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Rest of Month One

10/15/00 - 4:30 PM

Hey, last night I actually put my 2nd week as an ex-smoker to bed. It was easier than the 1st week from a physical standpoint. Psychologically it was worse...I suspect that's because during the first week I was so busy detoxing and just simply not smoking that there wasn't room for much else.

Current #s? Absolutely smoke free for two weeks, 16 hours & 39 minutes. 514 cigarettes not smoked, saving $102.86. Life saved: 1 day, 18 hours, 50 minutes.

The next couple of weeks are going to be hard. One reason is that at this point I would assume almost everyone that I have regular contact with in real life is getting pretty bored with my quitting smoking project. I don't blame them at all. Really, who cares? It's still essentially all I can think about...but that's my problem. Since I'm still considerably stupider than I was a couple of weeks ago (plus totally preoccupied) I'm not all that entertaining; except to a select few who will admit that my being stupid is amusing. (God bless you few, by the way. You're sick, but y'all are my people.)

On the navel-gazing front: I am discovering, to my dismay, that I am completely unequipped to deal with many situations sans cigarettes. I have smoked since I was 12 years old...essentially a little kid. So I have never learned to deal with any number of situations except by lighting a cigarette. It is more than a little disturbing that at 53 I have to learn lots of simple social actions and reactions. It's like landing in an entirely unfamiliar culture...without any warning. I don't speak the language. I don't have the moves. I am very glad that I am in a position to control my surroundings and contacts (more or less) until I figure out how to operate in this strange new country.

On the fairly amusing external front: I find it fascinating that there are a couple of extremely close (well, formerly) pals who have simply checked right out of my life. Interestingly, these are the exact individuals that I assumed would be the most supportive of my quitting smoking and getting in better shape. Bad call on my part. I'm told this isn't uncommon at all...some people get threatened by big changes in their friends, spouses, significant others, etc. I've heard some amazing stories of quits, diets, etc. being actively sabotaged by people very close to the person struggling to positively change. Where does this odd behavior come from? Comfort zone disturbance? Perceived superiority put at risk? Loathing change? Whatever it is, it's pretty strange...and I am, as always, amused and entertained by the truly strange.

Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.  --Bernard Berenson

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10/17/00 - 1:45 PM

Apparently, I have actually QUIT SMOKING!! Why would I have ever wanted to do that? I used to love to smoke. Oh, that's right, it was killing me. Fast. I'm taking a deep breath now...in, out, in, out.

Here's what happens: Just like clockwork, several times a day some reptilian portion of my addicted little brain switches on and tries to get me to smoke. First it has me reach for a cigarette, or stand up to go outside, or pat my pockets looking for a pack. Then, when I don't immediately stick one in my mouth and light it, but before I'm fully conscious of what's going on, it tries to make a deal with me, "Hey, just one. You can handle it. You'll feel so much better. No one will know. You can quit again tomorrow." All of which sounds true. But isn't. What is true is that somehow, at least for today, I'm deliberately choosing life over death. I'll bet that sounds like an easy choice, at least intellectually, to you non-smokers following this. It's not. Not at all. How horrifying is that?

To stop myself from smoking earlier today, I put together the current soundtrack for this quit smoking project. You can see it here, and it also has it's own little hover button off to the upper left. Simple distraction turns out to be key in quitting smoking. Even on a 'fool yourself' level. "Read 10 pages before you think about smoking again, OK?", you say to yourself. And it works...as silly as that sounds.

Current #s, you ask? Well, if you insist: I've been 100% smoke free for two weeks, two days, 14 hours & 1 minute. I've managed to not smoke 580 cigarettes, saving $116.09. Actuarially, I've extended my life 2 days & 20 minutes, which I'll probably spend boring some old woman in a nursing home, "Say Doris, do you remember the Summer of '67? Remember, we called it the Summer of Love. What the hell did that mean?"

To be stupid, selfish, and have good health are three requirements for happiness, though if stupidity is lacking, all is lost. --Gustave Flaubert

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10/22/2000 - 1:15 PM

OK, OK, OK. I'm talking to myself, which I seem to be doing a lot more of lately. Mumbling and muttering under my breath about this or that...but mostly it's, "No, you don't get to smoke. Ever again. Get the fuck over it."

And I don't. Either smoke, or apparently getting the fuck over it. Current #s: Not a single puff for three weeks, 13 hours, 8 minutes and 43 seconds. While thinking about every one and more, there have been 754 cigarettes not smoked, saving $150.83, enough to pay for a couple of decent bottles of wine. Which, BTW, aren't nearly as much fun to drink without cigarettes. Life saved: 2 days, 14 hours, 50 minutes. Oh. Boy.

Every morning I get up and the first thing I think about is not smoking. All day long I have to think about not smoking or I'd smoke. The last thing I think about before I go to sleep is not smoking. This may sound stupid or miserable to those of you who either haven't ever been smokers or who are still smokers. Well, it is stupid...but it's a direct result of my own 40 year long habit, which is going to take awhile to kill. (And, for a special treat, it's impossible to kill it for good. Ever. It comes back to life, on a more or less regular basis...for most ex-smokers. So you get to kill it all over again. That gets easier, however, just as long as you never give in to it. If you do cave, you only have two choices...1. resign yourself to being a smoker, with all of the swell baggage and low self-esteem that goes along with that way of life (exacerbated by the apparent inability to simply not smoke, coupled (most likely) with repeated failure.) or 2. (perhaps an even worse choice) quit all over again. Go through all the pain & angst again...this time tied to at least one previous failure to stay with a quit.)

What it (coming back to the point, "it" being constant thinking about smoking) isn't is nearly as miserable as it may sound. It's not really any different than smoking, except you smell better and therefore get to hang out with a much better class of people. The reason it's no different than smoking is that a smoker's life totally revolves around satisfying the addiction...although when you're still smoking you rarely think of it that way. Or even admit that it's true. However, when you've quit, and all you can do is think about not smoking, at least you're not smoking, i.e. you are living in a zone that is from slightly to a whole bunch less suicidal, you can breath a little easier, you absolutely smell better, you have somewhat raised your chances of not dying painfully, slowly & pathetically wasted away at your own hand. You are, on as regular a basis as when you used to stick a smoke in your pie hole and fire it up, making an actual positive life choice. A month ago I would have chuckled cynically at this sentiment. Of course I would have...I was a smoking moron. I was an idiot.

Quitting smoking is no party. It's absolutely not for sissies. But it isn't as hard as I feared it would be...and only after a full three weeks of not smoking am I allowing myself to say it out loud. Because, obviously, that makes me much more of an idiot for not having quit long ago.

So every morning I get up, log on to QuitNet.org, take a pledge that just for that one day I won't smoke - no matter what. So far today I've been able to stick to that pledge...

The Bushes, of Texas, should be boiled in poison oil. --Hunter S. Thompson, October, 2000

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