Friday, July 16, 2010

Two weeks down, a lifetime to go...

...the last few days have been a relative cakewalk.

However, they've been fairly low stress, and I haven't consumed any alcohol. Obviously I'm going to drink some wine this weekend in honor of my birthday. That might cause some trouble--we shall see how it goes.

Overall, though, I'm feeling strong. Healthy. I got a massage yesterday, a nice reward for all the hard work. Kaitlyn worked on some pressure points that are supposed to help eliminate addiction. I'll take all the help I can get.

Whenever I think of cigarettes, I simply let the thought pass, like watching a ship sailing by on the Bay. These thoughts will occur to me for the rest of my life. If I can maintain the proper distant awareness--watching the craving rather than being the craving--then I think I can handle it.

It's when it takes over your psyche that it becomes inescapable and torturous.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Oooh! This gets HARDER every time, my goodness gracious!

Tonight was especially rough at work. We were a wee bit short at the restaurant this evening, which is extra brutal for everyone, but also busy--aka cortisol levels are spiking.

So you know, I had a glass of wine afterwards to lower those babies back down.

BAD IDEA. Very, very bad idea.

As soon as that alcohol hit my bloodstream, I immediately wanted a cigarette. And my resistance was out the window.

I called Paul, who talked me down from smoking. Calling other people who want you to quit is crucial and really, really helps.

Because when you are so desperate that you are contemplating lighting a butt out of the ashtray? It's disgusting. Amazingly filthy. That's not a rational agent in control of their decision-making process. Because no rational person would choose that action. That's an addict. Paul told me about heroin addicts who shoot up other addicts' blood in an effort to get high when they run out of dope.

That's kinda what I feel like. The addiction is wearing down my resolve, and my endlessly creative and imaginative mind is coming up with every reason to smoke (the world is probably coming to an end long before I die of old age, etc.) and diminishing the weight of the reasons not to (I can probably smoke 1 a day for the rest of my life and be just fine).

I've been surprised by how many people have been reading the blog, and I really appreciate your support. It makes it easier for me, knowing that there's a whole crew out there rooting for me to succeed.

Ultimately, you are the reason I'm quitting. Every time I falter, I imagine telling you all that I am going to die because of smoking. That's really the only rope keeping me aloft right now.

Is it sad that I'm not doing this for myself?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Days 9, 10, 11

Work, work, work.

I want a ciggie, I want a ciggie, I want a ciggie hey hey hey hey!

I'm on antibiotics for a tonsil infection and I STILL want a cigarette.

I got off work and am chewing gum and drinking water like a fiend.

It would be the perfect night, perfect temperature of chilly refreshing foggy air to sit outside and enjoy a little smoke.

I actually contemplated lighting a butt from the ashtray, which is so disgusting and shameful that I am embarrassed to even admit that I entertained it.

Even now, a little voice in the back of my head is telling me to just go out there, just one little puff.

It's like it wears you down, you know? The addiction is like a toddler wearing down an exhausted parent. Incessantly asking for something until they get it.

It's weird, right? I mean, I barely smoked. I didn't even smoke enough to quit with the patch. Yet here I am, freaking out about quitting. I just don't understand how that works, biologically. One would think it would be easier. Maybe it is. Maybe I'm just being a big baby compared to someone with a pack a day habit.

I know that taking one puff would mean taking one more. And another. And then when I really needed one. And then one when I get off from work. Soon, I'm back to smoking. It's a slippery slope of tobacco leaves, and I know that.

11 days down. It will only get easier from here. I can't ruin my progress.

The trouble is, I don't really want to quit.

I want to smoke. I love smoking. This is what I'm having trouble with. I know that I should quit, but I don't want to. There's a big disconnect going on internally. It's weird and irrational.

But I love my family and friends. I love them too much to hurt them by committing suicide. So I have to put the pack down, and back away. Because really, it's stupid to choose a drug over life.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Days 7 and 8: C is for COOKIE

Day 7 passed in a haze of sugar and caffeine. I call it the "eat a cookie every time I want a cigarette" day. Result: I ate NO REAL FOOD except 2 bowls of strawberries and the crusts off a pastrami sandwich. I was a very, very naughty quitter. I was literally hopping from one foot to the other at work, and bouncing up and down singing Katy Perry's "California Gurls" at full volume.

Note to all of you intending to quit: do not replace nicotine with sugar. Just don't do it. It's not healthy.

So, apparently I had a lot of cravings yesterday. I was "waiting" to smoke. It was bad. My body was primed. It kept expecting one, and I kept having to eat cookies. I think maybe the sugar high made the nicotine cravings even worse. It was a vicious spin cycle of cookies and cravings, and my tummy was not too happy when I went to bed last night.

Today is Day 8. At least I ate real, healthful food: lentil soup for breakfast, salad for lunch, and berries for dinner. No cookies, because I ate EVERY SINGLE LAST ONE yesterday.

The cravings were still pretty bad, but only near the end of the night at work. I REALLY started to get antsy. There is nothing more pleasurable after an eight hour shift waiting tables than smoking a cigarette. Today was a long night, which is why I think the cravings were so bad. Usually, on banquet nights (which are most nights for me) it's much more chill. I had to chew a piece of my super special V6 jasmine gum to stop myself from smoking. Especially since I had to watch all my coworkers go outside and smoke.

However, the cravings are nowhere near as powerful as Day 3. Day 3 was definitely the worst thus far. These cravings are much more manageable. I want one, but I have been able to reason with myself. I'm avoiding alcohol, since I know that rationality will evanesce off into the ether if I drink.

I'm definitely starting to second-guess the quitting now. Like, do I really want to quit? Is it really so bad if I just keep smoking? What if I just smoke for another year and then quit? Would it affect my health? Every time I start to go down this path I imagine that I am, in fact, dying of cancer. What it would be like, to tell my family and friends that I'm leaving forever because I loved a drug more than I loved my own life. Putting my affairs in order, and realizing all the things that I have yet to accomplish. Just how precious time is, and how much has been wasted on the trivia. Yeah, yeah, I definitely need to quit.

Also, I don't want to be an addict. I don't want to be addicted to anything. I want to be strong and beautiful and free. I especially don't want to be enslaved to an evil industry that exists solely to help its victims slowly commit suicide. I want to grow old and weathered with dignity. I don't want to die young, with dank hair and sallow skin, yellow teeth and a tracheotomy.

I know I shouldn't need rewards, but it helps. I can justify a little materialistic retail therapy.

Bad news on the Tracy Reese dress. It arrived, but it's damaged. I won't be able to wear it on my birthday, so I'm sending it back. I'm very sad about it. I guess that's just reason to buy a different one! I definitely deserve a reward for making it through the first week (and hey, I've saved enough on not buying cigarettes!)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Days 4 and 5

...passed by relatively smoothly. I was, perhaps, more cantankerous than usual.

It helped that I didn't have to work, so I was out of my normal routine. I also was not around any smokers, nor was I ever alone with my thoughts and cravings.

Both days I went hiking.

First, on July 4, Paul and I went urban hiking (slowly, due to my poor sick self). We strolled up to Alamo Square, where I pointed out the "Full House" Victorian among the "Painted Ladies" with the requisite cityscape backdrop. We then cut over to Buena Vista park, and explored the park and its scenic foliage. We finished our trekking with a jaunt over to Corona Heights and spectacular 360 degree views of the city before returning through Buena Vista and back down to Hayes Valley. We cruised over to a rooftop in the Marina to witness a spectacular fireworks display at Fort Mason, which was only enhanced by the low, misty fog. The fireworks seemed almost more 3-dimensional because of the backlighting on the fog.

The following day we hiked my favorite trail, the Cataract Trail on Mt. Tam. We started from the base, near Alpine Lake, and climbed through Laurel Dell up to the top. We had lunch in a California Bay Laurel grove on the ridgeline near the Mountain Theatre, passing an awesome scarp of green serpentine along the way. We looked down over a thick blanket of fog instead of the city, and watched tendrils slowly creeping towards us on Mt. Tam. We finished the hike through redwoods and waterfalls and fern just in time to escape the fog and chase the sun back to the city.

I feel really solid. I'm still a bit sick, but I recovered much faster and my lungs feel great. I didn't have any really powerful cravings over the weekend.

This week will be the true test. I'll be back in my routine, working and such. Hopefully I can take the strength I built up over the weekend with me.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Day 3; Welcome To Hell.

I have lost the will to quit on Day 3 more often than any other.

I am sick, yet I am craving a cigarette.

I'm entering this blog entry to keep myself from smoking and as a way of forcing past the craving with constructive activity.

It's a warm, lazy Saturday afternoon in San Francisco. It's one of those unusual summer days where the sun is shining and it actually feels the way California is "supposed" to. No clueless visitors are huddled desperately in lines for sweaters and jackets today. Instead, the doughy marshmallow Michelin man tourists are gaping at skinny and hipsters in tight jeans from the safety of double decker buses careening around Market street.

I am a recently bronzed Mediterranean goddess hidden beneath black tights, black oversized Ray-Bans, and am convinced that it is my snarling, furious, nicotine-deprived city attitude that keeps the Pacific fog away today. The city can only handle one ponderous, roiling maelstrom at a time, and mine ain't leaving anytime soon. I weave expertly through the crowds (walk left; stand right; wtf is wrong with you, yes you, standing in the middle of the sidewalk, haven't you seen a skyscraper before?) with a blaring ipod, a precipitously tilted open cup of scalding black coffee that I am ready to toss with the slightest provocation as part of my pedestrian urban armor, and the always-impatient clip of my shoes.

Such was my morning. I will be impatient with everyone today. I have locked myself away from the rest of humanity for their own safety and protection. Quarantined now in my room and have taken on the monumental task of organizing my files. It is a lengthy activity, and one that I would have previously broken up with cigarette breaks. Not today. I hope I can lose myself in past essays and drawings from high school and old tax returns as I decide what to shred, what to keep, and to laugh at my old silly self and wonder at how much I have grown.

It might remind me of how far I've come, and reinforce the desire to quit. It might remind me of who I was, and who I am, and increase nostalgia and thereby cravings. Either way, it's a good, easy activity for a sick Saturday afternoon and one that I have put off for far too long. My room will be cleaner and that will bring me much joy this summer. A place for everything and everything in its place.

There is a lump in my throat and a pressure in my chest. I feel as though I might explode at any moment, or that I am slowly and painfully drowning. It is not fresh air that my body yearns for like a sunflower desperately stretching to chase the sun. My whole nervous system is tuned to nicotine, is waiting to smoke, is knotting itself together with my sanity and reason into one mournful that I will not allow myself to satisfy.

I want to cry and scream and shout and pound my chest. I want to run as hard as I can until I can't run anymore. Anything to make this pain go away.

Anything but the one thing that could take it away.

Armed with Broken Bells blaring out of my battered broken desk speakers, an already fanatically chewed piece of V6 gum, and a stackful of papers, I am ready to face the ugly.

Not the papers.

Being left alone all day to indulge my deepest darkest cravings without distraction. Willing myself to focus on the task at hand rather than escaping to chain smoke in Dolores park and read Chekhov like the rest of the disaffected urban youth.

That's just it, though.

I've hit the nail on the head.

I am not a youth. I am an adult. Gone are the days of carefree smoking. The future is now. The time to quit was long ago.

I'm too old for this hogwash.

Still, the siren song of youthful summertime tugs deep at my soul.

Today will not be easy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Days 1 and 2

I smoked my last cigarette around 10pm on June 30, despite the fact that I didn't really want one at the time and was sick to boot. I woke up practically dying on July 1st, and that's when I knew that I didn't want to feel that way anymore, damnit. I'm too much of a health freak for this hogwash.

Once again, I find myself staring down the lonely abyss without nicotine. I know that it's a long, hard road from here without that little glow by my side.

I love nicotine. I love smoking. I love everything about it, from the way it tastes to the way it feels burning down my throat to the effects on my body to how intimately it is bound with the writing process for me.

I have written of its seductive beauty before, during previous quit attempts. I don't know that non-addicts really understand what it is like to give it up.

I started young. So, for starters, the drug is hardwired permanently into my brain. I am and always will be addicted. Science has proven that if I even take so much as one hit, it can undo years of resisting.

More than that, though, cigarettes are a part of my identity. Nicotine is an insidious drug, reaching its spidery tentacles throughout the very core and substance of my being. I'm not just giving up using a drug. I'm murdering part of myself, and it's like cutting off my right hand. It physically hurts. I feel abandoned and alone, like my best friend is no longer there for me.

Go ahead and break the habit. Banish it from your day to day. But just wait until something bad happens, some stressor or haunting spectre of the past. You'll reach for that pack quicker than lightning, because it is part of your coping mechanism.

Or, you'll start to get cocky. You'll think that just because you haven't smoked in 6 weeks/months/years that you have beaten your addiction. You can have one. Just one. You're drinking a cocktail, after all, and it is warm outside and everyone around you is lighting up. It's just a social thing. You're not really an addict.

These have been my failures in the past. Weakness of the addiction, an emotional stressor, or overconfidence.

I am incredibly sick with bronchitis right now, so it is really the perfect time to quit. Day 1 passed relatively easily in a haze of medicine and hot tea.

Day 2 is a little anxious and nail-biting thus far. I am feeling better, so I feel like I actually want one. I'm chewing gum and drinking lots of coffee and feel a bit...edgy. I'm going to a movie with non-smokers tonight, which should be enough to keep me from faltering.

I know that scientifically speaking, after 48 hours I have annihilated the physical addiction and that it's a mental game from here on out. I know I can make it the first 48. It's the mental game that messes with you. Nicotine is not just a physical addiction. As bad as that aspect is--and believe you me, I am as sharp as a Samurai sword right now--for me it's the psychological addiction that is the really inescapable one.

I bought myself a reward online for quitting today. It's a stunningly beautiful summery silk floral dress by Tracy Reese and should arrive around the end of Week 1. I have my eye on another dress as well; if I make it through the month of July then I will buy that one, too.

Days 3 through 5 are always the hardest for me. If I can make it through this weekend, it will be downhill from there. There will be obstacles thrown in my path, but the worst will be over. The overwhelming urge to smoke can be counteracted by rational thought once I'm through the crucible of the first week. Right now though, that's not so much the case. Sometimes the urges hijack the rationality train.

The plan:

Hang out with my nonsmoker friends and avoid the smokers.
Chew gum like my name is Violet Beauregard. Desperately seek out more of this delicious V6 jasmine gum.
Work out hard every day to flex my new lungs and feel the power grow in my body.
Practice yoga daily to strengthen my mental game.
Avoid alcohol.
Keep myself busy with lots of little tasks.
Keep this blog as a quit journal.