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Letter: Saying Goodbye to Cigarettes

Another wonderful letter from a friend of The Work:

I was thinking about the conversation that we had about my own experience with the School of You in L.A. last October . . . and about sharing a little of that with you before the Cleanse.

What was so remarkable about my experience with the School is that my miracle was so unexpected.

In fact, as I consider where I was in consciousness at that time, I’m quite surprised that I even noticed anything miraculous had occurred at all.

I went with two primary thoughts: the first was that I was about to spend a week learning a superficial intellectual tool and calling it deep work (by the way, I was wrong about that!!). The second was that I was dying, and that I would rather die with an intact secret than experience the shame of revelation. I have spent the whole of my adult life as a lung doctor who was a secret and closet smoker. I preached against, in the daytime, that which I practiced under cover of night. I had spent many years creating ritual around keeping my secret . . . and telling myself stories about how vilified I would be if I were discovered. Then, on the verge of leaving for the School, I discovered a lump in my neck . . . and I imagined the worst of everything. I was dying. I could not tell anyone about this lump because my shameful secret would be discovered. I was surrounded by a lifetime of friends who were doctors, and I did not dare speak a single word to any of them because I was ashamed. I thought I would rather die than let them know. It appeared I probably would die rather than let them know.

So I went to the School prepared to die and I will tell you that in the miracle of the School . . . in the doing of The Work . . . the cigarettes that had been my best and most secret friend for forty years said goodbye to me. I have not smoked a single cigarette since October 20, 2006. I am, miraculously, free of my attachment to smoking. Just as importantly, in the process of doing The Work, I realized that cigarettes supported my inner story of needing to be hidden and separated from the world. Each process taught me more and more about my lack of willingness to be revealed, to be integrated, to be intimate. Cigarettes had become the way for me to be separated, alone, outside the circle of tents. I share this with you not so much because I think my story needs to be heard, but because I can actually share it, now. Two months ago, I was unable to say any of this out loud to anyone. I would—remember—rather have died than tell anyone!

I came home from the School, called a friend, had some tests and found that the lump in my neck was absolutely nothing but an enlarged gland that appears to be attached to NOTHING (I loved THAT).

I can’t describe the joy of liberation that I experience. Certainly I love being liberated from the habit of cigarette smoking. What I really love is being liberated from the shame and the separation I had lived with for so long. I am liberated from the belief that lung doctors don’t smoke (Is that true? YES . . . IT’S TRUE FOR ME!! I DON’T SMOKE. O JOY!!)

With loving, Carla

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