Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fear of Failure

Many people report the fear of failure when thinking about quitting smoking.

Why wouldn't they. Millions of us have tried to quit. Failed. Tried again. Failed.

My habit was to try and fail every day, sometimes more than once. By way of cheating - smoking that one cigarette I would go to the gas station to buy.

My cheating M.O. was that I would buy a single flavored cigarillos, sometimes two and smoke that. The rational being that if I bought a pack I would smoke a pack and that would be a bigger failure. I would only do this in an emergency. Like when I couldn't deal with the cravings or the external stress - more like I couldn't deal with the cravings combined with external stress. I would always cheat (IE: fail) when I felt like a rubber band pulled so tight it was in danger of breaking. Taking Chantix finally took the edge off that and allowed me to finally stop the cheating.

Another smoker gave me this advice: Never quit quitting.

It's pretty good advice. If we redefine failure then we can open the door for success. Is each cigarette the failure? Maybe.

But, the only way to truly fail is to quit quitting. To resign and say "I'm just going to keep smoking." That is failure. The rest of it, cheating, justifying, giving in, emotional turmoil is just part of quitting. At least that's what worked for me. How about you?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Emotionally Out of Control?

Debra over on BlogFabulous writes, I stopped taking chantix 6 days ago, did/does anyone else ever feel like they are/were having trouble focusing on things, or feeling sad/anxious, depressed? A couple of times I felt like I was going to lose total control…..I am Usually a very laid back easy going person. I think the more I took the Chantix the more out of control i was feeling, after 6 days of being off the med I feel more like myself…..anyone else ever feel like this? Kinda scared me…..

Of course we're feeling out of control emotionally. It would be easy to blame the Chantix. But, I think the more likely culprit is that we've lost your coping strategy and a coping strategy is what makes us feel sane, safe and secure. If you feel sadness for instance, your "go to" has always been smoking. Now, there is no established "go to" way to cope.

You always had these "bad" completely normal feelings. We call sadness, anxiousness, depression, and anger negative but they really aren't. They are indicators that you might want to change something about your life.

Every normal life has bad feelings. There are things in this world that are out of our control that make us sad or hurt or angry.

I think you'll start to feel more in control when you find an emotional "go to" to replace the smoking. Exercise, drinking water, deep breathing - choose something healthier this time around. Then make it part of your emotional strategy.

This takes time. Give yourself permission to feel bad feelings for a while.

You have done a brave and wonderful thing by stopping smoking. It's not a little change. It's a magnificently big one. You can do this. You should be proud of yourself. I am proud of you!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Week One - Smoke Your Brains Out

Don't quit smoking the first week. My hypothesis is that the medication works because you keep smoking. It attaches, in some way through the chemicals in your brain, to the addictive act that you keep doing the first week.

Also, allowing yourself to smoke as much as you want to allows you to mentally and emotionally prepare for quitting. It allows you those 3 minutes it takes you to smoke to say your goodbyes to your best friend. You must morn the loss. You must assess what your getting out of smoking and what it's costing you. You have to be prepared to let it go.

Most of the quit is emotional and mental. It's a drastic change in lifestyle. I think what the Chantix does during the first week is important to your quit. I'm not a doctor so I can't scientifically explain how it works.

But, you have one last week to say good-bye. You have permission to smoke without guilt or torment or a feeling of failure for one last week of your life. Embrace it and cut yourself some slack.

Don't raise the bar so high, you can't quit smoking like turning off a light switch. It just doesn't happen that way. You fail if you quit trying to quit. You succeed if you smoke the first week and do the emotional work.

Fair Smair

There is so much in life that's so unfair.

People have different ways of figuring out how to cope with the unfairness. For instance, it strikes me as unfair that some people I know are struggling to find exactly the right themed lamp for their child's designer bed room, while I'm watching my child get physically sick because we can't afford to move to a house uncontaminated by mold.

It's just so unfair. It makes me angry. It makes me sick. It makes me want to smoke!

Unfairness existed before I quit smoking, but now I find myself not knowing what to do with it. The situation is the same, but my "go to" to relieve the stress is gone.

I take deep breathes, chug glasses of water, work, write, and exercise like mad. They're effective, but harder than just popping a cigarrette in my mouth. There's no immediate fix like a rush of nicotine to my brain. The solution is slow and steady rather than a quick fix.

One of the hardest things is just to say, Okay, it's not fair. So what?

Not to get all addict-recovery 12-step on you, but the serenity prayer goes like this:

God Grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

Can I change the spending habits of other people? I can not. Can I change how other people treat others. I can not. Can I make other people compassionate? No. Can I force others to change their perceptions of money? No, siree.

Can I find ways to make more money to change our situation? I can. At least I can try. I can work on this website and hope that the goodness I put out into the world will translate into a mold-free home for my son.

The only thing that is not doing me any favors is getting caught up in the fairness of it all. That's something I just need to let go of - the expectation of fairness. Fairness just has no relationship to reality.

We teach it to our children - Don't take his toy, it's not fair. You have to share with her, to be fair. But, the expectation of fairness holds up emotional progress - at least it does for me. It's difficult to let it go.

Does anyone else get hung up on fairness?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Night Terrors

I've had a few night terrors since taking Chantix. Two of them were while I was taking the medication and one was recently (I weened off the medication about 2 months ago).

Most of my dreams while taking Chantix were more vivid than bothersome. Most people seem to be reporting funny or silly dreams or no dreams. Or the same dreams, but more ability to remember them.

By night terror I mean, for a minute I believed what was happening was real life. While I was dreaming I didn't, for a brief moment, understand that I was not awake. And my dreams took on the nature of horrific. They included real fears I know that I have - my child dying, a divorce. I understand those fears and I know where they come from so they're easier to tolerate and move on from in the morning.

Only one of them - a man with a gun rushing into our bedroom while we were sleeping, me waking to know that I am being shot and there is nothing I can do to save myself or my family. I don't know that I've ever dreamed of my own murder before.

Dreaming that was horrible and it effected my mood for days.

We can turn our dreams off. We have the ability to wake ourselves up. I don't know if you've discovered this ability in yourself. It's a skill I taught myself as a child. It takes some practice but, I think everyone has the ability, if they really focus, to wake themselves. You can just say to your self "I'm asleep. This is only a dream. This will be over quickly. I am going to wake up now."

I teach this skill to my kids too.

But, as I said. This was only a few times and it's still worth it to me to have these dreams and be a non-smoker.

I should also note that during my worst night terror I had taken Melatonin, a natural sleep remedy, that may have effected my dreaming.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Furious Anger or What an Ass#$%& or Why Did I Marry You?

So you are crying a lot and your boss seems to be a bigger Dink than you thought possible and your coworker is a moron and you can't figure out what you were thinking when you married your spouse and the kids must have taken a pill that causes annoying?

Yeah, me too.

Deep breaths. I wish I had better answers. But, this is going to totally suck-ass for a while.

In 2 - 3 - 4
Out 2 -3 - 4
In 2 - 3 - 4
Out 2 -3 - 4

Go hide in your room. Tell your kids you're sorry. Tell your spouse you'd like an issue-free zone for 2-3 months. Cry your little heart out - that's okay too.

Everyone on the planet is crazy. That's the truth of it. You had to smoke to deal with all of these people before. Just because you quit smoking doesn't mean your boss is going to be a different person. Your kids were this annoying before - you just smoked to deal with it.

You have to replace the smoking with a better coping strategy. Drink water. Hide out. Avoid talking to people. Rigorously exercise to get rid of all this anger.

If you blow up or lose it or have a melt down. It's okay.

Tomorrow's a new day. Suck it up and apologize and start the new day with a clean slate.

You can do this and it's worth doing.

Man Dies in Dallas

There have been several stories about the Dallas man who went into an uncharacteristic violent rage his first week on Chantix. He was threatening a neighbor at their door in a furious anger and the neighbor fired through the door, killing him.

The girlfriend reported that he was out of his mind in a dream-state caused by the Chantix. The man had been drinking alcohol.

This was a terrible tragedy that I do not want to make light of. My personal prayers are with his family and his girlfriend and even the neighbor.

However, to the Chantix issue I would say this. We really don't know how Chantix effects the brain exactly. The scientists who invented Chantix really don't understand it.

There is a lot of anger and rage involved in quitting smoking, but I found there to be less rage with Chantix than I experienced without it.

I've always said the best place to quit smoking is in a cabin the woods by yourself or in a padded room with a straight jacket under adequate supervision.

Every medication has side effects and you should be aware of them and weigh the risks and make an informed decision.

But, to let a rare side effect keep you from quitting smoking doesn't make any rational sense.

The side effects to smoking include:
* Death
* Cancer
* Heart Attacks
* Blood Clots
* Diabetes
* Emphysema
* Bronchitis
* Pneumonia
* Bad teeth
* Bad skin
* Being a bad role model to kids and grand kids
* Stink, stink, stink

For me, it makes sense like this: Phillip Morris is more to blame for that man's death than Pfizer as they are the ones who sell an addictive product that makes you homicidal when you quit.

Taking Chantix is worth the risk, I think. Though I have to add, I am not liable for your decisions to take or not take this medication.

To be informed you can go here and here.

Certainly I will add this: These stories do indicate that it's a bigger risk to drink alcohol while taking Chantix. Many users of Chantix report that the desire to drink is lessened while taking Chantix. Drinking alcohol is directly related to smoking, in that it serves as a trigger.

Though I have to add, I am not liable for your decisions to take or not take this medication.

Drinking Alcohol

I have to say - so far Chantix has been a miracle. It’s a miracle that I’m not mentally obsessed with smoking. Even when I have gone weeks without smoking - or during my pregnancies - I have thought constantly about smoking. So far, I’ve wasted almost no mental energy at all on wanting a cigarette. I’ve not been tempted and had only a few urges to smoke when I forgot to take my pill.

This is definately the miracle I’ve been looking for! I couldn’t be happier with it. However, I still haven’t gone out for a girls night and drank. I don’t know if I could do that without smoking. We shall see. Is that required to be a non-smoker?

Answer to self: Yes it is.

If you have a smoke only when drinking alcohol you might turn into an alcholic. Smoking is an addiction. If you continue to participate in it your brain will use your own "only when I drink logic" to get you to drink more so you can smoke.

Mixing alcohol with Chantix is risky anyway. It's risky to drink alcohol when taking medications that effect the way your brain functions.

Day 15, Still Smoking

Still smoking on Day 15 of Chantix?

My question is this: What are you getting out of smoking that you're refusing to let go of?

Have you grieved for your lost right to smoke?
Have you surrendered your precious identity as a smoker?
Are you missing your bonding time with your smoking spouse?
If there's no smoke-break is there just NO break?
Have you mourned the loss of your best friend?
Have you figured out something to do with your hands?
Are you desperate to get out of conversations?
Are you lying to yourself about your level of addiction?

It could, just maybe, be as simple as this: STOP BUYING CIGARETTES.

Get punitive with yourself. Make rules around your smoking if you have to cheat.

Rule 1 - every time you cheat you have to buy a new pack and then throw it away. Smokers have a lose relationship with the value of money to begin with since the habit has progressively gotten insanely expensive and we kept smoking. But, still if you're paying $5 per cigarette, eventually this is going to deter your cheating.

Rule 2 - You can't cheat in any comfortable place. You have to walk across the street and do it or you have to stand in the corner of your yard facing the neighborhood. No smoking in your comfort zone.

Rule 3 - You can't cheat with your real brand of cigarettes. If you're a menthol smoker only cheat with Golden Beach Reds or if you hate menthol's you can only cheat with those.

Special note to self: Cut some slack. This is a long-term habit with no short-term solution. Self-loathing never made you quit smoking before and it won't now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Reinventing History

Since every important moment in my whole life - well my teen and adult life anyway - has involved smoking do I have to reinterpret my own history?

To some degree, I think so. I have to reinterpret the meaning of the cigarette and see it as a self-defeating coping mechanism.

It's helpful, after the terrible mourning the lost of your best friend grief, to recognize that you could have and should have made another choice.

I just read In An Instant, by Lee and Bob Woodruff and found one part really struck me as very different from myself. When she received the phone call that her husband had been blown up in Iraq her first coping strategy was to go outside and jog.

JOG! Are you freaking kidding me?

There is not a single-place in my memory of stress where my first reaction was to jog. Mostly there have been cigarettes and various other less than healthy reactions like perhaps drinking or popping pills or sobbing or screaming or eating too much. Never, ever jogging.

Until I quit smoking and decided to replace my negative and self-defeating coping strategies with healthy non-harmful strategies. It's the creation of new habits. Just habits. Since I have been working out and exercising and drinking water I find that when I get stressed out I do turn to that. Since smoking is out and I refuse to pick up other bad habits as I discard this one - I am more likely to go to the gym when I am upset. I make sure I don't miss my yoga class whether I feel like it or not.

This makes me less likely to be stressed. Perhaps my seeing my perma-smoke in the memory of me as a negative self-defeating reaction opens the door for me to change my future reactions?

Can you believe that you might jog rather than smoke in the face of stress?

Cinematic Conceit

Do you ever picture your life in the 3rd person? Like you watch your behavior from the outside to see how it looks?

I think lots of smokers would secretly admit there is a level of cinematic conceit about their smoking. Your smoking is dramatic or cool or something that looks attractive on film or in a commercial. Smoking is your prop and you're the star of the show?

Okay, I admit it. There is an element of cinematic conceit to MY smoking. I see the dramas of my life and a cigarette is always present. Sitting on a curb crying and smoking with a broken heart. Slamming a door in the heat of anger, lighting up with a flip of my hair. Deep exhales after sex. Rocking out in my carefree moment on the dance floor in my heals, with a cigarette in my hand.

Every emotion, every drama, every heart break, every pivotal moment, joy, happiness, sorrow - in my memory that plays the tapes back there has been a cigarette. And I'm attached to that. Smoking is attached to all the emotions of my life. My whole history. My whole story. Connected to smoking.

But, I'm willing to let it go. To give it up, we have to open the door for future triumphs, sorrows, emotions, pivotal moments to be smoke free.

Envision what you want tomorrow to be like and try to picture it without a cigarette. Can I let myself picture my daughter's wedding without me having to sneak out the back door for a smoke? Can I picture going to church and sitting through the whole service without needing a smoke break? Could there be a break at work without stepping out for a break to smoke?

Can I have my cinematic conceit without making smoking the prop? Could I have a moment without thinking about how it would look on film or in a novel? Can I just live a life without the conceit?

Can you?

Feel Like Puking?

Nausea is a common side effect of quitting with Chantix. It felt to me like morning sickness when I was pregnant.

To the women - during morning sickness you suck it up and tell yourself it's worth it to create new life. Well, this is your new life. You have to look at it that way. During the pregnancy it's about the baby's life, this time it's about your life. You are just as worth it. You really are.

To the men - {Shrill witch-like laughter) Maybe next time you'll have more compassion for the barfing pregnant lady to your right. It's about time you knew what it felt like to go through days and months of wanting to puke. Finally justice!

Seriously though. Nausea is better than emphysema or any number of cancers or a heart attack - all "side effects" of smoking.

Adjust your eating and drinking around the Chantix for a few months. Make sure you drink a large glass of water before you take the pill. Make sure you eat something hearty like peanut butter toast when you take it in the morning.

You can do this. It's a small price to pay.

Cheater Cheated

Totally cheated. Bought Cigarettes. Nasty. Smoked through the nasty. There was drinking involved. I went to a club, drank and smoked and it was really fun.

Bad non-smoker. Lapse is not the same as a relapse, right? But, back on the Chantix. I am still a non-smoker who had a weekend cheat. No one has to ever know. Well, at least not my 5-year-old, who isn’t an avid reader of this blog yet.

I Suck

by Tracee Sioux

I am not a smoker.

I have been writing this message on my wrist for the last year on and off. I read in a magazine that it's supposed to help me kick the habit. It's supposed to help me redefine myself as a non-smoker. It's supposed to change my identity from one as a smoker to a non-smoker.

Other methods I've tried include:

Nicotine gum - disgusting. (yes, in my opinion more disgusting than smoking - have they ever heard of a flavor?),
Nicotine patch -most effective, but eventually you stop using it and then the cheating starts,
Acupuncture - ridiculously ineffective,
2 pregnancies - you think this is the answer cause it's 9 months of not smoking, but eventually you're not pregnant and the stress of a newborn baby and the desire to lay claim to your own physical body overrides the fact that you are no longer physically addicted to nicotine.
Self-Loathing and the Loathing of Dependency - really it just makes you feel bad about yourself while you smoke for being so weak and fallible.
Single-cigarette purchases - this is pretty effective for the weaning time because if you buy a pack you will smoke a pack. This allows you to buy a single cigarillo to get your nicotine hit and feeds the psychological need to make the hand-to-mouth motions. However, I find myself buying them two at a time and then smoking them while wearing the nicotine patch.
Goal Setting - the latest one was to give up smoking for Lent. Heck, it's only 40 days, surely I can do that for God and all.
Psychological Conditioning - supposedly if you snap your wrist with a rubber-band then you will condition yourself not to want a cigarette. Whatever.
Sunflower seeds and gum and computer solitaire - The notion is that if you keep your hands and mouth busy you will not need the hand-to-mouth motions of smoking.
I used to say, in defense of cigarette manufacturers, People have a right to kill themselves if they want to.

In walks the five-year-old conscience, Mommy! Please don't smoke that cigarette. You'll DIE! I don't want you to die! Who will I be with if you die! No more smoking Mommy! Throw it away! You said you wouldn't smoke anymore!

I would like to slap the crap out of whoever it was that told my kid that I will die if I smoke! Seriously - if I find out who did this to me, you're in deep, deep $%&#.

So, since I can not tolerate the deception of hiding behind buildings and sneaking around to smoke I resolve every single day to quit. To never smoke again. Because it seems I have actually lost the right to kill myself, at least peacefully, by becoming someone's mother. Unfortunately, I very often feel like a total failure for my inability to stick to it.

I don't smoke everyday anymore. Sometimes, I'll go a whole week without a cigarette. I've gone months without buying a pack of cigarettes. I'll see liberation from smoking on the horizon. And then when true freedom is within my grasp, I'll let myself believe in the alluring, yet delusional, notion that I can smoke sometimes without the consequences of a full-on addiction to cigarettes.

I'll bum one off a known smoker. Just one - okay, maybe two. I've even pulled up to a gas station and bummed them off a stranger, just one. I'll pay you $1 for one - see I'm trying to quit and this way I don't buy a whole pack.

Ah, but that one was so good. It made me feel like my old self again. You know, the girl who could smoke if she damn well felt like it? Her, I liked her. I miss her. Maybe just two then.

Or maybe only when I'm not around the kids. Or only when I drink a few beers. (WARNING - This logic will turn you into an alcoholic. Really, who needs to fight more than one addiction at a time?)

The road to my addiction to cigarettes has been incredibly long. I thought the guy who sat in front of me in 7th grade English class smelled divine. Camel cigarettes on a Levi jacket. Yummy! I thought it was exciting to take a drag off a cute boy's cigarette, yeah I'm cool like that. Erotic beyond belief when my boyfriend would blow a drag into my open mouth (nauseating what used to be a turn-on isn't it?)

And I smoked unapologetically for basically two decades. I never, ever felt bad about it. I LOVED it. Cigarettes saw me through every drama, crisis and celebration of adolescence and early adulthood. I only tried to quit once, when I went on vacation with my family trapped in an Oldsmobile and I swear I would have hitch-hiked home had I thought I could make it out of the state of Texas in under a week. After that, my family was happy that I was not attempting to quit smoking in their presence.

But, now I can't even smoke in peace. One can not enjoy cigarettes while their child is crying about how Mommy is going to die. And if I'm not enjoying it - what is the point of doing it? I've kicked the physical addiction. It's just the psychological bond that remains, like shackles around my printed on wrists.

This is about my freedom - I can if I want! Evidently, what I don't have is the freedom NOT to smoke.

According to Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist, the secret to life is to fall down seven times and then get up eight.

Okay, off to buy the nicotine patch again. After just one more drag . . .

Read more about the success of a new smoking cessation pill called Chantix at Blog Fabulous. I tried it, cheated a time or two, and then a miracle occured and I quit smoking. So did over 600 other lifelong smokers. I really can say that I'm a non-smoker and so can you!