Saturday, February 13, 2010

My Trip Into Cessation

If you've been following or reading my blog for any length of time, you know I have some health issues that came to fruition when I became seriously ill nearly two years ago. I've been making lifestyle changes and working at either improving or maintaining my health ever since. You may also know that I'm an ex-smoker. 

Yeah, yeah--Bad Cathryn! Bad! I know this. But I'm concentrating on the EX part of that relationship or label. And I guess smoking, like any other addiction, is a relationship. I smoked for over 20 years, going through two or three packs a day. I remember starting out smoking and barely going through a pack a week. But as time went on, I smoked more and more.  I had been "working on" quitting for about three years before I actually did. I had quit smoking about a dozen times already, only to seemingly "fail" and take it back up again. The longest I had actually quit smoking before was six months and I don't know why I started up again. The next to the last time I tried quitting this habit I jones so hard (that's addict-speak)  that all I thought about was smoking. I thought about nothing but cigarettes, lighting one up, inhaling that lovely (I'm in addict mode ok?!?!?!) smoke and breathing in those toxic fumes like breathing in my mother's homemade cookie aromas. I would dream about smoking. Each day was pure torture. I couldn't be around people who smoked and I could NOT be around people who smoked. I obsessed about smoking to the point where I was failing my classes in my last semester before getting into my undergraduate program because I couldn't focus on what needed to be done. So I started up again and told myself that I simply wasn't ready to give up my addiction.

I found out later, according to several drug and alcohol treatment counselors, that giving up smoking is sometimes harder than giving up heroin. That was not comforting at all. I never believed myself to be an addict of tobacco or having the same problems of a heroin addict.  I was NOT an addict. I could quit any time. Denial can be a useful tool at times. 

When I decided I needed to quit, I did my usual mode of researching into the best way to quit. I didn't want to rely on drugs or patches or gums. I had tried those before and they didn't work for me. I read some research that said for smokers to quit successfully, they had to break the smoking habit. Withdrawal was hard enough if the habits weren't changed first. So I started breaking the habits of where and when I lit up my cigarettes. Alright--my conscious is bugging me. I played with breaking the habits of where and when I smoked. For three years. 

Then came pnuemonia. Yep--that illness that keeps air out of your lungs. Mine was pretty acute and I couldn't breathe. It's amazing what you will sacrifice in order to be able to breathe. I realized that this is what I could face later in life if I didn't make a serious effort into quitting this habit. Not being able to breathe hit me hard and suddenly, being able to breathe became a much more prodigious habit than smoking. So I quit in the middle of pneumonia. And a week later, ended up in the hospital for the first time. 

Quitting back then still wasn't easy. Each month I tried to celebrate my cessation. The first month, I didn't want to go anywhere in the car because seeing other people smoking in their cars made me want to leap out of a moving vehicle just to grab their cigarette. I couldn't watch movies where people smoked because I counted the cigarettes being smoked. Huh? What do you mean we saw this last year, Honey? I don't remember it...Oh I see now. There were people smoking and I was obsessing over how many cigarettes were being consumed--of course I don't remember the plot! No, I didn't realize that my favorite actor was part of this movie. I was an addict back then, remember?

I used to dream about trying to smoke. In my dreams, I would find a fresh pack of cigarettes but not a lighter or a match or a stove or any kind of naked flame or flint or a magnifying glass or if I found a magnifying glass, it was at night. And in my dreams of trying to get this pack of cigarettes smoked, my best girlfriend would show up. She would give me that look--the kind that made any adult squirm like a bug on a pin--and tell me,  "If you smoke that, you have to start over from day one. You can't just go 7 months and 4 days without smoking to light up once and be able to claim being smoke-free 7 months and 5 days tomorrow. You have to start over from ZERO."  And in my dreams, I knew she was right. I wasn't allowed to smoke even in my dreams. 

I can tell you the craving and the urge and the desires to smoke became less and less, but it didn't happen right away. It took me well over a year before the craving, urge, and desire to have one cigarette faded. From time to time, I'm even tempted in my dreams to have one cigarette--with my dreamself telling me it's not real if it happened in a dream and it's ok to smoke in the dream because it's not real and that it doesn't count against me. I turn around in my dreams only to see my girlfriend giving my dreamself that look and I walk away from temptation. 

Today, I realized that my two year cessation anniversary is coming up in less than 10 days. I realized that I'm healthier for giving up that addiction--although many would claim I traded one addiction for another (my beading). Nonetheless, on February 22nd, it will mark two whole years since I've had a cigarette in both real life and my dreams. And I feel like celebrating!

To celebrate, I'm hosting my first blog giveaway. I'm going to make it easier for you all to share in the celebration than it was for me to give up the smoking habit:

All you have to do is post a comment to my blog between now (today's post) and on Sunday, February 21st, Midnight Mountain Standard Time. For every comment you make on my blog posts, you get entered into the drawing that will be held next Monday, February 22nd. You will need to leave me a way to contact you if you win the prize, either an email address or a blog address. That's it. No requirements to start following me or no go-here-do-this-twitter me-blog about me...Simple is sometimes the best. So just comment on my blog between now and Sunday, February 21st to be entered into the drawing for the prize.

Oh the prize! I almost forgot! 

I'll draw one name out of the hat/jar for this pair of earrings...
 and then I'll draw another name for this pair of earrings.

PS: If the winners do not respond within 48 hours of the drawing, I'll redraw new winners.


  1. Oh Cathryn! Congratulations on one heck of a difficult task. You should be so proud of yourself. I'm proud of you. Irv has talked about quitting for years, and years and years. When we were younger Irv and his cousin went for acupuncture to quit. His cousin did. He did not. I don't think he really want to. I don't smoke. I use to have one once in a while when we bowled on a league, but I never bought a pack. I see Irv now as we get older wanting to quit, but not be able to do it. He loves smoking. It's such a terrible terrible addiction. I am so glad I never took that path.

    What a wonderful giveaway. The earrings are gorgeous and I would be thrilled with either pair. Here is my lucky entry!

    Congratulations again my friend. You rock!!

  2. What a great story and very inspiring. Thank you for sharing your tale with us. Congrats on the 2 years, woo hoo :)

  3. Cathryn,
    Congratulations on overcoming your addiction! I am so very happy for you. I'm sure you feel much better. Every day should be another celebration for you!
    Marianne (VioletUnderground)

  4. An amazing story, Cathryn! Look at how strong you are! I am glad I never started smoking because my lack of willpower would have made it a real challenge to stop. My husband quit cold turkey after our son was born; never would have worked with me. I am in awe of your accomplishment and send you a big "Attagirl!" And the earrings are lovely.

  5. Wow Cathryn, I am impressed. I can actually not say that I know it is hard, since I never really started smoking - my mum was a heavy smoker and I always hated it. But I can say I can imagine how hard it is since Nick has probably tried to stop 6 or 7 times, and always restarted. I congratulate you and wish you luck and strength in the future. And oh, I'll play along. How are the kitties doing?

  6. Thank you all for stopping by! I'm just excited that I did quit and having this anniversary is proof in the pudding, so to speak!

    The cats are doing well Nicki! Thank you for asking! I'll be writing about them soon!