Sunday, November 13, 2011

Why I'm Quitting Smoking, Why it's Going to Suck, & Why I'm Going to do it Anyway

So the countdown is on. I am officially quitting smoking cigarettes this Thursday, 11-17-11 which is the Great American Smoke-Out & the day before what would be one of my great-aunts 76th birthday. She died in April 2010 partially due to complications of lung cancer. My brother quit smoking that day after we got the early morning call that she had passed, & has been smoke free since, which kind of knocks my socks off & gives me hope that I can do the same.

My history with smoking overall has been inconsistent since I began smoking at age 16in late January of my Junior year of high school. Whenever I hear adults talk about "peer pressure" to engage in unhealthy behavior, I still have an image of some kid standing in the shadows with a sweatshirt hood hanging low over his eyes, a cigarette dangling from his scrawny pale fingers, whispering, "Come on, just try it once. It won't hurt you. You might even like it." But that's not really what peer pressure looks like. Peer pressure isn't even the correct way to describe it; it's more like wanting to fit in, not seeing any consequences (because who the hell sees consequences when one is 16 years old & don't even get me started on how the pre-frontal cortex isn't fully developed until roughly age 25, when executive functions actually kick in), & in 1987 smoking looked cool. I'm in no way shape or form blaming any of my friends for the fact that I chose to start smoking; I'm just describing the circumstances around it.

So I smoked from age 16 (1987) to roughly age 23 (1994) when I quit because I started dating the MD I worked for & we discovered much more addictive ways to handle stress & anxiety.

I started again in approximately 1998 when I began working with several people who smoked, people who became my close friends. Which illustrates a trend here of how easily I adopt the habits of those around me. This is true not only of my history of smoking, but also a myriad of other behaviors, which I'm not going to get into here. As a therapist, I know these are things best discussed & explored in therapy.

By the summer of 2002 I had quit smoking again, and again had taken up more addictive measures of dealing with stress & anxiety. That's one of my favorite excuses for smoking: it helps me deal with stress. It helps relax me. When I'm angry/anxious/sad/fill-in-the-emotional-blank, smoking helps calm me down & center myself. I've actually said that: smoking "centers" me. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt.

The final time I started smoking was February 2003. (See how I wrote that: the final time - that's positive thinking.) I was in residential treatment for the final time (see, again more positive thinking) & of the 10 people in the house with me for 28 days, 8 of them smoked. I was one of the 2 that didn' the beginning. After about 4 days I felt that all of the socialization and "bonding" between clients was happening outside in the smoking area. So on day 5 I asked to "bum a smoke" from someone who smoked the brand I had last smoked and I've been smoking ever since.

I will take my final puff this Wednesday, 11-16-11. (Final puff; more positive thinking.) I don't know if I'll stay up until midnight to get every last suck of nicotine & carcinogens that I can. I don't have any plans to. I bought my last two packs of cigarettes this morning. If I have any left on Thursday morning, I may likely play Mozart's Requiem as I crush them & flush them down the toilet, but that's all the official ceremonies I have planned. I do have plans to use nicotine lozenges for several weeks to get me through the roughest times, which statistically are related to the number 3: 3 days, 3 weeks, & 3 months are the hardest times for people who have quit. I have plans to contact a toll-free quit-smoking support line where I'm already registered & have told them my quit date. I have told most of my co-workers so they can help support me & "talk me down" which I anticipate needing. I also have a jar where I will put in the money I would have spent on cigarettes. If I slip & smoke, I have decided that I will send the money collected in the jar up to that point to an organization I really, really dislike: Sarah Palin's PAC. That's called motivation to get through the rough spots.

I've used the 12 steps, supportive friends, motivation, & a butt-load of consequences to recover from using some really nasty and addictive substances in the past. Now I will use them again to recover from one more really nasty and addictive substance.