Thursday, August 13, 2009

Pam's birthday (What's a "quit buddy?")

One way to explain the depths of depression and anxiety I lived with might be this: At least two doctors, over the years, discouraged me from quitting smoking. I was too anxious to be successful and they didn't think I needed the added pressure of failure!

I started smoking at 18, and continued for 25 years - at some point I counted 17 attempts at quitting, and then I stopped counting. Every time I'd make it to about six weeks, and start again.

About five years after I started taking lithium, I started toying with the idea of quitting. I did a little websurfing on the subject, and found an on-line support site. I signed up for it, thinking I could slowly talk myself into quitting - maybe over the next six months or so. I also found a reference to a rather cheesy-sounding book, Alan Carr's "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking."

I bought the book and began reading it one Saturday. I kept reading and smoking, reading and smoking, reading, reading...and I suddenly realized I had quit. Carr had convinced me that all my reasons for continuing to smoke were lies. By the end of the book I realized I was also furious with the tobacco companies who had kept me prisoner - a fury that helped me tremendously in the coming weeks.

I was smart enough, after 17 attempts, to know that help would be a good idea, so I went back to the web site and started listening and posting. No matter what time of day I was tempted to smoke, someone was online who would commiserate and console - and help me resist. It was a tremendous tool.

One of the informal tricks at that site was the pairing up of people who were quitting at about the same time. Pam quit about a month before I did, but we ended up as "quit buddies" anyway. We are not at all alike; Pam is outgoing and bubbly; hearing her laughter - which is nearly continuous - always makes me smile.

Pam is one friend I met through quitting smoking. There are others from that site who, like Pam, became real friends, with shared interests beyond tobacco. On the very rare occasions when I'm tempted to smoke again, I talk myself out of it because, really, how could I ever admit it to them? They are friends, they care about me, I couldn't possibly let them down.

For those who are considering quitting smoking but aren't quite there yet, the money and the improved health are only part of it. Here are a few other reasons to stop - reasons only a smoker would understand:
  • I used to know every convenience store on my route to anywhere. I'm rarely in a convenience store any more; there's no need, unless I'm on a road trip and I get hungry.
  • I no longer have to check whether I have lighter and cigarettes before leaving home, or whether I have enough cigarettes, and if not, do I have any cash and is there a place on the way to wherever I'm going.
  • I no longer have to search for a place to smoke at a party or other social event.
  • I no longer dread long plane flights or church services (okay, I do, but for other reasons!)
  • I no longer dig through my trash cans for long ends at 2AM
  • I no longer freak out \ when I develop a deep cough with a cold, or an odd bump on my tongue
  • I have an extra 20-40 minutes of every day that I used to spend smoking.
  • I don't owe anything - not my time, not my life, not my money, not my anything - to the bastard tobacco companies who sell poison for no other reason than that they can make money doing it.
One of the things I learned from Carr was this: That great feeling that comes when you [i]finally[/i] get a cigarette? It's not the nicotine making you feel good. It's the nicotine relieving the pain of withdrawal from your last cigarette. If you didn't smoke, you wouldn't need the relief from withdrawal and you'd pretty much feel good all the time because you wouldn't be "jonesing" in the first place.

The book doesn't work for everyone, but it's Alan Carr's "The Easy Way to Quit Smoking." And the website (which, when I was there, was nonprofit; it probably still is, but I'm not sure) is the Stop Smoking Center .

If you have tried to quit and failed, you are, as I was, a prisoner of tobacco. You can free yourself; they only want you to believe you can't. Quitting smoking was perhaps the most terrific gift I ever gave myself. I strongly encourage you to do so, if only for the sheer joy and freedom of it.

And for my quit buddy Pam - thank you for your help, both in quitting smoking and on that terrific shopping spree. I'm so glad you're in my life - happy birthday!

No comments:

Post a Comment