Stop Smoking

My seven year struggle with trying to quit.

One Year!

I made it one year without smoking! Today marks the first anniversary of my last cigarette. Actually, I’m celebrating my first leap year without smoking. It has been a long road, but I’m so glad I decided to quit and am very proud that I stayed smoke-free for this long.

Like I said in my Eleven Month Update, I don’t miss it often. Even those times are few and far between now that I am starting to see the benefits of eating well, exercising, and living a healthier life in general.

I could not have made it this far without a lot of help. The Lady has been instrumental in this journey and I know I couldn’t have done it without her. She acts as both a motivator and supporter in my efforts to kick the habit. Thank you so much.

I think to celebrate my first full year without smoking since high school, I will get my teeth whitened. It has been bothering me lately that the side I always held the cigarette in is stained darker than the other side. I spoke briefly to my dental hygienist about this today (I had a couple cavities filled) and she said she would get more information for me. More updates to come!

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The Gym

It’s not a resolution or anything, but the lady and I joined a gym on January 5. She found that her employer struck a deal with Lifestyle Fitness that would give her a considerable discount. We went for a free workout and ended up signing up with the Premier package.

The gym is a really nice place. A few months back, it underwent a complete remodeling. There are now two racquetball courts; a three-lane pool; whirlpool; saunas; sound-proof stretching/yoga room; full basketball court; dozens of treadmills, bikes, and elliptical machines; tanning booths; and tons and tons of free-weights and weight machines (literally).

We are now about two month into working out. This week was a bad one… Tuesday, I had to get up early to vote… Wednesday night we had a concert to go to so we didn’t go that morning… Thursday we were exhausted from the night before so we didn’t go… Friday we were exhausted from the night before so we didn’t go… Saturday we were snowed in and I doubt the gym was open due to the 10 inches of snow that fell in the previous 24 hours.

Despite this minor setback, we are working out 3-5 times each week and are starting to see some results. We lift weights on days one, three, and five and run or ellipticalize on the even days. We certainly feel better, but we both see changes when we look in the mirror. My belly doesn’t stick out quite as far and my squishy arms have started looking like real arms.

We’re aware that this is a marathon, not a sprint. And we’re in it for the long haul. This combined with the Abs Diet and we’re well on our way to much healthier, happier lifestyles.

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Eleven Month Update

It has been eleven months since my last cigarette! I don’t miss it much. There are a few times when it feels like I want one socially. But I don’t miss the smell and the taste at all. I can smell a smoker or a cigarette from a mile away now. Smokers and their clothes just stink.

The produce isle, Italian restaurants, and the lady are so much nicer now that I can smell them completely. I love it.

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Step Three: The Abs Diet

Step three for me is getting into health. This is not the same as quitting smoking or working out or staying away from fast food: it’s a combination of all of them.
One of the reasons I quit smoking in the first place was to begin exercising again. I started reading the Men’s Health book The Abs Diet. It promotes the following lifestyle changes:

  1. Eat lots of low-fat protein
  2. Eat lots of fiber
  3. Eat 3 meals and 3 snacks every day
  4. Do exercises that strengthen your core (abs, back, and legs)

One of the biggest problems most men have is abdominal fat. Not the fat on the belly… the fat beneath the abdominal muscles. This type of fat chokes the organs as it surrounds them and continues to grow. During periods of stress, it releases toxic chemicals that hurt the organs and pollute the bloodstream.

The Abs Diet targets this fat and provides a plan for a lifetime of fitness and health. I’m several weeks into it and it’s difficult. The lady is on it, too, as it would be very difficult for one of us to be on it while the other is not. We manage to eat really really well while on this plan. Finding new meals has proven difficult, but we’re learning. This is phase one of step three. It’s a long arduous journey, but I guess that’s life, right?

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Day 17 – November 13, 2007

I can’t believe it has been eight months since my last cigarette. I can’t believe the changes in my life since that time, either.

In one of my first posts after I decided to go on the patch, I noted how out of shape and terrible I looked. I still look that way, but without the gray, lifeless anti-glow to me. I feel a ton better and stink far less than I did as a smoker. I’m still terribly out of shape, but I will get there. One step at a time, right?

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The Patch: Days 15 and 16

Mondays always suck. The phones are busier and people forget things. Woo hoo! Twice on Day Fifteen I had a strong urge to go have a cigarette. Two more times they popped into my head just out of habit; whenever I leave work on my lunch break and whenever I leave my apartment to go back to work, I would have a cigarette. I would, that is, when I was a smoker. I hadn’t been going back to the apt. for lunch since I was a smoker, so the notion of the habit was still there. I didn’t do anything about it, of course. I mean, we did break up.

Day Sixteen went really well. I didn’t have any urges and no habitual thoughts. Smokes did pop into my mind a couple times, but that was because I brushed against the patch or showed it to someone. I also thought about them after lunch. Not out of habit or craving, but out of my sense of pride that tomorrow will be two weeks with no cigarettes. Double Woo Hoo!

One of my coworkers started the patch today. I’m very proud of him. He’s a pretty heavy smoker and this is a big step. He seems like one of those people who genuinely enjoys cigarettes and would have no problem smoking them for the rest of his life. Like I said, I’m very proud of him. Now I will have someone to compare patch scars with.

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Committed Quitters Statistics

Here’s a few of the interesting facts Committed Quitters provided me based on how much I smoked.

596: Dollars saved per year based on your previous daily cigarette consumption multiplied by the price per pack and by 365 days.

12: Days spent per year based on your previous daily cigarette consumption times 6 minutes per cigarette smoked.

Interesting stuff.

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Saying Goodbye to Cigarettes

One of the suggestions on Committed Quitters is to write a break-up letter to Cigarettes. Since almost no one writes letters anymore, here is a hypothetical e-mail I would send to Cigarettes if they were web-saavy. Perhaps in the future, I’ll write letters to others, like cigarette companies, and thank them for being assholes, too.

Dear Cigarettes,

I write this letter with a heavy heart. I don’t think I’ve been completely honest with you and myself. For a long time we were really close, but now we’ve grown apart. We’ve been friends for the better part of seven years. We’ve gone through a lot together. You were there when I got to college. You were there for a lot of drunken nights. You were there when I graduated college. You missed the ceremony, but I forgave you for that. You were there on the way to Denver. I don’t think I would have stayed awake on the drive out there if it weren’t for you (and Tenacious D). We didn’t talk for a long time twice, but we quickly made up for lost time once we were reunited.

But now things have changed. I don’t think we’re right for each other. You smell bad, you make my eyes burn, and you’re just about as expensive as a girlfriend without any of the benefits. You’re needy and arrogant. You set a requirement very early on that I spend time with you first thing in the morning and last thing at night. You came around every couple hours throughout every single day, as well. You’re a big time hog and I’m sick of it.

You’re like a bad girlfriend: You don’t fit in with a lot of my friends. They hate you and talk about you behind your back. I know you don’t like them either. You’ve shown this time and time again by making their clothes stink and their lungs black. What a jerk you are. I could never take you home to my family, as they surely wouldn’t approve of your kind. My brother would probably never say anything about it, but I know he’s thinking the same thing as everyone else.

With all that being said, I’m leaving you. My future looks so much brighter without you. I’m going to breathe easier knowing that I don’t ever have to spend time with you again. Your cousin, Second-hand Smoke, might show up from time to time, but I can tolerate him on occasion. It’s you I really hate.

I may, on occasion, look back on our time together fondly. We’ve had some good times and I will always have those memories. But there’s no future for us. You probably noticed that I’ve been very distant for the last ten days or so. This letter should make the reasoning behind that very clear. We’re done.

Sincerely,

Tim

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The Patch: Days 8-14

One week down, seven to go.

Monday and Tuesday are always rough. We’re so busy at work, catching up from the weekend and getting slammed on the phones. The stress level is always high, especially when a lot of people seem to completely forget how to do their jobs on Saturday and Sunday and ask a lot of questions trying to re-learn it all. It’s all part of the job, though. I understand that.

I also understand that stress is not an event, but a reaction to an event. I need to learn to deal with my reactions better while I’m in the process of quitting. Eventually I will get it all under control, but the stressful times always make me think of smoking. Someone brought in donuts for us and someone else brought cookies. I think I tried to deal with my stress by eating, because I had three cookies and a creme-filled stick around the height of the morningĀ  busy period. Everything I’ve read has said that some weight-gain should be expected. Now I realize that it’s not a side-effect of not smoking, but trying to fill the void of smoking with food. Great. I’m fat.

A coworker returned from vacation on Thursday and asked how the non-smoking was going. I have my moments, butĀ  overall, great, I said. He said that was too bad because he had just bought a fresh pack. Prick.

I played games with a couple guys on Friday. One of them is a smoker and the other quit cold-turkey a few months ago. He managed that fine. I heard him tell another coworker a few days ago that the patch is a waste of money. Maybe for him, but not for me. He and I had a chat about smoking while the smoker was outside. Just the basics about how things are going, why I’m quitting, etc. The board games were definitely a nice alternative to the bar. The same guy who quit smoking also quit drinking at more or less the same time. He seems to be really happy with his decision and is dealing with it by finding things to do that don’t surround him with alcohol and smoke. Mad props to him.

I put the patch on around 1:00 PM on Day Thirteen. That day, I decided to put it just above my right hip on my ever-increasing love handle. About five minutes afterwards, I got an intense pain in my bones all the way down my right leg. This was the same pain I felt in my left arm on Day One and again on various days afterwards. This one was much more intense than any of the others, though. I walked around the apartment and stretched a bit and it went away pretty quickly. I didn’t read anything about that kind of pain in the material at Committed Quitters and on the patch’s warnings. I will have to investigate whether or not others have experienced the same thing.

Day Fourteen has been a beautiful day. The lady and I had to go to the electronics store and took our time getting there. We drove along the river for a while with the windows down. It was amazing. It’s also amazing that I will now be able to enjoy being outside with the clean air just as it’s getting really nice outside. I can’t wait for Spring and Summer to get here. It’s going to be a great year.

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The Patch: Days 6-7

I went to visit the lady back in her home town on Day Six. She was there recuperating and I figured she could use some company. Plus it got me mad style points with the fam. ;-)

We pretty much hung out Saturday, watched the tourney, and ate some great Chinese. Since it was St. Patty’s Day, we had to go out and get plastered. I wasn’t resisting, of course. The local bars around there are great: really worn in and everyone knows everyone else. I was the exclusion to that rule, but it felt like I knew everyone.

Her parents and siblings can hold their own when it comes to drinking. Not wanting to feel left out, I did my best to go 1-for-1 with her dad. Of course, that made for a fun evening. The bars back there look the other way when it comes to smoking. I would guess that 90% of the people in these bars are smokers, so the smoke-to-air ratio was much worse than anything I’ve seen in a really long time. Probably because of this, I didn’t feel like smoking at all. I had the patch on, of course, and I think just knowing that fact helped a lot.

I had a great moment in the bar, too. I was shooting darts with the lady’s dad, uncle, and aunt. The game was Cricket. All of the numbers were filled and her dad and I were down by 13 points or so. The other team had two bulls and we only had one. I stepped up to the line and hit the first bull. Cool, I thought. I threw the second dart. Another bull. I just closed out our bulls on two consecutive throws. Impossible, right? I threw the third dart and it completed an equilateral triangle inside the green bullseye. I couldn’t believe it. It was one of those moments where you realize that you should just quit whatever activity you were just doing and hang it up for good. I can never top that. Never. I shouldn’t even try. But I am sure I will, since I like playing darts a lot.

Anyways, the next morning, I felt like I had smoked an entire pack. It was awful. My nose was stuffed, my throat was raw, and my lungs ached. No hangover, though, so that was nice. We hung out for a while and once we figured out that her rents weren’t going to be getting up anytime soon, we decided to go out to a local Italian restaurant for some lunch. The food was great and helped get rid of the nasty smoke taste lingering in my mouth. After that, we took a drive around the lake and she pointed out a bunch of places from her childhood. It was a great smoke-free time.

Such stress-free days like these really help me forget about smoking. I don’t think I really had any desire to smoke the entire weekend. Being around the lady helps a lot. Like I’ve said before, she’s never nagged me about smoking and always has a word of encouragement when I’m feeling weak. She’s awesome and it an incredible help in my journey to be smoke-free.

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