GreenishLady

Originally Blogging the Artist's Way. Thoughts, musings, experience of the 12-week course, January to March 2006. And after that?.... Life, creativity, writing. Where does it all meet? Here, perhaps.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Quitting

March 24th, 2000, I quit. It was a long time coming, but even in the moment of quitting, the moment when I stubbed out my last cigarette, I couldn't know, couldn't be sure and certain, that that was the last one ever. I'd had failed attempts to quit in the past (longest was 3 weeks - acupuncture; another time I lasted 10 days on nicotine gum). When it came to the quitting that actually held, I did it very calmly, with no great big lead-up, no big preparations, no announcements that I was going to quit (the previous ones had come back to haunt me with recriminations from my son and my husband when I'd gone back to the cigarettes again, so this time, I approached it very quietly). One thing I did do was to quietly let my herbalist friend know that if his offer to fix me a little bottle of something to get me over the cravings was still good, that would be very welcome. He did fix me a bottle of foul-tasting stuff, and a few times a day, I mixed a spoonful with warm water and downed it with a grimace, but it helped, so I stuck with it, just for a couple of weeks.

It actually took about 3 months for me to start to feel human again. It's really hard to describe what I felt like during those months. Not quite here on planet earth most of the time. Like every cell in my body was vibrating and calling out for nicotine (literally, the tips of my fingers, the skin on my face - sensitive in a way I've never experienced before or since - ugh!) I came to believe what I was feeling was the regeneration of nerves. Possible.

I felt lonely. I longed, longed for my old friend, my comforter, my pal, my cigarettes. I didn't know what to do with myself; didn't know how to sit and relax, didn't know how I could read a book, watch a TV programme, make a phone-call, write a letter, have a cup of coffee without a cigarette. In fact, so strong was the association in my mind between coffee and cigarettes, I had to quit coffee too. Decaff wasn't an option, as the flavour of coffee set off the craving for a cigarette to go along with it.

Eight years. I say I'm "eight years clean". That's what it feels like. My house is a smoke-free zone now. Oh, but I still love to catch a whiff of a just-lit cigarette. (Aaah - that heavenly smell!) There are times that I know I could be vulnerable to temptation: on holidays, especially, or if I find myself among a couple of smokers who are really enjoying a smoke (though - watch - how often are they even really conscious of what they are doing?) But the other smells. Stale smoke. Smoke on someone's breath. No. I'm glad I'm "clean" of that.

I smoked for 28 years. Cigarettes were my constant companion. They were with me through all my teen years, all my adult life. I'm ashamed to say they were with me during my pregnancy and in my son's early years. The moment when I realised I had to quit was one that could have come sooner. But I don't see any point in castigating myself for that. I've quit now and that's what counts. I finally decided I had to break the hold "the fags" had on me when a friend was enquiring into the degree of my addiction, and I admitted I couldn't go to bed at night if I didn't have at least 2 cigarettes ina box. I knew I wouldn't sleep for fear that I'd wake in the night and need a cigarette. I had gone out to shops at 2 a.m. to buy cigarettes. I had to have them. I admitted that if I had to, I probably would steal for them. I didn't think I'd kill for them, but I knew that I would steal. That was the moment I knew I had to, I just had to, quit.
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For Other Sunday Scribblings on Quitting, go HERE

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25 Comments:

At 25/5/08 1:02 am, Blogger Granny Smith said...

Congratulations! You've overcome a formidable obstacle. What's more, you have written about it in vivid words that take us with you as you persist through every discomfort.

 
At 25/5/08 1:03 am, Blogger Alexander M Zoltai said...

Awesome description of the early stages of your body's recovery from the poisoning of cigarettes!

I'm a year and a half into my non-smoker identity. I'd smoked for 40 years!

Coffee is next to go.........

~ Alex

 
At 25/5/08 1:56 am, Blogger anno said...

Eight years! That's fantastic! And your story of re-birth and regeneration was amazing... constricted my breathing and made my skin twitch a bit. A hard story, but fascinating reading.

 
At 25/5/08 3:17 am, Blogger CHEFDRUCK said...

Congratulations. What an achievement. I was just trying to explain to my children why people smoke and I found that I couldn't explain it. Your piece was so vivid - it really helped to illustrate it for me. Thank you.

 
At 25/5/08 3:37 am, Blogger Lucy said...

Wow! 8 years? that's fantastic!
I love how you honestly shared your struggle and addiction. I would love to know what the nasty concoction was. (trying to help my husband quit)
Just think of all the years you've added to your life not to mention the money saved too!

 
At 25/5/08 3:37 am, Anonymous robin bird said...

that is a powerful post imelda. it captures the experience that i think most smokers have but maybe don't admit to in such graphic terms. i quit over 25 years ago your description is very apt to my on style of smoking. i also quit many times and am really, really glad i stopped. i didn't want to die young and i was afraid. thanks for sharing this. happy, happy day for you!! a brave soul :)

 
At 25/5/08 4:25 am, Blogger latree said...

that was a huge acomplishment. congratulations. I'm glad I never started, so I don't have to deal with a struggle for quitting...

 
At 25/5/08 12:31 pm, Blogger Caroline said...

Wow what an amazingly good description of what its like - I've never been a smoker but I have given things up (and sometimes failed...) however the only thing that comes close for me was getting over a prescription medicine and I too had a herbalists help!

 
At 25/5/08 12:32 pm, Blogger Robin said...

Oh how this resonated with me. Coming up on nine years here (next week!) and I still self-identify in my heart of hearts as a smoker. I finally quit after 17 years with the help of a hypnotist (who was also a board-certified cardiologist with a lovely prescription for happy pills to get me through the first few days). The only, and I mean the ONLY, thing that's kept me away this long is his insistence that I recognize that cigarettes for me are like a drink to an alcoholic. Just one drag and within a week I'll be back to a pack a day. I'm still tempted, even after all these years, but thankfully I'm too afraid to follow through.

 
At 25/5/08 5:26 pm, Blogger anthonynorth said...

That's one thing I've never been able to quit. Maybe one day ...

 
At 25/5/08 6:13 pm, Blogger Patois said...

Congratulations. You've described the addiction perfectly.

 
At 25/5/08 10:29 pm, Anonymous missalister said...

I’ve not read a more detailed, genuine report of what it’s like to work one’s way away from nicotine addiction—the cells screaming, the nerves raw in regenerating—and I enjoyed it all the way through as I do all your pieces.
I managed to fend off the whole smoking thing. Of course I had to smoke to be cool in high school and I carried the habit into the very beginning of my 20s but then I thought, “This is gross,” and what did it for me was to really study people who smoked—some, their cheeks would about touch together inside their mouths from dragging in so hard, others would look cool smoking then something would catch in their lungs and send them off on an endless wheezing fit!
Ewww, glad you’re free of it now!

 
At 26/5/08 12:11 am, Blogger Ratchet said...

The longest I've been able to quit so far is 10 days. I hope I get up to your level! Congrats on quitting, and on making a great post about it!

 
At 26/5/08 1:51 am, Blogger Tammie Lee said...

Imelda,
Your tale is full of the real challenge of cigarette addiction and quiting. I am so happy for you. Plus the piece you wrote drew me in (deeply) to your tale.

 
At 26/5/08 2:59 am, Anonymous dannu said...

i quit once for 10 years --- every time i went to the hairdresser i just wanted to climb right into the lap of the person in the next chair and enjoy that smoke right along with them - never went a day in that 10 years without wanting to smoke --- had a pity party for myself one day, gagged and forced my way through the first two, am still a smoker - stupidest thing i ever did was begin again - juat can't seem to get back to what made me quit the first time - 10 times more difficult now - kudos to you and stick with it!!!!!

 
At 26/5/08 3:26 am, Blogger Patry Francis said...

My husband quit YESTERDAY. I"m going to email him your post. Thank you!

 
At 26/5/08 4:06 am, Anonymous Amarettogirl said...

What a fascinating way to write out such a tremendous accomplishment...the concoction is also really interesting and reminds me of the 3ww prompt I responded to this week with a story i called The Elixir...wow such eerie coincedences!! great post!

http://amarettogirl.squarespace.com/the-written-word/

 
At 26/5/08 5:22 am, Anonymous MsShad said...

Good job! My mom quit too after 30 years of smoking.

 
At 26/5/08 7:54 am, Blogger Beatriz' suitcase contents said...

Great write and worth of pride. It is not easy to quit, but it feels so good! Congratulations.

 
At 26/5/08 9:42 am, Blogger linda may said...

G'Day,
Thanks for dropping by. I never took up the habit. My parents smoking turned me off it. You did a great job of describing the effects. Congratulations on beating your smoking habit.Keep it up.

 
At 27/5/08 12:30 pm, Anonymous REDNESS said...

In the end isn't it just the hardest thing yet the most satisfying accomplishment. Well done, 15 years for me, I only ever missed the hand to mouth action, you're fantastic!

 
At 27/5/08 2:14 pm, Blogger Karen said...

This is really an excellent post, Imelda--so honest and true. Someone close to me had an addiction problem and gave up first alcohol, and then five years later, cigarettes. He said that quitting cigarettes was much, MUCH harder than quitting drinking.

 
At 27/5/08 10:36 pm, Blogger Tammy said...

I've been there and you expressed it perfectly. Congratulations!

 
At 28/5/08 3:25 pm, Anonymous shammi said...

Very interesting post... and definitely one of those wonderful times when quitting is winning! :) Good on you!

 
At 28/5/08 7:51 pm, Blogger Terri said...

i so related to this. if you read my latest post you know that i started smoking when i was in first grade, and it's been something i struggled with my whole life. i'm so happy that you've managed to stay clean all this time. but i know what you mean about the vulnerability. i'm always drawn in that direction to one degree or another.

 

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