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Closet Fascination

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

The Reboot

I’m currently watching the U.S. election results pour in and it has reminded me that nothing in life is guaranteed. Polls are often wrong. I mean, they were wrong about how close this race is. No clear winner yet. But being the introspective person that I am, I’ve started thinking about where I’m going from here, since I find it more comforting than imagining Donald Trump as president. 

Starting Monday, I’m going to add back the following: 

1) Up the exercise. In addition to walking the dog, I’m going to add three higher intensity exercise days of at least 30 minutes

2) Slow down when I’m eating and stop when I’m full.

3) If the urge to smoke arises again before March, puff on the vaporizer (nicotine free). 

I didn’t notice any sort of ‘withdrawal’ from my slight slip yesterday. All it confirmed in my mind is I don’t want to smoke. So you might ask why the weird permission to smoke every 3 months plan, I proposed yesterday? My rationalization is that my desire to smoke has less to actually smoking and more to do with the fact that I told myself I couldn’t. Giving myself a full-time free pass led to very habitual use. Plus, I know I don’t want that now. That killed the part of me that thought regular smoking might be good. To be clear, 3 months is the minimum. If I have no desire, I’m not going to smoke for the sake of smoking.

So here is to my reboot. May the odds be ever in my favor. 

201 days with no incidents…until today

I guess my counter gets reset today. I knew this was coming and maybe I wanted it to at least on some level. 

Relapse. A tiny one, but a relapse nonetheless. 

I had some old stale cigars. I smoked half of one, inhaling only once. You don’t have to inhale to absorb the nicotine, but it tasted so disgusting, that I put it out before I would have normally. I was expecting a more noticeable effect, but I guess nicotine tolerance doesn’t disappear that quickly. 

The good: it took care of my desire to smoke, extinguished it with the disgustingness of the flavour. I felt more at peace than I have in days like it was exactly what I needed. I’m guessing that is partially from the nicotine though too. This was the feeling I liked about smoking/using nicotine but that I feel is lost in regular use. I’ve been abstainant for long enough that my body hasn’t demanded more yet, although in the past, that normally came the next day. Perhaps it won’t come at all. My mindset is different now though. In the past, there was always a small part of me that wanted to smoke regularly. Now, I know that I for sure, deep down don’t want that. So think the likelihood of this starting something is low. 

The bad: I’m not sure if there is a bad. I mean, I don’t feel bad about giving into my desire. Maybe I should? The only bad I see is a potential false sense of confidence for the future. My plan is to keep use very, very occasional. Previously, prior to my 9 month regular use stint, I was an opportunist. The problem with that is if the opportunity pops up too often, it would be easy to slip into regular use. I don’t think I’d end up smoking, I could see it escalating to the point of me vaping regularly. It might be good to set some guidelines, like three months at least between use, not more than one session (one pipe, one cigarillo, one cigarette, one vape session) and no consecutive days of use. Kind of like people have moderate drinking guidelines, but they would be my super moderate smoking/vaping nicotine guidelines.

Is it stupid to think that I could moderate after failing so fantasticly in the past? Perhaps. Abstaining indefinitely, I don’t think will work long term. For me it sets up my fetish, making me want it even more. My blog is good evidence of that. I get to the point where I’m psychologically itching for it. I think 3 months is a good waiting time, but if I don’t fancy it, I’ll go longer.

I want moderation in all areas of my life. I’m tired of living in the extremes. I’m almost there with exercise, although I need to add a bit more back. Food I struggle with, but it is getting easier, I just have to pay more attention to bring full, especially when I eat out. Also, eating regularly rather than letting myself get ravenously hungry. Drinking enough water throughout the day, this I’m still bad with.

If anything, the free pass every three months might remove the taboo enough that I don’t actually feel the drive to smoke/ use nicotine as much. Here is hoping. For now I will enjoy the peace. 

The Nature of Beast: The Danger of Letting Things Slide

 I was doing so well, but alas I have a cycle to repeat. Or so it seems… This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten cravings nor will it be my last. I find my cravings are worse when I’ve let other things slide in my life. I stopped tracking food, mostly because I felt like I didn’t need to anymore. But it turns out, for someone like me, it is the recipe for backsliding into old habits. Mindless eating habits. Eating to the point of overfull. Ironically, overfull triggers a craving for nicotine to help me disgest. 

I stopped exercising (other than walking my dog). This was a subtle backslide, but there nonetheless. 

I could waste time beating myself up over it or use the backslide as a way to rationalize smoking or even vaping nicotine again. But the truth is, if I were taking better care of myself my cravings wouldn’t be as strong. 

That said, there is no denying the strongly sexual nature of these cravings. As I abstain for longer, my fetish cravings grow stronger. I think that while a large part of my attraction is to that of the image of the smoker, my smoking fetish is more about giving in to a darker side. I used to think it was partially tied to addiction, which really creeped me out. But I found nothing sexy, at least long term, about being addicted to nicotine, nor do I find it attractive in others. When I was deepest into my addiction, smoking and vaping were actually the least attractive to me fetish wise. But now that I’ve put them on the “will not do” list, they’ve become infinitely more attractive. The attraction isn’t necessarily about smoking, although that is how it mostly plays out sexually for me. The attraction is about self-denial, then giving into pleasure whatever that pleasure may be. It is a cycle that plays out with both food and exercise in my life as well. It is all connected. Giving in always feels good at first, but then becomes tedious whether it be for good or for smoking.
How to find a satisfying balance? I feel like finding balance is like the quest for the holy grail or the Philosopher’s Stone. I guess the only way is to keep working at it. 

Natural Remedies for Anxiety

I had to make a bunch of phone calls today. I hate making phone calls. This is where my social anxiety peaks. I was already feeling anxious about my Dad’s situation, but phone calls make it worse.

The following captures the pain accurately: 

Source: http://sociallyawkwardmisfit.com/post/83147191941/sociallyawkwardmisfit-com 

So I was feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of cigarette smoking danced through my head. Instead, I went fabric shopping. Didn’t find much. Then I went tea shopping and bought a new tea as well as some of my regular varieties. Realized that, in my anxiety, I had forgotten to eat. Picked up some lunch at a local place. Still feeling pretty anxious. Thoughts of smoking return. But I know I really don’t want that. Stopped at the grocery store to pick up some herbal tea, something that helps me relax. Found some and on my way through to the tea, I went through the natural supplements aisle and noticed a supplement called L-theanine with a claim to be stress relieving.

Naturally, I was skeptical. I had never heard of it. A quick Google search, and I discovered it is an amino acid derived from green and black tea. Ok, but is actually effective. I then looked for actual research via Google scholar and apparently L-theanine is a well studied amino acid with anti-anxiety effects. I figured what the heck, the FDA approved it considering it to be not harmful nor habit forming. Worse case nothing happens or I experience the placebo effect. Best case, it is effective. So I pay the $13.99 for 30 125 mg chewable tablets. Cheaper than a bottle of e-juice or a pack of cigarettes and healthier too.  

I got home, chewed a tablet and made myself a cup of herbal tea. I wasn’t expecting to feel anything, but after about 20 minutes my anxiety seemed to dissolve. Not the rapid relief of nicotine, but three hours later, I still don’t feel anxious. It seemed to clear my mind. I suspect it would enhance meditation. Now it isn’t supposed to make you drowsy, but I suspect because it relaxed me more than I’ve been able to relax in the past four or five days, the cumulative sleep debt of the past few days was suddenly apparent and I had a nap. I plan on taking another tablet before bed and hopefully I have a better sleep than I’ve had in the past few days. 

I found another blog post that has done a great round up of primary research on L-theanine.

This amino acid might explain why I like the way tea makes me feel vs coffee. Both have caffeine, but I always feel more anxious after a cup of coffee. 

Hopefully things get better with my dad soon. I hope… 

How Stigma Around Mental Illness Affects Supporters 

I’ve wanted to write about this for awhile. I considered posting on my Facebook about this on October 10th, because it was World Mental Health Day, but my own anxiety around rejection and caring what people think stopped me. What will people think? Will they think I’m selfish for my stance because I’m not the one that directly suffers? The more I thought about it, the more I realized that what I was feeling was ‘The Stigma’. The stigma of mental illness is something that the media often is ranting about fighting, but the truth is, it is still there and it is still pretty strong. 

What is stigma? The dictionary defines it as: 

a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.

I’m not sure I feel disgraced, but perhaps shameful like there is something wrong with me. This stigma doesn’t just apply to my own mental health ,which I haven’t held an ‘official’ diagnosis of illness since my teens, although it could be that I’m undiagnosed ‘something’. But it applies most recently to my father’s mental health. I consider myself one of his supporters as I am still in his life, unlike my three older sisters, who have never had that great of a relationship with him because of how abusive he was towards their mother mostly during their childhood. I get it, I mean right now it is hard enough for me to be here for my dad and he was there for me as a child. He was a good caregiver mostly in spite of his mental illness.

My dad isn’t doing well right now. This is where I struggle with ‘the stigma’. To use an analogy, if my dad’s mental illness was cancer, doctor’s would describe it as “terminal stage cancer that is unresponsive to chemotherapy and radiation”. But my dad’s mental illness isn’t cancer. He isn’t dying although sometimes when he is in certain moods I feel like the dad I grew up with is dead. Like a cancer unresponsive to cancer treatment, his illness isn’t responding to medications anymore or at least medication isn’t managing his illness like it did in the past. Hospitalized on and off for the past 12 to 14 years, the doctors have tried everything including electroshock therapy to try to find something that works. Almost 70 now, my dad will no longer go willingly to hospital, in spite of the fact that his manic episodes are worse than ever. So to get him to see the doctor we usually end up having to get him court ordered to see a doctor.I get why he refuses, doctors really haven’t been much help for him in the past and the combo of drugs, while much less effective than in the past, is more effective than no drugs.

Trying to put myself in his shoes, I feel terrible about doing that. I mean if he was dying of cancer and chose not to get cancer treatments anymore and just wanted to live out the rest of his life in peace, I wouldn’t have an issue. I’d be having a difficult time dealing with him dying but I would respect his wishes. 

The difference: in a mania my dad tends to drink excessively and then endangers others by getting into his car and driving.He takes out massive loans to buy vehicles that he can’t afford to pay off. During a depression, he barely takes care of himself. 

My step-mom couldn’t live with him anymore. He was destroying their house while manic and still blames her for how his life has turned out. In his defense, she tends to escalate during conflict but she means well. His last visit to the hospital, the doctors claimed his medication levels were OK and that it was ‘marital discord’ driving the manic behavior.If we were to plug this into the cancer analogy, it would be like the doctor saying: it is your fault he has cancer. 

By the hospital’s recommendation, we found him a place to live on his own. The place happens to be an independent living apartment building for people that are 55 plus. Not a nursing home or supported living facility, an independent living apartment. 

He has been rapid cycling every 2-3 weeks since he left the hospital alternating between very depressed and manic/mixed manic. He is drinking heavily during his manic phases. Right now, he is angry at us because he feels like we decided for him where he would move. I can’t deny that we pushed for it, I mean he has gotten himself kicked out of the transition housing and basically had nowhere to live. 

Back to stigma, here is where the stigma comes in. If my dad had terminal cancer, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to tell someone. They would sympathize. But people get judgemental when it is mental illness or if not judgemental really awkward, having no idea what to say. 

I hesitate to tell people my dad is Bipolar. I feel like it is his story to tell. At the same time by not sharing, I both miss out on support that I need and also perpetuate the stigma and the idea that having a mental illness is less normal than having cancer. 

Bipolar is a difficult mental illness. Right now, my dad has come down from the high. He speaks to me rationally and there is no way that I could activate the personal directive I came down here to activate, even if I wanted to. I want to hold off on activating it as I know it will strain our relationship. If I had come down last week, it would have been a different story. I’m not even sure they would admit him to the hospital right now. I’m not even sure the hospital is the right place for him right now. I mean, he isn’t depressed enough. Not suicidal, thank goodness. If only psychiatrists were more plentiful, I wouldn’t be talking about getting him admitted to the hospital to see one. Later, when he wakes up from his nap, we are going to call his mental health outreach nurse. She is the key to seeing the psychiatrist. 

I’m done ranting for now. I am really not sure what I’m supposed to do? I mean, he is fine now, but two or three weeks from now when he has cycled into his belligerent ‘I do what I want’ mood will I be able to say the same thing? 

I feel like an asshole saying that I’m having a hard time with this. I mean whatever I’m feeling can’t compare to actually living his experience. But I am. It is hard to watch your parent struggle. I get through this like I always do…

Watch “What It’s Like to Have ‘High-Functioning’ Anxiety” on YouTube

My cousin posted this on my Facebook. My reaction was: this explains my life. 

I noticed that my thoughts of smoking have increased recently. I’m dealing with some stressful stuff. My dad is currently in a bad manic state. He is drinking and driving and I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t worry. To be honest, it has been hard keeping up appearances that everything is OK. 

I noticed my cravings to smoke have increased, but it is really that my anxiety is sky high. I know I don’t want to smoke, that it is just my mind looking for something to decrease the anxiety. 

I’m doing my best to cope, but I’m looking into going to talk to my doctor and a counsellor, just to have someone outside the situation to talk to. 

I haven’t been on meds since I was a teen, but maybe it is something to consider.

Without further ado: 

150 days…already?

To be honest, I feel like I quit vaping nicotine, recently. 150 days it turns out is 4 months and 28 days so almost 5 months. 5 months is almost half a year. What? Where did the time go?

Thoughts of using again pop into my head periodically, but quickly dissipate. I think I will deal with those types of thoughts for the rest of my life. Or at least as long as I find smoking sexually attractive. I have enough other ways to deal with anxiety that my anxiety no longer triggers cravings for nicotine.

Also- I think this is the longest I’ve gone sans tobacco in a very long time. I guess only time will tell. The hardest social situation smoking wise I will have to face is still 5 months away. The conference I attend every year for work. If my work friend isn’t smoking, it will be easy. We will not smoke/vape together. I likely will bring my vaping gear, load up with nicotine-free juice and vape. Of all things, I think it will make a difference being able to ‘join in’ without actually ‘joining in’.

I have another goal for that conference. I normally get entirely too drunk. Then I spend the next day too hungover and I don’t enjoy the conference speakers. My goal for next year is to not exceed three drinks over the course of each evening. So a total of 6 drinks total… I think is is reasonable, it will just take some planning. My downfall last year was free wine at dinner and buying $10 worth of twonie bar tickets. So no drinks at dinner and I am going to only bring enough money to buy two drinks. Reasoning: you normally win or get drinks from co-workers over the course of the evening. Three drinks is my upper limit recently without feeling shitty the next day. My tolerance has way decreased since I’ve started moderating. Not to mention, I feel better the next day.

Just some random things I’ve been thinking about. Because most days I don’t have cravings anymore. Most days are exactly like before I started using nicotine regularly. But special events have always been when I’ve engaged in smoking and/or excessive drinking and this conference is literally where I started my pattern of more frequent, than everyday smoking. I teach relapse prevention and I teach my students to have a plan to prevent relapse. So I’m working on the plan… it isn’t perfect yet, but I guess I have 5 more months to perfect it. 

How To Exercise Out Of Self-Love – Not Due To Fat-Shaming — Everyday Feminism

I feel like I could have written this article: How to exercise out of self-love, not due to fat shaming

I am kind of a curvy lady. I say kind of because there are many ways in which I can pass as thin.

I can shop wherever I want and no one would charge me extra for an airplane ticket. But my jeans come in double digits, and my doctor recently told me that I am a “good candidate” for a weight loss program

This is me.Minus the doctor part. Despite my BMI falling squarely in the high end of “healthy” to the low end of “overweight” for my entire adult life, my doctors have always taken into account how active I am and other health indicators rather than the deeply flawed BMI. The only time I’ve been ‘skinny’ in my adult life was hitting my goal weight of 150 post Jenny Craig starvation diet. But I wasn’t healthy nor was I happy. 

I’ve been caught in the trap of exercising to get skinny. It didn’t work. 

I’ve also been caught in the trap of eating a certain way to lose weight. It works, but if the way of eating isn’t sustainable, you just gain the weight back. 

I’ll be honest, when I started my healthy eating plan, my goal was to lose weight, at least enough that my clothes would fit again. Now that I have hit that goal, I’ve actually noticed exercise is easier. But more importantly, I’ve noticed that when I’m eating food that fuels my body rather than crap (like what I ate today), I feel better. Today started OK, but I didn’t eat enough for lunch (bad planning) and ended up eating a poutine, plus half a large box of Chicago mix popcorn at the theater. The result: major bloating and gas, which is why I avoid popcorn usually. It is one of my IBS trigger foods along with raspberry and quinoa. 

So this article addresses exercising out of self-love, I think we should add eating out of self-love. My motivation moving forward is to eat foods that fuel my body because I love my body and want it to be able to do all the things that I love doing like walking my dog, running, swimming and hiking. Be more mindful of fueling throughout the day instead of binging at the end of the day. Avoid foods that make me feel shitty (trigger foods above, plus deep fried food, very sugary food). Stay hydrated. Maintain current weight while increasing fitness.

Tomorrow is a new day. A new day in which I will not eat popcorn. 

How to deal with having a smoking fetish (in my non-expert opinion)

I’ve been thinking a lot about this given where I am today vs where I was when I started this blog. I used to be super ashamed of my fetish like it was something super freakish that I needed to suppress. But this instinct to suppress it, only made it stronger. Now I simply see it as something that developed during my formative years, likely in response to the anti-smoking propaganda that was very prevalent in the 90’s when I was growing up. My fascination started young, pre-internet and completely disconnected from pornography.

I recently read this article: Are Sexual Tastes Immutable? which describe a bit about how sexual tastes are acquired and whether or not they can be changed once they have been acquired. From this article asserts that:

Indeed, most of us have a good bit of indirect say over our sexual tastes (as contrasted with our sexual orientation). Brains are plastic. The truth is we are always training our brains—with or without our conscious participation. We can choose to avoid, pursue, and cease pursuit of, stimuli that condition our sexual tastes in particular directions.

On the many smoking fetish forums I’ve participated in, most people feel as though:

  1. Their sexual fetish for smoking developed young, often pre-internet exposure or even pre-pornography exposure.
  2. They feel as though it is something that they have always had or always will have.

This makes sense because the younger someone develops these sexual tastes, the more likely it will seem that they are innate and unchangeable.

My fetish has changed over time, but it certainly does feel as though it is here to stay. That said, I think if I had really wanted to rid myself of, I’ve been going about it completely the wrong way for many, many years.

That said, it isn’t too late if I want to change. The article quotes neuroplasticity expert Norman Doidge’s The Brain that Changes Itself:

Their treatment for sexual tastes acquired later in life was far simpler than that for patients who, in their critical periods [of development], acquired a preference for problematic sexual types. Yet even some of these men were able, like A., to change their [preferred] sexual type, because the same laws of neuroplasticity that allow us to acquire problematic tastes also allow us, in intensive treatment, to acquire newer, healthier ones and in some cases even to lose our older, troubling ones. It’s a use-it-or-lose-it brain, even where sexual desire and love are concerned.

The article mentions, that if one is going to try to rid himself or herself of an unwanted sexual taste, they should avoid their stimulus. For example, in my case, a stimulus I could avoid is watching YouTube videos featuring women smoking. I’ve never watched smoking pornography, although when I was confessing my fetish to my partner I referred to it as ‘smoking pornography’ as for a person with a smoking fetish, no sex need be depicted for it to be an arousing image.

So what is my advice to you if you have a smoking fetish and it bugs you:

  1. Figure out where your fetish might have started. I found the more I explored the roots of my fetish, the less powerful it seemed to be.
  2. Avoid masturbation to smoking stimuli. This only reinforces the fetish.
  3. Avoid visiting website promoting smoking. Pro-smoking websites only reinforce the alluring parts of smoking.
  4. Start seeing smoking as a normal thing to do. The more I saw smoking as simply something people did rather than what I had built it up in my head to be (the ultimate ‘bad girl’ action, ‘the worst thing I could do to myself’. As I started to see smoking as ‘just smoking’, I found it less arousing.
  5. If all else fails, seek professional help.

If you have a smoking fetish, it doesn’t bother you but you are having trouble being aroused by your non-smoking partner:

  1. If they don’t smoke, don’t try to get them to smoke.
  2. Eliminate consumption of smoking media (videos, stories, forum posts etc.) This will increase your attraction to your real life partner.
  3. Incorporate non-nicotine vaping as a way to ‘play with the fetish’ in a non-addictive, less harmful way.If that doesn’t do it, see 2.
  4. Read step 1 again. Seriously, don’t do it. If it is that important to you that your partner smoke, find a smoker to be with.

If you are a non-smoker with a smoking fetish thinking about trying smoking because of your fetish:

  1. Experiment with non-nicotine vaping. I actually got a huge kick out of chucking giant clouds with my sub-ohm device. I suggest not going the route of nicotine as there really isn’t any need to add a nicotine addiction that you don’t already have. If I get the urge to smoke again, I have my device ready with my favourite juice precisely for this purpose.
  2. Get real with why you want to try smoking. For most people with a fetish, it starts as a curiosity about how smoking feels. For other people, it is an escalation of sorts. When pictures and videos don’t do it for them anymore, actually smoking ups the ante. So is it curiosity or a desire to escalate the intensity of the experience? Either way, proceed with caution. You basically have no idea how your body will react to nicotine and it can be a powerful reinforcer.
  3. If you do decide to try it, be okay with the possibility of becoming addicted. I know that sounds super ominous, but some people have a pretty intensely positive reaction to smoking. I know I did.

Where am I at? I am thinking about reducing my reliance on smoking fantasy when I masturbate. This sounds a bit daunting as I cannot recall a time in my adult life where I haven’t masturbated to smoking fantasy. No seriously. I’ve never been a huge picture or video watcher (although I have done it). I was much more into smoking erotica. Currently, watch some videos and mostly rely on my ‘what if I had started then…” fantasies which are pretty mundane but do the trick. Interestingly, my fantasies have changed since my 9 month vaping stint. Pre and during vaping my fantasies were always about future me starting to smoke. Since quitting, I know I don’t want to smoke in the present or future (and have to endure quitting again). The thought simply doesn’t arouse me anymore. This is a big change and I think that if that can change other things about my sexual tastes can change.

One thing that I have started doing that seems to be helping is incorporating mindfulness into my masturbation. What does this mean? Instead of using a fantasy to bring on arousal, I simply focus on all of the sensations that I am feeling while I masturbate or even on my breathing. Just like with mindful meditation, when I find my mind wandering or drumming up my regular fantasies, I just gently bring my attention back to my breathing or to the sensations that I am feeling. It typically takes longer to ‘complete’ than with fantasies but I’m finding that I am more satisfied. I think I could write a whole post just on this. For me, this seems more sensible than avoiding masturbation entirely (as I do not compulsively masturbate) and I think it will help on some level with retraining my brain.

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