Is NOW really the right time to quit?
In the last chapter I asked you not to quit smoking until a particular tipping point had been reached.
Not the tipping point in your body, when cigarettes have done irreversible damage, but the tipping point in your mind - when you feel completely ready to be free because it feels more natural to be free of smoking (which it is of course) than to continue with that toxic relationship.
In this chapter we'll be talking about something else:
Your life as a whole. But first let me tell you about Mark.
Mark the smoker, who's real problem wasn't smoking.
Years ago a fella named Mark came to see me to help him quit smoking. But when he arrived it became obvious that he didn't want to talk about smoking at all.
He was filled with emotion as he told me about his failing marriage, his work stress, the fact that he never had time to eat properly, his terrible sleep, his anxieties and the list carried on. I gently suggested that we wait until his life became a little bit more stable before ejecting cigarettes from it.
The truth is, if your boat is so unstable that you can't stand up on the deck, then you will have problems balancing well enough to throw that ticking time-bomb into the water, to save yourself from it.
We had to get Mark balanced and on his feet before he could stop smoking. This we managed to do surprisingly quickly. Most people don't lead perfect lives all the time, we all have day-to-day stresses. We all get frustrated and bored (which is another kind of stress) or other people can irritate us. The art of living well isn't about eradicating all stresses from life (I wish) but it is coming to the point where you deal with the everyday life stresses in ways which are healthy and don't create further stress or anxiety.
It's also vital to know what you genuinely need, so that smoking doesn't hitchhike a ride pretending to be a legitimate way of say, combating loneliness or soothing frazzled nerves.
So what do you need to live a satisfying life?
In short we all:
- need a sense of safety and security
- need connection to community
- need emotional intimacy with another person
- need a sense of connection to something bigger than oneself
- need purpose and goals
- need to feel good about oneself, self esteem
- need to feel creative, stretched and stimulated by life.
When they stop being met, or we fear they'll stop being met, we become more vulnerable to feeling overwhelmed by life. In the same way that someone can feel overwhelmed by the need to drink when they are chronically dehydrated.
Before I started working therapeutically with people 10 years ago, my life had started to feel less meaningful.
Sure, I had my daughter to raise and support but I didn't feel the work I was doing (at my job) was meaningful, I didn't feel part of the wider community or as if I had direction in life beyond a vague sense of wanting something more. During that time, in an attempt to fill a void in my life, I had an issue with binging on baked goods. (Which all but disappeared when my life work became more meaningful).
It's so, so important to understand that you have needs in your life and actively work towards meeting them so that parasites, like cigarettes, can't get their hooks into you.
But no one has a perfect life…
Very few people have all their needs perfectly met all the time and that's okay. But by being aware that you have these needs, you become freer and less vulnerable to fake solutions like smoking and other habits. (The void fillers)
So, if you are chronically stressed by your life at the moment, chronically lonely or unsatisfied then perhaps it may not be quite the right time to disentangle yourself from cigarettes. Smoking, (much like cults, con artists or abusers) preys on the vulnerable.
But I want to emphasize that you should never wait for life to be perfect - you could wind up waiting forever (or however long cigarettes decide you have left).
Make sure you are at least steady on your feet before you fling the smoking parasite from yourself.
The 5th and final chapter is coming up, and then you can take the "Ready To Quit?" test.
All my best