I'm confessing something today, and I am terrified to share it; but I've thought about it pretty hard, so here it goes.
I'm having a cigarette.
Oh, I should mention: I quit last year.
I'm not making excuses; I know this is because I haven't finished my own process of learning new ways to cope. But as an explanation, here's why I'm smoking: I'm anxious beyond all reason. I am living through an impossibly scary time right now, and I'm not coping with it very well. I'm still sick, with the doctors giving me no helpful news--you may remember, I had a health crisis hit in February, and it is still going on. Everyday I am in pain, everyday I don't know what's wrong. Everyday I'm getting closer to having some scary invasive tests run, and those tests aren't even likely to find the problem.
How ironic that a health problem would lead me to partake of such an unhealthy activity.
Throw in a new house, plus Brian's recent job change-up, plus my best friend moving away, and I'm a ball of stress. Doesn't help that I have an actual, diagnosed anxiety disorder. Ohhh, the joys of being in my head.
So for a little over a week now, I have had a cigarette every day. I hate myself every time I do it, but the alternative currently is to take a sedative, and the sedatives scare me. They are powerful, and they are addictive. Hello, rock; hello, hard place.
WHY IT'S A SECRET
I haven't told anyone but Brian, because people love to berate a smoker. Having worked with drug addicts, I never personally do that to people. I understand that one must be in a dark, terrible place to feel like putting poison into their bodies is the best choice of action. But it's incredible how many people feel completely comfortable with judging and condemning the nicotine addict. I'm afraid to tell my parents in case they become angry with me, and yes I understand that the anger is born from love, but being chastised isn't going to help me. In fact, my parents' support these past few months is the reason I've only mildly relapsed here.
the government thinks these photos will stop a smoker. If that were true, we could just make every heroine addict watch Requiem for a Dream and we wouldn't need rehab centres. All the photos do is increase my anxiety...which makes lighting up all that more likely.
Cigarettes are also more and more expensive, which I hated when I was a regular smoker, but I'm glad of now: it is most definitely a deterrent from allowing myself to continue on with this addiction.
I want to stop. I need to stop. I want and need to reach out for the supports that helped me quit the first time 'round: people, mostly. But that fear of chastisement has stopped me from admitting my failure. The chastisement does nothing, people! It is akin to when your friend breaks up with that loser you never liked, and you talk about how much you always hated him, but the next day they get back together: chances are, your friend won't tell you the next time they're having problems because she'll be afraid you won't be listening with an understanding heart.
SOCIAL STIGMA: SHUNNING FROM THE TRIBE
Something else has changed since I last smoked: smokers are more of a social pariah than ever before. The municipal government has banned us from smoking in virtually any public place you can think of, in a misguided attempt to 'discourage people from smoking'. Seriously, Public Health? I have seen smokers stand in the middle of a freezing rain ice storm with no umbrella and no coat, trying to get a little bit of nicotine before going back to their desk jobs. You think walking ten meters further down the road is going to stop us? That makes me keenly aware of how little the health care system is interested in really understand and dealing with nicotine addiction. This is an 'out of sight, out of mind' approach, and it's a joke.
In addictions work, we talk about HALT as the basis for most relapse: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. (I usually throw in 'bored' as well.) These are the top reasons why people get the urge to relapse. I often ask myself which one of these emotions is urging me onward towards that smoke, and lately it's usually the A, L, and T.
WHAT I NEED TO QUIT
I've been thinking hard about what's going to help me stop smoking this time 'round. It's not going to be yelling, nagging, or shunning, and it definitely won't be expulsion from public parks. If I'm feeling angry, lonely, and tired, why would isolation and reproach help in any way? Certainly, all the yelling I've done in my own head at myself hasn't helped. No, I am considering a new approach: I think hugs are the answer. If you see me smoking a cigarette, or I tell you I want to find a cigarette, hug me. Just reach out and hug me. (If we haven't been introduced yet, maybe say something about having read the blog, though. Just a suggestion.) Imagine if every smoker who stepped out, bummed a smoke, and then lit up feeling wretched and like a total failure, was suddenly embraced in genuine kindness by a friend or stranger. I bet you fewer of us would finish our smokes, or at least fight the urge for the next one.
I'm sorry to those I've let down with this relapse, but I'm not going to get weighed down with guilt. I've written this post to keep me honest and accountable. I am beginning a journey of cessation again--it should be easier than when I used to smoke 15-20 smokes a day, I think--and I hope along the way there'll be some kind hearts to help me along.