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Quitting Smoking

Quitting Smoking

President & Founder of BeTheChangeYYC, Chaz Smith speaks on addiction

 

My heart goes out to all you who are smokers or struggling with addiction. I quit smoking on January 22nd, 2019. Quitting smoking was not easy! I’d be an absolute liar if I said it was. Addiction absolutely sucks! 

This was a habit I started on and off as a homeless youth when I was 16 years old. The habit became an addiction as well as a way of coping. When life’s stressors got to me, smoking was my way out. Smoking became integrated into my life as a sort of meditation for my stress. Realizing this was a powerful healer and taught me I needed to quit smoking and replace those smoke breaks with healthier coping mechanisms. I had quit many times before but this time I was sure I would replace the habit with some healthier practices.

How I Quit:

Tapering Off

I started by cutting back over a period of 7 days. I used those “tarless filters” to help. 

Create Negative Associations

I also used some good neuroplasticity rewiring to help me out, creating negative associations with smoking. For example,  quitting in wintertime allowed me to create the negative association of smoking in the freezing cold. As I was tapering off, I would only smoke outside. Using tarless filters also showed the tar inside of them. These filters capture the tar that would actually have been going into my lungs, giving me a strong visual. In creating these negative associations, I was rewiring my brain’s neuro- plasticity to associate smoking with bad experiences. This helped. 

Meditation

Daily I meditated, sometimes 10+ times a day to stay calm. Praying was no different! 

Healthy Eating and Drinks

I had the munchies and ate constantly. Did you know nicotine releases sugar from muscle tissues when smoked which is why our bodies crave sugar when smokers quit? Smokers who are quitting actually have a “sugar low.” I also drank pots of tea, peppermint and turmeric being my choices. Those spices seemed to help.

Exercise

In addition to meditation to assist me in quitting, I also went to the gym; exercising gave me the dopamine smoking provided, but in a healthy way. 

Healthy Distractions

I had to be distracted constantly. I binged lots of Netflix! A friend also gave me some silly slime to keep my hands busy when I felt stressed. That poor slime became a fixation of many hard squeezes of irritability. Thanks dear slime.

Educating Myself

I also made sure to be well educated on nicotine withdrawal and its’ time frame. Understanding withdrawal symptoms peak from day 3-7 was helpful. It’s important to know when quitting that the feelings will pass, and will not last forever.  

Why It Worked This Time

I had quit in the past many times, but as I aged it became even harder. I was extremely motivated this time! That, combined with my serious mindset, and careful planning ultimately led to the success I have had in quitting. I know the anxiety and pain was worth it to get to the freedom from tobacco I am at now today. 

 

Homeless and Addiction – Housing First

While reflecting on quitting smoking, my heart always finds its way back to our dear homeless in my experiences. What do you mean you ask. Addiction sucks! 

Knowing how hard I struggled to quit smoking, and all the skills I needed to do so, it’s clear to me – any of our homeless who struggle with addiction need housing first

It is therefore unacceptable to demand a person who is experiencing homelessness and addiction to quit using while remaining on the streets. Being homeless, they lack some of the tools and techniques quit.

Just as my smoking became a technique to deal with stress, people experiencing homelessness are “using” to deal with the stressors of homelessness. The brain is a powerful thing; it will do what it needs to survive. Addiction is survival for many. 

Treating the Root Cause – Homelessness

We must treat the root of this situation: homelessness. This begins the journey of setting the person up for success. If a government or agency truly wants to help end addiction, they will advocate for harm reduction until housing needs can be met. I have never met an addict who says they are proud of their addiction. I have met a lot of people suffering and coping, which you would do the same. I’ve met a lot of people desperate to be housed as well as a lot of people who want help. 

A Outreach client from BeTheChangeYYC receiving food and water

Using my “quitting journey” as an example, the homeless can’t binge Netflix, munch on healthy food and drink tea, or have a peaceful, quiet space to meditate. At the very least, people need to have, as I did, pots of tea and a variety of choices for drink/food. 

This post is not meant to be political, it is meant to be real. I hope when elections come up we can elect a government who sees the potential and intrinsic value of all people. 

Housing our homeless MUST come first, then we can deal with the rest. If we want people to be healed we will keep them alive until healing can happen. Dead people can’t seek treatment. They can’t share their message of healing, they can’t BeTheChange. They can’t speak or attempt the things of the living anymore. 

Just as my smoking became a technique to deal with stress, people experiencing homelessness are “using” to deal with the stressors of homelessness. The brain is a powerful thing; it will do what it needs to survive. Addiction is survival for many. 

Addiction sucks, but housing MUST come first.

Written by: Chaz Smith, President & Founder of BeTheChangeYYC

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