And I was a chain smoker.
I know those are sickening facts. But here’s another fact: I was an addict.
I tried so many ways to quit. I tried hypnosis (twice), Smokenders, and cold turkey. I tried wrapping a piece of paper and a pencil around my cigarette pack with a rubber band and writing down the time and reason for each cigarette. I tried deep breathing. I ate carrot sticks when the cravings hit.
My husband and MIL sent me articles outlining the grave (no pun intended) results of smoking and second hand smoke. It made me feel awful, but it didn’t help me quit. I felt horribly guilty about what I was doing to my fetuses, babies, children, and husband but I failed at every attempt to quit.
My mother sent me an article about the deep facial lines caused by smoking and I listened to her talk about how smoking made a woman look “hard.” I looked in the mirror and saw my sweet young face and peaches and cream complexion had become deeply creased and hard.
Yet even this blow to my woman’s vanity didn’t help me quit. I didn’t know how to clarify this for my friends and loved ones, but quitting had never been about finding the motivation. I had ample motivation—motivation in spades. It was only about addiction.
Everyone knows that nicotine is addictive, but not everyone knows that the cigarette companies hedge their bets and get customers sucked in really deep by adding chemicals that boost the effects of nicotine, such as ammonia. A list of no less than 599 chemicals were approved by the American Department of Health and Human Services in April 1994.
On Shabbes, it is forbidden to smoke and as a religious Jew, every Shabbes I suffered. I watched the hands of clock and agonized with real physical and emotional discomfort every single week, praying for an end to Shabbes so I could light up. In all those years as a smoker, I never enjoyed Shabbes as the gift it is meant to be, but suffered nonstop for 25 hours once a week.
Go ahead: ask me the question you want to ask. Everyone asks me the same thing, “How did you finally quit??”
Here is what I did.
I googled Nicotine Anonymous and found an online group, since there was, at least at that time, no Nicanon group in my area. I was very lucky to find a sponsor who was thrilled to work with someone in Israel.
Natalie is Jewish and like me, has an interest in Jewish genealogy. We had much in common. It seemed like a match made in heaven.
Natalie gave me an amazing tip that solved my whole problem with quitting. She told me that the cravings only last five minutes, maximum. Natalie told me to feel free to time the cravings.
And so I did. Exactly five minutes. She was right.
The point? You can white-knuckle anything for five minutes. And if you can white-knuckle the hankering for a cigarette for five minutes, you’ve got the addiction licked.
I gave my pack of cigarettes to Dov to throw away, because I wasn’t quite strong enough to throw them away on my own. And I white-knuckled the cravings as they came.
As Natalie had promised, the cravings got farther and farther apart until days went by when I didn’t crave a cigarette even once.
I didn’t stay in Nicanon for the long run, but I am very grateful for what the group and Natalie did for me.
If someone you love is addicted to cigarettes, don’t show them scary articles or nag them. Just offer them Natalie’s advice and your love and support. I wish I’d met her sooner. But I’m lucky to have met her at all.
Thank you, Natalie!