By: Lisa Hicks, RN
The Refuge – A Healing Place
I am not writing this to tell you all the horrible details of smoking because you already have that information. We hear it on the television, the radio and the concerned relative. I am pretty sure it is common knowledge that smoking is harmful to your health. I am not going to bring guilt or shame upon you as many well-meaning people do. However, my intention is to plant a seed of a different thought. You have the choice to water, fertilize and to help it grow. It is completely a choice that you may need time to digest.
I have been a smoker most of my life. I made a choice recently to let go of it. It did not happen overnight, in fact, it took me quite a few years with unsuccessful attempts. In hindsight, I have many observations about myself and my addiction to cigarettes.
I remember while in nursing school, one of my instructors made the comment that, “Smokers have low self-esteem.” I remember that it startled me a bit however; I was not closed off to the thought. I was willing to entertain it. I actually, entertained the thought for many years. It always sat in the backseat of my mind. I wondered if it was true. I wondered how I truly felt about myself. Could I have self-esteem and inhale deadly chemicals into my lungs on a daily basis? It was not a quick process. I had to re-evaluate everything in my life especially myself. I will not lie to you some days were a breeze and others were unbearable.
A friend of mine once told me that she thought the meaning or lesson to life was about love. I like to take it one step further and say that it all boils down to self-love and self-care. As simple as it sounds, it’s all about learning to love and care for you properly. I want to put emphasis on LEARNING as it does not happen in an instant and it is completely a process that we decide to participate in or not. We always have the choice.
I remember years ago when I beckoned on this adventure of self-discovery. I looked into my own eyes in the mirror and said I am going to have a passionate love affair with you. I am going explore the possibilities and wonder of you, Lisa.
The thought crossed my mind, what if our addictions are in our lives to teach us how to truly love and take care of ourselves? It was just a thought and I was open to the answer however it presented itself to me. I decided that day forward to be kinder to myself and handle myself with kid gloves. I gave great thought to this and how to actual do it. The one thing that came to mind is when people I loved and cared about were going through a tough time and beat themselves up I was kind, loving and encouraging to them. I started wondering why I wouldn’t do that for myself. I realized that I was much tougher on myself and that I always judged myself very harshly. Why? Why didn’t I deserve the same compassion that I gave to everyone else? I wasn’t sure, actually I always knew the answer I just wasn’t ready to hear it. I made a commitment to be gentler with myself and whenever I caught myself being rough on me I would counter with love and kindness. I have to admit it was not easy at first. I had thirty-something years on the job of being mean to me.
I started to realize how everything I felt about myself was connected to everything I thought, ate, drank, inhaled into my lungs. I knew as I came further into this experience I would have to be willing to give up cigarettes if I truly wanted to be in a space of love for myself.
I finally felt strong enough to go to the deepest part of my subconscious pain. It had been buried so deep that just the thought of it rumbled my being. I felt nauseated, my hands shook. It was almost like tearing a root from inner most part of my spirit. There, there it is. I am not enough. I cannot do anything right now matter what I do. I know it sounds so simple however I had buried this so deep for such a long time. It became its own life force and I was its electric company, free of charge.
I had spent the major part of my life guarding and protecting this information so that no one would ever know. It all started to become so clear to me. I have used cigarettes as a screen of smoke, to cover all my feeling and emotions. I have used cigarettes to form a smelly layer that stands in between me and others, especially non-smokers.
The way I even would hold a cigarette was a form of protection or even a symbol of a weapon. Stand back, because I can burn you. Who can forget about the guilt and shame that goes hand in hand with being a smoker. I knew how to wear that badge all too well. I grew up in guilt and shame so of course I would bring on more objects to assist in the rooting of it.
My love affair with myself was being directly jeopardized by cigarettes. I was at a crossroads and it was time to let go of that that no longer serves me. I remember it clearly, it was a Sunday. I had four cigarettes left in my pack. I cherished those last cigarettes as I said my good-byes. I thanked each one of them for the lessons they had taught me
The last cigarette I smoked that day was around 6:00pm. I smoked slow and calm. I said out loud, “I release you with love.” “I am willing and open to learning to do it differently.”
I would like to tell you that lightning bolts crossed the sky and fairy dust sprinkled all over me. It was peaches and roses from that day forward however, I would be lying. It was challenging some days more than others. The mind is a power tool that we have in our toolboxes. It is meant to be used. That’s why I had to entertain these ideas because I needed to let them soak into my being. This is just a small part of my adventure out of the smoke. My hope is that some of it resonated with you or struck a nerve so that you will start to evaluate your love affair with cigarettes. The most important part is the self-discovery of love and care for yourself. You are worth the effort.