From Fag to freedom : My de-addiction journey

Just an innocent puff led by curiosity was the beginning of a thirteen-year-long addiction. At first, there was denial, with a seemingly strong resolve of “I won’t be addicted ever” to “I can stay for days without smoking, I am not addicted” to acknowledging the addiction and treating it as a part of being human; We all have some vices, don’t we? But this could not stop the cheeky monster of guilt to creep in every time I smoked one.  So, I tried a few tricks, stopped buying a packet full, stopped smoking the entire cigarette, limited smoking to twice a day till one fine day, I could not bear to fool myself anymore.

Delhi 2011
 “Maybe you are searching among the branches, for what only appears in the roots.” ― Rumi

Owing to my experience of recovering from Marijuana addiction, I knew, just quitting indulging in the act of smoking is not enough, this unfettering needs deeper work. The root of any addiction does not lie only in the addictiveness of the abused substance but in the psyche of the abuser. When dealing with my dependence on Marijuana, I had to be brutally honest with myself and find out why I smoke, what is beneath the urge of “let me get high”. It was difficult to accept that I used the high from a joint to run away from uncomfortable reality or to numb the overwhelming emotions from my sensitive heart. However, seeing and accepting that helped me discover a deeper pool of compassion within. I knew I need to go down the rabbit hole this time too, albeit gently, one craving at a time.
“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next 
week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” — Mark Twain
2019 started with a group of friends resolving to quit smoking and creating a WhatsApp group with the intention to support each other when needed. While I did not smoke for two months, another friend brought down her smoking count to two cigarettes day. Not bad thought we and were happy. I was happy in my bubble, till one fine day; all it took was just another puff to bring me back into the spiral. Almost the same story again, a puff opened up the box of cravings we had successfully ignored and bypassed. The addiction came back stronger this time. The denial, oh well, this time, a common one for smokers, “I could stay for months without smoking, I am not really addicted.” The cheeky monster came back too, this time with a burst of stronger laughter. Who knew what would work for me is not lofty resistance to the craving but a soft path, the way of the heart?
Time and again I have witnessed how ordinary acts of devotion, inspired by faith create magic. I never knew I was about to witness another.
We sat together studying Chaitanya Charitamrita, the biography of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu one fine morning. While we discussed how the Gopis took excellent care of their mind, body, and spirits, my guilt monster crept in. I knew, my entire healthy eating and yoga regime is being canceled out by the smoking habit. I am betraying my body there.  
The nectarine text brought the Love for Krishna alive in my heart. The longing to serve the creator was maddening. The longing to create space for him to reside within me fogged my mind, choked my voice, dripped from my eyes and then, my best friend, uttered the golden sentence, “You know what, he will sit within your heart and cough from all the smoke”. 

 I have tried them all, from anti-smoking guided meditations to affirmations stayed in rehabs as well as spiritual retreats but none could annihilate the craving for a smoke. This time, her voice kept ringing in my ears, I could not buy another cigarette for me. Next morning while meditating, I saw this beautiful vision of Vrindaban in my heart and Radha-Krishna sitting on a swing, love oozed out from every pore of my being and tears kept flowing. I surrendered my struggle with the cravings; I conveyed my wish of reclaiming vibrant health and surrendered.
Next two weeks, I found myself talking to Krishna whenever I encountered craving. The Supreme Personality of  Godhead became my closest friend, my buddy. What started as a prayer or an appeal of appeasement of my struggle started transforming into conversations. I felt supported like never before, and sat witnessing my cravings, locating them in the body, and starting to look at them gently, like a loving mother examines an injured child. Initially, when I tried going into the uncomfortable emotion, I would feel sleepy and sometimes fall asleep. Gradually with practice layers of discomfort started melting, the objective witness mode got turned on and when difficult memories surfaced, I watched them like movies.
One evening while returning home I saw a man smoking and I noticed no response within me. No physical craving. I remembered the strong craving the previous evening had taken me into the fear of being alone, intermingled with the notion that I will die on the streets alone, diseased, uncared and hungry. This notion had stuck somewhere from childhood when my mother had said them while scolding me. I took it to be a prophecy, neatly programmed it into my head and piled on layers of coping mechanism on the subconscious fear.  When I went inside the tangled mass of emotions, I could see the deep grief rising up my belly. I allowed it to consume my entire body and it went away with a loud cry.

I waited for a few more days. On a brunch with my family, I met my sisters who smoke. I went out with them and took a drag. I noticed two things, I don’t have a desire to take another puff and  the way I smoked cigarettes have changed; I took a lighter puff, like a sip, not like a gulp. It was a moment of celebration. A moment of feeling liberated, a moment of feeling deeply empowered. I was finally free. Not only from the cigarette addiction but also from the subconscious fear which could have translated into something else. 

It was my sister’s wedding the next week and I did smoke and drink at the cocktail party though but I gave myself that freedom. I noticed the high brought me out of my inhibitions and I danced well and wrote beautiful love notes. But hey, I am not falling for that trick again. I know now, dancing or writing love poems without inhibitions is a gift I can access at will; I don’t need no substance for that.

Johann Hari argues, “The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is a human connection.” I feel the root of all disharmony lies within disconnection with the deeper self and our original nature. More we deepen the connection with ourselves, we connect effortlessly with others and as my beloved teacher Sukhvinder Sircar says, “The opposite of divide is Divine”

The Power of Now

Moment of clarity arrives when you realize your physical capabilities are limited as opposed to your unlimited imagination. Mental capabilities might be infinite but actions can only be taken by integrating the physical.
Then, you stumble upon the moment of discernment. The moment of soulful inquiry.

What really matters to your authentic self? Where do you want to focus your energy? How do you want to contribute? Do you want your energy to bring more love or fear to this planet?
Are you ready to bring more entrapment or freedom?

And bang! You have all the answers.
Your path appears.

That moment gets filled with gratitude, joy, beauty, love and letting go. Both pain and compassion fill your heart and ground you into your reality. Acceptance holds you in place.
All the power you thought you have lost, returns to you here, in the present moment and gives you the juice needed for your journey forward. 


In reverence and gratitude