I haven’t had a piece of bread in 17 days, but it’s no big deal. I’m stronger than I think. Hell, I quit smoking. Probably 100 times.
I started smoking regularly when I was 13 years old. I just bought a pack one day, and then I was a smoker. There was no peer pressure. No one was even with me at the store. The way I figure it, I had been second-hand-smoking all my life, so it was just a natural progression.
After a few years, I thought about quitting. After a few more years, I tried. I remember throwing almost full packs of cigarettes in the garbage, only to dig them back out the next day. Then I would break them in half before throwing them away, and buy another pack two days later.
I quit immediately when I found out I was pregnant and I went back to chipping the day I came home from the hospital.
I continued to quit for long stretches at a time.
Every time I had that first cigarette again, it was an amazing experience. The taste. The smell. The familiar feeling of the filter rolling between my fingers. The long deep drag. The holding in. The slow release. The rush of nicotine through my veins. The surge, the calm. The ahhhh. It was like falling into the arms of a long lost lover.
I’m back, baby.
You knew I would be back.
I could never stay away for too long.
For years I managed my addiction. I could go all week without a cigarette and then have one or two on the weekend. Or I would only smoke when I was around other smokers, or only when we went to a bar, or only around a campfire.
I began having a secret affair with cigarettes, like many yogis do (shhh). I would never smoke on the way to a class. The smell of cigarette smoke is deafening in a yoga studio. But a cigarette after class! That was just as satisfying as the cigarette right after a really good… meal.
Since they were few and far between, every single cigarette was like the first one again. Hello, lover. Ahhhhh.
They were so few and far that one day I realized I hadn’t had a craving for weeks. Hmm? I don’t want a cigarette. Strange.
I was out at bars. I was out with smokers. I was sitting by campfires. I was not thinking about smoking at all. Maybe I’m done? Maybe I’m a non-smoker? I thought. And it was the oddest thought I ever had.
To test my theory, one night I walked around the campfire and took a cigarette from a friend. “Don’t do it!” he said. “Just an experiment!” I replied.
I held it between my fingers. I brought it to my lips. I breathed in and… the taste was odd and unfamiliar. The smoke didn’t even make it past my mouth to my lungs. I couldn’t bring myself to inhale it. The thrill was gone.
“That’s it, I’m done,” I said, as I passed the cigarette back. “I’m a non-smoker. It’s really over.”
I never thought it would happen. I knew that since I started moving on my yoga mat, things that didn’t serve me had started to fall away. But smoking? My old friend, had always served me! Hadn’t it?
The physical (asana) practice of yoga had served me well for a few years, but as time went on I realized I appreciated the stillness of yoga much more than the movement. So I began a meditation practice. And very sneakily, the practice of meditation became my new habit.
When I would sit to meditate, I would sit with my breath. The long, deep inhale. The slight pause at the top of the breath. The slow, complete release. It was better than any cigarette I ever smoked.
It was like coming home. But not coming home to an old friend, not home to a long lost love.
Oh there you are. I remember you. Before all of those thoughts, ideas, and habits covered you over… I liked being you. I’m back. I hope I can stay for a while.
I’ve been here for a while. It’s a nice place to be.
In the middle of my annual no booze and no bread challenge, I actually start to wonder if some day I will live a bread-free and/or booze-free life. I will continue peeling away the layers, one by one, clearing the smoke-screen.
“If you do not pour water on your plant, what will happen? It will slowly wither and die. Our habits will also slowly wither and die away if we do not give them an opportunity to manifest. You need not fight to stop a habit. Just don’t give it an opportunity to repeat itself.” Swami Satchidananda, The Yoga Sutras Swami Satchidananda,