Her & My Truth About Quitting

Nat, formerly known herein as the Bush Whacker, mentioned to me in Facebook her friend’s Mo‘s short-lived blog from 2010 titled The Truth About Quitting.

At this point, I have been FIVE FULL DAYS without a smoke. And this time I mean it! Unlike previous quitting attempts when I would allow myself 1 to 4 ciggie per day by rationalizing that it was one heck of an improvement over 25 to 30 per day, I have not had a single puff, let along a complete smoke, since 5:15 pm on Thursday, November 3. So by all accounts — although Mo has some good points about that which I’ll discuss below — my body should be fully nicotine-free by this time.

I’m not feeling more stressed out than when I would be a few weeks into the first level of the nicotine patch. However — and that’s the fascinating thing for me — I can honestly say for the first time in 30 years that I’m nicotine-free. After all, the patch is nicotine replacement therapy AND I’d still be smoking a little, so the nicotine never completely left me before now. Now let me be clear: I’m still tempted like a sonovabitch, but I think about being nicotine-free and I say to myself, “No, it would be a shame to break that,” so I keep my resolve.

But coming back to Mo’s blog… I love everything she wrote about, including what I disagreed with or can’t relate to.

For you see, Mo quit “cool turkey”. That’s the same as cold turkey except that she had reduced to half a pack a day …over a eight-year period! For my part, I went from about 30 to zero per day overnight …but aided by soft-laser therarpy.

Another huge difference: Over the years, Mo restricted her smoking to one room in her house before finally forcing herself to only smoke outside. As for me, home was my smoking haven! Only when going out or visiting most friends would smoking be an outdoor activity and, unlike Mo, I didn’t have a strong “smoking = solitary” association and even less a “smoking = doing nothing else” association.

I would say the only statement from Mo with which I completely disagree with (or can’t relate to) is “that I don’t really feel any different.” Sorry, Mo, but speak for yourself! 🙂 In only five days, my coughing has almost vanished and I certainly don’t have coughing fits anymore. A half-a-pack-per-day smoker is nothing compared a pack-plus-per-day smoker, so I suggest that’s why you didn’t notice much change.

That’s my only disagreement, though.

“Quitting wasn’t that hard,” she asserts. “Here is the most common story you’ll hear about nicotine addiction: it is among the most powerful addictions there is, as powerful as cocaine or heroin.” She is absolutely right that is what we hear all the time and she admits that she fully believed it. However, she colourfully writes about what she (and I) HAVEN’T done:

So I imagined the sort of fight I would need to put up against cocaine or heroin addiction. I pictured myself in a Trainspotting-like daze, shaking and sweating, out in my backyard in the middle of the night, flashlight in hand. I would crawl on my hands and knees, through the muck, desperately searching for an old butt that had escaped the outdoor ashtray. I would brush it off when I found it, raise it to my lips, feeling the dirt in my mouth, and light it, cursing its dampness. And then, once it caught, I would have one perfect drag, deep into my lungs, and my body would sink back, satisfied, and there would be some kind of dream sequence. And just like that, I would fail.

So far for me this time around, I haven’t even been more irritable. I’ve only felt occasional waves I would describe as a kind of pressure above the temples or a feeling inside my mouth that makes the urge to smoke flash in front of my eyes. But the smokes remaining from my last pack are still on the kitchen table, unmoved since last Thursday. In fact, when I look at the pack rather than just think about a cigarette, the resolve in my “NO!” is even stronger.

The other insight to which Mo admits not having thought of before trying to quit is that smoking cessation is almost as big a business as smoking itself. And that’s when I think to myself, Yeah …didn’t I just spend nearly $800 for a therapy in which I wouldn’t have believed if it hadn’t been for two friends who managed to quit with it? There’s still a part of me that’s wondering if I’m benefitting from a placibo effect. Certainly a lot more willpower is required than the “stop smoking in one hour” ads suggest! I suppose I can find some consolation in the fact that I’m doing it without any drug.

I love how Mo points out how little real and credible information exists about smoking cessation. I would point out that I’ve long said the same (politically incorrect) thing about “research” on the ills of second-hand smoke, but I digress. She raises a point I have also noticed:

Here is just one example I’ve found of the ways that the discourse of quitting is being shaped directly by the companies behind the drugs and NRTs: try to search for information about what will happen to your body when you quit. No matter how you configure your search, or how many sites you click through on, the majority of the information you find will be strikingly similar. It will divide time into these increments: 20 minutes, 8 hours, 24 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, 2-12 weeks, 3-9 months, 5 years, 10 years. For the record, the (almost always uncited) information you find is copyright Johnson and Johnson, makers of Nicorette.

Credit to Mo: she found the copyright holder; I never did. Now my question is this: Am I REALLY nicotine-free by now? I’m expected to believe that what I’m feeling is 100% psychological?

But perhaps my favorite post by Mo is “The Shape of the Relapse Curve,” in which she poses the question that few if any “researchers” are posing but that quitters would like answered: “When is a someone who’s trying to quit most likely to cave?” And she found only one article that suggested that “approximately 90% of smokers who relapse do so within the first 8 days.”

I suppose that means if I make it to next Saturday, I’ll be in the 10%. But that said, even though I’m only five days in, I think I can already relate to Mo’s last thought in her blog: “I don’t miss the actual smoking anymore,” she concludes after 13 weeks of not smoking. “In truth though, I still miss being a smoker.”

I know people who stopped smoking 25 years ago but admit to smoking in their dreams when they’re particularly stressed out, so that indeed tells me how strong the psychological bond to smoking is. I also worry about how interacting with my few smoker friends will be like if I persist at not smoking. I think it’s going to be really weird…