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Keith's journey: the ups and downs

If you keep falling over, it's okay. The trick is to keep getting back up

I am 2 weeks into my 5th or 6th attempt, but this time I know I am through with cigarettes.

I had quit for over a year - many years ago - and now I know why I went back to smoking (and why it will be different this time).

That time (and every other relapse) I ended up having that cigarette (either cracking and giving in totally, or on the longer quit saying at first "just one"..) because I perceived a benefit to it.

The time I was over a year cigarette free (and quite honestly, home-free) I had a cigarette one day while suffering from a terrible "cluster headache" (like migraine, but actually worse). You see, I always associated a cigarette with some form of soothing relief etc. When I was in pain like that, I didn't realise then, as I do now, that this is actually a fallacy- it's a lie. All that really happened was that conditioned triggers popped up again - triggers that were learned during a time of physical addiction.

The truth is, nicotine addiction tricks us into thinking these things have some "benefit". But all we are doing is just feeding an addiction and/or addictively-derived conditioned behaviours. This is an understanding that books like Allen Carr's focus on. But to be honest I kinda came to that understanding before reading his or other similar books.

But whatever way you may come to that understanding, recognise it is true! If we understand that smoking provides zero benefits - in rest, in play, in time of stress, times of relaxation etc. Then from there all you need is a plan or strategy (and hopefully some strong support around you). I decided to use the nicotine gum to ween myself off this addiction over 2 or 3 months. I totally applaud those who just grin and bear it and get it over with going cold turkey.

But in my opinion, the key is having the understanding I am describing. From there, whether to use NRT or whatever else (or not) is a personal choice and will not impact your chance of failure...so long as you have the understanding to begin with. I will never smoke a cigarette again. Right now I am still going through some mourning or a type of sadness/depression that, because its such a big, big change.

Partly I know that I managed to get through it before, and this time I have that extra bit of knowledge and tools that will ensure I do not ever again say "just this one" or "I need to have this smoke". I also have been a meditator for 7 years. Yes it did strike me on many occasions how odd it is to seek stress-reduction, equanimity, peaceful heart etc. while still a smoker. It always gnawed at me. Just one more reason that was on my list. But now the meditation is helping, as is trying to stay mindful during the cravings and the anxieties of this change. These are changes, they will not last forever.

Best to try to "surrender" to the bad feeling and accept it, and then watch it fade away - it always does. And then the next one pops up. But day by day they are less frequent, less severe. If I broke my arm and leg in an accident and it took 2 months of suffering and adjustments etc , taking care of the moments while accepting things they way they are and knowing it will get better, then this would be hard. But I would get through it. Nicotine withdrawal, physical and psychological, is the same.

That said, I have discovered some coping strategies that help. Some are quite obvious. I stay away from beer. I stay away from social scenes where there are smokers. I changed my routine a bit. I suck on chuppa chups and keep the stick in my mouth (or a straw) often. I use mints. I try to spend a bit more time doing things I would never normally associate with a smoke: bicycling, swimming, meditating, bit of exercising. I booked off work the first week. All this strategies help. But the anchor is the understanding. I wish you luck. You can do it. If you stumble, get back up. "Success is falling down 7 times and getting back up 8!"

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