I have a shameful secret that I never shared with anybody... I find staying quit harder than the original quitting. This has bothered me for months. To this day, I feel that I could easily and happily go right back to smoking 2 packs a day with no problem.
The weird thing is that I am NOT romancing the cigarette. My rational brain knows perfectly well that there are an endless number of reasons NOT to smoke and zero reasons TO smoke. But here I am 11 months quit and I don't feel any better. I don't feel FREE (as some people claim)! I don't have more energy. I don't revel in my non-smoker status. Plus I gained a significant amount of weight and can't get rid of it. I won't smoke, but I am not a happy camper. And my life in general has been stuck in a boring, unfulfilling rut for the last year or more. I don't think that's because I quit smoking. But never-the-less, I have been feeling bored and boring and useless and adrift and disappointed and the fact that I quit smoking doesn't cheer me up at all.
But Babs started a thread the other day that really got me to thinking. It's titled "Nicotine Replacement Therapy" . In it, she explains that she is not referring to alternative sources of nicotine like gum or patches. She is referring to replacing smoking's role in your life. As she said: "Most people who have an addiction--whether it's to smoking, food, drugs, alcohol, people, sex...whatever it is...they can't just "put it down" without a replacement. There has to be a plan...there has to be an alternative." She went on to suggest several things that people can do to replace smoking. But those things didn't work for me. I mean, yes, when I was suffering from strong nicotine cravings and had to distract myself, exercise, music, yoga breathing and things like that were life savers. But to just fill the "emptiness" I'm feeling since quitting? Not so much.
I am happy to report that I think I finally figured out what I've been missing-- I'm missing my right brain. Meaning being in touch with the creative, emotional, imaginative, "big picture" side of my brain. I have read many, many posts from people who get very emotional when they first quit smoking. They rage, they cry, they get their feelings hurt. They pick arguments with spouses and yell at the kids and they NEVER used to behave that way! I believe that smoking helps to tamp down our emotions. Somehow, the nicotine itself is biochemically soothing. And the act of stepping away from a stressful situation (like the constant bickering between your kids) for a few minutes to smoke and clear your mind and collect your wits really helps keep your emotions in check. Without the chemical nicotine and the smoking ritual, our emotions get totally out of whack unless and until we can find some other way to deal with them. Or, as Babs said, until we find a "nicotine replacement".
For me, I realized that rather than continuing to try to tamp down my emotions the way I used to do with cigarettes, I need to bring them out into the light and defang them. To do that I need to get in touch with my right brain by being creative. For me, cooking, gardening, and art are my favorite forms of creative expression. I still cook sometimes (after all, one has to eat, right?) but I have let my gardening and my art work go for a couple of years now. That was a mistake. I miss those pursuits. I need those pursuits. So I am going to resurrect them.
As a first step in the right direction I cleaned up my "artist's nook" this weekend. As with any disused room it got filled up with junk and dust and cob webs. So I got in there and cleaned it up and set up my easel again. That felt good. And today I read some of my "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" book and then painted a picture. Note that I am NOT an artist and I don't try to be one. I just mess around with paint or charcoal to relax and let my mind wander and to get in touch with my emotions. My main inspiration for this approach is called the "Point Zero" method. It's very freeing! Check it out on
I hope that if I get back to regular exercising and back to regular creative pursuits I can finally climb out of this rut I have dug for myself in the last year. Obviously, what I have been experiencing is not just related to quitting smoking-- there have been some other major changes in my life lately that have also had an impact-- but I am tired of being where I am and I'm ready to make some changes.
As Babs said, I need to find my own, personal "nicotine replacement therapy." Thanks, Babs!