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Closet Fascination

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

On a roll…

So I drove by myself a lot this weekend, meaning I spent a lot of time thinking about how Strange and Beautiful might go. I have the story outlined until where it began initially so now I just have to get it written out.

The unfortunate side effect of writing smoking fiction or even outlining possible story lines for smoking fiction is it made me really want to smoke. The urge was the worst when I was hungry. If I hadn’t correctly identified what I really needed, I was pretty close to buying a pack of cigarettes today.  I had the exact scheme and even how I’d get away with smoking it before I got home to my husband.

But I don’t want to start that again, where I’m smoking behind his back and I really don’t actually want to start smoking, despite what my fantasies say. That is what my 9 months of vaping and subsequent quit gave me. I’m able to separate reality vs fantasy. The urge I had today was the type that frequently led to me purchasing cigarettes and smoking in the past, but I guess I figured out how to ride these out.

What worked for those of you looking for tips: knowing that my desire in the moment no matter how big, was not bigger than my desire to be honest with myself, not start smoking again and also recognizing that it was all in my head, not from a legitimate need. I needed food and I think because I was thinking about my story, my brain was like you need to smoke. To be fair, when I was actively using nicotine that typically is how I felt when I needed to vape.

Anyhow, I got home and instead of doing chores or what not, I started to pen Chapter 24. So here it is: Chapter 24. Enjoy!

An Update of Sorts

I thought I would write an update of sorts. Life is pretty good for me right now. Even though when I seem to get one area of life under control, another slips. I haven’t been doing great with eating lately. Namely, I’ve been eating too much or food that my body doesn’t like, resulting in weight gain and feeling gross. I’m working on it… ok honestly I haven’t been working on it. I have a terrible attitude when I comes to this. I keep telling myself I will start the low FODMAP elimination diet to figure out my trigger foods next week and it keeps getting put off. It reminds me of when I was contemplating quitting vaping, which means I will eventually get off my ass and do this.

I just started a new position at work. It started out a bit stressful with a crisis my boss was dealing with in his personal life. But things seem to be settling down.

Today, watching a woman smoke in her car, I realized just how appealing I still think smoking is. But it is tempered with the fact that I don’t really want to smoke myself. I think back to how anxious I felt all the time when I was using regularly and it literally kills my desire.

Writing smoking fiction seems to help channel the desire too. I’ve written two chapters to Strange and Beautiful, Chapter 22 and Chapter 23. Sometimes it backfires and makes me want to smoke more, but on the whole, it serves it’s purpose. I think this story is almost done. Apparently it is really long now, like almost novella length. I mean theoretically it could go on indefinitely, but I want it to have an ending.

That is all for tonight, hope this post finds my readers well.

How drug use changes the brain — and makes relapse all too common

https://www.statnews.com/2017/04/19/opioid-addiction-relapse-science/

Really interesting article. It does support the disease model of addiction but gives a good premise for it. 

It explains why cravings got stronger the longer I was abstainant, despite the fact that I no longer had nicotine left in my body. 

Anxiety Strikes Again

So I sit here on a Friday, after spending the majority of my evening paralyzed by anxiety or a depressed mood or both. With 8 days until my period, I know this is my ‘normal’ PMS mood swing. Knowing that doesn’t help me change how I’m feeling very easily. It helps explain it, which reduces any inevitable worrying about why I feel so shitty but nothing on the actual reducing how shitty I feel.

Being a teacher of how to take care of one self when one is experiencing negative moods, I know what I should do. De-stress, take it easy, distract with an activity, avoid alcohol or other drugs (cough- nicotine), try not to overeat. I’ve managed to do most of those things, aside from overeating.

Overeating is the worst. I find when I am feeling this way, I mistake my anxiety for hunger and try to eat it away. Of course, it doesn’t work. No quantity of food could satisfy because I’m not actually hungry (to a point, I always start hungry). I don’t eat quantities of food that would qualify as a binge, but I eat more than I need and beyond the point of comfort. Part of me figures it would be good to go back to tracking my food as I did this less often when I was tracking all of my food. The drawback is I become a bit obsessive about what I eat when I track. I need some sort of happy medium between tracking each piece of food entering my lips and the free for all I’m practicing right now.

Next time I feel this way, which I guess could happen as early as tomorrow, I’m going to try to chug a bunch of water first as I actually find that being dehydrated sometimes feels like hunger.

I’m happy I avoided drinking alcohol and smoking (although that was more of a thought than an urge). Alcohol always seems like I good idea in the moment, but in these moods I find that my anxiety is even worse the next day. I should probably avoid drinking again until I have my period. I also cleaned the kitchen which is something as well.

To end on a more positive note, today I had a good day at work. At the end of each of the classes that I teach students can give their feedback. The feedback today was overwhelmingly positive. My favorite piece of feedback was this: “Thanks for helping me feel like a person again.” Jail is a pretty impersonal place so I’m glad I was able to help this person feel this way.

I feel better after writing this all down. I often tell my students that writing can be helpful but sometimes I don’t take my own advice. Time to continue the de-stress with a bath, more water, perhaps a book and maybe a relaxation meditation.

Long Awaited Fiction

I really have to be in the mood to write this story. I think it has been two years since I left those of you reading this story on an incredible cliffhanger. I’ve had an incredibly inspired productive day when it comes to this story. I wrote not one, not two, but three chapters to the story. I kind of what to finish it so I can get these stories out of my mind. To be honest, the story is done in my head. I just have to get it out on paper. I get how J.K. Rowling felt writing Harry Potter. It is literally on in my head. I’m not sure the ending is as good as the beginning. I re-read my earlier chapters and they were really good. I feel like I’m running out of steam, but you be the judge. I could be that I am slowly loosing my desire to smoke  but also I’ve changed a bit since I started writing this. Oddly, vaping publicly and being out with smoking at work has allowed me to be Mel. The character of Mel is not me, but based off of me if I could have gotten past caring what people think when I was her age. Fast-forward to now,  while my parents still don’t know that I smoke/vape or if they do there has never been a true ‘coming out’ moment for me, almost everyone else close to me in my life knows that this is part of me. I can talk about my former smoking to my classes without blushing and feeling super shameful. Anyhow, enough preamble.

Here are the links:

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

For those of you who have not read the story, it is what I call ‘PG-13 Smoking Fetish Fiction’. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but I always found the best smoking fetish fiction focused on the characters, their motivations, their desire to smoke and what not. The sex was never important for me. Also, if you arrived at this blog because you are currently in the process of quitting smoking then don’t read this story. It reads like a big smoking fantasy. It could lead to relapse. I don’t want to be responsible for that. Read at your own risk.

Smoking is Gross

But I did it anyways and don’t regret it. Although I had been feeling pretty ambivalent about my plan to let myself smoke at the conference I go to and had actually been leaning towards not, my co-worker who had quit back in December decided she was going to smoke for the conference, then quit again. She did not pressure me, but part of me wanted to so I did. She admitted she got cigarettes that she finds unsatisfying so she wouldn’t feel tempted to buy more and continue when she was out. They were B&H superslilms -the green ones that look like the old menthol packs but that only gets your hopes up to be disappointed. They were indeed ‘less satisfying’ especially in terms of smoke body, volume and flavour. I smoked one, almost to the end no problem but felt like a whole cigarette was a waste on me because I didn’t finish it. 

Later that night, my other co-worker wanted to bum a smoke off of her, but she had left the cigarettes back in our hotel room. I kind of wanted to smoke with her so we found another co-worker who smokes and he gave us each one cigarette. He smokes Export ‘A’ greens and considering how little I’ve smoked recently they were way too strong for me. About 4 drags in, I was done. But I kept smoking. Mistake. About 30 minutes later, I tossed my cookies, felt better and didn’t smoke for the rest of the evening. I also managed to drink somewhat moderately and was not hung over the next day. Success! That was the plan and I stuck to it.

The next day, my roommate smoked after breakfast, but I wasn’t feeling it so I just kept her company. She smoked again after lunch and by then I figured I just wanted a few drags and asked her if she was open to sharing. She was cool with that, so every time she smoked, I would have 4 to 5 drags off her cigarette. I shared three cigarettes with her over the course of the day. We ended the second night of the conference with a couple of night caps and the guys we had them with were smokers. So we ended up joining them for a smoke. They gave us each a cigarette. Again, these were too strong for me, but this time I threw it out half smoked. We went to bed shortly after this. I had the best sleep. 

I haven’t smoked at all since then and although I had a few urges, like right after eating, I don’t feel depressed or super anxious like I did last time. I was enjoying smoking again by the end of the second day, but I’m going to focus on all the negatives because honestly there are more negatives than positives. 

Here they are:

1) Cigarettes taste gross. They also seem to reduce the deliciousness of food. 

2) I hate smelling like smoke. 

3) I hate being addicted. I don’t think my two days were enough to rehook me, but I enjoyed my time this year at the conference much more because the only thing distracting me from the speakers this year was my urge to pee.

4) Loss of sense of smell and slight persistent congestion.

That is all I can think of right now. My roommate felt a little bad for smoking this conference as her current boyfriend doesn’t know she has smoked because she quit as soon as she started dating him. I told her if she doesn’t want to smoke next year, we can not smoke together. Too early to tell what will happen next year. I’d be OK with being a once a year conference smoker or not. The draw isn’t as powerful as it used to be. Maybe one day there will be no draw.

I also noticed I don’t get sexually aroused anymore when I smoke. Smoking just isn’t as appealing in real life. 

I think my mindset needs to continue to be I can smoke if I want to but I choose not to because I prefer not smoking most of the time. As soon as I tell myself I can’t smoke, I want to more than before. Then it becomes an obsession followed by a compulsion to act on the obsession.

This conference was a successful exercise in moderation. Perhaps not with smoking, especially not on the first day, but definitely with drinking. I’m discovering the joys of not going overboard on alcohol. It is possible to drink moderately and still have a great time. It is the first year of the four years I’ve attended the conference that I haven’t been hungover for the duration of the conference. My next goal, zero hangover year? I think it is possible as I have not been hungover to date this year, not even after New Year’s Eve. 

As for smoking, as it becomes something I enjoy less and less, my motto will be I can smoke but I choose not to. Most of the time, I’m pretty sure I’m going to choose not to. I don’t have that many  opportunities and I’m definitely not going to be buying my own.

One interesting thing, I have zero anxiety smoking in front of people anymore. Everyone at work knows this is something I do on occasion so there was no fear of being seen by some one. If anything, part of me liked being seen, however briefly, as a smoker. Interesting, because when I started this blog I would give anything to not be seen when I smoked. While many smokers tie part of their identity to smoking, I don’t think that is what it is for me. For me, being able to be seen smoking is being able to be vulnerable in front of others, showing the world I’m not perfect. I think the other need it fulfills is connection. Not to the drug in the way Johan Hari posits that people become addicted to drugs but in the context of the smoking I did it fueled connection with the people that I smoked with. Can I fulfill these needs in other ways? Yes and that is what I plan to do moving forward. That said, I don’t see an issue with letting go once a year. If I want to.

Moderation with drinking will continue to be my goal as it is so much better that way. Healthier both for my body and mind. 

Waking Up By Sam Harris- A Book Report

This is the first book that I have finished reading in a long time. I’ll probably read it again before I fully grasp the impact it will have on my life because for me it was one of those life changing books; not because it taught me something I didn’t already know, but because it articulated so eloquently something I’ve deeply believed for a long time.

I’ve written about religion on my blog before and my views on spirituality. I’m agnostic when it comes to belief in God in that I don’t really think we will ever be able to prove God’s existence. I also don’t think it really matters if we do. I have a certain amount of awe about our world and how much we still don’t know about it, but to simply explain natural phenomena that we can’t explain (yet) by saying that is ‘proof of God’ isn’t good enough for me. Perhaps that makes me a full out atheist. I don’t like labels.

I’ve always considered myself spiritual, but never really been able to articulate what that means to people. In my post on spirituality, I sum up a lot of my views, but there was still something about being spiritual that was could not be explained by living my values or even just being with nature.

Enter: Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion By Sam Harris. I think I first read about this book about two years ago. I follow a website called Brain Pickings on Facebook and they had written an article about the book and it seemed interesting, but much like unacknowledged or unobserved thoughts that come and go into our minds, I never gave the book a second thought. What rekindled interest? Oddly, it was this post on Dilbert writer’s Scott Adams’ blog entitled, Sam Harris Induces Cognitive Dissonance in Ben Affleck. The video for that is here.  This got me interested in him in general, so I went to his website and promptly started to devour the podcasts. Many of these were a useful, intellectual analysis of what is going on right now in America, unlike what is currently being posted by my friends on Facebook. It is critical of both sides and I appreciate that. Wanting more, like the obsessive fiend I can be, I bought Waking up on Thursday and have since read it cover to cover.

For me, this book explained to me something I have, albeit only briefly, experienced but could never put to words what it was.

These two paragraphs from the book sum it up:

We seem to do little more than lurch between wanting and not wanting. Thus, the question naturally arises: Is there more to life than this? Might it be possible to feel much better (in every sense of better) than one tends to feel? Is it possible to find lasting fulfillment despite the inevitability of change?

Spiritual life begins with a suspicion that the answer to such questions could well be “yes.” And a true spiritual practitioner is someone who has discovered that it is possible to be at ease in the world for no reason, if only for a few moments at a time, and that such ease is synonymous with transcending the apparent boundaries of the self. Those who have never tasted such peace of mind might view these assertions as highly suspect. Nevertheless, it is a fact that a condition of selfless well-being is there to be glimpsed in each moment.

I think I’ve had a few of these moments through out my life. They were fleeting and Waking Up  assured me that this is completely normal. The missing link in my description of spirituality is self-transcendence or going beyond the self.

Typically, these moments have been when standing a top a tall mountain or skiing down a steep slope. More recently, when I ran the marathon in 2014, there were moments where I felt a oneness with the world and joyful beyond anything I’ve ever experienced before. My first marathon was such as awesome experience that I hesitate to run another for fear that I will be let down should I not have that feeling again.

The book takes your through five main topics: Spirituality, Consciousness, Self or rather the illusion of self, meditation as a tool for transcending self and finally a catch all chapter called Gurus, Death, Drugs and Other Puzzles. I found the first four chapters to be really strong so the last chapter seemed as if it were a grab bag of interesting topics (I’m glad they were there) but that didn’t have enough substance to be discussed in their own dedicated chapter.

There are some interesting exercises and really I think the book is meant as a ‘here is what spiritually might look like without religion’ rather than exactly how to access it yourself. The exercises are an interesting starting point but left me wanting to learn more. I think this is probably the point. I don’t think Sam Harris fancies himself an expert on any individual’s awakening. He is simply describing what worked for him and how one might go about being spiritual without religion.

A few quotes from the end of the book really hit home for me and in a way summarize the feel and intention of the book:

First:

It is within our capacity to recognize the nature of our thoughts, to awaken from the dream of being merely ourselves and, in this way, to become better able to contribute to the well-being of others. Spirituality begins with a reverence for the ordinary that can lead us to insights and experience that are anything but ordinary.

And then:

We are always and everywhere in the presence of reality. Indeed, the human mind is the most complex  and subtle expression of reality we have thus far encountered. This should grant profundity to the humble project of noticing what it is like to be you in the present. However numerous your faults, something in you at this moment is pristine- and only you can recognize it.

Open your eyes and see.

And so I will continue to try…

To meditate…

To eat mindfully…

To exercise…

To be present in nature…

Because all of these things, lead my existence to be better. Happier. Even so, sometimes it can be a struggle to do them because of another hedonistic desire pulling me in another direction. I’ve noticed everything actually worth doing in my life requires some effort, some level of what could be called discomfort to reach the pleasantness. I think I need to commit more intentionally to my meditation practice as I think this would help me shift my perspective to be more present focus and thus better able to appreciate tasks I currently think of as arduous or boring.

Interesting… 

Study Finds e-cigarettes Don’t Make Tobacco Use Appealing Again – http://wp.me/p4uyBp-Sa

I’m not a young person, but I think that vaping is a great harm reduction tool that has been demonized unfairly in North America. 

I’m glad they are studying this and finding what those of us who have vaped were saying all along. My own experience: vaping has pretty much killed any enjoyment I used to get out of smoking. I honestly think it is a key as to why my brief lapses with smoking have resulted in a reaction of “meh…”. 

If I were to use nicotine again, I wouldn’t smoke. I’d vape. That said, I really have no desire to use nicotine again. Cigarettes taste gross and I like the cleaner (no CO) buzz of straight nicotine vs smoked tobacco.

So there you have it: seeing people vape doesn’t cause hordes of young people to go off and try it. Some might, but other studies have shown they are the ones that would have been interested in smoking as well. 

Feeling Better…

I have to say, I was pretty taken aback by how awful I felt for about two days after the cigar puffing incident. If that is how I feel after a bit of cigar puffing, I don’t think I can let myself smoke at all at the conference or let myself and suffer the consequences. Honestly, I think I know how it will go. Get a little tipsy, convince myself it will be ok and then all bets are off for the next two days.

Here is what I have going for me: I don’t think I want to smoke. My slightly alcohol intoxicated brain might have other ideas but I’m going to keep visualizing not smoking at the conference (which is the opposite of what my brain normally does). I’m not sure, but I think my co-worker smoker friend has maybe quit. She has a new boyfriend and she typically quits for her relationships. I didn’t smell it on her the last time I saw her. If she isn’t smoking, I won’t be smoking. There are two other smokers, but I’m not staying in a room with them and so the likelihood of me  asking them for cigarettes is low. I know this sounds like a lot of obsessive strategizing, but this is new territory for me. Prior to my 9 month stint as a full-fledged nicotine addict, the only kind of scheming I did for years was orchestrating opportunities to smoke. I became very good at taking advantage of opportunities to smoke. My plan late last year to let myself smoke every three months was really a rehash of an old plan I had done before. I had a few phases I went through when it came to being an opportunistic smoker.

The first phase was wanting to smoke, but saying no because I didn’t want people to know I wanted to smoke.  Phase 2 was secret smoking. I would buy a pack. Smoke alone and in secret. Become disgusted with myself. Throw out pack. Not smoke for long time. Repeat. The third phase was ‘drunken smoking’ where I would get drunk enough that I wouldn’t care want people thought when I smoked and then I’d use my drunkenness as an excuse for smoking. Phase 4 more regular secret smoking followed by a realization that I was becoming dependent on nicotine. Phase 5 was vaping all the nicotine because I couldn’t bear to smoke all the time.

I guess you could call what I am in now Phase 6. Quit phase. The phase that started because I was no longer getting pleasure from nicotine, only relief from withdrawal. What have my lapses during this phase taught me? Unless I use quite a bit more than a puff or a few puffs, I get relatively little benefit from smoking. Truth be told, I didn’t even really want to puff on the cigar last Saturday. It wouldn’t have been that hard to say, No thank you. I’m not sure why I didn’t. While the cigar tasted good, was it worth the days of depression that followed? Nope.

Given that cigarettes don’t even taste good and that I will have to smoke at least a whole one to get any sort of ‘pleasure’ from one and really I can’t even be sure of that. I’m thinking what is the point?  My plan will be to stay sober enough to make this decision because my other goal for that conference is to not be hungover. You are probably thinking: well don’t drink. True, that is the easiest way not to get hungover but I’m actually pretty good at drinking moderately in my old age. Moderate drinking starting later in the evening it will be.

So the plan: pretend cigarettes are like strawberries, might taste/feel good in the moment, but the consequences are just not worth the pleasure of the moment. I guess we shall see in  19 days.

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