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.