Smokeblogging: Smoking Update for March

I’ve been having a really rough time over the last week keeping myself from smoking. I still haven’t, but it has been a real struggle.

What is worse though, is that when I mention this to people I get a response a lot like this tweet from Chris Jones via Twitter:

@rbieber ugggh dude i relapsed after 3 years 😦 (of no smoking)

I hear this a lot. People relapse after a really long time of not smoking. I’ve heard from 3 to 9 to even 20 years.

So Chris is not alone. So obviously I start to question.

Isn’t life too short to worry about things you “shouldn’t” be doing? Do I really want to spend the rest of my life obsessing about something like this, only to know that its inevitable that I go back? If the ultimate result is failure, than what is the point?

Its really tough for non-smokers to get this – but every smoker (or ex-smoker) understands these questions.

This is definitely a hard habit to break and there is a lot of evidence of failure all around you.

Miscellaneous Updates for February 2008

I’m doing an extremely bad job of keeping the site fresh over the last few months or so. I figured I’d give a quick update of things going on.

I’m Still Not Smoking

I finally started the Step 3 of the Nicoderm CQ program. This one has been rough. This is where you really start physically feeling the consequences of nicotine being removed from your system. I’ve been completely exhausted for the last week. Apparently, that there nicotine is one powerful stimulant and really screws with your metabolism. Your body takes some time to equalize itself and get itself back to where it needs to be naturally. I’m hoping mine gets there soon – because I’ve not had a good time over the past week.

The interesting thing about these “stop smoking aids” is that they defer you dealing with the real issue until you have so much skin in the game that you can’t start again without feeling an intense feeling of failure. Brilliant, but I can tell you that first step gives you an overly simplified view of what it takes to quit smoking. It starts getting a little harsher at step 2 and now at step 3 you really start PHYSICALLY feeling it. The only thing worse will be when Step 3 is over and my body starts eliminating nicotine all together.

Like I said though, I have too much skin in the game now to restart – I think.

New iPhone User

Address Book on iPhoneJonna bought me an iPhone for our anniversary, and I have to say that aside from the GPS she got me for Christmas, which allows me to go out by myself and still be able to get home, it is about the coolest thing for me from a productivity perspective that we have added to my highly disorganized life.

I’m finally able to get all my contact information in one place where it is accessible at any time. I can take notes, I can look things up on the web and I can check personal email. From a browsing perspective, I can get to things that are a part of my life but are blocked at the firewall at work (which is great as well). I feel free.

Now, it hasn’t been without its problems. The 1.1.3 software that came with the phone dropped a lot of calls. It wound up pretty frustrating and I kept my work supplied cell phone so that I could actually hold calls without them getting dumped. The 1.1.4 update took care of this though and now it works like a real phone.

I love the contact management included in the phone. Support for multiple numbers per contact and custom labelled information (including notes) lets me keep track of all the information I could ever want about someone. I can even attach a picture. Integration with the Mac Address book allows me to keep my contacts up to date without having to type into the phone.

And speaking of typing into the phone – I love not having to type on a standard phone keypad. The automatic spell-checking sometimes gives me a run for my money, and more often than not makes me sound retarded, like this little exchange with Jonna:

Trouble With Abbreviations

<Insert large sigh from Jonna because I don’t listen or read>

Overall though, I think between the GPS for Christmas and the iPhone this month, I’ve received the two most useful (and really most used) gifts ever.

As an aside, for those who are obsessed with not scratching or smudging their iPhone or other Apple products, Jonna also picked up a skin called Best Skins Ever for both Kelsi and myself, which we applied a couple of weeks ago. Kind of scary at first (you need to use water to apply it), but they really are the best skins ever. You don’t even know they’re there. I’m definitely going to pick up one for my iPod, as soon as I get a round tuit.

Well thats it from the Labs for last month. I’m sure as the weather starts to warm and the nicotine continues to seep out of my system, I’ll have more energy to blog about useful things.

SmokeBlogging: Day

Andy asks in a recent comment:

So…. how is this project going?

and then I realize I really haven’t been blogging much.

I just started Step 2 of the Nicoderm CQ program today. For those that aren’t aware, Step 1 is four weeks long, Step 2 another 2 weeks, and finally Step 1 – another two weeks. 10 weeks in total before you take off the training wheels and start trying to keep balance on your own.

I suppose the question I’ve been asked most has been “is it getting any easier”. The answer is no. It is not as hard as I built it up in my head to be, so thats a good thing – but it hasn’t really gotten much easier for me either, except that I am no longer counting days. It’s just something I’m determined to do – and that kind of keeps me going.

So, I just keep on keeping on. So far, so good. Unfortunately, I’m not as disciplined around blogging updates.

SmokeBlogging: Day 18 (or Iteration 2: Day 7)

no-smoking-sign-125x120I’ve had a few people email me asking me how I’m doing and realized I just haven’t posted for a while. No smoking so far. Just that one tiny infraction on Thursday (day 11).

As I said in that post, I’m glad that happened. It strengthened my resolve to quit.

Now, thats not to say that its been a piece of cake since then. The urge to smoke is strong, even using the patch. But when push comes to shove, if you have the patch on, you know that the urge is psychological – not physical – so you can deal with it a little easier.

I remember both reading Tony Robbins Unlimited Power and listening to tapes years ago, where it was mentioned that people think smoking relaxes them, but what it actually does is cause you to use a different breathing pattern. Its amazing the things you remember but this has popped into my head multiple times over the past week – as well as was mentioned to me yesterday by someone and thats really what I’ve been doing. Deep breathing makes it a lot easier to get the urge to go away.

Some other interesting things that have been going on. I think I have super powers. Most noticeably, I can tell when a smoker has been in an elevator – or where there is smoking going on in the vicinity. This is something I really have never noticed before but I now know how strong (and unpleasant) the smell of cigarettes are. I think this part has been the most interesting to me and I finally get the “Friends” episodes where every time Chandler takes a puff of a cigarette Monica knows.

I’ve also received some feedback like “you should get your car detailed” or “you should get a new car”. Yeah, not so much. I am not SO confident right now that I’m going to drop the money to have my car detailed (or worse buy a new one) until I’ve got at least a few months under my belt and I’m sure I’m not going to go back and ruin it. It’ll give me something to work for.

So thats the update so far. Things are going well. Even with the Day 11 relapse, this is still the longest I’ve gone without smoking since I started – so I know I’m doing something right.

When I started this I thought there would be way more to talk about it. There isn’t. There are definitely times when I am irritable – but I haven’t really had major mood swings much. So far, its been pretty uneventful – almost a non-event to blog about.

So those of you thinking about quitting – think about that and quit putting it off. In the least its an interesting foray into the psychological workings of addiction without having to start heroin …

SmokeBlogging: Day 11 – Almost

Some words of encouragement from my Committed Quitters Plan:

Dealing with Relapse

Withdrawal symptoms or weight gain shouldn’t be used as an excuse to start smoking again. Staying completely smoke free is your best chance to prevent a relapse. But if you slip and smoke a cigarette or two, don’t be discouraged. Your first cigarette did not make you a smoker to start with, and a slip does not make you a smoker again. Stop immediately and get back to the program.

If you have already relapsed and started smoking heavily again, remember that it sometimes takes a few attempts to quit for good. And remember, one slip or relapse doesn’t mean that you can’t be a nonsmoker. Learn from the attempt and try again.

Done. Forgotten. No excuses. Time to move on.

It’s easy to feel bad when you screw up, but I’m not going to. I’ve ridded myself of the remaining cigarettes that we had in the house (remember, I didn’t throw them out because Jonna was going to take them to work?) and I’m starting over.

I am calling this ‘Iteration 2’.

What I realized after this is that I really do want to quit. I’m still not sure its for the right reasons, but now I’m kinda digging being a non-smoker. The shitty thing is that no matter what your resolve, the habit still nags at you and for some reason you still think you want to smoke.

So here’s the way I’m going to treat this little infraction. I went back and it winds up that I feel even stronger afterwards that I should quit – no matter what the discomfort. Given this – I don’t feel bad. I’ve confirmed to myself that I want to move forward.

One thing I have to reconcile with myself from talking to friends who have quit – is that deep down that urge will always be there and I’ll probably always miss the way I think it makes me feel. The reality is much different than the imagined effect.

So this afternoon was another day – tomorrow will be another one. The chain is broken and I’ll just have to start a brand new one. I think I’m up for it.

Keep those fingers crossed.

SmokeBlogging: Day Six

Well, its day six. Still doing OK. I did have one cigar on Wednesday night with a friend, but you hold those and let them burn more then smoke them – so I am not counting it.

Overall, I have found that the one key thing that I am not doing as much at home is sitting at my desk. It seems that this particular activity is one that really gets me going on wanting to smoke. Its not too hard to see the connection, the desk is where I’ve spent most my time. This, as well as the conference during the week is one of the reasons it took me another six days to throw a blog entry up. I think yesterday was the first Saturday in years that I did not touch the computer while at home.

The patch is helping, but it is definitely a constant struggle right now. I can see why this program takes about 10 weeks to complete.

One thing I am glad about. In the booklet that comes with the patches, one of the recommendations it makes is to avoid coffee and alcohol, as these two consumables are usually extremely associated with smoking. For me, I seem not to have that connection, as most of my smoking has been done outside or in the garage. When enjoying my first cup of coffee, or a glass of wine in the evening I leave it where its at and go outside.

Oddly, I do the same with my desk (I never take it with me), but that desk seems to be a HUGE anchor for me with regards to the urge of smoking. Not quite sure why the association is so strong, while coffee is not.

So – so far so good. I do know that I got huge leverage over myself from communicating what I was doing to everyone, including you folks. So thank you for being constant leverage for me over the past six days.

Also, thanks for all the comments and emails and even phone calls of encouragement. Each one has helped and, btw, increased leverage for me dramatically.

SmokeBlogging: Day One Summary

I never knew what a drug addict must feel until tonight.

I know, thats a strong statement. Let me explain. I’m in Orlando right now for a conference. As I had mentioned earlier, I had decided to start today to quit smoking.

Disney is very much non-smoking at this point. When I checked in, the person checking me in asked me if I smoked. I said “Not as of today”. She said “no matter what you do, don’t smoke in the room”, pointing to a policy Disney has of “room restoration fees” that total quite a bit of money per day.

I was OK though. See, I started the patch last night at bedtime. A friend told me that starting the patch at night would help me with the first morning cravings I might have. It didn’t – what it really did is make it so I couldn’t sleep at all. I was so wired 5 minutes after going to bed that it wasn’t even funny. There were no great dreams, no vivid dreams. I would wake up – and just lie there, hoping that I could go to sleep.

I woke up this morning, and sat down at the computer to check email. My usual routine is to wake up, start coffee, go out to the garage, and smoke. I started the computer, checked email, started coffee, and then said to myself “Self, time to go to the garage” – to which my always irritating self went “nope, not today”.

My brain literally locked up. I didn’t know what to do. I guess that is what habit is about.

I finished packing and headed out to the airport. I knew it would be hard to drive in the car that I have been smoking in for – not 3, but six years and it was – but no so bad.

I breezed through security (no lighter on me) and spent some time in the airport talking to Jonna over IM and checking email. It didn’t even bother me that I could not go outside or that I had not yet had a cigarette for the day. I even mentioned to Jonna that I was shocked that I was OK, I had no cravings whatsoever.

I checked into the hotel and it started hitting me. I really wanted one. Bad. Keep in mind this was about 4-5 hours later. I talked to Jonna and a few of my co-workers as we were out for drinks this evening about the hard time I had sleeping last night and really wanted to put off putting another patch on until tomorrow morning. I really wanted to sleep tonight.

The more the night went on, the more uncomfortable I felt. Jesus, I really want to smoke. On my way back to the room, I saw a few guys smoking outside (in a non-designated area mind you) and I really wanted to walk up to them with the “can you spare a square” routine. My pride got in the way and I walked on.

Then I got to my room. I was going nuts. I did not bring cigarettes with me – and I’m not sure where to buy them at all. I decided at my wits end to put another patch on.

I unwrapped the patch like Sid Vicious cooking his heroin. And literally, within a few minutes, I felt OK.

Did you ever see someone on TV get their fix? How their eyes roll in the back of their heads and a complete look of relief comes across their face? Ok, it wasn’t that drastic, but it was comparable.

This stuff really does work. What I know right now is that these things do not last quite 24 hours. But that initial shock to the system will probably be enough to get me through the next four days.

More tomorrow.

Update

Soon after writing this, I got this message from Andy, a former boss and long time friend via Plaxo:

I seem to recall a good way to motivate you in the early days was to tell you that you couldn’t do something. Hey, Ron… Betcha can’t stop smoking….

He knows me so well.