In the book The Easy Way to Stop Smoking the author Alan Carr states that all smokers would take back the day that they started. If they could repeat that time of their lives they would say no firmly. Of course this is not possible and to quit people need to look at their present state of affairs instead of dwelling on the past. I’ve been on the nicotine patch for over two weeks now and as therapy to myself I’m going to write out my history with cigarettes and why I don’t want to be a life long smoker.
Probably in middle school I had a puff from one of my neighbor’s cigarettes and hated it. I had my first full cigarette when I was 14 or 15 on a day in downtown Baltimore. It was a hot summer day and a friend and I sneaked a ride on the newly constructed rail train to the city. It was so hot that we took our shoes and shirts off and splashed around a fountain in the inner harbor. A cop came and told us to go with him. My friend said we needed to get our shoes on the other side of the fountain. We put on our shoes and my friend started to run. I followed his lead. Afterwards I was freaking out and he told me to smoke a cigarette, the whole cigarette to calm down, and I did smoke it. But I did not become a smoker then even though so many people around me were.
When I was 17 I had a psychotic episode and dealt with that for a couple of years. Probably in the recovery part of that episode was when I became a smoker. Quickly I went to a pack a day over night. Even today I’ve heard that it is harder for people to quit that take the medication I take. So for fifteen years I’ve been a smoker more than a non smoker. I quit for a couple of years 1999 to 2001 and several other times for shorter periods. My tendency is to chain smoke or to abstain. I think there is a connection with my mental illness because before all of that I looked down on smokers and didn’t like that people close to me smoked. Alcohol and marijuana had a lure for me much more than cigarettes before my problems to be honest.
Now the social norm is to not smoke and the only acceptable context for smoking is nights out and drinking. For my grad school days at Kent State and my first four years in New York City, nights out hindered me being a non-smoker. In New York City I sought out the bars that didn’t pay attention to the smoking ban, and at one time I had three or more very late nights a week. I have some funny memories of this stuff, but it caused more problems than positive outcomes. I racked up credit card debt that I’m still paying for, and I knew I was not living a healthy lifestyle.
All that changed last April when I passed out standing up and hit my head. This was a scary wake up call, and reaffirmed what I thought for awhile before then, that I should not drink. For a few months this was an adjustment, for one thing I felt like I did not have a social life anymore. I felt that people my age are brought together over drinks, and if I did not drink I would lead a solitary pathetic existence. But I also felt a hope that my life would be better and I would be able to live without regret. Even though I knew it would be a change, I looked forward to it.
A little over 6 months later I feel I have made the correct decision and my life has improved. My credit card debt has gone down substantially, and I’m more focused and I am more rational in all my decisions. I did have a knee injury that pretty much healed during this time and I became more active. My gym routine is still not as regular as it should be, but I’ve been skateboarding at least once a week since July. Also I’m skating better than before I hurt my knee, which makes me happy. I contribute being healthier and not hung over all the time, to me being more active.
This is not the first time in my life that I was a smoker without drinking. That whole ordeal I went through I think I was a smoker from age 19 to 22 without drinking much at all. On the medication I take you are not supposed to drink. There have been times I obeyed that and other times that I ignored it. Thankfully nothing happened, and I did not get that out of control like drinking everyday. Also I’m thankful for the constrictions from that medication because I was always careful not to get into hard drugs. I think with no threat of repercussions I would have fallen into temptation with a lot of things. Anyway I digressed, but the fact of smoking cigarettes without drinking makes you much more aware of the stigma attached to it. You do not get high from a cigarette and feel enslaved by it, that you have to smoke and the romance is completely gone because you are not partying.
Over the last several years I’ve tried to quit plenty of times. Most recently was last fall when I quit from October to mid January. On a couple of those successful short term quitting spans I read The Easy Way to Stop Quitting by Allan Carr, and I think that is good for the short term. It amps you and puts you in the right frame of mind. But after five times of reading it something did not gel and I knew I had to try something else. A friend quit on the prescription drug and I asked my doctor about that and the patch. I decided on the patch because it’s not a prescription and something you could track. Basically with the patch you have to quit and then put it on. So reading Allan Carr’s book so many times I knew the mode and mindset on how to quit. For the first week or so on the patch I got cravings but they went away quickly. I felt that with cold turkey the cravings build and build. I plan to do the full ten week course of the patch.
I’m confident that I’ll succeed this time on quitting because I do not drink anymore and want to be healthier. I also think that I’ll continue to make improvements over the next few years.