written on the occasion of my sixth month of freedom from smoking and originally posted on may 19, 2002; this tale talks about the huge difference six months of freedom can make in your outlook on life.

six month ramble

2009 February 12

if you could look through the heart of the sun and back six months in time, you'd see the earth hanging in space, exactly opposite where we are right now. and, somewhere on that other earth, in that other place and time, if you looked closely enough, you just might catch a glimpse of the man i used to be:

i felt incredibly strong because i’d made a choice and stuck by it: i chose not to smoke.

a man who couldn't lie down on his back, because the "death rattle" he heard coming out of his lungs whenever he did scared the hell out of him; a man who despised himself for his weakness; a man who hated himself for his powerlessness in the face of his addiction; a man who felt helpless and hopeless, and who wrote in his journal:

i'd go to bed despising myself for my weakness, for my inability to control my addiction to nicotine. and as i'd lay there, listening to my wheezing, labored breathing, feeling as if someone was sitting on my chest, or when i'd wake up choking on the crap that was clogging up my lungs, i knew i was killing myself, but i felt powerless to stop it.

in the morning, i'd wake up feeling drained, rather than refreshed, and i'd dread getting out of bed. as i'd reach for that first cigarette of the day, knowing that that first drag was going to send me into a choking fit that might last for minutes (in fact, there were times when the whole cigarette burned down to the filter as i choked on that first drag - when that happened, of course, i'd just light another one), i'd hate myself for doing what i was doing, but that didn't stop me from doing it.

if you could look back across that six months, and you looked closely enough to find me, and you were really paying attention, you'd also see a man at a crossroads: because six months ago today was "day one" for me. six months ago today i started making a different choice; six months ago today, i started choosing life.

it wasn't always easy, especially at the beginning; in fact, it was incredibly hard at times. but the struggle is so worth it. and the struggle is necessary; it builds strength. it builds resolve. it builds self-esteem. it empowers you. here's a part of my journal entry for day three:

by far the worst times happened during the night between day one and day two; twice that night i woke in a cold sweat, shaking, wanting a cigarette so bad i could taste it. looking back, it felt like the demon was simultaneously tearing at my guts with razor-sharp talons while whispering "sweet nothings" (its deceitful promises of relief) in my ear. i screamed into my pillow, i repeated "liar!" and "no! i will not feed you!" over and over, i grabbed fistfuls of blanket, stuffed them into my mouth and bit down hard as hard as i could on them, i gritted my teeth, i refused to get out of the bed, i tossed and turned and shook like a leaf...

even now, only a few days later, it's hard to recall everything that i went through that night, but i clearly remember thinking it was the worst night of my life. when i woke up the next morning, i felt exhausted, but also exuberant - i had prevailed! i had beaten the demon! it made it much easier to commit to not smoking on day two; i knew that, having gotten through that night, i could get through anything else the demon could throw at me, because he had already done his best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) and i didn't budge. i felt incredibly strong that morning.

i felt incredibly strong that morning because i'd made a choice and stuck by it, no matter what. i chose life. and i chose health. i chose strength. i chose self-control. i chose freedom. i chose not to smoke. and i've been making those same choices every morning for the last six months.

today, i invite you to look through the heart of the sun and forward six months in time; if you do, you'll see the earth hanging there in space, exactly opposite where we are right now. and, if you look closely enough, you just might catch a glimpse of the person you've become...

do you like what you see?

choose life!

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