Still smoking but desperately wish you could quit? Think you’ve got a problem with drink, drugs, or anything else but can’t take that next step towards getting the help you need?
Then let me ask you this:
What are you afraid of?
I mean, it’s silly to suggest that the reason you haven’t yet done anything about the problem is that you’re scared isn’t it?
Or is it?
You see, when I was struggling to quit smoking, I realised one thing:
That the biggest thing getting in my way was fear.
I was terrified about all kinds of things — and for the longest time, I had absolutely no idea.
Once I realised it was fear getting in my way, I could address those fears head on and actually start to have some success in my quit attempt.
Since then, I’ve spoken to people who have all kinds of other addictions, and when you get down to the root cause that they’re struggling to get clean, stay sober, or overcome whatever addiction it is they have, it comes down to the same thing:
Again, once those fears are addressed, they immediately lose their power, and when they lose their power, they become less
of an obstacle to success.
So that’s what we’re going to do today — look at the biggest fears that stopped me — and the people I know — from moving out of active addiction to cigarettes and other substances — and tackle them head-on.
Let’s do it.
I’m Afraid I’ll Fail
Ridiculously low, right?
But that doesn’t mean that those 7% of people were successful and the rest of us who picked up a cigarette again after deciding to quit have failed. It just means that -like Thomas Edison- we’ve just found a bunch of ways that don’t work for us — ultimately getting us closer to the one way that WILL work.
There’s an even scarier statistic for those recovering from alcoholism — the number of people who relapse after a period of sobriety is 50% — 90%.
So the reality is that there’s every chance most of us won’t get it right the right time round, but does that mean we’ve failed?
You only fail when you stop trying.
Yes, setbacks can be traumatic, but that’s all they are — setbacks.
Hopefully, you’ll be in the minority that nail it the first time round, but if you don’t, make those setbacks part of your journey.
Use them as an opportunity to learn where you went wrong, and correct course accordingly.
I get it, it can be scary to think that you might not make it, but as long as you keep on trying, I absolutely promise you that you will get there.
How do I know this?
Because I’m a recovering alcoholic and former 40-a-day smoker. Over the last couple of months, I’ve celebrated one year since I quit smoking and five years of sobriety, and if a once hopeless case like me can do that — then you absolutely can -and will- do even better.
I’m Afraid I’ll Gain Weight
There are experts out there who offer methods of quitting smoking without gaining any weight. If you want a suggestion, I recommend Paul McKenna’s book, Quit Smoking Today Without Gaining Weight, which offers just that.
It’s a great book, but it didn’t work for me because I didn’t follow McKenna’s instructions — so I gained a tonne of weight when I quit smoking, just as I did when I first quit drinking.
I’m not alone in this. I’ve spoken to friends who also piled on weight when they quit smoking, and just last night I was talking to a girl who was a week sober and complaining that she’d “swapped one addiction for another” by devouring food the whole week long.
What I’m getting at here, is that weight gain is a real possibility — but it’s absolutely nothing to be afraid of.
I noticed that the real reason I gained weight when I quit smoking was that I still hadn’t addressed the root cause of my addictions in the first place — that low self-esteem and fear (there it is again) that I won’t be able to cope with life on life’s terms, the part of me when the going gets tough, decides that it’s easier to self-sabotage with addictive substances rather than tackle it head on.
Realising this was a blessing — it allowed me to do some real work on myself, to address issues I’d had for years but always blotted out with cigarettes, alcohol, or food. I could work on these issues and become -for lack of a better term- a better person.
As for the weight itself?
Despite gaining over 25 pounds in my first year as an ex-smoker, I found that all it took was to introduce healthier meals into my diet and get out on my mountain bike a few times a week for all that extra weight to start falling off.
And the best part?
It doesn’t feel like a chore.
After a while, the extra energy you get by being an ex-smoker or a former drinker actually makes getting fresh air and exercise a joy.
I’m Afraid I Won’t Know How to Handle Day-to-Day Situations Without My Crutch
This is the one that actually made me realise that the biggest barrier to me quitting smoking was fear.
I realised that the real reason I wasn’t going for it was that I couldn’t imagine going through day-to-day life without cigarettes.
They had become such an integral part of my routine, my habits, and my social life, that I was subconsciously terrified about how I’d cope without them.
What would I do when I woke up in a morning? How would I get my day started without a cigarette?
What about breaks at work — I’d always smoked after completing a piece of work — what was I supposed to do? Just sit there and work all day?
What would I do when all my still-smoking friends went outside for a cigarette?
You know what I did?
In some cases, thrived.
I stopped coughing my lungs up for ten minutes in a morning following that first-thing cigarette.
I got talking to new people whilst my smoking friends went out for a cigarette, and made new friends in the process.
In other words — good things happened, and all those fears about how I’d cope — it turns out none of them were really justified.
I’m Afraid of Going Through Withdrawals
There’s no easy way to tell you this — sometimes, withdrawals absolutely suck.
When I first quit smoking, I had times when I was bouncing off the walls so much that I was tempted to sellotape cushions to those walls to stop myself from getting hurt.
But here’s the good news — every one of those withdrawals pass.
They weren’t painful, and they certainly didn’t have any long-lasting detrimental impact on my life.
They were -simply- short periods of discomfort.
So yeah, they weren’t pleasant, but I assure you, they’re nothing to be afraid of.
For me, when I knew that withdrawals were part of the process, it gave me the strength to get through them without relapsing, no matter how uncomfortable they were. I knew that -as much as it sucked- this was actually a sign of me getting better. Sometimes, I even imagined that the discomfort was caused by all the gunk I’d polluted my body with physically leaving me.
Before I go, I’ll repeat what I said at the start of this piece:
When we confront our fears head-on, they lose their power and control over us.
With the power gone, it’s possible to see that the parts of quitting addiction that we were afraid of actually have positive benefits for us, and by focussing on those positive benefits, quitting smoking, getting sober, or overcoming any other addiction becomes not only easier, but also one of the best experiences of our lives.