Thursday, December 06, 2007

Feeling icky

Okay, I’m So Hot Thursday huh?

Up a pound and a half today, 148.5. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Last night, I had a smooch of a breakdown. Just a little smooch of one.

All that ranting and anger from yesterday doesn’t just melt away into thin air, its got to get out somehow, and after the company party, where no book was received, a drink or two was consumed and a cold walk with the dog, the tears started to fall.

You know those times when you know all you need to do is just…cry a little? This was one.

Going into this fourth week of not smoking is by far the hardest. Again, not in terms of “cravings”, yeesh, I wish I had cravings. My addiction with cigarettes has nothing to do with cravings. This whole time, advice like “Keep your hands busy!” and “Eat peppermints to keep your mouth busy!” all have nothing to do with me. It’s not that kind of addiction for me. It just isn’t. Eating a peppermint to keep my smoking addiction at bay is like eating a beet when you want a Snickers.

They say that stopping smoking is as hard as quitting heroin right? I suppose in some far off way this is true, maybe the rate of relapse or something? I definitely don’t feel that way; quitting smoking cannot be as hard as quitting heroin, maybe in theory, but not in reality. BUT, like true drug addicts, smokers have chemically screwed up their natural reward system in their brain:

“Smoking causes an increase in the dopamine levels. The actual mechanism is debated, but MRI studies confirm the increase occurs. As you continue to smoke, the dopamine levels remain high and the brain starts shutting down some of the reward centers in an attempt to return to normal. This causes the smoker to require more, which raises the dopamine levels, which causes the brain to shut down even more reward centers. A balance is eventually reached, typically at the point of a pack per day.”

So essentially, it’s not just about quitting nicotine, but literally retraining your brain how to reward yourself (without using food, ahem). We have to rebuild our brains just like other drug addicts do, yet…where is my group therapy? Why can’t I go away for a month and detox? It’s just not like that for us, nor should it be. I guess what I’m trying to say is, quitting smoking is turning out to affect so much more in my life than just some cleaning out of my gums.

I’m forging new relationships with things, and even people. Will the feeling that I don’t want to hang out with my smoking friends go away? Will my relationship with alcohol continue to change? Will my relationship with all of the annoyances of my body keep changing?

I feel…so…wrecked. Don’t get me wrong, I still love not smoking (someone last night at the party told me how warm my hands were, hee), I love not feeling endlessly guilty by my actions, and I’m trying to handle this whole “quit” with ease and grace. Well finally, last night, this week…I just can’t. My god do I know with every bone in my body that these things I’m feeling, almost subconsciously, would not even come close to feeling better if I smoked. But that doesn’t change the fact that I feel mentally…pained.

Quitting smoking doesn’t just change “what I do with my hands”; it changes…well…everything. It’s changing who I hang out with, where I go, how I get there, what I do with my free time, how I feel about myself (sometimes proud, sometimes horrified), how I feel about other people, how I handle stress, how I reward myself for a job well done, how I work, how I write…

No, it’s not the same as quitting heroin, but that is not to say that it’s easier either.

Luckily, as Rachelle guessed in the comments, I have an amazing support system living with me. John sat with me last night and let me ramble, but stopped me with kind words when I needed them. He validated all the things I was feeling and inserted encouraging words in between. His understanding and support of me is unwavering. I have not been fun to be with this week, and I know when John says that this is all part of the battle -- that coming out the other side of this is the payoff – I know he’s speaking the truth, and that sometimes I just need to hear it.

Also, and this may sound stupid, but sometimes, books come along at just the right time. Right now I’m reading another one of my Pulitzers called “The Edge of Sadness” by Edwin O’Connor. I’m about a third of the way through this most amazing book. The protagonist is a priest who so far, is so gentle, that I believe I am actually comforted by him. There have been allusions to some sins of his in his past, his own addictions that he had to battle. People keep asking him if he’s “okay”, if this day went by “alright”. I can relate to my gentle priest and look forward to living in his world 40 minutes a day rather than my own.

And one more thing that comforts me? This little fellow does….without even trying.


wafelenbak said...

Hang in there, Hixx. What you are doing is incredibly difficult, and yes, you were most likely due for a cry/breakdown/whatever. This time of year certainly does not help any difficulties any of us are already dealing with!!
You are doing a great job, and I am glad you have such a good support system right there in your very home. :)

Anonymous said...

What a cute doggie. What kind is she?

smussyolay said...

he's a he! and he's such a snoutero! what a great pic!

hixx, you are really going through the shit. but there ARE support groups for quitting the smokes. look some up online, i'm sure they are out there.

and that's the thing about addiction ... it's way beyond the physical "allergy" or whatever. it's the obsession of the mind that is the effin' problem. if it were just about the physical withdrawl, no one would have a problem. go to detox, get the shit out of your system, and boom. all good. it's the reasons WHY we do whatever thing we do that are the kicker.

it's good to keep talking about it, and even better to find people who are going through what you're going through and doing what you're doing. it's a large part of why anon groups work ... support of people who are doing the same thing. there's also that higher power part, but sometimes the universe just shows up loud and clear in someone who gets it/is there/has been there.

taking deep breaths helps ... the exhaling can simulate the exhaling we did when we smoked, and the extra oxygen helps in a million ways.

Our Man In Chicago said...

Aw, Hixx. I won't pretend to know how hard it is to go through quitting smoking. But anytime I see people pushing themselves as hard as you are, I am inspired. Tu eres muy inspirado!

rachelleb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hixx said...

I cannot tell all you guys how awesome you all are. Sincerely, sometimes I feel so whiny and you guys just make me feel so much better with all your support!

Really, I'm not just blowing

kristen said...

i don't smoke. wanna hang out some time? i want to meet your doggie!

also, i think you're awesome and i'm proud of you for quitting!

elisabeth said...

hang in there! dealing with addiction sucks, sucks, sucks, and then one day (i hope soon for you) it won't suck as much. you're doing so great, and thank you for blogging about it, 'cause it makes for a fascinating read. high five, hixx!!!

i just got my field of dreams pictures developed and will write about it soon... although some parts of the trip are between me, ralph, and the field.