Recovery Connections

John Schwary is CEO of Transitional Living Communities, a 850-bed recovery program he founded in Mesa, Arizona January 9, 1992 when he had a year sober. He's in his 27th year of recovery.

In these posts, he views life mostly through the lenses of recovery. While the blog is factual, he sometimes disguises events and people to protect anonymity.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Quitting an Addiction

When I quit smoking at 9:00 a.m. August 25, 1984, it was the most difficult thing I'd ever done. I had tried over and over through the years to rid myself of this deadly habit. I finally did it by slowly reducing the amount and potency of the cigarettes I smoked. On the day I quit I used Nicorette gum to ease the physical craving. After chewing nine pieces I was done. I've never smoked again. Almost 28 years.

This came up for me today because someone near to me is making another run at quitting. She’s tried different methods. Cold turkey. Cutting down. Electronic cigarettes. Shots to reduce the craving. Limiting the number of cigarettes she smokes. Nothing worked.

Then yesterday she said something that made sense. She said, "I've got to face the fact that I can't quit without experiencing some pain." She’d been trying to quit without pain. At that point I gained hope that she’ll be able to quit. Because the reality is that there's going to be pain or discomfort when we give up an addiction.

There are a lot of ways to find motivation. It might be in a desire for better health, more energy, less stress, saving money or protecting those around us from second hand smoke. For me it was knowing I was going down the same path as many of my family members.

Watching them suffer and die from emphysema helped me quit. I lost a 43-year-old cousin to smoking. She spent her last months gasping on an oxygen tank. The same thing happened to an aunt who died at 56. An uncle’s emphysema was so bad he couldn't walk from the front door to his mailbox without pausing to get his breath.  My mother and one of my aunts both died prematurely from emphysema. Same for my brother. I could go on and on with the list of close relatives who suffered and died from smoking. So I was motivated by those near and dear to me.

Quitting smoking is one of the hardest addictions to quit – perhaps harder than quitting heroin. But a healthier life is the great reward.