A Smoker Documents His Struggle to Quit Nicotine

Cease-fire: The Journal of a Quitter

Dave smoked his first cigarette in his teens. It seemed wild, exotic, and completely necessary. It’s an American right of passage, the first stolen and secret smoke. For the next few years, he dabbled with a habit. He didn’t buy them himself, but he’s smoke when someone had them. By college, he was a pack-a-day smoker, and was content with the expense. College is 4 years of education and misinformation, and smoking was accepted and encouraged. The story was a bit different after graduate school. Friends began to retire the lighters, the body started to show signs of damage, and the idea of a “fag” seemed to fall out of a favor with the general public.

Twice a year Dave would try to quit. One year he quit for almost three weeks, a personal record. This year, both Dave and his roommate Greg decided to quit together. Greg smoked less then Dave, but together the two were like dual chimneys. With the support of family, friends, medical professionals, and each other; they embarked on one last struggle with the world’s most deadly drug. The following is a journal written by Dave during the first two weeks of his “cease-fire.”

April 8th 2007

No cigarettes today.

Last night before I went to bed, I flushed my smokes down the toilet. Well, I had one more, then flushed the rest of them down the toilet. I knew if I threw them out, I’d be digging through the trash for them.

The cravings have been okay. I feel anxious, but not uncomfortable. I’m determined to lick this thing. This will be my fourth attempt in two years.

I thought it would be easier to quiet on a Saturday. Most people try quieting on Mondays, but I didn’t want my first day of “no ciggies” to be at work. Greg is seemingly having a cake-walk. He went to the gym this morning. I haven’t left the house. I know if I leave I will be tempted to smoke. To smoke, or to scream at someone. Being outside reminds me of smoking. Whenever I left the house, I popped one. It was automatic with me. Lock the door, light up.

I’m happy I went with the nicotine gum over the patch. It’s an awful taste, but I like the oral sensation. I chew it for a little while, and then switch to Juicy Fruit. I keep putting the “in-use” gum on a saucer. Greg says I should put it behind my ear like the girl from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I’m staying in tonight. I have my nicotine gum, plenty of lollipops, and some DVDs.

April 9th 2007

I had trouble sleeping last night. Fitful, sweating, restless – I don’t know if it was the lack of nicotine or something else. I’ve been coughing today too. Not too much. Greg says I am being crazy, that it’s all in my head. Greg was passed out on Nyquil at 10 PM last night. He blames me for the overdose, evidently I’m being a jackass. Whatever.

I pace the floor reminding myself of all the health benefits of not smoking. Every time I felt an urge, I’d chew my nicotine gum and imagine my teeth whiter, my skin smoother, and my breath fresher.

Today is worse then yesterday. A lot of lip biting and shot nerves. I’ve finished almost all of my lollipops.

April 10th 2007

First day of non-smoking at work. I stopped at the store and got several bags of lollipops and more nicotine gum. On a work day, I’d have a cigarette at 10:15, two at lunch, and another at 3:15. Plus you gotta start the day with one (maybe two) on the drive to work, and at least two on the way home.

The commute to work was okay, I think the cravings were sated by the nicotine gum. Thankfully I had emptied the car of any reminders of my former smoggy lifestyle. Lunch was fine too; I stayed in the building so as not to be tempted. It was the breaks that were tough. It’s like an internal clock kept going off in my body. I knew that Boris, Suzanne, Carla, Ryan, the fat guy from the law office – that all of them were out SMOKING at 10:15. I missed it.

Today the coughing began a dry hacking cough. At some points it was kind of painful, and I would have loved for a smoke to soothe the lungs. A smoke to soothe the lungs. It’s true!

Every time I got a craving, I drank some water. I drank a lot of water.

April 11th 2007

I almost broke today. There was a problem with a staff member, and I got very stressed out. Teeth grinding, pulse racing, heart beating pissed off. Without thinking, I headed downstairs to smoke. Nothing relaxes you like a smoke. I was outside and patting down my pockets before I remembered I had quit.

I wanted one so freaking badly. It was like a hunger in my head. I knew that just a few pumps and I would feel so much better. I needed one; it was the only way I could go back to work. Having one would just help me out, calm the nerves, relax the mind, and ease the stress.

But my old smoking buddies were stronger then me. They wouldn’t give me one. They chased me upstairs. I was shamed. I have to do better. I don’t want yellow teeth.

I can’t tell Greg. He’s doing really well, never complains, never talks about cravings. I know some friends are competitive, but we never really were. I don’t feel comfortable telling him that I really want to smoke. He’s making this quitting thing look to easy. I ask him if he has cravings and he says “Not so muchâÂ?¦” I should have picked a better quitting buddy.

I am trying not to view today as a setback. A setback would have been smoking, this was a challenge. I am going to try and think of this as a success. I COULD have smoked, but didn’t.

April 12th 2007

I counted it today. 34 times I thought about smoking. Sometimes it was a craving, or an urge, sometimes it was “Boy I wish I could smokeâÂ?¦” or “Well maybe in a month I can have oneâÂ?¦.”

But all total, I thought about the act of smoking a cigarette 34 times

Here is the breakdown:

2- Shower, breakfast
5 – Car ride in to work
14 – At work
5 – Car ride home
8 – At home in the evening

I don’t know if that is high or not. It seems high. Maybe it’s not a good idea to keep track.

Friends called me to play Quizzo tonight. I love Quizzo. It’s the only chance I have to be rewarded for all the useless knowledge I’ve accumulated over the years. But I’m not ready for the bars yet. Bars are the enemy of the addict. All the temptation is right there. I’d probably sleep with the first person to give me a cigarette.

April 13th 2007

I went to my doctor today. Last time I quit, I tried to be macho and do it cold turkey. I really believed that I had the power over the cigarettes. That I could casually stop. That lasted for about 6 hours, and a terrible and frightening 6 hours it was. This time, full medical assistance has been enlisted. My doctor is a nice guy, very understanding. He has been on me to stop smoking for years. We discussed what was going on in my body, and what was going on in my head. It sounds gay, but I really got a lot out of this appointment.

Doc also suggested that A) I go back to the gym, B) try yoga and breathing techniques to ease the cravings, and C) cut down on the lollipops since my lips are almost blue.

April 14th 2007

I had my car completely cleaned, inside and out. It cost me 75 dollars (including tip), but it needed it. It stunk, like driving an ashtray. Only this ashtray got poor gas mileage.

I can smell the smoke on smokers. Greg said I am imagining it, but I really can. My sense of smell is coming back, and I’m noticing that smoke is NOT a pleasant smell. Thank god we avoided smoking in the house. I wish I could burn everything and start fresh. New clothes, new car, new lungsâÂ?¦âÂ?¦âÂ?¦..

April 15th 2007

Greg went home to his parent’s house. I’d rather die of cancer then go to Lebanon, PA.

My friends got me to come out of the house. I choose the group of pals that didn’t smoke. Or at least didn’t buy cigarettes – the one’s who used to bum off me.

I wanted a cigarette from the moment the first drop of beer hit my lips. It was overpowering. Standing at the bar, with a cold brewâÂ?¦âÂ?¦âÂ?¦.my fingers felt empty. It was the worst. I brought nicotine gum, but it wasn’t working. This is why Philadelphia sucks. I should be in Manhattan. You can’t smoke there.

I’ve never felt more disgusting in my life. My eyes just roamed the bar, looking for people who were smoking. I kept thinking that I could have just one. That I’d hide someplace, nobody would know, it wouldn’t matter. I wasn’t even listening to the music, to my friends, all I thought about was sweet sweet cigarettes.

I finally grabbed a few cocktail straws from the bar, and began to chew the shit out of them. I chomped away at one, twisting and tearing it with my teeth for hours. My friend Colby told me I looked like a crack addict. I’m sure I did.

I left early that night, I was nervous that I couldn’t handle it. At home and I took a few sleeping pills, I didn’t want to lie awake all night thinking about it. I’ve quit smoking but now I’m popping pills. Great.

April 16th 2007

It’s been well-over a week. I’m really proud of myself. This whole ordeal has also changed my opinion on drug addiction. I hate to use the term “ordeal” to define this, but it really has been a battle. I used to think drug addicts, or any kind of addicts were just really weak and stupid people. Now I guess I understand them better, I can understand what it is like to be hooked on something.

Of course, maybe all of us addicts are weak and stupid.

But between you and me – I would love a cigarette right now.

April 17th 2007

I started to go back to the gym. I used to eat fairly healthy, but in the last few days I have been stuffing my face with every kind of fried food you can imagine. I really hate fried food, but it’s all I want. It’s like I exchanged on heart killer for the other. But at least I can eat French fries at my desk, and cheese sticks aren’t illegal NY bars.

The consensus is that when you stop smoking, you balloon up. I’m going to try to avoid this. Greg’s been at the gym everyday, but I just couldn’t do it for a while. Like my own personal armistice, between health and death. I stopped smoking, but had to stop working out.

Greg swears he doesn’t even want to smoke after a serious workout. (This advice comes from a man who jogged several miles a day even while a smoker.) With my blood and lungs working out the toxins, I am hoping to increase my cardio – maybe even burn off some of the smallish love handles I haveâÂ?¦..I

April 18th 2007

A friend sent me a postcard of smoke damaged lungs. It was something they got at the Bodyworks exhibit at the Franklin Institute. She told me that most of the lungs at Bodyworks were blackened from smoking. It’s reassuring to know that smoker’s still care enough to donate there organs to science. The postcard is two sets of lungs, one set black from smoking – the other pink and healthy. I put it on my desk, since it’s at work that I get the worst cravings. Not just cravings, but mental cues. I’ve been smoking here since I started 2 years ago, so people expect me to smoke. “Wanna have a puff?” or “Wanna go out?” I say no, but I feel like a kid who can’t go outside and play.

The hacking and snotting and coughing have subsided for the most part. I picture in my mind that my body is done with the cleansing, and now onto remodeling.

April 19th 2007

Greg and I actually had a smashing dialogue over dinner. He was really supportive. He acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy for him. His physical withdrawal isn’t as bad as mine, but I think he misses the “act” of smoking more then me. Greg is a salesman; most of his business is in bars and restaurants. People are always offering him a smoke.

Two girls in my office smoke, but they don’t want there boss to know. I think that’s kind of weird, but it’s there deal. The sneak outside, and try to make sure nobody knows that they are secret smokers. But they come in, and the REEK of smoke. It’s nauseating. If there boss doesn’t know they smoke, and then she’s got some serious nasal disabilities.

I think my sense of taste is reawakening. I find that I don’t enjoy wine so much. I tried to have a glass last night at dinner. But it was too bitter. I used to love to smoke and drink wine.

April 20th 2007

Last night I had dinner with a business associate. He chained smoked the entire time. It was actually rather nasty. Two weeks ago I would have matched him smoke for smoke, but last night I just chomped my gum and thought about how gross he was.

When I got home after the dinner, I showered and washed my hair. I’ve always been a shower nut. I’d shower two to three times a day. I think its cause I felt dirty from the smoking. Meanwhile, my skin was as dry as a leather purse. In the middle of the night I woke up with a terrible stomach ache. I felt nausea, as if I needed to vomit. Stealing some of Greg’s ginger ale seemed to help. I think it was the smoke, I think all that second hand smoke made me sick.

To all the non-smokers I blew smoke at over the last 7 years, I apologize.

Epilogue

Both Dave and Greg have remained smoke free since April 8th, although Dave admits to considering the idea of a pipeâÂ?¦but only because it looks “distinguished.”

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