Day Seven

Days Without a Cigarette: 6.78125
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: $0.21

There are no shortage of advantages to being a non-smoker. And if we were purely logical beings, things like “I’m less likely to die of cancer later” would be all the motivation we would need. But that’s way too ephemeral when you’re dealing with an addiction like nicotine. I’m not gonna notice myself not having gotten cancer. And if I do, I’m not gonna notice it soon.

So to help keep me motivated, I looked online at a bunch of those “after so many days without cigarettes, X” lists. And some of them had good stuff, but an awful lot of it was stuff like “By now your blood circulation is X percent better than Y”, which are impossible to get excited about. And where they were offering up stuff a little more concrete, it was either useless or negative. Like, “You’ll be able to run farther.” Okay, but how am I ever gonna know that if no mountain lions ever chase me? Or “your sense of smell will improve” as though there’s anything in Waycross, Georgia that I want to smell.

So as a service to other people who might be fighting through this along with me (or afterwards), I wanted to compile a slightly more useful list of stuff that I’ve noticed after going nearly a week without cigarettes.

  • I can tell how bad my breath smells. It’s terrifying to realize that it’s just smelled this bad the whole time and I never noticed.
  • It’s been chilly and rainy the last few days and it barely mattered since I didn’t have to stand outside in it 23 times a day.
  • I recorded an episode this afternoon and only had to mute one cough.
  • Waking up doesn’t make me cough anymore.
  • I’m proud of myself. That weighs a lot more than I thought it would.
  • People are way quicker to forgive my angry outbursts.
  • I’ve finally reached a point where the nicotine patches cost less than the money I’ve saved not buying cigarettes, so I’m in the black on this.
  • I’ve learned that I had more friends than I thought, and I thought I had a lot of friends.

Day Six

Days Without a Cigarette: 5.630208333
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$10.19

Yesterday I was filled with hubris that I mistook for confidence. I noticed that day four had been easier than day three. Then I noticed that day five had been even easier. So I assumed that I was over the worst of it.

But I just learned that wasn’t true. And I should’ve known it.

See, as I’ve already mentioned on this blog, I’m really easing myself into this. Yes, I cut the cigarettes out completely and all at once. But I eased myself back into life from there. I took a couple of days off of work, and when I came back, I had half days and light workloads. I made my life as easy as I could make it for a few days because I knew I’d be dealing with this non-smoker shit, and I didn’t want to add anything else to my plate.

But eventually, you have to go back to the real world. And in the real world, all the triggers are there.

Before I went into this, I already knew what my biggest trigger was going to be. It wasn’t gonna be finishing a meal or waking up or driving or smelling cigarettes or anything like that. It was gonna be frustration. And this morning was just chocked full of that.

It started off when a two month clusterfuck between our bank and our bookkeeper lands at my front door (literally) with a bunch of checks I’m not supposed to have and none of the ones I am supposed to have. So I’m in the middle of sorting out bank stuff (my least favorite part of the job), falling ever further behind on the writing I need to do today, and I get a notice from the online publisher demanding I take care of a misplaced comma in one of our ebooks right the fuck now. Which I barely remember how to do. I’m waiting for the bookkeeper to get back to me, so I start working my way through that, then I get a message from one of my partners about something that somehow became my job when I wasn’t looking; which also requires me to navigate a series of website menus designed to confound a Minotaur. And throughout this, my wife is texting me from two towns over asking what I want to get so and so for Christmas because holy shit is that just a week away? And just in case I was insufficiently stressed, my phone is beeping every few minutes to let me know about yet another severe warning issued by the National Weather Service for my area. (Tornado Watch, severe Thunderstorm Warning, High Wind Warning, Local Flooding Warning… so far).

And then I completely fucking lost it.

I have a temper. I get angry. Sometimes I can channel that anger, and when I can, I get paid for it. But sometimes I can’t. And when I get there, I need a fucking cigarette. I need to step outside and take three deep breaths (get over the coughing fit that deep breaths incur in a 30 year smoker), then light a cigarette. And by the end of that cigarette I can walk back inside and deal with whatever shit life has splattered on me. I might still be angry, but it’s an angry I can channel at that point.

But today I couldn’t have a cigarette. So I lashed out at my friend and coworker, I screamed into an empty room, and I threw myself back into a chair and said – aloud – “I can’t do this.”

And then, five minutes later, I got up and went downstairs. Because there are kittens down there and it’s really hard to be pissed when kittens are involved. And I called my wife and I told her I was losing my fucking mind. And she talked me down. And then I went back up stairs and got to work.

Yesterday I felt like I had this shit pretty much on lock. I knew I hadn’t crossed the finish line by any means, but I felt pretty confident that I could. And today I feel like I couldn’t have done it on my own. Without a wife who loves me, all of you to talk to, and a very understanding coworker who will ultimately forgive me for being an asshole, I would’ve lost today. I’d have broken down, gone to the store, bought a pack of cigarettes, and ripped off this fucking patch while the cashier was finding my brand.

So, quick addendum to what I said yesterday. People keep telling me I can do this. And that’s true; but it’s not because I have the strength to do it, or the willpower, or the resolve. If I succeed at this, it’s gonna be because I have the help I need. Maybe there are people strong enough of will to do this alone. I don’t think I’m one of them. But luckily, I don’t have to find out.

Day Five (Part Two)

Days Without a Cigarette: 4.972208333
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$15.59

I actually had the ‘but maybe just one’ thought today. I’d heard so much about it so I kind of knew it was coming, but it was still a surprise to see it right there in my own head. When I heard other smokers or ex-smokers talk about it in the past it always seems like a thought almost too stupid to actually have, and yet there were intelligent people saying “and then I thought I could just have one cigarette” and other intelligent people nodding along.

And I guess arrogance tricked me into thinking I would somehow be immune to this dumb ass delusion, but for the record, I’m not. It was right there waiting for me, lunging out the second it found an excuse to work its way into my mental narrative.

So here’s how it happens: After lunch, I kind of jogged up the stairs into my office and I didn’t cough. And that felt good. And I felt good. Cravings have finally turned into discrete entities that I can deal with one at a time, as opposed to the three day craving this whole thing kicked off with. And I’d gone whole hours over the last couple days without consciously thinking about not smoking. And my brain is patting me on the back on behalf of my lungs, but along the way, that sneaky ‘maybe just one’ just burst in like the Kool Aid Man. The internal monologue went something like this:

“Wow self, you’re doing really good. At this point, you actually kind of see yourself as a non-smoker. You’re finally looking ahead at the future and assuming you’re gonna pull this off. Because you are gonna pull this off. Hell, even if somebody offered you a cigarette, you’d be okay. You’d probably be fine even if you smelled one. Hell, right now, even if you went outside right now, lit up a cigarette, and smoked it to the filter, you’d still be a non-smoker after that… wait a second. Who the fuck thought that? Somebody bring me the neurons that approved that line of reasoning!”

Leave it to cigarettes to try to jujitsu the moment that I feel good about my ability to breath back into addiction. But the advantage I have – the one thing everybody agrees you need to do this right – is the fact that I genuinely don’t want to smoke. If I did smoke, I’d feel like an asshole. And it’s not like cocaine or alcohol or one of those ‘does something’ drugs. It’s the laziest substance in the history of addiction. It wouldn’t calm me down or chill me out or anything. At this point it would probably give me a bit of a headache and maybe even a little nausea. And it would make me feel like a failure and an idiot. Plus it would make me start that count at the beginning of the blog over, and that would suck. I’m almost halfway to double digits now.

Day Five

Days Without a Cigarette: 4.5490275
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$15.59

Sorry if my lack of a post yesterday got you nervous. But yeah, I’m still gnawing my way through this thing. And lo and behold, it’s actually starting to get easier.

Now, I don’t wanna oversell the change here – I literally hesitated while I decided whether to write ‘easier’ or ‘less difficult’ – it’s still really fucking hard; but less so. There was a definitely a difference in the effort I had to put in yesterday versus the effort of the three days leading up to that. And when I woke up this morning, I only thought about cigarettes when I considered how odd it was that I didn’t wake up wanting one.

I know I’m not through the tunnel yet, but I’m through something. I’ve leveled up as a non-smoker.

I still haven’t experienced any of the benefits people promised me. I haven’t noticed a difference in my ability to taste or to smell. I haven’t noticed myself having more stamina or being able to breath deeper. I haven’t hacked up weird lung detritus. And, to keep all this shit in perspective, I still haven’t actually gone a day without nicotine. But despite all of that… and the fact that typing still occasionally makes me cough… I feel a hell of a lot better.

Day Three

Days Without a Cigarette: 2.942
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$26.39

I started this blog with the hopes that I’d be using it to share some uplifting realizations I had along the way; maybe some advice I’d picked up that I could offer to other people quitting. And at least so far, I’ve fallen far short of that goal. To this point, the blog has just been a bunch of different ways of screaming “fuck” into a pillow. And I’m afraid that’s what it’s gonna be again today. Because holy shit was day three hard.

I’m more fortunate than most when it comes to planning this out. I’m self employed so I didn’t have any trouble getting a few days off at the beginning. My coworkers are my best friends so they didn’t have any problem picking up my slack for a few days. My office is upstairs from my house, so I don’t have a commute I have to struggle through. And most importantly, I don’t have to leave my house at all if I don’t want to. At least not for this first week.

And that’s a good thing. Because today it would’ve been really easy to snap and fuck this up. If I’d walked out to get the mail and seen a third of a discarded cigarette sitting on the side of the road, I might very well have smoked it. If I found a pack of cigarettes I’d forgotten about in a desk drawer or something, I might not have been able to throw them away. If I saw a friend of mine that smoked who wouldn’t have told anybody about it, I may have just asked them for one. It would’ve been really easy today.

But I didn’t have to see anybody. I didn’t have to smell any cigarettes. I didn’t have to overcome any of those temptations. I know that eventually I will, but the fact that I get a few days before I have to confront them is a huge help. Hell, I literally haven’t sat down in my car since I quit.

But had I encountered that temptation today, or should I encounter it tomorrow, I think I’ve figured out my defense. The last three days have been really fucking hard. Like, brutally, terribly, miserably uncomfortable. I’ve spent nearly 72 hours actively not smoking. Like, somehow I’m actively pursuing inactivity, and it’s exhausting. I have no idea how long it stays like this. It can’t be forever or the world wouldn’t have ex-smokers. But however long it is, I’m three days closer to the finish line now. And one way or the other I need to quit smoking; whether I’m successful this time or whether I give into temptation and fuck it up. So the motivating force right now is that I never want to go through the last three days again.

I haven’t had to find out if it’s sufficient motivation yet or not. But as miserable as it’s been, it damn well better be.

Day Two (Part Three)

Days Without a Cigarette: 1.78125
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$31.79

There seems to be some disagreement on which part is the hardest. Going into this, it seemed like everybody was basically telling me the same thing: The first twenty-four hours are the hardest. But as I approached my actual quit date, some of my friends who’d quit started being a bit more cautious and telling me the first 48 hours were really the hardest and that sometimes the second day is harder than the first.

Well now, as I approach the end of day two, many of those same people have switched to telling me that the first 72 hours are the hardest. And something tells me that tomorrow they’re gonna change that to the first 96.

And you know what? I’m good with that. It’s a lie I’m enjoying. I mean, I know that at some point it has to get easier than this, because if it didn’t nobody would have ever quit. It would be like perpetual motion machines or something. No human being would endure a lifetime of feeling like I feel right now every few minutes forever. So sure, at some point it’s gonna get easier. But I’m pretty sure that point isn’t tomorrow. But even if the nadir isn’t 24 hours, I wanted to think it was. And if it isn’t 48 hours, I still wanted to think it was. And in a sense, it was. It just isn’t anymore. It’s not exactly a lie even though it isn’t true. Because the hardest 24 hours are the next 24 hours, and that’s really all I need to think about right now.

Day Two (Part Two)

Days Without a Cigarette: 1.666
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$31.79

Just a quick note on the dollar amount. I’ve had a few questions about it, so rather than pop back and forth between comments, I figured it would be easier just to add a post explaining it.

Right now you’ll see that quitting has me in the red by about thirty two bucks. That’s the cost of the nicotine patches ($42.59) minus the cost of the pack of cigarettes I’d have smoked yesterday ($5.40 where I normally get them) and the one I didn’t smoke today. So it’ll be five more days before I’m in money saving territory. I’ve still gotta buy a bunch more patches before I get to the end of their system, so that number will go up and down a bit as we go.

I should note that I’m not factoring in the savings from my wife not smoking. She’s vaping to wean herself off of tobacco and I didn’t wanna have to keep track of the costs of all her vape oils and shit as I did this. But when all of that gets factored in, my real savings will always be greater than the amount at the top of these posts.

Day Two

Days Without a Cigarette: 1.55
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$31.79

I could tell today would be harder than yesterday as soon as I woke up.

I’m pretty sure “first thing in the morning” is gonna be my biggest trigger. Other contenders include “getting done with work”, “taking a break from work”, “driving”, “finishing a meal”, and “finishing anything else.” But waking up in the morning without a cigarette is the fucking pits. It was okay yesterday, but I’d psyched myself all the way up for that one. Plus, I had a dentist appointment at 10 am, so I was too busy fretting about that to fret about the cigarette thing all that much.

But this morning it hit me all the fucking way.

Now, on the plus side, I actually didn’t have any trouble falling asleep last night. I fell asleep about as quickly as I normally do, and I didn’t even have any of those technicolor nightmares everybody warned me about. Apparently the patch (and a number of other tobacco cessation methods) come with some pretty fucked up dreams for a lot of people, but I haven’t encountered that problem so far.

But I had plenty of problems this morning. When my hoodie wasn’t hanging on the door handle I thought I’d left it on, I damn near tore the door off its hinges. It took all I had to keep myself from reacting violently to something as benign as my hoodie being elsewhere.

The good news, though, is that I didn’t react violently. I stood there for a full sixty seconds seething at the door handle (which had clearly intentionally misplaced my hoodie just to test me), then I warned Lucinda that I was gonna be a bit more on edge today, then I asked her where she put my hoodie (she’d washed it; it was in the laundry room), then I went to work.

The ‘going to work’ thing was really hard, too. See, my house has a separate apartment upstairs, and that’s where my office is. I’ve got the world’s easiest commute: I go out the front door of my house, swing around the corner, head up a flight of stairs, then go into my office. But that eight second trip through the yard and up the stairs took a solid ninety years this morning. Because that’s where I smoked. I’d go back and forth from the office to the house to the office a dozen times a day and I’d always smoke a cigarette along the way. Hell, if I was going downstairs to grab a soda I’d smoke a cigarette between the office and the house; then I’d pop in for the three seconds it takes to get a drink from the fridge, then I’d smoke another fucking cigarette on my way back to the office. I basically never walked that route without smoking.

The good news is that I made it. The bad news is that I’ve gotta walk that route a good dozen more times today…

Day One (Part Three)

Days Without a Cigarette: 1
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$37.19

I made it through the first twenty four hours. By the time I wake up tomorrow, I’ll have gone longer without a cigarette than I have since I was a kid. And I haven’t broken anything I didn’t plan to break. Yet.

I guess this isn’t much in the grand scheme of things. I’ve gotta do this again every day for the rest of my life for this to count. And while I’m sure the cravings will get less frequent and less severe over time, that doesn’t mean tomorrow will be easier.

See, I planned this out such that day one would be as stress free as possible. I have the day off of work with no pressing obligations. All my friends knew to leave me the fuck alone today. I was basically in a position where I could all but hide out from the day. But that can’t last. Heath and Eli are happy to pick up some slack for the cause here, but I can’t hide forever.

Now, I’m not trying to shit on the accomplishment too much. Getting through that first 24 hours is a pretty big deal. I’m less nervous about tomorrow than I was about today and I’m feeling pretty good about where I am so far. All that being said, if I wanna come back tomorrow with the same successes, I’m gonna have to master a couple of pretty big challenges including (but not limited to):

  • Falling asleep without a cigarette,
  • Staying asleep for any appreciable time,
  • Going back to work as a non-smoker,
  • Taking a break from work as a non-smoker,
  • Driving without a cigarette.

And that’s not to mention the very real possibility that I’ll see somebody smoking and possibly even smell one of those bastards at some point. What’s worse, I was a smoker for 30+ years, so I can even take deep breaths on the way into this shit.

Anyway… on the plus side, I’ve been told to expect some pretty weird dreams from this nicotine patch, so at least I’ve still got that to look forward to.

Day One (Part Two)

Days Without a Cigarette: 0.625
Days Without Nicotine: 0
Dollars Saved: -$37.19

A couple of years ago, I flew to Sydney from New York City. We had a layover in Tokyo, but because the first leg of the journey was delayed, that layover ended up being about 17 seconds. There was barely time to make it to the next gate, and certainly no time to drop off at the smoker’s lounge. When I add up the time at JFK waiting for the outbound flight and the time in the air, it was about 26 hours. And that’s the longest I’ve gone without a cigarette in my adult life.

Right now, I’m a bit over 15 hours in, which probably qualifies as the second longest hiatus; though I’m hesitant to count it. After all, seven of those thirteen hours were spent asleep, and I’ve gone eight conscious hours without a cigarette plenty of times. Hell, I did nine hours a couple of days ago when my flight got delayed from Chicago. So in the grand scheme of things, I haven’t really accomplished anything.

That being said, I’m gonna pat myself on the back regardless. Because this is by far the longest I’ve gone without a cigarette without laws and air marshals in place to stop me. It’s the only time I’ve done this voluntarily.

I started smoking when I was a kid. My friend David and I would take turns swiping cigarettes from our dads to smoke behind the garage (yes, literally behind the garage). I couldn’t have been older than twelve when that became a regular thing.

By the time I was fifteen, I probably had a pack of cigarettes with me more often than I didn’t. I didn’t have a job, but through a combination of clever investments and my mom forgetting to ask for the change when I ran into the store to get milk for her, I could usually scrounge up the $1.75 that a pack of Camels cost back then. And when I couldn’t manage that, I could at least find the ninety cents I’d need for a pack of Jacks or Bucks or some other ‘half tobacco, half pencil shavings’ brand.

Since the age of sixteen, I’ve never really been without them. I’ve never tried to quit, I’ve never taken a break from them, and while I’ve had a couple of medical circumstances that came with a strict warning from the doctor not to smoke for 24 or 48 hours, I never bothered to heed that advice. I’ve gone without cigarettes when I’ve been in places that won’t let you have them; but I’ve never gone without them when I had the choice. Hell, for the last 27 years at least, I’ve never gone two hours without a cigarette if I had the choice to smoke one.

So yeah; it doesn’t seem like much when I total up the hours. I haven’t even tied with my longest flight yet. But I’ve been awake since nine, it’s four now. That means that in a very real sense, I’ve quadrupled my previous record. And that’s what I’ll have to celebrate… just as soon as I figure out what non-smokers do to celebrate.