Month: March 2011

Adventures In Not Smoking, Day Four

I write this with the stench of cigarette smoke on my fingers.  And how fitting; a late-March thunderstorm is rolling in, and the rumble of thunder is complimenting my mood.

I didn’t make it twenty-four hours without smoking.  I have no will power, and I have just reaffirmed my belief that I can never finish anything that I’ve started.  I’ll be all gung-ho about something, do great at it for a period of time, then falter and either lose interest or just stop altogether.  Recent attempts include maintaining my fifty pound weight loss, exercising regularly at the gym, and my venture into vegetarianism, all I did with gusto and was successful at, then something in my mind says, “you’re doing really well, why don’t you reward yourself for your accomplishments by taking a break?  Eat that bowl of ice cream, take a day off from the gym, and eat that hamburger.” Where am I now?  Twenty pounds heavier, sitting on my butt, and a carnivore once again.  I’ll have periods of “hey, get back on that weight-loss/regular exercise/omnivore train,” but they are fleeting thoughts, and soon I’m right back where I started.  I can see I can add “quitting smoking” to this ever-expanding list.  Fuck.

I started out my day optimistic for my new-found venture into being a non-smoker.  I woke up thinking, “you don’t need to smoke.  You didn’t smoke for 90% of your life, and quitting now will be difficult, but you can kick this thing in the butt (pun intended).” I drove to work without a cigarette.  I got through lunch without leaving to smoke.  Then, a harmless comment made by a co-worker whom is also trying her hand at kicking the habit: “man, I could really use a cigarette right now.”  I hadn’t thought about smoking too much throughout the day, but that comment made me go “huh, yeah, so could I.”  I thought I was stronger than this, and was determined to not give in to temptation.  Plus, I’m literally penniless until payday, which is tomorrow, so it’s not like I could go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. 

I drove home thinking of smoking, though.  I was calculating in my head how much loose change I have in my piggy bank…I also had a few bucks in my wallet.  Surely I could skrimp together six bucks to go buy a pack.  I pulled into the driveway and was giving myself  a mental pep talk–“don’t do it, E.  You’ve almost gone an entire 24 hours without smoking.  Just get over this hurdle. and it will get easier as the days go on.”  I was starting to believe myself. 

Then, I saw my mail.

About a week ago, before I made this decision, I got an invitation in the mail from a tobacco company for some coupons.  I, of course, sent away for said coupons. 

Guess what showed up today?  That’s right:  two packs for two dollars.  Fucking perfect!  I have two dollars! 

But, I must also make a confession, and this is just disgusting and I’m ashamed to admit it, but the purpose of writing about my adventures/misadventures in quitting is to be open and honest with myself, and anyone who chooses to read. 

Confession:  as I unlocked the back door, I glanced over at the terra-cotta pot that is being used as an ashtray.  Inside lay two half-smoked cigarettes–mine, not Corey’s.  Like a fucking homeless, desperate bum, I fished those two butts out of the ashtray and smoked the remainder of them.  I stood on the patio and felt like a complete jackass.  How low I had to be to fucking dig what is essentially trash out of the ashtray, and light up.  It reminded me of the time I was at a local coffee shop and saw a man doing the same thing to the ashtray outside–digging for the butts that were the longest, and putting them in the front pocket of his plaid shirt.  I remember thinking to myself, “wow, guy.  You’ve got to be pretty desperate to do that.”  And here I was, doing the same thing. 

Jesus christ.  And then that’s when I came inside and saw my mail.  I chuckled in spite of myself, thinking, “if I had just waited like, five minutes, I could have saved myself a bit of humiliation and degradation.”  But I didn’t.  I made the conscious decision. 

Now, a person with more will power and can-do attitude would have seen this envelope from the tobacco company, realized what was inside, and torn the envelope into tiny pieces, and buried it in the trash can under the coffee grinds as to make it impossible to be temped to tape the bits back together.  Not I.  Plus, I proved my will power was basically non-existent by smoking trash.  So, off to the store that I know sells this particular brand to buy my one dollar cigarettes. 

Walking inside, I feel sheepish.  I had my head hung low, eyes to the ground, certain that everyone in the parking lot and inside the store somehow knew I was “trying” to not smoke, and was doing a pretty fucking miserable job at it.  I walked up to the counter and said in a quiet voice, “one pack of lights, please,” and handed over my coupon. 

Because it’s me, I was talking to myself in my head: you’re okay, E.  You’re okay.  Everyone backslides when they attempt something as difficult as this.  In fact, you read this yourself earlier. (It’s true.  I have visited a website on tips to quit smoking and read that quitting is very difficult and most people find themselves smoking again within three months of first quitting.  But shit, I hadn’t even made it one full day.  I’m definitely doomed.)

I walked to the car, tearing the cellophane off the box.  I got in the car and took a cigarette out.  I laughed in disgust at myself and said out loud, “you stupid fuck,” and lit the cigarette. 

I admit, it tasted pretty good.  Much better than the used smokes I had earlier.  I drove down the highway, window down and smoke in my lungs. 

I could smell said smoke permeating my hoodie, my hair and fingers.  My mouth tasted like tobacco and I kind of smacked my lips in a futile effort to get the taste out of my mouth.  No dice. 

I guess I write this as my cry for help.  Goddamn, this sounds so fucking melodramatic, it’s just fucking smoking, not doing cocaine, for christ’s sake.  I need more than just “Hey Erin, way to go, good for you!”  I was joking yesterday that I need to hire a drill Sargent to whip my ass into shape, but I’m seriously contemplating this.  I need someone to be mean to me about this, to fucking rip the cigarette out of my mouth, break it in half and tell me I’m a worthless piece of shit.  I’m not kidding. 

Like I said, I was on a website earlier that gave tips on quitting, and a friend also suggested this: set a date, and on that date, stop.  I’ve been thinking about my due date, if you will.  Either give myself through the weekend, so smoke this pack like a goddamn fiend tomorrow and use Saturday and Sunday–days I find myself outside nearly every hour, on the hour–or, April First, but I’m not fooling this time (insert laughter here).

Oh, and then there’s this whole thinking of where my life was at this time last year, which is when shit really started to get weird with my marriage (see the story “Not Her” on Fictionaut), and I’m trying to ignore it, but am not doing a fantastic job of that, either.

In a word, dearests, I’m a mess.  Pure and simple. 

Alright.  Day Four is at a close.  I can only wallow in this self-pity for so long.  Tomorrow is a new day.  I should pick myself up, dust myself off, and start over again. 

Good night, friends.

Adventures In Not Smoking, Day Three

…the saga continues…

Holy shit.  Ho. Lee. Shit.

I did it.  I smoked my last cigarette tonight. I’m out.  No more. Fin. Done. Or so I hope…

I had a small panic attack earlier about how many cigarettes I had left, which at the time, was three.  Like, a full-blown panic attack.  Nervous, jittery, and I kept saying to myself, “what the fuck, what the fuck, what the fuck?”  Then I’d look at my nearly empty box of cigarettes, and I’d get more anxious about not smoking.  Like, what if smoking is the key to something?  And by quitting, I’m ignoring my opportunity to unlock something magical? 

But really, those were the rantings of a semi-crazy person.  I’ve relaxed since then, thanks to the wonder drug Ativan, and a glass…or two of wine…but I’m not freaking about not being able to smoke.  It’s like I said in my first post–I started smoking due to something bad happening in my life.  Now that this “thing” is gone, so to speak, so should this habit, and I’m determined to keep it that way.  

I made the mistake yesterday, while researching for the blog that didn’t get posted….ahem….thanks WordPress….but anyway, I was researching what exactly it is about nicotine that makes it so goddamned hard to quit.  The answer lied in endorphins.  Those pesky chemicals in the brain that give you feelings of euphoria.  Nicotine produces endorphins, and who doesn’t want to feel super duper all the time?  I sure do.  But nicotine is also a huge bitch.  All that carbon dioxide you’re keeping in your body…yeah, that’s healthy….

Anyway, now, I’m doing okay.  So far.  Of course this could be the wine and the anti-anxiety drugs I have taken tonight, but really, all in all, I’m doing alright.  Now begins the hellacious decent into nicotine withdrawal, which I’m sure will be a trip down a watermelon waterfall.  I’m thankful I have medication, that’s all I’m saying.  I hope I can keep my surliness and general “fuck you” attitude at bay, but many apologies to those who will suffer my wrath.  I plan on eating a lot of popcicles, as I need something to satiate that oral fixation (ha ha, I said oral).

Okay then.  Let’s do this thing, as now begins the real testament to my willpower.  I have decided that every time I want to buy a pack of cigarettes, I’m going to take that money and put it in the loose change jar I have on my dresser.  Like I said in my first post, I’ve spent roughly one billion dollars over the last year-and-a-half on cigarettes, so I’m hoping I’ll save up quite the chunk of change.  Maybe I can buy something cool, like….something….cool kids buy…..

So ends Day Three of Adventures In Not Smoking.  Pack gone, last cigarette a charred remains in the bottom of my ashtray. 

And I’d like to take this time to thank everyone for your support thus far.  You’ve all been great, and very encouraging, and I appreciate your interest in helping me kick the habit.  You guys rock. 

Alrighty then.  My wine that I have been drinking is starting to make me sleepy, and I feel it’s time to hit the hay.  Tomorrow is a new day, and a hopefully smoke-free day. 

Hugs!

Adventures In Not Smoking, Day One

I have decided to quit smoking.  Actually, my lungs have decided I should quit smoking, and I’m beginning to agree with them.  In an effort to make myself accountable for this attempt, I am going to be journaling my efforts, that way all of you who read this can check up on me, see my progress, offer encouragement/promises of ass beatings if I falter from this path.  So, here we go.

Day One: The Decision Has Been Made.

It was really a dumb idea to start smoking in the first place.  I’ve always been prone to respiratory infections, so why torture my already vulnerable lungs with carcinogens and other bad juju?  And why start so late in life?  I really only took to the habit about a year-and-a-half ago.  In fact, I bought my first pack of cigarettes when I was twenty because I realized I had turned eighteen and didn’t exercise my god-given right to do so. 

So, off to the local convenience mart to buy my first pack.  I remember standing at the counter, gazing at the wall of boxes, all shiny in their cellophane packaging, the colors flashing at me in a “pick me! pick me!” sort of way.  I was clueless.  I had no idea there were so many brands, let alone flavors or lengths.  I just knew of Marlboro and Camel, but there were exotic brands like “Pall Mall” and “Ligget” and “Virginia Slims.” Eyes wide, cash in one hand, ID in the other, I asked for what I thought was the easiest brand: Marlboro Reds.  Unfiltered.  Holy shit.  That’s like saying you are thinking about taking up rock climbing and attempt The Matterhorn on your first day. 

In fact, I think this was the exact exchange between me and the cashier, whom I sure got quite the hardy chuckle after I left:

Me: “Uh, yeah, I’d like a pack of cigarettes, please.”

Proprietor of Local Gas Station: “What kind?”

Me: “Uh…Marlboros, I guess….”

PLGS: “Ooookay…regulars, lights, ultra-lights….?”

Me: “Regulars. Please.”

PLGS: “Filtered or non-filtered?”

Me: *in my head* what the fuck? “….uh….non-filtered?”

PLGS: *raises eyebrows* “Box or soft pack?” (this was “back in the day” when this was still an option)

Me: “Box.”

The nice lady grabbed the pack, gave me the “you’re fucking stupid, kid” look as she rang up my purchase, and then asked for my ID, which I stiffly handed to her.  She glanced at the birth date, up at me, and back at the ID again.  I’m sure she was thinking I was much younger than my twenty years since I seemed so wet behind the ears with the whole cigarette buying, or that I was being sent in by my under-aged friends to buy for them, and was acting so strange because I was nervous I’d get caught procuring for minors.  Regardless, she took my money, handed me my change, and asked if I needed a lighter.  Duh.  A lighter.  How the hell else was I going to light these damn things?  Pull a caveman in my car with sticks and a bit of flint? I choked at the question, and looked nervously around the counter at the display of lighters.  Again, so many colors…

I then spied a container of matches and asked, “Uh, how much are the  matches?”

I was answered with a blank stare, then a snarky, “those are free, sweetheart.”

“Okay, cool.  I’ll, uh, I’ll take the matches, then.” 

The nice lady handed me my matches, gave me another “you’re a fucking dipwad” look, and said, “Have a good time.” I believe the smile on her face could be described as a “shit-eating grin.”

So, I grabbed my smokes, my FREE matches, and my new-found sense of pride at having just made my first ever tobacco purchase and walked out the door to my car.  I got in and sat there, wondering what to do next.  My older brother smoked, and I sometimes saw him smack his pack of cigarettes against his hand for whatever reason, and decided to try that as well, because what the hell, huh?  I should have maybe paid closer attention to my older sibling as he did this, as of course, I had no idea what he did it for, so instead of hitting the top of the pack against my hand in an effort to pack the tobacco down, I just slapped the pack–flat, wide side–against my hand.  Essentially folks, I was just hitting the front of the box and this aided in no way to any sort of tobacco-enhancing ritual.  I was just slapping the shit out of my cigarettes. 

Once I felt I had accomplished the right degree of whatever-the-fuck-I-thought-I-was-doing, I grabbed the tab on the cellophane to rip the top off.  I remember thinking it was like doing the same with a pack of HubbaBubba Bubblegum.  I flipped the top of the box and stared down at the twenty sticks of death lined up inside the box.  I immediately regretted the unfiltered choice I made.  In fact, I took a cigarette out and turned it around in my hands, somehow looking for the  missing filter.  Maybe I had to insert it myself or something.  I kind of panicked a bit, but then thought, “what the hell?” and shoved one in between my lips.  I reached for my matches, struck one against the rough strip to ignite the head, and carefully brought the flame up to the end of the smoke dangling precariously from my mouth. 

Now again, first time smoking–didn’t realized you had to inhale as you lit the goddamn thing, so the match just kind of charred the end of the cigarette and burned the end of my fingers.  I wagged the flame out with a “sonofabitch!” and tried again, this time, inhaling as I lit up.  Success…or epic fail, depending on how you look at it. The end of the cigarette glowed an angry orange and smoke filled up the car.  I, of course, started coughing.  Hi, new to smoking.  And I had little bits of tobacco stuck to my tongue, so as I’m hacking up a quarter of my lung, I’m also sputtering and trying to wipe loose tobacco from my mouth.  The car is still filling with smoke from the smoldering cigarette, and it just then dawns on me to roll down the window, which I did furiously.  Smoke is rolling out the window, I’m still gagging on bits of Tennessee’s finest, and then there’s the issue of how to hold the god-forsaken thing in my hand.  Right then, I’m sure I was sort of pinching it between my thumb and forefinger, but I associated that with pot smoking, and hoo boy, pot is bad, and I didn’t want anyone to think I was a dirty hippie, so I went for the more elegant jammed between my middle and forefinger approach.  Regardless of position of said cigarette, I am sure I looked like a massive tool.  A massive tool who had never smoked before.

After I stopped coughing/retching/fiddling with the cigarette, and felt comfortable enough to be able to drive without dropping the cursed thing on my lap, igniting myself and my car a-flame, I took off down the road, window down, wind in my hair, and smoke blowing up in my face.  Occasionally, I’d bring the cigarette up to my pursed lips and “smoke,” or a.k.a. fill my mouth full of smoke, cheeks puffed out, and awkwardly exhale a huge plume of smoke out the window.  Again, I didn’t know I was doing it “wrong,” so to speak, by not inhaling the smoke.  In my mind, I had a cigarette, it was going to-and-from my mouth, I was blowing smoke out of my mouth, so therefore, I was smoking.

This went on for about an hour, me driving and pretend smoking.  My eyes were burning from the smoke, and I had gone through about six of the unfiltered devils before I decided to call it quits.  Besides, I was due home soon, and I didn’t want to smell like an ashtray.  Which brought me to my next quandary: what was I going to do with this pack of cigarettes?  Now, keep in mind, I am well past the legal age to buy cigarettes at twenty, but I had this fear of my parents finding out I smoked, even though I had moved out of the house by then. 

So, I took them up to my apartment with me where I was met with the same “what the fuck, kid?” look from my then-r00mmate, Brandy.

“You.  Bought.  Cigarettes.  You.” she said smugly as I showed her the pack. 

“Yep.” I felt like a little kid showing her mom a pretty rock she found outside.

“How’d that go for you?” she laughed.

“Fine,” I lied.  As if to betray  my cool exterior, I started coughing.  Damn.  Cover blown.

Brandy started laughing harder.  “Yeah, sounds like it.  If you’re going to smoke in the apartment, open up a window or something.  I don’t want the place to reak.”

And this is my next clear recollection of smoking–me, standing in my bedroom, window open, screen off and laying across my bed, and me hanging halfway out the window, smoking these goddamned cigarettes.  Not just smoking, but fucking CHAIN SMOKING these sonsabitches, because I didn’t want them anymore, but didn’t want to throw them away, either.  I paid good money for this shit, damn it. I wasn’t going to waste my money! (the irony was clearly lost on me then.)

I don’t recall ever smoking much after that; I think I had my fill of it after that first experience.  But I would pick it up occasionally over the next eight years, mainly when I was drunk and saw other people smoking, and how much of a good idea I thought it was to be drinking AND smoking at the same time.  That was like, the best combo EVER.

And then, flash forward to when I started smoking regularly, and with vigor.

I noted one of my triggers to KEEP smoking to be stress, and stress is what brought me back into the arms of this cancerous mistress once a-gain.  Yes friends, I started smoking full-time when shit with Jason and I started getting foul. I remember coming home one day after work with a pack of cigarettes and going and standing on the front porch, puffing away (I was inhaling by then, look at me all grown up…), and Jason looked at me with the all-too familiar “what the fuck, kid?” look. 

“You’re smoking?” he asked.

*puff* “Yep.” I replied nonchalantly.

“Why?”

“Why not?  You smoke.  So can I.”

And that was that.  He left me on the front porch, sucking my life away (and not in the GOOD way, either) on an American Spirit Light.

It was my escape from him, in a way.  Whenever I needed out of the house when he was here, I’d go outside, come rain or snow or dead of night, I’d be out there, inhaling angrily, blowing smoke out with force, pacing the patio.  And the habit stuck.  I guess now you can say that since Jason was the one that was ultimately the cause of my smoking, now that we’re getting divorced, I should stop smoking.  And that’s kind of the idea behind my reasoning to quit….well, that and the whole lungs rebelling against me in a fight for fresh air sort of coup d’etat. 

So there you have it, friends. My fall from grace into the stinking pits of smoker-dom.  I really am quite tired of it, to be honest with you all.  It’s getting freaking expensive as hell–cigarettes were almost eight bucks a pack when Larkins and I ventured to Texas a few weeks back–plus, it’s just expensive in general.  I did some math, crunched some digits, and on average, I spend about $5.50 on a pack.  I, with no small amount of shame, admit to smoking about….half a pack to three-quarters of pack a day, so that’s roughly…*does math in head*…carry the one….seven days in a week….four weeks a month….twelve months a year….been smoking for about a year-and-a-half….like, a billion dollars.  I don’t have a billion dollars.  Well, I would if I didn’t smoke.  So there’s that.  And then there’s the whole it just being a plain fucking stupid idea.  Yeah, remember my broken foot?  Remember my boot on my broken foot?  I was told time and time again by Dr. Justin Harris, Best Ortho Man Alive, that the reason my goddamn foot wasn’t healing properly was because nicotine robs your bones of calcium.  Basic third grade science taught us that “bones are made of calcium and hard stuff.” So, I’m the reason why my foot wouldn’t heal.  Me. Dumb ol’, stupid ol’ E.  Smokin’ away, smoke smoke smoke.  Strike two.  Third reason?  Hi, look where I work.  A freakin’ HEART INSTITUTE.  Besides “don’t eat junk food, fatty!” the second thing we drill into our patients heads is “don’t smoke, neither.” Fourth reason….my fingers smell.  That’s gross.  Fifth reason…my future generation, if there ever happens to be one, which there won’t be if I keep smoking.  

So, all in all folks, the cons to smoking heavily out-weigh the pros, which are none.  There is no good reason to smoke.  None.  Unless your sole purpose in life is to smell like a bag of ass, then by all means, light up, Sparky. 

And this is where I’ll leave off for today, as Jesus christ, my little work count ticker thingy at the bottom of my screen is telling me I’ve hit a paltry 2300+ words.  Times to call it quits.  Pun intended.

Stay tuned for more Adventures In Not Smoking!

Eight Years

Amidst the excitement of my last six days on vacation, I realized what today was: the eighth anniversary of my wedding to my future ex-husband. 

Actually, that’s a lie; this day has loomed over me for about a month, but I kept pushing it back into my mind, tucked in the corner so I wouldn’t notice.  But it was persistent, and kept shouting at me, “Hey! Remember me!  March 8th is your anniversary! Oh, wait…you’re not married anymore…”

This day has brought a flood of emotions bearing down on me.  Driving for twelve hours from Dallas, Texas back to Nebraska tends to make a person think about things, and while my thoughts ranged from “I NEED to find a gas station to go to the bathroom,” to “jesus christ…my life is not where I thought it would be now.” Not that this is a bad thing by any means.  From my earlier posts, I’m sure you, my readers, have gotten some sort of feeling for how I’ve dealt with this impending divorce.  Some days, it’s good.  I feel like this was the best decision for us.  Living with a person to whom you are married and thinking of them as nothing more than another person in the house is the first sign that things were not meant to be.  Then, there are days where I would like nothing more than to hop into a time machine, set the dial for two years ago, and fucking FIX our problems. 

Despite my best efforts, and his as well (to an extent), this happened for a reason.  I hate that cliché saying, because it’s such a…well, cliché, but it’s true.  Everything happens for a reason.  It’s just up to yourself to take bad experiences, like divorce, untimely deaths, losing a job, etc, and move on.  Easier said than done, especially coming from me, the gal who tried to kill herself when Jason first moved out last July.  I thought my life was over without him.  I did not want to spend one more minute alive knowing he was giving himself to someone else.  I didn’t want to live knowing he was holding her, kissing her, telling her how pretty she was…I had my plan, and by golly, I was going to go through with it.  I was going to get into my car and drive down a stretch of empty highway and deliberately try to wreck my car.  No pills or slitting my wrists, or anything like that.  If I was lucky enough, maybe everyone would think it was an accident, and no one would have to live with thinking I did this to end my life. 

But thankfully, and sometimes very much annoyingly, my family and friends caught on to me, and helped me get the help I needed.  I spent a few days in the hospital on suicide watch, doped up to the gills on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, which was a trip and a half, let me tell you.  Did you know that in the psychiatric ward of hospitals, there are no plastic bags in the garbage cans?  Only paper bags, lest one of us gets the wacky idea of trying to suffocate ourselves.  No belts for your pants, either.  I digress.

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is this: while this day is not exactly a happy one for me, I have the capacity of mind to look back with fondness at the years we shared.  Yes, it’s terrible things had to end the way they did, and we both made our fair share of mistakes, but like I said earlier–this happened for a reason. 

I don’t know what’s in store for me, but whatever does happen, it is supposed to happen.

And keep plastic bags away from me and small children.