Friday, May 1, 2020

The Emergency Room Doc who changed my mind

    In 2004, early winter I was coughing up so much junk that I started to gag, almost choke. After putting up with that for a few days, I went to my local hospital's emergency room.
    Seated on an exam bed, anxious about seeing the Doc, I waited for a good while. Sterile exam room. Polka dot gown. I read anything on the wall, whatever it said. No magazines. Just equipment. A chair. A bed. I stared at the walls, considered the ceiling. Wondered if I had pneumonia, wondered if that meant antibiotics. Time passed.
    When the doctor came in, said hello, he asked what was going on. I said lots of junk coming up from my lungs. 
    Do you smoke?
    I could tell you were a smoker just by looking at you. Your face shows it.
    I cringed inside,but held a say-nothing-face on the outside.
    He took his stethoscope, went around to my backside and set the scope to my back. Placed it high--breath. Listened for some time. Moved it all about, repeating the same command.
    Do you hear that?
    Hear what?
    Your lungs. If you do not stop smoking you are going to end up with emphysema. He said this firmly--no anger--he just said it so that I'd hear what he was saying.
     I'm surprised you don't use an inhaler. 
     He said that I had some kind of pneumonia and that he would write a prescription, recommended that I get an inhaler.
     Back then I was pretty good about ignoring the reality of my smoking, but this doctor's approach made me pay attention.
     I went home and thought about his long term diagnosis--I suppose that is what it was. It stayed with me. Even though it took me nine and a half years to quit, I never forgot. From then on, I controlled my smoking by counting what I smoked each day, writing it down. I smoked a third less right away. Of course quitting then would have been best. Still, in 2013, when I was finally was willing to stop, his clear and uncut treatment was a part of my quit. Everyone knows that emphysema bargains with no one. That stab of truth hung out in my mind, sometimes in front, sometimes in back reminding me that I don't have the control I think I do when I smoke.
     I don't know who he was, but I remember what he said. Now, six years, seven months smober, I still remember. 
     Thanks, Doc. Live long and kick butt. 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Today, tomorrow and the day after that

    The chance to quit smoking was around me every minute of everyday, but I smoked on and on and on. Some say they love smoking. Not me. It was an addiction of course, not love. It was dependency, not love.
     The day I quit in the fall of 2013 was the first step forward. I wondered how I'd ever see smoking any differently--how could it ever stop being everything to me.
     I had to quit first in order to find the answer to that question-- detaching and letting go happened over time because addiction doesn't let go just like that. All my senses were tuned to smoking each and every hour, every day when I was a smoker. I didn't feel seperate from smoking. That first day, that first step felt like betrayal. How could I separate? Why? That's addiction.
     There is no reasoning with addiction. It has to be faced, action taken, a plan made, help sought after--addiction has to be beaten down until it is beaten to nothing.    
     No one needs a particularly special reason to quit--they are all good reasons. Quitting is about facing the addiction today, tomorrow, the day after that until the delusion that smoking is necessary is destroyed. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Sessile Serrated Adenoma came with the cigarettes

Today, I'm faced with having a partial colectemy in the near future due to a polyp (not the good kind) in my colon. It could not be entirely removed at the time of my colonoscopy and the surgeon is recommending right hemicolectomy. Six to eight weeks recovery. 

I've spent some time reading up on this kind of polyp (including at least one other potential approach to removing it that is not as invasive) and discovered that while age and gender play a role in there development, so does smoking. 

And I believe it. 

I'm 61. I quit at age 54 knowing that my health would improve on a daily basis, but, that the longer term risks would not be reduced right away, and not as much as a nonsmoker. It seems that this is one of them.

I'm lucky to have a choice going forward. Quitting was the best thing I could have done.

Are you still smoking? If you won't stop, yet, have a colonoscopy at age 50. And know that there is a ton of quit support out there if you are willing to seek it.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Still smober

    Still smoke free. It's been about five years eight months. All of the strain of quitting has vanished. And I've come to accept quitting. Now I'm sixty, but I set out at age 54 to see if I could change. I struggled for quite a while--never smoking, but I thought I'd lost my mind.
Now that smoking is no longer fresh in my mind, I realize that there are all sorts of quit help. I just dove in as fast as I could without thinking about what would make it easier. Accepting quitting makes it easy, but not all of us (about 2/3's who try) do not have the luxury of a positive attitude and a resolute mindset. Joining an online support group helped me change my thinking. I joined about 2 years 10 months in. And I'd made progress--certainly was happier than at the start of my quit.
    At Ex I had a chance to hear from all kinds of quitters, to see support in action (newcomers coming nearly every day), and to read about nicotine addiction. I also came to understand how NRT helps some people, not others, and that Chantx and other drugs also help some.
   Today, unlike 20, 30 years ago, support has expanded a great deal.
I wonder if todays quitters realize how wide the support and aids net is?
Today, I'm grateful I'm still smober and able to help others from time to time get through the early part of a quit.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Can I hear myself now?

My quit timeline

(Prequel Picture: daily smoke record started in Jan 04 after a visit to an ER. I was quite sick,
coughing up mucus almost to the point of choking. The ER doctor asked if I smoked. Hearing yes, he said
“I could tell you were a smoker by looking at you. If you do not stop you will have emphysema.
I vowed to myself to cut back. Not quit. Cut back, yes.And so these notes grew and grew for ten years.)

An ordinary summer, smoking is bad for me, but whatever.
Summer of 2013, I smoked a pack of cigarettes  a day at this time, but had smoked
up to a pack and a half at times throughout my 35 (more or less) years of smoking.
I had no thought of quitting, nothing at all until the fall of 2013.

An unlikely moment of sanity came upon me
Mid Sept 2013. In September I happened to be adding up the cost of replacement
parts for my upright piano when I came to the conclusion that I could not really afford it.
In a flash, I suddenly saw how absurd this was to think, since I knew that I allowed
for 1800 bucks a year for  cigarettes. I also knew that my insurance premiums were
higher due to my status as a smoker. In an instant (it happened that fast--not that I hadn’t
considered or tried quitting before) I decided to give it a chance.

Mid Sept through October 4. I searched for good quit ideas on the internet--websites and
youtube. Started making a list of do-s taken from various websites (NH Quits for one) and
Youtube quit videos (avoided headlines and titles such as The Easy Way to Quit, Quit in 24 hours
--anything indicating that if I read something, ate something, took something I’d have a knee
slapping good time quitting). Created a plan (idea of making a plan came from online)
that included writing down options as to what I would do instead of smoke.
I did not set a quit date but  knew what my approximate quit date would be because it
was based on the carton of cigarettes that I had left. That was my way of deciding:
I figured that it ought not take longer than that. But I was influenced by NH Quits which
suggested (as do others) that the quit date should not be so far out that one
risks losing motivation.

October 1 2013.  Became clear  to me that my cigarettes would last a few days.
Confirmed to myself that my quit was on. No stretching the date. No more wondering.
Smoke up, then be done. In the last few days of my smoking I was both excited and worn out.
Decades of smoking was so familiar, but I had to turn my mind away from that reality, focusing
only on quitting. I stretched the remaining bunch of cigarettes out to last the last three days
--ever away of my ration. Smoking only 6 or 7 cigarettes meant that I could smell more than
I did when a pack was my daily average.

October 3 2013. High fall was underway in New Hampshire. My last day smoking. I had
a remainder of 5 cigarettes, maybe 6. One was broken--I was determined to smoke that one, too
and so taped it together.
Smoked my last cigarette around 8 in the evening out in the back hall, looking out the door
up at the stars. Went to bed.

October 4, 2013. Smobiety journey starts. Carried on with my day. Walked. Felt dazed
and excited but crazy. Not sure what the future held. But stuck to no smokes. I’d had a 9 hour quit in
2009, one that I believed might be it! But I’d decided suddenly in the morning without much thought
about it. Instead I wanted to muscle my way to quitting by refusing not to smoke from now on
--deciding right then and there. Didn’t work, and so as this first day of quitting progressed,
I was on red alert for crazy me deciding that quitting just wasn’t worth it. I had no time for joy,
instead I was on guard. Would I crack? I did not. Made it all day, went to bed.

October 2013. Quit days added up. Focused on walking, reading, occupying my time with
distractions (followed the list, the plan). Felt jittery (drank too much coffee) and felt nuts.
Restless, couldn’t focus on anything. Cleaned cupboards. Began to feel resentful about feeling
dazed. Wished I would feel different, stayed busy. Found more youtube videos about quitting,
or about tobacco companies and tobacco---kept watching so as to stay focused on my quit goal
--or to make sense of how I felt.

November 2013. Tended to accept that I could stay quit because I had, so let more
friends and family know that  I had quit. Drank too much coffee. Walked, kept busy Ate sugar.
Puffed on a straw and pretended to be an insane smoker. Wanted my feelings and mind to get better.
Stayed smober.

December 2013. Looked toward winter coming, walked in town (especially looked for
location of pigeons who could be grouped in many parts of town), took photos, drew from pics,
drank too much coffee, ate candy and snacks and felt weird and upset a lot. Continued to
fake smoke (on occasion)  by puffing on straws and acting like an unrepentant smoke-a-holic
but didn’t smoke. Decided that if things did not get better, then I’d go back to smoking, but not
today, wait a bit. Take some time. Not today.

January 2014. Continued to devise and concoct schemes to feel better. Looked for improvement.
Walked, read, stayed busy. Drank coffee as nicotine replacement. Saw a local park that I and so
many love logged at nearly every place. Screamed in disbelief. Swore revenge. Didn’t smoke.
Noticed I’d gained about 12 pounds, couldn’t wear most of my jeans. Felt unhappy, pissed off
and disgusted. Still, didn’t smoke.

February-March 2014. Continued to stay busy. Tried to find happy-to-quit mindset. Found it
nowhere. Worried that I’d never feel happy or interested in anything without a cigarette.
Hid my feelings from others, and put on a I’m-doing-this face at times. Felt like punching the
God of my understanding in the face. Stayed busy, noticed birds on the river during my walks,
began to photograph, identify and draw.

April 2014. Still walking everyday when not at work. Walked up a nearby wooded hill because
of the weight gain--I figured the uphill climb would do me good. It was a hill I’d walked every
half dozen years or so since childhood. Often enough to have an association, but not often
enough to know the place through and through. At the top of the hill, I said, hey see you in another
decade. And suddenly, the thought came to me, why another decade? Why not regularly.
And so it began, a relationship with a non temperamental hill that would always be there for me no
matter how I felt. By walking this hill regularly, I got in strenuous exercise and saw the four seasons.
Snowshoes and yaks in winter, on foot along steep forested paths during the good months.
I took photos from the top. I took comfort in the moment, but felt empty, like something was missing.

May through September 2014. Fell up the steep  hill drinking coffee and eating apple
turnovers bought from a nearby bakery--still wondering when I’d feel normal. When I forgot to think,
I started focusing on the forest, the happenings in the woods, the inhabitants.  I started adding more
nature books to my stay-busy reading library. Continued to draw and take photos--especially birds.
Visited my beloved park, continued to swear revenge. Didn’t smoke.

October 2014 -June 2015  Faced various stresses which seemed unsolvable. Nearly lost my mind,
but not my quit. The stressors either ended, or I learned better coping skills--either way, life got
better. I got a little happier, month by month, with each situation addressed.
Walked nearly everyday--in town, up the hill, along a river and in a nearby park. I focused
on the seasons and their attributes--tried to commit details to memory.
Drew, focused on body and face--quick sketched downtown. Remembered that I’d smoke
and draw in the car. Identified with the experience, didn’t smoke and looked away, although
frustrated,  from that association.

July 2015--December 2015 Without much fanfare, a period of calm settle in. Life seemed
normal. Smobriety didn’t seem as weird. Had a few fleeting moments of relief and pride in
realizing that  I hadn’t smoked when I felt really terrible about people, places or things.
 It was clear that I did not have to smoke, might want to, but didn’t have to.

2016  A happy year all in all. Joined Ex in August 2016. I’d signed into a different quit site
and then discovered within days that the site had been having login problems for over a year.
I moved on, finding Ex via google search. The name I wanted marycigfree wasn’t available
so I brashly forged ahead by impatiently mixing the same words up, thereby, choosing a
name that sounds like I’m giving away free cigarettes. But the sign up worked and I soon engaged.
I chose a community because I still needed to understand my new normal two years and
ten months later! (Not so new anymore, but why did it still seem new?)
In the community, I responded to new quitters, read blogs, looked at some
of the info pages--got a sense that the community was strong, consistent. Stuck around.
    Saw people come and stay, come and go. Heard stories of what it is like to live with
COPD, heard stories of going back to smoking years after quitting. Got to liking newcomers
who came back everyday to say they were still not smoking. Saw some slip away, came to
understand my smobriety must always be firm within my mind and not based on people, places,
circumstances or things.
    All seemed good.

2017   Smobriety felt more me than only a regimen of persistence.
February 2 my brother passed away unexpectedly (though in failing health). A year of grief
followed. I walked up my smobriety hill, carried on, did what I ought to do.
     Mark of Ex sent me an email in March or April 2017 about  becoming an advisory
board member . I’d drifted away from Ex but logged in to the newly revamped website to catch up.
I stayed. Took note of an oft repeated smobriety thought on Ex-- ‘life keeps happening after we quit.’

2018   Steadily finding acceptance for the loss of my brother. Visit Ex almost daily in the late
afternoon. Continue to relearn life without the cigarettes--but my smobriety roots have grown
deeper, certainly in part, due to the experience, strength and hope of many smober Ex members
who show up and share and encourage.
Acquiring a deeper appreciation why nicotine addiction is called an addiction. Accepting more
fully that smobriety is one day at a time sojourn of building a ever stronger foundation,
and by living life on life’s terms.

June 2018,
I continue to notice nature’s comings and goings. Continue to draw, take photos, walk. But these
things that were done to keep me distracted from smoking or thinking about it so much in 2013
and 2014, are now happy routines.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

To Everything, Turn, Turn, Turn

There is a Season

    Four years and three and a half months after quitting and now it seems fair to say that smoking is in my past far more than not. I don't consider smoking these days and long ago I stopped looking back at my smoking days with nostalgia. 
    I've adopted habits such as daily walking, photographing birds(later to draw) and reading--amongst other things. But these three were my main stays at first. Today they are almost second nature.
    When I first quit, I didn't realize how much a cigarette represented a break (time off/time out) and so I tended to anxiously keep busy. I kept a list, followed it day in and out. A bit of a breathless approach, but that was the best that I could do. Today, relaxing, doing nothing are just a good choices as taking a walk, drawing or reading. Once upon a time, as a child, I had a season of play and rest that was not interrupted or counted, rewarded or timed by a cigarette. Today I have a similar season of rest, play and work--no cigarettes required. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

If I quit will I ever get used to not smoking?

My mind has healed a great deal since I quit. Thank God! Smokes are hardly on my mind anymore, though eternal vigilance is something I'll hold onto til I'm gone. I expect that year by year, whatever remains of the attachment as it stands today, will fade til nearly invisible--as good as gone.

I'm functional in a more positive way today versus three years ago. And it is no longer necessary for me to dwell on cigarettes, or stew, or wonder, or fuss about the mess of quitting. Still there is always something to do to make my quit sturdier and sturdier. I quit with a very narrow margin of yes motivation. I just want to keep working my way to even greater detachment from a once all important habit.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

To smoke or not to smoke is not the question

If I was in my right mind when I picked up my first cigarette at age seventeen, well I would not have gotten that far. And neither would most. But at Seventeen life is forever, or at least death is so very far away so that what I knew to be risky behavior just didn't matter. Sickness and suffering were scary stories to me at 17,  just something that may happen if I ever age.

Now I'm 58 and counting. Three and a half years ago I quit smoking--no longer young, not so resilient, weary of heroism and tired of big changes, still,  I gave quitting a second chance. It worked. But it cost me something to change, I lost an illusion of comfort and protection that as a smoker was very real to me. By choosing to quit for good (my best intention), I had to take the discomfort of quitting. That's when I discovered the deep roots of addiction--a bottomless pit of want. But my sincere commitment to quit, uttered when I was smoking, came back to test my addict mind...smoking was what I'd known for most of 37 years. In time, I discovered to my dismay that  there was no going back to my comforting illusion. I had to forge on to see what lay ahead! Lord, did I miss my happy delusion, my smokes, the whole shebang. Couldn't I smoke and quit at the same time, I joked.

 I have to admit that I did not just lose the comfort of a pleasant delusion, I gained something, too, though slowly and very grudgingly at first: an inner strength--something that is innate to most at birth--the ability to learn something new, to adjust, grow and adapt day to day. To that end, inner strength in trade for a delusion? I know I made out O.K. I made it past the addiction.

Here's to another 3.5 years of smobriety. "Eternal vigilance" and willingness to grow are always on my quitting to do list.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Goodness Alert: Not every investment adviser believes in steady-eddie Tobacco

Some investors think investing in tobacco is swell, not this guy...

The link below will bring you to Canada's business news channel BNN and to a video clip of this financial adviser's opinion of the tobacco industry...
Score one for truth!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Checking in on the quit over three years later...

Quitter Version 3.3

Three years and three months that is. Age 58 now. 

Well I made it through some pretty tough quit-smoking mental tangles, and am still quit as of today, January 4 2017. The better for it of course. 

But the start of my cigarette quit was not glorious. It could have been with some other version of me (maybe my younger self--20 something) taking the journey. But, I had to quit with the version that was available back in 2013. I could not wait until I was entirely sure that I would quit, or until I was entirely happy about quitting. I had to grab the willingness that came out of the blue one day in September of that year and run with it. And so I did.

Nicotine addiction is a puzzling addiction. I've heard many  say that they just can't stop (some of these folks have serious heart or lung trouble). It isn't the kind of addiction that leaves you plastered as with alcohol or other drugs--so that once you sober up, you realize how overtaken you were by the stuff.  Nicotine works different than that.  It co-opts your person, while at the same time allowing you to stay conscious and even alert. It's kinda like those science fiction tales in which an alien attaches itself to the spine of an individual...and she has no idea of the danger lurking within.

You really discover how you've been preyed upon once you try to quit. Then the evil nature of the alien comes to the forefront making quitting seem like a horror rather than a rescue from horror.

Some may argue that the smoker understands the danger. I argue the opposite; most smokers begin smoking by the age of 18, and have hardly had enough life experience to understand what addiction really means, and so they are overtaken by a force far greater than they can understand. By the time the smoker really wants to quit, the addiction has blossomed and grown in a most grotesque way.

No one deserves this addiction. Maybe, someday society will finally do the right thing and ban the sale of tobacco, leaving it up to the individual alone to grow, dry and smoke the stuff herself, though never allowed to sell it. 

I made it--as of today--but how I wish all smokers would find their way to quitting.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Quit Smoking Youtube Channel

Welp, I've created a Youtube channel (Marlboro Country is no place to settle in)  loaded with  video playlists--all topics are relevant to the  tobacco industry and quitting smoking cigarettes. See link below. 

 Especially for new quitters there are two extra important playlists; success stories and encouragement.

Have a lookey. Quitting is doable. Recovery is doable one day at a time.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

With this sign, I couldn't see the truth with binoculars so I added some myself

"Stealing the Cigarette Scene"

I've added a bit of truth to this scene (shot in my locale just the other day) and also added a bit of truthiness,  as the scene was lacking something... 

It's my first stab at an art project which I will call for now "Stealing the Cigarette Scene."  So many creative possibilities.