|By Challiyil Eswaramangalath Vipin from Chalakudy, India (cigarette.. like a cigarette in the rain) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons|
I started smoking when I was 13 or 14. I gave up for four years around my late 20s and early 30s, then my marriage broke up. I started to spend time with a great group of women - we’d have a few drinks every Thursday night and most of them smoked. They did keep telling me not to buy my own smokes, just to smoke theirs while we were drinking. By the second night, I was really uncomfortable with this. I remember buying my first packet. I sat and stared at the small, white, cellophane wrapped, unopened box for about 15 minutes wondering what I’d done. It was one thing to have the odd smoke and another to buy 20 of them in one go. It was a huge turning point and I didn’t really know how I felt about it. This small inoffensive seeming handful was so heavy and symbolic of so many other things.
When I wrote my book, I made a bargain with my Gods that included me giving up smoking. It was to be my sacrifice. Then I couldn’t make myself do it. I was afraid, I made excuses and I had my world ripped apart around me. Several times I’ve had friends comment that they don’t know how I stayed sane coping with some of the events of the last year. Several times, I made the decision to give up. This was to be my last cigarette. Then my son attempted suicide. Yeah, I bought smokes on my way into the hospital following the ambulance. That was never going to last in those circumstances.
Twice I managed to go 8 days with no problems. I didn’t tell anyone until I’d gotten to a week. I didn’t want to hear everyone’s advice, expectations or even how proud of me they are. I’m sure they all mean well, but I find it… actually, I don’t know how I find it, I just know I don’t like it much and it annoys me for some reason. It annoys me just as much when people are being understanding about how I tripped up with it now and then - I would react (inside) in just the same way as I did when I was being judged for being weak. With those two bouts of 8 days, I had stresses, I had situations where someone hurt me very badly and I wanted to hurt him physically as if that would fix it. I heard the lies that person told to try and gain sympathy from others and justify what they’d done. So many times, I didn’t want a whole cigarette, I just wanted a puff. If I happened to get a puff I was all good and didn’t want a smoke anymore. But that wasn’t always possible. I bought a small packet and hid it. I could get a puff now and then when I needed it, but could still pretend I wasn’t smoking.
The problem with having a pack is that the pack is like a commitment. There are 20 or 25 or 30 smokes there that need consuming. They call out to you, you are always aware that this little packet is there and maybe, once you’ve finished them all and you’re free of this little pack, you’ll be okay to start over. To be smokefree.
The odd thing was there was not a physical need for a smoke. It was all the crap in my head. I would catch myself justifying buying a pack of 20s to myself and even trying to plan how I’d hide it. No, I would tell myself firmly, I don’t do that anymore. But I’d still find I was scheming, it would be quieter this time, almost so that I couldn’t hear myself doing it. It’s okay, with what you’ve been through lately, no one would blame you, I’d hear inside my head.
I listened to other people talking about their final triggers to give up. One guy said he suddenly realised that he doesn’t enjoy smoking, it costs him money he can’t afford and that was his thing. He looked at his pack and said “Fuck you, get out of my life.” And that was that for him. Another friend was having a throat cancer scare. Someone else had just realised a gym membership cost the same each week and made the decision to do that instead.
For me, it was the promised sacrifice but also the money. My car needs about $500 spent on it for a wof and that’s $500 we don’t currently have to spare. I’ve been trying to compare smoking to eating chocolate. Yes there are times that I crave chocolate, but if I have none in the house, I’m hardly going to drive 10kms (my nearest shop) to get a chocolate bar. So Friday morning it was to be.
I was to have a fairly busy morning which I thought would be a good thing. There was a woman coming to pick up a bull I had borrowed and once he was off and away, I had two appointments to make. Keeping busy should keep me sufficiently occupied to cope with not smoking, or so I thought.
Without going into too many details, it was a catastrophe. Almost everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong - up to and including the bull being in very real danger of dying - he jumped halfway over the bar across the front of the float and got himself stuck with a lot of pressure on his heart.
Once all had been sorted and he’d made his way to his next port of call, I was physically, mentally and emotionally wrung out. I wanted a drink and it was only 10am! I bought a packet of smokes and gave myself until Monday. In my head, I was telling myself off for making excuses and giving in too easily, but also telling myself it was better than hitting the vodka on a Friday morning.
Monday, again, I had one cigarette left and that was gone by 6:45am.
I spent half the day kinda wandering around feeling like I’d forgotten or was missing something. I was fidgety, like I had an itch that would be impolite to scratch in company. It dominated my thoughts for most of the day.
For the most part, I thought it went okay.
But I was amazed though at how everyone else suddenly became a perfect angel. Their behaviour was totally beyond reproach. I was obviously just cranky because I was giving up smoking. It was all my bad attitude that was the problem.
I saw this type of thing when I was pregnant and again when my first marriage broke up. I couldn’t possibly be telling someone off because they’d deserved it - it had to be hormones and stress on my part. Roll your eyes and pity that woman who is clearly not coping.
I stopped speaking in the end. My dearest darling hubby had bitched and moaned and picked holes in everything I said. I couldn’t say anything right, I was snarled at and spoken down to - but you see, it was all me, I’m just grumpy because I’m giving up smoking. That sounds so much worse than it really was. He was in a mood and was cranky, but he didn’t pick on me all night.
Tuesday. Second day. I thought my first one of the morning would be the hardest one to miss. I think it was more the one when I get back from the school run.
Today I ate. I snacked, I picked, I “tasted” dinner while I was cooking it so much that I was so full I actually felt sick before I’d even sat down to eat my dinner. I wasn’t actually hungry, I wanted to taste something. I still ate my dinner.
I needed to empty the ashtrays today. I was starting to eye up some of the bigger butts. They were looking good even though they suddenly smell really strong and really foul.
In other words, I’ve noticed a huge difference to my sense of smell, already.
Wednesday. Third day. I didn’t sleep very well last night. I’m coughing more than I did when I was still smoking (can I say that yet? It’s been three days), but I’m still feeling overfull and somewhat sick from eating far far too much yesterday and last night. I think I’ll be drinking a lot of water today and not consuming much else.
I know that the biggest thing, well, one of the biggest things for me is habit. I noticed yesterday though, I felt as though I’d been busy for half the morning. I’d gotten plenty done, it must have been around 11am, I thought. Then I heard the letterbox bang shut and the postie drive away. I checked the time, it was quarter past nine. I’d gotten all of this done in an hour or less? Right, time for a break and a … snack. It’s partially the habit and partially a reward I’d give myself for getting some stuff done. It’s something to do with my hands when I’m on the phone. It used to be my little piece of time out. When you have an Aspie/ASD child, having the space to take even 5 mins for yourself some days is a rarity. The toilet/bathroom doesn’t always work, I’ve been followed into that several times. It got worse once he hit his mid-teens and started smoking. I didn’t have that escape, he’d come with me for a smoke.
There is also a lot of fear. Fear of gaining a lot of weight when I already have cholesterol issues. Look at the way I ate yesterday, that was only my second day! Fear of getting sick. See, I’ve done this a few times now. I know that getting rather ill a short time after giving up smoking is completely normal. Smoking kills off some of your immune system, but at the same time, it replaces it and works in the same way. When I gave up for that four years, I sniffed and snuffled as though I had hayfever for two full years. I had a constant slightly runny nose that whole time.
There’s another fear, but it’s tied to stop-smoking medication. My parents used one very highly recommended form after Dad had a heart attack. It worked very well, my mother used to be bad for keeping a hidden pack, or coming to visit and having one of mine. This time there was none of that - much to Dad’s surprise. Unfortunately, since taking this medication, Mum’s short term memory has become somewhat patchy and unreliable. It may not be connected, it may just be a fluke of timing. I heard a suggestion that there was a rare link between this medication and messing up memory, but I haven’t heard it formally and don’t do the chinese whisper thing (which is why I’m also not naming the meds). But what if? I’m going to do this on my own because it’s a sacrifice, it’s supposed to be hard - that’s part of the point. I’m afraid of the medication in case I’m suddenly the person who asks the same question 5 times in a half hour phone call, in case I’m suddenly forgetting birthdays and getting confused about plans for later on this afternoon. I don’t want to be the person that others are suggesting should be in a home when I’m clearly far too young for that and quite frankly, still functioning fine in everything else.
There are a lot of jobs that need doing. Many of them are away from the house down in the paddocks. I think that might be where I spend a large portion of today. I have fences to secure to stop the sheep from going under and through and into paddocks where I don’t want them to be. I have trees to plant, trees to prune and trees to move. I have rocks to shift, a garden that needs work, cattle that need separating for the homekill this weekend. I also have another book to work on, research to complete, sources to find, taxes to do, a calendar to finish, half-written blog posts to tidy and post (more than one blog). I have plenty to keep me occupied.
Wish me luck!