When you quit smoking, it's not as easy as giving up a vice. You have to become something else. You have to become a non-smoker. Just as the transition of non-smoker to smoker is often a complete life change (the differences being so subtle at first that we do not recognize it as such), so is it from smoker to non-smoker. When you decide you want to quit and you're just in the initial thought processes, you may notice the world around you. Many or all of your friends smoke. Few people you spend time with have made comments, whether good or bad, about your smoking. Most of the places where you go or hang out are smoker-friendly. These aren't coincidences; it's how the smoker world is constructed, just like drugs, alcohol, etc. You surround yourself with people who support or ignore your addiction.

As time goes by in the effort of quitting, it seems like everything in your life is subject to change. You become aware of all the places you can't go or the people you can't hang out with because they all tempt you to smoke. You seem to be tharted on all sides unless you take steps ahead of time. In order to quit smoking and stay a non-smoker, you have to expect most of your lifestyle to change.

I think that this is what trips most people up, aside from the addiction to nicotine. They don't want to upheave their whole lives because they don't see that smoking changed their lives to what they have become. By changing that much, the assumption is that the problem is bigger than it should be. No one wants to do that, and I don't blame them. But to an extent, it needs to be done.

It's the same deal with improving your diet. It can't help but infect your whole life, bleeding into areas you didn't realize were affected and dictated by food. If the reason for improving your diet is to improve your health, it's expected that working toward this goal would cause lifestyle changes.

As I struggle now to quit smoking for at least the fourth or fifth time, I am only now coming to realize what is involved and how hard it is to look at all that and still decide that it's worth going through. We all know how bad smoking is for you, but most side effects do not surface for a long time so that we are lulled into comfort with our environment way before serious physical problems arise. We all know that the short term struggles are nothing compared to the long term gains, but we have a hard time seeing that in any of our struggles, whether it's quitting smoking, college, careers, relationships, etc.

All that aside, I wish that there were something like AA for smokers. There may be an organization like that, but I've never heard of one. Smoking is not treated with nearly the severity that alcoholism is in our society, mostly because, I think, smoking is seen as an addiction that doesn't affect as many people per abuser. For example, a smoker that dies of cancer may be mourned by many but smoking isn't blamed for spouse abuse, car fatalities, or suicide. Smoking is considered a long term problem and is often treated as such. Society spends most of its time focus on smoking to prevent smoking before it starts, while drinking is seen as a healthy rite of passage. I could sure use an AA type program where I can gain the support of other people in my position.

As this node is read currently, I realize that, according to people how have read it recently, that there is an AA sort of support group for smokers. I also will note here that while I did manage to quit for 6 weeks after moving to PA in the summer of 2002, I am still a full time smoker. Jake and I are moving to Harrisburg in a few months, and I am hoping to try again once we're in a new place. You know, that illusion of a fresh start.