On Quitting Smoking

I wish I had never started smoking. Seriously, that is one bitch of a habit to break. I’ve kicked caffeine and can now enjoy a coffee or pop once in a while without any problems as long as it’s well before noon. (Can’t sleep at night, otherwise.) I kicked fast food, and now I don’t even want it most of the time. I’m finding quitting smoking to be an entirely different beast. I toyed with the electronic cigarettes for a few of years, but didn’t really get serious about kicking real tobacco until about a year and a half ago.

I helped my parents move cross-country over Christmas 2012 and went the entire two weeks on just the e-cig because I was the only smoker. It was rough, but I made it. When I got back home in January 2013, I decided to actively work on getting away from the “real” smokes. I started leaving my cigarettes in the car at work rather than keeping them in my pocket where they’d be easy to access, and would rely on the e-cig as much as possible. Then I started leaving the real smokes at home during the day, which also didn’t kill me. I was only smoking at night and on weekends, and was beginning to think I might could possibly actually kick the habit. Maybe.

I went on a vacation with my family – parents, sister, brother in law, two nieces, and a nephew – to Disneyland for about a week that following late February/early March. I made the choice to leave the real cigarettes at home and just use the e-cig on the trip. It just made the most logistical sense. That, and I didn’t want to be a bad influence for the kiddos. It actually worked remarkably well for me. Alas, I still had half a pack of cigarettes sitting on the table when I got back home, and picked them right back up. But I began to find I was not enjoying cigarettes as much as I previously had. I found myself smoking fewer and fewer of them each night. By the end of May, I was completely transitioned to the e-cigs.

Then I had my Doctor’s Appointment of Doom where they addressed my blood pressure, cholesterol, and whatnot in late June. I started reading up on what kinds of things I could do to help lower those numbers. When I read that the nicotine in one cigarette can raise one’s blood pressure for hours, I decided it was time to attack the e-cigs. You see, while I had cut out the tars and carcinogens from tobacco, I was still taking in a fair amount of nicotine each day. So I made a point of getting lower and lower amounts of nicotine in my e-cig juice each time I had to get more. By early October, I was down to zero nicotine. The e-cig habit at that point was just an oral fixation. It was also nice for when I wanted to taste something but did not actually need to be eating anything.

Then came Thanksgiving. I spent about a week at my parents’ house where my sister and her family were also spending the holiday. I took a couple of puffs on the e-cig in the Tucson airport, switched it off and tucked it into my carry-on at boarding time, and didn’t give it a second thought the entire time I was away. I didn’t even remember that I had it with me until I was back on the ground in Tucson, rummaging through my carry-on for my car keys and saw it then. I grabbed the e-cig and started to take a puff on it purely out of habit when I realized that if I’d just gone an entire week without even thinking about it, maybe I really was ready to give it up.

Oh, the e-cigs and supplies stayed in my work bag “just in case”, but I generally didn’t even think about them until some time this past February. I forget exactly what excrement hit which fan, but something set me off at work. All I could think about was wandering up to the nearest convenience store for a pack of smokes. At least, until I remembered that I still had the e-cigs in my bag. Pulled them out, gave them a quick charge, and started using them again. And they didn’t help. Not one bit. All they seemed to do was exacerbate my desire for a real cigarette.

I was smoking again some time in March. Granted, I was “only” smoking at home in the evenings/weekends and was “only” smoking one to two packs per week – as opposed to the pack a day I had once consumed – but that didn’t change the fact that I was smoking again. Of course, I tried to hide it from friends and family. I don’t know how successful I was but damn it, I tried. And then I started noticing its effects. I suddenly was not sleeping as well. I woke up in the morning coughing up all sorts of lung butter. My running began to suffer. And I realized just how much of an idiot I was being. Between family heart health issues and the desire to improve on my running, smoking was the dumbest thing I could be doing to myself!

Now, I do take pride in not being a stupid person. But this was a really, REALLY stupid thing to be doing. So I came clean on Twitter, hoping that the accountability might help me. The trouble is, that sort of thing rarely works for me. For a change like this to work, I have to really want it. And the problem is that I’ve really been enjoying smoking again. I don’t like the way it makes me smell, or the way it makes me feel afterwards, or the way my mouth tastes in the morning, or the way it makes me wheeze when I run, but I really enjoy the act of smoking a cigarette. Very much a lot. There’s a certain ritual to it that just feels special to me. And that is what has made this so damn hard this time around. I’ll succeed in not smoking for a week, then I’ll end up picking up a pack of cigarettes which will last me about a week. And then I feel guilty and go without them for another week before buying another pack. Lather, rinse, repeat.

This evening will mark one week since my most recent cigarette. Which means I’m probably about due to pick up a pack. Which I am going to work REALLY hard not to do. But last night I dreamed I bought a pack, reset my internal “days since I smoked” counter to zero, and enjoyed the fuck out of a couple of cigarettes. And they were amazing. Well… maybe that’ll be enough to hold me over. We shall see.

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