Basically, I have 3 vices left. Sunbathing (in the natural sun), artificial sweetener, and cigarettes. And for my birthday, I’m going to quit smoking. Because 35 seems like a good age to grow the eff up.
I started smoking pretty young. By 16 I was a full-on smoker. I quit once before, when I was in my late 20s. For a year and a half. But I quit while I was eating compulsively, and about a year later, got control of my eating. My first Halloween with my food under control was when I started again. That was six years ago. I don’t think I expected to go back to being a smoker. I think I thought I would stop smoking again the next day. Or I wasn’t thinking about the consequences at all. But everyone was drinking and eating, and I couldn’t do those things. And it was a party, and I wanted to feel like I wasn’t missing out. So I had that first cigarette that night, and it took the edge off. The food edge. The urge to eat edge. And I never stopped.
I did a lot of things to take the edge off the food cravings in the beginning. Diet soda, coffee, tea, sugarless gum. Cigarettes. Anything I could put in my mouth that wasn’t food. And it helped. It got me through. And I still do that. Besides smoking, I drink herbal drinks with artificial sweetener all day long.
But in my life, I have learned how to give things up. I gave up sugar, of course. Grains and starches and alcohol as well, because my body reacts to them like sugar, and once I start I can’t stop. Then I stopped eating foods that I loved (like tomatoes and peppers and certain soy products) because they make me break out or give me indigestion. I stopped doing drugs. I stopped drinking diet soda and chewing gum. I stopped drinking caffeine after noon. I stopped staying up all night. (I did that before I stopped drinking caffeine after noon, not because. I could (and did) drink coffee from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to sleep and still get 8 hours a night.) I stopped biting my nails. I stopped watching TV.
And every time I gave something up, I fought it. I have fought growing up at every turn. I was always terrified of what I was going to miss out on. How I was going to suffer. How my life was going to suck because there was something I didn’t have anymore. Because something would be missing.
And every time, I got more life. More peace. More freedom. Every time I grew up, I was grateful that I did.
There is a bit of chatter in my head right now. And I need to name it. I need to tell on myself. It is about fear of losing control of my food. It is about how smoking takes the edge off. And what if I can’t handle the void and I pick up sugar. And I need to acknowledge this as bullshit. I need to say that I don’t need to smoke to keep my food under control. And also, that if I were to renege, and not quit smoking, or to pick up cigarettes again with the excuse of not wanting to eat compulsively, it would still just be an excuse. It would just be bullshit.
And I want to say I have another fear. A fear of gaining weight. Not because of over eating. But because I have heard that smoking speeds up your metabolism. Frankly, I don’t know if it’s true. But I’ve heard it. And the part of me that doesn’t want to quit smoking keeps bringing it up. What if I gain weight? What if I get fat? Better keep smoking and not risk it. But if I keep my food boundaries (which I am committed to doing no matter what, in spite of what I just said above, because that’s just BS anyway…), then rational Kate knows that any weight gain would be negligible. 2 lbs? 5? Not worth considering really. And not worth feeling like I need a crutch to get through my day.
So I need to declare to you that all of this “fear” fidgeting around in my head is actually just me being a whiner and a drama queen. But I don’t stand for whining and drama anymore. So my head makes it seem like a justified fear. Oh no! Oh no! It’s scary! You could lose everything! Cigarettes are holding your life together!
Right…Here’s what’s really underneath all that panic: But look at everything I’ve given up already! Why me? Why do I have to? You can’t make me! I won’t! Poor me…
And I don’t have to. It’s my choice, after all. I’m quitting because I want to. I’m quitting because I’m vain. Because being a smoker is starting to feel pathetic. Because instead of making me feel like a bad-ass, like a super-cool, caution-to-the-wind, it’s-my-life-and-I-do-what-I-want rebel, it’s making me feel like a grown woman who doesn’t have her shit together. (You can say what you like about the health consequences of smoking. But you should know that my health has never moved me to make a positive change in my life. So far, the only thing that has ever been an effective kick in the ass to me is vanity. And that is ok with me. As long as I get there in the end, I don’t worry so much about how I got there…)
So rather than bolster my righteousness, and dig my heels in, and weave a story around how it’s just the way I am, and you can’t stop me, I would rather be happy. And free. And peaceful. I would rather not be a slave.
I’m going to use the patch. I don’t need to be miserable just to prove that I’m strong enough to do it on my own. I don’t need to do it by willpower, which I don’t have much of anyway. I don’t want to be a martyr. I happen to know that only makes me resentful. And that resentment is a short road to me punishing myself. Possibly with more cigarettes. And I don’t deal well with discomfort. Which is ok with me. When confronted with the question “Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”, now I always choose happy. Ok, almost always. (Still stuck with this humanity of mine…) So I’ve decided it’s better to be a non-smoker than worry about how I quit.