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Soon To Be A Quitter

I love smoking. I don’t love the expense, or the health risks, or the stench, or being driven out into the buttass freezing cold, but I bloody love smoking otherwise. It gets me outside at random times, whereupon I see things that people who aren’t driven onto the porch in the wee hours o’ the morning by the nicotine demons don’t see. Like the badger that one night. The badger was awesome.

It’s been sixteen years (taking three off whilst living with a vegan. Note to smokers: yes, you can quit for other people, but you’ll know the relationship’s on the wane when you start sitting downwind of smokers and inhaling deeply). Sixteen years of snappy comebacks to random strangers who try to lecture me into not smoking (Random Lady: “You shouldn’t smoke! That’s going to kill you someday!” Me: “Yes, ma’am, I know – it’s called population control). Sixteen years of worried friends having The Conversation (Them: You shouldn’t smoke. That’s going to kill you.” Me: “I know. What a tragedy I’ll miss out on all the lovely Alzheimer’s at the end!”). Note to people who want to get people to stop smoking: choose targets whose families have a history of longevity without horrible degenerative diseases that hollow out the mind. You aren’t likely to convince us that dying of lung cancer a few years early is a terrible thing.

I’ve had doctors tell me I don’t need to quit smoking. That one time I pulled a muscle without realizing it and went in terrified the pain in my chest was early-onset lung cancer, the doc x-rayed me and said, “Your lungs look great! You might want to cut back, but you don’t need to quit yet. Better watch out for that arthritis developing in your back, though.” To which I said, “ZOMG WTF srsly?”

I bloody fucking love this habit. And I might miss it. But I’ve been hacking in the ay-em, after naps, and at other random times for two weeks now. And I promised myself, back when I first started smoking at the age of 18, if I ever developed a smoker’s hack, I’d quit.

So I bounced in to the clinic on Thursday to see if Dr. John was back from vacation. He was. He’s been after me for years to quit. And so I announced that the time had come, and he said, “Why?”

“I’ve developed a smoker’s hack,” I said.

“Are you sure it’s not allergies?” he said.

“ZOMG WTF srsly?” I said. “Maybe. But let’s call it a smoker’s hack so I’ll quit, m’kay?”

He was good with this. So on Friday, I made a really-real appointment, and we discussed things. The question was Zyban or Chantix.

“You might have crazy dreams on Chantix,” he said. “That’s what most people report as being the most disturbing side effect.”

“That would be awesome,” I said. “I haven’t written fiction in a while. My dreams have been utterly dull. Maybe this will wake the Muse!”

“You are the first person who’s been excited about the dreams,” he said, gazing upon me with wonder and bemusement. Then he wrote me a scrip for Chantix, because he says that’s the better drug for quitting.

I read the insert. There are amazing potential side effects, some of which involve life-threatening skin conditions. I’d be too afraid to try it if I hadn’t been reading science and medical blogs for a few years, and could reasonably assess the risk (minuscule). I might get very stabby. If that happens, we’ll stop Chantix and start Zyban instead, which is a happy-making drug. Yay, psychiatric drugs!

I’ll be starting Chantix when I get back from Quartzville, because taking a long trip with no alternate driver on a new mind-altering medication is a terrible idea. We’ll see how it goes. My stepmother didn’t even have to finish the whole course before she was done smoking. She said she just woke up one day and the urge was completely gone. She stopped early because the dreams weirded her out. As a person who’s spent the greater part of a lifetime writing SF, I think the dreams will be quite useful, even if bizarre. (Now watch me be amongst those who don’t have them. That would be disappointing.) And this is what I want: to wake up one day, and discover a complete lack of interest in cigarettes.

I don’t think I’ll miss my habit much. It’s like the relationship with the vegan: nice while it lasted, a little stressful, and probably should’ve ended it a while ago, because we’re not as good for each other as I think. Like the vegan, I’ll look back at this period of my life with a mix of fondness and exasperation. In my sillier moments, I might even miss those days.

And I’ll probably always think of myself as a smoker. I’ll just be one who doesn’t smoke.

The halcyon days of smoking and drinking in Mexico. Drinking and Mexico, happily, are still on the table.

Keep me honest, people. Even if my smoker’s hack turns out to have been allergies, it’s time to stop spending so much damned money on stuff I burn. And remind me, if I start making noises about not wanting to live through Alzheimer’s or any other horrid end-of-life disease my family’s prone to, that I happen to live in a state where doctors are allowed to assist me in cutting that shit short. Tell me I can drag my arse outside at random times without having to light up. Do not let me get away with stupid excuses. And if anyone wants to take this opportunity to quit with me, grab a scrip for the magic pills of your choice and let’s go.

Comments

  1. Mike says

    Good for you. I quit in ’03. Took me 4 trys. The hardest part is not picking one back up. People who you know who smoke will always give you one when you ask unless you tell them not to in advance.

  2. rq says

    Good luck! You might miss it as a habit (I do), but not the ‘side-effects’ (expense, smell, unhealthiness, etc.). Once I’d stopped for long enough, just remembering those side-effects is enough to be thankful that I don’t do it anymore and enough to fight down the craving. But sometimes, oh man, smokers, downwind… :)
    I like your doctor’s attitude about it, though. He sounds very sensible.

    PS Once you quit, be prepared to have a seriously horrible hacking cough for a couple of weeks, but don’t be put off by it – it’s the lungs realizing you CAN survive on clean(er) air. I’m sure you’ll be warned about all the ‘symptoms’ of quitting anyway.

  3. chezjake says

    Brava! Good luck with it. I managed to quit a 3 pack a day habit after 52 years using Chantix. I haven’t smoked now in almost 3 years, and I don’t miss it at all and am not tempted at all.

    Another benefit of quitting is the gradual, but continuing, regaining of your senses of taste and smell.

  4. joel says

    Hey it sounds like this may be it!. I’m excited for you. Ok, so what worked for me? Several things I think. Somehow I was able to notice that everything, I mean everything, I said or even thought about smoking was bullshit. All distractions, all excuses, all postponements etc. it was all bullshit enabling me to light up.

    I haven’t parsed your message minutely so you may not be as full of shit as I was, but I suspect you are. (an example is your use of the phrase ‘health risks’ as if it were merely a risk) “Smokers think” is an amazing thing. My reaction to it now is like my reaction to “religious think”. It is amazing how it takes over the mind.

    Go inside and find a feeling that says; ‘it’s over, finished, I am done with it. Own that feeling, have it ready whenever the temptation arises. “Oh, it’s over”. Don’t listen to any ennabling thoughts. The only thought is “it’s over” Embrace that feeling of liberation.

    • joel says

      I probably should have indicated my smoking experience. I smoked from 16 to 25 when the surgeon general announced smoking was bad, so I then lit up for another 20 years, watched my mother die of cancer and my father die of lung cancer. Both heavy smokers. I know how to quit, did it about 50 times, I thought saying that was cute.

      I don’t really know how it happened but the last time I just knew that was it, that was in 1984. 77 now and my lungs work well. I see people lighting up and just feel a little sick inside. It’s hard not to say anything, I just see in my minds eye a couple of my friends hauling the oxygen bottles around. I visited my aunt once, she went into the kitchen to get me a drink but did not come back. I went in and saw her leaning on the counter gasping for breath. She said “I should have stopped sooner”.

      After quitting I had numerous hypochondriac symptoms for about a year, imaginary cancers, panic attacks etc. But that is long in the past now.

      Good luck everyone

  5. amjann says

    Awwww Dana,

    I love smoking and I am completely addicted to it. I started smoking as a kid (13 or 14, dun remember exactly) and I am nearly 60 now. I like luxury so I roll my own ciggies. Strong black ‘shag’ tobacco which has to be fresh (you can keep it fresh by putting potato peel in the bag). Wrap it in licorice ciggie paper (only manufactured in England, but also available in the English shop here in Amsterdam) with a slim line filter tip. The tobacco mixed with Nepalese hashish and Thai weed (both available for ages with very constant quality in the coffee shop around the corner) gives you a perfect joint (at least for my taste).
    Of course I do know I have a chance of around 50% of dying because of the smoking. But, well you know, eventually I will have to die of something, so why not something I enjoyed so much. And there is one advantage in dying because of a terrible disease (the only advantage as far as I know). It will give me the chance of dying on the moment of my choice, by my own hand and being fully conscious. All 3 things I have always wanted ever since I was a little kid (even before I started smoking). I have never been afraid of death and I will never be. I am curious and I want to know what it is to die. It only happens once in your lifetime so I want to fully experience it. As u might have guessed I was raised without religion. Both my parents come from large family’s that lost faith centuries ago (way back into the 19th century). Religion simply never was an issue, it was (is) completely irrelevant.
    I am the only ‘smoker’ left in my family. Among my friends there is very few left who smoke. At the office only ICT-people and secretaries stand smoking outside. I am the only higher management smoker left to stand with them. I am the only one who rolls his own ciggies in that group. The others all smoke expensive cigarettes, even though they are on low salaries. Of course I give away as much free lighters (from the coffee shop with coffee shop ads on it) as I can spare, but the group outside is getting thinner and thinner. I am beginning to feel like a pariah.
    And now u are quitting too. It feels like a stab in the back (not really of course, just a little bit, the same I always feel when someone quits). I love the pic you always have up. You sitting there in Mexico wearing that hat, drinking (I stopped drinking alcohol in 1988) and smoking. You look like you feel great, enjoying the moment, enjoying life to the max.
    U wish u good luck with the quitting. Keep us updated on how you manage and please, please, please keep up the pic even after u managed to quit.

  6. Fizzing thru da Fizzics says

    Woooohooooo, it is great to be able to taste food again, stick with it. Kiwi says no to stinkyness!

  7. Ned Champlain says

    Best of luck on quitting. I know you can do it. I did after a 40yr habit of 2+ packs a day.

  8. ibelieveindog says

    Excellent! Wonderful! Go You!

    Quitting’s been on my mind for the last month or so. I’ve been smoking for thirty years and I’m starting to get little lines at my eyes and around my lips, and I’ve developed a bit of a hack. Plus, ya know, smoking’ll probably kill me if I don’t stop.

    My beagle and I were walking around the apartment complex yesterday when I saw an elderly woman being helped into a car from a wheelchair. When we got close, she motioned us over so she could pet my dog. She had a tracheostomy and I could just barely tell that she was saying she loved dogs. It really shook me; I’ve never met anyone with a tracheostomy before.

    I went straight back to my apartment, smoked three cigarettes in rapid succession, then cried myself into a nap.

    But I bought a carton of cigarettes this morning.

  9. julian says

    Had a buddy on Chantix. Told me in detail one day about the dream he’d had where he cut me up into bits in his basement. He seemed kinda shocked I was walking around.

    Anyway, good luck! I’m planning to quit when I get to New York and the prices return to 10 bucks a pack.

  10. says

    I’m 4 years now after Chantix. As a sci-fi buff myself, I can tell you that while on Chantix I had some of the most vivid, realistic, *wonderful* dreams I have ever had. As long as some of the other side effects don’t affect you, then you will be fine.

    Congratulations on your decision to join the rest of us smokers-who-don’t-smoke. I hope it leads to a long, happy life. I also have a family history of horrible degenerative brain diseases, but, for me, having those extra years to spend with my family and friends is more than worth it.

  11. frogmistress says

    When I first got married (to a non-smoker) I couldn’t even discuss quitting. It always made me mad when he brought it up. As time went by, I considered it, but always had excuses. Also, I was terribly afraid of failure. If I quit, I was going to quit once. I was not going to be one of those on again off again smokers.

    Seven years ago, I caught pneumonia. For three days, I was out of it on Vicodin, lovely Vicodin. I would wake up, yell about wanting a cigarette, which my husband had moved out of the room, and then go back to sleep.

    I had read that the physical addiction is broken after three days. After making that milestone, it was stubbornness that got me through. I don’t know what got my family through it because I was an ass.

    I miss it, still. But at least I don’t dream about it anymore.

    But, I hope you pull it off. It is hard, but definitely worth it!

  12. says

    Just a couple of thoughts. First, that doctor who said you don’t need to quit smoking? I would not go back to that one. Probably that doctor was a smoker with a blind spot.

    Second, long time smokers who quit can often become militant anti-smokers. I have no idea why that is, but it might be something to be wary of. Happened to my dad and my father-in-law. Now it takes a while for the effect to kick in. As a former smoker the last thing you will need is another source of social friction.

    Keep in mind that other than observing relatives, I speak from a position of complete ignorance regarding matters of smoking and drinking.

  13. Josh, Official LuncheonMeat says

    Dana-I quit two years ago (then had a damned heart attack anyway at 36) using the nicotine vaporizer (e-cigarette). Basically nicotine with flavor in propylene glycol, vaporized, not burnt. It’s amazingly like smoking with none of the actual smoke. And yes, my cardiologist thinks it’s awesome. Quote: “As long as you’re getting clean nicotine, I don’t care. I’d rather see someone chew the gum or use the patch or use this for the rest of their lives than go back to smoking.”

    If you can break the nicotine habit altogether that’s great; I couldn’t. Remember, though, that it’s not the nicotine that causes much harm, it’s the burnt smoke particulates and tar. So if you have trouble (I hope you don’t!) you can email me at spokesgay at gmail for a quick buyer’s guide for e-cigarettes. They cost less than a quarter to maintain compared to what I spent on smokes, too.

    • movablebooklady says

      I’m an e-cig user, too. Switched over in one day with no problems. I didn’t want to quit but wanted something cleaner and neater. And I love making smoke. One nice thing about e-cigs is that you can get the e-liquid in different concentrations, so you can adjust all the way down to zero (i.e. no nicotine at all) and still have the fun of taking a break and making smoke. I’m at wnctarheel@yahoo.com if you want info on my supplier (a British company).

    • NateHevens says

      I was going to come on here and suggest e-cigs myself, but I see you beat me too it.

      I am a smoker myself, although I haven’t smoked real cigarettes since I was 15. I tend towards cigars, hookah, Black & Mild wine-flavored cigarillos, and other… um… non-tobacco things… yeah… non-tobacco things… that works

      :D

      And thanks to cigars, I smoke everything except for hookah and the non-tobacco stuff without fully inhaling.

      But I’m getting pretty big into vaporizers, now. They’re pretty awesome, in my humble opinion… and e-cigs are great and quite tasty…

  14. Trebuchet says

    Good for you, Dana! I hope everything works well. I’m glad I don’t need to quit (having never started) since my dreams are bizarre enough a it is!

  15. movablebooklady says

    Oh yeah, and no more having to go outside. You’re only exhaling water vapor so no smell or residue. Yay.

  16. says

    Count me as another e-cig user. I followed Josh’s advice in his buyer’s guide (thanks again Josh!) and am still happily vaping away. What I liked about the switch was that I didn’t get stupid like I had using other methods. For whatever reason, by brain was super distractible on the patch. I will note that I had a bad reaction to the propylene version of the juice, so now I use 100% vegetable glycerin thinned with a bit of DI water. My atomizers go out a little quicker, but otherwise it’s fine.

  17. says

    Good luck Dana, from a relatively long-time rafter-sitter and enjoyer of your blog.

    A friend of mine who, like you, enjoyed smoking immensely and had no desire to quit was hospitalized last year for an unrelated problem, and was unable to smoke for a week. Afterwards, he decided just to keep going. His way of staying motivated was to keep track of the money he hadn’t spent on cigarettes. Watching it tot up into the four digits before long was a great way of staying on track for him, and much more positive than considering what he hadn’t done.

  18. Anne Marie says

    Good luck! I quit drinking recently (87 days sober!) with the help of meds. Hope all goes as well for you as it’s been going for me so far! Quitting stinks but there are definitely a lot of perks. (:

  19. davidcortesi says

    My wife and I quit together more than 15 years ago, cold-turkey from heavy habits. The drugs you mention didn’t exist then; we did use nicotine gum. Kept cutting it into smaller and smaller pieces. When I realized I was chewing 1/8 of a stick, it dawned on me I didn’t have a habit any more…

    Very important to make a ceremony of quitting. In a formal, go about your house and remove all smoking-related items, take them outside and ritually burn or smash them.

    Remind yourself often: you are now a non-smoker. It’s a new phase of life, a new persona: non-smoker-hood. Why would you smoke? You are a non-smoker!

    That wellbutrin/zyban thing? That’s an SSRI and I wouldn’t get near it. Nicotine administered cleanly in diminishing amounts would be far safer, I’d think.

    Best of luck!

    • davidcortesi says

      I mis-wrote; Bupropion is not an SSRI, it’s a dopamine a/o norepinephrin re-uptake inhibitor. Not serotonin. Whatever. Brain-chemistry diddler. At least you know what nicotine does.

  20. phil zombi says

    I will reach the two year mark in early September. I went cold turkey but I would not recommend it. As a guy who used to burn through a pack of unfiltered luckies a day, quitting is definitely worth it. Now I spend that money on tattoos instead.

  21. SherryH says

    Hey, good on ya! If you’re gonna be a quitter, that’s the right kind of one to be.

    I had to laugh at the bit about hoping you *would* get the crazy dreams side effect. I have some interesting ones at times – wish I could send some your way. Describing them just wouldn’t be the same, would it?

  22. says

    I should have mentioned the dreams. They are not severe, I just dream that I am smoking. The bad part is that I am smoking and falling asleep, which causes me to wake. The last time was a few nights ago, the time before that, I really can’t remember.

  23. says

    So glad to hear this! When my cousin was born and diagnosed with asthma, my grandfather quit cold turkey. My grandmother used the patch. My sister used a prescription, I think, but I think she ended up doing it on her own.

    All have said how much happier they are now that they’ve quit. My sister is especially thankful for being able to cut it out of her budget!

    Good luck, and I’m looking forward to see the fiction that comes out of it!

  24. evelynmervine says

    Good luck, Dana!

    Do you know what is a great upside to quitting? Not having to be without smokes on those loooong plane rides to interesting geological places!

  25. tangovelocity says

    Chantix is very effective, and really the only thing which has worked for me through numerous attempts ( the patch, the gum, exercise, the Jeebus-yes, I had a theistic phase…) to quit. Yes, the dreams are awesome, Technicolor and Cinerama to boot. Don’t worry if you continue to smoke while the drug ramps up to an effective level, that is normal. One day you’ll just realize that the cigs no llonger have the good drug effect and that all you’re doing is inhaling superheated toxic air. It’s okay to shed a tear at this point over losing a dear (codependent) friend… You may find at some point that you are confident enough to stop taking it, and I would urge some caution there. Continue to take it longer than you feel you might need to, and if a relapse occurs, get right back on it. The therapeutic effect will happen much more quickly than the initial intake. Best wishes to you Dana!

  26. mariogarcia h. says

    I used to tell myself the same things you do. But I never realized I was too tired physically and too tired of anti-smoker regulations: that was my motivation, avoiding regulations and stopping me from been a 35 years old feeling like 75.

    I didn’t have the will neither had to invest a lot of it to quit smoking. Just did (big/high voltage) e-cigs for about one year and a half and then felt a little apt to quit definitely. It has been a year since that, I feel great today and, worse yet, I went vegan and started doing exercise! I know, I know! it is silly and awful.

    But my life changed a lot in a single year and all of it was for good. Now I have a lot of time and energy to spend in living. Now I’m someone who thinks of himself as a non-smoker who has some weird memories of one and a half packs a day and a silly craving once a month which goes away with some pull ups.

    Best wishes.