The 100th Post–In Which I Kick the Habit

 

Dear Lily June,

This morning at around 7:00am I smoked my last cigarette. I know you probably don’t believe me, as I’ve already quit here and here before. It was more like my last last last last last last last cigarette. But I made a promise to you–and to myself–that of all the Christmas gifts I gave you this year, the most important one was going to be the gift of more years with me. Don’t you dare curse me when you have to change my diapers there at the end; remember that I changed roughly two-hundred and seventy million of yours here at the beginning.

I know that I need to quit before you ever see me take a hit and understand what nicotine addiction really means. So help me, if you ever pick up smoking in your teen years, I will show you. I will confiscate your pack and smoke every single one of them in front of you. Then, I’ll force you to spend your hard-earned money on more and more packs for me, and I’ll continue to smoke them until…

Let’s begin again, shall we? Seeing as this is my 100th public letter to you, Lily, I’ve decided to do something special. In this blog post, I’ll update my progress with quitting at least once every hour–about as often as I’d smoke a cigarette–to keep me honest. I owe it to you. I owe it to your dad, who’s trying to quit today, too. I owe it to any and everyone who stops by this blog and doesn’t want to think they’re reading the words of a filthy scum liar hypocrite. And I owe it to that company called IF, who produced the fine pack of cards called 52 Ways to Stop Smoking that I’ll be referring to as my aid in this process.

Lily June, know that I love you enough to tackle this cold turkey. Gobble, gobble, girl. Here we go.

***

Update #1 – Hour 1: Rejecting the Addict’s Logic

Ace of Diamonds
Thanks, cards. Rub it in whydoncha?

According to the cards, three conditions make you want to smoke: relaxation, stress, and everything in between. Ain’t that the truth? I used to tell friends that nothing made me want a cigarette more than watching anti-smoking PSAs on TV. Between their threatened trach rings and tumors, I would get so stressed out at the prospect that smoking was killing me, I’d want to smoke to relax again. This, my dear, is an idiotic addict’s logic.

***

Update #2 – Hour 2: Raising the Heart Rate

2 of Hearts
Before my quit date? You’re late to the party, cardy.

Okay, so I’m reminded by these pessimistic cards that by quitting I might pack some pounds onto my already full figured frame. So what, Lily? A person is more than the weight of their parts. The beneficial side of quitting, to a foodie, is that you can actually taste again. I once read a review of a restaurant your dad and I used to go to back when we lived in Alabama called Dreamland Barbecue.

Dreamlandexterior

The reviewer said the ribs were so good, “they made your tongue want to slap your brains out.” I’m looking forward to getting my brain knocked about a bit. In the meantime, I’m popping sugar-free Lifesavers like they’re, well, lifesaving, and I plan to walk around campus on my lunch break. You proud of me yet, Lily?

***

Update #3 – Hour 3: Wishing for Positive Reinforcement

5 of Hearts
How are these cards more pessimistic than me?

Okay, each of these cards is starting to feel like a threat. I think of dolphins who, upon performing a trick, are tossed a reeking fresh fish to wrap their little dolphin lips around. (I know dolphins don’t have lips. But I also don’t have cigarettes, so I definitely don’t have sense-making abilities, Lily.) The point is, even dolphins are given a little positive reinforcement.

How about, cards, instead of being pushy little bullies, you stand behind me in the ring, rubbing my shoulders and saying, “You just cut your chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes by 44 percent. Way to go, Champ!”

Of course, I’ll still feel like quitting is kicking my ass. But I know now I don’t need to get my own punches in. I just need to do this Rocky-style, and stay alive while the dying addict inside me pummels my emotions into hamburger meat.

***

Update #4 – Hour 4: Quitting quitting quitting

6 of Hearts
Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

I am resolved. I am quitting my quitting of quitting. In other (more clear, less addiction-driven) words, I WILL stick with this. The addict brain whispers into the ear of my ear, Lily, that evil lie over and over: Just one, just one, just one more one more. There’s NEVER just one more one more. There’s always an infinite number of one mores. But not, I whisper back, today. (Even though the cravings have progressed now to the point where I want to roll my own face off from the forehead down and smoke it.)

***

Update #5 – Hour 5: Identifying Fears

4 of Diamonds
Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Nicotine Withdrawal?

I’m scared I’ll plump up like a hot air balloon. I’m scared I’ll end up substituting food for smokes. I’m scared I won’t be able to talk to anyone without lighting up first. I’m scared I’ll snap at you tonight, Lily, even though it won’t be your fault that I’m quitting. I’m scared your dad and I will engage in our traditional quitting spat. I’m scared I won’t know how to give myself a break at work, a small reward for a big job complete.

I’m scared I’ll live. This, most of all, Lily, is a old, deep down fear that I’ve got to get rid of. I WANT to live for you. I want to show you picnics and bike rides and kite runs through the wind. And I’ll need every breath in my lungs to do this. I’m just afraid that wanting to live sets me up for failure. And I’ve always been afraid of failing at anything, even living.

***

Update #6 – Hour 6: Catching My Breath

2 of Diamonds
I beat you to this punch in Update #4, card. Catch up.

I went for the recommended brisk half-hour walk around campus on my lunch break, Lily. Usually when I go for a walk, I do so along a river and take in the sights. Or I do so with an iPad and take in the music. Today being cold-turkey day, I went with nothing but my own heartbeat. Here are my observations:

Campus is a ghost town at this time in December. My lungs are old heavy drawers hard to pull in and out of the dresser. Catching the reflection of my widening waist in the windows of empty offices makes me want to smoke. What is that wind? Where is that wind coming from? Oh, I am the wind. I am wheezing like the ghost that haunts the ghost town at this time in December. Stairs, I dub thee evil. Stairs, I dub thee cruel. Heart, I demand thee continue. My lungs are kites made of brick.

***

Update #7 – Hour 7: Rejecting Threats

3 of Hearts
Define “middle age.”

More threats, huh? Et tu, cards? I think the endless stream of negativity–the “see what smoking was doing to you?”–tactic doesn’t work for me.

I remember a urologist, when I was getting painful rescue installations done for my bladder condition, rushing into my examination room. He wasn’t even my urologist. He asked, “Who’s the smoker?” as if I weren’t the only patient in the room. When I admitted it was me, he said, “I’ll see you in five years when you’re back here with bladder cancer.” That smug certainty, even on the face of death, made me crave a cigarette like no other. Bedside manner counts, Lily, whether you’re a doctor or you’re your own caretaker.

Be kind to yourself, especially if you’re your own patient. You deserve patience. You deserve encouragement, no matter the statistics.

***

Update #8 – Hour 8: Berating My Present Self for My Past Self’s Mistakes (Uh Oh)

3 of Diamonds
Smoking was what was so good about smoking.

Again, the smug tone of these cards is starting to harsh my mellow. Or maybe I’m reading smugness into everything by hour eight so that I can be defensive about everything so that I can imagine I’m imaginarily wounded so that I can justify wanting to smoke to cure all that ails me.

I can’t believe, as the card mocks me for it, that I used perseverance to push myself past what I hated until I loved it. Who does that? Human beings or something? Are we stupid sometimes or what, Lily? Note to daughter: Be BETTER than your mother, ‘kay? It really is that easy.

***

Update 9 – Hour 9: Recognizing Strength

Q of Diamonds
I hate you, bully cards.

Okay, so smokers are more likely to have brittle teeth and bones. I think that gets to the heart of any addiction: Vulnerable people turn to substances to distract themselves from their vulnerability, but ironically, the substances end up making them as physically vulnerable as they already were emotionally.

I know I’m heading into my most vulnerable time of the day: Being home with you and your father, Lily. Knowing that I love you and want to quit for the both of you means I’ll feel a great (literally great) weight on my heart when I get to you two. It means I’ll see, in the flesh, what this battle is all about.

I know you’re too young to be disappointed in me if I fail. But I’m too old to keep disappointing myself with this back and forth process. I want you to know, Lily, no matter the odds, you’re strong enough to change your life, on any day, for any reason.

I won’t update again tonight, because my time with you is precious, and I need to stay focused on what really matters. I promise you, kid, I’ll make it through the night. I promise you I’ll make it through your whole life. I want you to read this with confusion and unfamiliarity. I want you to quit reading this letter befuddled and think, “Wait a minute. My mom was once a smoker?!”

Here’s to our hopefully longer future, Lily…

***

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23 thoughts on “The 100th Post–In Which I Kick the Habit

  1. Amy says:

    Oh, I love you, I love you, I love you! And I could not be prouder or more pumped for your inevitable success. You can DO this. And if you can’t, I will most assuredly be praying for supernatural help because like the man says, “All things are possible with Christ!” I know it’s possible, my new favorite wordsmith friend. If I could quit all the things (there were lots. And I don’t know why my experience should make you feel better, but I never thought I could quit everysinglethingthatmademefeelslightlybetterwhichwaseverythingbadforme, but I did by His grace! Pray! Keep up the good work (oh, and I hate to admit it, but they’re right about the walking. Something about wellness begetting more wellness or some other previously unknown to me miracle. But by now, I’ve probably lost your attention, so let me just say, YOU CAN DO IT! And WELL DONE, YOU! And I am pulling for you and praying like mad.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Whiskey Cat says:

    OMG quitting cigarettes! It seems you already have a plethora of support and I don’t mean to sound like a salesman but I quit smoking like a million times and then I read this book http://web-profile.com.ua/wp-content/uploads/allen-carrs-easy-way-to-stop-smoking.pdf …and I eventually started smoking again before quitting a few more times BUT I still found it to profoundly change the way that I THOUGHT about smoking which helped me everafter. Always great to read from you, thank you!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Myndrover says:

    CONGRATULATIONS on taking the first step to free yourself from cigarettes. Having been there and done that I definitely know what you are going through. It’s not just the nicotine you’re withdrawing from, but the hundreds (literally) of chemicals used in processing the tobacco and making those evil sticks.

    Never mind the reason I started smoking in 1974. In 1983 I succeeded in quitting . . . for 11 1/2 years. I truly thought I had won the battle, even though I still craved them at times and they even showed up in my dreams. Then I hit a super stressful period and I started smoking again. It started with only one a WEEK, after therapy, leaving the pack at a friend’s house. Well, you know where it goes from there.

    My last niece, whom I call ‘my heart’, is the only one I had a true opportunity to bond with as a baby since they lived with us for 18 months. On her birthday in 2004, because I wanted a better chance to be around to see her graduate, get married and have children, I smoked my last cigarette. I still believe what made the biggest difference in my success this time was as I snubbed out my last cigarette I told God, “Okay, it’s in your hands now.” I haven’t had even one craving for a cigarette since, but I know without a doubt that if I ever am so stupid as to pick up another cigarette I won’t be able to quit again.

    Do you mind if I give you a couple of tips? Try not to THINK about not smoking, it puts the focus on what you are denying yourself and only makes the craving worse. In those idle times (if you have any with Lily around), work a crossword or other type of puzzle. Cut a straw in half and put it in your mouth when you want a cigarette, chew on it if it helps. Don’t avoid others who smoke, they’re always going to be around. Give away any and all ashtrays you have around the house, take the lighter out of your vehicle. Most of all, remind yourself every time you have a craving that you are quitting FOR LILY.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Jesska says:

    Congratulations 🙂 *hugs*
    DB’s quit as well, so I know that 3months are definitely achievable 🙂 Beyond that I have no idea.. (except that, thinking about it, my Dad hasn’t smoked in years, so that is possible too). DB was a nightmare to live with for the first 6 weeks, so I hope your husband is supportive, and maybe a little bit deaf to the harsh words which you might unmeaningly release. I also hope you’re kind to yourself (and to the people round you) whenever possible 🙂 And if you figure out how to do it and not put on weight, please let me know your secret. DB is 8kg heavier and threatening to start smoking again…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. charlieeasterfield says:

    I came into WP just to read this one…I’m about to go away for a week to a hot country (Yippee!) with very cheap cigarettes, the run up to going away has been hellish,and I’ve virtually chain-smoked my way through the hurdles, but I’m determined to quit (again!) when I get back…your post is wonderfully written, and really inspiring! That line “I’m scared I’ll live” resonates deeply with me….
    At first I liked those cards…but the scare tactics just bring out my rebel child…you may be doing it for your husband and Lily June, but this time, put your Self first! Do it for your beautiful Self!
    The Allen Carr book is good…I had to read it three times before any of it went in…but Mindrover’s advice to not think about smoking is also very good…if seemingly impossible right now!
    Sending you Love, Hope, Courage, and Every Best Wish in the World! Walk steadfastly towards that flower-filled, scented meadow you’re heading towards, and when you’re on the other side, stretch out a helping hand to me! xxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      Yay, Charlie! Enjoy the hot country with the cheap smokes. I’ll be living vicariously through you until you’re on my side of the meadow.

      In the meantime, I agree with you on the cards; they pissed me off more than spurred me on. But at least they got me thinking. And while I respect your and Myndrover’s advice, I don’t know how to turn the thoughts off. I’m the kind of person who needs to just ride them out, torturous as they are, until I do make it over the hump. Then I can send my bad thoughts the cognitive finger from the other side.

      Thanks for all the well-wishes. I wish you the same, and I promise, if I learn the secret magic trick to getting through this without continuously hitting the struggle button, I’ll let you know. In times like these, I hold tight to the one military mantra I can stand: Embrace the suck.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. BunKaryudo says:

    Good luck with this. Almost everybody else in my entire family was a smoker, so I’ve seen close up how difficult it can be to kick the habit. I’ve also seen many of them succeed, though, including my mother. She was a heavy smoker for decades, so it can definitely be done. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. corriewright2013 says:

    Congratulations and I wish you the best. Though it maybe a struggle you are a strong person and I know you will beat this. You have stated all of the reasons and the biggest reason is Lily. You have to take of you in order to take care of Lily. I will pray for strength for you and I am wishing you well. God Bless you in this endeavor.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. bitsfromheaven says:

    Can I just say how much an hourly play by play would wreak havoc on my anxious mind! What were you thinking!?! (Perhaps if LJ reads this she will never touch that which society views as dirty…as *I* hide in a dark kitchen and puff away frantically while hanging out my window.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. dearlilyjune says:

      Oh, I used to smoke every hour on the hour anyway, so I was already thinking about it that frequently (and WAY MORE if I’m honest). Even now, I hate to say it, but I’m having a really tired and anxious day, which means I want a cigarette more than anything in this world. I’m trying really hard to keep myself from going outside to bum one from a college student…

      Liked by 1 person

      1. bitsfromheaven says:

        It’s all good. Really. The only reason I don’t smoke…except in extreme moments of whatever is that I have kids. If not for them I’d use one cig to light the other allllllll daaaay loooong!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. bitsfromheaven says:

        Oh you too Hun? I guess it’s a good thing the three of us don’t live close to eachother! Can you imagine the text frenzy if one were to have a pack and the other two were having one of ‘those’ days?!? It’d be somethin’!

        Liked by 1 person

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