Mindf@&k me, Baby!

When I quit drinking several years ago, that accomplishment gave me confidence that I would also be able to quit smoking sometime in the not so immediate future. Since I have been thinking about quitting for a few months now, I had initially thought about quitting smoking on the four year anniversary of quitting drinking… That didn’t work out, in fact I forgot to try. This Tuesday night (or Wednesday morning, depending of which part I am keeping track of) I decided to give it a go.

I know a few people that have quit smoking. I also know, well, only one person other than myself that has quit drinking (here I am defining ‘drinking’ as getting drunk every single day without exception). While I think it may still be a bit too early to call my attempt to quit smoking a success (just passed 48 hours without a cigarette), I am going to make a couple observations anyway.

Quitting smoking is significantly easier than quitting drinking. I woke up one morning and decided I was done smoking, and I simply haven’t smoked since. I have had a couple urges, but I bought some black licorice to help me out (black licorice is an odd form of a comfort food for me), I have a bag handy and usually just eating a piece will get me through the urge. Licorice seemed like the way to go because the flavor is pretty intense and the vines being roughly cigarette shaped could help with the habitual part of it (or so I reasoned). I also have handy some Camel Snus which I have used a couple of times when I began to get a strong headache (which I suppose technically means that I haven’t actually kicked the nicotine addiction, but that is quite a minor point), having used a total of 4 pouches over the 48 hours since quitting.

I really thought that quitting smoking was going to be way harder than quitting drinking because, well, because everyone always talks about how hard it is, I guess. Also with cigarettes you have the nicotine addiction as well as the habitual part of it to overcome. The habitual part is actually much harder to overcome than the addiction (for me at least). Waking up in the morning without a cigarette is probably the toughest part, and I don’t mean because I want one so bad that I have to run and light one up, I mean because I generally have one lit before I have a single cognitive thought. In order to keep myself from lighting up first thing in the morning I moved my cigarettes from their usual spot on my nightstand so that I wouldn’t have one lit up before I had a chance to think about it. It was a good thing I did too, this morning I reached to where they normally are and only when I couldn’t find them did I wake up enough to realize that I had ‘quit’ a couple days ago. Really that has been about the worst it gets; I just occasionally reach for a cigarette and then remember that I quit. There is a bit of discomfort as my brain tries to deal with the lack of nicotine, but it doesn’t even hurt as bad as a caffeine headache (damn it, another addiction).

Now comparing that to quitting drinking, where I literally did not sleep at all for at least 72 hours after I quit, and probably got maybe 8 total hours of sleep over the first two weeks after quitting. My hands were shaking so badly that I could hardly hold a fork. And the worst part is that I knew, and it is absolutely true, that if I had taken one drink the shaking would have gone away and I would have been able to sleep… I guess mind altering substances have a way of grabbing hold of you.

I don’t mean to say that quitting smoking is actually easy; far from it. If you have never had an addiction to a mood altering drug, quitting smoking will be the hardest thing you ever do. If you have beat such an addiction quitting smoking won’t be so bad; no depression or intense feelings of hopelessness, the physical withdrawals are limited to the occasional headache, and you just have to remind yourself from time to time that you are quitting to be successful. Not so bad really.

But the point of this post was not to argue the relative ease of quitting smoking. The reason I wrote it is because of a conversation that went on in my head yesterday (don’t judge me), it went something like this, “You know, no one knows you quit smoking so they won’t judge you if go ahead and light up.” To which I replied, “Nah, I want to quit.” But my brain was a quick thinker, and said “Well, you did quit. You just quit for more than 24 hours, obviously can do it, now let’s put that all behind us and have a smoke to celebrate.” A dialogue very similar to that really did happen internally yesterday. That is why I decided to write about this; I find it remarkable that my own brain can try to get one over on me. I have heard the term ‘mindfuck’ before, but I never imagined it would be an inside job…

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