the Not Smoking Project

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

consciously.

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.

Anyway!

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

Slowly

Gradually

But tangibly

 

 

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

violently

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

And then

right then

My tire fell off my car
(long story!)

 

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

 

We humans

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

We talked

About life

And philosophy

Music, obscure medical/historical/serial killer stories

human nature

It was exhilarating

 

 

It brought my soul back to life

and the withdrawal

went away

 

Just, gone

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.

Things happened

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

So….I stopped

 

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

Repetition

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

Something else

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

But this?

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.

brooke

I spent three years living on the street in Los Angeles. I came out of that, changed. This is my story.

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