The Lesser of Two Evils
I could pair up any two addictions like alcohol and drugs, gambling and alcohol, eating and shopping, and on and on. But when I look at all of the women I know in recovery which includes alcohol, drugs and overeating, the second addiction is almost always nicotine. There is little thought about joining a 12 Step Recovery group for nicotine because we are already entrenched in the steps for whatever else is ailing us. As a matter of fact, lighting up is a part of the meeting before the meeting, the meeting after the meeting, and I would not be surprised if a few smoking meetings still exist.
Now I am not going to lecture anyone on the evils of nicotine because up until seven months ago, I was smoking with the best of them. And whether you smoke or not, you know all of the bad things it does. Who hasn’t been shown an x-ray of a black, deteriorating lung? Who hasn’t known someone who has died from lung cancer; throat cancer or emphysema? Smoking puts wrinkles in our faces and discolors our teeth. We all know this, don’t we? I knew it with every cigarette I smoked but it didn’t stop me. It didn’t stop me the way alcohol didn’t stop me even though I knew it was killing me. It is not about which addiction is worse. It is the idea that I had been asked by loved ones over and over again to stop smoking for my own well-being and because they love me. When an addiction is stronger than the wishes of those who love you, it is something that must be reckoned with. The nicotine addiction was just another example of self-centeredness, ego, and control.
If you are addicted to nicotine and are reading this article it suggests that you are in a recovery program. If you are fairly new to recovery, I know you are thinking that you can’t possibly work on two addictions at the same time. But let me tell you that working a good solid 12 step program for your “main” addiction is preparing you to get rid of your nicotine habit. Mainstream 12 step recovery programs are identical with the exception of the name of the addiction. So if you look at the 12 Steps of Nicotine Anonymous and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, you will find the difference only in the first step declaring your powerlessness.
When I entered recovery the last thing on my mind was to quit smoking. It was going to be difficult enough to get rid of alcohol and after all, couldn’t I have just one vice? Of course I could if I chose to and honestly, I chose to hang on for quite a while. Then one day, I decided I truly wanted to quit. I would love to tell you I was ready and willing but the truth was, after picking the quit date, I was as scared as I had ever been. In the past I had tried hypnosis, classes, the patch, and meditation and none of it worked. So why would it work this time? Because this time I was quitting for me and it was my choice.
I did decide to use the patch because I needed all of the help I could get. The patch seemed expensive but compared to the $6 a pack charged in my area, it was pretty cheap. This time it worked, at least thus far. Here are the steps that helped me quit smoking. Like the steps in recovery, I call these suggestions.
1. I chose a date that had meaning for me.
2. I chose a website that would put me in touch with other folks trying to quit (I will include that in my newsletter).
3. I found a quit “buddy” on that website who is also in AA and we communicated by email every day.
4. I did not make a big announcement that I was quitting but did so little by little. This worked for me. I always hate when anyone makes a big deal out of quitting and two days later they are right back into it. So I choose the more subtle approach.
5. I began an exercise routine that I could stick with. Gaining weight is a fact. I am one of those women who freak out if I gain one pound (yeah, another issue) so exercise was important to me.
6. I had to become extremely conscious of what I did eat but wanted to eat smart.
The result is that today, seven months later, I feel good, look much better and healthier, I can breathe, my car and clothes don’t smell, and I have more money! But now let me tell you what this article is really about.
It is about the fact that I could not do this by myself. The reason it worked this time is that I had the tools of the 12 steps behind me. I had to admit that I was addicted to nicotine and that I am powerless and this was the only step I had to do perfectly. One cigarette becomes ten or twenty. I used Step 2 and called on my Higher Power because smoking is total insanity. And I used Step 3 so that I could turn this over and know that if I just hung in there and allowed Him control, knowing my way doesn’t work, He would be with me. This is how I quit smoking. This is how I remain smoke free.
This is not about self-control. Perhaps if nicotine were my only addiction I would have done things different. Quitting cigarettes was as difficult as getting sober and at times more so. I have and continue to have cravings I never had with alcohol but I know one thing for sure. If I remain teachable, willing, honest, open and all of those other principles important to recovery, I can continue to be smoke free. It is definitely a one day at a time deal. If you are in recovery and want to quit smoking, you don’t have to follow any of my suggestions. I hope, though, that you will use the steps and a Higher Power to guide you through. We will never be perfect but one less addiction can raise us to an even higher level of gratitude for the gifts we have received.
Namaste’. May you walk your journey in peace and harmony.
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