My Blog Motto

"Good judgement comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgement"

~Rita Mae Brown

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I quit smoking and placated my Shadow.

I've done It several times before, which tells you that I didn't always stick to it. It was always something stressful that gave me the excuse to start again, a crisis, a new job, a new boyfriend (who smoked) all convenient invitations to fall back on a familiar means of coping. Like any other addiction true recovery is achieved when we have invested our energies in adopting other ways of coping with triggers. And once we have created those habits we must decide definitively that the old ways are no longer an option. There are some substances and behaviors that I have placed into the never an option category. These are the methods that for me carry so much risk with them that any perceived benefit is heavily outweighed. One of the risks that I have deemed unacceptable is the knowledge that I would not easily or willingly surrender the vice once I had picked it up. Some chemicals or situations are just that seductive and once their claws are embedded in your soul their removal is both terrifying and painful, as is there continued presence. Cocaine is probably the best example of such a substance, for me anyway. Dangerous relationships with unpredictable men is another. Once I go willingly into either of those traps I surrender more than my freedom, I surrender too much of my Self. There is some safety in knowing this about myself, knowing I will never allow myself to lose that much of Me again.
Smoking hasn't hit that level of classification yet. I don't know it it ever will. Indeed it doesn't carry the immediate dangers that the other two possess and maybe that's partly why. Another reason is I need to feel somewhat at least, in control of my choices. Right now I choose not to smoke and for many good reasons. I do have, in the back of my mind, the caveat that I could some day choose to smoke again if I wanted to. It's not something I dwell on but it's there in the shadows like a safety valve.
I don't know if most people in recovery do this, categorizing different substances or behaviors into levels of avoidance but do know some people who do. People who follow strict recovery programs tend to be more rigid in their self regulation, and that works foe many people. But what works for some does not work for all. There is no one size fits all for abstinence and recovery.
Substitution is another issue in the recovery process. Just as some heroin addicts will refuse to use methodone or suboxone to transition off opiates, some smokers see cold turkey as the only way to quit. I have been using nicotine gum to get me past the really bad cravings. I will move on to plain gum or candy as I eventually have removed the habitual part of smoking from my routine. As a cost I will have to undergo a little more withdrawal as I eliminate the gum from my daily routine. For me that's okay. Others would prefer to get it all over with at once and for them that's okay too.
One thing I do know, based on this experience with quitting and with all the others that came before is that changing a habit means parting with a little piece of Me. There is a part of me that is associated with smoking and there is another self image that is a non smoker. Naturally the Smoker is a reflection of my Shadow self and the non smoker is a more mature Wise Woman Self. I do strive to be that Wise Woman, but sometimes I have rather high expectations of her and that is something I have to keep in check. Wisdom does not equal perfection, but rather is a condition of knowing how to gracefully negotiate imperfection. In mastering this quality there is room for acknowledging and managing the Shadow in all her manifestations (because after all smoking is only one of her manifestations). I do acknowledge that I like the cocky, snarkey somewhat bitchy bit of me that likes to smoke. She just doesn't give a shit about what anyone else thinks, she's that kind of girl. She's sassy and spunky and she is a tough defense against the things that might hurt or make me feel vulnerable. We need those defenses sometimes. But we can also summon them in other ways. In fact I know in my heart that that which protects me from emotional harm does not need to sacrifice compassion in doing so. The non smoking Me can do that. The non smoking me is more compassionate because she cares about my health and she cares about my children and grandchildren and doesn't want them to learn from me that smoking is a way to cope with stress. In fact that Compassionate Wise Woman has been growing stronger within me ever since I quit using street drugs years ago. Smoking was part of the deal I'd offered my Shadow when I gave all that up. It was so easy to rationalize smoking because after all 'at least I'm not doing cocaine'. So that worked for a while. But now enough time has elapsed and I have become more comfortable with other wiser and more compassionate parts of myself that we can let go of this one more thing.
Please know that what I am explaining is my personal journey with all the parts of Me. It will be different for everyone. I do hope that no one reads this and comes away from it with the notion that I said that smokers cannot be compassionate or wise. I think most of you are more clever than that. I also know that there will be some people who this resonates with, people who relate to the different personalities or manifestations of personality that we all have within us. We all have our own inner crowd of characters and our own ways of communicating with them. It's how we solve our problems, how we make our decisions about what is right for us at any given point in our lives. If you don't consciously do this I highly recommend it. It can be fun. You can even give parts of you different names, make them into characters as you would if you were writing a story. Draw pictures of them if you are the type who likes to draw. Or if not you could even find pictures in magazines that might represent different faces of you. This kind of thing doesn't resonate with everyone and that's cool too. I just know for me it is something that has helped me make changes through most of my life...and I have made some pretty significant changes over the years, but I have always managed to keep my sense of Me, the sum of my parts, intact. 


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