Quitting vs. Having Quit!

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When some people stop smoking, they refer to it as ‘quitting.’ If offered a cigarette they may say “No thanks, I’m quitting.” Similarly, they may say that “Quitting is difficult,” or “It feels lonely when quitting.” I sometimes fall into the trap myself, saying things such as “You need to be on your guard when quitting.” However, there is something fundamentally wrong with talking this way, and I’m not just pedantic!

The reason it is wrong is because quitting smoking is an event, not a process. When you say that you are kayaking, swimming, running, jumping, solving a problem, arguing with someone, or doing whatever, the assumption is that at some point you will cease that activity. In the same way, saying that you are quitting smoking implies that quitting will end at some point! It may all seem very futile on the surface, but deeper down it can have implications because it sounds so tentative. When someone tells you they are swimming, you fully expect them to stop swimming at some point. When someone tells you they are quitting smoking, it appears as though they’re making an attempt to no longer smoke, but it’s unclear at what point that process ends. It’s not definitive enough!

To be clearer, we should refer to having quit from the point we stubbed out our last cigarette. We are not quitting. We have quit. We should say “No thanks, I quit,” “Refraining from smoking again is difficult,” “It feels lonely now that I have quit” and “You need to be on your guard after you have quit.” I emphasize this way of thinking because it reinforces the fact that the event of quitting has already passed. You have already quit! There is no endpoint in sight, no time by which you will revert to smoking, and no time or circumstance to measure when you have succeeded. You are already a success! The goal from that point onwards is to learn to live without smoking.

Just to finish off, quitting smoking is not an object either. You can lose your car keys, but you cannot lose your quit. 😀

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