I quit smoking over twelve years ago. I was 29 years old and didn’t want to enter my thirties as a smoker. I went on “the patch”, read a ton of literature to prepare myself for the day, and was successful. While I primarily credit the patch for the success, I must also give credit to two fine gentlemen, Ben and Jerry.
I gained 40-50 pounds after I quit smoking.
I used ice cream to soothe my cravings, anxiety, and withdrawal. I had used food compulsively and in an addictive way for years, so it was a logical coping strategy. I eventually stopped using food as a crutch and to others it would have appeared that I was living a healthy lifestyle. Over the course of the twelve years, I managed to stay relatively nicotine free. I was also uncovering a gradual, but very real case of alcoholism. Six months into sobriety I started smoking again. Why? It’s very simple.
I’m an addict.
I was in the ‘right place’ at the ‘right time’ (you could easily replace ‘right’ with ‘wrong’ here, depending on perspective), and during a moment of vulnerability, I was able to dive right back into my vice. The person I bummed the smoke from even felt bad handing it to me. She knew I’d quit and was struggling to stay quit. The addict in me was fully committed, and I made whatever argument was necessary to get what I needed. I don’t even remember what I said or what I was going through that made me want to smoke again.
As a sober, healthy mother with two young children, I know all of the reasons that I shouldn’t smoke. None of this stopped me.
A year later, under the supervision of my physician, I have finally agreed to quit again with the help of medication. It’s not as horrible this time, but I have to admit I’m pissed. I need something to escape and everything I turn to is bad for me. I’ve heard all of the suggestions—why don’t you read a nice novel and take a bath? How about a walk outside? Coffee with a friend? Thanks for the suggestions, and pardon me for saying this, but kindly fuck off. I need something that will shut off my brain, something that will make it possible for me to stop the inner dialogue that runs through my head on a constant loop and so far, a walk just doesn’t cut it.
Two weeks after my last cigarette an old voice spoke up and quietly suggested that I have a drink. Not just the ‘damn I miss wine’ kind of thought, but the scheming kind. It was like a pesky troublemaker who I know is a bad influence, but can’t seem to get rid of.
“C’mon! Let’s have just one. Why not? We can stop at this restaurant for a nice lunch, or maybe you could call that one friend who doesn’t know you’re an alcoholic,… right?”
I’ll be honest, it scared the hell out of me. Just hearing “you’re an alcoholic” in my head was enough to remind me of EXACTLY the reason I can’t have just one today.
I am grateful to say that I did not take a drink, and continue to be sober today. I’m grateful that today I know that those were just thoughts; thoughts that most addicts have. I am not immune to them, and cannot ignore the lengths that my addict brain will go to in order to convince me that I can still use.
I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if I had been in the “right/wrong” place. What if I had had a drink waiting in front of me? I try not to dwell on “what ifs”. Instead, I remind myself that sometimes there are really hard days that I want to escape.
I have yet to find a way that doesn’t eventually cause problems. I have to acknowledge that these thoughts can easily put my sobriety at risk.
On days like these, I have to turn my will over to something greater than myself, and humbly ask for the help I still need to get through the day. Quitting and getting clean from anything is tough. All I can do is pray for the ability to find healthy ways to escape, and that the pesky troublemaker stays away a little longer this time.
Wendy is a sober mommy in Los Angeles. She has learned that speaking up keeps her sober and somewhat sane. She writes about her adventures in Neverland and hopes to post them on her very own blog soon.