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Day 12: Lazy Saturday, reading about addiction

April 30, 2016

Today I slept in until about 7:30 am which is late for me. Lazed in bed until about 8. It was nice to not feel the urgent desire to get out of bed to use nicotine, something that was present almost from the start of regularly vaping. Before I started vaping, it starting to emerge with smoking but I was so closeted that I often had to wait regardless.

The fatigue is mostly gone and mostly I just feel really amazed at how good I feel and how absent cravings are. I mean I started vaping to silent the cravings, but in the true nature of addiction what I ended up with was more constant, more urgent cravings. I still maintain that I needed to go through this in order to get where I am today. If you see addiction as a learning disorder, I already had learned the unhealthy pathways, I just managed to suppress them for a long time. The truth is, despite the fact that smoking is unhealthy, virtually unaccepted in today’s society, from my first experience smoking I wanted to do it again and I recognized that I would probably get addicted. The fear kept me away for awhile but honestly- looking back at everything I have written, I have just been saying no to myself for many years.

I read this article this morning by Marc Lewis: Relapse as Defiance: Just Say Yes  and it basically explained to me the cycle I was in. It talks about a phenomenon called ego fatigue or depletion. Ego fatigue is the loss of self-control that occurs when one is constantly trying to stop an impulse.

This example given in the article describes it perfectly and also what can be done about it:

So there you are, craving to get high “one more time,” and saying to yourself over and over again: No, don’t do it! Then ego fatigue creeps up on you…some part of your cognitive hardware gets tired and gives up the battle. The impulse takes over. Each of the five biographical chapters in my book shows exactly how that plays out in the life of someone addicted to something. But here’s the double whammy, the Catch-22: Psychologists have shown clearly that suppression (just saying No) makes ego fatigue worse. Suppressing the impulse gives it more power. The only way to stay on top of ego fatigue is to reinterpret or reframe the situation: “that’s no fun, that’s not what I want.”

In the process of saying no to myself, over and over and over again, I was wearing myself down. I would give in, feel relief for awhile but then would find myself fantasizing about smoking again, dreaming about regular smoking, as if it were the thing I wanted most. My rational brain would scoff and called the idea ridiculous, but the reward centers of my brain had already learned the pleasure that could be obtained from the action. In essence, despite not having a history of regular use, I was an addict.

The last sentence of the quote says something very important, something I think is key to people recovering from any addiction.

Suppressing the impulse gives it more power. The only way to stay on top of ego fatigue is to reinterpret or reframe the situation: “that’s no fun, that’s not what I want.”

This is a key difference between quitting vaping now and every other time that I have decided not to take up regular smoking (which is really all I was doing before since I had no intention of stopping my occasional use). Through vaping, I realized that I really didn’t want to smoke. I like the idea of smoking, I love the visual and perhaps the feeling of inhaling shit into my lungs, but actual cigarette smoking no longer does it for me. I still like to watch others do it (visual) but I no longer desire to join them. That was the impulse that I suppressed over and over and over again for so many years, probably from my young teen days. I really wanted, more than anything to join in with the people smoking. Smoking has been reframed as something that I don’t really want. 

Next obstacle- nicotine and my love for its affect on my brain. While I still have positive memories of many experiences involving vaping, smoking and nicotine- my recent experience with my own regular use had me come to conclusion that I don’t like using nicotine all the time. The last 12 days ( okay maybe not all 12 of them, but certainly the more recent half of them) have solidified that I prefer not using nicotine all the time. Therefore, nicotine has been reframed as something I don’t want to use all the time.  I think I said numerous times on this blog that I didn’t want to become a regular user, but that was more a fear. The desire was there and I was as much trying to convince myself as I was my readers that I didn’t want it, hence ego fatigue and a constant cycle of intermittent use.

I think the main obstacle I’m still not over is the idea that I can use occasionally, although I think I’m much less convinced that I can do this now than I ever have been in the past. The thing is: I don’t have any compulsion to smoke pipes (despite the nicotine). I enjoy it and leave it alone for many months at a time. This will probably be my downfall at some point.

My other obstacle is fetishy desires connected to using nicotine. Vaping satisfies most of tactile/visual aspects of smoking that I liked. I mean some aspects are absence, but after nine months I got use to that and I came to appreciate vaping for what it is. I’m hoping that there is enough connection between vaping and my sexual desires that I will no longer desire smoking at all. Only time will tell with that one.

Day 10: Normal is Boring but that is okay

April 28, 2016

I felt great today. Still had my afternoon crash- might look at how I can change what I am eating/drinking during the day to see if I can alter that because right now that crash is my main craving or time that I would really want some nicotine.

To explain the title of this entry, I felt almost completely normal today. I was happy. I was in a good mood. My mood was stable throughout the day and when things went wrong, it wasn’t the end of the world or I didn’t lose it. The fatigue is fading and I actually now feel that my energy levels are on par or better than they were when I was using.

Not being under the constant ebb and flow of a powerful neurostimulant might not be exciting, but on all levels I feel better. Hence normal is boring but that is okay. I still have to remind myself of that because a big trigger for my use is boredom. My brain has learned that a bit of nicotine fixes the boredom, for a time. Actually boredom is when I would often mindlessly vape all evening practically, especially on weekends. Then I would feel gross but usually it would result in me needing to use more the next day. If I worked the next day, it meant that the day was harder to get through craving wise than normal.

I do miss the sharp focus nicotine provides, but I’m not sure it is worth everything else for me. Especially since this effect was almost non-existent towards the end.

Since tomorrow is Friday, I won’t likely update again until the weekend is over. Saturday will be a true test as it is my friend’s birthday and I likely will drink. The husband recommended I bring my vape so then I can at least join in on the social aspect of smoking should I feel the need. I mean, people tend to not offer you a cigarette when you have one and I can pretend there is nicotine in it for my own personal placebo effect. Until next time….

Day 9: Husband Reports I’m Moody As…Insert Favorite Expletive Here

April 27, 2016

I believe this is the symptom called ‘irritability’. This thing is, I don’t feel that different from how I did before. Well different from nicotine normal which was a mixture of feeling satisfied and going through withdrawal. Then I tried to remember to before nicotine normal. Right before I started vaping regularly, I was just in a more deprived state of nicotine-normal or more like the first few days of quitting but repeated over the course of months. Before that, I probably ‘relapsed’ about once a year and experienced mild forms of what I am going through right now. My longest period of time without nicotine in my adult life was 5 years between the age of 18 to 23. I suspect had circumstances been different, I probably would have been a regular smoker from the first time I tried it.

I suspect this is hard on my husband because my moods are so unpredictable. I’m trying not to take it out on him, but sometimes I snap and I feel bad for that. He normally doesn’t ask me much about my vaping. I think the fact that I was vaping nicotine regularly bothered him on some level, but he accepted it and didn’t bug me about it anymore. He asked me why I quit because to him my use probably didn’t seem that bad. While I was out to him, I remained in the closet to his family. I honestly don’t think he knew how much I was using. I don’t think he knew that I would frequently stealth vape in his parents’ or grandparents’ bathroom. Because he sleeps later than I, I’m not sure he knew that the first thing I did when I woke up is inhale a bunch of nicotine into my lungs so I wouldn’t feel so shitty.

To him all he sees is moody unpredictable me and the chemically stable outwardly happy nicotine-normal me. Right now he sort of wishes I could go back to the nicotine-normal me. I get it. He joked about it, but I can tell that dealing with me can’t be easy even though I feel better physically, it will be a long road of changes in my brain before stable me is back.

But today was easier and I don’t think I had any outbursts or losses of cool today. The hardest part of my day was the hardest part of my day before I started regular nicotine use. I figured out why too. My energy levels tank after lunch, but especially around 3 to 4 pm. I realize now that my nicotine use actually made the part of the day even harder because not only did I have to contend with falling energy levels, I also had to deal will falling nicotine levels. Solution: healthy afternoon snack at coffee break. I was already doing this before so it is a habit that I will keep. This my main ‘vape time’ now. I almost didn’t crave it at all today beyond after work. I’m maybe vaping 2 to 3 times a day now.

Feeling good though, like I can do this.

This Explains A Lot Actually

April 26, 2016

Why anti-smoking campaigns fail – http://wp.me/p7oqTw-p

The article talks about why guilt based anti-smoking campaigns don’t work.

To quote the article:

The researchers suggest that when the emotion of guilt is activated, there can be a magnification of pleasure which derives from hedonic consumption, because there is a cognitive association between guilt and pleasure (Cho & Dar, 2015)

Perhaps this is why the forbidden fruit always tastes the sweetest.

I still think anti-smoking campaigns are a large part of how my fetish developed. I mean there are the visual aspects that have been sexualized by society but aside from that I think the anti-smoking campaigns set smoking up as this terrible thing that you should never do and yet deep down it always seemed like it was something that I wanted to do.

But there might be something to this guilt thing as well. I haven’t quite figured out how it might be connected only that because smoking is vilified by society, it is only natural one might feel guilty doing it. I think this ties into my smoking fetish in the knowledge I’m doing something ‘bad’ and doing it anyways was always a turn-on for me. 

Day 8: Willpower Bank Account Balance Low

April 26, 2016

I’ve been learning a lot about willpower on this journey to quit nicotine. Learning about it I now understand why I had trouble with willpower around food when I was using nicotine, especially at night. My work schedule makes it impossible to use at regular intervals. On weekends I was vaping (or dosing myself) about every 45 minutes to an hour sometimes more often. This is probably the amount I needed to stay out of withdrawal. Of course, as I became more tolerate this continued to increase. Abstaining during the day was more than possible, however it required some willpower to keep myself in check, not lash out at someone in irritation. Plus I was anxious…

Why does this matter? Well one model of willpower is the Strength model. In this model there are four main ideas:

  1. Willpower is a mind-body response, not merely a mindset.
  2. Using willpower depletes resources in the body.
  3. Willpower is limited.
  4. Willpower is trainable.

So keeping myself in check most of the afternoon required a lot of effort. By the end of the day I was both craving nicotine and exhausted both mentally and physically. So when I would get to the grocery store after work and the husband would say, “Let’s buy cookies!” no willpower left CF says, “Let’s buy ALL the cookies.”

Not only did abstaining all afternoon tax my willpower, but working with my students can be equally taxing. Every time I don’t lose it on them when they are been idiotic I’m exercising willpower. Today was one of those days where my students were button pushing and by the end of the day, I was so tired. Walking out to my car, I felt exactly the same as if I had used nicotine at lunch and was on my way out for my first vape afterwork. The craving felt identical. If I had had any nicotine on me, it would have been game over.

I’ve been finding tiredness is a huge craving for me, especially mental fatigue. It will be something that I will need to look for in the coming weeks. If you are interested in learning more about willpower, read this: http://www.ideafit.com/fitness-library/science-willpower-0

Right now, I’m going to try to replenish my willpower reserves with a nap.

Day 7: Embracing New Old Normal

April 25, 2016

Today has been the most normal feeling day that I have had since I stopped using nicotine. It still feel like I’m forgetting to do something a lot of the time and occasionally I feel surprised to be feeling good or surprised at the absence of cravings at times that I would regularly have cravings. On the whole, cravings are decreasing and I think life overall is better ‘sober’ than using nicotine all the time.

I started using an game based motivation app called SuperBetter. Their quit smoking guide is probably one of the better ones I’ve read because it acknowledges all the things you’ve likely gotten out smoking, triggers, motivation to quit and willpower. One of their tasks was to post your 10 reasons to quit. When I saw that I thought,”I’m not sure I have 10.” So I’m going to see how many I can come up with.

  1. Better Sleep (this is my biggest motivator)
  2. Feeling good when I first wake up
  3. Feeling good throughout my work day (where I often couldn’t indulge my addiction)
  4. No more sneaking around/ stealth vaping when I don’t want people to know or don’t want them to know how addicted I am
  5. No more feeling guilty/hypocritical when teaching my personal development classes.
  6. Reduced spending on ejuice/coils (Already I’m vaping way less nicotine free liquid)
  7. Better circulation (Since my circulation isn’t awesome to begin with)
  8. Using nicotine always feelings good at first, remembering that eventually my use spirals into compulsion where I am sleeping poorly, feeling shitty when I wake up and using more and more. (I’m not sure this is a reason, but it is HUGE thing I have to remember to stay quit.)
  9. Better mood regulation. Right now I am moodier, but I am much more patient when I am not using.

I can’t think of a tenth one, nine is way more than I thought I would come up with. Currently I have more reasons to stay quit than to keep using. My only reasons to keep using would be to stop myself from smoking cigarettes again. But to be honest, I guess my tenth reason can be a reason not to smoke again should the temptation arise:

10. Regular cigarettes don’t taste that good anyways. The short term buzz isn’t worth the subsequent withdrawal which is similar to 8. The problem will be reminding myself of this after I’ve had a few drinks.  I always was particularly fond of using nicotine under the influence of alcohol. I’m currently abstaining from alcohol as well, although alcohol has never been a problem for me for this really isn’t a huge feat.

To be honest, my biggest obstacle will be my weird fetishy desire to smoke that is seated in fantasy rather than reality so I guess my last reason is:

11. The reality of daily nicotine use is different from the fantasy of daily smoking/vaping nicotine. I can satisfy my psychological need to ‘smoke’ (inhale/exhale substance) without the drug. So far that is true. I even get a tingling feeling that goes from my head to my toes on my first inhale during a vape session. I used to think it was the nicotine, but there is no nicotine, so it must be something else. Regardless, today I’ve been feeling really positive that I can do this, I can make this work.

Until next time…

 

The Mind-fuck that is Quitting

April 24, 2016

Quitting nicotine is truly a mind-fuck. This is partially why I’m documenting the process so closely as it is Day 6 now. The nicotine is all clear from my system so my body feels nice and relaxed without a constant stream of nicotine. I don’t wake up and immediately crave a hit. I like all of these as much as I sometimes enjoyed my self-imposed slavery to nicotine. There were times when I freaking loved it, especially at the beginning. My reason for quitting is that I just was feeling less in love with it and like a bad  relationship, it was time to break-up.

I keep trying to remind myself of that because I know those feelings were real. I know I didn’t make up wanting to quit in my head. I know that my current desire to smoke a cigarette when I see others doing so is due to the excess of nicotine receptors in my brain. I know this and yet…there it is. It is like I forget all the bad things, the reasons I had to quit. Right now, I’m wondering if this is how the cycle has played out in my life every time. Is it possible that both love being free from nicotine and using it. I think it is important to separate what I love: the feeling of nicotine after a period of abstaining/ that first time feeling from what I don’t love: the lessening of pleasure as tolerance increases, needing more and more to achieve the same effect, the impact on my sleep. I guess I don’t like being addicted. I think yielding to it was necessary for me, because in many ways I was addicted before I ever really started. I still can’t figure that out, where this fixation started, why it started so young.

I’m not going to let this get me down. I need to let my brain reabsorb some of those receptors. I need to keep remembering what caused me to choose to quit in the first place. In some ways, it is when I am not using the desire is stronger, because I know how much better it feels after a period of abstaining. That is what is dangerous for me. Perhaps this time it will be different. All I know is I’ve got to give it time.

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