Wednesday, January 16, 2013

"You Love Angry Birds More Than Me" - I am a Non-Smoker.

Last night I sat at the bar with a cigarette laying in front of me, wondering for a full thirty minutes if I was going to smoke it.  It's always hardest when drinking, but there was a test of wills at stake as well.  Steven and I were a few shots deep, the people we were hanging out with had already left.. No one would know.  We could slip, for just a second, and really no harm would come of it.  It sort of became the purple elephant-in-the-room until I went to grab it, figuring I'd be doing us both a favor by lighting the damn thing already.  Before I could, Steven snatched it and snapped in in two.  The second he did, he looked as if he'd made a terrible decision.  Had his eyes welled with tears, I wouldn't have been surprised. But they didn't.  He's only a hair more resolute than I am with this whole not-smoking fiasco.

We've both been smoke free for two months, give or take a few days.

Though smoking IS good for weight loss, I'm not interested so much in the above look.

I didn't want to quit.  Hell, I may start back some day.  But I hope not.  For me, it was about finding something that I loved and desired more than the cigarettes.  And make no mistake.. If ever someone was loyal to a Marlboro Menthol Light, it was THIS girl. Not to imply that I quit for Steven. Hardly. You can't quit for a guy.  J and I (The last most significant ex, for newer readers) talked about quitting for eons and it never stuck. And it wasn't for lack of affection for him, it just never happened.  Steven never asked me to put them down.  He made the decision to do it himself, and he was simply done. He never made any requests of me or even subtle suggestions.

Though we do kinda look adorable all dead and stuff..

This was different. I saw his resolve, despite it being hard for him, and I was inspired.  There is no parade when you quit smoking.  Quite the contrary.. You don't tell many people because half of them will be naysayers, suggesting your failure during the toughest first days.. some will offer you a smoke with the best of intentions and even worse; you don't want to broadcast it too prominently in case you DO fail. So without fanfare, I watched Steven choose this struggle that to non-smokers seems like a no-brainer and to smokers seems ludicrous, and it occurred to me that if I ever wanted non-judgmental, unwavering support from someone who always wants me to succeed I had to do it NOW. The vain girl in my brain pictured him becoming a non-smoker while I lit up day after day next to him in the car or hotel room, and slowly becoming more repulsive in his eyes. The smell of my hair and skin sickening him, or worse, tempting him to relapse. It was 24 hours, give or take an hour, after he smoked his last that I did the same.

Not only does his strength and resolve inspire me, but I want to be the best version of myself I possibly can be. Not just for me, but for him too.  He deserves it.

This is my first attempt at quitting.  Yes, I've heard it all about it taking multiple attempts before you finally get it right.  Maybe I'll relapse and this entire blog post becomes embarrassing.  The thing that makes it so challenging is the lack of oversight.  There is no committee set up to issue fines if you break your vow to never strike another match.  Just like quitting comes without fanfare, so does smoking.  You don't have to face an inquisition or even a parade for buying a pack. You can do it whenever you like and face absolutely no immediate consequence. That makes it SO easy.

I don't mean to imply that every day is agony.  Far from it. Most of the time I don't even think about smoking anymore.  There is nothing to stop me from smoking. I can go buy a pack now and smoke the whole thing and I wouldn't owe even an explanation, to anyone.  I think THAT is what makes this so different from most challenges.  You are only accountable to yourself. Smoking is awesome, when you're a smoker.  It relaxes you, it tastes amazing and you become part of a club where the members have no idea how disgusting they really are.  Once you decide to quit, your membership card to that club isn't revoked, but now you get a glimpse of how repulsive the membership makes you. You have a choice to make. Lighting a cigarette is CHOOSING to be disgusting. To be in pain. To die of cancer. You can no longer delude yourself with the kid philosophy that you're not addicted and you can "quit at any time", because once you've made the decision to quit and then failed.. You've acknowledged that this is so much bigger than you. There is something far more sinister about CHOOSING to be repulsive, unhealthy and full of failure. All for what?'

I gotta give you credit for one thing, Marlboro, you were always faithful. <3

The physical addiction is fleeting.  The shortest part.  After that, the psychological warfare can go on for a lifetime.  I mourned the loss of cigarettes as if a good friend had died.  And really, they had. Marlboro and I spent a lot of time together.  Quite often at my most alone, most depressed and most exhausted is when I counted on Marlboro the most.  And they never let me down. It was a $6 relationship I could call on any time I wanted that never stood me up.

For Steven, putting down the cigarettes was the passing of something more symbolic. The ability to make kid-decisions with abandon.  A total lack of concern for the future or adult hood because the realities of repercussion were a distant possibility.  Suddenly repercussion was all around him and instead of staring off a million years down the road, he is faced with the reality of his mortality. Grow up now, kid, or in five to ten years you won't be able to breathe. In 15 years you'll be facing yearly scans for lung spots. If you have any desire to be a parent, you won't be able to throw the ball around with your kids. You're not 21 any more. The approaching of 30 seemed to be the corner in his brain between "stupid twenty-something debauchery" and "this is my life", and he decided to be a non-smoker.

For those of you quitting yourself, or considering taking the leap, don't misunderstand what I've written here to imply that having someone to share the agony with is necessary. Or even easier.  Make no mistake, there were a few days after we'd first given up the sticks that I truly believe a grisly homicide might occur.  We don't really fight, the two of us.  When we argue or disagree, we don't yell or throw things or stomp around or make ridiculous declarations. There is a lot of silence and discussion and sometimes wandering elsewhere to clear our heads usually. However, I think on nicotine-free day 3 (the hardest for me) I recall standing at the foot of our bed and yelling that he loved Angry Birds more than me before flinging myself dramatically from the hotel room and down the hall into a 3 am morning in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In December. This is insanity for many reasons, the first and foremost being that the man MAYBE plays Angry Birds once or twice a week. For a whole ten minute marathon. Secondly, I put it on his phone because I play it. Third, I don't give a damn what he does. I don't need a constant barrage of attention or have any need to control his time. But for some reason in that instant, I lost my mind. Absolutely gone. It was the end of the world and my boyfriend had chosen Angry Birds over our life together.

My crazy Non-Nictotined brain saw her as the 'other woman'.

I quietly slipped back into the room 45 minutes later.  He slept with one hand on my side all night long.  This was partially out of affection for me, and partially so he would know where I was at all times.  The man is smart.

The homicidal phase passed around a week later.  After that its just a maintenance phase.  Cravings surprise me.  Not in their strength or intensity. Quite the opposite. Cravings are subtle. Little caressing whispers in your ear saying "Mmmmm, a cigarette would be delicious right now".  So subtle that it starts to manifest as if it was YOUR idea instead of a compulsive desire, and suddenly you can't remember if you want one or not.  I've found that acknowledging the craving and really focusing on it makes it harder to cope with. My way of not letting it sneak up on me. When this happens, I'll say out loud "Man, I really want a cigarette! Lets go buy a pack!" knowing Steven will say no. This is my way of sorting it out.  Of course, I probably sound like a fiend always jonesing to him.. but as long as I'm not smoking, who cares how I get there, right?

Everyone talks about how food will taste SO much better, and you'll feel SO much better and how life will be grander and happier and full of rainbows and puppies and unicorns if you quit.  I think this is a lie that people who've quit tell themselves to make their NEW clubhouse seem special.  None of these things have happened for me yet. If food tasted better its because I was eating five times as much. You gain weight, you feel bloated, ankles that once displayed impeccable bone structure may or may not swell from excessive potato chip consumption or other sodium absorption. It isn't pretty.

Gangrene, incidentally, is also not pretty.
Does anyone actually know someone who got gangrene from smoking?
I mean really.
Come on.
I can, however, breathe a little deeper. I am proud of myself. And after a month or so, you stop wanting to eat every thing in sight. If the depression from a 20 pound weight gain doesn't launch you back into smoking, you may even find yourself ready to tackle diet and exercise around month two.

And that's where we are right now, in my journey towards staying a non-smoker. A lot of you are going through, have been through or are considering taking the plunge.  Feel free to drop me a message. Wage your homicidal thoughts on me. I get it.

Marlboro should be forced to send me one of these.
You know, as an apology for the COPD I'll probably still get.
I'll be back later. Hopefully sooner than four months from now, which seems to be the last time I posted. My apologies for that. Thanks for still reading and reposting, as always. <3