54: No Smoking

54: No Smoking

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life

No Smoking

The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.

~Molière

“Oh I wish I had listened to my mom,” I thought, as I paced around my living room. “I am so addicted. I hate it.”

I was trying to create a more positive life, but smoking was getting in the way. I had recently been hired by a nonprofit society, and even the executive director was encouraging me to quit.

My friend and I had taken our first drags decades ago. We gagged and coughed. The smoke burned our lungs. The smell made us nauseous and our eyes watered, but we laughed and continued smoking because we thought we were cool.

My mom warned me about how easily she’d become addicted, and how she just couldn’t seem to get rid of her cough.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I’m sure I can quit anytime I want. Everyone smokes.”

My mother’s and my smoke circled above us, painting more yellow on the kitchen walls. Years later I would develop chronic bronchitis, often progressing to pneumonia, but I still continued to smoke.

Time changed the way society viewed smoking. It also changed the way I felt about it. I soon had no doubt I was addicted. Smoking seemed to consume me. And yet, sadly, I decided I could never give it up. I would just continue to smoke.

Circumstances in my life created an opportunity for me to wake up and explore more positive ways of living. I was able to let go of negative relationships and seek out a more positive work environment. I connected to my spiritual side and began meditating. I started to care for myself and to build a solid healthy side.

But I still continued to smoke.

“Oh, not again.” I gasped as I felt the familiar severe pain hit my left side. “I think it’s getting worse.”

I stopped walking and waited for the pain to subside. As I stood there, I realized I had a choice. I could continue smoking, but if I did, my journey here would be cut short.

I made my choice. I would try quitting New Year’s Day. Christmas was almost here, so it wasn’t long to wait.

On Boxing Day, my daughter and I sat by the Christmas tree together relaxing.

“Tanya,” I said, my voice low and unsure. “I have decided to try to quit smoking.”

An amazing look of relief filled my daughter’s face and tears filled her big blue eyes. “I am so scared I will lose you if you don’t quit.”

The next morning, I stood in front of the mirror and thought, “Yup, I am quitting New Year’s Day.”

I stopped. Suddenly, deep down I knew I would not quit New Year’s Day.

Why wait? I would quit right then and there.

Within twenty minutes of my decision to quit, I felt the urge to smoke. The urges grew stronger. It felt like they were screaming as they relentlessly ordered me to obey. I found that writing down the minutes, then the hours, and finally the days I resisted helped me to survive the first difficult stage.

It amazed me how much power lived within my addiction. I prayed, paced, and meditated through the first few nights when sleep was almost impossible. I felt like I was just barely holding on. Everything in my life stopped.

Thankfully, my supportive work environment helped me through some tough times, as did my friends. My daughter was incredible. As time passed, I realized I was not my addiction. I was so much more. I decided to keep concentrating on building my healthy side.

When I felt like I couldn’t last much longer without a cigarette, I found my spirituality was there to help me. “Let go. Let God,” I would whisper.

Finally, I felt my addiction grow weaker. Eventually the urges came less often and with less power, but they were always there waiting. When I was tired, down, angry or vulnerable, my addiction would be ready to take advantage of the situation. It would tempt me: “Oh come on, have just one cigarette. You deserve it! You should be able to have just one now.”

Thankfully, I knew that one cigarette could easily lead to another and another. My list of emergency strategies came in handy. I also knew that relapse can be part of recovery and if a relapse did happen, the best thing I could do was learn from my slip and get back on track.

Fortunately, I did not suffer a relapse. The light grew brighter.

At times though, I felt sad, like I was losing a good friend. Smoking had been part of my life for so long. A quick fix whenever I needed it, which was often. It took care of many needs, in an unhealthy way, but it did take care of them. Now I realized the consequence of my smoking was the exact opposite of what I needed.

Self-love, increased awareness, and spirituality were the most powerful tools in my recovery and relapse prevention. I took one day at a time. I also realized my addiction was only sleeping and all it would take was one cigarette to awaken it.

A few years after I quit, I completed addiction counseling training. The nonprofit society where I worked offered me the opportunity to work with various addiction programs in the community. For over a decade, I was privileged to help men, women, and youth find their own power and path to freedom.

Sadly, my mom never did quit smoking. She lost her battle with lung cancer long ago. As my own health improved, I felt motivated to volunteer in cancer research. I have been part of the Lung Health Study for many years.

It has been almost a quarter century since my last cigarette. I have received many blessings and privileges, but none as valuable as loving and being there for my family and watching my four grandchildren grow.

All these years later, I still believe my addiction is only sleeping.

~Elizabeth Smayda

More stories from our partners