Zen of the Quit


Choose Your Pain


One of the strongest motivations for humans and other conscious beings is the avoidance of pain. In fact, chances are that the avoidance of pain was the primary reason we continued to smoke for as long as we did, in spite of plenty of evidence of the bad consequences of doing so: we didn’t continue to smoke because we wanted those bad consequences for ourselves, we continued to smoke to avoid the pain of withdrawal.

But pain is also a useful thing: it’s our body’s way of letting us know that something’s wrong. The severity of the pain can tell us how urgent the problem is and how bad the damage might be.

Pain is also inevitable; nobody goes through life without experiencing pain.

As it relates to quitting smoking, there are basically two kinds of pain, and we get to choose which one we’d rather go through: the pain of change or the pain of regret.

The pain of change (i.e., the pain of withdrawal) can be intense for us; for some, it may be the most intense pain they’ve ever experienced. But it’s also temporary: in a short time it will be over, and as long as we never feed our addiction again, we’ll never have to go through it again.

But if we’re not willing to endure the pain of change now, we’ll almost certainly have to endure the pain of regret later. And it will affect not only ourselves, but all those people whose lives we touch in one way or another.

Because in our case, the pain of regret may hit us when our doctor tells us that we have lung cancer and that we’ll have to have part of a lung removed (or worse).

In our case, the pain of regret may hit us while we’re undergoing chemotherapy. Or when we find ourselves on our deathbed.

And when we encounter the pain of regret, we’ll probably wish that we had gone through the pain of change back when we had the chance to do so voluntarily:

“If only I’d quit when I found out about the emphysema…”, “If only I’d stuck with that program…”, “If only I’d resisted the urge to smoke that one cigarette…”, “If only…”

Those two words may be the saddest words of all: “If only…”

The saddest thing about them is that by the time we’re saying them, it’s usually already too late. And how are you going to explain to your kids that mommy or daddy just didn’t have the courage to face the pain of change back when it could have made a difference?

How are you going to explain to your parents that because you couldn’t face the pain of change, they’ll now have to face the pain of attending their own child’s funeral?

How are you going to explain to your family, friends and loved ones who will be watching you die a slow, horrifying, painful death why you chose to leave them with such a gruesome set of memories of you to carry with them the rest of their lives?

How are you going to explain that?

Personally, I never wanted to have to try. That’s why i chose the pain of change way back in November of 2001. That pain is a long way behind me now, and I have no regrets on that score.

More on this as we go on.

(If you're feeling a bit lost, it may be helpful to go back to the first post and follow along in order.)

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