GUS (Gave Up Smoking) is a community support diary for Kossacks in the midst of quitting smoking. Any supportive comments, suggestions or positive distractions are appreciated. If you are quitting or thinking of quitting, please -- join us! We kindly ask that politics be left out.
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A message to ALL quitters. You don't have to avoid GUS if you have a failed quit. We won't give you a bad time and we consider the failed quits as "practice" for the real quit.
So every year around this time, I end up writing a GUS diary that explores the issue of New Year's resolutions and the behavioral changes required to stick with them, specifically when it comes to ditching the smokes. This is last year's effort, for example, and here's one from the year before, aaaaaannd so on. Now here it is, 2013 (!) and it's déjà vu all over again.
Now none of these pieces are particularly groundbreaking, but there's a good reason I keep looping back on this topic every January: you can pretty much count on people making resolutions at the start of a new year, and---almost without exception---you will shortly thereafter find people struggling to keep those resolutions. You may even be one of those people...and it may not be your first time at this particular rodeo, either. Statistically, odds are decent that one or both of those descriptions might apply to you.
That's not necessarily a bad thing, mind you...if anything, it means you're in good company, as the majority of people who eventually quit usually take a few tries (seven, on average). It's totally normal. It's human. It's not something we're going to judge you for, especially since most of us who've successfully quit took a few tries to make it stick. It doesn't mean you're a failure, or that you've made a mistake in even trying to change. In fact, the only mistake you may be making is doing the same thing over and over and never learning from the unsuccessful attempts. That's what you want to avoid.
We tend to like fresh starts, and the new year is a wonderfully convenient blank slate few of us can resist. We also, compulsive souls that we are, often try to take on too much, or make too drastic a change, or to make all kinds of simultaneous changes, in some misguided---and probably doomed---attempt to change our lives from the ground up (or the top down), RIGHT NOW AND ALL AT ONCE, and then wonder why it all goes wrong.
It goes wrong for a lot of reasons, actually, and while those reasons may be different for each of us, there's a surprisingly common reaction to a slip-up: we declare our efforts a total failure and use it as an excuse to go right back to where we were before stopping, and to resume our old patterns for some indefinite length of time. Because we "failed," or whatever self-defeating little script that runs in our heads when we mess up or don't accomplish what we set out to do, why bother even trying? We might just fail again...heck, we will PROBABLY fail again. And for some reason---possibly due to an unhelpful combination of physical misery, addictive relief, and underlying guilt and self-recrimination---we can't even IMAGINE trying to quit again right away.
And that's our first mistake.
This is why so many folks struggle so hard, so many times, and why some never manage to make it off the hamster wheel of addiction. Most of us forget that trying the same thing---and having the same failure response to it over and over---requires a re-think of approach, and not just in terms of letting go of negative internal scripts, re-evaluating our quitting method, or other external factors. Successful behavior modification also involves a willingness to get right back up and try again, right away. Don't fall into the trap of using a slip as an excuse to abandon the effort entirely, or even to postpone it indefinitely. This applies right across the board, in all kinds of behavior modification efforts:
Don't use a missed workout as an excuse to ignore that shiny new gym membership; just go back the next day, and the next, and the next.
Don't use a failed attempt at organizing your home or workplace as an excuse to let the piles take over indefinitely; break it down into manageable tasks and start chipping away at it every day. Something is better than nothing.
Don't use a fast-food dinner as an excuse to bail on a healthy eating plan, or wait another week (or month, or year) to start over; get up the next day and start fresh.
It's the same with quitting: don't use a slip as an excuse to buy a pack, or a carton...just regroup, forgive yourself for being human, try to make note of the thing that triggered your use (and if it's generalized "stress," well, that will always be around, and you need to work out ways to cope with it that don't involve setting tobacco on fire and smoking it!), have a plan to do something different the next time it comes up, and give it another shot. Rinse, lather, repeat. We're all different, and we may need to use different methods and approaches to get where we're going, but there is that one thing successful quitters have in common: they kept trying until it stuck. I'm pretty sure you can, too.
Who's your little buddy?
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