Day 7– I’m surprised a week has gone by already. It has been difficult, but less difficult than the first time I stopped. Of course I have not had any big crises or events that would compel me to smoke yet. We will see how easy it is then. I feel very ill today though, and I do not know if it is related to nicotine withdrawal or just a by product of a busy semester? Today was tough when I got home from work. I do notice that ‘place’ impacts my cravings, more so than people. I am very used to smoking when I’m home, before class at school, and occasionally at friends’ homes. These are the main places I smoke, and when I am in these places the cravings are very powerful. It is all I can do to resist. I do have cigarettes on site, so I am relying on determination to keep them out of my hand. It is will power at this point, and the good news is that my grade on this project is not dependent on complete abstinence. My professor understands relapse, and is not going to inflict guilt or shame if something goes awry and I slip. That’s okay, because as a recovering Catholic, I am proficient at inflicting my own guilt and shame.
Well that’s day 7. I hate that I am wishing away the hours still, just to have another day under my belt. I will be glad when the cravings are less powerful, and I can enjoy the day without fixating on NOT smoking.
Day 15– Well I have made it two weeks without smoking. I had hoped by now it would be a bit easier, but it is often still a struggle. Admittedly, the hours I spend at work are MUCH easier than they were at first, but that is to be expected as I hadn’t made smoking at work a habit. I had only smoked at my practicum site twice, so it was easy to not smoke there. Home however is a different story. Relaxing at home after work or class includes smoking. Home is the main place I smoke, and avoiding home is obviously not an option. Individuals who are refraining from substances are told to change their people, places, and things so that temptations are reduced. How does one avoid his or her home and perhaps family members? There is much more to abstinence than avoiding these things, as some are permanently in our lives. This is where the individual kicks in. Recovering individuals can avoid and remove many triggers from their lives, but there will always be new triggers or times when the urge to use is overwhelming. Individuals with addictions may think “I have abstained for a long time now, one _____ won’t hurt.” One quickly leads to another and then we are back to square one. Many of us walk along the edge of that slippery slope daily. I wish I was one of those people that can have just one cigarette socially! But I know that I am not, so abstinence or addiction are my only options. Sounds pretty final and pessimistic still.
At this point, I don’t feel like I am having physical cravings anymore, but psychologically I am. I am still reminding myself every morning that I am not a smoker. I will be glad when I no longer have to begin my days with this thought. I still have cigarettes in my house, so I could smoke whenever I want. The only thing keeping me from not smoking is the thought that I have made it this far, and I really do not want to re-experience the feelings and cravings from the initial days of this project. The memories of those days are powerful, but what happens when they are distant and less powerful? Will I still be able to stay cigarette free? Only time will tell. Individuals often return to habits and patterns as memories of our struggles fade and we believe that we are stronger and smarter and will not fall back into addictive behavior. We tell ourselves that it will not happen again, and when it does we find reasons to justify our behavior. We often think we are more powerful than our addictions, and believe that others may relapse, but I am not like them, and I won’t relapse. This is dangerous thinking, and will likely lead to using again. Many individuals MUST abstain for LIFE. That is a powerful statement. For many individuals abstinence equals life. Using may lead to death or shortened lives, so it is assumed that abstinence will lead to prolonged, healthier lives. For individuals with addictions, finding joy and pleasure in a life of abstinence may take considerable time. Removing the substance from one’s life does not automatically remove the good feelings or memories associated with the substance. This aspect takes much longer and requires unconditional support from those around us. We are often so mired in withdrawal that we are not able to see that at some point life will get better, so don’t expect us to be content and excited at the prospect of a substance free life. This thought is far from our minds as we just try to get through the days without hurting anyone or ourselves. Please just give us time and patience, and we will try our best.
My fellow classmates are likely eagerly anticipating this Thursday when our project officially ends. I wonder if it has been any easier for them knowing that this was a time limited trial? Congratulations to those who made it the whole time without relapsing. Please understand that I am not finished with the project, and I may continue to be frustrated throughout the rest of the semester. I appreciate your encouragement and will always remember this project that has hopefully been the beginning of a smoke free life.