Ahh smoking. It’s a bitch that’s plagued me for a long time. Those who know me in my professional life are like “Whaaa??” doesn’t even make sense. People who have known me a long time though know my relationship with nicotine.
I started smoking when I was 11 or 12. It was a long time ago. I know it sounds young but I was precocious (just ask my mother) and I grew up with smokers so it was easy to get cigarettes. This is way before they stopped letting kids by cigarettes for their parents at the corner store, most people still smoked inside and well I’m pretty sure Popeye candy wasn’t sticks but ciggies for kids. I don’t recall when I started ‘smoking’ in terms of a commitment but by the time I was in university you better believe those 7 years were fuelled by coffee and cigarettes.
Then I started working in a yoga studio and eventually became a teacher. I also then became a closet smoker. Although smoking wasn’t congruent with anything else in my lifestyle (being vegan, running consistently, teaching and practicing lots of yoga) I loved it because what it was congruent with was helping me deal with the feelings in my body.
I quit smoking 1000s of times and every time I’d tell myself that I would only smoke when I drank. Well I’m not a big drinker but you better believe that I would drink so I could smoke. Craziness. The only time I really went any length of time without smoking was when I was pregnant. It was easy to quit then. Then my baby turned 6 months old. I was exhausted, my whole life was upside down and I was very anxious. Who did I turn to? My old friend the cigarette.
It started out like any good addiction does. A little taste here, a little taste there and soon enough you are jonesing for your drug choice. What was so different for me this time was that I was so AWARE of what was happening. Before I could observe my addiction but this time the actual dance me and nicotine were doing was so much clearer. This time I didn’t like smoking, but I could tell that I was using to deal with my feelings except, and here’s the crucial part, it wasn’t working like it used to. I had become too energetically sensitive to be smoking.
What had happened was it went from stuffing my feelings (smoking is very good at this, want to stop crying? have a cigarette), to making me anxious. I disliked the smell, the way it was making me feel clouded, dehydrated and secretive. So I just decided to stop. What’s so incredible is that it was so easy to stop. I was just over it and it was no longer working.
The real challenge is going to be when I get hit with feelings again, the ones that we get that feel unmanageable. What I love is that for the first time in my life I really feel as though I have outgrown this method of managing myself and I can move onto something more healthy. The choice that I made as a young girl does not have to haunt me, I can make new choices as an adult. This is empowering, especially for those of us who have been carrying a lot of trauma from childhood. We really have to learn that we can still honour the feelings of the little one inside us but now there’s a grown up there to help too.
The main reason too I’m sharing this personal struggle is because smoking nowadays is very frowned upon and this leads people to feeling guilt and shame. I didn’t want to be ashamed that I am a nicotine addict. I wanted to explain that I, as well as others, deserve compassion vs. judgement. I guess too my declaration also makes me human. Even though I teach yoga, study lots, live a little outside the box, I too have skeletons in my closet…and am unabashedly gonna air them out in the hopes that you reader may relate and be inspired to grow on your own path. Isn’t that what we are all here for? Grow, grow, grow.