Have you quit smoking? Does it still feel strange to you not to be smoking? Uncomfortable, even? Do you ever wish you could just “get back to normal”?
I’ve got a clue for you: you were not born a nicotine addict. You are getting back to normal. But if you’re anything like me, it’s been a long time since not being a slave to your nicotine addiction was “normal” for you. Because, if you’re anything like me (and a lot of other smokers I know), you didn’t become a nicotine addict until you were in your teens (I smoked my first cigarette at 10, and was probably hooked by the time I was 12 or 13; how about you?).
The Nature of Freedom
For the first dozen years of your life or so, you never thought, “I wish I had a cigarette,” or, “I wish I could quit smoking.” For your first dozen years or so, you never had an “uncontrollable” urge to smoke (in fact, you never had an urge to smoke at all), you never ran out in the middle of the night to grab a pack, and you never had to stand outside in all kinds of weather just to feed your addiction.
You Were Free
You were free, but it was nothing special. It was nothing special because it was just how you were. You had no experience being enslaved by an addiction, so there was nothing to compare being free with. It was also nothing special because you didn’t have to do anything (or not do anything) to achieve it; it was just the way you were; you took it for granted.
But at some point you started teaching yourself how to be a smoker and it was something special. It was special because it was new; it was special because it was forbidden (at least it was if, like me, you started when you were still a little kid); it was special because it was something you had to work at learning.
You had to push past the reaction from your body when you first started deliberately sucking in poisonous smoke (remember those first few cigarettes? The way you coughed and choked? How you felt sick and maybe thought, “how do the grownups do this?”).
You had to sneak around behind your parents’ backs to practice becoming a smoker because if they ever caught you smoking, they’d punish you (even though they were probably smokers themselves).
The Nature of Addiction
But over the course of years of practice, sucking in poisonous, cancer-causing smoke a couple of dozen times a day became “normal” for you. And by then, you were addicted to nicotine, and in serious denial about the risks of continuing to feed that addiction (like addicts everywhere).
You were now a slave to your addiction, but it was nothing special; it was just how you were. You didn’t have to work at it any more.
The Big Difference
But this time there was a big difference: This time, you had something to compare it to.
Part of you remembered being free; part of you remembered not having those urges; not having to run out in the middle of the night; not having to stand outside in all kinds of weather like an outcast, feeding your addiction.
And that part of you wanted freedom back. Now freedom was something special, because it was something you didn’t have any more, and part of you remembered how it was when you did.
You Can Get it Back
But you’re going to have to work to get it back. You’re going to have to teach your body how to deal with not feeding the addiction any more; you’re going to have teach your mind how to respond to those urges; you’re going to have to teach yourself how to handle stress, anger, loneliness, and all those messy emotions without having your drug of choice to mediate them.
But it’s doable, and if you keep working at it long enough and consistently enough, one day you’ll realize that you haven’t even thought about smoking in a couple of days.
Keep Working At It
If you keep working at it long enough and consistently enough, one day you’ll realize that you haven’t thought about smoking for a couple of months.
Keep working at it, and you’ll hit the point where you realize you haven’t thought about smoking in years.
And It’ll Be Nothing Special Again
Keep going long enough, and you’ll hit the point where you realize that, once again, being free is nothing special. It’ll be nothing special because it’ll just be how you are; you won’t have to work at it any more.
The big difference this time will be that you’ll have something to compare it to, and you’ll never want to go back to being a slave to your addiction.
And if you’re really smart, this time you won’t take it for granted.