The (Un) Caged Bird

"Let the beauty we love be what we do." – Rumi


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Life Without Cigarettes: Year One

Today,  I celebrate my one year anniversary of being smoke free.   Yesterday one year ago (April 5)  I smoked my last cigarette and swore that was the end.   (If you’re new to my blog and would like to read about how I quit hop on over to my post, “How I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey“. )  I had quit smoking at various points in my life in the past but always failed to make it past the year point, this time however I was mentally armed and that is what has kept me free from cigarettes for the past year.

How has my life changed without cigarettes?  First off, I have had more money in my pocket, I estimated that I’ve saved myself approximately $1050 dollars by not smoking last year, that’s a conservative number and it’s definitely not less than that.  (If I’d finished my taxes already I would have a much more accurate estimate based on my smoking habits from the first four months of last year.  I could have done a nice little estimate from the average.)   Considering I was saving money by not smoking I had extra money to join a gym, buy a pair of tennis shoes and work on improving the health of my body.

I also eat a lot more now and more regularly than I used to.  I’m hypoglycemic and instead of eating I could frequently use smoking cigarettes to give me a stimulant boost to keep my energy up.  I did gain weight by not smoking, in total I’ve gained about fifteen pounds and gone up a size in clothing.   I really struggled with that and had convinced myself that I needed to drop that weight and get back to the size I had been and thus spent almost all of last year berating myself internally for not having accomplished that yet. (Yes, I know I posted all those posts about self-love.  I need them just as much as everyone else.)  Last month as I was contemplating another milestone that I’m about to celebrate the self-love kicked in and I was finally able to appreciate this new shape that my body has settled into.  Now, I know I’m healthy and while I still would like to be physically more fit and active (for the sake of being strong and having the endurance to do activities) I no longer feel the pressure for my body to go back to the way it was.  I’m celebrating this more shapely form I’ve settled into because it represents who I am when I’m making healthy lifestyle choices like getting enough sleep, not drinking, not smoking, eating regularly and being more active.  I know that as I make more changes in my life and as time passes it will continue to change and each new transformation is really just an opportunity to celebrate the change and explore something new.

I’ve been a lot more productive because I channel my anxiety, nervous energy, fear, whatever it is into improving my life.   I’ve managed to make a lot of changes around my house and in my life and its been really rewarding to see the results of my efforts.

I gained faith in my own willpower and earned trust in myself that I could keep my word to myself and follow through with a promise I’d made to myself.   I gained self respect by honoring that commitment to myself and both of these things really helped to build my overall confidence in myself.   When you start out on a journey it’s always scary because it’s uncertain where the road will lead and what sort of dark patches you may have to stroll through and sometimes it’s more pleasant to only remember the rainbows when we’re on the other side.  I can tell you there were dark patches but I never once took a single puff from a cigarette.  It was not for lack of wanting to either, there were many, many days where for my own sanity and that of others I thought maybe I should just go buy a pack but didn’t.  I still wonder if I’ll ever have a cigarette in the future.  Time will tell.

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Think Kit Day 4: My Wisest Decision of 2012

“I found that every single successful person I’ve ever spoken to had a turning point and the turning point was where they made a clear, specific, unequivocal decision that they were not going to live like this anymore. Some people make that decision at 15 and some people make it at 50 and most never make it at all.”

 

– Brian Tracy, (via @thedailylove)

 

By far the wisest decision I made this year was to quit smoking.   I wrote about quitting in my post, “How I Quit Smoking Cold Turkey”. Quitting cigarettes was more than just a step to become a healthier person, quitting was the first step in building my self esteem and learning to respect and love myself.   In quitting, I chose for me.  I made myself more important than a habit and proved to myself that I have the willpower, strength, courage, and tenacity to overcome difficult obstacles. I learned that I can be there for myself and support  myself and I don’t need a toxic substance to be my comforting friend.  I can be that comforting friend for myself.  Quitting started a domino effect of developing healthier lifestyle habits and was the catalyst I needed to stop self sabotage and jump on the boat of self love.  I quit in April and I’m proud to say that seven months later I haven’t had a single puff.

 


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How I Quit Smoking, Cold Turkey

My tribute to cigarettes and their role in my life.

I’ve made it three months now without a cigarette using completely natural methods  without using prescription or over the counter drugs.  I had been a smoker for more then ten years. I had my first cigarette when I was in eighth grade and became a regular smoker by the time I was sixteen.  I used cigarettes as a coping mechanism to help comfort me and they became like a teddy bear.  Whenever I was upset, I knew I could just sneak away for a few moments with a cigarette and everything would temporarily be okay again.  I hated myself for smoking because it goes against everything that I stand for, yet for a long time I still continued to do it anyway.  As I aged, I became more dependent on them emotionally and socially.  I have suffered from symptoms of anxiety and depression and have had some very difficult life events to get through to get where I am now.  Cigarettes gave me pleasure and made me feel happy for a moment, and gave me the comfort that I needed to get through these difficult times.  They temporarily relieved anxiety and I could always find a group of people to join and feel a temporary sense of belonging by sharing a cigarette with them.  I’ve tried quitting many times over the years, this is not my first try.  This is probably my sixth, seventh, or eighth attempt.

I am proud to say I have now gone for three months without a cigarette.  From day one I have not had one single little puff, I gave them up completely and vowed to never turn back.  I think the mental aspect is the most important when quitting smoking.  You have to actually want to quit smoking, not feel like you have to, or do it for anyone other than yourself.  I read somewhere that the level of self-esteem you have is directly correlated to the commitments that you keep to yourself.  (If I knew where I read it, I’d cite it, but I haven’t a clue).  When I read that something clicked inside of me. I knew that my growth and development as a person and my well-being outside of my physical health relied on me giving up smoking.  I despised and hated myself for being a smoker yet I felt completely dependent on them. There was a part of me that loved the ritual of smoking, but I think it was more the comfort from having done it for so long rather than the act of smoking itself.

The first two weeks of quitting smoking were far from fun and sent me on an emotional roller coaster. I did not take pharmaceutical drugs or any herbal supplements besides a multi vitamin.  Why? Because I believe it’s essential to change the behavioral and emotional patterns that cause the addictive behavior.  I believe in empowering oneself by doing the work to resolve the root of the issue, not popping a pill to mask the symptoms.  Taking the easy road only cheats yourself out of the positive benefits gained by doing the work.  In one of my prior quitting attempts I tried nicotine gum and I think it handicapped me and was part of why I relapsed.  I had the gum to continue putting nicotine in my body and that still provided the calming feeling of smoking, thus I wasn’t forced to find a healthy coping mechanism to replace smoking.  I firmly believe my success in remaining a non smoker lies in the way that I went about quitting this last time and my own mental attitude and willingness to not smoke a cigarette no matter what.  No excuses, no cigarettes period. Smoking a cigarette was not an available choice I gave myself.

Tips to quit smoking, cold turkey:

1.  First, make a commitment to yourself that quitting is a legitimate goal and put it at the top of your priority list.

If you don’t make it one of your top priorities, you’re not going to quit.  I had some rough days the first week after I gave up cigarettes, day five was the worst of all.  Giving up smoking was like losing a great friend and I went through all of the stages of grief associated with loss.  You’ll want to make excuses for yourself and allow yourself just one cigarette to make the symptoms of withdrawal go away. Don’t do it.  It’s all an illusion.  The only way to truly quit is by going through the process.  You can’t reach the end without being on the journey to get there.  You can’t let anything sway you from your goal of quitting.

2.  Second, set a date that you are going to quit and stick to it.  I highly recommend starting right before your weekend.   

I had my last cigarette on a Friday and allowed myself the next two days to relax and take it easy.  I avoided social situations and people where smoking occurred.  This is extremely helpful the first few weeks while you detox from smoking and build up some strength and faith in yourself.  Don’t fall for the one last cigarette trap.  We both know it won’t be the last.  You probably will not want to quit on your planned quit date, and you’ll probably come up with many excuses as to why you can’t.  You can.  Do it.

3.  Call yourself a non smoker as soon as you have that last cigarette. 

I believe that the quitting process is mostly psychological.  By calling yourself a non smoker you are affirming what you want in your life and not reminding yourself that you used to be a smoker.  Saying you are quitting smoking will only make you think about the fact that you won’t be having a cigarette ever again (if that’s your goal).

4.  Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol from your diet.

 Quitting smoking will make you feel jittery as it is, don’t add a lot of caffeine to the mix.  It will only make it worse.  I had a cup of coffee in the mornings and that was it all day.  I rarely drink as it is (in the present), since I quit smoking I’ve maybe had one glass of wine.  As I write this I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in over a month and a half.  When I did drink in the past, I always wanted a cigarette to go with it.  I think most smokers have a strong coffee and alcohol to cigarette connection.  It’s best in the beginning to just avoid those things that you used to always have a cigarette with, if you can.

5.  Make sure you’re taking B vitamin supplements. 

Whether you take a multi-vitamin or a separate B Vitamin supplement take something to give your body additional nutritional support to help with stress management and the mood swings that quitting smoking can create.  Ehow has a nice article on B Vitamins and quitting smoking.

6.  Drink lots of water.

Yes, you will probably be going to the bathroom a lot but this is necessary to help your body flush the toxins as it begins to get rid of the yucky smoking crud you’ve built up in your body.  Also, I found it beneficial to drink water until I was completely full of it whenever I had a serious cigarette craving.  When I drove I also sipped on a water bottle.  I replaced the oral fixation of smoking a cigarette with drinking water.

7.  Don’t try to cut calories because you’re worried about gaining weight from quitting.

You’re going to be stressed out as it is learning how to live without smoking if you’ve been a long term smoker.  Attempting to diet on top of that is a bad plan.  Instead, allow yourself healthy snacks to combat the cravings.  Eat carrot sticks, celery, apple slices, large bowls of fresh salads with plenty of veggies.  I bought some suckers from Trader Joe’s to suck on when I had a craving and the sugar triggers a calming and pleasurable response in the body which helped as well. You may put on some weight, so what.  Make your second goal the goal of losing the weight you gained quitting smoking.

8.  Take time for physical exercise at least three times a week. 

Go for walks, join a yoga class, swim, bicycle.  Do something to move your body and sweat.  The more you sweat the better off you’ll be.  Sweating allows the toxins to be excreted from your body faster which will lessen your withdrawal symptoms and shorten the withdrawal process.  Also, exercising releases endorphin’s that make you feel happy which will also help counteract the mood swings and negative side effects of quitting.  Certain types of exercise are also excellent at releasing aggression, irritation, and anger too.

9.  Be patient with yourself, forgive yourself, and show yourself love and compassion. 

During the first two weeks of quitting I was so angry at myself for ever having started smoking in the first place.  I was yelling at myself internally for starting smoking and putting me in the position of having to feel all the uncomfortable emotions I was feeling from quitting smoking.  This is pretty counterproductive and will only begin a downward spiral.  You can’t change what you already chose to do, so acknowledge the excellent choices you’re making in the present and give yourself some love for making that awesome decision to begin living a healthier life and eliminating a deadly habit.

10.  Find a supportive friend to be there for you when you think you’re losing your mind

I was lucky to have the support of a very loving and kind individual who patiently listened while I vented during my quitting process.  Everything and everyone was incredibly annoying to me while I was quitting smoking.  When I felt discouraged or was struggling I was able to receive support and encouragement.  They were my lifeline to make me feel like I was anchored to solid ground while I found my own way and the strength within myself to get through each day without smoking.  The mood swings can make you think that you have seriously gone insane.  It’s helpful to have someone remind you that you’re just experiencing withdrawal symptoms from quitting smoking and that your sanity will be restored when your body is in balance again.

Ultimately, there is no right or wrong.  What worked for me may or may not work for you.  You’ll find your own way, but take that initial step and leap of faith to quit.  I know you can do it!