Monday, September 13, 2010
[This is not a short story, an anecdote, or an opinion piece. It’s a state of mind. I’m typing whatever thoughts occur to me during my attempt at quitting smoking. There will be no editing of this document. Therefore, if you find grammatical errors, misspellings, poor sentence constructions, or obviously not-fully-thought-out thoughts, please congratulate me on being able to retain my usual style despite the pressure.]
Amazing. I didn’t set my alarm this morning, but I still awoke within a minute of when it is set to go off on a workday. If this is any indication of how my body reacts to change, this isn’t going to be easy.
I’m trying to quit smoking. I’ve been a smoker for forty years.
(If you’d like to find out how I started smoking, you could read this tale of adolescence. I’ve been told it’s entertaining, and I don’t see any reason to doubt my mother.)
Anyway, I took a couple of days off from work in order to give myself the best chance at succeeding. This is the morning of the first day, then there’s Friday, then the weekend. That’s four days.
I figure four days should be enough of a start to give me a real chance at continuing to not smoke when I return to work. The problem there is that I’ve become quite used to taking five or six breaks a day to go outside and puff tobacco. I don’t know what the fuck I’m going to do with myself if I have to sit inside of the office for 9 hours straight.
Well, yeah, sure, I could work, but I do that now. Although there’s no heavy lifting, my job is sometimes very taxing mentally, and it’s done more efficiently if the person doing it is allowed a break when he or she needs to clear the mind and relax a bit. I’m going to have to learn how to do that without smoking.
(It occurs to me that I’ve never held a job at which I didn’t smoke. I can’t remember a single one.)
The thing I need to do, now, is stay busy. I need to keep my mind occupied as much as possible. The thought I need to retain is that I am free to do anything I wish, except smoke a cigarette.
Seems easy, but even when 99.99% of your entire body isn’t itchy, you still desperately want to scratch the 00.01% that is.
I just finished four slices of peanut butter toast and a big glass of milk. I always – ALWAYS – have a cigarette after eating. My lungs are very surprised at the moment.
Eating will be a problem for a little while, and not just because of my penchant for after dinner air pollution. I fully expect to eat more often, and I am ready to gain some poundage. I’ll trade the weight gain for the smoking cessation, if need be. I know I can lose the weight later. I’ve dieted before and been successful. I’ve never quit smoking, so I’ll take the one I know I can do in order to do the one I don’t.
Holy Mackerel, Andy! I don’t know what that means, but it sure is a mouthful!
I watched a couple of Edgar Kennedy short subjects on DVD. Very funny guy, unjustly forgotten. Not the point, though. One of the characters was smoking. I was laughing right along until then. Not that I became morose, but it reminded me that no matter how much of a sealed vacuum I might try to create, smoke would creep in.
It was the same way twenty years ago when I gave up cocaine. For a few months, every time I saw a scene in a movie or on TV of people doing coke, I could fairly much taste it. If you give up something, but others are still doing it, you have to live with it.
I have the feeling that sounds banal, trite. I think I’m feeling a little tired, actually. I’m going to go back to bed and take a nice nap.
(One of the perks of not being at work!)
Had a very short nap, and then decided to go get a haircut. I couldn’t find a parking space by the barbershop, so I drove home in a haze. I shouldn’t be driving. My ability to focus on the task at hand is miniscule. My thoughts go flying off in twenty different directions at once.
I’ve come to the conclusion that keeping a diary of this experience is not as…
Fuck it, I can’t even think of the word I want. It stinks, is what it does, or is, or will be. So, I’ll write if I feel like it, but I’m not going to chronicle every little thing I do. That would be boring in the extreme.
And the crowds cheered as I shut off the computer.
Put some laundry in the washing machine. Before that, I put the first dose of nicotine and tar in my lungs.
All day, I fought the urge to have one. I feel almost normal again. For the first time today, I can think without my thoughts disintegrating into little shards of muted panic.
I also feel guilty.
I can rationalize. In the grand scheme of things, I’ve done well so far. I went 11 hours, minus some short naptime, without a smoke. That’s the longest I’ve gone without one in perhaps six or seven years. The last time I went that long was when I joined a group that tried to quit smoking. The Town of Watertown sponsored it. I went to pre-quitting meetings, and then quit at the same time as the rest of the group, on a Saturday. I lasted most of that day, but was in a foul mood the whole time. When I finally had a cigarette, I felt like a curse had been lifted.
Today, I was in a decent mood most of the day. I think that’s because it was my decision to quit, and I wasn’t part of some government-sponsored behavior modification thing paid for by my taxes. In this case, it has been solely on my own initiative, and that gave me more gratification. The first time I broke the fast, though, it made me feel worse about myself, whereas the previous experience had left me feeling less guilty.
I feel physically normal now. It won’t last, though, and that scares me. I know I’ll start feeling the urge, and I’ll again not be able to truly focus my thoughts. I’m going to try to get through the rest of the day having had just the one cigarette all day, and then maybe tomorrow morning I’ll have a bit less of a craving. I hope so.
I wound up having four cigarettes yesterday. However, I’ve had none so far today, and I’ve been up for almost fifteen minutes!
My willpower is the stuff of legend.
I’m OK with having had the four cigarettes yesterday. I generally smoke a pack a day.
(I’m wonderfully consistent in poisoning myself. Any time I don’t obsess about the number, I look into the pack I’m working on, do the math, and find that I’ve had between 17 and 23 smokes by the time I go to bed. For ease of calculation and conversation, I say I smoke a pack a day. If you’re unfamiliar with smoking, a pack is 20 cigarettes.)
What I have a problem with is that I woke up this morning with just as much of a craving as I woke with yesterday. I truly don’t look forward to another fight against that, not being able to focus, everything I do not occupying my thoughts enough to keep my thoughts on track, stumbling around the house aimlessly from one uncompleted task to begin another, and seeing that about seven minutes have elapsed every time I think it’s been an hour.
If I could write coherently – or more coherently than I am – that would help. I truly can’t think of the words I want. I really cannot.
So, I’m going to shut up for a while. I’ll come back if I have anything important to tell you.
You know my style by now. Insert your own joke.
This is turning into a journal of failure. I had a smoke a couple of minutes ago.
I had given MY WIFE a ride to the bus stop in Watertown Square, and I was planning on going grocery shopping from there. Problem was, when I got to the store, I realized I had forgotten our reusable grocery bags. I decided to drive home and get them. As I did so, I once again realized how out of it I am when I don’t have a dose of nicotine in my system. I felt as though I were driving drunk. Well, maybe not drunk, but not quite sober, either - somewhere unsafe in-between.
Anyway, I decided to do the shopping later. I pulled the car into our garage and went inside. I had some toast…
I should probably mention that I’ve given up coffee for the time being. I connect having a cup of coffee with having a cigarette, so I decided it would be best to substitute tea. The tea will give me enough caffeine to stave off the headache I’d get from not having coffee. Also, the lessened intake of caffeine will make it easier for me to sleep, and sleeping is my great ally right now. The more I sleep, and the more soundly I sleep, the fewer cigarettes I’ll crave. I usually wake two or three times in the night and have a cigarette each time. The one thing I’ve done, and I’m proud of, is not having a cigarette at any time during the past two nights. When I’ve awoken, I’ve had a drink of water and gone back to bed without smoking. That’s a small victory.
MY WIFE wondered, during our ride to her bus, if I shouldn’t see a doctor and perhaps get a prescription for some sort of aide. She mentioned Chantrix, I believe, which I think is Wellbutrin. I might be mistaken on that. Anyway, I said that I don’t have any intention of seeing a doctor until after I’ve quit. I hate going to see doctors. No matter what you go to them for, they always give you a lecture about not smoking. MY WIFE didn’t understand my current reluctance. She thinks it doesn’t make sense to still not want to see a doctor if I’m going to tell the doctor that my purpose in seeing him is to quit. The problem is that I’m a contrarian by nature. I would feel defeated if I went to a doctor and told him that I was quitting. Somehow, it would seem as though he had won. What I want is to have already quit, and then when I go to the doctor, and he says, “You should quit smoking”, I’ll be able to tell the son of a bitch that I don’t smoke.
I am some kind of fucked up mentally.
Anyway, I decided that I’m in no shape to drive, and my mind can’t focus on anything for more than a few seconds. So, I had a smoke. Now I can focus again. And before that feeling wears off, I’m headed to the store. See you later.
Back from shopping, where I picked up mallomars, thin mints, barbecue chicken pizzas, good humor ice cream bars, and other assorted oral substitutes with which I shall blow myself up like a balloon.
I feel I should explain something about the cigarettes I’ve had. You may be wondering where I got them. Didn’t I clean out the house before quitting, throwing away ashtrays, lighters, cigarettes, etc.? Yes, I did. And if yesterday had been trash day – which it usually is – I would have been less tempted. However, since Labor Day fell on Monday of this week, trash day was pushed back to Friday. And when I was tempted on Thursday night, I knew all I had to do was go into the trash and retrieve the final pack of smokes I had thrown out. So, I broke open the trash bag and took them out.
Yes, I broke open a trash bag, stuck my arm in amongst the rotten tomatoes, putrid bits of raw chicken fat, used handkerchiefs, and shitloads of ashes and smelly butts, and then rewarded myself for performing such a feat by smoking a poisonous weed. I could actually feel my IQ lowering as I did it.
I’m not really sure why I even turned on the computer. I don’t have much to say.
I’ve had three cigarettes today. That’s not bad. It’s not perfection, either. Anyway, the smokes that were remaining in the pack I pulled from the trash are now gone. If I have another cigarette, it will be because I consciously made the decision to go into a store and buy some. I hope I don’t.
I’m going to eat some mallomars and thin mints. See you later.
I made the conscious decision to go into a store and buy some. That was last night. I had two from the pack, for a total of five for Friday. That makes it nine I’ve had during the past 48 hours. I’d usually average about forty. It’s not COLD turkey, but maybe it’s room temperature.
(Anybody know the origin of that phrase?)
I’ve decided that having a cigarette every four or five hours, if I need one to think, isn’t the worst thing I can do. If I can get through the day without a single one, fine. If I have three or four, though, I’m OK with that, too, at least for now.
Are you disappointed in me? I’m a bit disappointed in myself, but I’m also proud of what I’ve accomplished. The numbers are somewhat impressive, and I know the sort of semi-shakes I’ve been having. I’d rather have had zero and been able to crow about it, but the small number I’ve had would make me feel very proud except for my having broadcast to every Middlesex tavern and farm my intention of quitting, thus setting myself up for either huge applause when I succeeded or huge humiliation when I failed. Ego is a harsh mistress.
I’m losing it again. I write more than a couple of paragraphs, without nicotine input, and I feel as though my verbal skills have reverted to grade school. My writing skills, I mean. And it’s not that I can’t communicate at all, just that I can’t express myself with the ability I have at my command when my mind isn’t making that sound from the end of “Killer” by Alice Cooper.
(If I could embed that sound here, you’d know what I mean.)
Fluffbrain, over and out for now.
I’m back from attending the BC – Kent State football game at Alumni Stadium. I went with my good buddy for many years, Sean Flaherty.
Sean and I have an odd relationship. We’ve been friends since high school, and we’ve been in bands together. We really enjoy each other’s company, and I can’t think of any time when we’ve had a serious argument. We’re the best of friends, but we see each other once or twice a year, at most, and we used the occasion of seeing this football game as an excuse to finally exchange Christmas presents from last year. We both gave each other books about baseball, as it turned out.
The point, as if I had one, is that we met at Marketing Messages in Newton, my place of employment. From there, we went to the game. While I was waiting for Sean to arrive, I went up to my office and read the many kind comments left for me on this blog. The wonderful community on the blogosphere consistently amazes me. To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU.
Also, I visited the wonderful website, Universal Hub, a Boston-centric compendium of news and pointers to other interesting sites. I knew that Adam Gaffin, who runs U-Hub, had posted about my attempt to quit, and I had heard from MY WIFE – who had heard from a colleague of hers – that many folks over there were rooting for me to succeed. I have my (friendly, mostly) arguments with some folks there, but the comments were unfailingly supportive. I truly appreciated that.
The scoreboard for the day? I had one smoke at about 8:45 in the morning. The next was at 1:40, and I had that one as a public service. I had to drive to meet Sean. I had no desire to endanger other drivers, so I had a cigarette. It allowed me better concentration while behind the wheel. I had another one I probably shouldn’t have allowed myself, at 2:15, when Sean arrived and just before going to the game. From that point, I didn’t have another one until arriving back at my car in Newton at 7:15. That makes four, total, for the day thus far. I expect I’ll probably have another just before bed, but maybe I’ll be able to go without it. We’ll see.
There’s one other thing I want to mention before I forget about it. My boss, Rich Snider, is a mensch. He gave me a call this morning, at home, just to see how I was doing. He quit smoking years ago, he truly cares about my doing so, and I am very grateful for that. He made me an interesting offer last week. He said that if I felt the need for outside help, he knew a good hypnotist. He made the very generous offer to pay for my first session, and he said that if I felt I needed the help, at any time, the offer was on the table. He’s something special. Of course, I’m coming up on twenty years at Marketing Messages, and I wouldn’t have stuck around for that long unless I liked him.
So, three day total will be either 13 or 14 cigarettes. And the cravings are lesser than they were the first day. I haven’t been successful at completely stopping, but I think I may soon be. I’ll try to go as long as possible tomorrow. We’ll see.
I have a feeling that, so far, this has been wordy but not especially compelling, a journal of slight success and moderate inconvenience. It’s hardly the modern day Confessions Of An English Opium Eater, and The Basketball Diaries doesn’t have to worry about its position in the pantheon of addiction literature. What can I say? I’m a Pisces. I’m wishy-washy.
Honestly, I’d love to have given you a heroic tale, but I just didn’t have it in me to completely abandon my sanity. I suppose if there’s been one consistent thread here, it would be that a lack of the chemicals in tobacco smoke leaves me unable to concentrate. As a matter of fact, I’m finding that to be the case right now. It’s taken me about twenty minutes to write these two paragraphs. I can either have a smoke and write some more, or fight it and not.
I’m choosing not to have one, so no more writing until later. It’s too frustrating.
I’ve had five cigarettes today. Again, driving was required - MY WIFE and I attended a play in downtown Boston - so two of those smokes were ingested for the safety of everybody else on the road, one for the trip in and one for the trip back. I just finished the fifth one, so I figured I’d write a bit while my head was in a place to do so.
I’m unhappy that I couldn’t just quit. I probably could have toughed it out a bit more, and gone without a couple of those I’ve had during these four days, but, on the other hand, I’m a little bit proud of how many times I wanted one and I did tough it out. Getting down to an average of five or six smokes a day is one hell of a lot better than doing a pack a day. And I’ve done it without any sort of help or aid. I don’t have perfect willpower, by any means, but I’ve come up with more than I have at any time in the past.
I mentioned earlier that I quit for a day a few years ago. The longest I’ve ever gone without a cigarette during the forty years I’ve been smoking is a day and a half. I did that about fifteen years ago. I’ve never gone through a four-day stretch on as few cigarettes as I’ve had during this four-day stretch. And I’m sure I can keep it at this level of five or six a day. If I do that for a while, and get my body truly used to the lower levels of nicotine, maybe I can make the step to complete abstinence sometime in the near future. Maybe I’ll get a prescription aid, or try that hypnotist.
By the way, somebody – I’m not sure if here, or at Universal Hub - mentioned The Mad Russian. For those unfamiliar with who he is, he’s famous in the Boston area for helping people to quit smoking. He doesn’t advertise HIMSELF as The Mad Russian, but he’s known more by that sobriquet than by his actual name. Anyway, lots of folks have been through a session with him and quit. Many people swear by his treatments. I went to him once, about twelve years ago as I recall, and it was utterly unsuccessful for me. I had a smoke almost as soon as I left his office, and didn’t even cut down as a result of my visit to him. Similarly, I took part in a group hypnosis session once. Some people quit smoking after that session, one of them a relative of mine. Me? Again, I had a smoke on the drive home and the supposed hypnosis had no effect whatsoever on my levels of nicotine intake. I still smoked a pack or more the day after. I don’t think I was hypnotized, but I’ve heard you don’t really know if you’ve been hypnotized or not. Whatever the case, it didn’t help. Perhaps a one-on-one session with a hypnotist would do something to help, and maybe I’ll find out about that.
The bottom line is that I believe I’m on the right track this time. I’m getting through the night without having a smoke whenever I wake up. I can shave, shower, get dressed, and whatever else I have to do in the morning, without having a cigarette. Those are big steps for me.
As you read this, I’m at work on Monday. That will be tough. At home, if I want to have a smoke, but I want to fight the urge, I can do whatever I want to take my mind off of it. At work, I won’t have that option. All I can do is suffer through the craving and hope it passes somewhat quickly. If I have to have a smoke – that is, if I really WANT one, because I know I don’t HAVE to have one – I can go outside and have one, like I’ve always done, and see if the lesser amount of smokes I’ve had the past four days will lead to me wanting one less often during my work day. I hope so.
I’m fairly certain this has been long, but not especially entertaining. If I had quit completely, it would have at least been gratifying to those of you who wanted me to do so. And I didn’t give out with huge amounts of anger or cursing, which would have at least been something to keep it interesting.
I gave it a good shot, if not my best shot, and I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for caring about me. I’ll give it my best to maintain at this level, and then give quitting another shot soon – very soon – and probably avail myself of some help when I do.
I guess that’s about all for now. Thanks for giving me an ear.
Soon, with more better stuff.