Picking It Up, Kicking It Down, and the Curiosity That Killed the Cat
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
I haven't posted here for a while. That doesn't mean that I have abandoned the project of quitting smoking, but sometimes life happens. It's only natural.

Today I enter my 3rd week as a non smoker, but wonder if it wouldn't have been better just to proceed taking the poison, because the world smells awful, obviously. Yes, I am referring to the fact that my ability to a more nuanced sense of smell is beginning to return and it struck me only today as I was getting off the bus being struck in the face by a stench of sweat, bad breaths and ...cigarettes. I realized that those odors had always been there, but that there was this concrete reason why I kept on missing it.

If anyone interpreted the above as an excuse to give up, don't worry - it's called sarcasm. And irony.

So how have I been holding up during this past week of non scribbling?
I'm afraid the answer is "so so". Last Sunday I was struck by the same kind of curiosity that killed the cat (possibly, Schödinger's) and decided to smoke a cigarette, just because I wanted to find out how my body would react on it after one week of abstinence. I was sure that the outcome would be nausea and a spinning head, but as I'm still using the patches, the effects were of course nothing like that. The effects were nothing but a bad taste in my mouth. The action of smoking gave me nothing. The old habit is slowly leaving my life, but still there is the thought - the entire idea of smoking. It's a memory and a ghost and the manifest of restlessness. 

Today I felt the first real urge to smoke ever since deciding to quit, and therefore I'm finally beginning to realize what kind of devil will be clinging on to my back for yet some time. This is nothing but a test of my strength.

NH3 and American Fags
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
Amongst other substances hazardous to health, cigarettes contain ammonia, and everybody is familiar with what ammonia do to our breathing organs:  The state of matter of  ammonia in room temperature is gas and it's literally corrosive when inhaled.

Let me tell you a short story about when I went to America 5 years ago.
I was going to be there for about five days and hadn't brought any cigarettes from home. I soon ran out of those few left in my package and thus went to the closest convenient store to by myself a new pack, choosing the only brand I was familiar with, assuming that it would be the same thing as back home. It wasn't. As soon as I inhaled, a burning sensation spread down my throat and as soon as I was done with that first American fag, I sensed it as a strange and undefinable pressure on my chest, which I of course  wasn't comfortable with. At that time I was smoking 12-16 cigarettes a day, but whilst being in the US I could not smoke more than maybe 3-4 cigarettes a day, no more than what was needed to entertain my addiction. It was impossible to exceed that number as smoking was just too painful.

The day it was time to return home, I was not feeling well. I wasn't able to define what was wrong, only that it seemed to have something to do with my throat. On the plane I got worse and worse and when finally re-entering the grounds of the fatherland, I was very ill. Only a few days later I found out that American cigarettes contains a considerably higher amount of ammonia than their European equivalents. I also found out why: Another quality of ammonia happens to be as whilst it dissolves the structure of your lungs, it also makes you more susceptible to other substances. For example nicotine. Ergo: You get addicted faster and that way the American tobacco companies are able to make more money on behalf of your health. Now ponder that.


Update:

On day 6, I experience notable changes in my attitude towards smoking, as well as concerning my general state of mind and I ask myself what smoking possibly can have done to my psyche during all these years. I can't exaggerate and say that I feel happy and full of energy because that's not quite true, but neither am I depressed or stressed. I'd rather describe this as a feeling of relief. Without quite knowing if that's the proper word for descibing the state I'm referring to, but I feel ...natural in a way I can't say I have ever sensed before. This is very interesting and it affects my self esteem as well. Perhaps are these the side effects of having made such an important decision and sticking to it, but it feels quite pleasant.

Rest for the wicked.
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
Today I'll satisfy with a short status update.

Last night I went to bed quite late. I had no trouble falling asleep. I haven't had much of that this week.
In the morning I still felt rested after less than 6 hours of sleep.
I noticed I sleep better. It's almost like back when I was a child.

Weird dreams haven't come to me this far.

Today is the first day I didn't think of cigarettes.

Ahead of me lies the weekend. It might all be different.
I thought I was facing a challenge as I had it set on my mind o attend a party on Saturday evening. Party means alcohol and alcohol means cigarettes. That would have been a challenge in itself, but I changed my mind and won't be going to attend.

Still the weekend will be a challenge. At work, this week, I've had enough to do to distract me from potential thoughts of smoking, but what will it be like tomorrow and the day after? Let's say I get bored. Or restless. This will become interesting indeed.

Cause and Small Effects
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
First of all I need to make a note. I two different previous posts I have stated:

[Induced by smoking] "Increase of heartbeat, hands shaking, body shivering and above all the mental stress and angst efficiently mating with it."

and

[Concerning chemical imbalance] "Smoking increases the brain's production of dopamine and  -more importantly- noradrenaline."


In this  post, I refer to a few so called stress hormones [noradrenaline, dopamine, adrenaline] and how smoking increase the levels of these. If you read the first quote above, it obviously indicates that sometimes there can be an over-dosage which leads to actual physical and mental angst. This to me is very interesting and needs to be investigated further.

Anyway.

Today is my 5th day as a non smoker.
How am I doing and how is it going?

It's going surprisingly well, except from getting an unexpected urge to light up as I had my first cup of coffee this morning. I surprise myself by not, at least only very rarely, thinking of cigarettes, so in approximately 99% of these New Days that have past, abstinence has not been a problem.

Currently I find it very important to walk step by step and not give in to exaggerated self confidence and/or illusions of having already reached the goal, because I know that the addiction is still there: Even an alcoholic can go through a hand full of days without drinking.

Lying in bed last night, I realized that something had changed: The sensation of a heavy pressure on my chest that I'm so used to feel every night, was suddenly gone and breathing was easy. I must say that over all I feel healthier already.

Chemicals pt. 2 - Neurotransmitting
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
"Once upon a time I wasn't human, and not much more than chemicals and electricity..."
Pink Pills, Orange Pills /Rational Youth

The above are still my favorite lyrics lines of all times, even though I nowadays realize there are two ways to interpret it: A human body without what we call a mind, may still work, driven by electrical impulses and chemical reactions and be referred to as soulless, but on the other hand at least the chemical factor is very relevant in deciding our minds, determining our psyches.

Previously, I used to dismiss every scientist, doctor, or other pointing out chemical imbalance as the cause of
depression and mental disorders, but later on I came to realize that they are not entirely incorrect: On the contrary they're correct, but similar to Schrödinger's opinion concerning the quantum mechanics theory, they don't have all the facts.

I will explain what I mean, as simple as possibly: When suffering from unattended chemical imbalance (meaning that no psychofarmacy is involved), a person (A) is most likely to develop completely differently from an equivalent who gets treated with psychofarmacy (B). How, and in what way, is of course impossible to say as it's here psychology enters the picture. Unaware of his/her condition, Person A will still try to compensate for the deficits because that's what the brain wants. This alone is enough to cause an addiction and an evidence of that is not only a number of great artists, authors and so on, obviously suffering from permanent depressions or mental disorders, also were abusers of drugs and alcohol. The brain wants chemical balance, but as human beings we can't just go out and pick a hand full of berries from the nearest dopamine/serotonin/noradrenaline bush, and all bi-effects of various psychofarmacy is evidence enough that not even that is sufficient.

If you don't get my point, just raise a hand, because I really must move ahead now.

In a previous post you can read about the nicotine patches I'm currently using.
Reading the leaflet that came in the package made it the first time I ever heard of that vivid dreams and nightmares can appear as a direct result of quitting smoking, and to me it appeared as quite clear why, because quitting smoking re-alters the chemical [im]balance which would logically be the reason to a change such as but still it makes me, as a curious explorer of the human psyche, skeptic as I'm not by far ready to accept that the nature of dreams is a direct result of the chemical state of our brains [although I admit that there are physical factors that indeed can affect our dreams. -Fever is an example.]:

Ever since I was a child, I've had recurring dreams that's been replacing each other over the years. The closest to that I can come nowadays is recurring nightmares which I can't relate to any chemical imbalance or other physical factors. Of course this makes me wonder what will happen with my dreams henceforth. To be honest, I doubt anything will happen, but if it does, I'll let you know.


"The closest to that I can come nowadays is recurring nightmares which I can't relate to any chemical imbalance or other physical factors."

This doesn't mean I don't suffer from it. Nowadays it should be beyond all doubt that my brain lacks of certain neurotransmitters, mainly serotonin and noradrenaline. Smoking increases the brain's production of dopamine and  -more importantly- noradrenaline. Both are neurotransmitters commonly also referred to as "stress hormones" that increase senses of pleasure and awareness, et cetera. On top of that, noradrenaline is a substance used for treatment of severe depressions.

Ergo: Quitting smoking will decrease my levels of noradrenaline even more.
Where will that leave me?
 


Weakness and Technical Details, or How It's Done
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
Bottom pair are mine.To this point I've told you about exactly what I'm doing, and I intend to keep you intimately posted with most of my thoughts and actions, even in matters of potential failure, but still I haven't told you about exactly how I have chosen to begin this doubtlessly interesting task.

There are various ways to break up: Some smokers coming to the same conclusion concerning choice of a new path just quit; others take small steps and allow the occasional failure (for some people that's quite all right, as long as they don't lose their way), whilst others allow more failures than progress just because their decision is not thorough and they haven't managed to convince themselves of... I'm not going to use the words that it's the right decision to make because I'm not interested in telling others what's right and what's wrong.

I truly wish I could say I was one of those who just quit never to ever again get re-acquainted with the substances, but I'm not as I simply am not willing to go through those initial first days of physical torment just to then be forced to deal with the even more craving task of learning to stay away from the poison, when I'm all too well familiar with my ways and how my brain works: For me, the mental addiction is far more intense and persistent than the physical addiction could ever become, and therefore I must do it the other way around. If  first clearing my mind from the cravings, impulses and well etched routines and factors of association I will be more than ready to deal with the physical ordeals that will, presumably inevitably, follow. I romanticize this thought; it would be the final climax; the definite break up after a long and complicated relationship, and after that you're finally free.

To make it all easier for myself, I'm using nicotine patches in order to be able to focus on other things than feeding the addiction by actual action; I will learn not to think of cigarettes. That is my strategy and the hardest part. The rest will be easy.

I have now used the patches for two days and this far, the patches have been doing a pretty good job, spare for leaving red squares on my skin [and potential bi-effects that may or may not show up], so what's left is to continue to discover and disarm, are all those moments of impulses when I would normally have lit up: When waiting for the bus. When being hungry two hours before lunch time. When getting off a plane or a train, when having a beer (or a few) or when having a cup of coffee in my own kitchen. There are probably more of these moments that needs to be discovered.
- Smoking is nothing you think of; it's just something you do. It's when you don't do it that you think of it.

I don't want to think of it even when not doing it.

Day 2 and Chemicals (pt. 1) - The Concrete Evidence
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic

I should make you aware of that I'm making these posts retroactively, as I only today got the idea of starting a blog about it. The purpose of this blog is to motivate me further, as well as giving me opportunities to reflect on things. Everyone is free to make comments.

When making  the decision of giving up smoking I immediately made it official, to make it harder for myself in case of feeling like giving in to potential temptation. The more eyes watching you, the more carefully you behave. This may not be interpreted as that I am doing it for others rather than myself because if so was the case, this project would have been doomed already from the start.

Ponder this:
There are many pros concerning giving up smoking: You become of better health, you feel better, look better, smell better and decrease the risk of eventually suffering painful, slowly killing diseases, and so on.
When not having the wish or will of quitting, it's easy to explain the pros by persistent nonchalance claim that you like it, because it makes you feel so good. It's relaxing and help you chill, right? That's the voice of the addict sounding as smoking is such a great distraction. It gives you something to do when suffering elements such as boredom and restlessness which adds up to a simple fact pronounced as an escape from reality in exactly the same way as regarding alcohol for an alcoholic or drugs for a drug addict, with the only difference that cigarettes doesn't prevent you from leading a normal life, performing your every day tasks. The objective truth is that even if smoking may be sensually and maybe even emotionally enjoyable, there are no real pros.

As a smoker, you're always tired. You are rarely aware of it because you're used to being in such a state, but then again everything is relative. To get a bit more personal for a moment, I'll give you myself as an example: Assigned to a full time daytime job, I rarely get enough sleep, but rather the opposite. Still I was able to manage a head as heavy as King Sisyphus' boulder, at least until I had the first smoke of the day. As soon as the substance filled my lungs, everything turned into a haze, and all I wanted to do was to sleep [of course I was exhausted from inhaling exhausts]. The funny thing about this, is that even if I had tried to, I would probably not have been able to, and why is that?

The answer is simple: Whilst the action itself, of lighting up and inhaling, may to some be relaxing, the rest simply is not. In the previous post, I mentioned how cigarettes may affect the human body under special circumstances, but there's more to it than that, and now to once again get personal: Being someone with probable deficits of certain neurotransmitters,  who is often exposed to mental stress, smoking a cigarette could sometimes even lead to a sudden sense of depression or nervousness, which makes it even more obvious that smoking causes chemical imbalance.

- Only one day after my first cigarette free day, I experienced a notable change of state concerning both of the above: I'm mentally calmer than before and the tiredness I suffer from the lack of sleep is manageable. The fact that I didn't wake up with a swollen face was just an extra bonus.

Still, this is all just on a very early stage. This is only today. Tomorrow it might all be different. 
How should I know - I've never done this before.



Smoking
Moscow Ringroad
cyanide_chic
- A way to alter your body chemically as well as biologically.
I have been doing it for 16 years. That's almost hals of my life, which is a quite impressive amount of time from that aspect, but barely more than that.

For the last few years I have been suffering periodical angst concerning being a smoker, especially those afternoons waking up after heavy partying all night long, when I lit up my first cigarette, physically as well as mentally feeling the poison spread all through my body: Increase of heartbeat, hands shaking, body shivering and above all the mental stress and angst efficiently mating with it. This didn't happen once without me questioning what the hell I was doing to myself. The smoke of a cigarette contains over 600 carcinogens, but I would willingly light up another one, as soon as it had become integrated with the system again. To this, most people are likely to react like lab rats exposed to electric shocks, but addicts are rather to be compared with Schrödinger's cat and in that sense both dead and alive until the quantum laws proves us dead.

In any case, I finally decided to quit.
Is it at all relevant to go into why I at all started that dull November afternoon in 1994? From the aspect of the fact that I'm no longer the same person as I was back then, the answer is definitely "no", but if bearing in mind that every addict is to some degree defined and identified with his/her addiction, the answer would rather be "yes".

For me it was a choice made completely made by myself. No one else is to be blamed - no smoking parents, no manipulative friends, no nothing. It was simply my irresponsible way of saying "Screw you!" and everything was included in that. I remember how well I thought that fit me, filling a void, manifesting destruction and I was just so goth. Mind you, I don't take myself all that seriously.

A thought, even with a purpose, if maintained long enough, becomes a habit; the habit is integrated and after a while becomes a part of you. It's almost like any routine, but with some differences. For example it can be a routine to have lunch the same time every day, or always watch the evening news, but most people aren't stressed out if they miss out of one of these things. Thinking of it, most of most people's life are routines, but to become an addict it takes something more - of course something that's been there all the time but that is brought into daylight and becomes embodied with the addiction. It's a sleeping beast.

So what does it take to become an addict? Of course, there are many factors, not least the psychosocial ones, but I intend to focus on the perspective where it fills an actual need, which can mean anything from compensating for lacking of relevant brain chemicals, neurotransmitters, et cetera, to make up for a mental or emotional void, and sometimes all of it, perhaps with an internal coherence added. Thereby follows the question of which causes which: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Few things, if any at all, have only one explanation.

So, we have the beginning, we have suggested factors and then we have life. The more interesting question is exactly why decided to finally kick the habit, quit the abuse and being and addict. Why? Simply because I'm not an addict anymore. Many things in life have proven that I have the typical symptoms and tendencies of an addict, but just as concerning mental illness, certain factors are needed to trigger the disease, and those have disappeared. There is no room in my life for self destruction, and that's what made me come to this decision. No more, no less.

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