Monday, March 05, 2007

Born-again Non-smoker

I don’t know what the precise statistics are, but most smokers really want to be non-smokers though have some problems getting over an addiction stronger than that to heroin. I myself am an expert at giving up. I’ve tried just about every year since before I was thirty and have given up for periods ranging from a day to a year. Surprising as some may find this, having read my ranting about smoking bans, I do know precisely what has its claws in me and precisely what it’s doing to me.

I know that before I gave up last time I was starting to need asthma inhalers and within a few weeks of having given up did not need them again, until, that is, I started smoking again. I know that if I smoke below eight cigarettes a day the pain in the left side of my chest fades away, and if I smoke more than ten cigarettes it comes back hard. I know that out of every fifty cigarettes I smoke there’s about half of one I actually enjoy, the rest I smoke just to stop myself feeling the misery of withdrawal. Exercise hurts when I smoke, is a pleasure when I don’t. I find it difficult to lie on one side while in bed and sometimes, when I’ve got up to go to the toilet, I return to bed out-of-breath. I assume this is due to all the crap in my lungs spreading out while I was lying down.

I know that all these symptoms, and others, will only get worse if I continue smoking. The latest one I’ve been getting is ear infections that then work their way into my eustachian tubes. Obviously the fags are not responsible for the bugs concerned, but they create and exacerbate the weakness they exploit. Working at giving up I’ve been trying to chew a piece of nicotine gum before a craving hits – a 4mg piece can normally keep me off the fags past midday almost cutting my cigarette consumption by half.

Prior to my father’s death I contracted another of those ear infections and it just lingered. Over the last week it travelled by eustachian tube from left to right ear, with a nice sore throat stopover in between, finally arriving at crushing eyeball station to play golf with my tooth nerves and attach a compressor hose to my sinuses. I was getting heartily sick of this until I discovered the virus that had arrived was only a scout. The whole army came next and poleaxed me. Flu, flu-type symptoms, bad cold, man-flu, call it what you will. I felt as rough as a pineapple. One day I felt so cold I had the heating at over seventy and additional to my usual garb wore a jumper, Arctic fleece, dressing gown and woolly hat. My throat soon felt like someone had wire-brushed it and I sat in a chair wishing it would all go away.

For three days I chewed nicotine gum in the morning and smoked five cigarettes in the afternoon and evening. I blame paracetamol and Strepsils – without them I might not have been able to smoke at all. This last Saturday I wondered what the hell I was doing and chewed a second piece of gum in the evening and smoked nothing. Same again on Sunday.

But it’s the nicotine I’m addicted to – a fact that was brought home to me by this website from which I’ve borrowed the graph shown. So today I haven’t used the gum since I want to get those 72 hours behind me, and there’s no avoiding them. And the same from now on in … never give up giving up.

7 comments:

Kirby Uber said...

i'm with you here, not surprisingly, i know. kirby "yes man to asher" uber that i am. but. i've been in some sort of prolonged quiting for going on two years.

same shite.

i'll pull off a week or so, a bit of gum when i can't stand it, and finally feeling pretty good, then, some idle saturday morning, the thought strikes "say, you know what would go great with a cup of strong coffee?"

pow.

restart cycle.

plus, you know, one looks so cool smoking. i'd hate to give that up...

Anonymous said...

four years and a month ago i quit after 20 years of smoking. it was by far the biggest challenge of my recent life. i don't know how i did it. it was hell. water, drink lots and lots of water, tons of water, that's what helped. well, and my wife too... good luck...

dave hutchinson said...

Those symptoms all sound awfully familiar. I wish you all the luck in the world; the last time I gave up I got very twitchy and more than usually difficult to be around.

RianaWishesYouLuck said...

Good luck on the process. You can make it.

:-)

Anonymous said...

I studied addiction at University during my Pharmacology degree. Smoking is indeed more addictive than heroin. The repetitive nature of smoking and the rituals associated with it (the buying of fags, the tapping of the fag before you smoke it any little thing you do before you light up) have an incredibly strong reinforcing influence on your brain to hardwire in the craving for fags. And you crave fags not just nicotine. That's why it isn't just easy to eat gum and not smoke. The gum halts the nicotine craving but the desire for the 'ritual' is still there. Hence recent ex smokers wondering what to do with their hands when they're not holding a fag.

The BBC had an article on quitting. Apparently the most successful smokers are those who don't plan it but just say "Enough" one day and tear up the packet. No one knows why really. Possibly they have just reached the point where will power alone is sufficient.

Best of luck with quitting.

Bob Lock said...

Bloody hell! Whatever next?

Hey, everybody, if he stops swearing, starts voting Labour, has a craving for holy communion, I suggest we'd better go check out his garden and greenhouse for one of those pod thingies...

Neal Asher said...

Kirby, it's your last statement that is the most revealing. How deep a hold does it have on you that you think that? It's stuff like that I've always been aware of.

Anon, plenty of water drunk and decaf tea (since when not smoking you only need half the caffeine).

Dave, I've been here before. Maybe I'll make it this time, maybe not, but it's worth trying.

Riana, thanks.

Anon, I agree. Too often I've seen all the plans and preparations just go out the window. I was ready for an attempt for some time (in fact while my father was dying I was holding back from giving up, since when he died I would probably have started again) and the illness I experienced seemed like the best time to go for it.

Bob, me giving up smoking is probably more in character. I don't want governments, religions, environmentalists or any similar preachy wankers telling me what to do. I also don't want my life dictated to me by a drug.