Part One – Stubbornness
As previously mentioned I am not a fan of resolutions, particularly New Year’s ones, but I do love a good challenge (I currently have 707 members of my paper crane army – I could invade a small, undefended island with that lot). The best sort are those you devise yourself, not necessarily to achieve some lofty aim, but for the sheer satisfaction of just doing it.
Lofty aims are possible though, as I discovered on Tuesday 14th Sept 2004 (about 3:30pm in fact). That was the date of my last cigarette. I did not know it at the time, all I knew then was that it was my final afternoon break at work during which I smoked the last cigarette in my packet. My plan was to pop to the shop on the way home from work to pick up more…I had no intention of quitting.
But it was cold and I was late leaving work so I went straight home.
I am also an insomniac who has battled it for years and who knows, absolutely knows, that the only way through it is to stick to my tried and tested routines. NO caffeinated coffee after 3pm. NO food after 6pm…NO stimulants at all after 6pm…and nicotine is a stimulant. So by the time I got home that night I wouldn’t have had another cigarette anyway, it was pointless going to the shop until the morning.
The morning arrived, along with the usual family duties, rushed breakfasts and hurried starts but I did find 5 minutes to think. 5 minutes to realise that I had just gone 17 hours without smoking AND IT HADN’T KILLED ME (slightly more importantly – I hadn’t killed anyone else in a withdrawal induced rage either).
This is when my stubbornness first kicked in.
Screw you, cigarette manufacturers. If I can go 17 hours maybe I can get to the end of this day too. I was still intending to buy more cigarettes, but a days worth was a financial saving as well as a health one and I needed all the dosh I could get back then.
And I did make it to the end of that day. Maybe it was a particularly busy work day, maybe there was no pressure because I hadn’t told anyone – not even myself – that I was quitting, maybe, maybe, maybe…I don’t know.
Day two was when my stubbornness started ramping up.
Screw you, tabacco giants. Let’s see if I can manage a week…then I’ll buy some. Again, I hadn’t told anyone what I was doing, I wouldn’t have lost any face if I ended up smoking again.
The end of week one was when my stubbornness became my weapon.
Screw you, merchants of death, sellers of coffin nails, liars who put profits ahead of people. I had not had a cigarette for a week and my choice was clear. I could either give into the (mild by now) cravings and hand over my money for the things that were most likely to end up killing me, or I could resist, I could use my stubbornness, be the pain in the arse I sometimes am, use my ‘will not be moved’ trait to beat them.
So I did.
I know that this might not work for other people, but it worked for me. It is for this reason, along with other experiences, that I believe that only two things matter if you want to make changes in your life. The first is timing, it has to be right, but that does NOT mean diets only start on Monday mornings or smoking only stops at New Year. Timing means that you spend your life getting ready for when you are ready. You work on living in ways that suit you, suit your brain and your needs. (For example, if I hadn’t already cultivated a healthy-ish sleep routine I would have needed a cigarette that first evening, instead of being able to easily put off my shopping until the morning).
The second thing is to use what you’ve already got. For me that is stubbornness – focussed in the right direction. Once I made up my mind I was not giving anymore of my hard earned cash to Imperial Tobacco it was pretty much a done deal (although I have agreed with myself that, if I want to, I can start smoking again at age 95). I am sure that my stubbornness has harmed me in the past, I think it has prevented me from enjoying people, places and events that I should have, but it is what got me through when I stopped smoking.
I don’t know what you have, that you could use in this way, but I believe we all have something.