written on the occasion of reaching 22 months of freedom from smoking (originally posted on september 19, 2003), this is a ramble about taking responsibility for the choices you make and admitting that there's no such thing as an irresistible urge to smoke.

there’s no such thing as an irresistible urge

2009 February 26

on the first day of my quit, november 19th, 2001, i had moments when i wondered if i could make it through the next 22 minutes without a smoke — i'm sure it never occurred to me that there'd come a day when i could say i'd made it through 22 months without one...

if you just admit to yourself that there’s no such thing as an irresistible urge to smoke, that one act pretty much removes all your junkie’s excuses for relapse.

but i did make it. this is that day.

how did i do it? by choosing not to feed my addiction to nicotine, every time i was given the opportunity to make that choice:

whenever i felt stressed, or angry, or lonely, or tired, or bored — in other words, whenever i got the urge, no matter the underlying stimulus — i'd choose not to smoke in response to it. because one of the simple truths about quitting is that the urges will go away whether you feed them or not.

another of the simple truths about quitting is that there's no such thing as an irresistible urge.

even heavy smokers can resist the urge to smoke if they choose to do so. we've all experienced this, haven't we? that endless staff meeting, that trans-continental flight on a no-smoking plane, that unexpected stay in the hospital... if the urge was truly irresistible, we would've smoked in any and all of those situations in spite of the rules against it. but we didn't.

why? because the social pressure against smoking in those situations was stronger than our urge to smoke, so we chose not to smoke in spite of the urge. and what happened to the urge to smoke every time we chose not to respond to it?

it went away. all by itself.

and guess what? when you quit smoking, the same thing will happen. if you just admit to yourself that there's no such thing as an irresistible urge to smoke, that pretty much removes all your junkie's excuses for relapse. it forces you to take responsibility for the choices you make. and knowing that the urge will go away anyway — whether you feed it or not — makes the choice pretty simple, doesn't it?

in the early days of my quit, one of my favorite mantras was, "the urge will stop whether i light up or not". realizing this fact, and accepting responsibility for the choices i made, good, bad, or ugly, have been the keys for my successful long-term quit.

look at your urges as the positive events they actually are: every time you get one, you're given the opportunity to reinforce your freedom by choosing not to smoke. and like everything else, making that choice gets easier every time you do it.

choose life!

kevin - grateful to be in my 670th day of freedom today!

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