Friday, October 24, 2008

Don't Confuse "Can't" With "Don't Want To"

I quit smoking when I turned 30. I was a pack-a-day (or more) smoker who so enjoyed the entire act of smoking that I really wasn't sure how I could successfully quit. How do you voluntarily give up something you loved to do? I loved to hear the click of my lighter. I loved to take deep, long drags and hold the smoke in my throat until it just slightly burned. I loved to exhale and watch the puff of smoke vanish into thin air. I loved drinking coffee and smoking. I loved talking on the phone and smoking. Oh, how I loved to smoke.

I would usually think more about smoking than just about anything else. I was always wondering when I could get my hands on my next cigarette. Of course I knew smoking wasn't good for me, but I rationalized the continuation of smoking like shopaholics rationalize shopping or gamblers rationalize gambling. I had an addiction to nicotine and it was, bar none, the most powerful force in my life.

When I actually admitted the power cigarettes had over my life I was able to put it into some perspective. A small, slender inanimate object that is laced with such harmful ingredients as ammonia and hydrogen cyanide was dictating what I did, when I did it and with whom. If smoking wasn't allowed somewhere I just simply wouldn't go. The toxic chemicals I was ingesting were nothing compared to the idea of being without my smokes.

Isn't admitting you have a problem the first step toward addressing it? I slowly began to realize that my rationalizations to continue smoking were utterly ridiculous. I knew that cigarette smoking is directly responsible for 87 percent of lung cancer cases and causes most cases of emphysema and chronic bronchitis. I was avoiding the inevitable. The year I turned 30 I decided that enough was enough.

I quit smoking one day when I finished the last cigarette in my pack and didn't bother to buy another. I remember driving with my window down, inhaling what I knew to be the last burning tinge of smoke and flicking my cigarette butt out of the window. I felt like I had just lost my best friend.

Quitting smoking was the single, hardest thing I have ever had to do in my entire life because I basically had to change my entire life in order to succeed. I stopped going out with friends to the bar after work because it was too tempting. I stopped working my crossword puzzles because it was too painful of a reminder. I didn't talk on the phone as much and I had to actually sit on my hands to keep from continually reaching for my phantom pack of cigarettes. Everywhere I turned I had a reminder of my old friend Marlboro and wondered longingly who was enjoying his company now.

My journey to non-smoker status was extremely difficult, but I have been smoke-free now for eight years and I couldn't be happier. I am healthier than I ever have been in my entire life. I don't miss the chronic coughing, smoking outside in the snow or the dreadful, musty smell. I have since started doing crossword puzzles again and I can drink coffee, talk on the phone and meet friends at a bar without any problems. I wish my friends who still smoke would make smarter health decisions, but some people simply don't want to. The bottom line is they have not made the decision to quit. I hear people say " I can't quit" when what they really mean is "I don't want to." There is a difference. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction that directly or indirectly causes itself to become true. If you tell yourself often enough that something is impossible (can't), it will most certainly become impossible.

Don't confuse "can't" with "don't want to." If you want to do something badly enough you will make the decision to do it and follow through on that decision by whatever means necessary. No excuses, no whining, no rationalizations. It's that simple. Make your decision and just do it.


Jenna said...

Awesome post!

"If you want to do something badly enough you will make the decision to do it and follow through on that decision by whatever means necessary."

You are completely and totally right about this!

Melissa Marsh said...

I'm here via Jenna's blog...

Excellent post! My husband has tried several times to quit, but I know that he loves smoking, too. He hasn't reached that point where he really WANTS to quit. It saddens me because our daughter has told him many times that he needs to quit and he will for a few weeks or so, but then it's right back to it again.

traduda said...

This was great for me to read. Greg is trying to quit, again. It's been almost 4 weeks. And your post was so helpful for me to understand the intensity of quitting. It's hard to be patient with him. So I appreciate your experience, it helps me get it a little more.


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