The Partner

I was in my early teens when we first met. My friend and I would usually get together after school with some other buddies and do what teenage boys do.... hang around. We got along well because he was really good at arranging things and I was good at ... other stuff. It wasn't long before he was taking care of most of the where to be and how to be and when and what and why.

By the time I finished high school, my friend had become my partner..... We were quite a team. He was sort of the Radar O'Rielly of partners. Really good at his job, made sure I always had whatever was needed, all contingencies were covered. Most were dealt with without me even knowing. When I went out, he'd make sure I had keys, cash, cigarettes, and lighter. When I felt down or dragged out and needed a boost, he had the pick-me-up. When I was feeling really good, he had the cherry to just top it off. He calmed my anger and consoled my sorrow. He was faithful, constant, and dead on the mark with his management. With his hands on the wheel, we maneuvered around and through everything. I never knew just how he got his job done or where he got his info. Yet, he seemed to know what was coming before it happened. His job was done so well that, in time, I came to regard him as I did my shadow.... simply, there.

I don't know at what point I started to feel that he was more in control than I. Sometimes I'd wonder if maybe he wasn't just a bit too quick to take care of my needs. A bit too quick with a response. Sure the response was the correct one, but it seemed that he was almost anticipating my wants. Maybe he knew me better than I knew myself? He'd certainly been tending my needs more conscientiously and for a lot longer than I had. I began to want to believe that I didn't need his management anymore, that I could take care of myself. So one day I decided that our partnership had run it's course, that I was going to take over looking after me, that he was 'relieved'. I guess I didn't think I owed him anything in return for his years of service. Nor did it occur to me to ask what or how he felt about the changes I wanted to implement. I simply started one morning to take over.

He didn't understand when I began to clumsily attempt to do what had always been his job. He just stared at me as though I was being particularly pointless and nonsensical, and then patiently let me carry on. Part way through the first morning I was feeling really angry because I wasn't yet used to taking care of myself and it seemed the world was ganging up on me. Seemingly out of nowhere, as was his usual custom, my expartner appeared and suggested a cure for my nerves and frustration. I yelled at him that he was subverting my efforts and to go away. He walked off, but he was right in his own way. His advice had always been perfect. It still rang of truth. It wasn't my truth anymore, but it was very much still his. Later, when I got a bit hungry and a tad fatigued, he appeared once more to tell me how to deal with hunger and fatigue. I exploded at him for telling me such lies. They were lies weren't they? I called him evil and sneaky, I called him 'Demon'. I cursed him for confusing and tempting me. I told him to leave, that he wasn't wanted, or needed, that he no longer had a place in my business. Each time he'd back off, just out of arms reach, and as he watched me foundering on the rocks of my day, every once in a while he'd offer the 'life line' I'd always so willingly accepted.

It's been a while now since I 'fired' my partner. I manage to get through my days and nights though I never did figure out just how my old friend and expartner had steered me so smoothly through life. To this day, he doesn't understand why I turned on him and rejected his management. Even though he's quiet most of the time, I know he's still there .... quietly watching me go about my day, watching me as I try to find how to deal with my needs. And sometimes if I'm a bit too slow, or a bit too confused, or a bit too uncomfortable he'll see me trying to cope and he'll silently step up beside me and quietly whisper his truths ...... and I feel a twisting inside, like a muscle that's suddenly knotted and will only slowly relax.

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The "numbers" say that about 4 out of 5 quitters will relapse. I don't offer that as gospel or even numbers that are terribly accurate. My point is simply that too many quitters just do not manage to stay quit. Most of us have only to look to our own experience to see that we failed several times before we succeeded. Some of us are still in the 'failing' stage of learning to quit. While slips and relapses in the early stages may be nicotine related, by the time we're several months quit and/or a few weeks nicotine free, a relapse is far more likely about behavior and demonstrates, for many yet again, that quitting is much less about nicotine chemical addiction and much more about our responses to stress, about how we perceive the events in our lives, and about how we've consistently responded to them. I'd like to suggest that the way to finally get a solid handle on quitting and STAYING QUIT is by addressing that behavior and learning how to change it.

Behavior modification is not brain washing. Rather, it's learning how and why we do what we do within specific settings, and then examining simple methods for changing those patterns. There are several effective and proven methods for modifying behavior. While there is one method that worked for me and is worked for others, I do NOT suggest that it's *the* answer for everyone. Whether it was cold turkey or patches or Zyban or your local witch doctor, the first step in quitting was to find a method to get off of the chemical addiction merry-go-round. You've searched for, and will probably try, several different nicotine reduction methods before you hit on one that works for you. At the same time, you might want to start investigating different behavior modification methods. Look at methods that will teach you to eliminate the habit, to alter the behavior that was your response to life's stresses, to sever the connection between a cigarette and the many moments of your life. Do some investigation and find one that appeals to you ... otherwise, you may forever have a partner whispering in your ear.

 

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