Sunday, January 6, 2013

Quitting Smoking: Day 5 of a Former Freight Train Smoker

The hardest part about quitting smoking is the constant internal battle that goes on inside your head. At least, that's the most difficult part of this venture for me so far. Will power is not one of my strengths, when it comes to saying no to myself or something I want.

 It's easy for me to mentally begin making excuses for why it would be okay to allow myself just one little measly cigarette. I've started to recognize that tempting, excuse-making pattern of thoughts that can lead to lighting up.

When it happens, I have a choice. The decision to lie to myself is something I can't allow, if I am truly going to succeed at quitting a 9-year-long habit. Those years of smoking added up faster than I realized. I'm 25, after all.

When I get a craving or urge that I think I can't resist, I remind myself that I've smoked for 9 years. I keep pictures of the people I am doing this for, other than just myself. Pictures like this one are good to have on-hand when cravings strike...

My husband, Josh, is the biggest reason I want to quit smoking. He deserves to have my full attention. He's put up with my nicotine fits and moodiness with a tolerance that surpasses that of saints. We want a family someday. Before we do that, smoking has to GO. I look at this picture a lot lately. I want our dreams to come true more than I want to smoke. This picture reminds me when a craving nearly makes me forget why I'm quitting.

My nicotine-addicted self says evil goal-threatining things like, "Well, then- what's just one more?" or "Just have one and get back on the non-smoking wagon right after you finish breathing in those tasty toxins that'll make you feel better" and "It's not like you fail if you have just one. You can still quit."

Oh, that pesky little monkey is hard to silence! Such convincing arguments, when a craving strikes! To defeat it, I have to recognize the pattern of thinking that can ruin what I've finally decided to do. The monkey of persuasion is my nicotine-loving voice. It is full of excuses and reasons why smoking is okay. It is especially convincing when it only needs one cigarette to shut up. Except, I know it will be back again. I know that if I smoke just one, like the monkey wants, I am going to smoke another. I'll keep listening to the addicted little bastard until I'm right back where I was when I first decided to stop smoking, in the first place.  Monkey sometimes smoked two packs a day. Monkey got asthma, bronchitis, chronic cough, the flu, and every other sickness known to monkeys. All because of this...

Not as glamorous as it seems. Keeping a visual reminder like this is a strong motivator to quit smoking.

By now you know that the monkey is the smoker inside me, desperate to get out. He craves cigarettes, no matter how much they hurt him. He wants his fix. He cares about nothing else, whenever he gets the urge to suck sweet, sweet tobacco into his miserable, sick little lungs.

I've gotten weird since I gave up cigarettes, friends. My mind is not in it's usual state. I think in crazier and more imaginative ways as I try to stop smoking. If I want to call my addiction a monkey, just allow me the luxury. It is easier to use the monkey when I think about the fact that I am not smoking right this second. It's also easier to say that the monkey smoked 2 packs of cigarettes, instead of using my own name when disclosing such a terrible truth to the world.

All of these were inhaled into my lungs. Yep, I'm embarrassed to admit it. I look at this picture when I think about having just one more. Makes me think twice about it and completely grosses me out.

Mornings are the WORST time of day to resist smoking a cigarette. They compliment coffee so well. I have started my days out with a cigarette and cup o' joe for the past 7 years. I didn't drink coffee when I was 16-17 and my parents did not permit me to smoke when I lived with them. The first two years of my smoking spree involved me smoking 1 cigarette a day, when I got home from high school. I looked forward to it all day, back then. When I moved away, no one but me could say no to the monkey. That's when the 1-a-day cigarette habit became a full-fledged pack-a-day problem.  From that time until now, I smoked 30 min-1 hour after waking up.

My coffee sits here as I type this morning. A nicotine patch is securely adhered to my arm. A piece of nicotine gum is being chomped to death. Though most of the craving for a smoke is gone, it hasn't fully passed. If I smoked one now, you'd never know. Maybe just one- to go with my coffee.

NO, MONKEY. I know that's you right now. You can't have one. I can't have one. I want one and you are the worst sponsor in the entire world. Please go away. I've done so well and you want to ruin everything.

'C'mon, Gina. I'm your friend. So are our cigarettes. They've gotten us through some tough times, right? Even if we beat this craving, there will just be stronger urges that follow it. So, why keep fighting? Why keep resisting? You always smoke when you blog. Doesn't it feel weird not having a cigarette right now? I bet it'll make your blog better if you smoke one. People probably won't like it anymore because you're not making any sense. A cigarette will fix all that, Gina.'

People are going to think I'm crazy if they've never read my blog until now. I think the only people who will understand this post are the smokers and ex-smokers out there, anyway. Other people have more sense. They've never smoked. Because of their rational reasoning to never smoke, they will not understand anything about an imaginative monkey that bothers me and has silent conversation in my head. To clarify to the non-smokers and never-smokers, that monkey hasn't always been there. He just showed up four days ago and doesn't want to leave now.

 Four days isn't a long time to say I've successfully quit smoking. I don't say I've quit smoking. I tell people I am trying to quit. I guess part of me is afraid to acknowledge that this life-altering change is really happening. Also, thinking about being a non-smoker is weird to me. It doesn't sound like something I can become. I am afraid to say I've quit smoking until the monkey is gone for good. He is very loud right now and he does not like drinking coffee anymore. He's sad and he's pouting about not having a cigarette with his morning beverage.

I was a non-smoker yesterday. I did not give in ONE time. Not a single ONE. I feel like I should get some kind of award for that. I thought yesterday's success would make today easier for me. It didn't. I still have not had a cigarette. I've reminded myself that if I can make it through the morning without one, I can get through the rest of the day. Even gum and patches have not calmed morning urges to smoke. They just take the edge off that sent me into a state of rage on my first quit-day.

I felt more than just angry on that first non-smoking morning.  I felt furious. I felt depressed. I smoked 3-4 cigarettes that day. I felt like a failure. I don't think Day 1 was a failure now, though. I think it could have been better.

Day 2 resulted in 2-3 cigarettes. I am uncertain on the exact number because I lit one and put it out after a puff or two. Then, I threw it out. I needed to get rid of my last pack that lay around just making it easy to cave into temptation. When I thought I wanted a cigarette, I went ahead and lit one. The taste sickened me after just one puff. I have the patches and Nicorette to thank for that. I nearly vomited. After that, I could tell myself that I only thought I wanted a cigarette. I didn't really want one. It would not be the gratifying experience it had been for so long, anymore. Though my day two quitting method is unconventional, and some may say- hazardous to my health- It was better than day 1. Day two is when I started to really believe I could quit smoking. In that realization lies the key to success. Without believing in myself, without saying no to temptation, without telling myself I could do it....I couldn't. Day 2 wasn't smoke-free. It was, however, a monumental step in the right direction.

Day 3-
I hate day 3. I should say I hated day 3, but I do actually still avidly and currently hate day 3.

I worked all day and avoided everyone at the office, whenever possible. I was prone to snapping at people.

I was irritated when people even directed polite conversation my way. 'How are you doing, Regina?' meant I would need to politely respond to someone.

What a stupid question.

How am I doing???? I wanted to scream, "How the hell do you think I'm doing? I'm DOING TERRIBLY, okay. Don't talk to me for the rest of the day, you non-smoking, happy and bothersome excuse for a human being!"

Luckily, I did not respond to anyone in such a monstrous manner.

Day 3 was the most socially challenging day thus far on my journey to stop smoking.

I hid in my cubical that day and I chewed 3 entire packs of gum. I went through more chewing gum than I ever did in a single day of cigarettes. My jaw hurt on day 3. I smoked 2 cigarettes that day. Each time I lit one, I tried to savor the taste but felt disappointed when the flavor was more disgusting than satisfying. The patches and constant gum chewing, teeth brushing, and delving into work habits were working to distract me from cigarettes.

Car rides were torture.

 I always...I mean, I used to always smoke when I drove anywhere. It's just what I do...I mean, what I did. I kept a paperclip in my car to keep my smoke hand busy as I drove along. I realized that I noticed more around me without a cigarette journeying back and forth between a cracked window and pursed lips. I also was not as cold since my car windows could be sealed to hold in precious warmth. I snapped a picture to document a victorious moment that occurred mid-craving...

On my way to work. More smoke hovered over Nashville than it did over my body. I felt satisfied by this and knew that I could now commute without smoking. I had done the impossible! :)

Day 3, I hated people. I hated all people and wanted to be left alone. I wanted to cry and I did cry a little. Not like, boo-hoo, I miss my cigarettes kind of crying. I just felt emotionally all over the place.

Cigarettes and withdrawal were the ultimate source of my tears.  I reminded myself that those feelings wouldn't last forever. Another cigarette wasn't going to make me feel any better. I smoked less than the previous 2 days. I would try again tomorrow to go all day without a cigarette.

I could do it. It would be hard. I may need to hide out again all day in my work cubical, I may need to go to bed early, I may need to skip my morning coffee, but....I COULD QUIT.

DAY 4. 

I didn't smoke a single cigarette. I wanted one, I kept busy throughout the day, chomping on gum and thrifting around Nashville with my mom. The look on her face was worth going without my morning smoke, when I answered her question:
"You had any cigarettes today?"
I had made every mother's dream come true with one single word and it showed all over my mom's face that she was proud of me.
The slight furrow in her brow revealed that she still worried if I'd continue denying my longing for cigarettes. In her eyes, I saw hope.

Now, let me stop here for a minute to talk about this type of moment in an aspiring quit-smoking person's journey...

People who are close to you will try to encourage you. They will verbally and non-verbally praise you when you have moments of successful nicotine resistance.  This results in good and bad feelings for you, the stop-smoking feen.

On one hand, you feel proud when your mom or whoever you love looks at you like you're a hero. On the other hand, you feel more pressure to quit and feel afraid that you'll let them down because they have so much hope and faith in your quitting attempt.  
That kind of pressure can bring on a STRONG craving.
It can also be what makes you resist that craving.
This is because you've just been reminded of why you shouldn't give in.
People are counting on you. People believe in you. People are proud of you.
You're not going to let them down, now....are you? It's your choice. You'd normally reach for your trusty cigarette in a stressful moment like this. You could do that- but then, you'd have to see looks of sadness and worry and disappointment on the faces of people who are most important to you. The peer pressure-to-quit episodes will prompt cravings. They do for me, anyway. Just keep in mind that they will pass. Look at how proud your mom is...or whoever you love. Don't let them down. Don't let yourself down. You can do it! :)

(Thought I'd give you new quitters-in-progress a head's up about the pressure you'll feel to quit that is prompted by the encouragement and hope of others. It was an unexpected thing for me. Back to my smoke-journal...)

I drank coffee yesterday morning. I walked sleepily into the kitchen and glanced down at the nearly empty old pack of smokes that sat on the counter, tempting me. I touched them longingly before reaching instead for the nicotine patches sitting beside the old pack. I grabbed a red marker and wrote the words, "DON"T DO IT" on a small piece of paper. I placed the warning sign on top of the old cigarettes. I chewed a piece of gum and drank a cup of coffee. This was a revolting combination that prompted a fit of coughing and gagging. I do not recommend it. Then again, maybe I do. After I'd coughed until my sides hurt, I didn't want a cigarette anymore.

Some people advise throwing away any cigarettes you have that are laying about. For me, I think that would drive me to insanity. Not having the option to smoke would make it less of a decision of control for me. I have this old pack. This sign sits on top of it. This works for me. It also encourages me. It stops me. I'd have to remove the sign to get a cigarette. The sign isn't heavy. It won't stop me physically but it helps me deal with the mental part of quitting. Having these cigarettes around makes it more of an accomplishment not to smoke them. It would be easy to smoke them. No one would know accept for me. That's what stops me. That's all that stops me. It's all within my control. For me, this helps me quit. I look at this pack quite often. I don't move the sign. I walk away with another nicotine denial accomplishment with pride. For some people, the temptation would be too great. Typing about this makes it tempting for me to smoke right now. But I won't. I've said no too many times to say yes now. I follow this sign's rules like it's a law. If I break the law, I will die. I'm not ready to die. I've got too much living left to do! You do, too.
I beat the morning craving. I knew I had to keep myself busy if I were to continue this small, but notable success. The hardest time of day had passed without giving in to the crazy monkey. He didn't talk as much that morning. He chimed in randomly throughout the day, but I was better able to defeat him. I went to bed early last night. I knew that staying up just meant that I'd want a cigarette more. The exhausting mental battle had to end. Sleep was the cure.

Now, DAY 5....
- I have gone 35 hours without a cigarette.

- I have chewed more gum than I did when I was 4. This kind helps me more than the patch does, I think...
(Read instructions first or you will regret chewing this like it's regular gum. It isn't.) Other than getting sick the first time I chomped this stuff, this gum has helped me tremendously!
- I have written a blog post without caving into a serious nicotine fit that happens every morning.

- I have organized the hall closet and labeled bins that line the shelves in an orderly fashion that assists me to find anything I need in my house.  Take a looksie...

- I have spent time with my family without interruptions of smoke breaks.
- My hair doesn't smell at all like smoke.
- I can smell smoke on other people. I don't remember the last time I was able to do this until now.
- I have been more productive.
- I can breathe better and do not wheeze in the morning when I wake up.
- I can drink coffee and taste the deep, rich, bold blend of flavors.
- Food tastes better. I don't know why this happened so early in my quitting process, but food is quite delicious now.
- I don't stand outside in the cold or in public, holding a cigarette as I receive dirty looks from non-smokers. (They should really stop that uppity, better-than-thou crap, though. Seriously.)
- My breath smells better. My teeth look better since I brush them all the time now. Probably 8 times a day, as opposed to just 3. I guess that's good, right? :)
- I think about smoking less. I still think about it but I don't consider the option.
- I am a member of a website called, which tracks my temptations to smoke. It gives me stats of progress that are encouraging and helpful. Committed quitters tells me where and when I experience nicotine cravings. It also tracks what prompts my cravings. It sends emails like, 'Don't give up! Resist the craving! You can do it! Don't be a slave to cigarettes! Take control of your life!' At first, these annoyed me. Now, I find that these little reminders help me stay focused on a goal that has prompted a very difficult journey. My user name is freight train. Typing it reminds me of how much I smoked and how bad I felt when I did. I highly recommend joining this site if you're thinking about quitting. You're going to need lots of encouragement to succeed, but you can do it.

- I have devoted more time to my hobbies. I spent more time in the thrift store yesterday to find treasures for my Etsy shop. Lookie here...Found these old silver spoons on my adventure yesterday...

This one is an old Campbell's spoon from the 1950's. The others will take some research to know. That's okay...I've got plenty of time to do it since smoking isn't a go-to hobby anymore! Now, I can list more at my Etsy shop- maybe these will be on Lifelooklens soon. Non-smoking Regina lists more treasures, turns out. Who knew? :)

- I have done more for other people since I quit smoking. I made a care basket for someone who lost a loved one and I try to find things that I can do to make myself feel good by helping other people. I have more focus on that now. The care basket was kind of awesome, too...

More time for being creative, less time being a smoker. Pretty flowers will result.

I haven't quit smoking for long...But-
It's the longest I've gone in years.

 Some days are easier than others, but every day is difficult. Cravings come and go. I get headaches. I feel sad. I feel irritated. I feel angry.  I feel depressed....All of those feelings are getting better. I remind myself that they will pass. I tell myself I can do it. I make visual reminders and lists filled with reasons for quitting. I keep that list nearby, where I used to keep a pack of smokes. It has helped. This is still hard. I shouldn't have had 3 cups of coffee this morning. It seems that coffee replaced my usual smoking and blogging combination. Wait for the cravings to pass. They always do. Some take much longer than others to go away. If you can't make it without a cigarette for a day or an hour or 5 minutes, put it off for one minute. When that minute passes, look for the next minute to pass before you light up. It's only one minute. You can wait. Repeat this step until the craving passes. Distract yourself by doing something you've been meaning to do. Organize a closet. Sure, you'll feel lonely without your cigarette as you go about your day doing things you'd normally do while smoking. But, you CAN do it. Prove it to yourself, one minute at a time, one hour at a time, one day at a time...

Until smoking no longer controls you.

Until you BEAT IT.


When you cave in, don't beat yourself up too much about it. Don't say negative things to yourself or think that you can't do it. You smoked a cigarette. How many did you go without. Go without more tomorrow until one day passes that is completely smoke-free. After that day, know that the next one will be hard, too.

Think about what you want. It isn't a cigarette.

Even when you do want one, know that if you say no- you are on your way to really quitting. They will kill you eventually, but you know that already. Write down why you want to quit. If you're not scared of dying, write down who or what it is that you live for. Think about how much better those things would be if you weren't a smoker. Think about all the time you spend smoking. What does it take away from in your life?

All that is different for each individual. Everyone quits smoking in different ways. The most important and successful way to quit is to decide to quit. Believe you can quit.

Another hour has passed without a cigarette. It's day 5. Some would say it's just day 2 for me. It doesn't matter. For me, it's Day 5 because my first three days of drastically reducing toxin intake prepared me for an entirely smoke-free Day 4.

I miss smoking. I feel weird without smoking. I didn't realize how much a part of my life it had become. I want to change that. I will change that....

One minute and one day at a time.

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