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Closet Fascination

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

Month

May 2009

Vivien Leigh

after

I found this picture of Vivian Leigh that I absolutely love. Vivien Leigh was probably one of my first girl crushes back when I first watched her as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind. I found the picture on the right first. I think it is the original. It is higher quality, first of all, and Vivian Leigh was known to be a devoted smoker, so I wouldn’t be surprised if someone took a picture of her smoking a cigarette in her Scarlett O’Hara Costume. The image on the left looks to be a manipulation of the one on right. It is lower quality and I cannot find a high quality version of it. I guess that is the sign of the times, that people will manipulate a beautiful photo because the person is holding what something dark and dirty like a cigarette. 

As for me, well it kind of makes me want to watch Gone With the Wind again, and fantasize about Vivien Leigh smoking her cigarette between takes, dressed as Scarlett O’Hara.

Addiction as Self-Medication

One might reasonably posit that you have a well-established addiction to the Drama of worrying about addiction.
– Vesperae

This quote, a reply to my last post, actually got me thinking of something I have suspected about myself for a long time. I’m not sure I’ll do a good job explaining it, but she is pretty well spot on as far as her assessment goes. Despite my long standing fear of drugs (of any sort) and becoming addicted to them, I somehow usually end up “addicted” to less socially taboo things. I self medicate with food often. If my partner would let me, I would probably be a sex addict. I was reading something on Binge eating- and while I do not binge eat, what I have been doing with smoking is very similar. I found something that said that binge eaters obtain pleasure and stimulation from the rush of planning their binges. I’m sure they don’t get sexual pleasure, but pleasure is pleasure. I get a lot of pleasure from just planning the smoking. Almost more pleasure than I actually get from smoking. But really the planning is a build up of tension from which I get an awesome release when I smoke.

I’ve been self-medicating for years whether it be addiction to TV, internet, running. You name it, I’ve probably done it compulsively. Eventually, I get bored with or decide I want to start something new and start the cycle all over again with something else. Or eventually- my addiction does not provide the same rush it used to, so I have to switch to something else. I guess it is akin to when a drug addict builds tolerance to a drug and has to increase dosage. Well as a psychological addict of things I have to keep things novel or the rush is not there.

The question is: What am I trying to escape? I don’t feel depressed at least I do not think I am. I mean, I feel blah a lot of the time, but nothing like the black holes of my teenage years. One of my more recent theories was of being a potentially undiagnosed case of ADHD… Addictions are something that people with ADHD commonly use to escape their own minds. But it could be something else too… I’ve been living like this for as long as I can remember though. I’m not even sure how I would cope without the constant simulation of something- whether it running, thinking about smoking (since I do that far more than I actually smoke), becoming addicted to certain TV shows or books. I think in a lot of ways, I am trying to escape my own mind because I fear that if I stop doing anything for long enough, I will not like what I see.

I think part of the reason I reacted so strongly to the difference between nicotine-stimulated-me and the absence-of is that I’m not used to feeling that good. I could concentrate (which for me is variable- depending on how much I like the subject) and it doesn’t matter how much I want to concentrate sometimes, I just can’t. Other than that, I just felt good, like I do sometimes, but not all the time.

I have a pretty constant mood though, unlike in my teen years where my moods were so variable. But sometimes I wonder if this is what “normal” feels like sometimes. Maybe it is, but if so, than normal really is not that awesome… it is kind of well- blah. Kind of a heavy post, but sometimes life is like that.

Nicotine Amazing, but Temporary

Today, I decided to forego the morning cigarette as much as I was enjoying having one first thing. I mean I really could have used one, what with the four or five hours of sleep I had not to mention how anxious I am feeling about all the exams I am writing. But based on how I felt both Tuesday and Wednesday (great at beginning of day and progressively worse as day went on) I decided to tough out the tiredness, the blah feeling and the anxiousness. And you know what- as much as I loved the way nicotine makes me feel, the effects are only temporary and once they are gone, everything that was bothering you before comes back and life seems that much worse because but three hours ago your brain was riding a nice dopamine high. That is how the cycle begins. I think what I hated most is the feeling that I had inflicted this upon myself. I was far more anxious about everything yesterday than I was today. Today I felt like shit, but it was a nice even steady state all day. I found that easier to deal with, because based on my schedule right now- it totally makes sense. I’m stressed, but it is understandable. 

I guess this adverse reaction- signals to me that I really do not want to become tied to the cigarettes permanently. The idea, while attractive from a fetish point of view, bugs me that I have less direct control over my emotions and state of being. I hated the feeling that I had self-inflicted a mini-depressive episode because my brain decided that it wanted more nicotine. Sure, it would have felt good to give in, but only because the contrast between the two states would have been huge. Even seeing people smoke today gave me a mixed reaction. Part of me, thought, “Mmmm cigarette.” Part of me, thought: ” Do you want to start the cycle again?” I think more and more I think I am going to work towards not smoking because hands down, despite the fact that part of me loves smoking(namely my brain and such) , despite the fact that smoking actually turns me on, on the whole I do not feel that smoking increases my quality of life enough to keep at it. Nor do I think I am capable of keeping my smoking down to some sort of low level. I’d have good intentions, but one would become three, which would become five and I have shit self-control when it comes to stuff like this so likely it would not stop there. 

Along with this- I will have to work something out with the fetish. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to stop myself from being turned on by smoking. It is kind of involuntary. Actually I have no idea how I am going to deal with this aspect, since being turned on by smoking is part of what drove me to smoke in the first place and the two are pretty intimately linked. But that will be a discussion for another time… tonight I learn about the weather.

Coming Down

I think I am starting to understand how the habitual part of smoking develops. So I have been smoking about one cigarette per day (not including Monday- when I had two) since Sunday. Like all scientific research has shown the dopamine is key. The first part of my day is great- I’m happy, I have energy and life is good. But then right around about three hours after my last cigarette, I start to feel – well the best way to explain it is down or almost like I’m hungry, but not. I know that I could make the feeling go away if I just lit up a cigarette. 

I’ve noticed that physical craving, if that is what that is, is much easier to ignore than any psychological craving I have had. I’m not sure why that is, other than the fact that it could be that I am just not accustomed to responding that way, so I don’t. And the physical want for a cigarette diminishes over time. It is actually the psychological craving that eventually gets me to smoke again in the morning. And the cycle repeats. If this is what it feels like to only smoke occasionally or lightly, I’m not sure my body can handle it. It does indeed feel like I am in withdrawal (because no doubt I’m sure my brain misses the party that I give it in the morning), and I am not sure how I feel about that. 

I’m sort of a crossroads of sorts. I’ve been letting my guard down slowly, as being addicted to something (unless caffeine) sort of terrifies me. I think that I am at the point where I either have to go full steam ahead, with no restraint or quit and just deal with having the psychological cravings. I mean those cravings were there long before I ever touched a cigarette so I’m thinking they will continue to plague me. 

I’m sure I could handle smoking occasionally, if I didn’t do it every day. But if I am going to smoke every day, I feel like eventually one cigarette will not be enough. Actually I know myself, and I know it won’t be enough. I mean I can already feel my mood change in a single day just three hours after my last cigarette. But I think now is the time to make my choice since I have this feeling that if I do decide to give in entirely to the dark side, I won’t be coming back from it for a very long time. If ever.

Nicotine Great Study Aid

Craven Menthol
Sporting one of my favourite "not applicable to me" warnings.

I took advantage of the good properties of nicotine this weekend. I’m actually kicking myself for chickening out and not doing so earlier in the weekend. I unwrapped the pack on Saturday but a combination of procrastination and unwillingness to leave my house resulted in no cigarettes smoked. Consequently, I actually didn’t get that much studying done, because at home there are far too many distractions for someone that has borderline ADHD.

Sunday, I left my house as I was in desperate need of a locale change in order to get anything done. I moved myself toward the University. I was actually going to study outside so that I could smoke whenever I felt like it, but the rain drove me inside. Around 3:30 pm I started to get antsy and decided, although slightly apprehensively, what the hell. By now it had stopped raining but all the benches were wet. I wiped a picnic table off with the sarong I brought with me when it had been warm enough to study outside. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. Probably because 1) I was at the university (What if someone sees me? gasp!) , 2) The past few times have made me sick and 3) I was smoking an unknown cigarette. I sat for a bit, reading my book and finally decided to go through with it. As it was windy, it took me a few tries to get the thing lit. The nervousness definitely took away from the experience. I took it pretty slow and only took about four decent size drags on the cigarette. Probably the perfect amount as I felt alert, but not dizzy or nauseous. I went back to the library and studied for another couple hours.

IMG_1502
Size difference between B&H Menthol 100 and Craven 'A' Menthol King Size

Today, I decided might as well take advantage of these magical concentration properties from the get go. I walked myself to the quiet picnic tables I smoked at yesterday and didn’t even hesitate. Because I was less nervous, the cigarette was much more enjoyable. Also, yesterday I hardly noticed the way these cigarettes tasted. Today, I noticed that they are really mentholated. So much so I could barely taste the tobacco. But then thinking back- I am pretty sure that what I was noticing is the difference between a fresh menthol cigarette and a stale one. I did pick out different cigarettes than last time. They were Craven ‘A’ Menthols, King Size. Far less aesthetically pleasing as a cigarette, but actually quite enjoyable to smoke. They are quite a bit fatter than the B&H’s and of course shorter than the 100s. I actually find the shorter length less intimidating. I’m sort of a completionist, and I think that is what got me in trouble with the B&H’s. I kept trying to smoke the whole thing when I was probably “done” about half way through. I had a second one around 3:30 with some tea. It was also enjoyable. I almost had a third one before I went home, but decided I would just be smoking one because I could, not because I actually wanted one.

But all and all… three good experiences with smoking in a row. Now, hopefully I pass my midterm tomorrow.

Addiction as Social Construct

Yesterday, when I was reading my super dry book on counseling a thought that has sort of occurred to me before surfaced in my head. I am wondering how much of cigarette addiction is socially constructed. I am not saying that there is no pharmacological aspect to dependance on cigarette or other tobacco products, but that the idea that a cigarette smoker is an “addict” not unlike a heroin addict is a social construction. This paper was my inspiration for this post. It is written by Dr. Claire E. Sterk a professor at  Emory University. The whole paper does an excellent job of demonstrating how our views of drug use are largely determined by societal views of that drug use. 

For example- the way cigarettes are sold almost implies that you will become addicted if you try smoking even once so we might as well give you 20-25 cigarettes to get you on your way. Some PSA’s that run have this implication as well. Like these ones:

Both of these imply if you try smoking, you might as well be attempting suicide because you will become addicted and you will ultimately die from it. A little extreme for a legal substance that does not even cause impairment. Not to mention, how believable is that to teens (the obvious target audience)?

Sterk had this to say about the message we are sending to youth about drugs:

One may wonder why our adolescents and young adults harbor doubts about our health education, especially if they know someone who has used drugs or if they themselves have tried an illegal substance, without immediately becoming an addict.  It appears that more nuanced prevention messages that are grounded in real experience may prove more effective in warning people of the risks associated with use.  Such an approach also would prompt us to raise scientific questions about what it is we aim to prevent.  Do we want to prevent any exposure to drugs?  Do we want to prevent any use?  Are we willing to accept temporary experimental use?  Or, are we worried about escalated use and addiction and its consequences?

In fact, I think it was fear of addiction deterred and terrified me for so many years. When I was 12, I would have these dreams of taking one drag off of a cigarette and being hopelessly addicted. I took one drag off a cigarette and I liked it, but am I a hopeless addict? I’m not even sure I would call myself that if I ever do let go completely and become addicted. Why should I be considered hopeless if I am doing something I like? I can go to a bar or the liquor store and purchase one beer if I know that is all I want, but if I want one cigarette I have buy a whole pack. It seems silly actually. This quote from Sterk’s paper sums the double standard up quite nicely:

Whereas smoking one cigarette is considered too much, unhealthy, and unacceptable, the limits on the extent of alcohol consumption appear more ambiguous.  

A bit ridiculous I think. The reason why cigarettes are not sold in singles or packs of less numerous quantities is to deter people from both trying smoking but also deter people from occasional smoking. At least this is what I assume the function of this is. I can buy one cigar from the store, but not one cigarette. I thought about this more as I walked home from studying. If I were to tell someone- I have a glass of wine every day at dinner, they would probably think/ask- Hmmm likes her wine or do you prefer red or white? Where do you buy your wine? Do you have a favourite varietal of grape etc. If you told someone, I enjoy smoking one cigarette every day after supper or when I get home from work, the question every non-smoker asks is “You smoke so little, why don’t you quit?” No questions on menthol or regular or brands. And if you tell them don’t  want quit because you like it, they probably do not comprehend how something seemingly so nasty to a non-smoker could be enjoyable and further because it is so nasty, you must be addicted and that is why you enjoy it so much and don’t want to quit.

Here is another example: Most adults like coffee. Coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, that eventually can result in dependance. I would also say that like cigarettes, the psychological aspect is probably harder to kick than the physical aspect. I say this having only ever quit caffeine, and not having a physical dependance on nicotine. I actually did not even realize I was dependent on caffeine when one day I was studying in the library, and my head was pounding, I couldn’t concentrate and it occurred to me, maybe I should get some green tea- my caffeine source of choice. I was not getting it for the caffeine though, or at least not consciously. I thought that the act of getting the tea would be a nice break from the studying. Within about 5 minutes, a few sips into the tea, my headache was gone and I could concentrate. I was physically dependent on caffeine. Did I freak out? No. Becoming addicted to caffeine is almost like a right of passage in our society. No one would tell me “Maybe you should quit.” I did quit, although I didn’t find it that hard. The first few days I had a headache and I felt like I was in sort of a daze and always tired. But I didn’t really have any cravings or anything like that because I was not psychologically addicted. I started up the caffeine again because there was really no point in staying away from coffee, tea and chocolate just to say I was caffeine free. I have embraced the caffeinated beverages and would not be surprised if I am indeed dependent.

I mean- there are many ways that drinking a cup of coffee is very unlike smoking a cigarette, but as far as the effects of the drug goes neither impairs someone to the extent that they would harm someone. Smoking is much more harmful health-wise, which is why it has become so outlawed in our health obsessed society.

You know what bugs me more than anything? The fact that I am letting this social construction get in the way of doing something I like doing. Something, I might add, that is perfectly legal. Yet, why do I feel like such a deviant every time I light up?

Step 1: Be Honest

Something I have been working at ever since I told my boyfriend the reflex lie of, “What do you mean my sweatshirt smells like smoke?” in response to his question “Have you been smoking?” is being more honest with him. Of course- I’m still working on bringing up past smoking transgressions, but I figure step one is being more honest about the present.

Well the opportunity to be more honest with my boyfriend presented itself last night and instead of my reflexive response to deny, I took the high road and confessed. Before you get too excited, he still does not know about the past four months of occasional cigarette smoking. But I did fess up to smoking something…

Here is the story. My roommate, boyfriend and I went shopping at the mall and roommate decides to bring up recent pot smoking done up in mountains. She starts talking about how it didn’t really make her high and her comments sort of begged me to answer. I took a moment instead of either responding right way or not responding at all to think about what I could say. On one hand I could just lie by omission- not say anything and boyfriend will probably think I didn’t smoke pot (or will forever wonder if I did- and potentially trust me less). On the other hand, I could just respond with the comment I want to make- not making a big deal about it and have him find out that I indeed have smoked marijuana again. I picked option 2 and I said, “Yeah, I didn’t really feel much of anything either.” To which boyfriend replies (disappointed), “Wait a second, you were smoking pot too?” To which I replied (jokingly), “Yes, but technically I didn’t get high from it so it almost doesn’t count.” Then a little more seriously I asked, “Are you mad/disappointed with me?” to which he replied, “No.” I actually think he appreciates the fact that I didn’t lie to him even though he totally does not approve of pot smoking. He is one person that definitely sees pot as way worse than cigarettes.

I think the key to getting over reflexive lying about things that you have hidden in the past is to take a moment before replying to think of possible responses and then answer. If you truly want to be honest and are ready to come clean then the split second you wait could mean the difference between telling the truth and perpetuating the lies. Also, for me- I’m starting to learn that honesty in the relationship is the best policy, because you are who you are, and that isn’t changing. Whomever you choose to be with needs to accept who you are or move on. I’ve made some mistakes with Boyfriend in this area, but I think that it is never too late to start being more honest with him.

The Magic of Smoking

I really enjoyed this little cartoon. Although I cannot say I have ever smoked at a bus stop, whenever someone lights up the bus can almost always be guaranteed to arrive soon. Which is unfortunate for me, if I find them attractive.  I wonder if you could carry this metaphor further. For me, despite making myself ill, there will always be a little magic to smoking. I always find it alters my sense of time, which is what this cartoon gets at I think. magic cigarettes



Image from: http://www.the-greenman.net/node/23

To Boldly go? Not yet…

Plenty of contradiction going on in my brain right now. As much as I hoped the peace would last, it did not. Essentially I am almost right back where I started, but I understand myself a lot better now. What do I truly desire? I think I actually truly desire to be a smoker as illogical as that is. Even though the process of becoming one would involve sickness (as it already has) and coming out to all of my friends (many of whom would probably suggest the many ways I can quit). No one would understand.  I know what I don’t want. I do not want to keep smoking in the closet. There is too much stress involved and frankly the stress ruins the experience.

I just recently saw the new Star Trek movie which I highly recommend. I’m no Trekkie although I think it is just because I never really sat down and watched episodes in succession. Whether or not I am a Trekkie really isn’t the point. The movie got me thinking about logic though- particularly because of Spock’s struggle in the movie between his logical Vulcan side and his emotional human side. In the movie, Spock feels like he has to pick a side and feels conflicted as to what side he should pick. Logically- it makes sense, pick his Vulcan side. But his emotional attachment to his mother, means that as logical as Spock can be, he retains a bit of his humanness and is unable to forsake his heritage. I guess I identified with that since that seems to be what I always come back to. The logical choice of not smoking, and the illogical but infinitely more attractive option of giving in. At least it seems more attractive on days like today where the thought of a cigarette sends makes me salivate like one of Pavlov’s Dogs. 

Cravings like this are fairly unpredictable. I’ve had them before and to be quite honest I’m not sure how I did not give in today. I mean I had cigarettes on me, a lighter. I’ve only ever resisted this type of craving in the absence of cigarettes. I mean I was sitting in the library trying to study, practically shaking. I guess that is why I am afraid of addiction because in some ways I almost feel like I am already there. I guess I’m still not willing to relinquish my last shards of self-control. Today, for once, I was not trying to prove I have self-control although that might be how it seems. You know what motivated me not to smoke? Social reasons. I still care entirely too much about what people think and about getting caught by people I know.  Sigh… I read this interesting blog about cravings.  I’m not sure I underestimate mine. I think one day I’m going to crack. In some ways, I hope I do soon.

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