Probably an unusual opinion? I believe it’s good to test yourself when quitting an addiction.

Back in 2013 when I quit meth, it was under similar circumstances to my quitting smoking cigarettes last week. I knew the day in advance, planned it, and then stuck to my decision not to use again.

In that case, it was because my ex and her daughter came to stay with us. “Us” being myself and my mother, since my son wasn’t back yet. The thing is, I used to use when I was alone, and to my surprise, one week after she arrived, she went to spend a weekend with a friend. So I was alone again, a whole 8 days after quitting meth. I can’t remember where my mother was, also visiting a friend or something. But there I was, 8 days clean, alone, with time, money and opportunity.

In all past situations, I’d given in to my addiction. “Given in” is the right words, you see – I craved my drug day and night, every day and night. I thought of little other than using my drug, and when the first opportunity came, I gave in to my temptation. But, and I’m not sure exactly why, that last time was different. I went to the shop to buy something to eat, and I drove home on the Saturday morning, looking out at the mostly empty sunny streets, the same streets through which I’d drive with a couple of grams of meth and a 12Vold light bulb and plastic pen, in that mad rush to get home, make my meth lolly, and smoke it. But I drove, looking at those same streets with the confounding realization that there was no urge to get or use meth. And I was alone, but somehow not tempted, somehow freed by my choice that I was not going to use no matter what.

I remember it with such clarity because my mood was just the same as it is right now. I wanted to write about it, about how ecstatic I was not feeling that urge to use. Except I couldn’t. I couldn’t write about it because, to make my recovery easier, I’d lied to a bunch of people and pretended I was already a year clean when I was one day clean. So I couldn’t write it because honesty was not an option that day. Sorry about that… Quite a lie it was, but it worked.

But I can write about it now. It is quite strange, but I am in the same situation on 8 days cigarette free. My son is at somebody’s birthday celebration, which I advised against because he and I are isolating, having potentially been exposed to someone with COVID-19 a week ago Friday. But the choice was not mine, and in any case, everyone from my work is only isolating for one week anyway – so I guess it is alright.

My point is, I’m alone at 8 days cigarette free just like I was alone at 8 days meth free. And just like last time, I have not given in to temptation because there is no temptation. Perhaps the choice that I would never use again, no matter what, has freed me from any such temptation… twice. I don’t fully understand but it is pretty fucking liberating to feel this way again, having quit a second addiction the same way.

And for my conclusion, I’ll return to the title. I do think it’s important to test yourself. This, at 8 days of being an ex cigarette smoker, is my test. I could not be sure that I was free from my addictions without such a test, and having passed it, well that feels good. Almost like a high, this feeling of pride at having achieved something I thought I never would.

Quitting an addiction isn’t so difficult after all.

Giving up smoking–the final attempt

I’m pretty sure I’ve got it this time.

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Last time, I tried quitting right after my mother died of a smoking related illness. It was too much pressure, and realistically, as appropriate as it might have seemed to me at the time, I think it was a bad time simply because I was in shock. So my advice to anyone else doing this is, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s your decision to quit and you set the terms.

This time, my idea to quit started as a joke, which I wrote about here. So there was no pressure. I decided, after receiving about 570 comments, that I’d finish the carton of cigarettes I had, and then quit. I didn’t cut down or change anything else, but I did commit to quit.

It worked out a little awkward. My last packet finished in the middle of my work year end function, so I cheated and bummed a few smokes from colleagues, telling them that I was quitting. But then, I shared my Day 0 Facebook status and didn’t buy more. That was last Friday, so today being Tuesday is day 4. Then over the weekend, I heard that somebody at the function tested positive for COVID-19. Now I’m isolating at home with my son, and at least he’s here to help ensure that I don’t cheat. And yet, I know I’ve got it, just like I knew I’d beaten meth on day one.

And that’s it. That’s exactly how I quit meth in 2013… I committed to the date and then simply followed through, having made up my mind. No cheating allowed. Relapse is not an option. And fuck “just for today” – this is permanent.

And… so far so good. I’m feeling a surprising sense that this time I’ve got it. Same as when I quit the meth, I didn’t pretend I didn’t want my drug. I admitted to myself that I still wanted to use meth, but that I had decided not to. Same thing here: I want a cigarette, but I’m not going to have one. Not now; not tomorrow. Not ever again. Eventually, I’ll stop wanting one, just like I stopped craving meth. I don’t know how long that will take but it doesn’t matter. I can choose to do the opposite of what I want, for as long as necessary. That’s the key for me. Don’t pretend to know what you’re doing. Don’t pretend to be stronger than the addiction. I admit I’m weak, but I can choose to not do what I want for as long as it takes. It doesn’t take strength. It doesn’t need strength. It’s just a simple choice to not do that any more.

Don’t let anybody tell you it isn’t about willpower or control, because it fucking is. This might appear to contradict the start of this blog post, where I stated, “So my advice to anyone else doing this is, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It’s your decision to quit and you set the terms.” Don’t get me wrong… You set the terms for the moment and the conditions under which you stop using the substance. That’s what I meant there, and only that. If you want to go slow for a while; if you want to cut down; if you want to finish the stash you have, that’s fine.

But, once you decide to stop, you have to make up your mind that you’re not allowed to go back. That’s what works for me. Cold turkey. It’s the only way.

People are better than you think

So last night I shared this…

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I was not expecting so many comments. I guess now I have to try quitting again!

Within five minutes, there were over 200 comments, many of which came from one person. Then after I replied to thank her, I got this:

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My point is… People care. I tend to see the world as a bad place, filled with negativity and horrible people. But… people actually do care. So I wrote this to remind you that people are better than you think.

Now hopefully this time I can quit smoking successfully.

Sometimes lies are good

I’ve been pondering why it is that I couldn’t seem to quit smoking cigarettes, but quitting meth was easy. It seems weird. I mean, sure… there isn’t such a stigma associated with cigarettes, even though they can kill you through about 40 different cancers alone. And I’m at more or less the same point with smoking as I was with meth… it’s time to stop. It was time a while back already.

Then I remembered something I did when quitting meth that was different. I lied. I found a not so little white lie that helped me quite a bit. I had two reasons for lying:

  1. Day one of quitting meth, and I knew I was done.
  2. I also knew nobody would believe me. Fuck, I wouldn’t have believed me.

So I lied. I said I was already clean for a year. Then one year later at the start of September 2014, I told the truth. It was a shitload easier to say, “Hey, I lied a year ago when I said I was a year clean, but I am a year clean now.” Actually it wasn’t that easy – I was worried people wouldn’t believe me when I told the truth about the lie a year before. But nobody had a problem with it. That lie turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done. It took all the pressure off the beginning of my recovery. And by pressure I mean the stress caused by the expectations of others who knew my situation. The only people who knew were my mother and Megan, my ex, who were at home.

What I’m getting at is that lies aren’t always bad. That lie in particular helped me a great deal, and it allowed other people to have confidence in me, confidence nobody would have had if I’d told the truth. I am wary of anyone who deals in absolutes, anyone who insists that they despise lies, because that is itself a lie, likely a lie they believe. Everybody lies and anyone who judges you for lying alone is, in my experience, someone who should not be trusted. (For example, beware of a person in authority who claims to “value openness and honesty”. That’s code for, “Don’t lie to me but I will lie to you”.) I do prefer to tell the truth as much as possible, but lying itself is not always bad and definitely not always wrong.

Of course I can’t use the same lie for quitting cigarettes. I don’t have reason one as above. I don’t know I’m done. Why I don’t have that certainty with quitting cigarettes but I did with meth, I do not know. It sucks but that’s the way it is. Wish me luck then… I’m on day one not smoking cigarettes and I’m not gonna lie – I don’t know if I can do this.

Sometimes lies are good. But not this time.

This not smoking thing really sucks. Or maybe doesn’t suck, as the case may be.

Facebook notified me that readers of my page for this blog are missing me. (I only shared it with the first ten of my friends and then lost interest, but anyway.) So here is something short to remind you I’m still alive and kicking.

It’s been more than two weeks now, and I am still not smoking. But it hasn’t really gotten easier. The craving comes and goes… sometimes I forget about it completely and then it returns with such vengeance that I find it incredibly difficult to resist going to the shop on the corner and buying a single cigarette. So far I have resisted though. So far…

A few months ago, a Facebook friend stated I cannot call myself a former addict if I still smoke cigarettes. Maybe she was right. I don’t think it’s completely fair, because I generally refer to myself as a former meth addict, not a former addict.

Regardless, I am not going to declare myself a victor of this addiction just yet. I can say with certainty, at the same point just over five years ago when I reached two weeks clean time from meth, I already knew I had beaten meth. There was no doubt in my mind. It’s not the same with cigarettes. I don’t feel like I’ve beaten it at all. Instead I’m still fighting.

But fight I will, and hopefully soon report back that I am confident that I have this cigarette addiction beaten. Until then, I wish all of you compliments of the season.

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.

It’s time. Time to quit the cigarettes.

At the start of this month, I decided that my carton of cigarettes purchased with the monthly shopping would be my last. But as I’ve edged towards that target, the doubts have crept in and loomed large. Now I’m almost there – on my last packet of cigarettes. I hope I can do this.

You would think that someone who quit meth could also quit other addictions? But up until now, my excuse has gone something like this… Cigarettes are more than just an addiction; they are a significant portion of my lifestyle. I get up in the morning and have a smoke, then I bath, eat breakfast and have another. Then off to work, get out of my car, and it’s time for cigarette number three. Then several times I day I have smoke breaks. In all those times, it’s not just about the smoking. It’s about stopping and thinking about my work, or quiet reflection on life, or something else. Always something.

I started smoking when I was 19. Now I’m 46, whereas I started smoking meth in my mid thirties and quit in my early forties. But when I think about it, the two addictions are not that different. I used to start the day with a hit of meth, and end it the same way. When not at work, I used all the time. And it wasn’t always about the meth. It was about the state of mind it left me in, and about doing stuff in that state of mind. (Tweaking.) On meth, I was under the influence every day, all the time. Cigarettes are similar. I’m never far from my next hit of nicotine, and I’m never really free from it.

Besides all the other reasons I quit meth, I found I’d reached the point where it just wasn’t fun any more. I continued to use it out of habit. But the high wasn’t good. Instead, I found myself trapped in my own head, listening to voices that weren’t real, detached from the world and really not liking being detached. I wanted and needed to be a part of the world again. When I quit meth, it was time. And now, I find myself smoking cigarettes but not enjoying them any more. It’s just something I do, a stinking habit that will be the death of me if I allow it. There is no pleasure in smoking any more. So once again, it is time.

I dread it though…the process of quitting and then craving. I don’t crave meth any more, and haven’t for a long time. I wish there was a faster way to get to this point, of it being a vague memory with no interest in continuing. But there isn’t a fast way… I know that this comes with time after simply quitting the habit. And cold turkey is the only way to go, for me. No cutting down, no alternatives, and absolutely no fucking vaping. I’m not interested in quitting cigarettes and then smoking something else. This is it! But I still don’t know if I can do it. I hope I can…