What is the inner source that allows us to end once mandatory nicotine feedings? Strength, willpower or desire?
It's natural to think that it's some combination. However, none of us are stronger than nicotine's influence upon brain dopamine pathways, as clearly evidenced by our inability to live the active addict's greatest desire, to control the uncontrollable.
Yes, we can temporarily muster mountains of willpower. But can willpower make any of us endure a challenge that we lack the desire to complete?
Once nicotine gets inside, all the strength and willpower on earth cannot stop it from traveling to the brain and activating acetylcholine receptors.
We cannot beat our dependency into submission. Nor can we handle one hit of nicotine without stimulating brain circuitry designed to make activating events nearly impossible to forget, pathways engineered to generate wanting for more.
If incapable of using strength to control our addiction and we cannot "will" it into hibernation or submission, what remains?
As simple as it may sound, dreams and desire have always been the fuel of human accomplishment. Born of the honest recognition of nicotine's negative impact upon our life, desire is the fuel for change.
But it takes keeping those motivations vibrant and on center-stage, so that they can both consciously and unconsciously stimulate, motivate and fuel our journey home.
Those successful in navigating recovery found creative ways to protect and safeguard their dreams and desires. They somehow kept them robust, invigorated and available at a moment's notice.
Our core motivations aid in fostering the patience needed to transition an up to 3 minute subconsciously triggered crave episode. They provide resistance to the nicotine addict's romantic use fixations. Desire's energy stands up to junkie thinking that at times may linger inside the recovering mind.
This temporary period of re-adjustment is about fulfilling recovery's dreams and desires. We enhance our chances by protecting desire's juices. Those juices are accurate and vivid memories of the daily nightmare of living life as nicotine's slave.
Success is about well-protected and remembered recovery motivations. It's about uniting the realities of use with an understanding of the Law of Addiction (Chapter 2).
What will you do during the heat of battle (if there is any - as cakewalk recoveries can and do occur) to remind yourself of the importance of victory? Which desires will control?
Will you be able to vividly recall the full price of life as nicotine's slave? What will aid you in recalling dependency's prison cell, your lost pride and self-esteem, and the increasing sense of feeling like a social outcast?
What will help you remember standing at the counter and handing over your money to purchase a chemical that you knew would force you to return to buy more? During moments of challenge, how do we bring honesty and the desire flowing from it, to the forefront of our mind?
Dreams and desire embrace recovery as freedom's stepping-stone. Consider allowing honest dependency memories to keep desire excited and stimulated. Let honesty transport you home. Allow it to gift you the inner quiet and calm that arrives once addiction's daily chatter goes silent.
When packing, bring along the thousands of negative nicotine use memories that motivated you to begin reading FFN-TJH. Doing so will provide all the wind your dream's wings will need.
One way to do so is to sit down and write yourself a caring (or even loving) letter in which you list your reasons for wanting to be free. Then, carry it with you, pull it out during challenge and use as a front-line defense.
I admit, it sounds rather silly for a fully-grown man or woman to write a letter to themselves, carry it, and then reach for it when threatened. But when your greatest moment of challenge is upon you and an anxiety-riddled mind is seriously considering throwing it all away, it won't seem so silly then.
You'll reach for a powerful resource -- "you" -- to remind yourself why victory here and now is oh so important.
Fear and panic may at times suggest that you flee toward your dependency's grasp; that you leave recovery behind. Failure to document and recall dependency's bad and ugly makes saying "no" to it more challenging.
Why allow your core recovery motivations and the dreams they fuel to be absent, erode or die?
The human mind suppresses negative memories. While daily chemical dependency kept dependency's memories vivid and alive, it's amazing how quickly they begin to erode once nicotine use ends. As impossible as this may be to believe, it won't be long before you'll find it extremely difficult to picture yourself having ever used nicotine.
Why allow time, challenge and memory suppression to destroy freedom's dreams? Pack sufficient fuel to transport you home. Consider spending a few minutes now to document life as an addict. While your list will never grow shorter, consider adding to it the benefits noticed during recovery.
Take a glance now at the Appendix at the end of FFN-TJH. It's a simple journal form that you can copy, complete and carry with you. Or, make your own!
Do this for "you," not others - It's wonderful that we'd be willing to attempt recovery because some other person wants us to. But navigating battle after battle for someone who isn't in there fighting with us, and who isn't there afterward expressing thanks for our sacrifice, naturally fosters a sense of self-deprivation that can quickly eat away and destroy motivation.
While each is making an attempt, they are doing so for the wrong reasons. "While they may have gotten through the initial withdrawal process, if they don't change their primary motivation for abstaining, they will inevitably relapse," wrote Joel in 1984.
Ending nicotine use for someone else pins our success to him or her. Should they do something wrong or disappoint us we have at our disposal the ultimate revenge, relapse.
"I deprived myself of my cigarettes for you and look how you pay me back! I'll show you, I'll smoke a cigarette!"
As Joel notes from this example, "He will show them nothing. He is the one who will return to smoking and suffer the consequences. He will either smoke until it kills him or have to stop again. Neither alternative will be pleasant."
We can't stop for our doctor, religious leader, parents, spouse, children, grandchildren, best friend, employer, insurance company, support group, pet, some guy who wrote a nicotine cessation book, or for the developing life inside a woman's womb.
While all with whom we share our lives will clearly inherit the fruits of our recovery, it must first and foremost be our gift to us.
Journey for better health, not fear of failing health - While fear of bad or even failing health can be a powerful motivator in causing us to contemplate recovery, the human body is a healing machine. If allowed, it mends and repairs.
What if the primary force driving our recovery is an escalating fear flowing from noticeable dependency related harms? What will happen to those fears if nearly all noticeable harms quickly improve after stopping? What will happen to our determination and resolve?
If an oral nicotine user, imagine a white spot on your gum that quickly disappears. If a smoker, picture dramatic improvement in your sense of smell and a noticeable change in taste. Imagine a chronic cough or wheeze that vanishes in a couple of weeks.
Healing is normally an extremely positive thing. But if recovery is driven almost exclusively by fear of failing health, it can feel like our motivational rug is being pulled out from under us as our primary concerns evaporate before our eyes.
Imagine healing breeding such thoughts as, "I guess smoking hadn't hurt my body as much as I'd thought. I guess it's safe to go back to smoking."
Obviously, we don't correct years of mounting damage to lungs and blood vessels within a few months. Long-term cancer and circulatory disease risks take years to reverse.
But to a mind that commenced recovery primarily due to worries about declining health, disappearance of a chronic cough or a noticeable improvement in breathing may fuel junkie thinking about the impact of smoking upon the body.
The flip side of fear of declining or poor health is hope for improved health. While it may seem like word games, when packing durable and sustaining motives the distinction could prove critical.
Instead of using fear of failing health as a motivator, imagine recasting those fears into a dream of seeing how healthy your body can once again become.
What if instead of each new health improvement realization eating away at our primary motivation, we looked upon it as a reward that left us wanting to celebrate? Imagine the disappearance of each concern stirring our imagination about the limits of possible improvement?
Again, initially, fear can be an extremely positive force. It may have been what motivated you to start reading FFN-TJH. But fear suffers from a lack of sustainability. We can only remain afraid for so long. We can only look at so many photographs of diseased lungs or mouth cancers before growing numb to them.
As to noticeable tobacco related health concerns, why not use their potential for healing and some degree of noticeable improvement as a means of refueling core dreams and desires?
These bodies are built for healing. If given the opportunity, all tissues not yet destroyed will mend and repair. Why not put your body's ability to heal to work for you?
Do it for total savings, not daily cost - The final motivation we may want to consider shifting and recasting is cost.
The cost of satisfying the brain's demand for nicotine continues to rise as governments increasingly turn to tobacco tax increases as motivation to induce cessation, or so they say.
Fewer smokers mean that the tobacco industry must charge remaining smokers more money in order to satisfy profit-seeking shareholders. Still, if the cost of today's supply of nicotine is our primary recovery motivation, what's the actual price of relapse?
How much does it cost to bum or be offered a cigarette, cigar, pinch, wad or piece? What's the cost of a single pack, tin, pouch or box? A few dollars?
But if we focus upon total savings instead of the cost of our daily or weekly supply, our core motivation is allowed to grow instead of serve as a source of increasing temptation.
I just glanced and according to my computer's desktop recovery calculator, at $3.00 per pack of cigarettes (an addict's paradise, South Carolina continues to have almost the cheapest nicotine in America), during my 13 years of healing I've saved $52,462.01 (U.S.) by skipping 285,749 once mandatory nicotine feedings. But in reality, my savings have been far greater.
When calculating savings don't forget the price of fuel if travel was necessary to re-supply. And what about the value of our time? And don't forget tobacco use related doctor and dentist visits.
When smoking 3 packs a day, I lived with chronic bronchitis and respiratory illness, including being diagnosed with early emphysema. I had pneumonia two years in a row and six root canals in the two years prior to my final attempt.
Amazingly, the madness of paying the tobacco industry to destroy this body ended after arresting my dependency. I can't begin to guess at my medical savings but clearly they've been substantial, including being alive here today to type these words
Dream about the big picture and total savings, not just what you'd spend for tomorrow's or next week's supply.