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Living Smoke Free – I did It My Way

It was the fall of 1996 and I had decided to finally stop smoking. I smoked for over 20 years and enjoyed everything about it: the scent, the camaraderie in smoking circles, the self-contained privacy of a good cigarette and the sensuality. Yes, I loved everything about smoking and still do — I just don’t smoke anymore. No one was more surprised than my family when I stopped. I was a staunch advocate of smokers’ rights and very much enjoyed my habit and its routines. When asked why I stopped smoking, my response is the same now as it was then: it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

When I realized it would soon be time to stop smoking, I approached the release process with some holistic healing ideas I had explored over the last few years. If I was going to succeed at not smoking, I would have to ignore the propaganda about smokers, i.e., people who smoke, and cigarettes. As a stereotype, the word smoker carries numerous negative emotional and mental associations and as a declaration of free will, I released myself from this identity. The idea of “quitting” something is usually classified as an undesirable act as well. To mentally facilitate my decision, I also shelved the “quitting” approach. I set about cultivating a mental and emotional movement away from being a smoker to someone who smoked and in the process, freed myself from psychological barriers that were likely to complicate my progress.

I affirmed that I was a valuable person who simply chose to enjoy cigarettes, nothing more and nothing less. After all, without Prohibition, people who drink alcohol are acceptable and because of a simple change in politics, I saw no reason to accept the mainstream Society’s attempts to brand me as some alien life form on the sole basis that I smoked tobacco. Though I never did berate or hate myself for smoking and encouraged others who wanted to stop smoking to discontinue that toxic practice, I concluded that in order to succeed with my goal, I would need to cultivate the most powerful force in existence — love. I immediately discarded any ideas that elicited even one iota of guilt for enjoying cigarettes, or fear of some physical disease as motivation to stop smoking. Both fear and guilt require reinforcement to maintain their life span and hence, motivating power. Love on the other hand, is self-contained, self-supporting and self-perpetuating.

I took a good look at cigarettes and their role in my life. I realized these rolled-up tobacco packets were friends — yes, friends. I loved my cigarettes like a best friend. These dried plant sticks were with me through good times and bad; whether or not they approved of my actions or decisions, and were never too busy to talk or hold my hand when I needed a friend. In essence, cigarettes were always there for me no matter what. As friends then, I recognized each one for the service it provided me. I showered love upon these little tobacco leaf bundles and with gratitude, acknowledged the important role they had played in my life. And, like any other inevitable parting, I gradually said good-bye to my dear friends — not with guilt, hate and disgust, but with grace, appreciation and Love. Through this path, I empowered my stop smoking decision from a place of purposeful choice.

The night I smoked my last cigarette, I made a 72-hour bar graph to mark my progress since this period is particularly critical. The first 24 hours were easy; the next 48 hours were more challenging with physical withdrawal symptoms. I drank lots of water and pure fruit juices. I played with my cigarettes, went outside for breaks, something I discovered I greatly enjoyed and saw no reason to discontinue simply because I had given up the habit that required it, and played with burning cigarettes in an ashtray while I talked on the phone. Simply having the smoke around me was enough to soothe my desire until I no longer needed the burning cigarette ritual. I continued to carry cigarettes and a lighter for 3 more years recognizing that not smoking was always by choice and that if I really wanted a cigarette, I could have one.

While there are now options like nicotine gum available to aid in non-smoking, I did not know of anything but the patch in 1996, and I had seen what those could do to someone’s skin. Having recently begun exploring flower essence therapy, I decided to add some additional self-support with a few select essences. Flower essence therapy was initially discovered by a British physician named Edward Bach and the original flower essence line is still known today as Bach Flower Remedies. Flower essences are the result of infusing a flower’s signature into water primarily via solar heat. This mother tincture is then diluted and potentized and the result preserved with brandy, apple cider vinegar or glycerin. The water molecules become a carrier for the flower’s infused energy signature and these attributes are then delivered to the recipient either orally or topically. In a nutshell, flower essences work with emotional, mental and spiritual components and are a non-invasive and very safe therapy. Flower essence choice is important as effectiveness matches the mutual resonance chord struck between issue and essence. As such, if a non-matching remedy is used, the essence has little if any impact. This aspect of flower essence therapy provides a safety net unheard of with conventional drug therapies, including nicotine substitute options.

Researching with a “stop smoking” focus, I selected four flower essences to form my support community: Nicotiana,
Pine, Holly and Self-Heal. Nicotiana, or Flowering Tobacco, is helpful for cleansing and revivifying the heart forces. Many folks who smoke are sensitive and smoking seems to help ease the powerful feelings and sensations they experience. Other common wounds include the need to move from a survival mode to skillful living and Nicotiana can also help with this. Pine, an original Bach remedy, is indicated for guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Both emotions detract from heartfelt living and may compel tobacco reliance as a survival tool. Holly is a beneficial essence since it supports the heart area and its ability to express and receive love as well as providing an opportunity to gain a transpersonal perspective on love.

Many that smoke have a profound ability to love but this capacity is censored from fear of being hurt or because of perceived early life betrayals. Many cigarette devotees also seem to share a common theme that they are somehow defective. As a result, authentic self-expression and its creative power, heart chakra doctrines, are stifled due to
survival concerns. Holly flower essence can reestablish Self integrity and dissolve this bondage. Self-Heal, an FES Quintessentials flower essence, is a wonderful all-around remedy. It grants strength and connection to our own powerful inner healing components. I recommend this essence for virtually every situation as it supports all other essences in addition to being its own dynamic healing agent. Taken 4 times a day for 12 weeks, these flower essences carried me through this transition.

As I encountered the world nicotine-free and grieved the loss of my friends, a re-integration period was required. Over the course of several months, I engaged another dozen flower essences to assist in various aspects of this process. Some of these included Dogwood, Olive and Dandelion remedies. After 19 years, I still keep a bottle of Five Flower Formula, the equivalent of Dr. Bach’s Rescue Remedy, around for stress and other emotionally-challenging times finding it an effective antidote regardless of the stress source. While there are moments when I consider striking up my friendship with cigarettes again, with the help of flower essences and loving choice, as of today, I still live smoke-free.