It’s starting to look like I really have quit cigarettes successfully

Weird… I was about to write that I resisted mentioning this because my track record for quitting cigarettes is not great, but silly me forgot I mentioned it already.

Anyway, an update… Tonight at around 10PM will be exactly five days since I quit smoking. At this point, with each passing day it becomes increasingly unlikely that I will fail. The cravings peaked at around three days, and then started dropping off. In fact, at this point I only crave when I think about it. Which means I’m forcing myself to crave a little while writing this, but that’s OK.

Oddly, I found quitting cigarettes far more difficult than quitting meth, at least in the first couple of days, but then this has been a particularly difficult time. My mother died, and even though she died of complications trying to treat lung disease (most likely caused by smoking), my cigarette addiction did still give me comfort. It’s just Josh and I at home, and anything to help with the grief is useful, so in that sense, it made resisting the cigarette cravings difficult. Contrast this to when I quit meth five years ago – I’d done so when Megan moved back with a three month old baby daughter, Aishah. I quit exactly the same way then, on a Thursday night; but using meth over that weekend would have been completely impractical. I shared the room with Megan and the baby, and my mother slept in the next room. Thus I not only had motivation, but had company and this made resisting the cravings easy.

Unlike those days, these when I quit smoking have involved more stress and more time alone. Starting tomorrow, Josh will spend three days with my brother, making it slightly more difficult, I imagine, since I’ll be alone. The other relevant detail, I think, when it comes to quitting smoking, is that there isn’t that sense of it being an immediate achievement. Quitting a hard drug like meth is notable; after quitting one is immediately noticeably different due to not being high all the time. Cigarettes cause many different kinds of cancers, but quitting smoking is a long term reduction of risk. The immediate benefit is not obvious, and so it doesn’t feel like as significant an achievement.

The other difficulty with quitting smoking is that immediately after quitting, I have lots more time. I’m used to going for several smoke breaks at work, and at home. Suddenly those breaks aren’t happening any more and that takes adjustment. It’s worse after each meal, and at certain times of the day at home when I had regular cigarette breaks for years… like last thing before going to bed and first thing waking up.

Anyway, it is starting to look like I might just have finally quit the cigarettes for good. It still leaves me sad… I can hear my mother saying, “I’ll never smoke again”, but it was too late. I was much older than her when I had my one and only child. In order to be there for him, I need to try and get healthy and try to live to around 80. That might be possible, but is probably not, and especially not if I continue smoking.

To end with two positive notes… I hope this can encourage others. I’ve smoked for years and didn’t really think I could quit. Now it looks like maybe I can, after all. And if I can, so can you. Also, there is another point to this: I have always maintained that I don’t know exactly how I managed to quit meth successfully. But come to think of it, I do know and I am using the same technique to quit cigarettes. If this works, and I think it will, I do have a formula after all – one that I can use to advise others and that I have reproduced myself.

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I’m in Limbo

Last night in my nightmares, I couldn’t breathe properly. I shifted awkwardly between asleep and awake, laying thinking of one memory in particular that haunts me – my mother on that Tuesday night before I dropped her at the hospital on Wednesday morning; my mother sitting at the dining room table after walking from her bedroom to the lounge, just a few meters being enough to leave her out of breath, sitting there panting with her head in her hands. I laid there thinking that, and then shifting back to sleep where I dreamed that I was the one struggling to breathe. Then I woke confused, uncertain if this was a dream or if I really did struggle.

I’ve started wondering if this was really a sensible time to quit cigarettes. My last smoke was quite late on Thursday night, but the craving has been quite intense since then. But it’s not just craving – I’m angry. This anger flares up in response to tiny things that should be insignificant. I don’t remember ever craving meth like this, but I am craving a cigarette. The part of me that wants it begs and pleads, insisting that all I need is one; that I can bum from my neighbour, Mervin downstairs, who normally bums from me. But no! I shut those thoughts down each time, by playing back that mental image of my mother, sitting there with her head in her hands as she struggled to breathe. I hear her voice, as she called me on her last day, a week ago yesterday, to tell me that they would try to drain the fluid from her lung using a needle. I thought I’d see her later that day. They were supposed to help her, not suddenly kill her! That’s why I’m still in shock. And I think of how she died not two hours later, but also that she might have lived much longer if she’d quit smoking sooner. I need to quit and not give in to any cravings, so that I can live longer, for my son.

So I have motivation, but it’s hurting. The more I think about it, the more it hurts.The grief and sense of loss is otherwise not as bad as it was a week ago. It’s still bad, but it’s OK. But the not smoking thing is really fucking me up. Even my sense of the passing of time is different without nicotine. I don’t know how that can be, but some annoying tasks, such as pulling off from a traffic light… seem to take much longer now. The waiting for the lights to change from red to green… seems much longer than it needs to be. I used to take a lot of smoke breaks as well, sometimes before and after doing just about every little thing. Now I have all this extra time and no clue what to do with it.

I quit smoking, and some clarification on why I don’t debate theists (again)

Two unrelated subjects today, but both were on my mind as I tried, in vain, to fall asleep last night.

I’m done with smoking cigarettes

I’ve tried half-heartedly to quit before, but was always quick to give up. In fact, I’ve often wondered how it could be that I gave up meth easily more than five years ago, but cigarettes were the one addiction I held onto.

But I think I have an answer: Just like five years ago, when I had motivation, I have motivation now. It’s a week ago that my mother died of complications trying to treat lung disease, most likely cancer caused by smoking. So just like when I quit meth, I am quitting cigarettes “cold turkey”. No pills or cigarette alternatives, no 12 step program – not that they do that for smoking cessation, but I am comparing this to quitting meth… No “just for today” nonsense because this is for life.

I hope this gets easier because I am craving a cigarette right now. But that’s OK; I craved meth for a day or two as well (after quitting at the end of a week), and then it got easy the next week.

Why I’m not going to debate you; the theist who attempted to initiate a debate yesterday

I’m not going to write who it was or quote fully. Long term readers might be able to figure it out, but that doesn’t matter because it absolutely does not apply to that one person only.

First of all, I do not get “defensive when criticized”. It’s avoidance. When you try to push me into a debate, I politely back off. It’s not defensive and I am quite capable of being aggressive as my arguments are good. But I don’t want to. I see no value in debating you after already explaining my position multiple times, only to have you stampede into yet another attack on me while caricaturizing my position.

I am not arrogant about this. To condescend and accuse me of arrogance when I do not believe I have a personal relationship with the creator of the entire universe, is more than a little ironic. Look at yourself a little closer.

As an atheist, I do not say, “There is no god”, at least not as a start to an argument. That’s a possible conclusion. Unlike you, I would never start with a conclusion. I reject the claims that gods exist. I don’t accept them, and I don’t make a counter claim that a god doesn’t exist. To accuse me of claiming to have special knowledge is dishonest after I have explained this literally every time you or anyone else tries to push me into a debate.

Since I was also indoctrinated in my youth, I understand the theistic perspective. When the arguments used always caricaturize my position, and with the type of arguments used, it is clear exactly how many theists think:

  1. You believe you “know” god exists, but won’t admit that.
  2. That is, every argument starts with the implicit assumption that god exists. Everything else (that isn’t about some straw man of atheism) is then using motivated reasoning to continue believing what you already believe.
  3. You assume that atheism is some kind of polar opposite of theism, so you project this opposite claim that “there is no god”.

Since the theist not only starts with his conclusion, but also argues against himself in the form of a twisted projection of some kind of assumption of what atheism is, and ignores everything I say, there really isn’t much point to debating.

Even when I did debate in the past, it was never to win. Watch or read any debate and pay attention to those who observe and support the debaters, not only the debaters themselves. In almost every case, both parties believe they won, and both groups of supporters believe their candidate won. Belief bias is strong.

I go into a debate with an open mind, and am always willing to learn. But there’s nothing to learn in debating someone who begs the question, someone whose premise assumes his conclusion to be true. You’ve lost before the debate has even begun. That wasn’t always a reason for me not to debate, but years of wasting my time have made it so. I used to debate anyway, ask leading questions and try to get my opponent to reveal their assumptions, bring the intellectual dishonesty in their arguments to the surface so that others might see it. But that got boring when every theist debater made the same assumptions and used the same arguments, while none of them are self aware enough to realize the assumptions they make. Or honest enough to admit what having faith really means. (Faith is belief despite no evidence. If you are truly honest about this with yourself, you would realize that it is not something that you can rationally debate.)


Edit: Typical… This cigarette craving is driving me nuts so I forgot to include one of the points that whirlpooled ’round my head last night as my insomnia dragged me over into the new day… Lastly, I am not insecure in my beliefs, unlike some people. I’ve written about this many times and that need for my point of view to be understood is less urgent than it used to be. There are years worth of material going back on this blog and anyone who wants to know my personal view, anyone who actually knows me in real life, can read it here and understand it better than I can ever tell you in words.

So don’t try to force me to debate, please. Save your arguments from ignorance and your circular reasoning and your gaslighting of my life and my beliefs or lack of beliefs.

I am not strong

I’m hardly coping with the loss of my mother. The last couple of days my brother helped out, first with sorting through her things and then with the unpleasant process of meeting the undertaker so that her body could be released, and organising the cremation. He made it clear that he’s doing this to Josh and I, not for her. Their relationship had deteriorated beyond repair, sadly. I’m not going to write anything further about that (It’s nobody’s business), and I do appreciate the help he and his wife have been the last couple of days.

But as for me – I am lost. My relationship with my mother was not that great until she moved in here in 2011, but since then we have grown close, closer than ever before. I downloaded series to watch with her and Josh; I took her to the movies; I discussed every little detail of my life with her. Sometimes I didn’t like her advice; sometimes I didn’t take it; sometimes we argued, and sometimes I took her for granted. But she was there for me. In the years of 2011 to 2013 when I was still struggling with addiction, she stood by me. (OK, she had to because she was staying in my place where I paid the rent and bought the food, but still.) She supported me emotionally when nobody else would. She was my only support. And now she’s gone.

Just the night before I took her to hospital, I called her to see a funny video I’d found on Facebook. In the last couple of months, we watched Westworld Season 2 together. She was looking forward to the final season of Game of Thrones.

She was my rock. She did more for me than anyone ever has. I depended on her for so much. When everything else was shit and my life fell apart, at least I had my mother to stand by me. And now she’s gone.

“Be strong”, people say. I probably shouldn’t criticize… Of all the things people say, that’s probably the best one. But it reminds me of when people congratulate me on getting out of some terrible situations in my years of addiction. “You’re strong”, they say. But I am not.

I am not strong. I am weak. I got through addiction and through some abusive situations, that seemed quite hopeless, not because of strength, but simply because I had to. I chose to live on, to drag myself through another day, then another, another, and another until it didn’t hurt as much any more. I persevered because I had to, not because of being strong.

How fragile is human life?

Yesterday my mother died suddenly. I’m not coping with the loss very well at all.

This has all been a shock. Two weeks ago, I dropped her off at Edenvale Hospital before going to work. It was just supposed to be a checkup, but I found later that day she’d been admitted. She had an enlarged heart due to fluid on her lungs. They also picked up something on her chest but didn’t know what it was, so she was scheduled to go to Johannesburg General hospital for a test, a bronchoscopy. But things did not go as planned.

They let her come home, and she was scheduled to go for the test this past Tuesday. I dropped her off at 6AM, again at Edenvale hospital, and their “messenger” as they call him took her to Johannesburg General hospital. But she hadn’t been told not to eat breakfast, so she had to return home. The messenger berated her, bullied her, telling everyone it was her fault. This was the second time he did so; the prior week another test had to be aborted because of a seafood allergy (which she had disclosed) which left her sensitive to the drip. So on Tuesday after making her walk from one side of the hospital to another (It’s a huge hospital.) because he parked on the wrong side, he let her wait three hours for the transport to go back to Edenvale. Is this how you treat a 70 year old woman who is struggling to breathe because of blood clots on her lungs? is it fun to bully an easy victim?

So on Wednesday, I took her back to the hospital again. They took her back to the larger hospital, where the bronchoscopy had to be abandoned because of a complication caused by her reaction to the medication. But I wasn’t notified. After work on Wednesday, I went to Edenvale hospital, but nobody knew where she was, so I then had to go look for her at Joburg Gen myself. It turned out she was in ICU, where she stayed overnight. After that amount of stress and no sleep, I stayed home on Thursday – I could not go to work in such a state of mind and without having had any sleep.

But on Thursday she was OK. She felt much better, was happy and in good spirits; she even joked with the staff there and made friends.

I went to work on Friday, dressing smarter than my usual jeans and t-shirt because we had an office year end function that afternoon. I planned to attend, and then leave early because visiting hours are 3 to 5PM.

She called me around 10AM to let me know that the bronchoscopy had not been done. Until then, we thought it had and that we simply had to wait two weeks for the results. I was under the impression that she was coming home. But instead, another procedure was going to be done where they would drain the fluid from her lung sing a needle. I asked if she would be anaesthetized but she told me she didn’t know because they had yet to explain it to her. I wished her luck, not knowing that this was the last time I would speak to her.

At 11:55AM I got the call to get to the hospital as soon as possible, but by the time I got there, she was already dead. She had again reacted badly to the medication, went into respiratory arrest, and while they tried to resuscitate her, went into cardiac arrest. They did resuscitate her after 30 minutes, but did not manage to wake her, and after another 30 minutes, and her not responding, they gave up.

The whole thing has been a nightmare. It happened too quickly, and I am shattered. My son and I have depended on her for so long now, but that’s not the worst part… I’ll find a way to cope with all the tasks that need to be done, but so far, I have not been able to make myself go through her things. Apart from her room, her toothbrush is still hanging in the bathroom, as is her towel and her toiletries. Her writing pad is on the dining room table, and I cannot bring myself to disturb those things. It seems sacrilegious somehow.

This is so much more difficult because of her staying with my son and I. In the years before this, we were not so close. But now, having her stay here these seven years had brought us closer together, and I was closer to her now than ever in my childhood.

How fragile are we, that life can so abruptly end? No time to say goodbye or even, “I love you, mommy”. There’s a part of me that fears that it is somehow because I didn’t tell her that I was worried in that last phone call, that somehow if she knew how much I cared and how worried I was, she might still be alive. I know it’s not true, but this part of me believes that if I’d said, “Please don’t die” that maybe she wouldn’t have.

Isn’t it time for revolution already?

I’m starting to understand why people believe in certain conspiracies. Like the New World Order or the Illuninati or the Rothschild Banking conspiracies. I understand especially this year, when I’m getting further and further into debt, struggling a little more to pay the bills, and ignoring the fact that I’m probably never going to get out. With my salary paid into my account, my balance approaches zero for the only time every month, although only for a few minutes, and then returns to tens of thousands in negative again. I see other people living dream lives in dream houses that I will never be able to afford, and everything I do makes zero difference to my life but contributes towards millions more into their fat bank balances. Yeah, it’s easy to believe that someone is pulling the strings, that I and others like me are puppets being controlled by the Big Bad Lizard puppeteers, or something to that effect. Easy to believe that exposing them will somehow make a difference. I can see why people want it to be true.

But it isn’t so. The truth is simpler. This is capitalism. This is where it leads… Corporations thrive and make tons of money. We are born to work for those corporations, making money for them while we barely get by. And then we die. Game over. It doesn’t matter how hard we try or how many hours we put in, or how good we are at our jobs. At the end of the day, working harder means making other people richer, faster. It means we are more valuable because we make more money for them.

And who are they? That’s the bit the conspiracists are missing. Not the lizard people; not the Illumninati; not the Rothschilds. There’s no ringmaster running this circus. They are simply the ones who are born rich, who land positions of power. Do you really think someone rises to the top of a corporation, where they sit with unimaginably high salaries for doing very little, by working hard? They’re not in control of us; in the real world they’re just watching their own interests. They don’t even care that we exist, except for when we make mistakes that affect their income. They look only at the money coming in as they continue to get richer while we get poorer.

In years to come, things will get even worse. Climate change will lead to a miserable life for millions. Millions will suffer and die. Meanwhile, the rich, who are insulated and isolated from the harsh reality of everyday life by the protection their money affords, can deny it. This is why people like Donald Trump, idiots born into wealth that led to power, can deny human-caused climate change. It never affects them directly. “Let them eat cake”, he might as well say…

What’s happening is the Middle Class is falling away. We get poorer as the rich get richer. It’s not going to stop, and no matter how hard we work, our lives will continue to get worse. There’s nothing new I’ve written here… A few years ago, only anarchists were saying this. But now it’s coming from people like me, ordinary people. The only way to fix this is revolution. The rich are a burden. They need to go. (And there is irony here. It’s happened before. The ancestors of the rich didn’t work for their wealth either, mostly. They took it.) If we had more people who saw the reality for what it is, and less believing in silly conspiracy theories which put fictitious evil overlords in control, as well as less people indulging in magical thinking and having faith in imaginary deities watching over them, maybe the revolution(s) could come sooner. But as it is, it probably won’t happen in my lifetime. That disappoints me.

Why do men take a single feminist view they dislike as representative of all feminists?

A complete change of subject back to feminism again, thanks to this meme I shared and the arguments in the comments… The following paragraph was the body of my comment attached to the Facebook share, and what follows is the meme itself, originally shared by Atheist Republic.

Gotta love how one “feminist” troll speaks for ALL feminists… but hundreds of white conservative loon shooters in the US don’t speak for all white men. Millions of abusive men don’t speak for all men. The KKK don’t speak for all Christians. Thousands of paedophile priests don’t speak for the Catholic church. And so on…

feminist_strawman

For arguments sake, let’s assume this was shared by an actual feminist and was not posted from a troll account to discredit feminists.

Can you guess why this gets to me? … men immediately jump onto this, men are offended, because oh no, poor innocent widdle men are suffewing. Oh, boo fucking hoo! Like, let’s hijack every conversation about women being abused and raped and make it about the men! Because reasons.

To be fair, the view shared is obviously intentionally contentious. If she’s serious, she’s not being nice. So what? When every conversation about rape gets hijacked to be about false accusations against the poor defenseless men, the time for niceties are long gone. Literally every single conversation I’ve read online has gone that way. Just brush aside the women and focus on men because… why?

Even if her view is sincere, she does not speak for all feminists. Does every ball-less incel speak for all teenage boys? Does every white teen who shoots up a school speak for all white males? Does every homophobic preacher speak for all Christians? If not, then why does one feminist view you dislike represent all feminists?

Does every rapist speak for all men? I’m beginning to think that maybe the answer is yes. As long as men in general dismiss the plight of women and make rape discussions about the negligible number of false accusations against men, then yes, we are allowing the rapists to speak for us. If we don’t explicitly condemn them, then we do implicitly condone them, at least as long as we allow the anti-feminists to speak for us. Well, fuck you anti-feminist scum. You do not speak for me.

How does it feel to burn out?

It seems close.

Work is a nightmare. Today I lost my cool and called somebody an idiot. Not to his face, but still… I was helping him with something – explained it to him four times and still he didn’t understand. Each time I returned to my desk, only to read yet another asinine question on Slack. I have little patience at the best of times, but today it was thinner than usual. So without considering it, I turned to my closest colleague and said, “You know what the problem is with [Redacted]?” Pause… “He’s an idiot.” I tried to take it back, suggesting that maybe the idiot is me, but it was too late. The words were already spoken. Words I did not mean.

My mother has been on oxygen since Wednesday. I didn’t even know until today. She told me the enlarged heart is not serious, and she only has a mild infection on her left lung. They’re treating it like pneumonia. In other words they don’t know what’s wrong. And there’s something on her chest but they don’t know what it is, so she’s going for a scan at another hospital on Monday. I don’t think she sees how serious this might be.

I struggled to focus at work today. Again. I was pulled in every direction. Again. Two disasters averted today, one of which involved preventing duplicate transactions from being sent out, by updating some data the last minute before the daily run. Nobody thanked me for averting this disaster that wasn’t even my responsibility, but I was reprimanded for something that went wrong in a deployment on Monday. Pressure pressure pressure. All the time. I can’t take it much longer. Something needs to change or I need a break.

Fuck this Black Friday, especially when I only get paid in a week.

I’m worried about my mother and it’s really quite difficult to focus on anything else. Now I hear my son is being bullied at school. I used to fantasize about being bullied, so that I might be able to bloody my fists on some fool’s fetid face. But nobody ever did. Still it’s hard to relate. Josh won’t listen to me – I tell him to either fight back or tell the principal. (I did both at his age.) I can’t help him if he won’t listen, although I am proud of his ability to taunt the bullies verbally. It’s a step in the right direction.

All I want is to be happy. It isn’t happening at the moment. Tomorrow’s another day?

My mother was admitted to hospital yesterday

Excuse the lack of posts recently.

It hasn’t been the best year. Work-wise, this has been the toughest year for me, in a long time. I was responsible for a large portion of software that’s now in stores (here in South Africa) nationwide. In addition to that, I’ve been hopping from one project to another, one deadline after another, with more pressure that ever before and some of it unreasonable in my opinion, and on top of that, a dev lead who hasn’t been performing, such that I and others had to take up the slack. I could say more but it’s best not to. (On the positive side, I have been responsible for some innovative work that I can be proud of.)

I’ve been off sick for two days, but on the second day, I had to rush my mother to hospital as she had difficulty breathing. It turns out she has an enlarged heart and water on her left lung. So she’s been admitted, but we don’t know yet what the cause is. And when I called my brother to inform him, he told me that he doesn’t care because she has ruined his life. (But not in those words.) She has not.

Now, I have no help at home with my son, and it feels like I really am a single father for the first time. Last night I roasted some chicken for supper, with olive oil and peri-peri sauce. It came out rather delicious and I have some leftover for lunch today. But tonight it’s gonna be McDonalds, as I won’t have the time, and with that it’s off to work I go…

Fallacies of relevance: The redness of your red herring doesn’t make your irrelevant statement relevant

Following up on yesterday’s post, a factually correct but irrelevant statement is fallacious. Its factual correctness doesn’t make it suddenly relevant.

Yesterday the example I used was “Islam is not a race”. My original Facebook post, featuring only the meme, led to many responses. Almost every one of them amounted to “But it’s true!”

Yes, it is true that Islam isn’t a race. But that statement is almost always used by people who have made racist statements against people who happen to be Muslim, right after they get called out for their racist statements. Therefore it is irrelevant.

In the example given, the fact that Islam is not a race has nothing whatsoever to do with the gross generalizations made by the person about other people, generally members of a Middle Eastern country seeking asylum, or immigrants who are already in their country.

This really isn’t difficult to understand.


Astute readers may notice the connection between the last three posts. Maybe I should tag them all fake news?

Another post worth writing is about the misuse of the word “egalitarian”. Claiming to care about all rights as an excuse to deny equality to women and attack feminists is common – almost fucking trendy nowadays.