(KATHERINE ELMORE)Ever tried to take a dog to the vet? The legs extend straight out in a struggle to put the brakes on while claws scrape the sidewalk and not even the tightest collar matters one bit. An otherwise happy-go-lucky dog can become paralyzed by sheer panic that no amount of training, juicy T-bones, or tossed sticks can overcome.
Thats exactly how my inner smoker reacted to quitting. I had felt a rising sense of panic all week as quitting day (Thursday, July 10) approached. I was irritable, stressed out, and convinced I was coming down with something.
Not that I wasnt prepared, mind you. I followed all the advice I could get my hands ongetting rid of all the cigarettes and smoking paraphernalia, cleaning my car, breathing deeply, and repeating my mantra: "A cigarette will not make this better." Based on my shaky understanding of the power of positive thinking, I firmly suppressed any thought of "I might fail."
The day before, I felt good, confident, like a runner before a marathon. I started my new regimen of nicotine gum, and felt no physical withdrawal. I only smoked one cigarette"my last"before bedtime.
But I was a mess by the end of my first workday without cigarettes. Despite breaking out a fresh piece of nicotine gum every half hour, I wanted to kill my boss, quit my job, skip my night-school class, and spend the rest of my life hiding under the covers.
I had failed to heed my husbands warning to fill my gas tank before my quit day. The gas station and its smorgasbord of cigarettes is the downfall of many a smoker. By the time I pulled up to the pump after work, my rational mind was completely gone. I went in and gave the cashier $5.75 for a pack, firmly telling the angel on my left shoulder to shut the hell up. The nicotine demon on the other one snickered, "Oh yes. A cigarette will most certainly make this better."
So there you have it. Less than one day into my quit-smoking program, I was still a smoker. I wish I could say I spent Friday reflecting on what had gone wrong and resolving to do better. At that point though, the whole thing just seemed like a bad dream Id rather forget.
It was Saturday night before I began to recover. I lit a cigarette, realized I didnt want it, and crushed it out after one drag. By Sunday morning, I was ready to face this situation again.
Ive modified my approach this time. Whats left of the pack is in its usual place in the garage, next to the cracked flowerpot I use as an ashtray. When I feel the nicotine demon start to panic, I calm it with a piece of nicotine gum and the thought that the stuff is thereat least for now.
I havent had a cigarette since Saturday night. At this moment, Im not smoking. My secret plan is to build these moments up while gaining confidence that I can beat this thing. (Dont tell the demon.)
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