Day Sixteen

Days Without a Cigarette: 15.75
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $7.42
Time Saved: 22 hours, 18 minutes, 45 seconds

Holy shit, we’re measuring this in weeks now, aren’t we?

First of all, I missed you too. I’m not planning on keeping this blog a daily thing going forward, but it occurs to me that if I step away for too long, you might start to suspect I fell off the wagon. But no need to worry, Lucinda and I are both still holding strong. I haven’t been keeping as close a count as I should, but I’m down to something like five or six cravings a day, and they’re a little bit weaker every time.

And while we’re on the subject, I suppose I should take a second to define that term; because the word ‘craving’ is a deceptively meager word for the non-smoker, but at the same time, the general perception of it is a bit too harsh for the smoker who’s never tried to quit.

So first of all, it’s not at all what I expected. When I thought about quitting, I thought about the times I was unable to have a cigarette for an extended period – flights, workdays, long train rides, et cetera. During those enforced hiatuses I started off okay, then I wanted a cigarette. The longer the period, the more I wanted the cigarette. At a certain point, I was ready to rip my own arm off just so they’d put in for an emergency landing and I could have a cigarette. And that moment – the moment where I began to contemplate self mutilation – that’s what I figured a ‘craving’ was gonna be. I figured that once in a while, I’d reach that point and I’d just have to sit in a dark room wrapped in blankets, rocking back and forth for a few minutes and hoping no census taker tried to test me before it passed.

As it turns out, it’s not like that at all. I should once again point out that I’m still using a nicotine patch, so I haven’t actually started dealing with nicotine withdrawal yet. So maybe future cravings or the cravings of people who quit cold turkey are a little closer to my old perception of them. But for me, it’s just been an unscratchable mental itch. It’s akin to the anxiety I feel when I’m sure I’ve forgotten something important and haven’t figured out what it is yet.

They all start the same. My unconscious brain still hasn’t caught up with the program here so I’ll be getting towards the end of a meal or the end of a TV show or something – some situation that would have been followed by a cigarette any previous time in this millennium, and the thought pops into my head fully formed. I just see myself out on the porch smoking a cigarette and thinking, ‘yeah, that’ll really hit the spot.’ And that thought lingers for a third of a second or so before I remember that I don’t smoke anymore. And then I break that news to my unconscious brain again, and it gets sad again. And then I feel that displaced anxiety for a few minutes. And then I carry on with my life.

And to even say that it lasts ‘a few minutes’ probably leaves you with the wrong impression. The anxious part generally lasts for a couple of seconds, but sometimes the craving echoes every forty-five seconds or so and I have to go through it several times before I can chase the desire away for the long term.

I meant to count and time the cravings, but to be honest, they just haven’t been as big a part of my life as I expected them to be. Hell, I think about all the people who signed up to this blog in hopes of following me through this titanic gauntlet of self control and I almost feel bad for not having a harder time with it. Sometimes I wonder if I should spruce shit up and make up moments where I stare forlornly at a smoldering butt in some public ashtray just to add a note of suspense.

But ultimately the point of the blog wasn’t to be entertaining as much as to be informative. I mean sure, partly it’s here for other people who are quitting. They can read along, follow it day by day as they’re making their way through a similar journey, and have a sympathetic voice to accompany them. But it’s also here for people contemplating it. And if the ultimate take away I end of having is “well that was easier than I thought”, I can’t imagine a more valuable message to send to people in that contemplative stage.

I am a little worried about the scale widening out as it is. I’m into my third week now, which means that each individual day seems like less of an accomplishment. Day sixteen doesn’t seem any more impressive than day fifteen or any less impressive than day seventeen. At first, every hour was an accomplishment worth celebrating and that lasted for three or four days. From that point, each day seemed like a big deal. It always seemed like there was a major milestone on the near horizon. I was only a few days away from a full week. And then I was only a few days away from double digits. And then I was only a few days away from two full weeks.

Now I’m just a few days away from a few days from now. I mean, getting through the third week will probably still seem pretty big and making it through the first month certainly will, but will week six sound any more impressive than week five or any less impressive than week seven? And once I get past that second month, will the monthly milestones still seem like an accomplishment?

The further along I go, the less inclined I am to celebrate every day I get through. And I know I should still be patting myself on the back regularly, but it defies human nature to be excited about accomplishing something you’ve already done fifteen times in a row. And as each day adds a less and less significant percentage to my running total, I’m bound to start losing my enthusiasm.

But to be perfectly honest, I’m only worried about this in a sort of academic sense. In fact, I wouldn’t even mention it at all, but I’ve gotta build the suspense somehow.

Published by Noah Lugeons

Noah Lugeons co-hosts a bunch of podcasts: The Scathing Atheist, God Awful Movies, The Skepticrat, and Citation Needed

6 thoughts on “Day Sixteen

  1. I found quitting a lot easier than TV sitcoms made it out to be. A lot of my hesitation in quitting came from a fear of how hard it would be. Glad you’re finding the same.

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  2. The cravings for me often came down to habit–something would trigger when I normally had a nicotine fix and it was overcoming that habit that was ultimately the most difficult part.

    From my experience (two years this coming January 12), the first week was brutal and the first month was hard. You’re through the toughest part of it, and while the next couple of weeks will be rocky (not gonna lie or sugarcoat this for you), you are over a big part of that hill.

    Ultimately, after the first week, what kept me going was realizing that I never wanted to go through quitting again.

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  3. Ha, I was just going to ask about the long term plan for the patches. I quit in the early 80’s and I am not sure there were patches yet. I had only smoked for a little over a year so I am sure it was not as hard.

    The most useful thought I had to get me to quit:
    a. Do I plan to live a long time? Yup.
    b. Will I need to quit smoking to allow that to happen? Likely.
    c. Will it be harder to quit after more years of smoking? No shit.
    d. So, I guess it must be time to quit? Duh.

    It took a few tries, going “cold turkey” each time. The main reason for my failures was booze at parties. I was also not likely trying to get people to help me, I tend to keep things to myself.

    P.S. I can still vividly remember what it is like to smoke. I still consider myself an “X smoker” not a “non smoker”.

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  4. Maybe it’s a matter of the direction you are looking. One day you’ll be saying “I haven’t smoked in…oh…two years?” and that will be something to admire. And even if you do backslide or have that one really bad day, it doesn’t mean you can’t start over as soon as you’ve snuffed it out. So there’s no real losing. I’ve never smoked for many reasons, but lots of my friends and family members have. After watching them try to quit over and over, I’ve come to believe that the best thing I can say is “Hey, you did great for three whole weeks. Now just start over and go for four.” But I don’t think you will backslide. You’re too stubborn. I am enjoying your journey.

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