written on my 7th anniversary of being quit and originally posted on november 19, 2008, this tale talks about the key to quitting smoking successfully, long term (hint: it has nothing to do with luck).

“lucky” 7

2009 March 2

7 years ago tonight, i was coming to the end of day one for the final time. i didn't realize it at the time, because i'd quit so many times before, it never occurred to me to think of this quit as the one that would finally stick.

no matter what's going on in your life, you always get to choose how you'll respond to the next craving. what you can't do is evade the consequences of those choices.

but it did: i took my last puff 7 years ago last night, threw away 18 and a half packs of newports (yep, that's right; a full carton and most of another), all my lighters and ashtrays and other smoking paraphernalia, and vowed that i would never smoke again.

and i've never looked back, except in shame over how i abused myself for so long before i finally stopped.

you see, i smoked for 35 years, give or take, and did the quit/relapse cycle too many times to even bother counting. before it was over, i'd given myself an advanced case of emphysema that put an end to my career as a performing musician (i was a professional trombonist and singer), and would have, my doctor assured me, put an end to my life, in a very unpleasant way, if i didn't quit, and quit right then.

i took that as a wake-up call, and quit a week to the day after my diagnosis. i haven't had a puff since.

if i had to pick a single factor that made this long-term success possible after so many failures, it would have to be my realization — and acceptance — of the fact that i'm an addict. as traumatic as it is to think of yourself that way, it's also incredibly liberating: because when that crave comes knocking, addicts only have two choices: feed the addiction, or don't feed it.

this is one of the few things in life that are truly black and white: feed it or don't. simple.

and as long as you're clear about the consequences of those choices, and accept the responsibility for making them, you can't make the wrong one.

if you choose to feed the addiction, you strengthen it, you reinforce its control over your life, and you make it that much more likely that you'll cave in and choose to feed it again the next time a craving comes.

this way lies death.

on the other hand, if you choose not to feed the addiction, you weaken it, you reinforce your own control over your life, and you make it that much easier to choose not to feed it again the next time a craving comes.

this way lies life.

btw: i put "lucky" in quotes in the title because luck has nothing whatsoever to do with this process: once you choose to quit smoking, if you ever find yourself sucking on a lit cigarette again, it won't be bad luck that got you into that situation; it'll be a bad choice. your bad choice. your deliberate, conscious choice to start poisoning yourself again. to choose death.

at this point (after having been around the online quit support community for 7 years), i've heard every excuse there is (heck, i've even heard a few that i never used myself in 35 years of serial quitting), but that's all they are: excuses. the bottom line is, no matter what's going on in your life, you always get to choose how you'll respond to the next craving. what you can't do is evade the consequences of that choice. those are yours to keep.

i'd suggest you choose wisely.

i'd suggest you choose life.

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7 responses leave one →
  1. 2008 November 20
    StuartH permalink

    Congratulations Kevin, I have read everyone of your tales several times during the course of my own journey (and the build up to it). They were and continue to be truly inspiring.

    I am now 10 weeks in, and cannot imagine getting to 7 years - but I know I will! Simply by recognising that I am an addict, that I always will be and that I must make the same simple choice everyday - not to smoke.

    You have helped me a truly massive amount, probably more than any other person during this transition in my life - and for that I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  2. 2009 March 2

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

  3. 2009 August 28
    Paul permalink

    Kevin,

    Im 5 weeks into quitting, and the realisation that I am an addict and can never ever have another ciggerette is what has given me the strength to regain my life.

    I always remember working for a cruise line in the states, and I was doing the alcohol/liquor tasting session and a guy came up to the stand, and I said to him "would you like to try some Liquor sir", and he replied "I would love to, but Im an alcoholic. If I drink one, I will drink the whole table, so I can't have a drink, not for as long as I live".

    That always stuck with me, and now i've come to terms with the fact that I too am a addict, I remember his words and gain strength from them in my quit.

  4. 2012 November 16
    John permalink

    I don't know, maybe the 168 days of my quit is just too much. Too much depression , insomnia, anxiety, emptiness. After 44 plus years on nicotine addiction I went on my quit after a stroke, which was caused in all probability by.......you got it, smoking! I read Kevin's rambles and I despair - have I got to go through this hell for the next 7 years!!!!! Please God, help me.........please!

  5. 2012 November 16

    i can understand the frustration, john; it's a challenge to get free and stay free, especially in the early days, that's for sure.

    but i think you're looking at the process in a less-than-useful way: you don't have to do anything for 7 years. in fact, you can't do anything for 7 years: you can only do anything right now. so i'd suggest you stop worrying about what you have to do for the next 7 years, or what you have to go through for the next 7 years. it's not going to help you do what you actually need to do, and that's simple: choose not to smoke, just for right now.

    also, i think you need to read some more before you start to despair: by the time i'd been quit for 7 years, i almost never even thought about smoking at all, much less had anything that might remotely be described as a craving. at this point, i'm a few days away from 11 years free, and i can't even remember the last time i thought about having a smoke.

    here's something to keep in mind: over the last 11 years, i've met, talked to, and worked with hundreds of quitters, and i can tell you, both from personal experience and from the experiences of all those other quitters, that it takes about a year before you really settle into your quit. but once you hit your stride, it's usually pretty smooth sailing from that point on. you're almost half-way there; don't spend any more time looking for excuses to fail. stay focused on staying free, just for right now. don't worry about 7 years from now, don't worry about tomorrow, don't worry about the rest of today, don't even worry about 5 minutes from now. because right now is the only time that you can make the choice to smoke or not to smoke.

    and as long as you always choose not to smoke, at least for right now, you'll always be free.

  6. 2013 January 25
    John permalink

    Kevin, I'm still on the quit, it's nearly 8 months. I continue to read and re-read all of your rumblings. Best reards. John

  7. 2013 January 25

    glad to hear it, john - thanks for letting me know - keep it going!

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