There are a hundred ways to quit. There’s only one I know of to stay quit and that’s the program of Nicotine Anonymous. You are in a battle for your life. Don’t take it lightly. Use the tools. If you can’t make a commitment to quit, make a commitment to keep coming back. I guarantee it will work.
I was raised in a very sheltered, highly religious atmosphere. It gave me lots to rebel against. And sadly, it provided fertile ground for the roots of my life-long addiction to nicotine.
During my senior year in high school, a friend flew home from California. They not only served a full dinner on air-planes back then, but also gave a sam-ple pack of cigarettes with every meal. The following Saturday night “my crowd” took turns sampling the contents of that pack. As far as I know, I was the only one who enjoyed it. I loved it from the first drag and took the pack home with me. For the next few months I would sneak off with a friend to the shores of Lake Michigan and enjoy an illicit drag or two. Often it was when I was supposed to be at a church function so I was wearing white gloves. I would keep the gloves on while I was smoking because I didn’t want the tobacco to stain my fingers, and when I got home I’d carefully wash the gloves to rid them of the smell.
By the time I moved to California in 1985, I wanted to quit and was in des-pair that I ever could. I worked with a friend who wanted me to quit so badly that she gave me packs of matches with the tips cut off so you couldn’t light them. The company where I worked announced one Friday that effective Monday, we could no longer smoke at our desks. Their experience with me convinced them to pay for any employee who wanted to participate in commercial smoking cessation programs. The cost at that time was about $500 per person. The smoking ban was implemented over a six week period. Many who went through the programs offered did quit, but eventually went back to smoking. I refused to go to any program or consid-er quitting. Shortly thereafter I quit the job and took another one at half the pay. The roots of my addiction in rebel-lion kept me puffing and stuffing.
I tried hypnosis and quit for 24 hours until I had a fight with my son. I had no tools to use when the urge hit and I needed something to stop the pain. I also went to the American Lung Associa-tion cessation program. I learned a lot there about my nicotine addiction and my insanity and I do recommend that type of program. They told me the chances of staying quit are 70% higher if you join a support program that is ongoing. I quit for nine months, but the first time I hit an emotional problem without any tools, I started again. I had taken the first step though - I had learned that my life was unmanageable.
When my father learned I was smoking he told me I could give it up using will power. On three different occasions he gave me a hundred dollars to quit. I took the money and went right on smoking. The only thing he contributed to was my loss of self-esteem. I had no problem accepting that I needed to be restored to sanity.
I said on more than one occasion, “It will take a program like AA for me to quit because I need a cigarette like an alcoholic needs a drink.” In December of 1992 a friend found an ad in the news-paper about a Nicotine Anonymous meeting. I attended my first NicA meet-ing in January of 1993. I thought I walked into the rooms to quit smoking. I didn’t know I walked in to change my life. At my first meeting I interrupted the speaker with questions and learned about no cross talk. At the end of the first meeting I almost bolted when they said the Lord’s Prayer, but I was desper-ate enough to take what I liked and leave the rest. I could only say, “and lead me not into temptation.” I read the questionnaire in the first section of the Nicotine Anonymous book and knew I was just like these people. I heard I had an addiction and will power didn’t help; that instead I needed to surrender to the fact that I was powerless over my addiction. I hadn’t worked the Steps, I didn’t have a sponsor and I didn’t be-lieve in God. I had thrown any depend-ence on God out of my life and believed only in my own power. I said if I love myself enough I can quit. I set a quit date.
The Saturday before my quit date, I woke up in a cold sweat. I was terrified. I was certain I could not quit and would surely die from lung cancer. I had no idea how to live one day at a time and was overwhelmed by fear of living with-out my faithful friend that always made me feel better. About midday on my quit date, I felt something I cannot explain put its arms around me. I heard it say, “Yes, you can do it. You are not alone. You do not have to be afraid.” I believe it was my spiritual awakening.
The first time I heard Step 3, I said, “I won’t give my will & life over to any-thing. I’m raising my children, am fi-nancially stable, I’m a success & don’t believe in God.” A member of the group replied, “If you’re doing so well, what are you doing here?” I heard him. I learned that a Power greater than my-self could be the group until I could be-lieve in “God, as I understood him.”
It took me 6 months to get a 60 day chip. I’d get 2 weeks and go out for 2 weeks. I’d get almost a month and have one and break down sobbing. I raged at my family, my coworkers and myself, but they put up with it and loved me anyway. I got a 60 day chip that had a hole drilled in it. I put it on my key chain so I could see it every day. I chewed on carrots, I chewed on stir sticks. I went to the meeting every Tuesday night. I was the literature per-son, the chip person and the secretary. After a year I finally got a sponsor and my recovery picked up speed. She had me work the 4th Step by making a list of my fears - things I had never admitted to myself. I had to let go of my fear of gaining weight. I admitted that I was afraid of being alone. And then I had to admit my fears out loud to another hu-man being.
When I had been smober for almost 2 years, I moved to a place where there were no meetings. I thought I was safe without a meeting. It took me two years to forget I couldn’t have just one. My addiction was alive and well and I had forgotten that I was an addict. When I was in my first year of smobriety I could not understand how anyone with 2 years could go back to smoking. Now I know it was because they stopped going to meetings. A man named Frank helped me start a NicA meeting in Monterey. I chose another quit date. Frank’s belief that without the program we couldn’t stay nicotine-free has kept me smober for 20 years.
One day I got a call from the chairper-son of the Northern California Inter-group. I started attending the Intergoup meeting in Oakland every month. I was willing to go to any lengths. I went to the Weekend in the Country in Grass Valley in 1997. I helped organize the World Service Conference in Berkeley in 2001. Doing service has kept me smober too.
The last time there were too many things going wrong in my life and I be-gan to forget why I can’t have just one cigarette, I called a long time member of NicA. He said, “Go ahead and smoke. Then you can add one more thing to the list of things going wrong in your life.”
I am forever grateful. At the NicA con-ference in Santa Monica in 2003, I heard Roger F, the founder of NicA, tell his story. I’ll end mine as he did: “Thanks to this program, I have found a new happiness and a new freedom.”
San Diego, CA