Archive for April, 2009

Why I’m not lighting another cigarette: A monologue in one part.

I mentioned in my previous post that I stopped smoking a little while ago. This took a lot of courage; the change of lifestyle and fear of abruptly modifying long-standing habits is mighty intimidating. This is not an issue to be taken lightly – I’ve been smoking for my entire young adult life and did not remember what it was like not to smoke on a regular basis. The “habit of not smoking” was something attributed to my pre-teenage years. Yes, I’ve been smoking for that long. 10 cigarettes a day. A quick calculation brings up that I’ve smoked about 43,800 cigarettes. I’m writing this post to perhaps inspire others to stop smoking as well – hopefully the conclusions I have come to regarding smoking and the part it has taken in my life up until this point will strike a chord with those who feel similar .

The recurring question which I’ve been asked in the past few weeks has been “Why did you stop?“, from both smokers and non-smokers alike. My response to this, largely, was that it wasn’t stopping which required a reason or justification. I’d assume that one normally seeks reasons to forcefully justify something which otherwise would be considered a bad idea. I could not find one (one!) viable or justifiable reason to continue smoking, so I stopped. It’s not about why I stopped – it’s about why I’m not continuing.

I continued smoking for as long as I did, despite the health concerns, out of two reasons: enjoyment (disillusion) and habit (fear). I’ll break these down and explain both.

Enjoyment (disillusion)

Even after all these years of smoking, it was conceptually simple for me to realize that this enjoyment was, like a lot of other things are, chemicals in the brain. Once I understand that this “enjoyment” is linked to my body’s dependancy on nicotine, everything changes. “Do I do it because I like it or do I do it because my addiction to a drug is making me believe I like it?”. Those of you who know me are aware of how mortally afraid I am of chemicals which alter my behavior. I don’t just steer clear of class-A drugs; I drink very little alcohol and stay completely away from marijuana. The moment I realized that Nicotine was tricking me and altering my behavior to make me believe that something so horrifically damaging was “enjoyable”, I made the decision to stop smoking. There is no genuine enjoyment in smoking, only the feeling of relief which is achieved when a craving for a drug is satisfied. Nicotine is an addictive drug which controls you – NOT the other way around.

Habit (fear)

The habit of smoking is, for me, much stronger than the actual addiction to the drug. I picked up my first cigarette when I was 15 and started smoking more or less regularly when I was 16. Being 27, this means that I have been smoking so far for my entire adult life. There are no adult experiences I have gone though which hadn’t involved cigarettes in some way, shape or form. Relieving stress from work, going to coffee shops, having deep conversations – all of these involved cigarettes as a part of routine. Never lighting another cigarette means finding new ways of experiencing my day-to-day – and this is scary stuff, especially for people like me who enjoy the comfort of routine living (I look at it as “practice makes perfect”).

The way for me to deal with this issue was to identify these “habit” cigarettes and tackle them directly weeks before actually quitting smoking altogether. Weeks before I had completely stopped, I made a mental list of the cigarettes that weren’t “craving based” but “habit based”, and cut them slowly out of my routine. That cigarette on the way to work, that 2nd cigarette with a cup of coffee, that cigarette before bed – out. Cutting these out of my routine early helped me concentrate on dealing with the physical cravings after smoking that last cigarette, instead of trying to completely rebuild my life at the same time.

I think that the act of smoking as a nonsensical act really crystalized in my mind the moment I really realized that there was no real reason to smoke. There were truly no benefits to smoking – not one. The decision to not light another cigarette put me back in control and opened up my future to more than it would have otherwise been, both from a personal standpoint and in regards to my health.

I haven’t lit a cigarette in two weeks. Here’s what’s changed:

  • My sense of smell has improved
  • My face looks better, brighter
  • I can breathe deeper
  • There’s more money in my wallet
  • I smell nicer
  • My migraines are fewer, weaker
  • I don’t have to air out the house before having guests
  • I don’t have to air out the house after having guests
  • I have proven to myself that *I* call the shots
  • Gosh, I’m just more fun to be around! Who wants a hug?

But oh, does it hurt.

I can’t get away from this issue without mentioning withdrawal. This is an issue which is easy to forget in writing because I’m too ecstatic about quitting to bother remembering to mention how hard it is to actually do.

At the end of the second week, I’m not feeling as bad as I initially did – but the first few days were extremely difficult. I was feverish, irritable, was having trouble concentrating at work, suffered from headaches, nausea, abdominal pain and insomnia. Most of these problems have at this point subsided, however I am still waking up several times a night. This too shall pass.

I think that what helped me to not relapse during this phase of withdrawal was the understanding that I was exercising my right to be in control. Looking at other smokers and saying “gosh, I bet this person would have liked to be able to quit like I have.” instead of “hmm, I’d like a cigarette too”. As a matter of fact, I actually did the exact opposite of what all those quit-smoking articles suggest – I changed nothing about my surroundings, I continued to hang out with the exact same folks in social situations in which I used to smoke, I continued to take “smoke breaks” with co-workers (!!!) but did not smoke during them. Smoking is not something that they “get to do” and “I don’t” because I quit. Smoking is not a prize or a reward. There is no logic in saying “I deserve a cigarette” after completing a difficult or stressful task. This is like saying “I did something I am very proud of, therefor I will now go ahead and poison myself” :)

It all became considerably easier once I understood that I didn’t really want to smoke. Everything else pretty much followed.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post.

If you’re thinking of kicking the smoking habit, this book which you can read online may be a source of inspiration for you. It was for me. Good Luck!

Pretty Things t-shirt sighting: Hamburg

First of all, apologies for not blogging very much lately. Since I last posted, I’ve been on vacation back home in Israel, I stopped smoking and received a copy of Peggle DS which has subsequently melted my brain.

In other news, Carsten sent me a photo of him wearing his “Walking Rickroll” shirt from the Pretty Things shop. Click on the photo to check out some more great views of the print!

Check out Walking Rickroll printed tees in the shop (more colors).

Don’t forget to post photos of you in your Pretty Things tee(s) in the flickr pool!

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