The Hummingbird Chronicles: Chapter One – Taking on Big Tobacco

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Taking on tobacco is a challenging task. Whether it is ridding oneself of a life-sucking addiction to tobacco products, exposing rapacious practices by the tobacco industry, or advocating for tobacco control, motivation, commitment and clarity of thought are key components. As I take this next step on my journey as a David versus Big Tobacco’s Goliath, I am thankful to have been introduced to my symbolic animal totem…the small but mighty hummingbird.

The Hummingbird symbolizes the enjoyment of life and the lightness of being. It invites us to smell the sweetness of life, to lift up negativity and express love more fully in our everyday lives. Inspired by the daily feats that the hummingbird instinctively accomplishes (traveling backwards and for great distances tirelessly) we are encouraged to develop our adaptability and resilency while maintaining an optimistic and playful outlook. Independence, being more present, swiftness in response to shifting winds and the ability to bounce back into shape are all symbolized by this amazing creature.

Tobacco robs us of our inner hummingbird. Physically, mentally and emotionally enslaved by nicotine, we lose our independence. Our thoughts become consumed by our next fix. We stop deriving enjoyment from simple pleasures when they get in the way of our habit. We shun those we love if they nag us about smoking or chewing. We stop visiting people or going places if we can’t light up while there. We sink into the depression that comes with chemical dependency. We feel weak, helpless and sick instead of strong, empowered and energetic. We become slow and cumbersome as we wheeze, cough and choke our way through another day chained to tobacco.

Our hummingbird may have become coated with tar, de-feathered by toxic chemicals and grounded by exhaustion, but it’s middle name is resiliency. Given a chance to clean and spread its wings once again, all that it has lost or had compromised can come springing back to life. In search of nectar instead of nicotine, the released hummingbird regains it’s positive outlook on life. It brings joy to the hearts of all who love and admire it and inspires others to choose freedom over captivity. Ever adaptable, it finds new daily routines to replace the old nasty ones. It’s senses reawakened, our totem smells the roses, tastes the honey and says “yes” to new adventures. The weight of addiction is transformed into lightness and celebration.

We all travel different paths as we seek the bounty represented by the freedom and fun-loving hummingbird. For some, the decision to push tobacco out of the nest for good is enough. For others, the powerful grip of nicotine and habit are not so easily broken. We might have tried multiple times to “just say no” but the parasite in our brains won’t let go without a fight for its life. Maybe we are genetically wired to be more sensitive to nicotine, thanks to our tobacco-loving ancestors. Or maybe tobacco has been so normalized in our lives that we can’t even imagine a day without it. If we have smoked or chewed for any length of time, the diseases that follow may have already set in, causing us to “give up and give in” to a premature and painful demise. But if we have the hummingbird to guide us, those diseases are the catalyst that inspire change. Maybe it is the birth of a grandchild that we don’t have the oxygen or strength to pick up or see grow up that alters our relationship to tobacco. Maybe we simply can no longer bear the costs of the products themselves or the healthcare bills they result in.

The good news is uplifting. We CAN win the battle against the darkness of tobacco dependency. Maybe we need help and thankfully, there are many resources out there to assist us on our journey. Customize Your Quit is thrilled to be one of those resources.



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