Why I Want to Stop Smoking

Hard to believe it’s already June 2021. This past January I had intended to stop smoking cigarettes. I hadn’t realized just what a difficult task that would be unfortunately. I didn’t really have much of a plan either. I did manage to cut back somewhat, and I am proud of that fact. But just like in the past when I took up smoking, the longer it goes on, the more repulsed I become by it. Each time I light a cigarette I am overcome with guilt and shame and anxiety. Strangely what pushes me to light up is also anxiety. There is a momentary relief as I inhale that foul smoke. I reminisce about the reckless abandon I once felt, the freedom, the sheer disregard for everyone and everything, even myself, in favor of the sickening pleasure of the moment. It made me feel tragic, dangerous, poetic. But these feelings are the foolish fantasy of youth, and like youth they cannot remain for long. What was once an act of rebellion has become the very chains that bind me. So today I want to write about the reasons that I want to stop smoking in the hopes it will shake me free from this secret shame.

Health

One of the reasons smoking causes me such intense shame is the hypocrisy of it. I am constantly railing against the hypocrisy of loving animals while simultaneously eating them, but in the end I am just as absurd. How can a vegan, yoga teacher smoke cigarettes? It’s laughable. I claim to care about my body and my health, but how can I while I continue to poison myself all day, every day? I want to treat my body with the love and respect that it deserves. I want to take good care of it so that it can take good care of me for a long time. If this pandemic has taught the world anything, it should be the incredible importance of our lungs and respiratory system. Even my yoga practice is all about the breath. Yet despite this sacred gift of breath I have been given, I choke myself with soot and black smoke. I pollute the very part of me that gives life.

The Animals

Time to state the obvious. Buying and smoking cigarettes isn’t exactly “vegan.” While it may not be a food or an animal product, like certain cosmetics, the cigarette industry is no friend to animals. While I’m not sure if they still do (I’m too afraid to google it) I know that cigarette companies are notorious for their horrific animal testing. Whether or not these practices persist, I cannot continue to support such a heinous industry. Not only that, more personally, I am directly harming my own animals by smoking. This is the main reason that finally got me to stop last time. I may not care enough about myself to stop, but I love my sweet babies even more. I genuinely believe that the world as we know it will come to an end before I have to worry about lung cancer, but my fur children have much shorter life spans. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I caused them to suffer and die from the effects of second hand smoke. I’m so ashamed of this aspect of my smoking that my boyfriend doesn’t even know. I’m afraid it would make him lose all respect for me, and I wouldn’t blame him.

Money

I don’t even want to calculate the amount of money I have wasted on cigarettes. They are expensive enough as it is, but I also buy Marlboro so it’s even worse. I definitely spend at least $30 a week on cigarettes. I am such a cheap person though! I don’t even want to spend $10 a year on multivitamins. Or $60 every other week on therapy! I’m basically teaching my yoga class to pay for cigarettes. The irony is palpable. I should be saving that money or at least spending it on something worthwhile. Maybe when I finally stop, I’ll set that money aside and get myself something nice with it as a reward.

Shame

Even though all of my other reasons are probably more important, the biggest thing pushing me to stop is shame. I’m pretty much a secret smoker. My close friends and family know, but even so, I try not to smoke around them. I always feel so shitty and stupid whenever I do. They must think I’m such a fool. Besides that, I don’t want to make them worry. I used to sneak out at work and smoke once or twice a day. Eventually I got caught and even though they didn’t seem to care, I was utterly humiliated that they knew. Shame is a toxic emotion. It rots away your insides. It erodes any positive image you have of yourself. It isolates and separates. I want to live a life I can be proud of. I can’t bear to live in shame any more.

I’m sure there are probably many more reasons I could think of that make me want to quit, but those are the biggest ones. To be honest, it was hard for me to even write about this. Denial is part of the way I’ve been able to continue for so long. It’s painful to face your own hypocrisy. I have a plan now though and I’m praying it works this time. I’ve ordered some nicotine salt vape juice. I know it’s not ideal, but I figure it’s still a step in the right direction. I’m not going to buy any more cigarettes. Once I finish the packs I have, I’m going to switch back to vaping. I’m hoping this will be the end of my dalliance with tobacco. Wish me luck.

Health Risks and Diseases of Smoking

On Using Drugs

Recently I met yet another person who told me they have never drank alcohol or tried any drugs. It is always so fascinating to me when I am reminded that these people exist. There is just some part of me that cannot understand them. I simply can’t imagine how someone can go their entire life without even trying any of these mind-altering substances. Especially the legal ones. I, myself, can think of at least two very compelling reasons to do so.

The first reason that always comes to mind is plain curiosity. I don’t know how anyone could be told that there was a drink or a plant or a powder that can make you think and feel totally different and not be intrigued. I have always considered myself a very curious person and look for that same curious nature in others. I am especially curious when it comes to the mind. Anything that can completely alter the mind is just too interesting to avoid. I’ve tried basically every drug besides heroin, cocaine, crack, and meth. I’d probably be willing to try cocaine, I’ve just never had the opportunity. Besides from what I’ve heard, it’s not that great anyway. The only reason I wouldn’t try meth, crack, or heroin is because I’d be too afraid to become addicted. On my deathbed, I may give them a go just to see what it’s like. At that point, why not?

Knowing that many of these substances are illegal could be an understandable deterrent for some people. But alcohol, and even marijuana in some places, are legal. How could you not be curious enough to try them at least once? They are obviously very popular habits for a lot of people. Wouldn’t you want to know why that is? There are few experiences in life that are so distinct and unique. How could you not want to know what other states your mind is capable of experiencing?

If sheer curiosity isn’t enough to get you interested, I can think of another reason: suffering. I always knew I would try drugs even when I was fairly young, just so I could know what they were like. However, I didn’t actually venture down that road until I was in high school. A time rife with turmoil, when emotions are running high, high school seems to be the time when a lot of people begin to experiment with drugs and alcohol. While for the most part, drugs have been a fun, social experience, there have been times when I’ve used them as a crutch.

I’d imagine there are times in everyone’s life when they feel so terribly that they would do anything to feel better, or even to feel nothing at all. If I hadn’t already tried drugs at these points in my life, I certainly would have then. When someone tells me that they have never even had a drink, it makes me question if they have ever truly suffered. Maybe this is an awful thing to say, but it’s what I wonder about. There are certainly people I’ve met in my life that seem to have somehow escaped any encounters with that deep sadness that so many of us know well. Nothing seems to touch them. They have never been broken. In some ways I envy these people. Yet, in other ways, I almost pity them. Although it’s been painful to feel things as deeply as I have in the past, to suffer within the prison of my own mind, it has made me a fuller person. It has given me a bitter-sweet depth to life that I would not have found otherwise.

So I may be a jerk, totally misjudging people and creating false perceptions, but these are the things I can’t help but ponder when I meet someone who has managed to stay inside the bubble of sobriety all of their life. Naturally it makes me reflect on the reasons that hasn’t been the case for me. I am too curious. I have also at times been too desperate to try to relieve my suffering at any cost. Therefore, I end up questioning if these other people somehow lack those qualities/experiences. Or perhaps I am just lacking something. Maybe they simply have a stronger will, better coping mechanisms, a strong social supports. I’ll probably never know. Regardless of the reasons behind it, I do know that I will never be able to feel fully understood by these types of people. Whatever it may be, we have a fundamental difference that divides our worlds.

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Self Sabotage (Anxiety Edition)

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Have you ever only started to notice something after it’s pointed out to you? At my last social work job, one of the therapists advised a client with an anxiety disorder to stop smoking. This client was a mess and also coincidentally a chain smoker. The therapist told her that smoking cigarettes increases anxiety despite her insistence that they calmed her down. At this point in my life I was not smoking, but I had in the past. I tried to think back to the way I felt after having a cigarette. I couldn’t particularly remember them making me feel anxious. But it made sense, and I wondered why this client would continue smoking if it did indeed make her feel worse.

Fast forward a few years to the present day, and here I am, smoking again, more anxious than ever. Except this time, I do notice the connection. Even before I’m done with the cigarette, I can feel my anxiety going through the roof. I spend the minutes before I light up looking forward to smoking, then spend the time during and after asking myself why on earth I am doing/just did that to myself. It is perplexing to say the least.

Addiction is a fascinating beast. The way it can make you want something even when it makes you feel bad immediately. Somehow your body still craves it. It’s not just cigarettes of course. I also have this problem with coffee. Although I don’t worry about that one as much. As far as I know coffee won’t give me and those around me cancer. However, the caffeine does make me feel like I’m jumping out of my skin. It doesn’t really give me energy the way it used to. Maybe the first cup or two does a little, but I generally drink at least a pot a day when I’m at work.

The craziest part about these destructive habits is that I am using them as coping mechanisms, as a crutch. I don’t really know how that can be. I’ll feel anxious, so I smoke a cigarette. That only makes me 10x as anxious! I feel anxious because I’ve been drinking coffee all day long. So what do I want to do to treat myself and relax? Have some coffee of course! It never ceases to amaze me what a mystery my own mind is.

Now rather than looking at my client in confusion, I find myself looking at my own reflection instead. Even though I have big plans to stop smoking again next month and probably switch to decaf or tea too, I know it’s easier to make plans than to follow through with them when the time comes. Nothing is preventing me from stopping today, but yet here I sit, looking forward to another cigarette, another delicious cup of coffee.

I don’t know why I sabotage myself in these ways. But I’m sure they aren’t the only ways I do so. Perhaps at the very least I can learn something from this realization. Maybe I can start to recognize other manners of self-sabotage. Maybe a therapist can help me discover the reason I am making things so hard for myself while simultaneously pretending I’m giving myself a treat. For now, I’ll just keep reminding myself where to place my focus. I am not changing these behaviors because they are “bad” or because I am “bad” or “stupid.” I am changing these behaviors because I love myself. I want happiness and tranquility for myself. This is not a punishment or a reprimand. It is a tender act of love. And that feeling of warmth and compassion, that is what I need to truly change for the better.

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Time for Change

I want to use these last couple of months before the new year arrives to really clarify and meditate on what kinds of changes I’d like to manifest in 2021 and why I want to make these changes. Once I’ve got a clear idea of the differences I want to see in myself and the intention behind them, I can begin working on a detailed plan to ensure I will follow through.

I’ll start off by making a general list, then follow up with the reasons each item has been added to the list. I have a tendency to make my lists too long and end up discouraging myself before I even begin, so I’ll try to narrow it down to the few I find most important.

Goals of 2021:

  1. Stop Smoking
  2. Spend more time with friends & family
  3. End disordered eating habits
  4. Start therapy
  5. Be kind to myself

Okay, you have no idea how tempted I was to rattle off like 20 more things I want to accomplish. I know those are all already going to be challenging for me. Focusing on anything more would be overwhelming and inevitably lead to failure and self-criticism.

Now I need to take each one of my new goals and remind myself why this is important to me. Hopefully this will help me see the value in what I’m doing even when it gets hard and I want to give up.

Goal #1: Stop Smoking

I want to stop smoking because it’s a ridiculously reckless and self-destructive habit. It is a huge waste of money. It makes me feel bad physically and mentally. It increases my anxiety. It damages my body. It shortens my lifespan. It will make me age faster. It is subjecting my loved ones to second hand smoke. It will yellow my teeth. It may result in cancer or other serious, possibly deadly health outcomes.

Goal #2: Spend more time with friends & Family

I want them to know how much they mean to me. It will lower my stress levels. It will add more joy and happiness to my life. It will encourage an overall healthier lifestyle. It will prevent me from isolating myself.

Goal #3: End disordered eating habits

I am tired of these unhealthy, insane habits consuming my entire life. I no longer want to concern myself with my weight. I want to show myself love and compassion. I want to nourish my body and make sure that it is healthy. I have wasted too much time and money on these habits already. Even reaching a lower weight than I ever imagined I would did not make me any happier. I was more miserable than ever.

Goal #4: Start Therapy

I want to stop running from my problems and finally face them. I want to get the help I need, the help everyone deserves, even me. I want to learn how to become the best version of myself for myself and for my loved ones. I want to eventually stop taking Paxil.

Goal #5: Be kind to myself

This goal is truly the main overarching theme I want to bring with me into the new year. It is one of the reasons I want to pursue all of the other goals I’ve listed. I am so tired of being my own worst enemy when I could be my closest friend and ally. I want to be happy. I want to live a life full of joy and love and laughter. A life that everyone deserves to live. I want to use my energy, my existence, to make the world a better place and that begins with myself.

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I feel better and more inspired already! This post has been mainly just something I wanted to write for myself, but I hope that it can serve as a suggestion of how to plan some goals for yourself. It has definitely been very helpful to write out the reasons behind each one. Let me know if you decide to make your own list. What are the things you’d like to achieve in 2021? What is the inspiration behind them?

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