The Universe has some strange teachers

by Rebecca A. Watson on August 13, 2013

in change, habits, life, olympics

For the past month or so, I have had a sore throat. I have attributed it to the fact that for that same amount of time, I have been living in close proximity to people who smoke.

The extended-stay hotel I was in reeked of cigarettes and the only way to keep the smell out of our room was to have the air conditioner cranked at all times. Since the East Coast was experiencing a heat wave, this wasn’t such a big deal. Still, I was thrilled to check out, although something in me knew that leaving wasn’t going to remedy this problem.


When we arrived at our temporary apartment, our land lady let us know there was an ashtray on the balcony, but that smoking wasn’t allowed inside, of course. Those were her words. Later she invited me into her apartment, which is a floor below us in the same building.  A haze of smoke was filtering out through her back windows. That night I could smell her cigarettes smoldering below me.

At first, I was really annoyed. Although I don’t mind it when people smoke around me (I actually welcome it sometimes), I don’t like being trapped with it, having no choice but to breathe it in.

This was one of those occasions, I realized, that the Universe was trying to tell me something. But what?

Addiction has been on my mind a lot lately. I recently re-upped my sober challenge, heading toward 200 days without booze. I’m around the 140 day mark, and I’ve been thinking about what this means. Am I quitting forever? Life has been really rad since I stopped, after all.

Who knew parties could be this much fun?

Who knew parties could be this much fun?

But I’ve also had a lot of cravings for alcohol as well, which I know are completely psychological. And while some of them seem normal, like “Oh I would love to drink glühwein in the holiday markets this December,” or “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a glass of French wine in France?” there are others that concern me.

Take last night, for instance. Sante received some news that our shipment (read: our life that came over on a boat) would be arriving early. This was not good news because we don’t have our permanent apartment until September. This means paying for things called storage-in and storage-out insurance, not to mention the storage itself, which is criminally high because they know you will pay it. They have your stuff after all.

Us in front of our "shipment."

Us in front of our “shipment.”

(Moving lesson relearned: The things you own end up owning you.)

This was a frustrating situation, and we were both really upset. Swears were said. Hate was spewed. And during all of this, I thought, Man I could use a drink. This seems to be the trend lately. Every time something happens that raises my blood-pressure levels a bit, I seem to want a glass of wine.

Funny thing is, it used to be that I would wonder how I would celebrate without alcohol. That doesn’t seem to cross my mind any more. Now it’s about easing the pain, no matter how first-world it really is.

And all this brought me back to when I first quit smoking. At first I struggled with the idea that I wouldn’t have it during my morning coffee and after the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner. But I got over it. Then, months later, after things had simmered down a bit, the cravings hit me hard.

I was in Canada for the Winter Olympic games, out partying with people I didn’t really know and suddenly I desperately needed a cigarette. It took a friend jumping on me and literally dragging me away from two smokers to show me what I was doing.

Kaleen's not afraid of telling me what's what ... or having a good time.

Kaleen’s not afraid of telling me what’s what … or having a good time.

I was out of my element, sleeping in a new place. I felt slightly uncomfortable. And I convinced myself that smoking that cigarette would make everything normal — that I’d feel better about things. Of course that wasn’t true. I’d have finished the cigarette, everything would’ve still been new and weird and I would’ve just felt terrible about smoking. I would’ve used it as an excuse to start again, probably.

Every time I think about how long I’ve been a non-smoker, I think about how grateful I am for that girlfriend who pulled me away from those cigarettes.

I bring this up because that’s what I think these smokey places are doing for me now. They are reminding me of how bummed out I will be if I have a drink. They are wafting into my nose and into my brain, telling me how I am in a new place where I am feeling uncomfortable, and no amount of wine (no matter how cheap and local it is) is going to change that.

And the surprising thing about all of this now is that I am somehow grateful for the smoke. Suddenly I see it as the friend who is pulling me back to reality, showing me that I’ve got some distorted thinking patterns. It’s not my fault, really, it’s just part of how I’m wired right now.

Until I can learn to rewire, I’ll just continue on toward 200 days and hope my sore throat goes away once we move into our new house. Unless I’ve got another lesson to learn. Life brings us some of the strangest teachers sometimes, doesn’t it?


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Kellie August 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

Congrats on going 200 days without smoking- that is quite an accomplishment!!


Laura August 14, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Thank God for the strange teachers! And good for you for even noticing them. Keep going, you are doing great!
Side note: sometimes throat issues are about not speaking up for yourself, or not standing in YOUR truth. Just something to think about! Sending you healing love!


Miriam August 14, 2013 at 1:28 pm

Hey, well done on your 200 days! I do agree the Universe does answer our questions in peculiar ways sometimes but the point is made. I too have had some odd teachers recently. Thank you for sharing so openly the day to day with addiction. 🙂


Deanna Heiliger August 14, 2013 at 2:30 pm

What a fabulous post! I love that you were able to be grateful for the smoke and look at it as a teacher! Congratulations on the no alcohol run…great for your mind, body, and soul! 🙂


Karo August 14, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Great post and lesson! I love the part where you talk about how the things you own really own you. I read somewhere that if your living space is cluttered, so is your life. And now I am trying to keep things to the minimum. It really helps me to focus on things I need to do on a given day, and it never really gets too messy, so clearing and cleaning spaces is easy


Ms. Becca August 15, 2013 at 12:03 am

Thanks Kellie! I’ve actually gone several years without smoking now (probably could’ve been more clear on that). I’m headed toward 200 days without drinking 😉 Thanks for the congrats!

Hi Laura! I totally hear you on the sore throat thing. I’ve been working a little bit with my 5th chakra but not much. I’m actually planning to blog about the whole thing soon because you are SO right…it’s all about speaking my truth. Thanks for the kind words and the healing love!

Hi Miriam! Thanks for the congrats and the kind words. The Universe is so peculiar! What a good word for it 🙂

Thanks for stopping by Deanna! I’m glad you liked the post and thanks for the congrats 🙂

Hi Karo! Ah, keeping things to a minimum. Clearing clutter is my dream! I try not to get too obsessed with it. Ha! But I think what you read is true: cluttered space = cluttered life. Not that it is always a terrible thing, but it needs to be moderated, right? Thanks for the kind words!


Olivia August 15, 2013 at 4:38 pm

This brought back a lot of memories… apartment life, smoking, drinking, moving…

I bet you have a lot more energy and all the other benefits that go along with it. It takes a lot to fight that voice saying how soothing it can make you feel, even if it is a temporary feeling.


Ms. Becca August 15, 2013 at 11:41 pm

I didn’t know you smoked! Did you quit or do you still? Yeah, I do have more energy most days. There are still the off days but I the changes are so subtle I have to remind myself that my worst days now are better than my best days then.


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