Tuesday, February 8, 2011
I wish I could report that I’m maxin’ privately in Tahiti, laying in a hammock, sipping on a tangy island potion, all smoke-free, all contented, all chi-released, all chill, and loving every minute of it! But that would be a damn lie; a vast and blatant UNTRUTH. The truth is I’m livin’ la vida LOCO, all looped and lost in that special loneliness of another non-smokers Blues.
See, after engaging in that vile habit for over 20 yrs, inhaling, on average, 8-10 butts a day, I found quitting much easier than what I thought it would be...at the beginning, at least.
But as days and weeks passed, there came so many of those dreaded quitters symptoms, also, a very strange phenom I later discovered was called “quitter’s flu” (more on that strangeness later).
This is life presently: I can be going through the normal, for me, activities. Then, out of nowhere, I’ll get this dull, but growing pain in the center of my stomach. That’s always the first sign that something ain’t right. This pain will begin to gnaw and twist and literally crawl up my torso, then find a home inside my chest. This causes my heart to beat quicker, and my lungs to work in tightened gasps. This begins to feel like a panic attack. In fact, it mimics one to the fullest. The first few times this happens, it can literally FREAK YOU OUT!
You think: I’m going to diiiiiie!
Lying down only makes it worse. There’s just no comfortable spot. That night panic attack consumes you to the point where you HAVE to GET UP, walk around, open a window and feel some brisk winter wind on your face!
With me, this tightening chest, crazy uncomfortable sensation lasts a few minutes, and then it passes. The thing is, you Don’t Die!
The human body constantly amazes me with the tricks and games it will play. It even messes with your mind until the reality it manufactures BECOMES your ONLY reality.
Some people have called it a demon, and maybe it is. I now think of nicotine as a silent monster that viciously morphs, constricts, enlarges and changes its shape.
I quit smoking, cold turkey, on December 18th, a week before Xmas. It really wasn’t as difficult as I’d feared it would be (at least at the beginning). What I’d noticed beside the craving to light up, were the strange cramping pains in my belly. But that was only the beginning of the process, BEFORE the Demon Nic began to launch its cruelest tricks on me.
I mean DAMNNNNNN! Isn't it beyond IRONIC that once you STOP smoking it's THEN that the habit takes your breath away, at will??? I could be having a conversation, not even thinking about cigs, or be busy at work, and SUDDENLY it’s like someone hit me square in my chest with a 2 x 4, and the wind gets knocked clear out of me! Scary shit!
Because this has happened before, and then it stopped for several days, I was tricked by The Arrogant Nic; tricked and bamboozled into believing that scurry-ass symptom was gone! A thing of the past. Coooolness! Life was getting lovelier, and I could breeeeeathe again!
But NOOOOOOO! The Ghost of Nic was only biding its time, cunningly planning its next mortal attack. So it keeps happening, again and again. DAMN! When it does happen, I’ll try like hell to shake it off, to be normal, act normal, when normal is some three-dimensional flick not yet shown in the theatre of my head.
So this THING will come on me, big time, and I’ll try NOT to allow the quickness of this panic begin to affect others, but it’s in THOSE moments you feel like, OH LAWD! “THIS IS THE BIG ONE! I’m comin' to join you Elizabeth!” I’m not an actor. I can’t simply put on my cool-face, and act completely unaffected when that unexpected Nic craving has damned near CRIPPLED and toppled me to the ground!
But even worst than this is when you are trying to fall asleep at night. For me, that’s an impossibility!
You lie down. You’re sleepy. You need to rest. It would be next to heaven just to rest. But that bitch-gremlin in the belly begins to bite and as soon as you FEEL it, you KNOW! You KNOW it will soon latch onto your chest, and suck out your wind, and make your heart feel as if its collapsing, and there’s NO position you can switch into to ease the attack. You begin to cough. Not just some short little throat-clearing cough, but a LOUD, hacking, damn-near breath-stoppin cough!!! I mean, this is a serious madness COUGH!!!! And it doesn’t let up! You realize NEVER in all those YEARS of smoking, you'd NEVER COUGHED like that!!! This is that Hard Nic Craving COUGH… and it’s trying with all its might to STRANGLE your ass! You’re afraid to even close your eyes and TRY to sleep, because the mucus crawling up your system feels as if it will wrap itself around your trachea and murder you in your sleep. So you sit up in bed, and allow this thing to have its way with you! Existing in a state of mad anxiety, your mind begins to think maybe it’s better to live w/ THAT...than to risk falling asleep… only to never awaken again! It’s MURDA, yo!
So, for the past two weeks and counting, I have NOT known a decent night’s sleep!!!! It's strictly Vampire Hours for me. This causes a lotta unhealthy stuff, but the thing I never expected: hallucinations. I literally see plumes of smoke unfurling in my bedroom, and there isn’t a trace of smoke around. Lights flicker, flash on and off, and I’m the only one who notices it. In the dark, shadows of furniture become people, actual factual people I silently converse with, until I remind myself that no matter how REAL this all seems, it’s ALL a figment of my damaged, nic-ravaged mind!
It makes you wonder, WHY isn’t this getting BETTER? Why, now, after being SIX weeks smoke-free is it pulling this crazy shit? Why does it feel as if my entire respiratory system's shutting DOWN like THIS?
For my birthday, because I’d been housing this overwhelming need to preserve some slight piece of sanity, I’d gotten some nicotine gum. Nice gift. And although at first that seemed like taking a step backward, it actually helped, a little.
Extreme Junkie Awareness Moment: It was NOT until I’d placed that first piece on my tongue that I knew the True Meaning of RELIEF! It was INSTANT, yo! Like a addict feenin’, almost dying in the streets, then, to suddenly, miraculously receive that much-needed JOLT of a needle’s prick! BAM! It was soooooooo Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! DELIGHTFUL!! And all that damn PAIN was GONE! My mind, my body, my entire SOUL hummmmmmmmmmed. I was experiencing NIRVANA. I could not believe the quick-bliss-kiss I was getting in return for all that PAIN! You realize throughout these weeks of agony, that Bastard Nic was twisting its knife inside you and simply screaming: FEED ME!
But that ain’t no cure, yo. It only dulls the feelings of loss and desperation. It only gives the raging organs, a calmer, more livable pause from those chronic protests.
Here are some the changes I've noticed, some of which are things I have never heard about in those notorious anti-smoking campaigns:
“Quitter’s Flu” : WTF???? But that’s a helluva name for it! Imagine getting the worse case of the flu you’ve ever had in your life, and experiencing every single symptom without ACTUALLY HAVING it! I mean, harsh coughing, body aches, nausea, chills, fevers, sweats, running nose, chest pains, depleted appetite, chills, physical weakness, sore throat, loss of voice, the sleeplessness, and more. These all come along with the package.
Irritability has sometimes made me very creative, even active (until that crushing chest thing happens again!). I’ll clean the house, go shopping... answer email, but while out and about I’ll also witness signs of road rage...and a general feeling that I was becoming something I did not dig at all.
Bloating. Oh damn! Gone is my once-trim 32-inch waist! I’m now sporting this season’s latest bloated belly that resembles a pregnant woman, in her third-trimester!!! It’s hard to ROCK that, yo!
I would not complain (much) about this physical vanity, IF I were eating like a madman. The truth is I have NO appetite! Food still has NO taste! I live on water and fruits. I can’t even eat a whole burger any more, without throwing it away. Food tastes like cardboard, so I figure WHY ingest more empty calories if I can’t ENJOY them? So to SEE this mass form around my middle section seems like another cruel and vicious joke from this freakin’ Nic monsta!
Sometimes, when it’s 3:15am, and I can’t sleep, again, I try to convince myself that I’m actually doing something positive for me, my friends and family.
I just HAVE to believe, that, with time, things will be getting back to normal...the thing is, I cannot think of how. All these so-called experts talk about withdrawal symptoms that last for a few days, or even a few weeks. Really? Then I recently spoke to someone who has been smoke-free for 7 months and she’s still trying to convince herself she’s doing the right thing.
Yes, I know the human body was not designed to inhale thousands of toxic chemicals...but someone has to try and explain the side-effects of quitting too, so that we do not feel we should be going back to cigarettes.
Suddenly, I can recall something I once said to a friend of mine who was so damned INTO health and fitness, and carving the perfect body: “Coolness. You're ripped. You don't drink, you don't smoke, you don't stay out late...good for you… maybe you’ll l die perfectly healthy!”
Sometimes it just makes you wonder if all this pain is REALLY worth it. I really hope it proves to be.
That’s it. That’s all.