Transforming Regrets – for my brother.

by jloh

I rarely ever regret anything. But my biggest regret is that my chain smoking and alcohol-abuse in the past set an example for my baby brother to follow. I’m writing this for him before it’s too late.

He’s 6 years younger than me, very good looking, intelligent and sharp. He dropped by my place this morning to pick up some stuff so we got to chatting. He was telling me that he was waking up everyday with lots of flam and facing breathing problems because of smoking. He’s only 26 with the whole world in front of him. He tried quitting but kept going back to it after a couple of days.

He asked me how I did it 3 years ago.

Well, I decided that I was worth it. And I got information, made a plan, prepared for it and then just followed through. I quit on 1st March 2009. Before that I must have tried quitting over 7 times.

People tell me that I am so disciplined and that my willpower is so strong. I believe that is true for everyone if they dig deep enough to discover why they are doing what they are doing. Smokers are disciplined about smoking every couple of hours right? So it’s just a mindset. Just get disciplined about another discipline and then you’ll find that it really ain’t that hard.

Because being disciplined is just choosing consistently the same activity to back up a commitment. The real reason for my stickability to achieve my quit smoking goal is that I was sick of being sick. And sick of being a slave to a toxic substance. And I was a slave – 2 packs a day for the better part of 11 years.

My new commitment to myself was to be well. That replaced the old commitment I held about being a smoker.

I was also unemotional about it. I looked at my body like it was a machine – and did what i needed to do to hard reset it to a much better working condition. If you’re a heavy smoker or been addicted to any substances before you’ll understand what withdrawal symptoms really are – and if you don’t get a hold over your emotions and find some mental anchor to hold on to when your body is racking hell when you quit – it’s going to be so much tougher to get through it.

Non-abusers can never really understand. So yes, I get it. You feel like dying. But that’s better than actually getting to the point that you have to die because of your addiction. And die painfully too.

Think of your body as a machine and maybe it would make as much sense to you as it did for me. You can program and reprogram it. And that’s what quitting a toxic substance is about. It’s a reprogramming of your system. And the process to reprogram it will mean a lot of changes and clearing – there’s no other way.

So here’s what actually happens when you take nicotine into your system. Besides the tens of thousands of toxins that is deposited into your system with every drag – what it actually does is it incapacitates your brain’s ability to produce a naturally-occurring chemical substance in your brain called “Dopamine”. Dopamine is released by our brains naturally to help calm us down when we are stressed, help us focus and generally just relax us.

So your body is smart. When you took your first cigarette it reacted violently to this unnatural and very toxic substance – and when you continued taking it, it adapted to it, and finally, it found a way to make use of it.

The nicotine is a trigger for the production of more dopamine, so your body decided to stop its own production efforts, channeling it instead now to other more pressing needs in other parts of your body (like detoxing now obviously), and just trigger a notice to you in the form of a craving every 30 minutes or so when the dopamine levels in your brain goes lower. And the cravings gets more and more urgent the longer you do not respond to it.

Trust me, I know the feeling. I walked out for about 20 minutes by myself at 3am before years ago when I had a cigarette and no way of lighting it – looking for a lighter. I was almost at the state of panic. That’s actually your brain’s defense mechanism to “protect” you based on the programming you’ve installed in it up to date. Which is nicotine dependent for the nicotine addict.

So in short, the point is to get your brain to start producing its own dopamine again. And to do that, a hard reset is required. That means give it no more nicotine – and your brain will eventually restart its own production of dopamine again.

Here’s some tips that helped me:

1. Total cold turkey from nicotine.
That philosophy worked best for me. That means no nicotine replacement products like gums, patches etc. This forced my brains to get back to work producing its own dopamine faster. A bit more drastic but hey I’d rather get it done faster than slower.

2. Understanding & mentally preparing for the withdrawal symptoms.
The first 3 days will be your worst withdrawal symptoms ever, and the next 7 days your body will go through some massive cleansing so you really won’t feel very well. Healing crisis also starts to happen, means you will smell as your body excrete nicotine from your blood stream, dizziness, migraines, fatigue, etc. But this is normal and necessary – I didn’t know that before so I always caved in around day 4-5 of the quit.

3. Conquering cravings
Another important tip: the craving will be at its most urgent for the first 3 minutes, and then it will subside. It will also be more frequent in the first 3-10 days, and then it really gets less and less, till you don’t get any cravings anymore. That’s just the way your body tries to get you to consume nicotine. Deal with it by drinking water, sucking on gels, etc. Do whatever as long as you don’t inhale nicotine. My mantra that whole time while I was quitting was “I won’t put nicotine into my bloodstream.” It wasn’t even about having a cigarette. That made a lot more sense to me & was a stronger commitment to uphold.

4. Rest
If you can, take 5-7 days off and stay home to rest, sleep, detox and drink lots of water. This was critical to me as my body was being readjusted. It really gets a lot harder if you have to try and operate normally when you are quitting.

5. Prepare
You can never win a war if you don’t plan and prepare for it. My style is to get mental anchors to hold on to – if i can understand something, I can commit to it. So my striving has always been to learn and understand more on the whys and the whats – this website truly helped me get through the whole quitting period, what i’ve written here is my understanding of the facts on this site: – please, check it out. You might find other more relevant pieces of info to help you better.

6. Incremental Progress
Say no – one cigarette at a time. Understand that there will always be people who smoke around you – so there’s no way you can avoid the urges and offers. Don’t avoid it. Face it and master it. It’s much simpler to take it one decision at a time.

One of the best decisions I ever made was to quit smoking. I don’t have to stress on how much I have benefited health-wise. That’s pretty common knowledge.

The real gift was the self-empowerment I achieved for myself by mastering an addiction, and the new-found respect I developed for my body as a miraculous machine, able to heal and regenerate itself without limit.

The absolute knowing that there will always exist in my decision the possibility to transform, grow, heal, and be better – no matter how bad any situation is.

Because with that knowledge comes real joy and real power. That’s what I want for my brother to experience.

And that’s what I want for anyone struggling with addictions of any sort – whether of the body, mind, or spirit.

It is within all our reach – just make the same decision every single time.


PS: Reminder – please visit & pass on this site: Thanks & be blessed!