Arts My Smobriety: Three Months Out
It was three months ago yesterday that I quit smoking. I decided to write about the experience on the Slog, thinking it would be a nonstop thrill ride of pain, torment, and failure, and therefore sure to entertain the Shouldn’t-You-Be-Working Masses. Instead, the thing that I learned was that quitting smoking is a pretty dull experience, and that it’s been so easy that I felt vaguely tricked by all the non-smoking literature that I’ve read.
Two months have passed since my last entry, and…well…not much has changed, really. Even in my duties as Party Crasher, spending time drinking amongst smokers, I haven’t had a single moment where I considered smoking. I did gain about ten or fifteen pounds in the second month—yesterday, I was sitting in a bar with a friend of mine and I suddenly blurted: “I feel like a sausage!”
Come to think of it, the three months since quitting have been the least healthy months of my life…
I've had three colds since January, one of them so nasty that I spent three days in a sleeping-pill-induced haze, a kind of effort to hit the fast-forward button on my life.
I have allergies again, something that I haven't had since I was an eighteen-year-old kid in Maine, over a decade ago.
I still have a few dreams a week where I light a cigarette and then I look down and realize that I've smoked and I think, "Jesus Fucking Christ! Now I have to quit all over again!"
I weigh more than I have at any point in my life since I was an eighteen-year-old non-smoker. Back then--I used to eat two suppers a day: one at home and one at East Side Mario's, which sounds like a punchline to a "Yo mama's so fat..." joke, only lame--I was almost two hundred and fifty pounds. I'm at about one-eighty-five now, which is probably twenty pounds too much.
I never had a problem with lack of breath while I smoked, and now, probably because of the weight, I do.
For a little bit there, in mid-March, I realized that I was blaming these problems on the fact that I wasn't smoking. Not to get too self-help-y or anything, but I did have to make a conscious effort to remember that, if I didn't smoke, I wouldn't have these health problems to begin with.
So the question is: what to do about these various health problems? Well, there's not much to be done about the immune system stuff--I don't have the toxic cigarette smoke around to kill the viruses, and my throat and lungs are now kind of a festering, open-sore petri dish, just waiting to get infected while they heal. I've just started exercising again, which, hopefully, will deal with the weight. I'm not really looking forward to writing a series on the Slog called My Long Road Home From Obesity.
By and by, I'll start to feel better, and, hopefully by this time next year, I'll feel better than I did a year ago, which isn't supposed to happen in your late-twenties, early thirties.
To those who would like to quit: I cannot recommend this book enough (although you should buy it at your local independent bookstore, not at Amazon. And no, Barnes & Noble is not independent, no matter how much you make that cute pouty-face.)
To those who have tried the book and found that it didn't work for them: I'm obviously not an expert, I can only offer advice, and my advice is as follows: You need to really think about why you want to quit smoking, and you need to think about your smoking habits as much as you can, as observationally as you can. Consider yourself anthropologically. You have to acknowlege that the pangs you're feeling are an addiction, not a craving, and that you are, in fact, an addict. Set a date at least a month away and spend the month getting to be okay with the fact that you're going to smoke your last cigarette on that date. Try to get a friend in on the experience, or at the very least, tell all your friends that you're quitting on that date. Realize that, while quitting can be an easy experience, it's never what you'd call a sexy experience, and the payoff doesn't come immediately, or even within a few weeks. You can worry about the weight later. Seriously.
Both the friends who I quit with, "Tim" and "Dick" have had similar experiences with quitting, except "Tim" seems to have gained no weight and "Dick" gained a little more weight. But neither has fallen off the wagon, or even, really, considered it. Which has made all our asshole friends who secretly started betting on who would bitch out first really sad.
Three months out, I can say that it's not been pretty. But I can say that it's been tremendously rewarding to know that I can actually identify and arrest an addiction in myself. Stupidity in human beings can arguably be defined as the oblivious repetition of patterns that are detrimental to oneself, and the very least that I can say now is that I'm maybe five percent less stupid than I was at the beginning of the year. Which means that now I have the karmic leeway to start developing that gambling addiction that I've always wanted.