As many of you who are my friends on Facebook know (I can hear you groaning right now - you're no doubt sick of hearing about this) I quit smoking this past Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. I guess I shouldn't say 'I've quit' until I have more than three days under my belt, though, so I'll say instead: I haven't smoked for three days.
If you've never smoked, you have no idea how huge that is. I started smoking at a very early age and I've been smoking for almost 40 years. I didn't make a conscious decision to quit. If I'd have done that, I'd for sure have failed within a few hours. It was very non-dramtic, actually. No last cigarette to savor in some lovely surroundings. No announcement to real-life family and friends that I was doing this. I smoked before going for my yearly physical. The doctor gave me the same speech she always gives me. I don't really know what was different this time. To be honest, I had every intention of lighting up the moment I left her office. But then it hit me...I already had quit - with time under my belt - as long as I didn't light another one. Hmm. Then I wouldn't have all that anxiety of dreading "the moment" as it approached, or the profound sadness of the "last one". Maybe I could just not smoke on the way home - it's only a ten minute drive anyway.
I accomplished that and it felt good. Okay, it's only ten minutes, but still, getting in the car is a huge trigger for me and I overcame it and it really wasn't that hard. Maybe I could go like...an hour...?
I managed that too, and after a few other little self-imposed trials, I decided I could maybe do this. I'd used Nicorette when I went to Disney World for my step-daughter's wedding a few years ago. It did actually work pretty good for me, but I'd forget I was chewing it and still smoke at every DSA I ran across. (That's Designated Smoking Area, for those of you who don't smoke. It's where the really nice, cool, social outcasts hang out - I've met some awesome people at DSA's through the years. Smokers actually talk to total strangers at DSAs because we already have nicotine addiction in common - misery loves company.)
By the time I hit 4 1/2 hours, I was pretty damn proud of myself and wanting to tell someone. But I didn't want to tell my real-life family/friends because they would be all over me. And, if I fail, I'll feel even worse about myself. So, I decided to tell "Jaycee's" friends instead. It was a relatively low-risk move. I don't actually know these people, so if I cave in and smoke, they'll never know and I needed to tell someone, so I posted this:
"I've been smoke-free for five hours. That may not sound like much, but for someone who has smoked since they were 13, it's kind of a big deal. I'm not posting this on my RL page b/c those people will be up my ass and that's NOT what I need. I just need a pat on the back if I tell you I'm still smoke-free. Don't know if I can do this or not, but I'm gonna' try. Ok...feel free to pat..."
What happened next makes me tear up just thinking about it. The very first post was this little meme:
How freaking perfect is that? It made me laugh and grin ear-to-ear. I saved it to my desktop so I could draw on it when I needed. Suddenly my little status update was flooded with words and meme's of support. Even Kallypso Masters stopped by! (I had a total fangirl moment) Edmond Manning sent me this from Huggstibles (In case you don't know - I'm addicted to Huggstibles too):
That right there? I can't even tell you. I mean, it's Huggstibles and that YAYZ is just for me! Edmond wouldn't know me if I walked up and slapped him - yet he went and got Huggstibles, made that little sign, snapped a pic and posted it. Okay, it's not like he did CPR and saved my life or anything, but the whole idea of him doing that for me...
For hours, I sat here, interacting with all these wonderful people who were taking precious moments out of their day to help me. The wonderful side-effect of all this was, it kept my mind and hands busy. At 6 1/2 hrs, it started getting rough. I took my cigarettes out of my purse and put them out in my car. I wanted them out of easy reach but still available...just in case. And I posted:
"6 1/2 hrs. *whimper*"
Jaycee's friends came running. I just went and looked. That little post has 50 comments. Probably most of them are mine, but the point is, these amazing, "virtual" people kept me from smoking right then. Huggstibles showed up again and told me to go to my happy place. I did.
Smoking is more than just an addiction to nicotine. If you've ever smoked, you understand. There are just certain times that you have 'programmed' yourself to smoke: With your morning cup of coffee, getting in the car, getting out of the car, AFTER EATING, after sex, before bed. Those are typical of all smokers - then we each have our own: When I need to go outside and stretch my legs, when I need to think, when I need to not think, when I need writing inspiration, when I take the dog out... Day 1 and Day 2 consisted of huge hurdles and tiny victories overcoming those triggers.
I posted about my fear of having to go through the "evil portal" (my back door) to the deck - my DSA. That was going to be a HUGE trigger for me. I basically stayed inside all day - terrified of going out there. (I did run out briefly just to pitch the decorative thing I use as an ashtray.)
I realized I did have to overcome this fear of the "portal", so I needed to find some other habit to associate with being on the deck. Reading would work - at least in this nice weather. I chose Edmond's blog because it makes me laugh and I can get lost in it easily. It worked. I was able to be outside!! Yeah, I still think about lighting up the moment I step out there, but I had a way to redirect my brain. That first night I was online, thanking Edmond for Huggstibles support and telling him I was using his blog as a support tool and he graciously sent me his ebook, "I Probably Shouldn't Have Done That". The subject line on his email was, "Be The Quitter You Always Knew You Could Be." Ha.
When I didn't post, several people PM'd me asking how I was doing. I got to know some of Jaycee's friends better through these chats. I heard stories of their own attempts to quit, and success stories galore. People posted tips, like cinnamon toothpicks and Jolly Ranchers. (I'm trying not to use food though. I'm fat enough. I'm using water. It satisfies that hand-to-mouth thing that I think is half the battle.) Everyone who had successfully quit told me - don't give up - it gets better. The general consensus is, the first three days are the hardest. (As I type this, it's 10:46 a.m., so the third day is officially behind me. Yay, me!)
Yesterday my next-door neighbor (aka: smoking buddy) came outside to smoke and I could smell it and ohhhh, my god... I literally RAN into the house. My husband said eventually it will start smelling awful to me. God, I hope so, because I felt like Edward, trying to escape Bella and her scent.
Maybe it's wishful thinking, but I think I already feel better. I think my skin looks better - probably all that water. On the downside, I've noticed that it's hard as hell for me to focus. You can probably tell by reading this. It's all over the place. Jesus, I feel like I have ADD - but it's not shiny things that are distracting me. It's like every 10 minutes, I think about smoking. I wonder if this is what it's like to be a guy? They say men think about sex every 10 minutes. That must suck. Seriously. If this is what it's like, I feel bad for all you guys out there. How do you get anything accomplished? But I digress...
The point of all this is, I realized that Jaycee, this virtual side of me, has her very own little virtual family and I'm now more worried about letting them down than I would have been my "real" friends and family. Not that any of you would ever know if I smoked. I'm home alone right now. My husband just went to pick up some fenders for a car we're having restored. He'll be gone for several hours. I could smoke and no one would know. I want to. Trust me. But, more than that, I don't want your efforts to have been in vain.
If I do become the quitter I want to be, it will be because of you - you funny, kind, compassionate, colorful people that gave of yourselves for someone you don't even know.