We tell ourselves we have decided, but oftentimes we don’t mean it. And sometimes, getting to a decision takes practice.
The first time I smoked cigarettes was aged 7. A cousin of the family living next door to us was 14, was cool, and walked into the local supermarket and bought me a pack of KOOL. I smoked them all at once. Well, one after the other.
I went home, and one of my brothers asked me, “have you been smoking?” And I said, “no,” but you can guess what I smelled like. He told our mother, and I was soon over her knees getting a bare-assed spanking with a hairbrush.
Ahh, those were the days! Actually, not. I don’t think I much enjoyed it at the time, and I don’t recall turning it into a fetish either. But here we are some decades later and Mistress has done what my kinky alter ego wouldn’t do, and is turning me into a spanko. I digress.
Our father was a smoker, and when they were still together, so too was our mother. She stopped when they split. But he was still very much in the “do as I say and not as I do,” school of parenting. Smoking was one such vice.
He had offered each of us $100 if we never smoked until we reached the age of 18. One of my brothers, the one who ratted me out, was a bit of a goody-two-shoes. The day that my father told him that he didn’t believe that he hadn’t smoked, and would therefore not be paying him $100, was before my experience with menthol cigarettes. I remember thinking, “well, if he isn’t going to honour the bet, then what the heck.” I might have used different words, and don’t ascribe cause and effect to the incident, but do remember feeling that the only obstacle to me trying smoking was that I might get $100 one day, and since that was unlikely, there were no longer any obstacles. Yes, perhaps an odd way of thinking. But I am a relentless experimentalist. I love new experiences. I am not just willing to try just about anything, but I actively seek it out. My BDSM test surely confirmed that. And Mistress has a vast landscape of unexplored terrain all around us with which to play out her sadistic and kinky fantasies. And indeed, I do not take for granted what a treat it is to work with a Mistress who is willing to “wing it” to this extent—aah, the joys of working with someone who has an innate ability to dominate, someone who is destined to dominate. I digress again.
I started smoking at University because I thought it was terribly cool. Not heavy, but steady, an average of 10 per day. But strong ones. Gauloises, Gitanes, Lucky Strike. Very macho, eh?!
One of my best friends at the time was a much more committed smoker, at least a pack a day, and he was already making it fashionable to try to quit. He was going to therapy for it, hypnosis for it, special massages. He was trying gum, patches, etc. I didn’t know what was so hard about it. At the time I didn’t want to quit.
“If you want to quit, why don’t you just quit?” I asked.
“I’m tyring; I’m addicted,” he whined.
“Come on, it can’t be that hard.”
“It is,” and he told me all the things he was doing to quit. I think he was just seduced by the idea of addiction. He wanted to be addicted, and being addicted to cigarettes was a relatively mild form.
“I think you don’t want to quit.”
“I do.” But I didn’t believe him. And I believed very much that the mind determines. And if you want to do something, really want it, and you mean it to yourself, you will do it. That is as true about weight loss as it is about quitting smoking. Two absolute bed-fellows when it comes to personal addictions and wellness. I wrote about weight loss as a process, not a goal here. Quitting smoking for me was an identical journey.
Maybe my motives were not pure, but I began to quit smoking out of a sense of competition with my friend. Even though I didn’t really feel like quitting, since I thought 10 a day was okay, and I enjoyed it, I wanted to show him, and show myself that I could do it. So, I did.
I quit. For two weeks. And then I started again. My first cigarette or two tasted really gross. That was an important learning. That if you wait long enough, it doesn’t taste good anymore.
I shared my findings with my friend.
“I tried that,” he said, “but the first cigarette tasted really good.” He was also the kind of person who smoked a cigarette the second he got up. I had always had a rule of not smoking before noon. Where these ideas come from I don’t know.
“You should try a little bit longer then, long enough for the nicotine hunger to get out of your system. A month.”
“I can’t do a month,” he said.
“That’s the point. If you could, you could do a lifetime.”
But after a while I started to want to quit, and I too found it wasn’t so easy. I found that I got really good at quitting. I used to joke about that. I had developed a real expertise at quitting smoking. And joking aside, that expertise ultimately gave me confidence that I could do it. I would quit for two weeks, sometimes a bit longer, but then start again. I continued smoking on and off through my early working years, through grad school and back onto the career ladder. All the while getting better and better at quitting. Or so I told myself.
My SO smoked too. Lightly, like I did. She got good at quitting too. And then one day, she and I both were just fed up with smoking and so we agreed to stop. And at that moment, I knew it was going to be easy. Because I had finally decided. It wasn’t the power of the pact, or that there was some special event, or that it was a togetherness thing. It was just that I had finally found my way to genuinely not wanting to smoke anymore.
So, I stopped. And that was that. It worked. But It wasn’t an achievement. It was a decision. Often doing difficult things is just a case of making up your mind.
You can decide to give up an addiction. You can also decide to grow. You can decide to get fit, to lose weight, or whatever.
A decision creates breathing room for action and results soon follow.
What are you going to decide to do today?