I am going to quit smoking today, I’ve decided
Well, really- I’m going to try. But I like to be careful even in how I phrase things in my own head- and if I tell myself I’m going to try
I will fail
Just knowing myself
I will justify not doing it, yet
Somehow, my TBF will find a way to wiggle out of doing it
I have determined that the utility I gain out of smoking
In terms of the focus, stress relief, etc
Has begun to be overwhelmed by the costs
The immediate costs
Not the long term ones
It is becoming too much of a hassle, too much of a distraction
and this is a situation that I have engineered to come about
I detailed some of that in my earlier guide to sobriety posts
There are a couple key factors that go into this process
One: increasing the immediate costs
I do this via a number of methods- buy one pack at a time, when I feel like I am at a point where I can smoke a pack a day, or less
If I cannot, if that gets too stressful- I buy multiple packs at a time, or a carton
Adding stress to my life is inherently counter productive to the goals of quitting smoking, quitting drugs
Stress only increases my dependency on such things
For a while, I was buying cheaper cigarettes, and considered continuing to do, but decided against it- I kept smoking the kind I preferred, despite the added expense, to add to the financial cost of each pack
And buying one at a time- that means going to the store, every day.
That means time, and gas, and annoyance.
But, I tell myself- if I’m going to allow myself to continue using such things as a crutch, even if only temporarily- I am not going to make it easy for myself.
Two: weaning off my brain
These topics are intermingled, in many ways.
Adding to the immediate costs (in time, financial resources, etc) is perhaps better described as a component of weaning my brain off.
Perhaps I will edit the blog post to reflect this- though I am growing fond of choosing to write new thoughts down the line, instead of editing old ones.
I wean off my brain by doing things like paying attention to the sorts of fleeting thoughts that I have
That go something like: “I don’t really want this whole cigarette”
and then I put it out
No matter what ‘but’ my brain follows that with:
“but, there’s only a few drags left”
“but, I don’t have an ashtray in the car”
Tough cookie, Brookie.
Figure that shit out!
(Yeah. I talk to myself. I usually do it silently, but not always!)
This, I believe, helps reduce the cravings and the intensity of the cravings, over time
I try to really consider, in the moment before I step outside to have a cigarette- whether it actually sounds good, or not
Usually, it does.
But, every so often- I’ll realize I have a headache, and that I just had a cigarette five minutes ago, and therefore it’s more likely stress that is causing me to reach out for relief
And those times, I will not go smoke
I try to smoke when I feel like it, but only then.
I try to smoke as much of a cigarette as I feel like having- but no more.
And because, in my brain, at least- these are stress reduction habits that I have become habituated to- if I am aware of and follow through on my actual desires to smoke cigarettes
They are lessened, over time
But weaning my brain off is only part of the equation
The other one has to do with opportunity
I don’t usually make such drastic changes in my life, unless I almost…..have to
Heroin- my dealer stopped answering my calls. That was a bit of a strange one, a confusing process- I had long stopped really wanting the feeling it gave me (I used heroin nearly constantly for….a decade? Ish?)
I was primarily avoiding the withdrawal, on a conscious level
Subconsciously, I could not look in the face of the storms within my soul
At the time my dealer stopped answering my calls
Everything in my life had….. imploded
I was living in my car, with excruciating sciatic pain that had left me unable to work, unable to walk- for months
Had distanced myself from friends, from family
My tire fell off my car
And so, desperate and no longer caring about anything, really – I befriended a homeless guy at the park down the street from where my car was sitting on a jack
Fight so hard to stay alive
Even when it hurts
Even when we see no reason to keep going
We yet take another breath, another step
This is turning, I’ve realized, into a much longer piece than I was originally intending to write.
But I’m going to continue along this path, I’ve decided- in case it is of benefit for anyone reading this, to understand a little of how I began to learn about how to wean my brain off of things- long before I would ever put those kinds of words to the process.
So, out of some deeply rooted survival instincts, I made friends with people I thought could teach me about how to survive, living on the street
On The Street
Nearly everyone uses crystal meth
For a number of reasons.
It is cold at night, with no shelter. Meth at least makes you feel warmer, even if it does not actually raise your body temperature.
It is scary at night, particularly for women.
I did not like to sleep at night, alone, on the street.
(Nights are the realm of The Street, for there are fewer Eyes. Fewer witnesses- of crimes, and of the shame of who we’ve become.)
Meth is cheap- and it gives people something to feel that is not the horror of what their lives have become.
So, I started using crystal
A day or two after the last time I used heroin
I was still feeling the symptoms of withdrawal, then
(for accuracy’s sake- I should point out that I was not actually using heroin anymore at the time I quit opiates- I was mainlining fentanyl)
Then I met someone
Someone I thought I had more in common with than anyone I’d ever met- on the street, or off
Music, obscure medical/historical/serial killer stories
It was exhilarating
It brought my soul back to life
and the withdrawal
I had found something that I cared about more than I cared about getting more fentanyl, and when I stopped needing it – so too did I stop feeling physically sick from withdrawal.
Which I’ll talk about at a later point in time
But I believe that because I inaccurately associated that fire I felt within me- with that one person
When he left, I plummeted back into the dark
Things got much worse, from there
Much, much worse
And at my lowest
Which came after so many points that I thought were rock bottom
But were merely ledges, struck on my descent
At the true rock bottom of that fall, I met someone else
Someone who seemed, upon first glance, to have everything I did not
Who seemed to have everything together
But he was hurting
And I realized I was being selfish
And that I might be able to help him, but not if I was wallowing in self-pity
There’s a lot more that went into all of these events, of course
But, after one particular day with that friend , a day on which I learned that here was someone who needed me to be strong more than I needed his strength
After that day, I began learning how to have more control over my own brain
My own actions
And, now- I am going to use that knowledge
to do it on purpose
Each of the times I’ve successfully dropped a an addiction like that- there’s been a catalyst
Something happening to force me to stop, at the right time for me to be ready to stay stopped
So, if I want to be the master of my own brain, my own choices, habits, and life- I need to make that catalyst happen, myself
In the Not Smoking Project- that has manifested as not buying a new pack, if I run out towards the evening- I almost always changed my mind and went to go buy one.
But I gave myself the chance, the opportunity to make use of those moments, as a catalyst
And the more I did that, the more I simultaneously reinforced the ‘feel good about not smoking’ and the ‘feel bad about smoking’ pathways, in my brain
Is the key
That’s how we learn, how we change our brains
But we have to be conscious about what is being reinforced, in any given moment!
Those catalyst opportunities I gave myself, they were not enough to get the job done.
I have been smoking around the same amount for a while now, after an initial reduction in the number of cigarettes per day
So that, too- was insufficient, on its own
And so now, I am trying Something New
I just got back from court in LA, and I am dead broke.
I also have a lot of editing to do on the website, even on the small number of posts I’ve transcribed thus far.
And today, I realized just how inefficient smoking is making me- in terms of productivity.
I keep hesitating on my work, here in the blog. Feeling like I ought to be working, to get money, to buy cigarettes- to stay focused on writing!
And that’s just silly!
It’s time to cut out the middle man, time to be honest with myself about the why of the what, here.
I do the kind of work where people give me money in exchange- most effectively, when I am also feeling satisfied that I am being consistently productive in working on the blog
So it would make sense to me, if I will be more productive in all areas of my life, if I take out smoking and all the inherent problems with it
Problems which I instituted, myself- deliberately.
And now, I have before me another potential catalyst
That of being broke.
I could go work for long enough to buy more…
Or, I could do what I really want to do- which is stay home for a couple of days, to keep temptation out of reach.
(But mostly to work on the website- that is the thing I am giving myself to focus on, that I care about more than I care about smoking)
And I am choosing to publicly announce my plan
In order to give myself greater motivation to succeed
Because now, everyone will know if I fail
So I cannot allow myself to
But even this action, that of publicizing this process, serves a dual purpose- I’ve been struggling to catch attention with what I’ve been writing
If I can pull it off
This will catch attention.
Put weight behind my words, behind my ideas.
Make them real.
I will continue to write about this process – and the success or failure of it, as I go along!
But if it means you might take me seriously – I will not fail.