Happy Wednesday, Wonderfully Witchy people!
I know, I know – it’s been awhile! As you can probably tell from the title, I’ve been dealing with some major transformation (thanks, eclipse energy!)
So let’s get right into it: until this past September, I was a heavy smoker. Let me tell you, it felt so awkward to travel in the circles that I do – going to women’s yoga classes, group meditations, health and wellness fairs – only to, at some point, go outside and smoke. I felt exposed out there, actively doing something that was so not for my highest good while everybody inside got their om on.
It was isolating! I mean, I didn’t start smoking as a teenager to fit in, and nobody at these gatherings said anything, but it still felt weird. When I’d started smoking, it was partly because so many of peers were smoking and it was simply there. That’s certainly not the case any longer.
But yeah, my teen years – thank Goddess they’re over – were a time filled with stress, anger, and fear: I was suffering from depression and anxiety and didn’t have access to treatment. I was hurting and confused, the way so many of us are when we feel disconnected from ourselves and the world around us. My twenties were also rough; there was a lot of soul-searching, hard lessons, and painful, necessary growth.
When I discovered the value of self-care, it changed everything.
I’d spiraled a few times, courting self-destruction, binge-drinking and self-injuring, until finally, something within me begged me to stop. I went to multiple therapists and got introduced to self-care and self-help books. I dug deep to heal some really stubborn old wounds. I gradually stopped drinking, stopped smoking pot and stopped self-injuring. Real talk: it was a lot of work, but also way worth it.
So, in my late twenties, I kept trying to quit smoking. I’d quit these other things, after all! But it was frustrating. It would last until the first time I got stressed, or had too much brain fog, or felt too anxious. The truth was that I wasn’t ready. I was being driven by shame and frustration with myself.
I wasn’t ready to quit smoking until I could admit that it was an old addiction, born out of old fears.
So, that’s great. Dealing with the physical symptoms of withdrawal and unpacking all of the psychological baggage that came along with it? Sign me up!
I tried a nicotine patch for the first day, but it wouldn’t stay on, and I got frustrated. Screw it, I said to myself. If I’m going to suffer anyway, I’ll just get the withdrawals over with. For the first week, my muscles ached, I couldn’t sleep, and I cried spontaneously. These were not elegant, Beyoncé in the video for “Why Don’t You Love Me” tears, but full-on, whole-body sobs.
I was so confused that I brought it up with a friend who had recently gotten sober. They said that everything I was feeling was totally normal, that they’d been through the same, that addiction was inextricably tied to our memories. That addiction shapes us in ways we don’t even realize.
Quitting smoking made me realize a lot of things about myself: I had used smoking to hide from people by putting up a ‘smoke screen’. Um, hello, #EmpathProblems! I’d also similarly used it to guard myself from uncomfortable feelings, turning to cigarettes to calm myself down.
I’d cry. I’d crave. I’d remember. I was doing much more mental and emotional releasing than I’d ever thought went along with quitting smoking.
Ultimately, quitting smoking was a journey into self-forgiveness.
I forgave myself for not finding better coping mechanisms. I forgave my life circumstances. I forgave myself for wanting to self-destruct. I forgave my angsty teenage self.
I’d only quit for about a week when self-help pioneer Louise Hay passed on.
I had discovered Louise through a friend when I was in my early twenties, but had initially dismissed her work. I prided myself, at the time, on being “rational”. I didn’t need any new agey self-help stuff! (It is SO FUNNY to think about who I was then and who I am now).
It wasn’t until I was taking those steps into self-care that I revisited her work. I found myself immediately consoled by her gentle words and the soothing sound of her voice – both in book and audio form.
We have always needed gentle voices like Louise.
It’s not as though gentleness means denying the harshness of reality. Rather, all of this talk – self-care, self-help, healing – means recognizing that the harshness of reality isn’t all that there is. Self-care, self-help, and healing are all ways of maintaining ourselves and our world. It enables us to do things like quit smoking, admit our mistakes, find better ways to cope and – hopefully – grow and thrive.
This, of course, is a lesson that I learned from Louise. I am so thankful that we had her as a teacher and healer in this world.
Phew! That’s all for now – Part 2 will be a bit shorter, with some tips and affirmations that helped me quit.