If you’re anything like me, you used to use smoking to cover up a lot of “stuff”: as a smoker, there were a lot of issues I never had to deal with, because if they threatened to surface, I could always just smoke them away (in other words, I could always just bury them by getting a fix).
In the early days of my quit, I used to write about how I was “digging deep”, and I encouraged other people to do the same; to look for those issues that we used to cover up with the smokescreen, take them out and look at them in the light of day, and decide what we wanted to do with them before they had a chance to sabotage our quits.
Why You Want to Dig
In my experience, after about a month, many of us are in a prime spot for buried issues like this to start surfacing; we’re far enough along in our quits that the worst part of physical withdrawal is pretty much a thing of the past, and we’ve run into many of the situations that used to send us looking for a cigarette and successfully dealt with them. So, it’s at this point that our minds need something else to occupy them.
So our minds start digging in the background, and some of the stuff they dig up is not pretty. Some of the stuff they dig up triggers the urge to smoke, because for so long that’s how we’ve dealt with issues we’d rather not deal with. The good news is we don’t have to respond to them by smoking; we can make a different choice, if we stay conscious of what’s going on for us.
How it Helps to Dig Consciously
Better yet, we can rob these issues of their power to derail our quit by actively looking for them and dealing with them before we quit. While you’re preparing to quit, start digging consciously: ask yourself, “Why am I smoking this cigarette?” whenever you light up.
And don’t settle for the easy, obvious answer (for instance, “I felt like it.”); be like the little kid who asks, “Why?” and when you answer them, asks, “Why?” again, and keeps asking “Why?” until they’re satisfied with the answer (or you give up and say, “Because I said so!” or something like that):
Q: “Why am I smoking this cigarette?”
A: “Because I feel like it.”
Q: “Why do I feel like it?”
A: “Because I’m upset.”
Q: “Why am I upset?”
A: “Because of what Sally said just now.”
Q: “Why did that upset me?”
etc., etc., etc…
Until you get to a place where you know that asking “why?” again isn’t going to take you any deeper. Then, for bonus points, ask yourself if smoking is an effective or useful way to deal with whatever issue you just uncovered, and, if not, then consider whether you want to continue to smoke that cigarette. You can always choose to put it out and walk away and deal with your issue in a more useful way (like talking to Sally about what she said and how you felt as a result of her saying it).
It’s Like “Quit Insurance”
The more of this kind of self-awareness you practice before you quit, the harder it will be for buried issues to come back and surprise you afterwards.
What kind of issues have you found when you dig a little past the surface (easy answer)? Have any of them surprised you Why?