to roam the earth like the walking dead, completely unsatisfied and deprived. Always wanting it, always craving it, but never getting to have it. Hell on earth.
I started trying to quit smoking when I was about 22. It took me 11 years to finally get free, after many attempts, failures, relapses, moments of completely giving up and swearing off ever trying to quit again.
I loved smoking and hated it. I hated myself for loving cigarettes more than my own health, or other people.
Then a miracle happened.
I had started throwing myself into every possible smoking cessation tool. I wore the patch and chewed the gum. I took Zyban. I meditated. I journaled. I joined online discussion boards. I read self help books. I listed to tapes. I got hypnotized. I ate kale. I drank kale. Everything I could find.
Because of this Whatever It Takes attitude, I found myself in a smoking cessation class at McConnell Heart Hospital. I don't remember much about weeks one and two. I was still smoking, but they said that was OK. Being there, they said, was the important thing. Quitting would come later. It was the mind and the addiction that needed a dose of Truth, first.
I remember them saying that an addiction is like a snake in the grass, a sneaky LIAR that waits until your weakest moment, then pounces. That spoke to me.
I don't like being lied to. I like truth tellers.
In week three, this guy in his late fifties came in to give his testimony. He had on a flannel shirt with a pocket in the front, like my dad would have worn. When he talked to us, he said he remembers clearly what it was like to have the comfort of the smoking ritual. As he said this, he pretended to take a pack of smokes out of his front pocket, pack it, shake one out of the pack and light it. I knew exactly what he was talking about. I knew the feel. I knew the smell.
One day about a year ago, he continued, he had chest pains that landed him in the ER. He had several major blockages and went into open heart surgery the next morning. That really didn't phase me because, well, I already knew this part first hand. Yes I could die blah blah blah.
But then he said something that hit me like a bolt of lightning. He said he didn't miss smoking. He didn't miss it.
My addiction had me convinced that life after smokes was empty; constantly craving and never satisfied. But he wasn't saying this. And because of his flannel shirt and understanding of the comfort smoking brought, I believed him.
I believed him over my addiction.
I left that night, drove home with a pack of cigarettes in the car, and didn't smoke one. The next day, I didn't smoke. I went back the following week and reported to the group that I hadn't smoked in a week! Even with the open pack of smokes still sitting in my car, I hadn't smoked.
They quickly told me to get rid of those, explaining that people don't get sober in a bar. You can't be around your drug for awhile, or possibly ever.
I did get rid of them, but I know I could have kept them there. I had heard the Truth and it had broken through. Beyond all the lies of addiction, all the false beliefs about what's possible. The Truth had set me free.
I believe that somehow the patch and the gum and the books and the meditations had prepared me for my quit, but it happened outside of me, in community. It happened to me, through a word of Truth from someone who shared the same path.
I just wanted to share this word of encouragement with you. Do whatever it takes to get free. Work hard. Try. Yes. But no matter what, show up. That's where the miracles happen. That's where the Truth is. In the community of people who want you to know that freedom is possible. The addictions and compulsions are lying. You do not spend your days wishing and wanting. You spend your days grateful and free.
Whatever it is you may want to break free from, know that it is possible. Many have gone before you and are right there, willing to help. Willing to tell you the Truth.
Thank you, man in the flannel shirt. I don't know your name, but I am deeply grateful and I'll never forget you.