written at the beginning of my eighth month of freedom from smoking and originally posted on june 19, 2002, this tale talks about fear, and how it can be transformed into a force for positive change.

fear revisited

2009 February 15

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

i’ve come to find a quiet strength in repeatedly facing my fears, accepting them, and choosing not to let them rule my actions.

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.

kevin - day 213 (seven months!)

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