Saturday, 12 September 2015

Self-Love September: A Miraculous Spell, An Awe-Inspiring Book and My Last Cigarette

The sweet'n'simple collage image featured in this post is one that I created quite some time ago, back when I was tentatively considering a blog post about my addiction to smoking and how I managed to free myself from it. I had originally decided not to write about my life as a smoker. Perhaps I thought that people would be shocked that I'd been addicted to cigarettes for five years and I figured that it wouldn't fit their image of me. Maybe I just didn't want to dredge it all up again, since it wasn't exactly my finest hour! But several people have asked me to address the topic of addiction during Self-Love September, so I figure that the most authentic angle to come at it from would be my own addiction. I want to be real about what I learned and about the ordeal that I went through before I extinguished that last cigarette!

I was not one of those kids who started smoking in her very early teens due to peer pressure and a desire to fit in with the crowd. I actually paid attention when the teacher showed my class some photographs of the charred, blackened lungs of a smoker in biology class! My parents -both smokers- insisted that it was a hugely addictive trap which was very difficult to free yourself from and that I should never start. I saw how my mum struggled with money problems and yet always managed to scrape a few quid together for ten cigarettes. The whole thing seemed inconvenient, expensive and depressing - plus I couldn't stand the smell!

So, you might wonder how the hell I ended up being a smoker for half a decade..

The simple answer is, 'heartbreak'.

For serious.

I was in my early twenties. I was at a low ebb, and somewhat drunk on whiskey, when I asked a friend for a cigarette while we were out at the pub. I  suppose you could say that I just didn't care anymore and I was looking for something to facilitate that feeling of numbness. She tried to talk me out of it but I persisted until she gave up and lit it for me. I had just seen the man who broke my heart when he unexpectedly walked straight past us. The cigarette was something I used to calm my nerves and take my mind off of the encounter. I didn't actually find it entirely unpleasant and I smoked a few more before the night was over. After that I didn't smoke again until the same kind of thing happened. I found myself drinking in a crowd of people, not-so-secretly depressed and thinking of him. I actually engaged in a lot of similarly careless behaviour during that time, but let's focus on the smoking for now.

It took a long time -over six months- for me to find myself at the point where I was smoking alone in my room, no longer waiting for the right circumstances to prop up my 'social habit' excuse anymore. It would be four years before I finally found myself waking up to the reality of what I was doing to my body, my mind, my soul and my bank balance. By that point, I was a fully-fledged, twenty-a-day smoker. I am so far away from any urge to smoke at this point in my life that it actually feels surreal to access those memories of lighting up frequently throughout the day.

I look back now and kind of feel as though this experience was sent to me so that I could truly understand what it's like to be addicted to something wholesale. Imagining myself into someone else's shoes and empathising with their situation whilst never having been through it personally is not beyond the bounds of my capabilities - I do it all the time. But there's something quite specific about being addicted to a substance and I'm glad that I know from a personal place what it really feels like. I think that being a wounded healer is about drawing on your own experiences, so I tend to reframe the negative things that have happened in my life so that they are the very tools which help me to be of service in the world.

Since this blog post is a response to requests from those dealing with addiction, let me be clear. I tried to give up a number of times before I found something that worked for me. I had varying degrees of success - I once stopped for five weeks, once for eleven days and once I only lasted for twenty four hours! I cried more than once or twice as I lit up again after a period of quitting. I really wanted to get past this habit and couldn't believe how difficult it was.

I tried electronic cigarettes back when they were in their infancy, but also stopped 'cold turkey' on a number of occasions. Each time, I ended up convinced that I didn't have the willpower to stop completely and that I couldn't enjoy life as much as a non-smoker. I told myself all those crappy lies about how it soothes the nerves and reduces stress. I was also pretty convinced that smoking was a key part of my identity. It might seem ridiculous but I genuinely felt as though cigarettes were somehow a staple part of my self-image. I have no idea how I reached these conclusions, but they felt visceral and justifiable to me at the time.

The first thing I had to do was stop beating myself up for being a smoker. That was tough! Although my habit certainly went up and down over the months that I tried to quit completely, I was still lighting up to one degree or another even as I received my diploma in spiritual counselling and worked on nourishing Tarot readings full of advice about empowerment and self-love for clients. It was hard not to fall into that old paradigm idea that I had no right to serve others if I still had my own issues! I worried so much about being a hypocrite even though I knew that I was on a miraculous journey which was leading me towards the answer I was seeking.

Deep down I knew that helpers, healers, mentors and guides aren't perfect and, of course, still have more to learn. But I tore myself to pieces over it as I fell off the wagon repeatedly. I recognised that I was saying unkind things to myself and that this was supremely unhelpful. It was stopping me from expanding my sense of what was possible. It was convincing me that there was nothing left to try and nowhere left to go. So, positive self-talk was the first thing I put into action. I gave myself kindness, support and encouragement. I stopped calling myself a total fucking idiot! I decided that the next time I gave up, it would be as a friend, cheerleader and supporter of myself, not as my own worst enemy. I checked my self-talk all the time regarding smoking, replacing it with good stuff wherever possible, just the way I have always taught clients to do.

The next thing I did was a spell.

This is where shit got real.

I did a spell to invite new energies into my life and new ideas into my head. The spell was totally geared towards quitting completely rather than just drastically cutting down. But it was based on my understanding that the 'willpower method' had obviously failed me. All the Rose Quartz palm stones and meditation sessions in the world couldn't override that burning feeling that I needed to smoke. So, the spell was about fully acknowledging that a total mindset shift was required. It was about summoning a 'miracle of mentality' into my life.

I'm not going to lie - of course I hoped that the spell would work immediately and that I would be stunned to realise that I had lost my appetite for cigarettes in a witchy instant.

Obviously, that didn't happen.

I closed my sacred space and actually lit up pretty much straight away. (Hey, I spent the entire time focusing on cigarettes during the spell - it was kind of like scratching an itch!)

But I knew that it would work.

The belief was absolutely palpable.

I have always been one of those witches who believes, because that's really the point. Without belief it's just a bunch of empty gestures and flowery words.

I don't recall how much time passed but I think it was a month or so. Out of nowhere I suddenly remembered that my auntie, who hadn't smoked in five years, had once claimed to have been 'cured' by a book she read - a book which totally changed her mindset and simply made her realise that she didn't need cigarettes to be happy. Just as soon as the inspiration flooded into my mind, I was calling my mum to find out what the book was called.

The book was, 'Easy Way to Stop Smoking' by Allen Carr. But I decided to order 'Easy Way For Women to Stop Smoking' because it has some extra passages in it relating to worries about weight gain and also about associating smoking with self-image - both issues which Allen Carr identified much more in women than in men. The Easy Way method has helped millions of people to quit using a simple but profound reframing process which frees you from the psychological pickle you're in as an addicted smoker.

You are supposed to smoke as you read through the book - only quitting right at the end once you've had the opportunity to truly absorb the philosophy. I remember smoking my last cigarette as I read the last few pages of the book; tears were streaming down my face because I knew in my heart that it had worked and that I would never smoke again.

Officially, the book gets the credit for making me a happy non-smoker.

Unofficially, witchcraft takes the prize because, as a witch, I know that my spell was the catalyst which led to me having that thought and making that call after trying in vain for so long.

If you're reading this and you're a smoker who doesn't want to be a smoker anymore, please try the book if you haven't already.

It totally flips the accepted 'willpower method' philosophy on its head and makes mincemeat of it.

Think for a second. In reality, you shouldn't need willpower to continue to do something which you desperately want to stop doing - something which is expensive, unhealthy, inconvenient and fast becoming seriously antisocial. In fact, you need willpower to continue to smoke! It takes a lot of willpower to prop up your yucky habit with all kinds of flimsy excuses and paper-thin reasoning which just doesn't add up. It takes a lot of willpower to consistently ignore and override the fact that you're doing something with such huge health implications. You've got to have an iron will to keep walking down a path that you despise, month after month, year after year.

You may be tempted to ask me for a blow-by-blow account of the spell that I performed so that you can do it yourself, if only to make sure that the philosophy in the book really works for you. Well, it was a pretty nifty little spell, but it was unique to my own needs and invested with my personal intention. I designed it in accordance with what felt right for me and I strongly encourage you to design your own spell in the same way.

Before I did the spell which led me to the book, I wrote several long lists of things to do instead of smoking a cigarette. I used these lists to keep myself occupied and resilient whenever I quit with the willpower method. When I originally planned to write this post, I intended to make the lists public for those who could make use of them. But it kept occurring to me that the lists never worked for me. Not for good. Not for real. They worked for a few weeks here and there, but they were ultimately a part of the willpower paradigm which I ended up rejecting once I read the book.

So, I'm not sharing the lists. Ultimately I'm just sharing three nuggets of information about my own journey:

1. I stopped being horrible to myself about the fact that I was a smoker and instead offered myself love and support

2. I worked powerful magick straight from the heart of the witch

3. I went on to realise that the willpower method is failing tonnes of people every single year and that there is a more nourishing and obvious way!

If this helps just one person then it will have been totally worth me writing this blog post, which definitely hasn't been easy for my ego to release into the world. (My ego would rather that I never told anyone in the online world that I used to smoke, but my soul wants me to offer up my truth so that it can touch those in need of it.)

(Before his death in 2006, Allen Carr also wrote books to help people get out of debt, control their weight, deal with alcohol addiction and even get over their fear of flying! Check out the rest of his series if you're struggling with a psychological dependency.)



If you enjoyed reading this post, you might appreciate these other tasty morsels:

Limiting Beliefs
Hold Your Own Hand
10 Tips to Generate Positive Energy