Saturday, September 12, 2009

Quest to Quit Smoking

My pre-planned quit date was September 1st.

I was on a road trip to Alaska with two friends and my husband as the days ground toward that dreaded last cigarette. Champix, the smoking cessation drug, built up in my system as the miles slipped behind us. I struggled to cut back on the amount I smoked and ended up smoking more as I desperately sought comfort from cigarettes which were no longer offering that pleasure. I crocheted, I laughed, I drank wine, watched grizzlies, and took photos of glaciers.

On the fifth day of taking Champix, 22 August 2009, I wrote in my diary. "Concentrated on pleasures from other sources: the kiss of my puppy, beautiful scenery, laughter of friends, beautiful flower baskets, the crunch of a Smarties' candy shell and the smooth chocolate beneath. The bite of dark roasted Arabic coffee. I feel better to have taken some conscious and deliberate steps to wean myself, rather than passively waiting for the pills to 'cure' me. Gives me a sense of control participation and counters the panic I feel when I contemplate life without cigarettes. If I quit Champix, cigarettes would again give me pleasure. However, the nicotine demons would demand my health and dollars in exchange for their service. I don't want that.

I realize the instant, on-demand spurts of nicotine pleasure have dulled many legitimate opportunities to experience positive emotions. Not only through the addiction aspect, ("Here, take the grandson. I need a smoke!") but also by dulling the senses of smell and taste. These two senses are closely linked to memory. I think of being a child and inhaling the smell of rain, dew on roses, frogs. Sharp cheese, fresh mown hay...spontaneous pleasures. Gifts: no sacrifices needed."

Day 11, 28 August 2009: "Have done well cutting back. Had 5 cigarettes all day. Cravings, if resisted, vanish in 5-10 seconds. Cravings only happen every 3-4 hours."

Day 14, 31 August 2009: "Felt depressed, as if saying farewell to a friend who for years has been there to comfort me. Have difficulty concentrating on good things about not smoking. Had about 4 cigarettes today. In the evening, I throw my last one into the campfire embers. I contemplate how one simple decision (to quit Champix) could bring back my friend. I do not feel at all like celebrating. I mention it to no one."

September 1st: Quit Day: "Over-riding feeling of depression throughout the day. Past traumas and tragedies mull around in my brain. Can I live with bad memories and current stresses without nicotine?"

September 2nd: "Awake to rain and puppy piddle on the mattress at my feet. No showers in this campground. Remnants of weird, busy dreams. It's so cold. Cravings are frequent and intense--but short-lived. I'm prickly with my friends. Moody. Quiet. Depressed."

September 3rd: "Wake in a more cheery mood. Today I feel better, stronger, more committed. This morning my mouth felt cleaner--the first advantage of non-smoking I've experienced. I wish I wasn't travelling so that I could engage in more exercise and have easier access to healthy snacks. Bought a 4-pound sack of Rockets candies. I don't fit any of the jeans I've packed."

September 4th: "Dark, bottomless emptiness into which 100 sour candies, a steak supper and two pieces of apple pie fall. Coffee and Irish Cream. I'm never sated, never full. I could eat forever. Sugar, caffeine, alcohol. Deep breaths of mountain air, long hikes. Four pounds of Rockets. Half a jug of white wine. 14 hours of sleep. Nothing is ever enough. Nothing fills the emptiness."

September 5th: "Coffee and cream liqueur. Two-hour hike through mountain muskeg. Fall colours, red berries, green moss, blue lakes, quiet. Friends. Hot sun. Slow nagging headache. An afternoon nap turns bad. I can't wake up for supper. Tired. So tired. Tummy stirs. Eyes close. Day 5. Yes. I can do it."

September 6th: "If I knew cigarettes would give me pleasure, I'd fall for the temptation. It's the bane of the addict--the drug always calls..."

Today, 12 September 2009, is my 12th smoke-free day. It has not been easy. It is not getting any easier. I feel like a baby that's lost its soother, a toddler bereft of her teddy bear, a child letting go her mother's hand to step into the classroom on her very first day of school.

Friends, I've been there, done all that, grew through it all and survived. We all know that this time will be no different.

Check out some tobacco trivia at

Eileen Schuh,
Canadian writer


Renita said...

You are doing wonderfully!! Keep up the tough but great work! Never quit quitting!!

Your grandchildren will thank you so much for this difficult work you are doing. Not only will they get more cuddle time with you, but you will also get to see them grow up for many more years than if the nicotine demons win.

Eileen Schuh: said...

Two weeks, today. It must soon get easier!

Eileen Schuh: said...
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