Why was it so easy for me to give up smoking and why is it so hard for other people?

In light of my previous entry…or one of my previous entries…I need to think hard on this right now.

As I said, I need to dig deeply into my “card catalog brain” and try to recall how it was that I was able to quit smoking…and remain an ex-smoker, or former smoker, all these years, without any difficulty.

First of all, I completely took the MORAL ISSUE out of smoking.

If you smoke, YOU ARE NOT A SINNER.  If you pick up a cigarette, I don’t freaking care what society says, you have not been naughty and you have not “blown it.” Even if you are trying to quit.  Even if you have broken some promise you made to yourself.  It’s not a “dirty habit.”  All it is is SMOKING.  All you did was to light a cigarette.  Unless you did it in the middle of a National Forest (don’t be an idiot) or right on an ICU unit in someone’s room where the oxygen was running (again, don’t be an idiot), you didn’t break the law and nothing burned down.

I grew up in the 1960’s.  I have spoken on here before of being caught between the eras of the 1960’s societal pressure be the same as everyone else and the emerging 1970’s societal pressure to be unique.  By the end of the 1970’s and into the 80’s, I was becoming aware of feminism.

I was also, at that time, questioning my sexuality, that is, whether I was a lesbian or straight.  No way could I figure that one out, and I had no one to discuss it with openly without getting extremely self-conscious.  No way would I admit to someone who was straight that I had “feelings” for someone of the same sex, and no way would I admit to someone who was a lesbian that I had “feelings” for men.   I recall a lesbian friend of mine lecturing me to “make up my mind” whether I was gay or straight and “stick to it.”  “You can’t be both,” she said.  “There is no middle.”  I don’t think I had even heard of bisexuality until I was 23 or so.

I was hardly aware that what I was going through was something that just about everyone my age experienced!  Only nowadays, folks talk about it.  I kept it all inside.  I kept my thoughts about God inside, too.  I tried to talk about it but very few people wanted to talk about God with me.  It wasn’t okay to talk about God.  If you voted against Reagan, you never, ever talked about God.  But I had so many unanswered questions!

The mail was private enough, that is, snail mail, so I wrote to many religious organizations asking for information.  I got pamphlets in the mail, bibles and the like.  I wrote stuff about God and tried to figure things on my own.

The fact that there was no one to really open up to was immensely frustrating to me.  There was a guy I used to see for coffee sometimes, named John…I remember him fairly well.  But he was so stuck on the Bible, that is, the Christian Bible, and couldn’t get past that.

I would ask John, “What if the Bible wasn’t true? What is it were NOT the word of God?”

But John would not even consider this possibility.  “It says in the Bible that the Bible IS the Word of God, so the Bible is the Word of God, and the Bible is the Absolute Truth,” he’d say.

I told John that this was circular reasoning.

Nonetheless, John and I had extremely lively and deep conversations about God.  I recall drawing diagrams on napkins at Friendly’s restaurant one day, some kind of diagram that had to do with God.  Imagine that.

All this was just a bit before my eating disorder began.  And everything I went through, all the questioning, was normal adolescent stuff that happened to people and continues to happen to adolescents of varying ages.  The year was (I believe) 1979 or so, headed into 1980.

I started smoking around the time of my 24th birthday (I hope I am calculating this right), that is, I had dropped out of school, moved in with my parents, started day treatment, and because all the other mental patients smoked, I decided I should smoke, too.  Maybe if I smoked, I would stop binge eating.  I could substitute!  That would quietly solve my problems.  I could light up instead of binge eating.  In fact, I would stop eating altogether, just light up instead of eating.  But how would I keep my parents (with whom I lived) from finding out?

Of course, smoking didn’t solve any of my eating problems.  It pissed off my parents.  The ashes made an awful mess, too, and I never knew where to dispose of the butts.

Smoking was REBELLION.  It was symbol of that for me in every way.  I was rebelling against my parents and my upbringing.  I was saying, “I am this new person and I have this new IDENTITY, and you (my parents) can’t touch it.”

I think a lot of kids, when they start to smoke, are saying just that exact same thing, in their own way, aren’t they?

Do we, as people with eating disorders, say this when we go on our first diets?  Do we say, “I am a new person, a new identity, I want to strike out on my own….” and we try to strike out independently, however meager our efforts?  Why the need?

I recall I needed it desperately.  I was dying to do that diet in 1980.  I counted down the days.  I secretly planned it out.  I even relocated, that is, packed up my stuff and left my job and moved to an apartment by myself for the purpose of going on a diet and losing weight.  I gave people other reasons for moving.  I lied.  Made excuses.  I told the truth to my journal and said, “I can hardly wait to be able to eat what I want.”  Now that’s weird.

I guess when I “relapsed” after the big weight gain from Seroquel (really, I hate the word “relapse”) it was the same deal.  I was so totally determined and I hated that I’d gained that weight and hated what Seroquel did to me.  I hated the deception and lies.  I hated that my therapist had been blase the whole time, watched me gain and didn’t care.  I hated that I’d ask, “Why am I gaining?” and didn’t get an honest response, instead was told to “diet and exercise.”

I guess my anorexic response was, “I am my own person now and screw you.”  Losing weight felt excellent.  I felt free and independent at last.  I suppose it always has.  On my own.

There were a couple of other times that my weight dropped but I didn’t do it deliberately.  Looking back, I have no clue how it happened.   Suddenly, I’d be skinny for no particular reason, and I wasn’t deliberately restricting.  Funny how these were the times that the “professionals” took note and they’d get all pissy and claim I was horribly anorexic.  They’d do some bogus controlling “eating disorders treatment” on me, which would only get me riled up because the manipulation and meddling and imposition on my privacy was downright annoying.  If they’d left me alone, I would have been far better off.  They should have at least asked, instead of sticking me on the scale and saying, “You MUST be anorexic!” and jumping to conclusions based solely on a number.

Well, I should quit veering from the topic I promised to discuss, namely, “How did I quit smoking?”

I wasn’t an every-now-and-then smoker.  By the time I was 25 and 26 and 27 and 28, etc, I would smoke at every commercial break, every break between anything, twice before sleep (I’d fall asleep and burn the sheet regularly because I was so medicated) and I couldn’t get out of bed until I’d had my two cigarettes to wake me up.  I’d smoke while writing in my journal and there were ashes all over my apartment.  You’d think I lived in a volcano.  So yes, people would say I was “hooked,” or at least as frequent a smoker as anyone else.  So how on earth did I quit and why was it so easy?

I quit by stopping smoking.

I quit by no longer smoking. That’s all. There was no “patch” or “gum” in those days I don’t think.  I wouldn’t have wanted it anyway.  Substituting something else would have held me back.

I tell people that I got a dog and took up fitness walking, but these were not “substitutes.”  These were celebration of my wonderfully clear lungs AFTER I’d quit.  I gave myself a reason to keep my lungs healthy.  Later, I enjoyed riding my bike and I took up running.  I have no reason to cloud up my lungs with smoke.

Again, there wasn’t anything particularly moral about it.  I don’t fault people who smoke and I don’t think it’s “bad” to smoke.  A person who smokes doesn’t have “bad morals.”  If you are having trouble stopping, it has nothing to do with moral weakness.

So let me say this loud and clear.  I’m even going to put on my caps lock button.

WHY DO WE, AS A SOCIETY, TEND TO BLAME AND REJECT PEOPLE THAT ARE STRUGGLING, INSTEAD OF EMBRACING THE ONES THAT NEED IT MOST?

PEOPLE WHO HAVE EATING DISORDERS WHO ARE STRUGGLING TO GET BETTER DO NOT HAVE BAD MORALS.  EATING DISORDERS ARE NOT A MORAL PROBLEM.

PEOPLE WITH EATING DISORDERS WHO ARE “TREATMENT RESISTANT” ARE NOT BAD PEOPLE.  IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH “NOT WANTING RECOVERY.”  TO MAKE THIS STATEMENT IS TO PASS MORAL JUDGMENT ON ANOTHER PERSON.  WE, AS SOCIETY, NEED TO QUIT JUDGING AND LOVE MORE.

See ya later, alligators.

 

Feedback and comments welcome!