525,600 Minutes Smoke-Free and Counting

Declan's One Year Smoke-Free Milestone Message

Ascent Xmedia/Taxi/Getty Images

At one year smoke-free, Declan shares how important a community of ex-smokers was for his recovery from nicotine addiction.

From Declan (Forum ID: Horusd):

I'm 525,600 minutes smoke-free which is a roundabout way of saying I've been smoke-free for one year.  

On the 25th of May 2012, I had a minor stroke whilst shopping. 

Suddenly my voice was slurred and I couldn't take the credit card from my wallet.

 I later realized that I couldn't write properly anymore, either. The reality of a stroke brought mortality sharply into focus: MRI scans, heart and lung scans, CT scans, carotid artery duplex scans,a plethora of new words added unwillingly to my lexicon.  I also learnt to sleep with the phone beside the bed "...just in case ."

Ah, the joyful insanity of this self-inflicted terror, I had smoked two packs a day for 20 years or so. I continued to light-up whilst awaiting test results. Crazy, just plain crazy. I can see that now, but I didn't want to do anything about smoking then, didn't want to think about it at all until I was confronted with a potentially fatal event.

I would mentally "hum" to block out the shrill warning voices telling me to stop, warning that smoking was killing me.  I told myself (and others) in that jokey sort of way that  "didn't everyone have to die of something?"  

In blocking out any debate about smoking, I never even considered that smoking might leave me disabled - perhaps catastrophically disabled.  I'm still a reasonably young and active man, but my addiction and my denial precluded any real and honest appraisal of my chronic addiction until it was slammed into my face, and boy am I glad it was slammed into my face so that I might have a second chance.

Second chances need to be grabbed with both hands, but I wasn't sure I could do that. 

I knew I had to give up but I knew I couldn't envision life without cigarettes. What a terrible dilemma!

As a two pack a day smoker, I got edgy if there were only 9 or 10 in the box whilst simultaneously denying the extent of my smoking. Denial really isn't a river in Egypt;  junkie thinking is central to denying the truth or evading it, or indeed of minimizing it so that active addiction may continue unimpeded.  I had to co-operate with addiction so that I could remain an addict; I had done that all my adult life.

Could I now confront my truth squarely and find an answer for myself? This is a task I think we all may face, we may be glad of the chance to face it when the alternative is death or chronic permanent ill-health! I could have just died of the stroke and that, friends and neighbors, would have been that.  There is a wide gap between getting a second chance and  actually taking it;  for that, I needed help.

The darkest time really is before dawn.  

I was sitting in my room a year ago nervously looking at  quit sites; I found this one and started reading. I joined the forum, posted what was happening and Frank (Foster) reached out the hand of help telling me I could do this.

So, on 21st of June 2012 at around 11.30 am, I stubbed out my last cigarette and strove towards freedom using  ( albeit controversially) an e-cigarette, patches and  one minute at a time.  As an ex-drunk,  I realized I could apply the same principle  that I had used in AA, I could just stay 'smober' just for now, I don't need to tackle all of my life at once.  Eating the elephant can be done successfully one chunk at a time.  I was off all nicotine products within a month.  

Forum members gave me the best tip for craves, one that I still have no idea how it works, but it does - sip on ice-cold water until the crave passes. Posters  have shared their lives and struggles with me and I with them and in doing this we have kept each other " smober" for just one more minute, and sometimes I can only stay 'smober'  for a minute! AA says that the only way to stay sober is to keep giving it away,  and all of ye and indeed "us" prove this point time and time again. 

The only wisdom I have is what I have learned here, and that is to keep the quit in the moment, to accept life on its terms as it happens, to share and support others, to reach out to offer or ask for help, to reject denial and try to speak the truth plainly, to continue to be a member of this wonderful fellowship of ex-addicts.   I came onto this site a fearful, terrified addict afraid to stop and terrified not to, I found support and real friendship and fellowship. 

There is a depth of gratitude due to you all; each and every one.  As I type this I picture you all around the world, some nearby in the UK, and those thousands of miles away in the US or Canada or Australia or South Africa.  I know that I share a part in your lives as you do in mine.

Each morning we renew the commitment to freedom in our NOPE (not one puff ever) pledge and hold the banner of freedom from this noxious killer to those who will come after us;  those who wait tentatively, fearfully perhaps in the wings, wondering if they can ever find freedom. We are the light that tells them they can! 


Continue Reading