"You're such a basket case,
you should just give up!"
"If this is what you're like not smoking,
for Gods sake, go back!"
"I'm trying but my smoking friends laugh,
tell me I'll fail and offer me smokes."
No person's comment, look, laugh, stare or offer can destroy our freedom. Only we can do that. According to Joel, most of the time the person making comments or offers such as these has not considered their implications.
It's comparable to telling someone on chemotherapy and in a really bad mood due to hair loss, nausea, and other horrible side effects, that they should get off that stuff because they are so irritable that they are ruining your day, suggests Joel.
"Of course, if analyzed by any real thinking person, the comment won't be made, because most people recognize that chemotherapy is a possible last ditch effort to save the other person's life."
"The decision to stop the treatment is a decision to die. So we put up with the bad times to help support the patients effort to save his or her life."
What's often overlooked, reminds Joel, is that stopping smoking too is an effort to save their life. "While others may not immediately appreciate that fact, the person stopping has to know it for him or herself. Others may never really appreciate the concept, but the person stopping has to."
As Joel notes, such comments are "usually from a spouse, a child of the smoker, a friend, a co-worker or just an acquaintance. It is much more uncommon that the person expressing it is a parent or even a grandparent. I think that says something."
"Parents are often used to their kids outbursts and moods, they have experienced them since they were infants. The natural parental instinct is not to hurt them when they are in distress and lash out, but to try to protect them. I think it often carries into adulthood, a pretty positive statement about parenthood."
But Joel has seen where people have encouraged friends or loved ones to relapse and then months or years later the smoker died from a smoking related disease.
"Sometimes the family member then feels great guilt and remorse for putting the person back to smoking," he says.
"But you know what? He or she didn't do it. The smoker did it him or herself. Because in reality, no matter what any person said, the smoker had to stop for him or herself and stay off for him or herself."
"How many times did a family member ask you to stop smoking and you never listened? Well if you don't stop for them, you don't relapse for them either. You stop for yourself and you stay off for yourself."
"I can't stop. My husband
still smokes and leaves his
cigarettes lying around."
"I'm a bartender. How can I
stop when surrounded by smoke
and smokers at every turn?"
I recall attempts where I hoped smoking friends would be supportive in not smoking around me, and in not leaving their packs lying around to tempt me. While some tried, it usually wasn't long before they forgot.
I recall thinking them insensitive and uncaring. I recall grinding disappointment and intense brain chatter, that more than once seized upon frustrated support expectations as this addict's lame excuse for relapse.
Instead of expecting them to change their world for me, the smart move would have been for me to want to extinguish my brain's subconscious feeding cues related to being around them and their addiction.
The smart move would have been to take back my world, or as much of it as I wanted.
As I sit here typing in this room, around me are a number of packs of cigarettes: Camel, Salem, Marlboro Lights and Virginia Slims. I use them during presentations and have had cigarettes within arms reach for years.
Don't misconstrue this. It's not a smart move for someone struggling in early recovery to keep cigarettes on hand. But if a family member or best friend smokes, vapes or uses tobacco, or our place of employment sells tobacco or allows smoking around us, if a cashier who sells cigs or a waitress or bartender who cleans up after smokers, we have no choice but to work toward extinguishing tobacco product, smoke and smoker cues almost immediately.
And, just one recovery opportunity at a time, it's entirely do-able!
Millions of comfortable ex-users handle and sell tobacco products as part of their job. You may find this difficult to believe, but I've never craved or wanted to smoke any of the cigarettes that surround me, even when holding packs or handling individual cigarettes during presentations.
Worldwide, millions of ex-smokers successfully navigated recovery while working in smoke filled nightclubs, restaurants, bowling alleys, casinos, convenience stores and other businesses historically linked to smoking.
And millions more broke free while their husband, wife, mother, father, child, partner or best friend smoked like a chimney.
Instead of fighting or hiding from the world, take it back. Why allow our circumstances to wear us down? Small steps, just one moment at a time, embrace challenge. Extinguish use cues and claim your prize once you do, another slice of a nicotine-free life.
Feeling teased is a normal early recovery emotion. As Joel notes, whether happenstance or intentional, temptation cannot destroy our glory. Only we can do that.
Recovery is about taking back life, not fearing it. Strive to savor, relish and embrace reclaiming it.