A Moment of Zen

My mom has smoked longer than I can remember…by a good ten years, I’d say. And not just a little. She inhaled two packs of cigarettes – about forty – each day for about as many years. She’s tried to quit before – how many smokers haven’t? – but it never took. And she’s tried a lot of things: group hypnotism, nicotine gum, smoking outside only, e-cigs, resolve, and probably more. But it’s hard when those closest to you smoke, too. Everyone understands when you start back up, and they’re all around you, stress-free when you’re irritably trying not to. Or so I imagine.

Thankfully, I’m a rule-follower. I remember one time, one time, being tempted to try a cigarette. I was in the fifth grade, and my mom had briefly walked away from a lit cigarette in the laundry room to tend to something off in the nearby kitchen. I almost picked it up, just to see what it was like. “You’ll cough/choke, and Mom will hear you, and you’ll get in trouble” my 10-year-old brain helpfully informed. So I left it.

When you don’t smoke, it’s as easy as that to walk away. There’s no physical habit to overcome or reduced acetylcholine receptor activity in the brain to make up for (i.e. regain your ability to feel happy and un-agitated without nicotine). You just walk away, years later, grateful for your young rule-following self.

Last Thursday my mom and sister went to see a hypnotist to help them quit smoking. I think my mom hoped I would be supportive despite my non-belief in hypnotism. She was wrong. I’ve been hugely supportive precisely because of my belief in hypnotism. I am a pretty huge skeptic, so I’m not convinced it would work for me, but I had high hopes for her. After her session, she was super-positive, and described that even though she wasn’t sure she had ever “gone under,” she remembered being incredibly relaxed, like her arms had been dragging the ground…which to me sounded pretty much like she had been hypnotized.

And she hasn’t smoked a cigarette since! She doesn’t pretend it’s been easy. Every time I’ve asked – which has been every day – she’s said it isn’t, but she’s doing it. Tonight she texted me a novella thanking me for a photo of Torch Lake I had posted on this blog, saying that it’s been helpful to picture the calm, soothing water, and to drift off to sleep with that in mind. The way she worded it, thanking me for my part in her success, I teared up.

I’m so proud of her. I can’t say it enough.

For my mom, and anyone who needs soothing imagery, I’ve included a gallery of relaxing images. They’re all of northern Michigan scenery, and some of them I’ve included because I know they’ll be particularly meaningful for my mom, but I hope there’s something in there for everyone.

Congratulations, Mom. I love you.

Trying to quit smoking? Feel free to ask questions in the comments – I’m sure my mom will happily share things that have helped her. I do know that she’s used cinnamon disks with coffee (instead of cigarettes), bits or organic chocolate, smelling lavender oil, repeatedly listening to her hypnotism session CD, and using her excess energy doing her favorite thing – gardening.

23 thoughts on “A Moment of Zen

  1. Kudos to your Mom!! I wish her all the very best on the road ahead! The pictures are stunning as always…and they got me thinking. Isn’t it strange how prominently water features in most pictures that are meant to soothe and calm? Almost like a Healer extraordinaire 🙂

    • Water is extraordinarily soothing. There’s a huge bay of Lake Michigan nearby – it has two “arms” and is about 40 miles deep – and we drive along it every time we go into Traverse City (often). It’s beautiful and restorative no matter how ugly the weather. We frequently discuss how being near the water is good for the soul. Yes – it’s the ultimate Healer. 🙂

      • Gorgeous 🙂 I’m from Goa and I now live in Bombay – both on the western coast of India, so water has always been an important part of my life. And you are so right…even stormy seas and churning water have a kind of rugged appeal that makes me feel better most of the time 😀

        • I admit that I had no idea where in India even Bombay was until I looked on a map recently after reading a book that featured a couple Indian cities. But don’t feel like my ignorance is limited to your side of the world – I know all our state capitals, but can really only locate them on a map if I’ve previously visited :-/
          Did your family join you in Goa, or did you move away too, like me? We’re about 450 miles (725km) from our families who all still live in southern Ohio. It can be hard being that far from those you love.

          • My geography isn’t what it used to be!! We’ve been nomadic all my married life, but I’m not complaining…it suits my temperament. I’ a very restless gal…probably the Sagitarian in me 😉

            I’ve stayed away from my parents since college when they were in Singapore and I was studying Medicine in Goa. Then they returned but I got married and moved to Bombay, which is 400 miles away. I have family here though so it’s not too bad although I don’t really enjoy living in a Metro city anymore.

  2. I’ve never smoked, but I can imagine how hard it is to quit. I know this because I like bread. And even though I need to not eat it, I can’t seem to stop. And I’m not being flippant.

    Your pictures are all perfect. Good choices.

    • I have decided that bread simply cannot be that bad for me. I am fit, and I like bread, and it is a huge part of so many cultures. That said, we don’t really keep much of it around, so perhaps it’s not really an addiction for me. But, I DO love it, and if it were shown to cause cancer, I am not sure how easily I’d walk away from it.
      Did you know that campfires are definitively worse in terms of carcinogens than smoking? Yet I LOVE those, and inhale their smoky remains on my clothes like it’s some kind of manna. Smoking must be one helluva thing to overcome!

  3. Your photos are amazing – but for you, amazing is average I think! To your mom I send my best wishes, my sympathy, my hopes and prayers. I tried to quit and did quit several times before I finally really quit. And that took a scary weekend in the hospital where no one could seem to figure out what was wrong, but I later realized was anxiety. They said “brain disease”, which a better doctor later laughed at, but in the meantime – I quit. It’s a really tough thing to do and I think the only really successful way to quit is the exercising of incredible willpower.

    • I think you must be right about the willpower thing. And I think it’s similar with food. We’ve always found it’s much easier just to not purchase food we’re eschewing, but you can’t get away with that when everyone in the house isn’t on your same quitting schedule.
      I hope my mom just continues this not-smoking streak. She’s told my husband she is NOT doing this again 😉 (She has experienced the anxiety, nervousness an fear you alluded to.) Thank you for the support 🙂

  4. Both my parents were smokers for many years. We my youngest son was 11 or 12 when the Great American Smoke Out came to his school. He brought a paper home that he asked Grandpa to sign for just one day to stop smoking. Dad signed and I figured he’d be lucky to make it one day. A few days after the big day I ask Mom if Dad had made it through the day. Reply was a big surprise, not only Dad stopped smoking that day but so did Mom. They never smoked another cigarette in their lives. They each kept a pack of cigarettes on the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet. When a drunk driver hit their home doing great damage not long after I was sure they would be smoking again. They packs were still on the shelf when we cleaned the house out nearly 20 years after both Mom and Dad had passed away. I was so proud of them for stopping and proud of my son for asking them to do it. Unfortunetly, my son began smoking in his late teens and continued until he was nearly 40. Then he and his wife gave it and have not gone back to it to date.

    • Thanks for sharing these stories, Charlotte. I think inspiration to quit seems to be a big motivator. For my mom, I think it’s been her circulatory/cardiovascular problems that are certainly exacerbated by smoking.
      I’m glad your son could help his grandparents make such a huge change, and I’m sure it was better since they ended up going through addiction-breaking together. I wonder what the temptation must have been like, to always have the cigarettes nearby. Also, I’m glad to hear your son has given up smoking – it’s so hard on the body. I’m often grateful that I never picked one up.

  5. Wow..I just checked back on your blog this morning, and I am amazed at this encouragement and show of support from everyone. Thank you all so much. It strengthens my willpower. I don’t express myself nearly as well as you, but it means a lot to me.

    • Sure you do; you just do it in text messages and hugs 🙂
      But keep it up – we’re all cheering you (and Steph who I am ashamed to say I don’t know how shoe’s doing) on! Love you!

    • Thank you Ms. Jody 🙂 I’m proud of her, and want to make sure she (and the whole world) knows it…and if I can help provide a moment of calm, then that’s all right too!

  6. Slowly working back through all your posts. Missed a lot of these during my blogging break. Tell Ms. Barbara (I think I already told her through your FB?) that I am so proud! Barry quit almost two years ago and he’s so glad he did.

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