Saturday, December 01, 2012

Quitting Smoking: Eleven Months Today

I smoked my last cigarette late New Year's Eve, December 31, 2011. Technically, it may have been closer to two in the morning on January 1st, 2012, but I hadn't gone to bed yet, so I think calling it December 31st is fair game. Eleven months ago. Wow.

For folks who want to quit and are looking for inspiration, I have the traditional good news/bad news. I successfully quit: good news. I'm still out of breath when I walk; I waited too long to quit: bad news. I never cheated: good news. I want a cigarette every hour of every day: bad news. I saved $1650: good news. I neither saved nor did anything meaningful with that money: bad news.

When I was a smoker and wanted to stop, I looked to success stories for magic talismans of wisdom to ward off the demon Nicotine. Brush your teeth often, they said. Drink lots of water. Chew gum instead. Use patches or nicotine gum. Use smokeless cigarettes. Behavior modification is the key, they claim. Paint your walls, have your furniture professionally cleaned, remove all traces of nicotine from your environment.

I'm pretty sure I did none of those things.

I just suffered through withdrawal every time I wanted to smoke and made a conscious decision: Nope, not gonna smoke THIS cigarette THIS time. I breathed instead. Sometimes I pretended to smoke -- not with my hands -- but I drew the invisible smoke deeply into my lungs and held it, imagining it was there. I exhaled it long and slow. I consciously relaxed my body and let the tension out with the “smoke.” And it worked for me.

But then again, eleven months later I find I still want to smoke a cigarette. And then again, again, I successfully stopped smoking cigarettes. So did I succeed, or fail?

[SMOKING TRIGGER WARNING – Text in yellow] I miss the ritual of turning the pack over and over in my hands, feeling its smooth fullness. Tapping it to pack the tobacco more tightly. I miss the feel of the cellophane wrapper. I miss peeling the little string, the cling of the top, having to shake it loose into the waste basket. I still envision opening the foil – I never tore mine off; I peeled back two triangles so I could refold the top and keep the tobacco bits from spilling out of the pack.

I miss tapping the closed top of the pack against my left hand until the first virgin cigarettes pop their white heads out into the air free at last, free at last, thank God almighty! I always chose the center-most cigarette, the one in the “middle” for good luck. Ha. Good luck cigarette, what a concept. Anyway, I digress.

After selecting my cig, I would feel its fullness and appreciate it. Put it to my lips and flick my lighter, watch as the two joined, and pull the heat up into and through. I enjoyed the smoke entering my mouth and traveling down my bronchial tubes, entering my lungs. I never was a really deep lung smoker; I pretty much smoked about down to where the bronchus splits.

But I did smoke for over forty years, and I smoked a lot. I smoked from the moment I woke up until the instant before I went to bed. The past few years, I'd say an average of a pack and a half a day, although when I did the math savings, I calculated a single pack.

Then there was the actual smoking ritual itself. For some reason, this is not as vivid to me. But I know I enjoyed it. I don't even want to try and remember it, honestly. It's like missing an old lover – or, to be silly, “old flame.” To quote the lyrics from “The Way We Were,” What's too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget. Let's just say I enjoyed smoking, and I miss it, and to be perfectly honest if I could still breathe, I would still smoke.

Call me recalcitrant [I just Googled “recalcitrant” to be sure that was the exact word I wanted, and skimmed over the following sentence which triggered a wander down Giggle Lane: Under Potty Training Refusal – even recalcitrant stoolholders respond within two months. I bet that's a long, HARD two months . Sorry. I realize scatalogical humor is iffy at best.

I am glad I don't smoke now. I prefer not to smell cigarette smoke, but it doesn't disgust me. Sometimes it's enjoyable. I haven't kissed anyone who smokes (yet) and I'm curious how that will go. I know that when someone enters my car who's just put out their cigarette, that it's a little intense for a moment or two, but tolerable and soon passes. I am thankful I didn't become one of those former smokers for whom the slightest whiff of smoke triggers a gag reflex or other strong aversion reactions because many of my friends and family are smokers.

This is not real positive and encouraging, and I apologize. I almost feel as if I should fib and get on the bandwagon with all those other people I read and hear about and say I feel ten times better and stronger and healthier. But that's not me. I waited too long to quit. I feel pretty much like I did before I quit, except I don't cough nearly as much now. And that's good. But it's not great.

In summary, I am thankful I was able to stop. I am grateful I did not resume smoking. I urge you to stop NOW before it's too late. Do what it takes. There must be dozens of methods – find the one that will work for you. For me, going from one crutch to another was not the answer; I know I have an addictive personality. For you, it may be the panacea you seek.

Every cigarette you skip is a good one. Don't hate yourself if you light up again. Don't consider the process destroyed – just smoke that one and quit all over again. There's always a next time (till there's not, but that's another story and you won't have to deal with quitting then anyway). I will say that the excuse/rationale of smoking so you don't gain weight is ridiculous. Gain a little weight. You can lose weight later; you can't always regain lung function. Just sayin'. Lung function wins, hands down, every time.

Bottom line: Be good to yourself. Treat yourself with respect. Do the best you can and be loving and forgiving with you. If you are able to quit, more power to you. If not, there'll always be another cigarette to skip. Good luck. I love you. ~~ Ginger


Karen Kampe said...

Thank you for your encouraging words. I am struggling with this, keep sayin I'll quit soon. You have helped me to concentrate on skipping more cigs, so I can become smoke free again.

Ginger said...

I am so glad!!! Yes, every one you skip is a good one, Karen. :D

Love you!

Anonymous said...

Good for you

Nicotine and Behavioral Modification

Maybe this will help

Stephanie Ann said...

I am so glad you are still going strong! And who said it would be all better in a year? It may take longer, but I am sure you will see more improvement <3 In February I'll be 3 years! I am very glad and occasionally I have an urge that's purely instinctual for something I used to do so often, but I don't even really have to fight it anymore because I just don't want it. That's a nice feeling. Nice to know I'm in control and that my intelligence can take over since I know it's so very bad for me and those around me.

Stephanie Ann said...

More to look forward to at 1 year-15 years!! Love you!

Ginger said...

Thanks for reading, commenting, and for the links too. Congrats on your success, Stephanie Ann!

I don't have to fight it; it's not that kind of desire. It's more of a "I wonder if there's any chocolate in the kitchen" when I know there isn't kind of mindset. It doesn't haunt me or torture me in any way; it just IS.