My life has changed a lot just in the past few weeks. Why? Because I quit smoking on New Years Day. Yup, that's right. If you never knew I smoked, well, ya do now. (Woohoo!) I smoked full time for 13 years. It was part of me -- part of my identity (you know, that dark genius vibe - HEH), a major part of my mood-stabilizing medication regimen, and a BIG source of shame for me. BIG.
This is me sitting in my chair on the back porch, ritualistically smoking my Last Cigarette on New Years Day (in the morning...I am also hungover. The plan was to smoke my last one right before bed the night before, but I drank a whole bottle of champagne on an empty stomach and didn't even make it to midnight....yeah.....)
So, it's been quite an experience so far. I have had days where I am totally confident, days where I suddenly dipped into a severely depressed state, days when I feel like a heroin addict must feel while detoxing (I don't really know how else to describe it...like feeling like I wanted to jump out of my own skin). I made it through those infamous "first 3 days", slipped on day 7 (BAD, BAD day. freaking out. but that cig tasted like ashes, so that was a good thing to experience), then again on day 10 (this neighbor bitch stole my cell phone and we were dealing with the cops...again, the cig tasted like an ash tray). So then I make it to the 2 week mark. I have made it through both of the "hardest" parts. But yet, I still have cravings. STRONG cravings. The nicotine gum and lozenges don't hit me fast enough when I really, really need a nic hit QUICK.
I guess the difference now, is that I am used to not being able to smoke. I'm just used to having to deal with the cravings. The cravings still totally suck. Even typing this, all I want to do it go light up. I keep reminding myself about how bad it tasted those 2 times I slipped, and how I can still get that nicotine through a piece of gum or a lozenge (but that is so TIME CONSUMING -- it takes 30 minutes to get the full dose from one of those things!). So, on top of all my other meds, I'm somehow surviving, but my moods are all over the place and my mental illness is more apparent now than it has been in a loooong time. Just like I was afraid it would be. And I hate it. I mean, I gave up a mood stabilizing drug that has been coursing through my brain on a regular basis since before my brain was fully formed. (I think. I'm actually not sure at what age the brain is fully formed, but I was 16 when I started smoking regularly, and hooked at 17.)
I have had a lot of anger and resentment surrounding my quitting, actually. I did not quit because I wanted to. I did not quit because I was ready to. I quit because I felt like I HAD to. We simply cannot afford to support my smoking habit anymore. We are living on grants and loans as my husband finishes college. Smoking is too expensive. The guilt about the money we were spending on cigarettes was suddenly too much. Then, of course, there is the shame and humiliation of being a smoker when the rest of my life/social circle/philosophies are soooo nowhere NEAR smoke-friendly. (I AM bipolar, you know. ha. ha.) It was the one vice I had brought with me from my youth. Of course I could see all the good things about quitting. But I DIDN'T WANT TO. So, as a result, I often have periods of sullen resentment toward...my family? society? the world? existence? I didn't want to quit. I wasn't ready.
This is an excerpt from an email I sent to a friend several years ago, trying to explain my addiction to her:
the addiction is stronger than i am. it is stronger than my love for my children. and that sucks. but, it is basically part of my treatment for my crazy-lady issues, and the doctors have even told me not to worry too much about it. for some people (like me), quitting can be more detrimental than continuing to smoke, depending on the circumstances. i know it sounds totally ridiculous. the statistics about people like me (bipolar) are scary. we have shorter life spans due to reckless behavior (which i guess smoking could be considered one), and a huge majority of us smoke.
for me, it was not long ago that the thought of quitting would literally cause me to panic. i want to quit for all the right reasons, but that want is only 49%... the other 51% is the addiction telling me i can't live without it, and that's the dominant part. that has caused be to become defensive about my smoking, because i KNOW it's awful but the addiction is too powerful.
i have always been very self-conscious and ashamed about the fact that i smoke. i don't advertise it because i know people judge -- i'm either ignorant white trash or crazy. either way, i don't want to be judged any more than i already am for things i really CAN'T hide. not that it's that easy to hide the fact that i smoke. i know i probably stink most of the time.
my mom gave me such a complex about it because she's probably the most anti-smoking person on earth. i remember her disgusted snarls when she smelled, saw, or just TALKED about smoking when i was growing up. and when i became addicted as a teenager, i was everything my mother hated. isn't that what every teenage girl wants? ;)
well, that was one part of my past that i couldn't leave behind. i took the addiction and the shame into adulthood. i'm supposed to be myself and not worry about what other people think of me, but i don't want to burn bridges either, ya know? so many people have told me to get over it, own it, if they don't like me for me then sod 'em! well, that's easier said than done, especially when you want to surround yourself with positive influences, not many of which smoke (because it's bad for you and your children and it costs too much money and you stink, blah, blah, blah, thanks mom). i have always tried to be respectful of other people's hatred of smoking by not doing in front of them, going far away from them to do so, avoiding children as much as possible, etc.
i recently confronted my mom about my shame, and she assured me that she doesn't see my sister and me as monsters because we smoke, and that she doesn't think i love my children any less. that made me feel better. it's ridiculous how powerful our mothers' words are, regardless of our age.
So, I finally became (deep breath) ready after contacting the Florida Quitline. They did a Quit Coach session with me over the phone after some initial screening questions. We went over my history and my triggers, and developed a plan. They sent me (for free) 2 weeks worth of nicotine patches and a quit smoking guide (which was very helpful -- full of checklists and exercises to help you prepare). I put the rest of the supplies I would need for the 8 week program on my Christmas list, and got them! They have an online support forum which I spent a bit of time in before my quit date came up, but have since abandoned it, for some reason (too many other social networks?). I had a few weeks to mentally prepare, and when Quit Day came, I was ready.
Anyhoo, that's all I have to say about that right now. I have a whole 'nuther post planned about all the awesome changes that have occurred since I quit. There was a day a few weeks ago when I cried to my husband, saying "Why didn't I do this sooner?"...