What Price to Save Ourselves?

by Spongebob � 11/20/2002

For over 2 decades, my best quit efforts lasted maybe 10 or so days. Finally, asking myself the right question changed my attitude and made it possible to quit. This quit is not easy, but it is finally in MY CONTROL and (I firmly believe) FINAL.

Previously, I always asked “how can I find the strength to break this addiction? In particular, how can I get through the crushing brain fog that always leads to my demise. I can’t stay quit or start quitting right now because I get too brain-stupid to get any work done.” THAT QUESTION ALWAYS LED ME TO FAIL because (a) it gave me the choice to fail, and (b) it said I had other priorities that I would allow to interfere with quitting.

This time, I asked myself a different question. “IS THERE ANYTHING I WILL NOT DO IN ORDER TO QUIT? IS ANY COST TOO HIGH?” Since nobody was asking me to give up my family, I decided the answer was “NO.” I therefore decided that I WILL INCUR ANY COST WHATSOEVER TO QUIT. If I must, I will use up all my vacation time to get away from the office until the fog lifts. If I have no vacation time left, I’ll call in sick (and I consider addiction withdrawal to be honestly sick). If I run out of vacation/sick time, I’ll ask for unpaid leave until my head clears up and while I practice handling fewer stresses without opening a tin. If I can’t get unpaid leave, I’ll let that job go (and go find a new job AFTER I SAVED MY LIFE). If I can’t afford being on unpaid leave or unemployment, I will swallow my pride and ask for help from family & friends, and I will sell my stupid car/house/stereo while I SAVE MY LIFE.

WOW, once I decided that NO COST WAS TOO HIGH TO SAVE MY LIFE, and that I would GLADLY INCUR THOSE COSTS, my whole mental attitude changed. No longer were there any impediments to quitting. Once that was my attitude, quitting was easier than I had experienced in prior efforts. I did have to cut back on my office time (and incur some temporary pay reduction), but nothing drastic. And in the long run, who gives a damn?

See, the real barrier wasn’t quitting tobacco — the real barrier had been what I had not CONSIDERED doing, or had not been WILLING to do, in order to make quitting the absolute #1 priority.

Another example: does quitting make being around the house unbearable? Negotiate leaving for 2 weeks!!! “Honey, I need these 2 weeks in order to give you the rest of my life. This isn’t a vacation, this is the old ‘stick with me in sickness and in health thing.’ It’s unfair to leave you with the kids, but I will make it up to you, and you will like the new me much better, and I won’t go and get cancer on you.”)

I came to this “At What Price” attitude after my wife died. She had been given a terminal diagnosis from hell with no hope whatsoever (Lou Gehrig’s Disease). We had wished there was something/anything we could do, but there was not. And she had done nothing to deserve it (no smokes, barely drank, exercised regularly, young).

Now here I was, 14 months after she passed away, giving myself my own terminal sentence. But this was a sentence I had the power to stop. My wife had been denied any such power. So, every time I CHOSE to fill my lip, I insulted the memory of my wife. My wife and I would have paid ANY PRICE to save her: sacrificing job, house, friends, etc.

Once I asked “What Price” to save myself, the answers became rather obvious and easy. This quit is not easy, but now it is only a question of time. The fog still lingers some, but now I just ride it out rather than fight it or let it scare me back to the can.

Hey guys, don’t fill the boards with condolences. It’s been 15 months and I’ve come to terms with my loss. But I wanted to share this story to prompt you to ask yourselves, “Is Any Price Too High?” Are you putting artificial barriers (like the job, or conserving vacation days and sick leave, or keeping secrets from your wife) in the way of accomplishing THE MOST IMPORTANT GOAL in your life right now?

Would you quit your job, sell your house and move to a desolate place where you have no friends, all in order to save the life of your child, wife, or father? Of course you would. Now, do whatever you have to do, at whatever cost, to save your own life.

Used with permission from the Quit Smokeless Organization