“We need to deprogram ourselves. I know for sure you can't give what you don't have. If you allow yourself to be depleted to the point where your emotional and spiritual tank is empty and you are running on fumes of HABIT. Everybody loses. Especially YOU.” -Oprah Winfrey
Today the smoke is in the air and the ashes do not bother me anymore. It took me one moment and one decision to turn the tables. Sometimes we are one decision away to either make it or break it.
I have traveled far, sometimes through the same old pathways, sometimes to and fro, and then never again. Imagine an endless journey you yourself chose to be on and then develop a sudden urge to divert. Mostly, it isn’t about the destination, it is about what happens in the middle of the road. I am here to share my story, the one which I started and gracefully ended!
It was the year 2004, a year of exploration, a year filled with new opportunities’, a year full of friends, coffee and the weird good world of corporate.. As we travel through the phases of school, college, and work, we realize people, places, and situations create, influence, and question our belief systems.
As a working professional in the corporate world, I was excited to explore the practical world with new energy and enthusiasm. But this isn’t about my career in the corporate world, it is literally about the other side of the work life, it is about maintaining relationships, battling with self-identity, and matching the performance pace. I believe us, as humans, constantly solve problems and in order to overcome difficult and challenging life situations we make choices, and sometimes those may not be the right ones.
Long story short, I chose smoking. I made a decision. This is my story from being a novice in smoking, finding myself needing a de addiction treatment, to finally being free by treating myself and making a promise to myself to never visit that path again. I feel I have a greater ownership towards the life I have lived now and ahead. I was happy then, I am happy now!
I feel millions of people would echo my story, I am here to represent them. The one who has lived it, would read it with different lenses, the one who hasn’t may perceive it differently.
Now, it has been a good six years I haven’t smoked. 2015, the last day of the year. I smoked last.
With a lot of courage, I have gathered myself to revisit the times and open the chapters again, page by page. I am trying to be gentle, kind and compassionate. What happened aren’t scars, those were precious moments. The experiences were an outcome of the choices I made, I consciously refrain from blaming anyone. But, I have evolved and bounced back stronger.
I belong to a non-smoking family and we, as humans, are social animals. So, let us understand that the idea generation can be from any possible place, people or a situation. In my story the trigger was my ever colorful, active workplace. I feel work times are testing times. Workplace is also about competition, an urge to belong, and a struggle to interact in a group and manage relationships.
With time, I struggled to belong. I felt disconnected. I always felt I could be better at work, if I could connect well with people in the ways the larger groups performed. I missed having friends, I realized I did not have an active social interaction. I could not match the energy. I ended up feeling lonely.
A group of young professionals smoking in groups, interacting well, exchanging ideas was a very common scenario. Considerably, the population in such groups was high. I never questioned the culture nor did I have personal opinions regarding the same. I wondered. I was curious.
“Smokers aint bad, Smoking is.”- Ekktaa
Finally, I took the first bold step. I remember that day. I took my first smoke. Well, if you smoke the first cigarette chances are you won’t figure out how to actually smoke until you have done it a few more times. I took chances, tried relentlessly. I also remember when I could clearly pull out the smoke from the pipe as if I was drinking from a straw! At this point I had to decide to continue or to stop, I knew clearly, I was here to start. Although it gives you a blissful experience, the moments are fleeting, like the heart is racing but you are completely calm. It lasts for a few seconds and hence you crave for more.
It always struck me. More than the act of smoking, it gave me new opportunities, I made new friends and felt belonged to a new community instead. Being an observer, back then I felt, Men take smoking at ease, they are non-judgmental when you smoke around them, it never feels like a crime. Whereas, women hide and smoke, they live in constant unsaid fear! Such were my experiences. They are my own. The fascination grew, day by day. Hence, I latched on to a cigarette every single day. A cigarette as my partner in my highs and lows. With time. I could see myself getting closer every single day towards becoming a smoker. It was a silent transition but was clearly visible.
One at a time, like an amateur. Few more on and off, the social influence got deeper. Sooner it was 12-13 cigarettes per day and within no time I recall 20-23 per day. Over time, smoking crept onto every corner of my life.
All of us have a breaking point, 2014 was that year for me. 2014-2015, was the year I had to make new choices and had to sail hard as I had reached rock bottom. Amidst the depressive tendencies, relationship issues, and feeling physically weak due to viral infections, I longed for peace, and smoked like never before. I made the grand exit from the corporate world. I quit my job. The place where I had seen my dreams come true, a place which gave me friends, a place where I learnt life the hard way.
In the year 2015, the thoughts of quitting smoking dominated.
The war between the head and the heart began. At first, I managed to quit on and off for short periods, but it is like a rubber band, the more you stretch the faster it bounces back, with greater speed and intensity, I smoked more and more after the short pauses. The plan failed, clearly.
I felt rigid, adamant, empowered, influenced, and helpless at the very same time.
Technically, Addiction is a chronic disorder with biological, psychological, social and environmental factors influencing its development and maintenance.
I continued reading about it, but eventually failed to press the reset button.
With time, I realized that addiction also is a state of mind where an individual, despite the knowledge and experiences of many consequences, he/ she still feels the urge to continue. In my case my urge to smoke was persistent.
I had to redefine my life, every moment we live, we make a choice. My experiences with the doctors I met weren’t fulfilling, unfortunately. I assume we couldn’t understand each other well. The idea of visiting a de addiction center weakened me, although I knew I might benefit from it. I was desperately looking for unconditional support, non-judgmental people around me.
I finally blurted out to my very own people about my increasing dependency on cigarettes. My family.
“You are an independent, strong and intelligent girl. You are free going. You cannot be dependent on anyone, not even a cigarette. You can be better in life!” This was the way my family and close ones summed up their reaction to my life situation.
I knew I had found my motivation!
It's hard to quit, it’s harder without the support of your loved ones. Maybe that explains the role of the family.
The darkest times were when my parents allowed me to smoke inside our house. For them it was a way to convey to me that the house was my very own dwelling place, a place where I can shed my tears, fears, mistakes and regrets. The most difficult moments were where I smoked freely, right in front of my people, experiencing guilt, feeling helpless and rigid at the same time. I felt emotionally dependent, I sometimes pitied myself, and all I could see was the burnt emotions.
We all have thresholds; I think I had reached mine. I felt restless and victimized myself.
I had to take the next bold step! I feel one has to have a strong purpose to get rid of something one is greatly accustomed to. For me, I was losing from all the ends. I had to buck up. I had to initiate the hardest part, the act of letting go and getting rid of the smoky clothes.
I had to understand my reasons for quitting as my relationship with smoking got toxic. I did not want to be dependent, the whole purpose became redundant. I had to repeatedly answer my questions and reflect on my thinking and purpose of quitting. It was a brutal battle within. When I was positive about my actions and behaviors, the irrational thoughts bothered me. What if I do not adhere to my decision of quitting? I was grappling with fear. I knew I was reaping, the nasty seeds I sowed. I prepared a quit plan.
I tried to engage myself in the activities I enjoyed. I recorded my goals and listened to them as if they were music on an old recorder, inspirational and original. I had to consciously decide ways to engage my hands off the cigarette! The biggest lie about smoking is that it gives you intrinsic peace, alas!
I was deeply awestruck with the plethora of emotions I was experiencing during the trials and tribulations.
We talk and read about will power, it is indeed a great deal and a mammoth task.
Throughout this journey, some things happened to me, some changes occurred in people around me, some things happened with my family. It is interesting how our actions, behaviors and the interactions influence our social, personal and professional dynamics.
In the middle of my journey, I had to lose some people, I lost few on the way. I chose health over everything and the dilemma was stressful.
Healing and recovery also involves choices. I consciously avoided all the places which reminded me about cigarettes, all the places which were once my space, now deserted and alien.
I knew I was progressing and moving ahead, leaving behind the traces. Some people followed, I gathered the courage to build new bonds, some people never returned and some reached out to me unconditionally. I chose to disconnect with my past.
The strangest part of this journey is that no one talks about the hardships and the darker days. Unfortunately, smoking as an activity is highly targeted but the surface emotions remain unaddressed. Communication is the key here. My first instinct was to restrict myself, stay in my cocoon and abruptly decide not to fly. Hence, I was low in my social skills too. It is interesting how everything is interdependent. It seemed cyclic.
I may be less of a social person today, but I am filled with kind and compassionate souls.
I met all kinds of people, but I had my own battle to win! It was hard to trust people again, fearing they would never comprehend. I missed empathetic people.
Today, as I recall the treatment process, it seems smooth, well planned and magical. I received appropriate professional help, the effectiveness of nicotine gums for the first three months, and the support from the environments around helped me. Due to the extensive systematic and professional coaching my life was filled with hope.
The outcomes of life coaching and psychological help are profound, I preferred a treatment minus the medicines, which was by choice.
Coaching and hypnotherapy sessions helped in regulating my emotions, I was learning self-control. Sometimes, I was looking for reassurances that it would be okay. Coaching helped me to redirect life when there were poignant reminders of my past actions. My brother, apart from being rock solid with me, is also a professional life coach and a qualified hypnotherapist , played a pivotal role in helping me heal in systematic ways.
He reached out to me, extending support which said “I am here to help you”! That moment was what it seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel.
A success story lies in an environment where there is free space to explore, change, fix one's own perceptions, attitudes and improve in understanding your inner strengths and of the world. A supportive environment empowers you.
The process of healing is systematic, seeking help is vital, but you ought to have a plan of your own. A greater part of healing is altogether a new voyage! You have to start with forgiving yourself which doesn’t happen easily, self-blame is predominant. The flashes of your loved ones getting affected are hurtful, the guilt trips are often. Despite this, I began forgiving, letting go of the hard times and deeds. I began to communicate irrespective of the responses. Through coaching, I learnt to take ownership of my actions, I held myself accountable for every gain and loss. I stopped questioning myself, because I was determined. Whenever I felt judgmental, I explained myself to be better.
I was evolving, literally.
The last day of the year 2015, I smoked the maximum amount of cigarettes and put an end to this part of the story. I embarked on a new journey, fading through the old ones. Nothing is more empowering than our own innate readiness to bravely overcome difficult life situations. Purely, the power is within.
As I was battling through the emotional issues during my healing, I was parallely dealing with self-image issues due to significant weight gain and inflammations. I was too tired to explain my plight to anyone, I owned them, caressed them and surpassed them with determination. It seemed like a very long journey.
Perhaps, it is indeed a very long journey, and the healing still continues even today.
It was a blissful journey then and it is a beautiful journey now, both were my very own choices.
I do not wish to live that life again. But, I surely found myself as being open, and in letting people be. I have greatly learnt to understand people beyond their words and smiles. It took a very long time for me to realize that “the habit of smoking is bad, smokers aren’t! One has to learn in setting boundaries” I have learnt to associate things differently. I avoid jumping into conclusions and take time to process things, people and situations. My perspectives improved with time.
World No- Tobacco Day is observed around the world every year on 31 May. This yearly celebration informs the public on the dangers of using tobacco. The prevalence of tobacco usage is high, but the aftermath is the worst.
Experiences lead to new learnings and some let you find the power within.I greatly believed in practicing what we preach. With my little awareness and the experiences I discovered the power to connect with people. Thus, my journey of reaching out to people who actively indulge in smoking began, it has been quite a few years now.
Every story is unique, important and precious to me.
As I reminisce about the moments today, I take a look at my beautiful office, as a successful professional, a Spiritual and a life coach helping individuals to find life again. I feel thankful, grateful, empowered and happy!
This story is also a message to myself, a collection of my life experiences, nicely wrapped as a gift today reminding me of my weaknesses and the superpowers, both! Everyone has a success story worth sharing, which is the mere reflection of their inner strengths, the ways of overcoming difficulties and winning battles. This one is my bit.
Digging and shelling all this again wasn't easy, but I believe someone somewhere is experiencing my story, even today. During my interactions with people who wish to quit smoking, I often hear them saying “I can, if I decide to quit”. I am simply here to say, it is possible!
For all those beings, grappling to break the vicious cycle of smoking, "You are superpower, within you lies the will to change and win. You may hit rock bottom, feel powerless, feel like backing out every single time. But, believe in yourself, yes it is tough!
- Face it.
- Find your motivation.
- Conquer it.
- You will turn out to be an exalted version of Self!
Make that decision today!
IF YOU ARE DEALING WITH SMOKING ADDICTION AND NEED COACHING, PLEASE FREE TO REACH OUT TO ME. I WILL BE HAPPY TO SUPPORT AND DRIVE A PROPER PROFESSIONAL PLAN.
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