my 19-month ramble (originally posted on june 19, 2003); this ramble talks about fear, and how it can be transformed into a force for positive change. it also reminds us to welcome our cravings for the opportunity they represent: the opportunity to choose life.

don’t fear your craves

2009 February 24

i wrote the following a year ago today:

if you choose to respond to your craves by feeding them, you strengthen the addiction and make it harder to choose not to feed it again the next time. on the other hand, if you respond to your craves by choosing not to feed them, you weaken the addiction and make it easier to choose not to feed it again the next time.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear."
  - Ambrose Redmoon

when i was preparing for this quit, my greatest fear was that i would fail. that i'd cave in to the temptation to have "just this one". that i'd relapse, as i had countless times before in my thirty-year struggle with this addiction.

and on my ninth day, i made a post in which i attributed my success to that point to a different fear: the fear that if i allowed myself to relapse, i'd never be able to quit again. you see, somewhere along the way, i read something that either suggested or stated outright that it's possible to reach a point where it becomes physically impossible to quit smoking; where the demon has been so well-fed, so nurtured, so protected and cared for, for so long, that it finally gets too strong to overcome.

i didn't know if that was true, but i remembered seeing my father sneaking a cigarette just days after he had half a lung removed due to cancer. now, my father wasn't a stupid man (far from it; he was a brilliant engineer, well-respected nationally and internationally in his field), nor was he a weak man. but he had smoked for 50 years (and had made numerous attempts to quit), and i guess i thought that maybe he had reached the point where it was simply impossible for him to quit again; that his demon had grown too strong.

at that early point in my quit, the memories of days one, two and three were fresh in my mind, and i couldn't imagine anything harder than what i'd gone through in those first few days; i truly believed that if i started smoking again, i'd never be able to force myself to go through that again.

and that thought scared me to death.

at the same time, interestingly, i was starting to get comments - from people getting ready to quit, from people just starting their walk down the road of freedom like i was, and from people well into maintaining their quits - that my honesty, my passion and my commitment to remaining smoke-free were an inspiration to them. and while it felt great to get that kind of positive feedback, in a way, i felt like a fraud; to my ear, some of those comments made it sound like i was some kind of hero, or like i had superhuman strength of will, but that's not how i saw myself.

all i saw was my fear.

i wrote on day nine:

it's this fear, rational or not, that's been responsible for my success in staying away from cigarettes for the last 9 days, and nothing else. i'm no hero. i'm no superman. i'm nothing special. there's no nobility in abject terror, but that's my secret formula; i'm terrified.

and i was terrified. every day.

but somewhere along the way from then to now, a slow transformation has been taking place: fear is no longer my motivation. i've come to find a quiet strength in repeatedly facing my fears, accepting them, and choosing not to let them rule my actions; in repeatedly facing my addiction, accepting my powerlessness over it, and choosing not to feed it, just for today.

i've also come to realize the truth of the quote that starts this post; i still have those fears, but there's something more important to me than they are: freedom. and so, i choose to focus on what i want (freedom) rather than what i don't (fear).

and you can be free, too.

want to know my secret for maintaining a successful seven-month quit? it's simple:

choose life. every day.

a year later, i stand by what i wrote above.

because it's all about choice.

every moment of every day we're faced with choices; what to wear, what to eat, what to say, where to go, how to behave, how to react - the list goes on and on. and, as recovering addicts, we're repeatedly faced with the same extremely important choice; whether or not we're going to feed that addiction.

because addiction is permanent. we will never stop being addicts. but we can choose, and in fact, we must choose, over and over again, whether or not we're going to feed that addiction. every time we get a crave, we have to choose; are we going to ride it out, knowing that by doing so, we weaken the next one? or are we going to cave in and feed the addiction, knowing that, by doing so, we strengthen its hold on us?

there are very few things in life that are black and white; almost everything comes in endless shades of gray. this is one of the few exceptions. if you choose to respond to your craves by feeding them, you strengthen the addiction and make it harder to choose not to feed it again the next time you get a crave. on the other hand, if you respond to your craves by choosing not to feed them, you weaken the addiction and make it easier to choose not to feed it again the next time.

count on this: as an addict, you will get craves. in the early days of your quit, they'll be frequent and strong, but, if you choose not to feed them, they'll get less frequent and weaker. don't fear your craves; welcome them as the opportunity that they are: every time you get one, you have the opportunity to choose between strength and weakness. between freedom and slavery. between life and death.

i suggest that you choose life.

kevin - grateful to be in my 578th day of freedom today!

4 responses leave one →
  1. 2005 April 20
    Tracy (Kissimee) permalink


  2. 2009 February 24

    note: the comment above was left on the original tale at the date and time indicated.

  3. 2009 April 15
    john cassidy permalink

    nice one dude:) this is my 5th day and its goin great!

  4. 2009 October 28
    susan permalink

    but i do fear my craves. it's been two weeks three days, well, if you don't count going through the trash can the first night and finding the smokable butts and smoking them all, first day.
    every day. every day. i fear the craves. i eat, i'm hungry, i can't afford to do that either, i can't afford a whole new wardrobe if i gain weight!! why can't i do something i really like to do? cause i can't afford it anymore! i feel like a boring drone.
    this is not my first quit. not at all. i know how this progresses. it does get better. but, man, oh man...i hate this part.
    how many times have i promised myself...i will never go through that again.
    i can't have just one.
    i want so bad just one.
    woe is me.

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