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Closet Fascination

A blog about a journey, smoking, not smoking, vaping and everything in between

Pondering My Spirituality

Back when I started this blog in 2008, I posted about religion . Since then, I think my beliefs have become more solidified. When you do the work I do, you become very clear on your beliefs. My students challenge my beliefs everyday whether I share them with them or not. Today, I got thinking about religion and God again because we watched a TED talk called the , “The Happy Secret to Better Work.” One of the last slides in Shawn Achors presentation  has a list of ways to increase happiness in one’s life. The first thing was: 3 gratitudes. Make a list of three things you are grateful for everyday. To which one of my students states, “Sounds like prayer might be the best way of doing that first one.” I replied, that prayer can be one way to express gratitude if you believe in God and went on to say that gratitude can be expressed with or without prayer. He didn’t like that answer. He again insisted that prayer might be good even if you aren’t religious. For some reason, today, I couldn’t leave it alone and I repeated: yes, if you believe in God.

Which got me thinking: for a long time, I’ve maintained that I’m not religious but I still believe in God. More recently, I decided upon doing some thinking that I am probably more agnostic than anything. I don’t think you can prove God’s existence nor am I convinced that an absence of proof, proves God doesn’t exist. The reason why I maintained a belief in God for a long time boils down to one feeling that I’ve always attributed to ‘God’. This feeling is awe. What is awe? The dictionary defines awe as a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder. I feel this feeling when I enter a beautiful cathedral, but the one place that always inspires awe in me is being out in nature. I don’t think the feeling of awe proves God’s existence, but it is the core of my spirituality.

Spiritually doesn’t have to involve belief in a higher power. The definition of spirituality is :”almost any kind of activity through which a person seeks meaning,”(Wikipedia) In essence, I have been practicing spirituality since I started questioning my religion to this very day. Perhaps people can find meaning through religion, but that wasn’t how it was for me. Church always felt like an obligation, something that I did because I was told to, even when I was young. I remember visiting the church in my father’s community and being scared by a ‘Fire and Brimstone’ esk sermon. The church in my community was never like that. It was warm and welcoming. My favorite priest growing up eventually left because he believed that women should be able to become priests. At the age of 11, I agreed with him and I think that is where the questioning began. By the age of 14, I was reading about all sorts of different religions and started meditating. I didn’t keep up with the meditation, but it was through meditation, not through any experience at church that I had my first experience with ‘awe’. I’m glad I’ve rediscovered meditation. I think it is the number one thing, perhaps tied with exercise that keeps me sane.

For me spirituality does not require connecting with a higher power, if one exists. For me spirituality is connecting with my values and beliefs. What are these values and beliefs? I was reading the wikipedia on humanism (something I want to learn more about) and this quote stood out to me:

Contemporary humanism entails a qualified optimism about the capacity of people, but it does not involve believing that human nature is purely good or that all people can live up to the Humanist ideals without help. If anything, there is recognition that living up to one’s potential is hard work and requires the help of others. The ultimate goal is human flourishing; making life better for all humans, and as the most conscious species, also promoting concern for the welfare of other sentient beings and the planet as a whole.The focus is on doing good and living well in the here and now, and leaving the world a better place for those who come after.

This pretty much sums up why I do anything in life. Why I do the work I do. If I didn’t believe that education could help my students better their lives I wouldn’t do the work that I do. There is an inherent reprogramming aspect of my job that I don’t like. I mean I don’t believe anyone can change unless they want to and sometimes the people I work with aren’t ready to change. They aren’t done with the drugs or the lifestyle and that is ok. It is why I believe wholeheartedly in harm-reduction for people that aren’t ready to quit. I’ve never done hard drugs, but I understand not being ready to give something up.

It is why I challenge the black and white thinking some people have when it comes to religious beliefs. I don’t believe in conversion, I believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they want to believe so I challenge the idea that many people have regarding their religion: that their religion is right, the truth, the only way to see things. I believe that more than one truth can exist. What is right for me isn’t necessarily right for another person.

When I share my beliefs, my lack of religion, my agnostic views on god there is a few ways people take it. The first way, they figure if I don’t follow a religion, am agnostic about God then I must believe in nothing. They figure. if my values don’t come from religion, I must not have any. I think this brand of black and white teaching comes a little bit from some religious teachings, that people that haven’t found the religion are lost, need saving. Thankfully, I don’t run into many of these people. Most people are tolerant of my views as I don’t attack their views.

I guess my whole point behind this whole post is spiritually doesn’t necessarily involve God. To me spiritually is a journey you take, where you get clearer on how you want to live your life. There is no one right way of doing it or at least that is how I feel about it.

For me, spiritually is also living in a way that connects me to nature. Any time I spend time in nature I feel that awe feeling. Nothing compares to me. So I’m going to keep doing what works for me. God or no God, nature has always been there for me.

Day 30: Vaping is the Future

In the Poisonous Vaping Debate, Are Anti-Smoking Groups the New Big Tobacco? – http://wp.me/p4uyBp-HJ

Great article on the Vaping Debate. I’ll admit, I was scared to try vaping because of the ambiguity presented in the media but I’m glad I did. It literally changed my life and allowed me to work through many of my issues with smoking.

Vaping is what makes me confident that I don’t have to go back to using nicotine if I don’t want to. It gives me a way to ‘smoke’ without being addicted. To be honest, I haven’t vaped since Sunday morning. It is nice not needing to vape.

I’ve been thinking of where I might go from here. I find blogging therapeutic and I don’t feel like I want to start a new blog. I mean I’ve tried in the past and always come back to this one. All the weird fetishy stuff might discourage some from reading but to be honest it is where I’ve come from and part of who I am.

So I don’t think I’ll be posting every day from now on but on topics that are of interest to me, smoking related or otherwise. I already have some ideas for posts.

Excited for what the future brings. I started day one of my next challenge: get back into shape. Did a 15 minute run and I’m soooo slow. I guess that is what I get for my slacking.  Until next time…

Day 29: Virtually Uneventful

On days like today, I sometimes feel as though the year leading up to this month didn’t even happen. I’ve probably said this before, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt exactly like this ever before. Prior to this, there always felt like there was something missing. A yearning I had for something. A yearning perhaps to be able to admit out loud that my obsession/addiction with smoking was something I was dealing with. A desire to show the world that I’m not perfect.

I’m still not perfect, but having to ‘come out’ with my addiction over the past year allowed me to let go of the whole idea of looking perfect to others.

I feel stronger now than I ever have before, more confident, more sure of myself. Funny how things work out in life.

Tomorrow is day 30. I have no worries.

Day 28 (Part 2): Things that work

While I didn’t entirely stop myself from consuming all the sweets in the house, going outside and digging in the garden was exactly what I needed to keep my hands busy. I had a few more healthy snacks later and avoided my crazy plan to go get Dairy Queen ice cream. The only difference between my sweets/food craving is that I tend to go on auto pilot and just “follow my nose…” to quote Toucan Sam. I’ll have to apply some of what I have learned to help me tame my inner cookie monster. So what have I learned in 28 days?

1) You need a good reason to not do whatever it is you want to quit. This reason has to be bigger than the payoff you’d get from giving into the problem behaviour.

2) Meditation is your friend. I’ve meditated on and off since I was 14. Science backs it as a legitimate way to feel less anxiety and more compassionate. It changes your brain. I teach my students how to meditate when I teach anger management. But I haven’t been so good at following my own advice until now.

My favourite is the Peaceful Sleep Meditation on Fragrant Heart. I’ve been doing it almost every night to drift into a peaceful sleep.

3) If you can survive the emotional rollercoaster of the first two weeks you’ve got this. I literally felt like a teenage girl during those weeks. I was scared neuroplasticity wasn’t really a thing that my brain was screwed up forever. It isn’t.

Two more days and it has been 30 days nicotine free. I just got to stay mindful and not go on auto-pilot impulsive nicotine quests. I can do this.

Day 28 (Part 1): Cravings of a different sort

I haven’t had a strong nicotine craving in awhile. I’m currently, however, experiencing a strong urge to eat all the sweets in house. I’m much less practiced at resisting these urges. I’ve already partially given in.

The only solution: remove myself from the house and distract myself until the cravings subside. Until tomorrow…

Day 27: Another Great Day

When I read my posts from when I started vaping, the joy I felt finding something that I could almost guilt-free ‘smoke’ really comes through. Today, I felt almost that same joy at being off nicotine.

I maintain it was totally necessary for me yield control to nicotine to get where I am today. Unfortunately, I’m one of those learn by doing people that has to experience things first hand.

In short, I had an amazing weekend. I built a raised bed garden with my husband. We planted a bunch of veggies, walked the dog and visited with my husband’s parents. There was nothing extraordinary about the weekend, but in a way that is was made it so good. I felt happy. Content. At one point hangry… But I got through it without biting off my husband’s head, although I was so hungry the thought crossed my mind. All without chemical aid. I can do this. For how long? Only time will tell.

Day 25 & 26: Surfing the Urge

Yesterday, I was in a good mood all day. Got a little weepy watching Inside Out with my class, which is a great movie to teach older kids, teens and even adults about emotions. Picked up some wood from the hardware store to build a garden box with my cousin and had him and his wife over for dinner.  After, dinner we had some drinks and my husband and my cousin decided to smoke pipes. Cue giant craving to join them.

My husband was very good in not offering me any. I kept myself busy while they smoked, making the most delicious Bailey’s and Hot chocolate that I’ve ever had for me and my cousins wife. And I vaped which took care of the craving to ‘smoke something’. My cousin asked why I wasn’t joining them and I told him I was 25 days into quitting. I talked to my husband about it after and he said that maybe one day I’ll be able to smoke a pipe again. I agree with him. Pipe smoking is something I’ve always been able to moderate my use with. It is hard to compulsively smoke pipes.

But I’m not ready yet. I don’t think I’ll be ready for at least a year. In fact, I want to give my brain at least that long without any nicotine before I attempt any moderation with smoking tobacco. Perhaps in that time, I’ll find a good pipe tobacco substitute e-juice that doesn’t leave a shitty aftertaste. I’m going through e-juice at a much slower rate now. I think I have enough juice for the next 6 months at least. I mean, I only vape about maximum 3 times a day. My consumption is down from a half or two thirds of a tank per day to a tank lasting more than a week. Good part about that, is that it is cheaper. The bad part is less juice sampling. I think I might work buying new e-juice into a reward system: for every milestone up to a year, I buy myself a new juice.

I’m glad my moodiness is starting to stabilize. I totally get why people relapse at various points in the first month of quitting. Some of the mood swings I haven’t seen the likes of since I was a hormonal teenager.

As for my fetish, I know it isn’t going away. I’m at a place with it where that is OK. One of my commenter said I missed talking about an important kind of craving: the fetish craving. This is actually, for me, the craving that started it all. I tried denying my desire to smoke and my fetish and that failed miserably; I tried pseudo-moderation with smoking and that led me to daily smoking which led me to daily vaping. Daily vaping might have worked, if it weren’t for my job requiring me to go without for 3 plus hours and the affects on my sleep quality. Daily vaping allowed me connect some of the things I find attractive about smoking to a version of smoking that I might not have found attractive otherwise. It led me to nicotine free vaping, which seems to scratch the fetish itch just fine. We will how it fairs long term.

You might ask: why not go nicotine-free from the start? I don’t think it would have worked because I still hadn’t gotten that ‘chasing the high’ mentality out of my head. I would have felt it was lacking. Now that I’ve experienced the difference between beginning/occasional smoking and smoking/ using nicotine when you are well and truly addicted I have a different perspective. After 25 days, the thing that has gotten me through the rough patches  emotionally/cognitively is that I physically feel the best I have felt in months. And that makes it all worth it.

Day 24: A New Hope

While today had some ups and  downs, on the whole I felt the most stable and happy that I have felt in a few days. Perhaps it is the weight of having phoned my father is off my shoulders. Perhaps it is the vitamins recommended for PMS that I’ve started taking.

Cravings were back today as well as relapse fantasies. These don’t necessarily mean anything as I’ve had these sorts of fantasies since I was very young. Only they were just fantasies before, not relapse fantasies. As bad as it sounds, it is comforting they are back as they are part of my “non-nicotine” normal. They have changed in a way too. In the past, I felt compelled to act on the fantasies. Buy cigarettes. Smoke. I actually had the same fantasies when I was vaping. Fantasies where I smoke instead of vape. Never once did I have the urge to act on them. I think what I’ve realized is that those fantasies are sexual and have nothing to do with wanting or even needing to smoke.

I sometimes will start thinking of where this fetish might have come from. Today I noticed that my mom talks about smoking more than most people. Today it came up twice in a conversation that I was having with her. The first story she told me was about an 80 year old woman at the senior’s centre and how to look at her you’d never suspect she smokes. I said ‘You can’t really tell who smokes or not by their look. Lots of people smoke that you’d find surprising.’ Next, she started telling me a story about how the 50 year old man that she used to work for started smoking. Apparently he was 12, had a train ticket for the smoking car on the train. Was scared they would kick him out if he wasn’t smoking so he bought a pack and started right then and there.

I only find it suspicious because most people don’t just talk about these things. I love hearing how people started, but I always feel creepy asking. Anyhow, I’m not suggesting my mom has a smoking fetish, but more that she is fascinated by people that smoke. I mean, she used to smoke, quit when I was three. I’m probably just ultra sensitive to this topic and it is nothing.

Anyhow, here is to a good day and hopefully another good one tomorrow.

Day 23: Mostly Down Still

I was down again today. My husband threatened to spike my drink with nicotine today. He was just joking, but he says it is hard for him to see me sad. I told him I needed to give this at least 3 more weeks and if my mood still hasn’t corrected itself, I would see at doctor about it.

I got the courage to phone my Dad tonight. He is Bipolar and was hospitalized again. He still sounded pretty manic to me on the phone. Increasingly, as he has gotten older, he lacks insight into how he is doing. Actually, he has great insight into his illness when he is depressed but when he is manic he thinks he can do it all. It is hard for me to listen to his plans because there is no way he can do the things that he thinks he can do at his age. That is all I did today: listen to him rant and tell me about all of his plans. If his plans didn’t involve purchasing expensive vehicles or spending all his money when he retired, it might not be so bad. Regardless, he was happy to hear from me and I felt better having talked to him.

Anyhow, I still didn’t have any cravings today despite feeling down. The closest thing were thoughts considering going back to vaping. These were passing and not the same as the obsessive thoughts/cravings that used to appear.

Until tomorrow…

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