Trying to DBT-CBT My Way Through Quitting Smoking – The Battle Between Emotional Mind and Rational Mind

This is my 5th or 6th time to quit smoking this year. This is something I’ve always been really good at. I’ve successfully quit smoking over a dozen times in my life. No joke…I really mean it! I’ve quit for long periods of time, like years at a time…and then, I pick up a cigarette…and here I go again!

I have most often quit when I’ve gotten sick. It was always a “planned quit”…”I’ll quit next time I get sick and cigarettes taste horrible.” That was a very effective plan. The problem this time…is that I haven’t gotten sick enough to quit and I’ve had to find other reasons to quit. No, please don’t pray for me to get so sick that I quit! Don’t want to go there on purpose…especially in this age of swine flu!

I’ve also quit several times due to pregnancy. I’ve also quit before when I dated someone who didn’t smoke…I knew what it was like for a non-smoker to kiss a smoker…been on the receiving end of such a kiss…and it’s plumb nasty! All in all, I’ve smoked and have quit many times over my 40 year smoking career.

Because I didn’t get sick over the last 18 months…well, not sick enough to quit smoking…I’ve been smoking for 18 months now…with the exception of some short periods of not smoking over the last 4-1/2 months. I did a planned quit on Jan. 5th – the day I went back to work after the holidays. I did fine for about 5 days…my weight had been going crazy and I gained about 13 pounds REAL FAST…like over a two-week period when I was eating 1200-1300 calories a day. Being a professional dieter (like I am a professional smoking quitter!)…My Rational Mind knew that weight wasn’t REAL weight…that it was water, poop, whatever…but, it wasn’t FAT. However, given I’ve lost a ton of weight over the last several years and the last thing I want to do is to gain all my weight back…my Emotional Mind was going crazy…and I was freakin’ out…

I was telling a friend about the weight gain…the bloating…and all the concomitant gas. I told her I shouldn’t be gaining weight because I wasn’t eating that much. She asked what I was eating…and I bragged on eating a very healthy diet of nuts. Well, thank goodness she knew a little something about nuts. She told me that nuts cause bloating…and can cause all that extra gas! I told her I sure wanted to get rid of all the bloating but I was rather enjoying having the ammunition to get even with my gassy family. Well, I did a bunch of googling and found out she was right! So, I got off the nuts and took up smoking AGAIN. My weight dropped as quickly as it came on…and I was RELIEVED!

My Dad was hospitalized for a stroke on Feb 1st…about 3 weeks into my most recent smoking indulgence period. Baylor Heart Hospital in Dallas is NO SMOKING all over the campus…there are NO smoking places…inside or out…imagine that…a heart hospital that does not support smoking. So, given we were living at the hospital for a week, and given my father was a long time smoker and obviously just had to quit cold turkey, I had to give up smoking AGAIN.

That went just fine for a few weeks…and since I wasn’t smoking, I figured it was a good time to start the birth control pills my doctor has prescribed for pre-menopausal hormone replacement. I tried them about two years ago…but my weight went crazy and I quit. Well, this time wasn’t any different…my weight went crazy again. I was gaining 1-2 pounds a day…and about 8 days, 12 pounds, and two sizes later, I quit the pills three days early and started smoking AGAIN!

As expected, my weight went right back down…and I lost a few more pounds. YEA! Well, after about two weeks of enjoying this most recent smoking binge, I set a date to quit smoking AGAIN…on my next “return to work” day. I did just fine for about five days. I quit at the wrong time of the month…the part of the month for me that my weight goes up about 5 pounds…regardless of caloric intake. My Rational Mind knows it’s just water…maybe some extra poop…but, I’m bloated and I have to wear a larger size…and that’s NOT okay. It was also Easter time and my child brought a large bag of some VERY FRESH chocolate covered raisins home and of course, she had to show me what she had. Okay, those were consumed the first night, but I skipped dinner to offset the increased calories. The next day, my friend visits and brings over Easter candy that she found on sale…of course, it’s chocolate stuff…and of course, I consume that…however, because I missed nutrition the night before, I ate real food, too.

Okay, we’re doing “the weight done gone crazy” thing again. My Emotional Mind was freakin’ out…so I asked my husband to bring me some smokes on his way home. I told my family and my friend that I would quit smoking AGAIN once my weight was under control and to NOT BRING SWEETS INTO THE HOUSE if they wanted me to stay off smoking. Our recovery has to be a family affair…our support people need to support us and to help keep our environment as temptation free as possible. Very few people will recover if they live in an environment filled with temptation. That’s why we’re told that we have to change people, places, and things.

Okay…a few weeks went by and I quit again. I quit for five days and I started smoking again because I was stressed out at work…and just because I wanted to. It wasn’t about weight…it was about MY WANTS. I WANTED to smoke.

So, now here we are at Saturday, May 23rd, 2009. I’ve quit AGAIN. I’ve been off cigarettes since Tuesday, May 19th when I went back to work after a long weekend. The week went well, though Tuesday at 4pm when it was getting close to quitting time (at work), I was thinking about the 23 minute drive home and how I could stop off and pick up some smokes…and how nice that would be. I thought about how much I REALLY WANTED a cigarette…and how I was really “Jones-ing” to smoke.

As I sat on the pot at work…my Emotional Mind and Rational Mind was battling it out. My Emotional Mind desire was to smoke. My Rational Mind was fighting hard to talk me out of it and my Wise Mind was telling me to GET THROUGH THE MOMENT…go straight home…you’ll be alright…you’ve done great all day. My Emotional Mind was coming up with all these schemes to smoke, like “I could just smoke at night…and not smoke during the day.” and, “Remember, I don’t want to live ‘til I’m 90 and have to live in a nursing home…if I smoke, I’ll die in my 70’s and not have to deal with that misery…and it’ll be better for my family that way.”

Well, Rational Mind fought back and told me, “It’s an Emotion-Driven Lie to think that you’ll just smoke in the evenings…that may work one day and then you’ll be back to smoking full-time AGAIN…that’s bull Sheets.” Finally, after conducting this fierce battle over the porcelain pot, my Rational Mind spoke again in my sister’s tone of voice…and said, “Think about what you’re doing to your lungs.” – oh thanks a lot for that Rational Mind…spoil my fun. Then, my own voice kicked in with Rational Mind and asked, “What do you desire more…to be a smoker…or a non-smoker?”

Well, that was a defining moment for me…and I said in a strong voice (inside my head)…”I most desire to be a non-smoker.” and…that was it…I sighed deeply, flushed, and went on with my evening. I drove right home and it was wild…while I waited at the Walmart light, it occurred to me that I hadn’t thought about cigarettes until just that moment when I thought about not thinking about cigarettes. That was pretty cool!

I’ve done great until today, Saturday…the 23rd as referenced above. I’ve gained three pounds because it’s that time of the month. At the beginning of this most recent non-smoking attempt, Wise Mind suggested that I wouldn’t start freakin’ out until I gained 8 pounds…to give myself a larger window before taking action! I weighed one more pound on Wedn morning, one more on Thurs…and one more on Friday. I was the same weight this morning.

That should be exciting because maybe the monthly weight gain is slowing down…and the eating an extra 100-200 calories a day not smoking isn’t adding up too fast. My Emotional Mind was a bit disappointed…because if I would have gained another pound or two, I could have smoked again. I was actually disappointed. I even weighed a second time just to be sure. Aren’t we sick?! I say “we”…because we folks who struggle with recovery do all sorts of things to sabotage ourselves…so we can return to our habits and addictions.

Of course, I was Mindful of my mind games and reminded myself that I want MORE to be a non-smoker, save the money, breathe better, it’s more professional, I don’t want to be burdened with the habit and the NEED to smoke when it’s inconvenient and I’m going to be late for a meeting, I’m smoking up my book profits, God’s been good to me and look how I’m taking care of his blessing….etc. I also reminded myself that I told my Group on Wednesday about what helped me to win the relapse battle on Tuesday (what do I desire more)…and how awful it would be…to have to let my Group down by telling them that I’m smoking again. What a horrible example that is. What a hypocrite I would be. I’m encouraging them to change everything in their lives as they try to quit life-encompassing habits like drugs and alcohol…and I can’t overcome smoking. All these Rational Mind thoughts attacked that sick Emotional Mind Game…but, I did think that I could just not smoke in the mornings…that I wouldn’t smell like smoke during Group…and if they asked, I could lie. The faces, the stories, and the hearts of some of my Group Members flashed through my mind…and the guilt trumped my desire to smoke.

Today is Saturday and it’s a time when I spend long hours on the computer. It’s a time when I really enjoy smoking…one cigarette after another. It’s a very convenient and relaxing time to smoke. So, today has been tough. I’m glad I have no smokes at home, I’m glad the store is about 10 minutes and a major hassle away…and that I hate leaving my home on my day off…and my husband hasn’t said, “I’m going to the store, want anything?” I did hear my boy ask his Dad if he was going to “Buffalo Fina” after he drove to a friend’s home to feed their horses. Thank goodness, my husband said, “No, I haven’t thought about it.” Thank goodness I didn’t say, “Hey, could you pick me up a pack of smokes.” I’ve had to remind myself so many times today what it is that I really want…and it’s to be a non-smoker.

I ate fine today…but a part of me wishes I will have gained an extra pound in the morning. I did pray this time around for God to help me through this. I told him that unlike in the past, I may not be able to do this on my own this time…that it was getting harder. I’m off work tomorrow and Monday…Memorial Day weekend. Lord, keep me focused…keep me Mindful of what my goals are…help me through the rough moments…and help me to be bursting with pride and excitement on Tuesday when my Group asks, “Did ya’ smoke?”…and I can say “Came close…came real close, but worked through the moment…for hours and hours over that long weekend!” See me through this Lord, Amen. This makes me smile and gives me hope that I’ll make it through. I don’t want to be a disappointment to others…I want to be an inspiration.

UPDATE: 5-26-09 (Tuesday)
I think I made it through! Got through the long weekend WITHOUT smoking. Had several tough moments each day…really desired to smoke…but used all my Rational Mind – Wise Mind – Talking Myself Through the Moments skills to make it through. Been off cigarettes 8 days now…guess I saved about $40. Almost enough to purchase another pair of boots off Ebay! I’ve probably made it through the toughest point…the long weekend. I bet I can be done with cigarettes…if I choose to be.

Something my patients taught me is that we don’t just relapse when bad things happen…we also relapse when positive things happen…that fun, excitement, good news, and similar positive experiences are also a relapse trigger. I’ve twice experienced this during my 5-6 attempts at not smoking this year. About 2 weeks ago, I relapsed into smoking following an exciting event (good news) and great news this weekend just about sent me to the store to buy some smokes. Celebrating, partying, drinking….and smoking all go together. Add to that the memories of the best times as a kid…often involved smoking, too…and drinking…and partying! It’s just Emotional Mind experience that we have to talk ourselves through. Some Rational Mind statements for me include…”That was then, this is now…those WERE some fun, carefree times. Life is different now. Smoking is a bad thing for me now.” “I MOST DESIRE not to smoke. I want to be a non-smoker more than I want to smoke.” “This moment will pass…I’ll get my mind involved in my work in a few minutes…and I’ll be okay for awhile.” “I want to be an inspiration to people, not a disappointment.”

By the way, my weight is good…have only gained 1 pound during “this time of the month.” I worked harder on my eating this weekend so I wouldn’t have an excuse to start smoking! I was very Mindful of my Mind Games! I made a point of putting up food my family left on the counter so I wouldn’t snack on it all day! I also ate a bunch of sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds SEEM to reduce my appetite. They’re also good cuz they give my mouth and hands something to do…a fine replacement for cigarettes. You know what else I might try…pomegranate seeds. They make for quite a bit of hand and mouth work!!! I haven’t eaten those since I was a kid! Oh Lord, I cannot cycle back to fond memories as a kid and smoking! Man, our Emotional Mind is relentless!

Copyright Statement: Material contained within this blog is copyrighted protected with all rights reserved © Melanie Gordon Sheets commencing in 2009 and extending through the present age. Please request permission to quote or otherwise use material obtained from this blog by emailing: service@dbt-cbt-workbook.com

Please visit the website www.dbt-cbt-workbook.com for more information about the DBT-CBT Workbook. The full title is “Out-of-Control: A Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) Workbook for Getting Control of Our Emotions and Emotion-Driven Behavior” – Recovery Works Publications, 2009.

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One response to “Trying to DBT-CBT My Way Through Quitting Smoking – The Battle Between Emotional Mind and Rational Mind

  1. Having read this I believed it was rather enlightening.

    I appreciate you taking the time and energy to put this
    short article together. I once again find
    myself personally spending a significant amount of time both
    reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

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